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The Mattress Interview – Q&A

Chris Spiek


In this episode of Jobs-to-be-Done radio we dive into many of the questions that people have after hearing a jobs-to-be-done interview for the first time, as well as questions submitted to us on the JTBD Quora Page, the JTBD LinkedIn Group, and #JTBD on Twitter.

If you haven’t listened to The Mattress Interview, we strongly suggest that you do so before you listen to this episode!

If you have questions that you still want answered, ask them in the comment section below.

Show Notes & Links

Here is a list of items referenced in this episode:

Join Us at the Next Switch Workshop

The next Switch Workshop will be held at the 37signals headquarters in Chicago on Friday, April 12th. Space is limited to 24 attendees, and tickets are going fast. If you’re interested in taking a deeper hands-on approach into Jobs-to-be-Done, register now!

Jobs-to-be-Done Radio

Click to view episode transcript.

Episode Transcript

Chris: Welcome to the latest edition of Jobs-to-be-Done Radio where we
discuss how to apply the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to understand why
consumers switch from one product to another and ultimately how to get more
customers to switch to your product. I am Chris Spiek. As always, I am
joined by my partner Bob Moesta. How are you, Bob?

Bob: Good. Chris, how are you?

Chris: Good, it is good to be back.

Bob: Phew, yeah. I have to tell you, hard to believe it is already March.

Chris: I know. We did our last episode. We promised we would be back
in a week and business got in the way.

Bob: Two months later, we get back but business is good. Traveling a
little bit too much but the words getting out there is really

Chris: Absolutely. So a lot has happened. So the focus of this episode
is really to get to the question and answer around the last
podcast which was the mattress interview. I think there was a
really positive reaction to that. People really got into the
tactics what Jobs-to-be-Done interviews are all about and as
what usually happens when something like that happens is you
just have a lot of questions about why did you guys ask
questions that way and who were you talking to, that sort of
thing. That will be the exiting part of this episode.

Before we get into that, we got a couple announcements. The first big
exiting one is we will be back at 37signals on April 12th, which
is a Friday, to do another Switch Workshop. I don’t know about
you, I am extremely exited to be back there. It almost feels
like home at this point. You show up and it’s an unbelievable
set up that they have and it is just perfect.

Bob: Yeah. It’s a great venue. It’s very I would say intimate. It’s almost
like across the street where we are. We have a little jazz club
and it’s one of those things where everybody gets to work. We
sit around one big table and eat lunch. It’s a great venue so I
enjoy it quite a bit.

Chris: Absolutely, and it is always great to meet the people that we
talk to on Twitter and follow the podcast and that sort of
thing. So I am really looking forward to that. Jason should have
the invite launched hopefully by the end of the day. If not, I
am sure early next week. If you want to attend that, be watching
pound sign, JTBD on Twitter or watch the Signal versus Noise
blog at 37signals. You will see that announcement or of course,
check, we will announce it as well and you can
pick up tickets. It always sells out fast so if you are
contemplating going, be sure to jump on and grab a ticket. It is
capped at 24 participants as usual.

So the other exiting thing. We did a I want to say a mini Switch
Workshop at the University of Illinois for Design for America
last month.

Bob: Yeah, that was a lot of fun.

Chris: Yeah it was. So I think let’s talk about that for a little bit
because I think it exceeded both of our expectations. I kind of
went into it thinking these, I always feel like contrast is very
important with Jobs-to-be-Done. So if you done product research
or product development one way and all of a sudden, we show you
how to do these interviews, there is just a lot of contrast
there and I feel like people get energized by it.

I got to tell you, I had a lot of concern getting up in front of
these students which turned out to be very engaged, but I got a
lot of concern because it was like maybe they never seen
research conducted or they never done product research and then
it is like, oh this is kind of how you do it. They are just not
energized at all.

