Why is the Jobs To Be Done framework dangerous?

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole” – Theodore Levitt, Harvard Marketing Professor

The drill example above is a perfect model to show that there are motivations behind people’s acts. Still, it does not shows the motivation itself. Thankfully, it’s not difficult the expand upon the drill example to find the root cause of the issue:

  • I don’t need a drill, I need a hole;
  • I don’t need a hole, I need a shelf on the wall;
  • I don’t need a shelf, I want to pack my books;
  • I don’t want to pack my books, I want to organize my books;
  • I don’t want to organize my books, I want to digitize my books, so they don’t take up any space, and here we have the Kindle.

There are other possible endings too:

  • I don’t want to pack my books, I want to get rid of the chaos in my room;
  • and I’m going to sell those books


  • I don’t want to pack my books, I want to get rid of the chaos in my room;
  • I don’t want to get rid of the chaos, I want to avoid chaos, and I’m going to change my habits.

Even being a sub-optimal solution, drills still sell!

So, there should be an error in the above reasoning. We had to miss on something important that stops us, the customers on getting to the root causes of our own behaviour.

What was the root cause? My habits. What would be the only sustainable solution? Changing myself. Everything else is about fixing the consequences.

Why do we end up with a solution about the consequences? Because that’s easy. It’s much easier to buy new shelves than acknowledging that we don’t need the majority of the books that we’ve read already. Even more, acknowledging that we can not handle our own levels of consumption.

As this silly example of packing the books shows, we are living in our own life’s consequences. By taking the JTBD framework seriously, and working our way even to the root causes of our needs (that are already beyond the framework), we have to face ourselves, and the consequences of our previous dumb decisions.

Now, if we take a look at some real problems, like global warming and over-consumption, we see that these are the results of human behaviour too. How do we try to solve these? We try to solve them as we do with the books. We hope that a new technological break-through will provide us with a solution. We are looking for shelves and Kindles, but with those, the real problem would stay. The only real solution is if we change ourselves, and we change ourselves at a global level, each of us. This is the challenge in front of us.

P.S.: Personally, I’m thankful for the chance of working with people at Fontanus Center who are working to solve the real problem.

1 Comment

  1. I think we can have a product at any level (at any “why”) and, the more high-level we are, the harder it becomes to tell the story and sell the solution. Low-level solutions are an easy sell.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *