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Discovering the Job To Be Done in 4 Steps

Part 1

Understanding what is a Job To Be Done (JTBD) is all well and good if you’re trying to build a better product or sell more milkshakes. But just understanding the concept of a JTBD doesn’t help you find out what the JTBD is in the area you’re looking to innovate. So how do you actually discover a Job To Be Done?

This article will outline a potential process that you can follow to help you discover the Job To Be Done in 4 steps.

Instagram and Snapchat both have built a great product by stumbling on/discovering the key JTBD. Whether by sheer luck or spark of genius insight, their founders managed to build a successful product around a key JTBD.

The next 4 steps will show how applying this process would have helped derive their key JTBD and how you can use it to discover your product’s key JTBD too.

1. Map the User’s Journey

Start with mapping the user’s current experience within which your product hopes to target (Check out this article for tips on how to map the user journey). For Instagram and Snapchat, we’ll map the typical social media user’s experience on Facebook/other entrenched social media site.

2. Investigate Pain Points

Examine the low points in this journey for indications of pain points experienced by the user. For the typical social media experience, a significant inconvenience comes in making sure the post/picture is presentable.

3. Digging Deeper into the Root Cause

Let’s take these the first pain point and dig deeper with the aim of uncovering hidden needs, employing the ever handy 5 Whys technique:

Making sure the post/picture is presentable

  1. Why is this inconvenient?
    If the initial photo is not taken in the best lighting/angle, I have to use a photo-editing software which I may or may not be proficient in and even if I did, would take extra time and effort.
  2. Why do you have to do this?
    I want to make the picture (possibly with myself inside) as presentable as possible.
  3. Why does the picture have to look nice?
    No one likes ugly pictures of themselves on their virtual identities.
  4. Why not? Everyone has ugly moments in their daily lives, what’s wrong if there are one or two ugly ducklings among the hundred?
    My social media page is almost like a permanent record, since I can curate it, I want to make it as perfect as possible.
  5. Why use social media at all if it brings about extra “stress” and social pressures?
    I think it is a great platform to express myself (or show off), connect with my friends and share my life. Also, everyone else is on it and I don’t want to be left out.

By this point, you would have uncovered a few deeper needs. Think of the root cause behind all these needs. Based on the above, it could be inferred that a deep underlying need for social media users is to be able to express yourself as freely as possible.

4. Frame your JTBD

Let’s turn this need into an opportunity by framing it in a JTBD format:

I want to hire [product/feature] to [action that addresses deeper need] at [context]

In the social media context, and based on the uncovered user need, a general JTBD statement can be expressed:

I want to hire [product/feature] to help me express myself as freely as possible on social media

Using the examples of product features from Instagram and Snapchat, their answer to this JTBD can be framed this way:

I want to hire Instagram’s filters to help me express myself and makes me look like an expert in taking beautiful pictures, when I’m posting on social media

I want to hire Snapchat’s stories so I can share my experiences with friends without any stress and fear of leaving something embarrassing that I will regret for years to come.

They’ve each interpreted to the deep underlying user need of “being able to express yourself as freely as possible” in different ways — Instagram by making it easier to express yourself beautifully and Snapchat by introducing the temporary nature of Stories.

What next?

Once you have developed a good JTBD (or several), how do you use that as a spring board to generate ideas that solve the JTBD challenge? The “How Might We” (HMW) technique is one way of approaching it. A possible HMW for this JTBD could be “How might we create a judgment-free zone for people to share experiences and feel connected to their friends?”. But before you get to the HMW, you still have to refine and prioritise your JTBD, which will be covered in part 2.

Note: This article has the massive benefit of applying the process to an existing successful solution with hindsight. This is not the only way of discovering a JTBD and most of the time the process will probably not be as clear and distinct.




The LOFT: Lab of Forward Thinking™, is a platform that explores emerging technologies, new business processes and consumer needs to deliver innovative solutions. This is an ecosystem with centers in Boston, Singapore & Toronto.

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