What "Auto Hold"​ Taught Me About Jobs to be Done

The other day, I turned on the "Auto Hold" feature in our car for the first time and even though I drank the "Jobs to be Done" Kool-Aid a long time ago, I gained new insight into the value of the theory.

A majority of innovation leaders now understand correctly that asking customers what they want or need will generate misleading insights at best. It’s the Steve Jobs / Henry Ford “Faster Horse / Better Buggy Whip” lesson – people will ground their responses only in what they know, not in what could be.

After pressing that “Auto Hold” button, I pulled up to a red light and I took my foot off the brake without the car moving forward. It just sat there. When the light turned green, I pressed the accelerator and drove off normally. That was pretty cool. For the first time since I got my license, I didn’t keep my foot on the brake at a light.

It was instantly clear to me that “Keeping my foot on the brake” was a compensating behavior. It was something I always had to do, but never really wanted to do. Why would we want to keep our foot on the brake for a minute or more? But if you’d asked me to suggest some automobile improvements, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to call out that one. I wouldn’t have said, “Well, let me take my foot off of the brake…”

That experience was just the most recent in a long line of experiences that have confirmed my belief in the value of Jobs to be Done theory. Don’t ask what customers want or need and get those faster horse or better buggy whip responses. Take the time to discuss and observe the customer’s experience, listening and watching carefully for frustrations or desired outcomes or unnecessary burdens that might just reveal important Jobs to be Done to address.

I’m pretty sure that I would never have asked for an “Auto Hold” feature, but I’m now glad that some automaker innovation folks never asked me in the first place.