Jobs-to-be-Done for learning design: A chat with Mariël Rondeel

03 October, 2022| Ger Driesen| 7 min read

I’ve always looked at the ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ framework. I even ignited my colleague Corjan with my enthusiasm in 2021, after which he wrote an article about JTBD, in which he discusses the application of the framework for trainers.

A year later, the framework is still relevant and as interesting as ever! Within aNewSpring, we’re currently looking closely at ‘learning impact’ as the current theme of our aNewLetter.

When I think of making a learning impact, the JTDB method quickly comes to mind. And I’m not alone in this, because recently I had a very interesting conversation about the concept with Mariël Rondeel of Kessels & Smit.

Mariël Rondeel

Mariël is most interested in the question: what exactly does a profession involve, and how can you design a powerful learning process together to support people's mastery of it?

She supervises the FCE course ‘Advising & Designing for Learning in Organisations’ for designers and advisors. Here she teaches them the Jobs-to-be-Done concept, among other concepts.

Needless to say, this makes her an interesting discussion partner for this topic and she can tell us more about the applications she has seen within the course.

The added value of JTBD for learning design

Before Mariël shares her insights on the added value, let’s take a step back. What is ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ in a nutshell? The perspective comes from the corner of marketing and innovation.

Professor of Business Administration, Theodore Levitt, is often quoted to explain the approach: “Nobody wants a five-millimetre drill bit. What people want is a five-millimetre hole.” Another great example is improving a milkshake. Not by looking at how to make the milkshake taste better, but by discovering what needs the milkshake fulfils and fulfilling that need even better.

Therefore, it’s about what people want to achieve rather than the products, services or support they use to do so. When applied within learning design, you can then say: “professionals don’t want training, they want the result of the training.”

If you want to dive a little deeper into the framework, I definitely recommend reading the three blogs I mentioned earlier. I will now shift attention back to my discussion partner.

“What really appeals to me about the JTBD concept are the emotional and social goals,” Mariël says. “If you look at the design of job-based learning programs for example, the focus is often on the content of what needs to be learned. I then try to talk mainly about the typical situations in the job in which people can make a difference.

What do they need to be able to do and know in order to do that? But the element: how do they want to feel about that or how do they want to be seen by others, is not naturally included. The JTBD model encourages you to think about that and take it into account in your design.”

So, it is not just about the functional job, but there’s more to it. Mariël continues, “I think that learning journeys become better and have more impact if you look further in your analysis. Not only at the work that needs to be done and for which you’re designing the learning journey, but also at other relevant elements. Such as who you are, the person behind the professional, and how you deal or want to deal with others.”

A good example is women’s CPR. When women suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, they’re less likely to be resuscitated than men. Researchers found out that bystanders may suffer from ‘breast fear’. This is because the resuscitation mannequins practised on looked either masculine or gender neutral. Because of this discovery, trainers now have female CPR mannequins. And here, you see how important it is to include other elements than just the work to be done.

Combining JTBD with a design model

Every education professional has a favourite design model. But how do you combine it? Mariël told me in detail about her favourite model, and how she combines it with JTBD.

“I like to use the 'eight field model'. This is a great framework for engaging with people and answering questions together such as: what movement do we want to achieve in the organisation? Where do we want to go? What new skills does this require? And when are we satisfied?

The eight field model creates common views among those involved about the approach of designing a learning journey. And it contributes to a logical connection between the organisational goal you want to achieve and the learning process that must contribute to it.”

This model is easy to combine with the JTBD principle according to Mariël. “For example, one of the fields is: what skills do you need to make a difference in the job? That’s where there is great value in bringing in the JTBD model. When formulating the competencies, it can help to take a broader view. So, the aim is to look not only at the functional job, but also at the people, and the emotional and social sides of jobs.”

The application of JTBD

I was invited to guest lecture on JTBD for participants of Mariël's ‘Advisory & Design for Learning in Organisations’ FCE course. “One of the participants was immediately excited about this way of thinking during the session,” Mariël says. “She ended up using several methods when analysing her issue, including JTBD. What I see as the added value of this model, I also saw in her analysis. It offered yet another angle to make the translation to: what do these ‘jobs’ mean for the design?”

Mariël shares that she’s curious to see more examples in our field. “How do other people use it? What exactly does that look like? And how does it increase the impact of learning? I myself am mostly drawn to the functional, social and emotional factors, but the fourth factor is also very relevant: supply chain.”

What Kessels & Smit does

Kessels & Smit is a group of learning professionals. Learning, developing and changing is what they are concerned with in their work, but also what they themselves enjoy doing while working with clients. Mariël says, “Mutual attraction is an important concept with us: how do we both benefit from the collaboration; when is it attractive for me and for the client to work together? For example, I like it when I can work with people on an intriguing design question that we sink our teeth into together. For the client, it’s attractive when I can contribute my expertise and lessons learned in the process.”

In addition, at Kessels & Smit they have an eye for what is already working and they build on it. “We really are entrepreneurs of our own talent and our own work,” Mariël explains. “We get the chance to discover what makes us excited to work on. We do this by hanging out with colleagues who do certain work that makes us think: that’s interesting, I want to know more about that.”

What does Kessels & Smit want to pass along to learning designers? Mariël highlights two messages for us:

“The first is a quote by Joseph Kessels: you can’t be smart against your will. So you can mainly develop in things you are interested in and curious about. Then you think about how you can connect to that in your design. Or you let people design their own learning process, using their curiosity as the engine.

The second message is that people have already gotten somewhere, how can you help them move forward? That’s really about recognising what people already bring and using that as a starting point for your design. Instead of the perspective that we’re filling gaps or eliminating deficits, it’s much more of looking at what people bring to the table, what they’re energised by, and what they want to get better at.”

Learning design is no rocket science

Of course, I’m also curious to know what message Mariël herself would like to give learning designers. The first thing that comes to her mind is ‘relational design’. “You never design on your own; you need others for that. People who participate in the learning process, who are going to guide it or make it possible. We, in our profession, can provide ideas on how best to learn or what formats you can think of, but learning is often also about a subject content that I don’t master. And then you really need the professionals, the people who do the work.”

In addition, Mariël wants to impart to learning designers that designing is not rocket science. It’s a matter of clever and logical thinking, and involving the right people. “After a good analysis, the design comes naturally. We are often enthusiastically thinking up creative forms, but the trick is to get the analysis right. Not that learning should not be attractive. But if you know well what learning should be about and what it should result in, that helps enormously.”

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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