What are negative Jobs-to-be-Done?

These are jobs I don’t want to do.

In “Competing Against Luck” Clayton Christensen talks about negative jobs. He says these are some of the best innovation opportunities. His example: wake up, your child is sick and it’s a work day. Now you need to take time off to take her to the doctor. CVS MinuteClinics became the solution.

Negative jobs make a lot of sense. There are jobs that you know need to be done but you really don’t want to do them. If someone else did them, all the better.

Is this another way to think about innovation? Is it a source of success that outsourcing type products and services are achieving? Does it provide a different frame by which to evaluate an innovation opporutinty?

Here is a proposed definition of a negative job:

A person perceives that they will encounter a large struggle to make progress in a certain situation. They want to avoid that struggle.

The negative part is avoidance. The person wants to avoid encountering the struggle in the situation. This is consistence with the well researched concept of loss aversion. People hate losses much more than they like the pleasure of gains. So it’s natural to think a person wants to avoid a struggle of a particular JTBD.

To paraphrase, the definition, someone might say: “Look this needs to be done. I don’t care how. I just need it done so I don’t have to think about it at all.”

And, because the possible pain is so large relative to the gain, the person is likely to pay a lot more to have someone or something else get the job done. Sounds like opportunity.

Other people could look at the same situation and classify it as a positive job, a.k.a. something they will hire a solution for.

Here are examples of negative JTBD for some people:

  • Getting the oil changed on the car.
  • Getting anything fixed on the car.
  • Mowing the lawn.
  • Cleaning the garage.
  • Cleaning the gutters.
  • Traveling to a distant location.
  • Picking up take out food.
  • Standing in line.
  • Getting through traffic.
  • Painting the bedroom.
  • Avoiding traffic.
  • Picking up dry cleaning.
  • Cleaning the floors.
  • Fighting a fire.
  • Get an obnoxious driver off the road.
  • Paying bills.
  • Dieting (lose the weight without going through the time/effort required)
  • Exercising (just want to be in shape without the time/effort required)

Solutions to negative jobs are often service opportunities. Hire a person or service to get the job done. DoorDash is a great service for getting take out food since it’s a negative job to drive, order, wait, take out. Just a $5 delviery charge. This is especially true for older people that can’t get around that well but still want to enjoy the variety of restaurants nearby.

Shopping can be a negative job. Drive to the right store, find the item, pay, drive home, use it. Hence Amazon. Perhaps acquisition of solutions, not their use, tend to be more of a negative job.

Since people hate losses, marketing a negative JTBD will be easier. Remind the prospective customer of the pain/loss they would encounter getting the job done and offer your solution. We are not taught to emphasize the negative in marketing but behavioral psychology tells us this will work.

How you frame a problem determines how you solve it. Looking at something as a negative JTBD might be a different frame. Use it find new innovation opportunities.

I’ve written quite a bit on Medium about jobs-to-be-done.