Theodore Levitt, marketing professor at Harvard Business School, famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Later on, the concept of Job To Be Done, AKA JTBD, was developed by Clayton Christensen (the inventor of the theory of disruptive innovation) who suggests that people are less interested in the products they buy than in the services they receive from them. But how do we put this theory into practice? Jim Kalbach, answers in his book The Jobs To Be Done Playbook. Interview.

Hi Jim Kalbach, so why did you write this book… now?

I’ve been investigating the field and have applied JTBD to my own work for almost 20 years. About 5 years ago I started giving a workshop on the topic as well. So for me, the book is actually a culmination of a long-time study of the field. In other words, I’ve kinda been writing the book for a while, or at least thinking about how I’d explain JTBD.

Of course, you also have to actually compose an extended argument over 250 pages and go through the book publishing process. I did that now because I thought I had a unique perspective and enough experience explaining the field that I wanted to capture in writing. JTBD is also a hot topic right now, so I was also trying to seize the moment.

An extract from your book that best represents yourself?

In some sense, the book is the sum of my mistakes with JTBD over the years. I struggled to understand the concepts and put them into use initially. So when I read the book now, I see A LOT of myself in there. Many of the imperatives throughout the book–“do this” and “don’t do that”–reflect my own experience.

But in the end, I came to realize that JTBD is a perspective or a way of seeing, as I like to say. Here’s a good quote that sums up that realization (from page 7-8):
“Overall, JTBD is not a single method: it’s a lens, a way of seeing. JTBD lets you step back from your business and understand the objectives of the people you serve. To innovate, don’t ask customers about their preferences, but instead understand their underlying intent.”

The trends that are just emerging and that you believe in the most?

There are several trends emerging that give me hope.

First of all, organizations are truly realizing that it’s not about them, not about their products or solutions. Instead, it’s about what people can accomplish with them. This requires a new mindset that JTBD can help instill.

But also, it can’t just be a few people in an organization that adopt this mindset. It’s not enough to have an innovation team that goes out and listens to market needs in a new way or a design team that practices user-centered design. No, the whole organization needs to be thinking in a more human-centric way–from sales and marketing to product development to customer support and beyond. Since my book came out, I’ve been in contact with more about marketing teams and product teams looking to find new ways of working through JTBD. And that’s encouraging.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a reader of this article, what would it be?

I think it would be to do more qualitative research, e.g., interviews and observations. Businesses love to use quantitative data to make decisions, but that is often modeled in a way that doesn’t reflect reality. You really have to understand the difference between reliable data (repeatable, consistent) versus valid data (real-world insights). Businesses are missing a lot of opportunities by resting their cases on only half of the opportunities out there. And it’s not hard to do, it just takes commitment–a commitment many organizations simply overlook.

In a nutshell, what are the next topics that you will be passionate about?

There’s a consistent substrate running through The JTBD Playbook: engage your teams in conversations about the objectives and outcomes people want. JTBD is ultimately a way to have specific, focused conversations around human needs. JTBD is just the catalyst for those conversations. In order to do that, you need teamwork and good facilitation. So in 2021, I’ll be looking even closer into how to have the right dialogues as a company and how to have a shared sense-making of the fast-paced environments businesses operate in today as a group.

Thank you Jim

Many thanks Bertrand

The book : The Jobs To Be Done Playbook, Jim Kalbach, Two Waves Books, 2020.