You’re reading What They Said, a project by Chris Gallo since 2014.

Bob Moesta

Bob Moesta is the “Milkshake Man.” He’s a designer, engineer, and businessman. He’s known for the Jobs-to-be-Done approach to business. Bob is who Clayton Christensen calls for advice on this idea.

Check out a slew of examples below and listen to the full conversation with Bob and Horace Dediu on the Critical Path podcast.

Example: Snickers vs. Milky Way

Let’s look at the candy isle. For example, the Snickers and the Milky Way. You look at these two and say, “Snickers and Milky Way compete.”

They’re both bar shaped. Both have chocolate. Both play to a certain demographic. They have different performance characteristics.

But when you talk to people about how they actually use Snickers and how they use Milky Way, you find they are very different in situational context. They actually hire them to do very different jobs.

If you’re trying to optimize the two, you try to match attributes for attributes. You try to have focus groups to say what can I do to make Milky Way better? What can I do to make Snickers better?

It’s really only in hindsight to how people use it and how people value it that’s really important.

When you talk to people about Snickers, you find it’s used as a meal replacement. It’s one of those things where they have something to go do and they’re not going to be able to get fuel or energy.

When they’re thinking about a Snickers, their consideration set is completely different. They’re thinking about a soda, a sandwich, an apple. All these other different things.

It’s all about getting me fuel to get me through a moment. It’s about going forward and looking forward. Part of it is it’s designed for that job.

Versus a Milk Way, which really if you look at how people hire it, it’s very different. It’s about whether something happened in the past, whether good or bad. It’s taking a moment for themselves. It’s not about fuel. It’s about indulgence.

What You Actually Hire Facebook to Do

The job is actually technology or product independent. So it allows to start putting new technologies in there.

I’m a engineer as well, so the rationale of the marketing methods of psychographics and demographics, and need state segmentation, what we found was all association based. But not causality based.

Jobs is very much tied around causal, I want this and it causes that.

What you find is it might be a little hyper-rational. But the fact is when you get to the job and the essence of the job, now you can take new technology and say how they compete with each other.

A good example is Facebook. What Facebook is doing and why people are hiring it, there are a lot of different jobs that it does. To be clear, I’m only going to talk about one of them.

It actually has replaced the Sunday night phone call. I’m 46 years old. What you would do, is Sunday, you would always call home and find out what was going on at home and you’d tell them what was going on in your life. It was a way of which to connect and see what was going on.

Facebook has literally become the replacement of that. It’s to stay connected to my family, to be part of their life, even though I’m separated by miles and miles away.

People have hired it to do that job of keeping them connected. And to be honest it allows you to connect with the extended family even better.


AT&T isn’t thinking about Sunday night calls. Everybody is looking at technology. The fact is the person getting disrupted, doesn’t even know they’re getting disrupted.

It’s seen as such a non-competing industry. And the reality is that true growth comes from pulling from other industries. And doing jobs that other industries are doing.

To me, that is the power of what jobs looks at.

Building Homes vs. Helping People Move

The best example I can think of is in 2005 I was building industry. We were building homes in the Detroit area. We were the second largest builder in the Metro Detroit area.

I joined the company as the VP of Sales and Marketing. The whole thing to me was trying to understand why do people hire our homes, and why our homes over somebody else’s homes.

The best way to describe to do the methodology is what I did there. Literally every week, I’d sit down with two or three families. I’d bring them pop and pizza. And we’d map out the story of how did they get in this new home.

We’d start from the very first thought. Who had the very first thought about moving and when was it. We’d walk through how did they start to look and choose, and what’s everything that is going on.

What you find is, the first thing is so interesting, that nobody wants to move. As much as people make it to be a really positive thing, nobody wants to pack up all their stuff and move to somewhere else.

We found there had to be a lot of forces involved in order to get people to move. The methodology we use is about taking and building the timeline from that first thought from what we call passive looking to what we call active looking.

When do they start to decide, how do they decide, and when they judge satisfaction. It’s about slowing everything way down.

As an engineer, it’s almost like moment by moment. When you start to hear the stories, you start to hear patterns. And the patterns start to emerge and help you understand how to move people through that process faster.

For us, it’s all about building six scenes in a comic strip from the first thought to the judging satisfaction. And filling that in with very rich detail. The result is some really amazing things.

For example, 90 percent of the people who moved in the last year for us, all had the first thought between Thanksgiving and New Years.

And everybody, said I think it’s time to move. You can understand it’s all about the emotion of the holidays and the reflection of the last year, looking forward. It all makes sense.

Except, we stopped all our advertising November 1st. So when these people were thinking about us, we weren’t advertising. Because nobody bought homes at that time.

