Improve learning design with Jobs-to-be-Done

05 May, 2023| Ger Driesen| 4 min read

We’ve shared several articles on Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) over the past few years. But here’s a quick refresher along with links to where you can find them should the need arise.

The ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ approach is a framework that has its origins in marketing and innovation. Business professor Theodore Levitt set the scene really well with his well-known quote: “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” It’s essentially about finding out what people really need for them to achieve things that matter in their lives: the jobs that they want to get done. For learning designers these ‘people’ are the learners that they design for.

The why

Today though, we’ll be addressing one topic concerning JTBD: Why is Jobs-to-be-Done a good framework to improve your learning design? There are three good reasons for that. Let’s explore each of them in detail.

Reason #1

Create the connection

It ties the person to the job they want to accomplish

Applying JTBD starts with finding the functional job that a person wants to accomplish. In their journey to create progress in their lives, people have all kinds of jobs they need to get done. A part of them can be work related jobs. While doing so, they try to maximise the gains and minimise the pains related to it. When it comes to workplace learning, (learning) designers create solutions to get the functional job done with the maximum gains and the minimal pains.

What defines a target group in learning design is the common challenge around the functional job to be done, not the general characteristics that we often see occur when using personas. The focus on the connection between people and the jobs they want to get done will make the design relevant, compact and useful. To define it, you use the following format: verb + object of the verb (noun) + contextual clarifier. For example: ‘Checking a patient’s vital signs in an ambulance,’ or ‘responding to messages while on the go.’

Reason #2

Enhance the solution

It highlights relevant social and emotional aspects

Work and learning aren’t purely rational phenomena. After defining the functional jobs to be done, we can now explore related emotional and social ones. These are connected to the functional job to be done.

The emotional job to be done is how somebody feels while doing or just after completing the functional job. Think of feeling insecure, like a beginner, anxious, ashamed. Or more positive, secure, confident, a pro, proud, in control.

The social jobs to be done is about how others perceive the job executor; it’s about status and reputation. Do they come off as an amateur or pro, as secure or insecure as bold or anxious, self-confident or unsure, caring or rude?

Being aware of these aspects can help the designer to enhance the solution beyond the more obvious rational aspects. Taking emotional and social aspects into consideration when designing a learning solution will likely support transfer: applying new behaviour on the job.

Reason #3

Make or break the usefulness

It brings the context into the design process

You might have heard the statement that when it comes to workplace learning, ‘context is king’ instead of ‘content is king’. Designers need to be aware of the specific context in which end users will use their solution. Learning designers should do that as well. If you use the basic format for the functional job ‘verb + object of the verb (noun) + contextual clarifier’, it will give you a ’nudge’ to describe the context. Like in the example ‘checking a patient’s vital signs in an ambulance’, the ‘in an ambulance’ part might make a significant difference compared to ‘in the hospital’.

Contexts of the work environment can be very different and of big importance to make or break the usefulness of the solutions. I worked for a Japanese company where I learned ‘go to Gemba’, which means going to the place where the work is done (and talking to the people who do the work). Designing a solution to be used at an ER or in a clean room must be adjusted to the context.

Ask or read away

Other frameworks might also help to create focus on these three important elements but I don’t know any other that combines these three. If you do, please let me know! If the JTBD approach is useful for you or if you’ve given it a try but got stuck, please let me know as well.

Check out these useful articles on JTBD:

Read how you can apply the framework as a trainer – ‘Professionals don’t want training, they want the result

Making a learning impact with the JTBD method – ‘Jobs-to-be-Done for learning design: A fresh outlook with Mariël Rondeel

Learning trend catcher Loves to connect

Ger Driesen

Would like a direct brain-internet connection. Loves connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global learning community.

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