The Job To Be Done

Shells in the Sands Series #3

Gemma Jiang, PhD

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The intention for this series is to share cherished thoughts and reflections of life in bite-size pieces. I have been an avid journal writer since my early teens, and most of the original writings were initially captured in my personal journal. I have chosen the most pertinent ones to share with the world through this series. This joy is similar to picking out beautiful shells while walking on a sandy beach.

People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole. - Theodore Levitt

The Jobs-to-be-Done Theory was recently introduced to me by a good friend. The gist of it is that customers buy products and services to help them get a job done. It is therefore more effective to ask “what is the job they are trying to get done”, which could open up wider horizons instead of constraining to the narrow selection of solutions at hand.

Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in organizational psychology, famously noted that nothing is so practical as a good theory. This theory was certainly at play during this camping trip when we ran into a problem with the battery for my RAD Power bike.

Our bikes on the bike trail on Jekyll Island

Our first stop was Jekyll Island in Georgia, a perfect midway point between our house in South Carolina and Palm Beach Florida, the destination for our “annual snowbird migration”. We have visited Jekyll Island several times previously, but this was the first time we camped directly on the island. We were most excited about riding the 28-mile long paved bike trail with our RAD bikes. This excitement was especially pronounced given the lengthy preparation we just went through to select, inspect, and install new bike racks so that we could carry the bikes properly with our camper and new Tahoe.

Alas, catastrophe struck on our first bike ride the afternoon of our arrival. When we started out, my battery had only two bars. This was after two full days on the charger. I barely made it back to the campground after less than one hour of riding.

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Gemma Jiang, PhD

Senior Team Scientist, Colorado State University; Complexity Leadership Scholar and Practitioner; also at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gemma-jiang/