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When Coffee and Kale Compete Book Summary – Alan Klement

What you will learn from reading When Coffee and Kale Compete:

– What the Jobs to Be Done theory is and why it’s important before marketing or creating any product.

– Why you should focus on helping people make progress rather then achieve their overall goals.

– How to spot opportunities for innovation and understand how competition often comes from businesses outside your industry.

When Coffee and Kale Compete Book Summary:

When coffee and kale compete was a great read. Alan Klement does a great job at distilling they key ideas around the jobs to done theory/framework in a really engaging way. I would highly recommend this book to any marketer, product designer or entrepreneur. The theory itself is a much needed replacement to the current demographic based marketing thought that permeates through most marketing departments. 

If you want your eyes opened to how people really decide what to buy and in doing so become a better marketer, salesman or entrepreneur then this is the book summary for you!


The premise of jobs to be done:

A Job is the progress that an individual is trying to make in a particular circumstance (Christensen 2016). For innovators, understanding the job is to understand what customers care most about in that moment of trying to make progress … i.e., the causal mechanism of customer behaviour.

A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life-situation into a preferred one but cannot because constraints are stopping her (Klement 2016).

You can think about JTBD in two parts—where someone is today and where they want to be.

The emphasis on a struggle for progress is why this JTBD model often makes use of phrases such as give me, help me, make the, take away, free me, or equip me.

Progress recognises that tasks and activities are a means to an end only. They do not represent what consumers want.

The Jobs-as-Progress model suggests that a great deal of innovation is about eliminating tasks and activities — not designing for them.

Jobs-As-Progress is a theory only. Theory tells you how and why things happen, not what you should do about it. Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. 

The theoretical basis of Jobs-As-Progress draws from many sources. Specifically that humans as goal-directed organisms that self-regulate discrepancies via feedback loops. 


Key ideas and concepts in the jobs to be done framework:

  1. People have Jobs; things don’t.
  2. It doesn’t make sense to ask, “What Job is your product doing?” or say, “The Job of the phone is…” or “The Job of the watch is…” Phones, watches, and dry-cleaning services don’t have jobs. They are examples of solutions for Job.
  3. When customers start using a solution for a JTBD, they stop using something else.
  4. Competition is defined in the minds of customers, and they use progress as their criterion.
  5. Innovation opportunities exist when customers exhibit compensatory behaviours.
  6. Favour progress over outcomes and goals.
  7. Progress defines value; contrast reveals value.
  8. Solutions for Jobs deliver value beyond the moment of use.
  9. Producers, consumers, solutions, and Jobs should be thought of as parts of a system that work together to evolve markets.
  10. Understanding the struggling moment is a crucial part of JTBD.


The problem with current marketing thought:

There are often wide gaps between the value producers think customers assign to their products and the real reasons customers have for using the category.

Instead of attaching value to what products are, value should attach to what products do for customers.

Therefore, marketing needs to change how it communicates product value:

Stop trying to communicate value with new and improved product features, and start designing more integrated product experiences that are valuable because of what they enable customers to get done in particular contexts of use.

In 1979 Mars introduced the tag “Snickers really satisfies” so that Snickers reflected “new thinking”. Much more than a quality cue, “packed with peanuts” gave customers a reason to connect Snickers use with everyday hunger situations. 

Marketing communications should focus on what a product does for (and to) the customer, not on what it is. A Snickers satisfies hunger – i.e., what it does. 



How to sport opportunities for innovation:

Very often, innovators think they are studying customers’ needs – when in fact they are studying what customers don’t like about the products they use today, or what customers currently expect from a product.

By focusing on creating new market behaviour versus explaining current behaviour, we shift the innovator’s work from explaining historical choices based on what a product does and is … to understanding why and how customers would develop new market knowledge and behaviour tomorrow.

We all myopically study and improve on customers’ “needs” and expectations of today; instead, we should create new systems that help customers make progress.

We can’t build the products of tomorrow when we limit ourselves to the needs and expectations associated with the products of today. Instead, we should focus on what never changes for customers: their desire for progress.

Great example of innovative opportunity taken:

Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” But, what if he didn’t go far enough?

Manufacturer, Erard, avoided the “customers want holes” ethos. It promotes a collection of TV mounts with a simple description: “The first TV wall-mount bracket with no drilling of the wall required.”

