The Core of the Jobs-to-be-done Theory

"People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole!” This classic description of the jobs-to-be-done framework by HBS Professor Theodore Levitt famously captures what most companies miss.

Products and services may vary, evolve, and eventually disappear, but people continue to buy products and services to get jobs done.

Join us for a Virtual Espresso☕ on March 24th at 5 PM PST, as we will talk more about creating products/services/offers to get your customers’ functional, social, and emotional jobs done.

Bringing Theory to Practice

To help our client, Recology, meet their customer, the City of San Francisco, achieve their Zero Waste goals, we applied the jobs-to-be-done framework to deconstruct an abstract goal into actionable steps for the residents of San Francisco.

Human-centered innovations require breaking from the backward-looking, data-driven trends that traditionally inform product and service development. To do this, we talk to users, gather their feedback, and use the jobs-to-be-done framework to analyze their motives behind their actions to uncover the “why” behind the “what”.

Here is the checklist of questions to prompt your team as you explore the three main axes of the jobs-to-be-done framework, using the Zero Waste case study.

The Functional Jobs

These are the specific, defined tasks your customers are trying to achieve.

  • What job, if failed, leads to extreme pains?
    • For the City of San Francisco, failing in their Zero Waste goals means losing their position as an environmentally-friendly, forward-thinking city.
  • How easily can residents of San Francisco positively contribute to this outcome?
    • Within private residences, Recology and the City reduced the size of waste containers, emphasizing larger recycling and composting bins; however, on street corners throughout the city, waste bins are the only accessible option.

Emotional Dimensions

  • What emotional needs are your customers trying to satisfy?
    • Many residents of San Francisco self-select into the San Francisco lifestyle that includes an emphasis on environmental consciousness. They elect officials that represent and promote these interests. 
  • What does your customer need to do to feel this way?
    • Properly disposing of their waste is a “need to have” for many City residents. Countertop composting bins were ubiquitous before the statewide law mandating composting in all jurisdictions. Residents like feeling like environmental trendsetters.

Social Dimensions

  • How does your customer want to be perceived by others?
    • Being a “San Franciscan,” is a source of pride. They want to be a leading state, national, and global voice for this set of progressive values.
  • What can your customer do to help themselves be perceived this way?
    • Residents welcome this extra effort because it reinforces their identity as progressive thinkers and actors. They embrace social media as a mouthpiece for their values with the explicit aim of bringing others into their cause.

At The Berkeley Innovation Group, we co-create alongside our clients to generate innovative, customer-centered value propositions. Our greatest skill is helping find the “why” motivations behind the “what” actions taken by your customers.

Join us for a Virtual Espresso☕ on March 24th at 5 PM PST, as we will talk more about unlocking the right opportunities that align with your customers’ jobs to be done.



1Christensen, C., M., Hall, T., Dillon, K., and Duncan, C. S. (September, 2016). Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done.” Harvard Business Review.
2Etiemble, F. (March, 2019). Are Gains the Opposite of Pains? Strategyzer.

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