Bob: Right, I think that is kind of like the notion of starting with a
blank slate because it is the contrast from kind of how people
currently do it. We worked in that other space so long, it is
kind of like strange to think about a blank slate and it is hard
to emphasize points when you don’t have that contrarian side to
the world. I had the same kind of anxiety going in and was
pleasantly surprised and kind of realized that this is still
counter-intuitive because it is like, well I want to ask people
what they think and how they felt and how much they like the

And it is like they got the point of really getting back to what is
the causality of why people do what they do and as much as they
might say one thing and they do another, and they got it, and
they are doing a lot of not for profit types of project. So we
talked about how do you motivate people to donate or when people
donate, it’s again a job. They are choosing to give money to one
place versus another or volunteers. It all can be used around
that Jobs-to-be-Done frame work.

Chris: So I got to say, huge kudos to the group. The concern is that
you go up in front of a bunch of either undergrad or post grad
students that are really just in the academic space and it
turned out a lot of them have worked between their undergrad and
their grad student work. A lot of them were part of startups now
that were kind of struggling with answering the questions that
you need to when you are launching a product. So a really
engaged group, really willing to think deep and hard about the
problems they were facing and I just had an absolute blast doing

Bob: Well, shout out to Michael [Whobay] at University of Illinois who
basically set this thing up, reached out, set it up, got it
promoted, and kind of got the groups together. He is a MBA
student at U of I and kind of just a real go getter and he is an
avid listener and kind of just said, hey great to have you come
down. And we tend to be in Chicago area quite a bit so we just
kind of took an extra day and ran it down and helped out. It was
a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.

Chris: And he got these guys out of bed at 9:00 in the morning on a
Friday for a college campus. I don’t know what a secret is but
it was pretty impressive.

Bob: It was.

Chris: So the other thing we did is we had the SWITCH Conference in
San Francisco at the W Hotel, which was just another fantastic
experience for me, and it seems like everyone of these just go
great but had another awesome group of people. I think you have
high expectation around the Valley and around San Francisco
where regards to the people that are going to show up. You
expect them to be in the startup community, launching business
constantly and being highly engaged in everything that is going
on and I feel like this is exactly the group we got. That was
really cool.

Bob: Yeah and to me, I thought it was cool Paul, the guy who wrote the
five insight in the Switch Workshop. [Crafted Residence] is his
blog. I have to say I really like, he did a great kind of
summarizing it and taking it out. If you are interested, we will
make sure we put a link up on there but his five takeaways is
one, focus on the switch, truth emerges from action and not
words. So it is really . . . I love that one.

The whole notion that ignore your product as much as you are, people
always want to talk about their product. You need to ignore your
product in the beginning to just understand the mechanisms.
Follow the energy was the other one. Know your forces and five,
go down market. Look for non-consumption which is his five
takeaway and it is a very well written blog post it and really
appreciate it, Paul. Very, very cool.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. It was great of him to put that together. So
in the other announcement category, I think this will be exiting
for everyone listening. So we’ve brought on a new employee,
Ervin Fowlkes who I worked with for a long time at previous
gigs. I worked at a software company and he was my go to kind of
operations guide during that whole thing and made sure that we
stayed on track and we were getting everything done.

We brought him onto the Re-Wired team a couple weeks ago and have
ultimately tasked him with this entire Jobs-to-be-Done
community. So he is going to be making sure that hopefully the
radio shows happen on time, that the book gets launched, the
online course gets launched and ultimately this community has
access to more information about the framework, how to apply it,
and all the tools that we are developing. So welcome to the
team, Ervin. A lot of you who were at the SWITCH Conference in
San Francisco had an opportunity to meet him and you are going
to be seeing and hearing more of him in the coming months.

Bob: Check him out on the website and also on LinkedIn. Great guy, great

Chris: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob: So before we get started, I have to tell you. This month of March to
me is what we call March Madness because I am amidst so one of
the expertise that I’ve been doing for a long time is called
robust design of experiments and it is a rapid prototyping
methodology at the end of the day. Basically I have to teach
over a hundred people, engineers, developers in this month and
actually have them apply it and use it and do it.

What I am finding is this notion of seminars is really . . . of just
training in general is changing, and to be honest, this notion
of how we are doing podcast and putting information out there
and letting people pull it into their life at their point and
time that is convenient for them. Go back to Jason’s TEDtalk
around people, when they really want to work, they don’t
necessarily do their hard work at work. I think you don’t hard
learning in a class either. I think you do it when it is right
for you.

And so I really having trying to, I’ll say I am force feeding a
hundred people these methodologies, I think the podcast is a
great way in which to consume. It does the job much better about
being, ultimately, learning happens when it is engaging and it
is relevant. At some point, you can listen to the podcast and
you can turn it off because it is not relevant at this moment
and you can come back to it when it is relevant.

Where when you are in a class, not everything in the class is going
to be relevant at that moment and time and so it is a really
interesting dilemma and I think we are going to be taking a lot
of these design principles of what I am learning here on the
robust design experiment side and pull it into of how we are
going to do that. The education for the online Jobs-to-be-Done
stuff, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

Chris: So it is a great point you bring up and this is kind of an age
old problem, right? We are not discussing anything new but we’ve
been working a lot on the online course for Jobs-to-be-Done
where we really want to give people self paced way to learn
interview techniques, analysis, recruiting, all the tools that
we have. And a lot of the conversations we’ve been having around
that is we find that we are always exposed to highly motivated
students so to speak.

These are always people that have ultimately shaped up a job and said
I need to make sure my next product launch goes really well and
I am going to learn this because I truly believe that it is
going to help me make that sort of progress. So from a trainer
or a content provider sort of view, that is the best situation
you could possibly be in, right? Because you have an active
community people saying just give me the answer and help me to
learn this because I am going to apply it right away.

The challenge that I think you are facing in the task that you’ve
taken on training these a hundred people and that I am taking
around the idea that it is possible that one person buys this
online course and say, hey you 20 product developers that work
for me, you guys should all go learn this too. And that there is
a different job for those people, right? So it is now been so to
speak pushed on me, or mandated and it turns into any other sort
of corporate training, which is I have to sit down and watch
this video, whether it is jobs, or the new community system. It
just shift quite a bit and I think that is very difficult thing
to over come in some senses.

Bob: The other thing to me is that it is the expectation of being a
student, right? And what happens is we are trying to give the
economy a scale because we are all in one place. It is not
necessarily convenient for anybody to be there on that day. It
is just when we all get together and the issue that they have at
hand is not really relevant at that time.

The other part though is that a lot of people who have, I will say
again, I am almost 50, 48 some thing like, and the notion is
that I was taught like you sit down in a class and you listen
and you take notes and the notion of trying to get the diversity
of younger people who have learned completely differently than I
will say people older like me is you find that the notion is
that I can’t pour knowledge in your head, and then give you a
test at the end and say do you know it or not.

This is about what I am finding is it is all about engagement and
relevancy. The more I can get people engaged in it and doing it,
they are going to learn it. If I actually serve it up too easy
for them, it literally slips out of their brain. It’s Clay’s
point of you actually can’t grasp it, until the problem emerges.
A problem is a space in the brain for the solution to fall into
and it just doesn’t happen to be on Wednesday at two o’clock
because we can all get together.

To me again, I think the podcast is just a huge, I don’t think people
understand that if you look at consumption of education, I think
that this is part of that revolution of it is on demand
education in the moment and the key is being able to know how do
I describe what I need to learn at the time when I need to learn
it, and that is going to be the bigger crux of how things are
going to emerge.

So it is a great, I love having Ervin come on board because he is
tasked with taking what’s in our heads and getting it out and
getting it in a consumable way but also then packaging it in
many different forms so it can be consumed in a very, very
diverse set of situations for people based on their demand, not
based on our ability to deliver.

Chris: Yeah, I agree. So the other thing is he is perfectly positioned
because he knows the Jobs-to-be-Done framework. He has applied
it but he’s also far enough away from it. He will look at us and
say you guys are talking a million miles a minute and nobody is
going to follow what you are saying. He has that check so that’s
going to be really good and beneficial to the people that are
learning this.

I love that Clay quote by the way. You said it perfectly. I said it
at a breakfast meeting that I was at yesterday and that’s just,
it’s like the answer needs to have some place in your mind to
go. There is no question that’s just, people that hear that
quote are always just floored. That’s fantastic.

Bob: He is good. So let’s move the mattress.

Chris: Yeah, let’s talk about the mattress questions.

Bob: So this won’t make any sense if you haven’t heard the previous
podcast. It might make some sense but we are going to be
building on the previous podcast. So if you want to stop and go
back and listen to it before we move ahead, that’s fine but just
want to make sure everybody realizes that is the discontinuity
of what we are talking about.

Chris: So I think the way we will do this, I’ve got the question that
were collected in front of me. I will throw it out there and you
can give your response and then we will bat it back and forth.
The first thing we hear a lot is why do you always ask
disconnected or non-related questions. This is both from, I
think it comes a curiosity when people hear us interview, and it
also comes from, if you got a hard core search background, it
almost comes from you are wasting the participants time, right?

So we’ll get into the moment where we are getting a lot of detail and
you will ask something like, you were shopping online on Amazon,
where were you? I was in my home office. Was the door open or
closed? And everyone always look at you like that’s such a
stupid question to ask. First of all, he is never going to
remember. Second of all, what differences does it make? He is on
Amazon, ask what he typed in the search bar, something like
that. So what is that about?

Bob: So what is so interesting to me is that I just remember the guy who
had the book like and it was like that’s where I asked one of
those question, was the door open or closed? And he knew it
right away and the notion is that you need to get them jump back
in their mind and be in that moment again.

And so asking what we would considered seemingly unrelated or kind of
ridiculous kind of detail is that the notion of what we have
around how the brain works is that once it’s all kind of locked
in there and if you asked enough questions around it, you are
going to actually trigger something that will then unleash a
whole new level of detail. So it is that whole aspect of being
able to and again, they might not able to answer it and then you
just got to back off and you try it a different way.

And so it is the unrelated questions, because ultimately what I am
trying to do is break the dam of the detail because it gets back
to what they really did versus what they say they did. And like
we say constantly it is not until you get 20, 25, 30 minutes,
sometimes 40 minutes into an interview and then it is like, “Oh
yeah I was going to run a race,” or “Oh yeah, I was thinking
about a mattress for eight months,” you know? So there is a
whole host of . . . it’s really about getting to the detail and
getting them to remember what really happened.

Chris: I think you brought a really important tactical aspect of that
too, which is you can’t pry on them because they just have no
idea. You just got to let it go and move on to something else.

Bob: Yeah. Well and this is where we go back and forth around the whole
notion of interrogation and there is criminal interrogation and
then there is intelligence-based kind of interrogation, right?
And the notion here is being able to not build anxiety because
they can’t answer the question. It is more about building
comfort so that they can relax. So that the details are there to
kind of help them and coax some sort of nurturing set of
questions that aren’t set like, where were you and what did you
do? Who was with you? It’s more like, who were you with? I mean
it sounds it is but those subtle little differences of just the
tone and the mannerism of how you do it have a huge impact of
being able to get them. Because it is actually comfort that
makes the wall go down. It is not force.

Chris: [Hammering at them]. So you bring another interesting one. This
isn’t on our list but time and time again, people that observe
these interview perceive an uncomfortable vibe from the
participant. It is really weird because I had corporate clients,
I had people that Switch Workshops. I had all kinds of people
say the person you were interviewing was so uncomfortable the
whole time and you were just grilling them. And I could tell
that they were shifting their weight and they were sweating.

And so my first answer is always like yeah, I want information,
right? I am going to kind of hammer them and I am paying them
most likely anyway so I can get the information. And I always
turn around and talk to the person I interviewed and say, how
was that for you? How did you feel? And the answer is 100% like
that was great. I never thought so much about the purchase that
I made and I wasn’t uncomfortable at all. You really had me
thinking about things I hadn’t thought before. But for some
reason, the outside observe always perceives it as if we just
got the lights on him and the heat cranked up and we were just
hammering away at him. It’s an interesting disconnect.

Bob: But I think it is also to me a good example of causality and people
kind of the biases that bring to it, because it is like you are
asking a question and you can see him pause and you can seem him
kind of go and they look up and it kind of like. And the person
who is the observer going, “Oh my god, they are sweating.” And
the thing is what you really probe people about it, I am trying
to find the right words to tell you.

So I am not actually struggling in a way like I feel uncomfortable. I
am struggling in a way because I am actually trying to think
about what I actually did and what my answer is. So like you
said, it’s not like they feel like it is a lot of pressure.
We’ve done things in different areas of cleanings and all these
different places, and you find that as much as people think that
you are drilling them, it’s like I never thought about that. I
never thought about how I prepare this meal, right?

And then it is like, “Wow when I open my eyes,” and so the things
that was to me most interesting is when I did this with high
school kids around the jobs that they hire school for, and the
kids at the end were literally like I have never thought about
so much about how I learned. And I actually learned more in this
class about myself and what I need to do to change the way I
study, then I think you guys got from me learning about how I do
things, and I was like wow. So there was transformational on
both sides of the aisle which was kind of cool.

Chris: I think there is some underlined human behavior we are
describing here too is that I think there is more natural
curiosity that just within people than we necessarily want to
believe especially in certain segments. You were interviewing
high school kids who had joined gangs and really checked out and
it’s like, “I can’t get this person to be engaged,” and it like
never fails. It sometimes fails but it almost never fails,

So there is one thing, you either get people to really engage and say
this is amazing, or you will get people that probably just have
too much going on at the point that you pull them aside and say,
hey let me badger you for a hour and most people are just like I
just can’t take the time to actually think about it. They are
not perceiving stress; they are just like I am checked out.

Bob: Well and it also goes to back to, to be honest, it’s a little bit of
our double triple check mechanism of are they telling us the
truth, right? Because there are people who come in to just get
money, or they are trying to tell you what they think you want
to hear and when you start to dig and they can’t fill in some of
the details. They have a notion of what this is, literally the
story falls apart fast.

Chris: It’s very rare.

Bob: Yeah, but it does happen and you just got to move on.

Chris: So the next question I think is around just the level of
detail. So what people typically respond with is people can’t
remember that much detail. So why is asking them about the last
Snicker bar or Milky Way bar that they actually bought better
than something like a shop along and actually saying let’s go
into the store. Let’s video tape them as they do their shopping
and see what catches their eye and what they pick and have them
describe to us what they decided to do?

So why is this . . . we are relying so much on their memory, why do
we believe that their memory has any value, or that they can
actually remember why they did these things. Why wouldn’t we
just observe them in real time?

Bob: Well, so for me, this is just my experience. I find that when you do
shop alongs, or when you do traditional [ethnographies] where
you are there, you become a barrier in the moment, and again,
they are not going to show you what they really do. They are
going to show you what they think they should be doing, or that
they think you want them to be doing.

So yeah, this is the way I do that or this is how I shop. Oh yeah, I
always look for the color and then I look for the name and it is
like, it turns out they are trying to rationalize in some cases
something that is not rational and all you are trying to get to
is what is the irrational behavior that you do consistently.
It’s that predictably irrational piece and so to me, it’s making
sure that you can get them back to . . . the other thing to me
about moving forward is it’s espoused behavior.

It is not bad to have some of that information. Oh, I really like to
have this or that, or every time I buy an app, I go and search
for five other apps and do this and this is how I shop for apps
whether it is software. But the notion of the last time gets
back to how big was the commitment and how big is the emotion
tied to it? Because if there is no emotion and there is no
commitment, it is I got it for free and it was a mint at the
restaurant, it’s hard to get what people why they hired it.

I mean you can but it takes a lot of subtle, but like buying a house,
buy a car, buying a new computer, something that has a lot of
emotion and a lot of commitment to it, and again, it doesn’t
have to be money commitment. It can be emotional commitment.
Getting married, I mean there is a big choice.

Chris: So I think I think I will echo one of the things you bought up
is that all those different methods have a lot of value, right?
So I think like the shop along in the aisle is the equivalent of
watching somebody using the interface you just designed from a
Web perspective. It’s like you need, if you are package designer
or an interface designer, that sort of feedback because it is
ultimately your job to “catch their eye” and deliver a message.

This is all information that consumer is going to use as their . . .
what we call “shaping up the job”, deciding if this is the right
way for them to make progress. You can’t just throw a design out
there, you need that sort of feedback, but when we are looking
for specifically causal information, why do they pick one thing
and not another? I feel like it’s impossible to do in a “set up”
sort of prompted way. Which one would you buy right now? It’s
very difficult because you scrape away all that situational
detail you just described.

Bob: Right, we talk about this notion of red line development where it is
reactive and you are waiting for things in green line
development where it is proactive, and I am actually trying to
understand causally what is going on up front. This is really
about as I am trying to innovate and I am trying to change
people’s behavior or I am trying to take things to the next
level, I need to understand that switching.

And so to me, this is really a core method around making sure I got a
very solid foundation on which to innovate off of. So to me, I
still need some . . . in some cases you can say, this is like a
yard stick, but I need these other methods to help me be the
micrometer on the details of helping me get to that next level.
But I can’t use a micrometer to help me build a whole new thing.

So there is just different methods and different approaches for
different times, so it clearly is not a silver bullet. It is not
a place to use it ever but it is one of those things that if you
are an entrepreneur, you need to understand the mechanisms,
right? If I am trying to come up with a new platform, or I have
a new technology, I need to understand the mechanisms of, it
might be better than everybody else, but if I don’t understand
how people buy, people aren’t going to switch.

Chris: Yeah, and I think to just put a period in the end of this whole
thing, I always use, whenever people have a little of doubt, I
always use that Snickers and Milky Way example because the
outcome is so counter-intuitive, and you never get there by just
saying which one of these is better? I mean you can never get to
that situational causal sort of level without doing interviews
including that situational contact. So I think that story is

So next question we always get, how do you decide who you are going
talk to? And I think there is a lot packed into this. One is how
do you actually create the questions and decide who to pick out
and talk to and the other is just how do you go find people
depending on what industry you are in?

Bob: So my first quick answer to that is I always use, I am a big fan of
BJ Fogg and kind of what he does and I am working on design
degree at Stanford right now I took his persuasion technology
class and it is just phenomenal. And the reason I bring it up is
it is about simplicity and that’s what he talks about. So there
are very sophisticated methods for who do I talk to and that
almost can be in its own podcast.

But at the same it, it is like think of it as rounds. Who are the
first ten people I should talk to and who are the next ten I
should talk to? If I try to figure out who are . . . if I got to
talk to a thousand people, I am not going to figure that out
upfront, but my thing is that the place to always start is to
get five. If I am going to do ten interviews, the first five to
six, maybe seven should be people who recently bought the
product or switched to the product.

Or if it’s product that I am making that nobody else has, it’s like I
need to find a direct competition in the consumer mind that they
would do this. They would buy ours instead somebody else’s, and
tell me about the people who would switch to that product
recently. And then I always want to talk to people who switched
away. What didn’t it do and did they find the next thing and
where was it at?

So to me, it’s always starting to that basic promise of, let me talk
to people who switched in the last 90 days and let me talk to
some people who switched away from us in the last 90 days or
away from a product in that last 90 days that I can understand
kind of the key switching dynamics. And then from there, I can
go wider and broader.

You get into some of these other issues around demographics and age
and geography and again, I think that there are differences
between some of those things and some categories and some
industries, but sometimes will find there is not. There is not a
difference between age, or there is not a difference between
geography. So I like to always start simple.

Chris: Yeah, so one thing I will throw out is I think we have a pretty
sophisticated listening audience. If they are into product
development and innovation, but I talk to entrepreneurs and
product developers once in a while that will put the stake in
the group that there is no competitor to the product that they
are developing.

