"Jobs To Be Done" by Anthony W. Ulwick

Review by Borodutch

A few friends recommended I read "Jobs To Be Done" and familiarize myself with the general framework. Unfortunately, even though I was excited about how short the explanation was, the whole concept is similar to GTD in terms of over-complicating the system so that you could teach and consult to squeeze money from an unknowledgeable audience.

I'll put it plainly: if your "productivity" or "innovation" system includes the need for people to pass courses or get certified — then the method provides only an illusion of order and productivity, not the real things. It is straightforward to present "JTBD" or "ODI" certification as a proxy for a person's ability to innovate. Unfortunately, it does not work like this.

The author certainly tries to implant the idea of "follow these simple 70+ steps, and you will innovate better!" However, it is pretty impossible to develop a strategy to improve innovation. I want to believe that Anthony started with a simple set of rules — but then bloated it with procedures and complications to sell the system as a consultant. Otherwise, we have a case of a bureaucrat trying to increase the amount of bureaucracy because he gets paid for the number of steps, not for the results.

I'll spare you all the time you might waste on "learning" JTBD or ODI. Here're the two main ideas:

  • When trying to innovate, start with a customer need, not with an idea
  • When implementing an idea, measure the results and fix whatever you did wrong

And this is it! The rest of the book (or the method as a whole) is about setting up unending procedures in the company and trying to hinder progress with unnecessary bureaucracy.

Now, are the two ideas above correct? If you're a person who always worked in the office and is oblivious to history — you might as well believe the author. Why not? Anthony forces you into making a survivorship bias by only showing the case studies when leadership introduced the system and the innovation came in. But that B came after A doesn't mean that A caused B!

It's even worse: if you think about it, how did we innovate before the author came up with JTBD? Did we first think of a need and then come up with ideas? Hell no! A bunch of people tinkered in their garages or labs and then realized they were onto something. They started selling — and boom, innovation!

But the author does not want you to know it, and he does not want you to innovate better. He wants to sell consultancy and certifications to your company. If you read JTBD, ensure you understand all the points above.