Understanding Your Customers’ “Jobs to be Done” by Clayton Christensen

Discover the power of understanding your customers’ ‘Jobs to be Done’. This comprehensive guide explores the concept, provides a customer-centric formula for defining jobs, and offers insights into creating products and services that resonate with customers’ needs, emotions, and social contexts. Unleash your business’s potential by truly knowing your customers

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, understanding your customers is paramount. But, how well do you truly know them? The answer lies not in demographics or buying habits, but in a concept called “Jobs to be Done” (JTBD). This approach, rooted in innovation and customer-centric thinking, is about understanding the progress your customer is trying to make in a given circumstance – the “job” they want to get done.

The Concept of “Jobs to be Done”

JTBD is a theory that suggests customers “hire” products or services to fulfill a specific job. This job could be anything from passing time to finding a more fulfilling career. If the product or service does the job well, customers will “hire” it again. If it fails, they “fire” it and look for an alternative.

The Power of Circumstances

JTBD theory emphasizes the importance of circumstances over customer characteristics. For instance, condo developers initially struggled to sell to retirees looking to downsize until they realized their business was not construction, but transitioning lives. They then created services to assist buyers with the move and decisions about what to keep and discard. Sales took off. The key was understanding the job the customers needed to be done.

The Emotional and Social Dimensions

Jobs are multifaceted. They’re not just about function; they have powerful social and emotional dimensions. For example, the decision to buy a condo often hinged on a family member’s willingness to take custody of a dining room table, a symbol of family and memories. Understanding this emotional job allowed the company to differentiate its offering in ways competitors weren’t likely to copy.

Designing Offerings Around Jobs

Understanding the job to be done allows you to innovate without guessing what trade-offs your customers are willing to make. It’s a kind of job spec. For example, Hershey’s Reese’s Minis were created when researchers discovered situations where the original large format was too big and messy, and the smaller, individually wrapped cups were a hassle. The Minis, with no foil wrapping and a resealable bag, were a hit, generating $235 million in the first two years’ sales.

Creating Customer Experiences

Creating the right set of experiences for the purchase and use of the product is essential. American Girl dolls, for instance, aren’t just selling dolls, they’re selling an experience. The dolls help engage their daughters in a conversation about the generations of women that came before them—about their struggles, their strength, their values, and traditions.


A Comprehensive, Customer-Centric Formula for Defining “Jobs to be Done”

To fully encapsulate the “Jobs to be Done” concept with the customer at the center, consider this comprehensive formula:

“As a (customer) in (specific context), I want to (customer’s goal) so that I can (customer’s desired outcome). However, I am constrained by (customer’s constraints). Achieving this job will make me feel (emotional impact), will be perceived by others in my circle as (social impact), and will have a (functional impact) on my life or work.”

Here’s how to interpret each component:

  1. Customer: The individual or group who is trying to get a job done.
  1. Specific Context: The particular circumstances or environment in which the customer is operating.
  1. Customer’s Goal: The task or problem the customer is trying to address – the “job” they want to get done.
  1. Customer’s Desired Outcome: The result or benefit the customer hopes to achieve by accomplishing the job.
  1. Customer’s Constraints: The obstacles or limitations preventing the customer from getting the job done.
  1. Emotional Impact: The feelings or emotional state the customer experiences as a result of getting the job done.
  1. Social Impact: The way accomplishing the job affects the customer’s social status or relationships.
  1. Functional Impact: The practical or tangible effect that achieving the job has on the customer’s life or work.

By filling in these blanks with insights from customer and market research, you can gain a holistic understanding of your customers’ “Jobs to be Done”. This will empower you to create products, services, and experiences that not only meet their functional needs but also resonate with their emotional states, social contexts, and practical requirements.


Understanding your customers’ “Jobs to be Done” is a powerful tool for innovation and customer satisfaction. It allows you to design products, experiences, and processes around those jobs, leading to successful innovations and a competitive edge. Remember, it’s not about the product itself, but the job it’s hired to do.

For further reading, check out the original Harvard Business Review article on the topic. For a more visual explanation, watch this YouTube video by Clayton Christensen, one of the pioneers of the JTBD theory.

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