While you may have been convinced customers wanted holes, your competitors understood that customers wanted help improving their lives.



Broaden your concept of competition:

Do PCs compete with mainframes because they’re both “computers,” or do PCs compete with typewriters, video game systems, and accountants? Do hard drives compete only with other hard drives, or do they also compete with tape storage, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, flash drives, and cloud storage?

Consider Schumpeter’s warning that competition should not be restricted to products of the same type. Competition can come from anywhere.

Don’t restrict competition to products with similar functionality or physical characteristics. Don’t assume two products are competitors because they look or function similarly. There are two related mistakes people make about what is and isn’t competition for a product. Not making sure a true desire for change was taking place and that customers were willing—and able—to pay for your solution.

Keep your mind open to what counts as competition. Alan talked with a woman who told him about switching from her morning coffee to a kale smoothie with a shot of wheatgrass. Who would’ve thought a cup of coffee and a kale smoothie could be competitors?

When you’re creating a new innovation, you need to answer the question, “What are customers going to stop buying when they start buying our solution?” And if you’re creating a new feature for an existing product, you need to ask, “What behaviours or other products is this feature going to replace?”


The problem with Measurement: 

Many innovators and managers have been influenced by ideas such as: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. What gets measured gets improved. However, such opinions do not take into consideration the following:

  • All models are wrong, but some are useful.
  • The most important figures are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.
  • If you torture the data long enough, they will tell you whatever you want.
  • It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.
  • We must remember that data are only proxies for some results of a system.


Look for peoples compensatory behaviours to find opportunities:

Innovation opportunities lie where customers exhibit compensatory behaviours. So, always keep an eye out for customers who use a product in novel ways, combine products into solutions, or create their own solutions for a JTBD.

As people have all the trade-offs, necessities, struggles, and ways to progress in their minds. Why not take advantage when they choose to express them?

Baking soda was originally advertised as a baking agent. Over time, customers started using it as a cleaner and deodoriser. Arm & Hammer picked up on this. It now sells a variety of baking soda–based products specialised for various cleaning and deodorising purposes.

Remember – Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great.


Progress > Goals

Favour progress over outcomes and goals. Customer goals and outcomes are only the results of an action. The ball went into the net; that is a goal. Did you win the game? Are you becoming better at making goals? No one knows.

Measure progress instead. Making a goal today isn’t as important as becoming better at making goals in the future. This philosophy is the same for your customers.

They don’t wait until after they’ve finished using a product to determine whether they like it. They measure progress along the way. Do people wait until they lose ten pounds before judging whether a gym membership is successful?


Progress defines value; contrast reveals value.

See how easily you can answer this question:

“Which food do you most prefer: steak or pizza?”

Many people find this difficult to answer. An easier question might be, “When do you prefer steak, and when do you prefer pizza?”

A customer may find it difficult to compare two foods without any context. The last question is easier because the person being asked is thinking about food and context together.

The same steak has more value at the fancy restaurant than at a kid’s birthday party. The steak doesn’t change, but its value does. Why? A steak at a fancy restaurant helps you have a better restaurant experience. It delivers progress. A steak at a child’s birthday party does not make the party better. It does not deliver progress.

This is why we say progress defines value, and contrast reveals it.


Understanding Customer Motivations: 

There are difficulties inherent in talking with customers about their habits and that is people often want to feel as if they are giving the “correct” answers.

The answer to this problem is to talk with customers about what they actually did, not just about what they say they want. What were their revealed preferences, not just their stated preferences.

So questions like:

  1. “Hey, what brought you in here today?”
  2. “What are you looking for?”
  3. “What other places did you try in the past?”


Talking to customers about their motivations is where you’re going to learn the most.


Understanding how customers have solved problems is a crucial part of understanding their JTBD, and identifying competition.

These questions will help you understand two things: what customers are struggling with now, and how they hope life will be better when they have the right solution. Put these two together, and you’ll have their JTBD.

  • What other solutions did you consider before trying the product?
  • What other solutions have you actually used?
  • If the product wasn’t available to you, what would you have done instead?


