Post Covid19 thoughts: we may need to rethink JTBD

Jobs to be done is a great tool for exploring customer centred innovation.  It asks us to switch from designing what we hope the customer will like, to uncovering, usually through interviews, what individual customers really need in their lives.  These motivations might allow us, for example, to look at the way we search for products that help us feel safe, keep our loved ones healthy or make us look good in front of friends.

Typically we uncover three different types of jobs: functional (eg getting from A to B), emotional (making me feel safe) and social (displaying my status). 

A brand has the opportunity to focus on meeting these identified needs better than any one else.  Such innovation is likely to be highly focused and brands, that take this approach, tend to produce solutions that are highly attractive to customers motivated by these needs.

As the coronavirus lockdown ends, perhaps customers will discover that some of their needs, priorities and motivations will have changed.

I have been reading a lot recently about networks including Damon Centola’s excellent How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagion.  I started this before Covid19 was even on the horizon but it seems even more relevant now.  

Central to Centola’s book is that idea that ideas and behaviours are not like viruses.  Instead of becoming “infected” by a single friend or influencer, ideas needs to be transmitted to us many times by our network of contacts.  We copy when we see many others adopting a product, a habit or a solution.

In a Jobs to be Done context this insight is going to be particularly important for social jobs; the motivations where we consider what matters to our friends and contacts. And perhaps, post-Covid what our networks think will have changed.  

To me this does not undermine the JTBD technique; it simply asks us to explore with customers the changing nature of their social motivations.

We should have been doing that already but in the next few months lets not assume that showing off, flaunting my status, demonstrating my expertise or displaying my funny side will be the only social jobs that our customers are trying to.

One final thought for today.  I wonder if anyone in the JTBD community considers future consumers in their interviews; future generations who are not yet born or too young to be interviewed.  Their functional, emotional and social needs will emerge but can we not predict some of them now and take them into account as we design the solutions of the future? Think climate, inequality, data privacy and healthcare.

I believe Covid19 allows a lot of us to pause and ask whether we should continue innovating around current needs or really try to design for a future post-contagion; filled with new priorities and new challenges.

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