JTBD Lesson #3: Beware of Overserving!

Improving the product along obvious parameters of value as defined by your customers today tends to lead to overserving. At some point, it becomes more than they can absorb.

Remember the “Advanced Photo System”? You have to be careful about Overserving. It’s tempting to offer all the bells and whistles that customers ask for or that your sales team tell you are essential to closing sales…

When you understand the underlying JTBD you realise that it’s less about the bells and whistles, the “features” of your product, and more about how easy, fast and (especially) cheap it is to get the job done. (Cheaper matters, as it expands the addressable market.)

With Digital, whilst the photo quality itself was initially much poorer (under-serving) because it was much faster to share, it came to dominate the JTBD. Since initial introduction, of course, the photo quality has steadily improved… even to the point where we can even start getting those buttery blurred water-colour backgrounds in our portraits!

Clayton Christen’s puts it like this. He says that there is some rate at which customers can make use of increases in performance (in the products that they hire). Of course, not all customers are the same. Some have higher needs than others. Some have less. There is a spectrum…


What he believes happens is that the rate at which we can improve our products tends to be faster than customers can actually absorb. In particular, we have a tendency to “go upmarket” focusing on higher margin customers in the improvements we prioritise. We are seeking better margins, higher profits. This is basically what you’re taught to do at business school. And for a while, it works really well!

The question is: when have you drifted into “Overserving” the JTBD?

Well, that problem really shows up when new technologies come along, (as they do). Initially, they are often inferior in lots of ways to the current technologies. Not only are they not as good, but the margins are lower, either because of an inherent part of the incumbent’s business model or way of working.

So, the incumbents tend to ignore it. As the new technology matures though, it gets better, and eats the market share of the incumbent from underneath them. (In most cases, the lower margins remain, so there is an increase in consumer surplus – which of course doesn’t show up in GDP figures…)

“incumbent companies ignore new technologies that don’t serve the needs of their customers or fit within their existing business models. However, as the new technology, which excels on completely different attributes than the incumbent’s product, continues to mature, it eventually takes over the market.”

– Ben Thompson, Stratechery (@monkbent)

When you understand the underlying JTBD you realise that it’s less about the bells and whistles, the “features” of your product, it how easy, fast and cheap it is to get the job done. The shift from Analog -> Digital has resulted in an explosion in the number of moments we feel compelled to share. We are now sharing more than 30 times in one year the number of Analog photos ever taken.

So that’s the third lesson we can take from Jobs To Be Done.


Next: JTBD Lesson #4: Segment by JTBD


Want more on JTBD? Here’s 5 lessons you can get from Jobs to be Done (JTBD):

JTBD Lesson #1: Focus on the higher purpose

JTBD Lesson #2: The JTBD doesn’t change. The product we hire does.

JTBD Lesson #3: Beware of Overserving

JTBD Lesson #4: Segment by JTBD

JTBD Lesson #5:

(Above will get updated with links as they are published!)


Previous Posts on Jobs to be Done:

Health Tracking Jobs to be Done