Hey Alan Klement —
Ash Maurya

Thanks for the response. It helps me figure out what does/doesn’t connect with people, and how I need to better explain myself.

I’ll start with the comment about only focusing on first purchases — and not repurchases.

I think there’s a conflation with the theory and with research methods.

Jobs to be Done theory aims to give us a model that describes why consumers buy a product for the first time. That’s it.

This has nothing to do with what research process we use to get those data. It also doesn’t mean that our research is limited to only studying recent, first time purchases.

It’s important to keep in mind that, when consumers:

  1. Hire a product
  2. Make progress

The Job to be Done goes away. It gets “Done”.

People who happily use taxis, have no Job to be Done. Sure they had a JTBD in the past which caused them to start using taxis, but it got “Done” when they hired taxis. Now they just use taxis.

Remember, the purpose of Jobs to be Done is to describe a state-change consumers want to make, and what they can buy/use to help them make that state change. And this is all done within the context of consumer acquisition (growth)

JTBD is not a methodology or method. It’s a theory about why people buy a product for the first time. That’s it.

A lot of people use diary studies, ethnography, surveys, switch interviews, focus groups… to study Jobs to be Done. I suggest looking over the data model post to understand more why this is.

So, in summary, I don’t think you need to study a recent purchase of Taxis to get to Uber. You can talk to people about what previous Jobs to be Done caused them to hire Taxis — but keep in mind that people forget stuff and your data will be iffy. You could also just do your typical usability study to get to Uber.

Both of those switches were about an innovation that reduced a pet-peeve or problem created by friction in consumption (not acquisition) created as a byproduct from an existing solution — one that even needs to be regularly repurchased for the problems to materialize.

We might be getting off track here, but it’s worth entertaining…

This is quality thinking. It’s not design thinking (not the trendy “design thinking”, just thinking in terms of design).

Quality thinking is about studying a system for defects (problems) and then removing those defects.

Design thinking, on the other hand, is about imagining new systems. For example:

  1. Quality thinking: New York City has lots of traffic. How can we fix that?
  2. Design thinking: How should people living in a city get around?

To quote Russel Ackoff:

The best thing that can be done to a problem is to solve it. False. The best thing that can be done to a problem is to dissolve it, to redesign the entity that has it or its environment so as to eliminate the problem.

So the answer to “how do we deal with traffic in NYC” isn’t to try and “solve” it. It's asking “well, what if no one in NYC had to travel at all? Or if they do, let's imagine a city where cars don’t exist.”

In both cases, you’re not “solving” the traffic problem. You’re making it irrelevant.

So — going back to your point. I think Uber and Apple were successful because each enabled new types of consumption. That’s why Uber and Apple have massive growth. If all Uber and Apple did was to replace taxis and cd players respectively, then their growth would have been modest.

But they didn’t. They created a new system for which people to interact with. People who didn’t own a CD Player bought an iPod. People who would have not gone anywhere, used uber instead.

Here’s a good video that will help this: