People don’t buy products because they want the products, themselves, they “hire” products because they have a job they want that product to do for them. This idea, popularized by Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School of Harvard University, may be simple language reframing but it’s a powerful way to examine objects. Christensen’s tells it best through a story of milkshakes:

So, what jobs are the people you are designing for wanting to be done? When someone hires a pen, they want the job of “writing something” done. When they visit a theme park, they need the job of “creating memories with family” done.

As experience designers, we are concerned with not just jobs to be done, but also the feeling of the job while it is being done. Yeah, we can write a letter with a pen, but do we enjoy the experience of writing with that pen? If “writing something” is the job to be done, then a Bic Stic pen is all we’d need, right? What if we were given a Mont Blanc Meisterstück Geometry Solitaire LeGrand Fountain Pen to write with? Job done (with style)!

Everyone is not a Mont Blanc-lover. Despite articles like Here’s why you should stop using Personas, researching people and their values still make a lot of sense. Experience designers aren’t just selling milkshakes. We’re about the experience of the milkshake. Still, JTBD has a lot of value as a framework for rethinking products and strategies.

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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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