Jobs-to-be-done and Munchkin spoons – Thinking Product

My hypothesis is that great products have 3 characteristics –

1. Nail job-to-be-done: They are a great solution to a problem users care about
2. Delight to use: They are well designed
3. Sticky: Makes the customer/user want to come back

I thought I’d start by digging into the idea of nailing job-to-be-done. And, to do that, I decided to start with a physical product that I think does a great job of this.

This is what Munchkin Inc.’s (what a great name) spoons look like when all is normal.

At this stage, it is like every other spoon for infants in the market. It is light, easy to use and colorful.

Here’s what the spoon looks like when it touches hot food.

The spoon turns white and gradually becomes colorful again as it cools. It is designed to help parents avoid ever burning their kids’ tongue and has become very popular with first time parents.

Understanding jobs-to-be-done: The jobs-to-be-done idea is that customers don’t buy specific products or services. Instead, they hire various solutions at various times to get a wide variety of jobs done.  A job-to-be-done, thus, is about the higher purpose (or “the why”) that causes a customer to buy.

So, how do you test if you really understand jobs-to-be-done? There are 2 tests –
1. Do you understand why the customer buys this product?
2. Do you know what the customer fires to hire this product?

Both these questions are important. So, let’s dig into them.

1. Do you understand why the customer buys this product?
This is a classic example of a seemingly simple question that is hard to answer. One way to illustrate this is by asking – what are Netflix’s competitors?

The obvious answers are Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube. But, the answer would be different from from a jobs-to-be-done point of view.

Why do people watch/hire Netflix? A hypothesis could be that they likely hire Netflix to escape from the day-to-day at the end of a day or to help them avoid boredom. And, if that’s the case, then Netflix’s competitors would actually be the following: television, books, listening to music, watching TV with the family, conversations with friends or family, sleep, cooking / putting together a meal kit, and exercise. And, this is us just getting started. Of course, some of this is more important than others. But, the list is a lot broader than you think.

2. Do you know what the customer fires to hire this product?
When you understand why customers hire you, it is easier to understand what people fire. Working with our hypothesis around Netflix, people often likely “fire” reading books, watching television with the family, exercising, among others.

This leads to all sorts of product insights for Netflix. For example,

  • Make sure you have interesting documentary content for people interested to learn (instead of books)
  • Make as many original TV shows as possible so people tune in to you just like they’d tune into television (television)
  • Allow for these TV shows to be binge watched (sleep)
  • Have an endless collection of great recommendations so people are always happy they hired you to avoid boredom (overall)
  • Allow other members of the family have separate accounts so you can all watch Netflix separately if need be and so you nail the right recommendations for the right person (replace family watching TV)

Back to Munckin spoons: Understanding JTBD helps us understand what Munckin Inc’s spoons do really well. They understand that parents hire almost anything to do with their infant to do 2 things – i) Do the job and ii) Ensure safety.

Most other infant spoons did half the job well. But, Munchkin Inc. understand that new parents would pay a premium for safety and nailed the use case. Every other spoon got fired.

Jobs-to-be-done is a process of discovery and it isn’t something you necessarily get right when you build your product the first time. This process of understanding it and nailing it is called “product-market fit.” And, it is a process every great product gets right.

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