Getting innovation right with the Job to be Done

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“Today, we want to innovate and become better at our work,” so announced the CEO. “I want you to spend the next 48 hours thinking about ways we can be innovative, and share with us your ideas when we come together again. Good luck!” Thus the CEO kicked off the 48-hour i-Challenge, a program we put together for the company to spark creative projects that they could fund. Not much of a speech, though.


First order of the day was to identify the Job to be Done. As the name implies, the Job to be Done (JTBD) is the key focus of what you want the innovation to do. For example, one of Proctor & Gamble’s most successful products is the Swiffer. There are many versions of how P&G stumbled upon the idea. One of them was that P&G, who had a whole range of detergents, was thinking of coming up with a better detergent. Luckily someone asked the question, “But what do we want with a better detergent?” Ultimately, it was to have cleaner floors. So the JTBD was not to develop a more effective detergent, it was to develop a better way to clean floors. And that became the start of a journey that resulted in the interchangeable system that we now know to be Swiffer.


When you start on your innovation process, you need to identify the Job to be Done: what is it that you are trying to find a solution to. Leave the product development aside for a moment and take a long hard look at what you are supposed to deliver. And where do you go for that? Your customers! And by customers, we mean people who will use your product or service; not necessarily those who purchase your goods. Hence, internal customers as well; after all, if you can improve your JTBD for internal customers, you also increase your value-add along the chain, thereby creating a knock-on effect to the overall product offering.


To identify The Job to be Done, look at how your customer is interacting with your product/service. See what works, and see what doesn’t. Look at ways you can improve your service so that you can increase the value you bring to them. For example, in the case of the Swiffer, they saw how a lady used a wet tissue to pick up the dust on the floor much more effectively than a broom, which simply displaced it from one end to another. Hence, they developed the electrostatic sheets to do just that. If you know what you need – clean floors – and you know what’s stopping you for getting it – ineffective broom, then you can come up with the right innovation.


So when you are starting your next innovation project, look at how your customers are interacting with your product/service and ask yourself, “What is the Job to be Done here?”


Drop me an email if you want help reframing your JTBD. iandyason@aitrainingconsulting.com.

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