Have you heard of Jobs Theory? It is a growing approach to innovation that is capturing business people’s imagination.  At the heart of a product or service is the progress desired by the person, the job.  Jobs differ by circumstance and can be driven by functional, emotional or social desired progress, or some combination of the three.  It is a very useful approach, though once again, not a silver bullet. Yes, you need need to understand the job, but also the person you serve and your business strategy or intention.  The three together are critical inputs to a winning effort. I really like Jobs Theory as part of an array of tools to win.

So what is the Job of Design Thinking?

First, let’s consider the circumstances where Design Thinking helps:

  • circumstance one: an ambiguous challenge.  You are not quite sure what the challenge really is and yet you know it is important to solve.
  • circumstance two: a vexing, or wicked, challenge. You’ve tried every conventional way to solve the problem and still it is not fixed.  Obviously, you need to address it in a new way in order to fix this recurring business headache.
  • circumstance three: you want to explore and see what’s possible.
In all of these circumstances I have seen Design Thinking help.  Where Design Thinking has been less effective, in my experience, is in solving puzzles, technical problems or modest improvements.
In the three circumstances outlined above, Design Thinking offers real progress for organizations.  People are desiring a path forward out of ambiguity, purgatory, or routine. They are seeking clarity of what to do to improve the outcomes and Design Thinking helps point a direction, saying “Over here. This way!” Functionally, it helps frame areas of opportunity and identify solutions. Emotionally, it feels good to work out of empathy for others. And, by its practice most often, Design Thinking is inherently a social process of co-creation that harnesses diversity of perspective at its very core.
The Job of Design Thinking? To bring clarity when it is least present and to do that in a way that is unexpected and inherently human centered. Once you have clarity on the path, Jobs Theory can really help you understand exactly what is expected by the solutions that emerge so you can marry that with your business strategy to design products and experiences to delighting perfection!

Take Action

If you haven’t heard it before, check out the HBR podcast on Jobs to be Done and the milkshake story and that unexpected job!
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