Jobs to be done innovation

Jobs to be done innovation is a very powerful process for innovation. In fact, it is so powerful that you don’t even have to innovate to be innovative with it. You might not have to change your organization that much, you can be innovating anyway.

The default innovation model

Fail fast innovation wastes 95% of the effort on the failing projects. Fail fast innovation has become a defacto standard. It is very popular in startups and in tech-driven innovation. Despite its popularity, it might not be very efficient as so many innovations fail.

The failure rate for startups, using a yardstick in which investors lose everything (i.e., all of the company’s assets are liquidated), is between thirty and forty per cent, according to Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. The rate is seventy to eighty per cent if failure is defined as not meeting the projected return on investment, and ninety to ninety-five per cent if it is measured by failing to beat a declared projection.

I have argued previously that fail fast might in itself be a failure. If you are ready to waste 95% of your effort and have a 50% chance of your company failing, you should probably stick with the model. If you need something a little better, maybe you should look at another innovation model?

Jobs to be done innovation

The jobs to be done innovation is a little bit like the difference between listening to radio signals from humans instead of listening to presumed aliens in space.

The jobs to be done innovation is a little bit like the difference between listening to radio signals from humans instead of listening to presumed aliens in space.


Jobs to be done innovation is based on the simple observation that people will adopt innovation if and only if it will help them achieve their goals in a more efficent or effective way. We will only adopt an innovation if it is sufficiently better or cheaper or both for getting the job done. You can learn more about “jobs to be done” on Joe Daeger’s excellent podcast.

Jobs to be done require that innovators find out what jobs people actually need to get done. When an innovator has mapped the jobs that are to be done he or she has to find out where the pain points are and what can be done to address them. If the pain is sufficently big and the innovation takes away enough of that pain it will work.

The most interesting thing about jobs to be done innovation is that sometimes it is not the product that needs development but the marketing and the packaging. In Joe’s podcast you will find an example of how a company could increase their sales by a two-digit number just by changing how they marketed an existing product. This is what Gene Hughson would call “what was old can be new again“.

In a way, you could say that “jobs to be done innovation” is to “fail fast innovation” as “different box thinking” is to “out of the box thinking”. Have you heard about “different box thinking” yet?

Part of a conversation on innovation

This post is part 36 of an ongoing conversation on innovation between myself and Gene Hughson.

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About Greger Wikstrand

Greger Wikstrand, Ph.D. M.Sc. is a TOGAF 9 certified enterprise architect with an interest in e-heatlh, m-health and all things agile as well as processes, methods and tools. Greger Wikstrand works as a consultant at Capgemini where he alternates between enterprise agile coaching, problem solving and designing large scale e-health services ...

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