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Jobs to be Done: A Practical Guide for Designers and Product Managers

As a designer or a product manager/owner, you are always on the lookout for ways to optimise your work process and better understand your clients’ needs.

One powerful approach you can leverage is the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) framework, which helps you identify the real problems users want to solve and then tailor your designs to address them effectively. In this article, we will explore the JTBD theory, its benefits, and some practical examples that can be applied to graphic design projects.

Understanding Jobs to be Done

The JTBD theory, pioneered by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, states that people “hire” products or services to accomplish specific tasks or “jobs.” By identifying these jobs, you can create designs that truly satisfy clients’ needs and set yourself apart from competitors.

We’ve gone into more detail about what JTBD is in this article.

The JTBD framework can be broken down into functional, emotional, and social jobs.

Functional jobs are the practical tasks users want to accomplish, emotional jobs are related to how the product or service makes users feel, and social jobs involve the image users want to project to others.

Benefits of Applying JTBD in Design

  1. Enhanced client communication: JTBD helps you ask the right questions to better understand your clients’ needs, leading to more effective communication and collaboration.
  2. Improved design focus: By identifying the real problems your clients face, you can prioritise your design efforts, avoid distractions, and create more impactful designs.
  3. Increased value proposition: A design that addresses clients’ jobs to be done can provide them with a competitive advantage and strengthen their brand.

Examples of Jobs to be Done in real-world projects

The practical application of the JTBD theory is what confuses many designers and product people, so we’ve prepared a list of useful examples you can use for reference:

Milkshake Example

The famous milkshake example by Clayton Christensen is one of the most well-known examples of JTBD theory. In this example, fast-food restaurants were struggling to sell milkshakes in the morning. After conducting research, they found that customers were ‘hiring’ milkshakes to make their morning commutes more enjoyable and bearable. So, they made the milkshakes thicker and added more chunks to make them more filling, allowing the customers to enjoy a satisfying and convenient breakfast on the go.


Netflix is another example of JTBD theory in action. The company initially started as a DVD rental service, but after understanding the jobs their customers were trying to accomplish (convenient access to movies and TV shows), they shifted their focus to streaming services. This allowed customers to access content whenever they wanted, without the hassle of returning DVDs.


Airbnb is a platform that allows travellers to find unique accommodation options. By understanding the jobs their customers were trying to accomplish (finding affordable and unique accommodations), Airbnb was able to disrupt the traditional hotel industry by offering more personalised and budget-friendly options.


Tesla is another example of the JTBD theory in action. The company understood that customers were hiring cars to transport them from one place to another, but also wanted a sustainable and environmentally-friendly option. By focusing on electric cars, Tesla was able to provide customers with a product that fulfilled both of these needs.