How to define job-to-be-done (JTBD) for innovation?


In the realm of innovation, understanding the core needs and goals of customers is pivotal. The concept of Job-to-Be-Done (JTBD) provides a structured approach to capturing these essentials. Pioneered by Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, JTBD is a framework that shifts the focus from products to the customer’s true objectives. Let’s learn how to define job-to-be-done (JTBD).

Three elements of functional JTBD

Here are the three elements of a functional JTBD, as explained by J. Haynes :


The customer’s desired outcome, independent of any specific product or solution. This is the core of the JTBD and what the customer is ultimately trying to achieve. For example, in the consumer market, the goal might be to “create a mood with music.” In a business market, the goal could be to “acquire new customers.”

Action verb and object:

The verb describes the action the customer is trying to take, and the object is the thing the action is being performed on. For example, in the goal “play mp3s,” the action verb is “play” and the object is “mp3s.” However, this is not a good functional JTBD because it mentions a specific solution (mp3s). A better functional JTBD would be “create a mood with music.”

No mention of a solution:

A functional JTBD should not mention any specific products, services, or technologies. This is because the customer’s job is to be done regardless of how they achieve it. For example, the goal “install software” is not a good functional JTBD because it contains a consumption job ‘install’, and also mentions a solution (software). A better functional JTBD would be “run a business,” which is the goal that installing software is trying to help achieve. The customer’s goal is to ‘run a business’, surely by considering better ways of achieving this goal without installing any software if possible.

By understanding these three elements, you can start to identify and define your target market based on what your customers are trying to achieve, rather than the specific products or services you offer. This can help you to develop more effective marketing and sales strategies, as well as create products and services that are truly aligned with your customers’ needs.

Defining a job at the right level of abstraction is critical to ensure that the theory is useful.

Clayton Christensen

Using the right level of abstraction

Here are key guidelines for using the right level of abstraction when defining JTBDs:

Focus on the customer’s desired outcome, not specific products or features.

Ask “What are they trying to achieve?” not “What are they using?”


  • Too narrow: “Print a document from my smartphone.” (Focuses on a specific solution.)
  • Too broad: “Get work done.” (Too general to guide solution development.)
  • Right level of abstraction: “Access and manage information from anywhere.” (Captures the core need without specifying a particular technology.)

Similarly, for a heart patient, the functional job to be done or goal is to have a healthy heart and blood pressure. He will be happy if it is possible without a specific product for monitoring the blood pressure. His ultimate goal is to be healthy, not to have the monitoring for its own sake.

Remember: The right level of abstraction strikes a balance between specificity and generality, enabling you to identify meaningful opportunities for innovation and create solutions that truly address customer needs.