Elaheh Nazari

August 27, 2020

There are different theories about Jobs to be Done, Alan Klement came with one of these theories, and in this book, he also compares other ideas as well, but since we haven’t talked about other theorists and their ideas, We won’t cover that part.

Reading this book will help you create and sell products better. JTBD lets you understand why people use products and what their jobs are.

Challenges and Hope

Customers want to make life better but “we can’t build the products of tomorrow by limiting ourselves to the needs and expectations associated with products of today.” We should imagine how different customers’ lives will be when the right solution is in their hands. You should remember that people are idealistic and products won’t survive forever. You have to be innovative and maybe even destroy your own products for the sake of being up-to-date with customers’ demands and motivations.

What is JTBD?

So a “Job” is one’s emotional struggle to change and make his/her life better and when we say “Done”, it’s when the right solution to overcome this distress is found and has been made life better. Also “to-be” indicates that it will happen over time and is a progression.

A JTBD according to Klement is an emotional motivation and not a function. And you have to acknowledge how customers’ needs grow so you can be ready to change your products at the right time to meet them.

What are the Principles of Customer Jobs?

  • Focusing on the product itself and not the motivation closes your ability to innovate.
  • “People have jobs; things don’t.” a Job is about improving people’s lives and not things.
  • “Competition is defined in the minds of customers, and they use progress as their criterion.” Customers think about whether or not they will improve and become better using your product.
  • “When customers start using a solution for a JTBD, they stop using something else.”
  • “Innovation opportunities exist when customers exhibit compensatory behaviors.” there are times when customers use a product for multiple jobs. You can use this opportunity to innovate new products.
  • “Favor progress over outcomes and goals.” Feeling improvement is not only important at the end of the road, but also on the road to success.
  • “Progress defines value; contrast reveals value.” You should define a context for a product to make the customers think about the value your products deliver in contrast to other products.
  • “Solutions for jobs deliver value beyond the moment of use.” The product should improve customers’ lives even when it is not being used at the moment.
  • “Producers, consumers, solutions, and Jobs should be thought of as parts of a system that work together to evolve markets.”  How everything as a system, and not individually, works together and adds value to customers’ lives. 

The Forces of Progress

There are four fundamental emotional forces that generate demands for a product:

  • Push: People only change when circumstances push them to be unhappy with their environment
    • External pushes: A person’s life has changed, but the old way of solving problems has not changed and they need a new solution.
    • Internal pushes: It’s the customers who, according to different circumstances, decide to change how things are.
  • Pull: The pull directs the motivations and changes of customers.
    • The pull for a better life: You should answer “How will customers’ lives change when they have the right solutions?” not all customers are ready to change for the better.
    • The pull toward a solution: depending on the context of the push, it leads customers to a certain solution.
  • Anxiety: Concerns and fears of the customer about buying and using your product.
    • Anxiety-in-choice: When a customer doesn’t know if a product can get a Job Done, which mostly occurs with first-time customers, which can be solved with trials, refunds, and discounts.
    • Anxiety-in-use: When certain qualities related to the product make repeat customers nervous about using the product.
  • Inertia: The likelihood of not wanting to change.
    • Habits-in-choice: The existing forces that prevent customers to use another product, even if the new product is really better. You should adjust your product so customers become loyal.
    • Habits-in-use: Old habits die hard! even if the new solution is better. You have to find a way to help customers change their habits.

Push and pull work together when generating demand. Anxiety and inertia are important competitors that reduce the demands of customers and you have to win against them after you have identified push and pull.

When You Define Competition Wrong:

Mistakes when generating and applying JTBD after defining the forces:

  • When you limit the definition of competition to products that have similar functions
  • Not enough research is done to make sure target customers would care about a new solution.
  • When thinking about the competition zone too simple to forget about looking beyond a similarity in look and function.
  • There are times no one wants a JTBD to be solved with buying a product. 
  • Not focusing well on customer interviews can oppose your initial bias.

“ Just because consumers aren’t using your product or another product of the same type, doesn’t mean they are nonusers…. JTBD insists that if consumers have a JTBD, they must be using something for it.”

And that something requires a kind of payment, be it with money, time or energy. 

JTBD is not about “recipe” for success, but it focuses on:

  • What the problems of customers are.
  • How customers imagine life after having the right solution.
  • What they count or not as values in a solution.

The System of Progress (SoP)

When Coffee and Kale Compete

Customers, products, JTBD, the producers are all part of the system of progress which helps out in generating useful products to be sold.

Interdependence: All parts of a system have some degrees of connection with each other and by optimizing this interdependency, you help customers progress, and so new aspirations will be revealed.

  1. Understand a customer’s problem
  2. Search for and choose a solution
  3. Use a solution against a struggle and make a product
  4. Realize a better life, get feedback to see if the value is delivered correctly.
  5. New Struggles will show up.

SoP is continuously evolving, and you can move back and forth in the system while thinking about it as a whole.

Innovation and the System of Progress

As an innovator, you should identify customers’ needs and their underlying causes, then find a solution to it. The needs are not necessarily a  problem, but a symptom.

“Doctors treat patients successfully because they understand that the pains and discomforts that patients express are not the problems; they represent the patients’ interactions with their own bodies. Similarly, the needs, wants, and desired outcomes that customers express do not represent their problem; they represent interactions between the customer and the system of progress. Therefore, customers’ stated preferences are unreliable and why customers’ “needs” and “wants” keep changing.“

Customers can tell you of their struggles but they cannot tell you what solution they want. They only know about the systems they are involved in.

The needs of customers change when the system changes, as it is interdependent. And these dependencies can be fragile and break the system, or a small change can result in larger changes to a system.


When Coffee and Kale Compete: Become Great at Making Products People Will Buy, Alan Klement, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018

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