6 Tools: Jobs to be Done with Tony Ulwick [podcast]

ULWICKJTBDbook-1Jobs to Be Done: Theory to Practice with Tony Ulwick

The Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework is an important tool for innovators and product managers. It addresses the frequently referred to issue we have creating new products, which is understanding the customers’ real problems that need to be solved. As marketing guru Theodore Levitt rightly characterized, customers don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they need to make a quarter inch hole. While JTBD is closely associated with Clayton Christensen, who helped to popularize the framework, it’s roots are elsewhere and include Tony Ulwick. To discuss the framework, I interviewed Tony, who is sharing 6 tools from his new book, Jobs to Be Done: Theory to Practice.

Tony Ulwick is well known for the creation of Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) and as the founder of Strategyn. When ODI was published in the Harvard Business Review, it was declared to be one of  ‘the ideas that will profoundly affect business as we forge ahead in today’s complex times.’

From the discussion, product managers and innovators will know how to apply Jobs to Be Done by applying 6 steps:

  1. Define the customer’s “job-to-be-done”
  2. Uncover the customer’s needs
  3. Quantify the degree to which each outcome is underserved
  4. Discover hidden segments of opportunity
  5. Align existing products with market opportunities
  6. Conceptualize new products to address unmet needs

Below is a summary of questions discussed followed by a link to the interview.

What is the history of JTBD

When Christensen published Innovators Dilemma in 1997, I thought ODI might be a solution to the innovator’s dilemma. I met with Christensen several times and introduced him to the idea that people have underlying processes that they are trying to execute and if we focus on the process instead of the customer or the product, we’ll have a much greater chance of having predictable success in innovation. In 2002 during a conversation he shared, “This concept that people have underlying processes, it’s just a hard story to tell. If we say they have jobs they’re trying to get done; that flows a lot nicer.” It did and it does and he wrote about it in his book, The Innovator’s Solution in 2003. Over time, the concept became known as jobs to be done theory and that’s how the name stuck. ODI is the implementation of the theory.

Why do companies fail at innovation?

When we look at the root cause analysis we can always point to the same four issues. I think about innovation as the process of coming up with solutions that address unmet customer needs. So at that high level, it’s pretty simple what we’re trying to accomplish. Now, in order to make that happen, we have to know what a need is, we have to know what the needs are, we have to know which needs are unmet, and we have to be able to discover segments of customers with different unmet needs. Companies fail at innovation because they can’t address those four key elements.

What are the steps for applying jobs to be done theory?

There are six steps, which are shown in the infographic below (and explained in the interview with Tony).



Tony Ulwick_StrategynTony Ulwick is the pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory and Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI), a strategy and innovation process that increases the innovation success rate five-fold. Tony founded the innovation consultancy Strategyn in 1991 and has worked with over one-third of the Fortune 100, helping them generate billions of dollar in revenue growth. Tony has been granted 12 patents related to various aspects of the ODI process. Follow @Ulwick


Listen to the interview headphones-2with Tony on the Everyday Innovator Podcast.



image credits: amazon.com; strategy.com

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Chad McAllisterChad McAllister, Ph.D. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister

Chad McAllister




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