Episode 66 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Jim Kalbach. Jim is the Chief Evangelist at MURAL, and author of Designing Web Navigation (O’Reilly, 2007), Mapping Experiences (O’Reilly, 2016), and his latest, The Jobs to Be Done Playbook (Rosenfeld, 2020). In this conversation, we dive into Jobs to Be Done, how it relates to design, and how jobs can create an “out-of-body experience” for organizations.

As Jim sees it, JTBD is an innovation framework above all:

The first question that I always teach people to answer in defining the jobs that they’re going to be targeting is, “where do you want to innovate?” And once you’re able to answer that question, what Jobs to Be Done brings is a lot of focus and clarity to that.

But it’s an innovation framework framed in terms of the needs of the human beings who use the system:

notice I didn’t say “user” or “customer” or “prospect” or “target market.” It’s human terms. It’s understanding within that space, once you define your innovation target, what do human beings want? — and trying to find that out.

Finding out — and establishing a direction forward — calls for putting aside the organization’s internal framings so it can understand the domain from the perspective of their customers and users. As Jim put it,

organizations are really good at looking at human beings through the lens of their own brand and their solution…

Let’s be serious here. A customer journey map and a lot of that stuff, that’s about you and your organization. That’s not about human beings. Jobs to Be Done explicitly puts that to the side and then you’re asking yourself, “well, how do I describe that then? How do I describe what people want and what they’re trying to get done?” And Jobs to Be Done gives you way to do that. Once you put all that other stuff to the side, you can still — in a very structured, targeted and focused way — you can describe human behavior. Very specific types of human behavior.

As I called out during the conversation, this sounds a lot like user-centered design. But there are differences, and Jim explained what those are. (Hint: JTBD avoids describing technical solutions.)

The Jobs to Be Done Playbook was one of my favorite reads from 2020 (you can see my book notes), and I was delighted to have had Jim on the show to tell us about JTBD. I hope you get as much value from our conversation as I did.

The Informed Life episode 66: Jim Kalbach on Jobs to Be Done