So what was holding people back? We talk about non-consumption. People that wanted to move, but didn’t.

The real difference is we went from building homes to helping people move.

When we understood that we were about helping people move, we started to change the whole business from having relationships with moving companies and working more with realtor groups. As opposed to trying to get granite and stainless steel appliances.

It was all about helping people move.

In our condo business, for example, we found the number one reason people didn’t move was because they didn’t know where the dining room table was going to go.

I thought it was really strange at first. But when you start to look at it, the dining room table is in the emotional bank account of 20, 30, 40 years of every birthday, holiday, everything.

It’s not going to the basement. And it’s not going to Goodwill. If they couldn’t figure out how to get it to one of their children or family members, and it wasn’t going to fit in the condo, it didn’t work.

So what we did was redesign our condos to accommodate big, chunky furniture. And they started to realize, I guess our dining room table can fit.

We increased sales 22 percent making sure the dining room table was right for them. Even though, they didn’t use it anymore. It’s that symbolic piece.

The other thing we found interesting was there was hesitation around having to go in the basement and dig out 20 or 30 years of history, and pack up and move.

What we did for that was actually increased prices to cover the costs for moving so that moving was standard. So if you bought one of our condos moving was included. And there was no way to discount it.

When you started to help people understand that moving was a standard and included int the price, people we’re ready to move. It increased our sales 18 percent.

Too Many Choices is Paralyzing

We have a model we talk about called the Forces of Progress. We talk about the push of the situation. So some situational context is going to say I need to do something different or better.

There is then the magnetism of whatever the new idea is. So if there is a push of the situation and no new idea, people don’t make progress. They need to have the idea of what it is.

But at the same time, every new idea brings anxiety with it. So you need to understand the anxiety that is created when you propose something like moving.

Because all of a sudden it’s like will they be gentle? Are they insured? If they break something, what will happen?

So there’s all those kind of things that you need to make sure you understand even though choice is important. Too much choice is actually paralyzing.

On the home building side, we’d sometimes have to make a thousand decisions about cabinets and flooring and carpeting. And simplifying that and saying there is three packages and this is where they fit. Just pick the color and we’ll do everything else for you.

Over-choice actually creates more anxiety and non-consumption.

Don’t Ask People What They Want

Never talk to people about what they want.

Think about the home business. If you sit down in a focus group, you’re going to talk to people about what they want. They’re going to tell you they want 5,000 square feet, five bathrooms, and they start to tell you all these things they want.

And then what happens is you build if for them and they look at you and go, no I can’t afford that.

Even though you try to get people to make decisions in the future, the value code of what they really do is buried in what they actually buy.

Being able to abstract things to the right level and understand the job, and how do I actually change my product to fit that.

For example, one of the things we did was build a house that had no basement. Because what we found is that most women don’t like the basement. They don’t want to go into the basement.

And what we found is when we built a house on a slab with the garage on the first floor, and they we’re living on the second floor and then a third floor, we actually found divorced women with children loved it.

Because they didn’t want to go into the basement to begin with. They didn’t want a basement. They wanted the control to understand where everyone is in the house at all times.

And we were able to build it for $130,000. It was one of those things where people said, “No, you can’t build a house on slab because no one will buy it.”

And the reality is there are people who will buy it.

If you ask them do you want a house on a slab? They’re going to say no. But until you see the whole package do you start to realize you can sell a lot of them.

Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Theory

Clay and I working around the difference between descriptive and prescriptive theory.

Descriptive theory is about trying to pull out all the variables and find the variables. Describe what is actually happening.

Where prescriptive theory is about how do people put things together and make choices. You’re better off making choices based on this theory than by random chance.

We’re really trying to put together the rational and reasoning, I call it the psychics of how people make these decisions.

It’s not perfect, and it’s not 100 percent or 90 percent either.

The reality is it’s better than what other methodologies there are today when it comes to designed and launching products.

Start with the Consumer

Apple started with the consumer. They started with the people that used the computers. And made computers the way that they wanted. And ignored the secondary buyers, which is the corporate buyers.

All they did was focus on people who bought computers and used them.

The closer you get to where the buyer and the consumer are connected, you find jobs as very easy to use.

When it’s disconnected, like education. If you look at all the products that have been developed for schools in general, it’s all about helping the teacher teach.

But it’s not necessarily focusing on helping the student to learn. When you have an administrator, who is disconnected from the teacher, who is disconnected from the student - the work we do in education is about how do we help the student consume education.

Once we understand how that works. Then we can figure out the new roles of administration and teachers.

Most people go at it as we need to understand what the administrators want and what the teachers want. And then we’ll figure out how to teach because teaching is the easy part.

It’s really not. It’s learning. There is a big difference between learning and teaching.

Yes, yes there is.

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