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How ‘Jobs to be Done’ Saved Us From a Costly Mistake

The product team was sure they were building what customers wanted.. until we talked to them

GV Design Sprints are a great approach for a team that already has a concept in mind and wants to answer “should we do this” — as opposed to starting with generative research to answer “what should we do”? I heartily recommend starting with the “what” first.

1. Set the project scope

There are three levers to adjust when designing a new offering. The more you adjust, the riskier the project.

2. Identify the customer

As a sustaining innovation initiative, we were focused on creating more value for our existing customers, and those who were similar to them.

3. Understand her Job to be Done

This is where things got fun!

What IS a Job to be Done? This question is a doozy.. I have an entire series dedicated to how different authors have described the concept. For the purpose of this article, let’s go with ‘Jobs to be Done are what users are trying to accomplish. They hire products and services to help them ‘get the Job done’.’

This is why talking with customers — not just observing what they’re doing — is essential. You need the WHY, not just the WHAT.

4. … Do Work…

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

5. Talk to customers some more

We returned to our target customer base a few days later, prototype in hand. But to the surprise of some of the members of the team, we weren’t running a Usability test or Task analysis. Rather, the prototype was an artifact to help support the retelling of the story of their Job.

Actual (non-ReadyTalk) customer quote :-)

6. Interpret the findings

…Things happened….

  1. We decided to further explore the concept that had emerged through the second round of qualitative interviews.
  2. The entire product organization realized how little we knew about our customers’ Jobs to be Done and what truly motivated them.

7. Iterate and Improve

This was a great opportunity for the team to rapidly get some customer insights to report back to the product team. Was it enough? For the purpose of this initiative, yes. We had a hypothesis about a specific feature, and we were able to quickly get feedback on its value.

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Andrea Hill is the principal consultant at Frameplay. Frameplay is an innovation consultancy that helps companies become more customer-focused and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Learn more at



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Andrea F Hill

Sr UX Specialist with Canada Revenue Agency, former web dev and product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert. Plant-powered marathoner. Cat mom.