Now ask yourself:

  • What do the various solutions have in common?
  • What is different about them?
  • What did, or didn’t the customers like about each solution?
  • What would customers do if they couldn’t use their existing solution for their JTBD?


Using JTBD to price correctly:

You have two big factors to consider:

  1. The amount customers are already accustomed to spending on a solution for a JTBD.
  2. The intensity of their desire to change. The more they hope to change, the more they are willing to pay.


Your guiding star in understanding your customers’ JTBD is their motivation to better their lives. Focus on that. Focusing on functionality will distract you.

The problem with demographic thinking is that it can be misleading. It is the customers’ situation—not personal characteristics—that determine why they buy.


Demand Generation Vs Demand Reduction:

Most innovators focus on the top two forces. They want to know “what customers want” and how demand is generated. They overlook the bottom two forces—that is, the forces that reduce and block that demand.


Push Vs Pull

The pull for a better life. People don’t buy products just to have or use them; they buy products to help make their lives better (i.e., make progress).

The reason that many options coexist is that the pushes that shape a desire for change contain many variations. Someone may want advice from successful entrepreneur Mark Cuban; however, that person may not be in a rush or may not even be sure exactly what his problem

Variations in the pushes that customers experience also explain why the same customer might go back and forth between different products for the same JTBD. Sometimes, Clarity might be better; sometimes, attending a conference might be better. It all depends on the context of the struggle.


Demand Reduction:

Demand-reduction forces are just as important to understand as demand-generating forces. Most innovators and businesses focus on the latter and ignore the former.

Why? These forces are just as much competitors as any product produced by a competing business.

For example, a struggling customer may be willing to buy your product but doesn’t because he fears that it’s too hard to use. Instead, he sticks to an old way of doing things, even though he’s unhappy with it.


The Two Types of Anxiety:

Anxiety-in-choice. We experience anxiety-in-choice when we don’t know if a product can help us get a Job Done. It exists only when we’ve never used a particular product before. For example, “I’ve never taken the bus to work. Is it ever on time? Where do I buy a ticket?”

These anxiety-induced unknowns are associated with how—or if—a product can deliver progress. These are the anxieties that drive away first-time customers.

Anxiety-in-use. After customers use a product for a JTBD, the anxiety-in-choice largely disappears. Now their concerns are related to anxiety-in-use.

In this case, we know a product can deliver progress, but certain qualities about it make us nervous about using it.



Just as customers experience different types of anxieties, customers experience different types of inertia.

Habits-in-choice. These are the forces that exist at the moment of decision and prevent a customer from switching from one product to another.

Habits-in-use. Over time, users regress to using a previous solution. They regressed not because the other solution was better but because customers found that keeping their old habits was easier.


Jobs To be Done and Sales:

Fight anxiety and generate pull by helping customers visualise the progress they will make by using your product.

Do customers a favour: help them visualise making progress.

Create marketing and advertising materials that tell customers that you understand their struggle for progress, that help them visualise how life will be better when they have the right solution, and that explain why your product is the right solution.

Persuade customers to reject their current products by changing their JTBD. A great salesperson understands that customer “wants” come from the system, not the customer. So, if you want to change “what customers want,” all you have to do is convince them of a Job that is worth getting Done.

You will have a shot at selling a larger grill if you can convince customers how rewarding it is to host a large party and grill food for everyone.


It really is zero sum, people give up something for your product:

If you think you’re creating a new market, then you probably haven’t done enough research.

If you don’t have a clear picture of what customers are going to give up when they start using your product, either you haven’t done enough research, or no JTBD exists and you’re creating a solution that no one will buy.

Continually refresh the competitive landscape with ongoing feedback from customers. What customers count as competition for a JTBD is always changing. Don’t assume that it remains static. Somewhere, unknown to you, your customers might have come across a new way of getting the Job Done.


The Progress Cycle:

When you design a product for a specific outcome, customers leave when the outcome is realised. However, improving a customer’s life never ends. 

Customers’ ability to continue evolving depends on how successful they were at overcoming previous Jobs.

Doctors treat patients successfully because they understand that the pains and discomforts that patients express are not the problems; they represent the patients’ interactions with their own bodies. Similarly, the needs, wants, and desired outcomes that customers express do not represent their problem; they represent interactions between the customer and the system of progress.