The Leatherman JTBD

Just because something looks like a job to be done doesn’t mean it is a job to be done.

Tim Leatherman was in Vietnam in the 1970s. He noticed that all the Japanese motor bikes had luggage racks for transporting goods but that all the Vespa scooters did not. So with the help of his brother-in-law, Leatherman designed and built one hundred racks for Vespa scooters. He arranged for consignment distribution and hired someone to pass out leaflets.

It seemed like a good fit. There was demonstrated demand. There were motorbikes everywhere! “But when we left Vietnam there were still 97 in the bedroom of our house. It turned out that the people who rode Vespas considered themselves a class above and they had maids who went out and did the shopping.”

The JTBD of a scooter was personal transport and something else. For some people the something else was goods transport, for others it was status.

Leatherman’s podcast with Guy Raz included a second JTBD lesson.

Tim wanted to design a knife with pliers, patent it, and license the idea to the major knife companies. Once he had a working prototype he went to Gerber but they declined, saying it was a tool and not a knife. Everyone knows not to bring a tool to a knife fight. Ok, thought Tim, I’ll pitch this to the tool companies. “And the message I got back from them was, ‘Sorry this is a gadget and gadgets don’t sell.'”

In this case the knife and tool companies confused the category for the job. Much like a hardware company might think they are in the business of just making quarter-inch drill bits when really the customer wants the quarter-inch hole.

The JTBD of Headspace is feeling better through action. The JTBD of dining out is food and atmosphere. The JTBD of Jazzercise was dancing and a dancer’s body.

‘Jobs’ is a great mental model and thanks to Leatherman and Raz for sharing another pair of examples.

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