strategic decision making is inherently
stronger than many other approaches.
This accelerates good design and
enables us to create great experiences,
where we are sure that we are designing
the right thing, not just designing it the
If JTBD feels obvious to you, then
you’re in a good position to work with
the approach. I encourage you to learn
more and to embrace JTBD to help
drive more strategic conversations with
greater business impact.
1. Christensen, C. et al. Competing Against
Luck. HarperBusiness, New York, 2016.
2. Drucker, P. Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Harper, New York, 1985.
3. Christensen, C. and Raynor, M.E.
The Innovator’s Solution. Harvard Business
Review Press, 2003.
4. Christensen, C. The Innovator’s Dilemma.
Harvard Business Review Press, 1998.
5. Ulwick, T. Jobs To Be Done. Idea Bite
6. Cooper, A. About Face. Wiley, 2003.
7. Young, I. Mental Models. Rosenfeld
Jim Kalbach is an author, speaker,
and instructor in user experience design,
information architecture, and strategy. He
is currently head of customer experience
at MURAL, the leading online whiteboard.
He has published two books, Designing
Web Navigation (O’Reilly, 2007) and Mapping
Experiences (O’Reilly, 2016). He blogs at
experiencinginformation.com and tweets under
solution. In this respect, JTBD calls to
mind Indi Young’s work. In her 2008
book Mental Models [ 7], Young details
an approach for visualizing people’s
motivations and goals.
The method starts by defining the
domain, such as “movie going” (see
Figure 2). Then, through research and
observations, the researcher collects
a comprehensive set of insights that
reflect a person’s thought process. Like
JTBD, mental models are devoid of any
reference to technology or methods.
The resulting diagram is a model of all
of an individual’s actions, thoughts,
feelings, and goals.
Making job the unit of analysis
makes innovation more predictable. In
a time when businesses are encouraged
to “fail fast” and “break things,” JTBD
offers a more structured way to find
solutions that resonate with customers
Simply analyzing a job map for
strategic opportunities may provide
sufficient insight for some companies,
such as a start-ups. In other cases,
organizations may need to know which
needs to specifically address. Here,
JTBD offers powerful insight.
Figure 3 shows the basic idea of
unmet needs with a simple matrix:
Find needs that are important but not
well satisfied. The vertical axis shows
how job performers rate each need
statement for satisfaction, from low
to high. The horizontal axis shows
how important each need is, from low
JTBD isn’t confined to one
discipline; it’s a way of seeing that is
applicable to an entire organization.
JTBD gives a consistent, systematic
approach to understanding what
motivates people. As a result, it
has broad applicability inside of an
organization, beyond design and
development. Consider some of the
ways in which different teams can
• Sales can leverage JTBD thinking
in discovery calls to probe on
• Marketing specialists can create
more effective campaigns with JTBD
by shifting language from features to
addressing underserved needs.
• Designers can use JTBD to guide
product development by grounding
features in user objectives.
• Customer-success managers
can use JTBD to understand why
customers might cancel a subscription.
• Support agents are able to provide
better service by first understanding
the customer’s job to be done.
What’s more, JTBD is compatible
with modern methods like design
thinking, agile, and lean. For instance,
a prioritized need can feed into
design thinking exercises as “How
might we…?” statements. Or user
stories in agile can be generated and
organized based on customer jobs.
Lean experiments can be framed
around hypothesis statements that are
grounded in JTBD research as well.
I believe JTBD presents an opportunity
for design and designers. We have
the necessary skills to apply JTBD
within our organizations: Observing
the human condition, understanding
needs, and turning insights into action
are skills we already possess.
More important, because JTBD
is not a design method, it has the
potential to elevate our conversations
with stakeholders and decision makers.
JTBD is not only about creating a great
product experience, but also about
directing the strategic attention of an
And since JTBD comes from the
business community, its relevance to
DOI: 10.1145/3292021 COP YRIGH T HELD BY AUTHOR. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00
Figure 3. Find underserved needs and fulfill them for a better chance of success.