Better than chance - Jobs to be Done

December 03, 2018

Jobs to be Done in action... It was at the end of 2015 when I met up with an entrepreneur friend of mine in a bar. He had founded his start-up a few months ago. I wanted to hear from him how he was doing and, above all, how his business idea was progressing. His idea was to programme an app that would show partygoers from the Rhine-Main region and later other regions "what's going on in clubs and bars". He and his company wanted to make the city even more exciting. The use case was described as follows:

"Friday evening, you want to go out but don't quite know where to go yet? Don't feel like trawling the net? We can help you: Since May, there has been a new smartphone app for exactly this purpose. It now shows you live and in real time how much is going on in which club and where. And even whether there are any special offers at the moment. The whole thing works anonymously and without registration. Pull out your mobile phone and find out what's going on in the evening!" - that was the idea behind the app.

My friend and company boss travelled a lot in foreign cities. But he was annoyed that he never knew what was going on. As a result, he was always annoyed that the disco or club was either empty or packed. "So we had to find a solution." The application used sensors in the clubs to measure the current number of partygoers present. The app then showed what percentage of the club was full.




After a few months, the endeavour was discontinued. Was it a bad idea? Not at all. Was it the realisation? That wasn't the reason either. One of the main reasons was that it was only recognised very late on how and with which participants in the nightlife ecosystem sufficient added value could have been achieved with the technology.

A methodical analysis, for example with the Jobs to be Done-approach would have analysed which jobs are being done unsatisfactorily these days. This approach would have asked those involved, such as club goers, club owners, but also those responsible in the beverage industry, which things are particularly important to them. The solution could have been focussed on these jobs. After some time in production, the assumptions about how added value can be generated were invalidated, a pivot was made and it was only recognised (too) late for whom and how the actual benefit could have been generated.




When we think of innovation today, we usually think first and foremost of technology, products, services, brands, perhaps even new business models. However, the first thing that usually comes to mind is not the progress that people want to achieve and the possibility of making it easier for people to struggle for progress. But "innovations" are useless if it is not clear who can benefit from a significant improvement and how.

After all, who is interested in products if you can't make any progress with them, if there are too many questions and doubts about whether the new solution can really help? And on the other hand, who sticks with a product if they can use something different, better or cheaper to satisfy the same need? It's all about enabling people to do things that they couldn't do before, or to do them much better, faster, cheaper or safer.




Those who do not see technological improvements as an end in themselves and understand that it is ultimately the customer who decides what is an innovation and what is not have an enormous advantage over people who focus solely on technology. The way we understand the progress people want to make, the things that stand in the way of progress, the strategies people use to make progress, gives us the right picture to respond effectively. Customers can "order" different things to achieve the desired result. For example, to hold a meeting, you can commission a meeting room or alternatively teleconferencing solutions or webinar software.

Applying the Jobs to be Done theory has helped us to achieve a breakthrough in our understanding of customer needs.

Jonas Kunze, Co-founder, flyingshapes GmbH




Jobs to Be Done is a powerful metaphor that enables us to better understand what customers want and to change the way we see ourselves. It allows us to adopt a position as a service provider who takes ownership of the jobs to be done for our customers and puts all our efforts into getting the job done in the best possible way. To do this, we need to understand the customer's task in detail and the circumstances under which it is to be completed. We no longer define ourselves by our product or service, but by the benefits we provide to the customer. This view is more sustainable than defining ourselves by a product, because technology and possibilities are constantly changing, but the "jobs" remain relatively constant.



Customers can constantly decide anew - also depending on the situation - whether they want to solve a problem and if so, in what way. For example, if I have trouble sleeping due to back problems, I can try to turn the mattress over, put a board under the mattress, take a sleeping pill or painkiller, or even live with the unsolved problem. Basically, if we want to create product improvements or even great innovations, it's about offering solutions that outperform the existing ones. Applying the Jobs to be Done theory can even sometimes lead to a limitation of product or service functions, because if the product is focussed on the job, it is easier to use and understand.




Focussing on the customer's job helps you to get the clarity you need to understand and describe the "customer problem" and then solve it with your products and services. This clarity is one of the basic prerequisites for the success of your business idea. The better you learn to understand the job, the better you can tailor your offer to it.

In concrete terms, the focus on "jobs" has enabled us to understand the tasks that customers want to complete and to realise a decisive advance in the design process with our product.


Jonas Kunze, Co-founder, flyingshapes GmbH

Further information on the Jobs to Be Done theory, which areas of application and tools exist, can be found at:

Guest article by Eckhart Böhme
Author, speaker, trainer and coach