Technique 3 - Outcome Expectations

Give customers more of what they desire.

Outcome expectations are a direct outgrowth of innovation jobs to be done (JTBDs), and they lead to eventual new solutions that create more value and customer satisfaction than existing products and services. For example, the job of cleaning your clothes has many associated outcome expectations, such as minimize the time it takes to clean clothes, increase the likelihood of stain removal, and increase the ease with which clothes are cleaned.

It’s important to define any outcome expectations associated with a JTBD when pursuing an innovation based on that JTBD. Understanding these expectations, and knowing how satisfied (or unsatisfied) customers are with current solutions, helps you identify unidentified market space and possibly fill that space with better solutions than what exists today. You may need light survey design and sampling help from a statistician to apply this technique, but for the most part it requires no expert assistance.


There are four types of outcome expectations:

  1. Desired outcomes customers want to achieve.
  2. Undesired outcomes customers want to avoid.
  3. Desired outcomes providers want to achieve.
  4. Undesired outcomes providers want to avoid (see exhibit).

By segmenting outcome expectations in this manner, you can look at the JTBD through the lens of what the customer wants and doesn’t want, as well as what the provider wants and doesn’t want. Both parties must benefit from the innovation or it will never reach viable commercialization.

We can view outcome expectations as hiring criteria, a notion set forth by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, the originator of the Jobs to be Done concept. In his own words at the 2009 World Innovation Forum in New York: “What are the experiences in purchase and use which, if all provided, would sum up to nailing the job perfectly?”

Customers typically hire the solution that gives them more of the desired outcomes (benefits) and less of the undesired outcomes (cost and harm). As a provider, you want the solution that maximizes desired outcomes and minimizes undesired outcomes—for your customers and yourself. When you accomplish this, you position yourself to create high-value (innovative) solutions that address your customers’ JTBDs better than competitors.

People don’t buy quarter-inch drills; they buy quarter-inch holes. The drill just happens to be the best means available to get that job done.
—Ted Leavitt of Harvard Business School

We know of at least one company that was working on innovating a better detergent while another innovated a washing machine that doesn’t need detergent. Whose solution will capture more market share or be more profitable? It depends on which company can better fulfill the outcome expectations for itself and its customers.


Step 1. Identify the Job to be Done

In Jobs to be Done (Technique 1), we provide instructions for how to develop job statements and how to determine which JTBDs are priorities for innovation. Follow these steps to select the JTBD for which you'll develop related outcome expectations.

Step 2. List the JTBD’s Related Outcome Expectations

You can use a simple table like the one above to brainstorm the four types of outcome expectations that relate to your selected JTBD. Keep asking, “What criteria would the customer use to decide which solution to hire or use?” Think in terms of time, cost, potential errors, quality, dependability, availability, ease of use, maintainability, and any number of other satisfaction and dissatisfaction dimensions.

Do not confuse this exercise with Functional Requirements (see Technique 33), which are solution-specific performance characteristics, such as candle burn time (target = 32 hours), or PC battery life (target = 6 hours). Outcome expectations are solution-neutral and reside at a higher level; they are JTBD-specific desires, such as increase the duration of illumination (using any solution), or increase operating time (in whatever way possible).

See the discussion on Job Mapping (Technique 2) for more help in creating your list of outcome expectations. Create a list of outcome expectations for each step in your job map.

Step 3. Create Outcome Statements

Since the job of innovation is to meet expectations to a greater extent than they are met today, they should be stated in imperative terms, using a standard structure. That structure is:

  • The direction of action (minimize, increase).
  • The unit of measurement (time, cost, probability, defects, errors, etc.).
  • The object of control (what it is you're influencing).
  • The context (where or under what circumstances).

Consider this customer outcome statement: Increase the likelihood that clothes appear fresh after home cleaning. Increase denotes the direction, likelihood is the unit of measure, clothes appear fresh is the object of control, and at home is the context.

Other outcome statements related to the job of cleaning clothes at home might be:

  • Minimize the time it takes to clean clothes.
  • Minimize the cost of cleaning clothes.
  • Increase the likelihood of stain removal.
  • Minimize any damage to clothes.
  • Minimize the effort needed to clean clothes.
  • Increase the likelihood that clothes look fresh.
  • Increase the likelihood of an appealing smell from clothes.
  • Minimize the likelihood of any wrinkles in clothes.
  • Increase the likelihood of removing all foreign particles, germs and bacteria from clothes.
  • Increase the ease of cleaning clothes.
  • Minimize the use of resources (water, energy, detergent) in cleaning clothes.

Some example outcome statements from the provider's perspective include:

  • Increase the revenue growth from innovations.
  • Increase the likelihood of maximum profit from innovations.
  • Increase customer loyalty from using solutions.
  • Increase the likelihood of deriving new products from current innovations.
  • Minimize the cost of developing and providing solutions.
  • Minimize the likelihood of product liability litigation.
  • Minimize the likelihood of imitation products or services.
  • Minimize damage to the environment.

Provider-related outcome statements tend to be similar with little variation due to the commonality of why companies exist. All corporations, public or private, exist to provide valuable products and services, to make a profit, and to do so safely and without harm.

The outcome statements improve the consistency and reliability of collecting useful information regarding the job to be done. It is very important to follow the outcome statement structure to enhance repeatability and avoid confusion.

Step 4. Determine Priority Outcome Expectations

You can use different assessment and rating schemes to determine which specific outcome statements to pursue right away. One way to measure the importance of an outcome statement is to use a Likert Scale along with sound sampling techniques.

Examine the list of customer and provider outcome statements in light of how important they are and how satisfied each constituent (customer or provider) is with the extent to which current solutions fulfill these statements. Using a Likert approach, both the extent of importance and satisfaction are derived by averaging all responses (say, on a scale from 0 to 10) into a single score for each outcome expectation. As shown by the exhibit below, these responses can then be plotted and categorized as over-served, served right, or under-served.

Your analysis should also include an examination of how likely it is that competitors will implement new solutions to fulfill priority outcome expectations better, and how likely it is that the provider (you) will fulfill them better with new solutions.

In general, under-served outcome expectations are high-priority and are best addressed with a core-growth strategy of making the solution better (see Technique 1, Jobs to be Done). Over-served outcome expectations lead you to make existing solutions simpler, cheaper, and more available to more people (or nonconsumers)—looking through the lens of a disruptive growth strategy (again, see Technique 1). If the outcome expectations are served right, don’t do anything; focus instead on the other outcome expectations.

You can plot outcome expectations (or JTBDs) on an XY graph, with importance on the y-axis and satisfaction on the x-axis. Based on the location in the graph, you can then determine opportunities for the various categories of organic growth: disruption, core growth, new job growth, and related jobs growth.


Christensen, C. M., and M. E. Raynor. The Innovator’s Solution: Using Good Theory to Solve the Dilemmas of Growth. Watertown, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

Ulwick, A. “Turn Customer Input into Innovation.” Harvard Business Review, January 2002.

Ulwick, A. What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Ulwick, A., and L. A. Bettencourt. “Giving Customers a Fair Hearing.” Sloan Management Review 49, no. 3 (2008): 62–68.