I try not to laugh, but it’s like you need to step back and say
people are getting this job done somehow right now. So Jason
with Basecamp, they are using sticky notes. They are all over
their desk. They are writing task lists down in their notebook.
Your product is definitely obviously the best thing since slide
bread, but they are getting it done right now. If you are
sitting in that seat saying, man this thing is going to change
the world and there is no competitors, just think about how
people are behaving today and where you are going to bring those
people from and just go interview them. That’s just the easiest
way to do it.

Bob: So I look at it is that what’s the most useful framework to come
from? So one of the things I always say is there are no new
jobs, and people say what do you mean there are new jobs? I
think jobs evolve, I think they split. They get more subtle.
There is more resolution around them over time but the notion of
communication has been around for a long time.

The notion of getting a note, information from one place to another
place started back on horseback or people writing something down
and people walking it. Now it is to email. So I think the core
jobs is there are no new ones. So the issue is what’s the
important dimensions of performance that are causing people to
switch to the next level. So if you come that view, that every
product like Facebook competes with AT&T, okay, what are the
jobs we are going to steal from AT&T in terms of the phone.

Chris: That’s that yardstick you are talking about. So I have to put
an asterisk in there. Jason never said that Basecamp had no
competitors. I was just using Basecamp as an example. I want to
put that out there. He did not have that opinion. Yeah, I just
threw him under the bus.

Bob: No you didn’t. I knew what you meant but other people wouldn’t so
that’s good. So the other thing is that, so for example, with
Basecamp, we just literally gave us a list of people who had
recently purchased or recently signed up and actually started
actively using it. They gave us a list. In that case, we want to
make sure we get different stories. So part of it is we are
different industries, different kinds of companies, different
kinds of different things and from there, we were able to reach

And I think we ended up using Survey Monkey just to kind to get some
basic information. So I think we might get a list of a couple
hundred and then from a couple hundred, it went down to, all
right we will do a Survey Monkey out to them, and so many people
who actually filled out the Survey Monkey, and then from there,
we actually set up the interviews.

Chris: Yeah, I think we started big. So there is two parts to that.
One is we got people who just signed up and second, we got
people who had just left, right? So they left six month ago.
What did they switch to? I think we started probably at 1600 and
started whittling down. So you always have to think, you are
going to send out this email saying take our survey. Only a
small percentage of that is going actually take the survey and
out of that, only a certain percentage are going to “qualify”
for people who you are going want to talk to. So you need to
start as big as you can. If you have numbers in the thousands on
this list, then that’s is a good idea. The other thing I will
add is-

Bob: But you don’t have to.

Chris: No, no, no. Yeah, I am sorry. If you don’t have a thousand,
don’t do it but starting with numbers does tend to make your
life easier. So we are in process of putting together the online
course and we did just shoot a video, screen capture sort of
video of a B2B what we call screener or survey that we send out
through Survey Monkey to try to do recruits. And we did it in
some what of a generic . . . I actually used a CRM system as a
generic example. So that is going to be in the online course.

I am actually going to share that out probably in the next week or so
to the Jobs-to-be-Done expert user group. So anybody who has
been to a Switch Workshop has access to that. They collaborate
with fellow Jobs-to-be-Done practitioners. I am going to put
just that video up just to get some commentary on it. It will be
part of the paid course in the future but I want to see kind of
how people react to it.

So it’s a Survey Monkey survey and I go through our thought process.
Each question, why we’d ask a question like? How do we use it in
screening and recruiting. We ultimately end up doing one for a
B2C sale as well. That will probably be a couple weeks away but
at least it gives you an idea of how to form it.

If you are not part of the Yammer site, the Jobs-to-be-Done expert
user group, drop me an email and we will figure out how to get
you in there. It might end up being a monthly fee to join if you
haven’t been to a Switch Workshop, but we are kind of still
working out the details, but feedback is good. So we always
looking to get people’s opinions.

So we are kind of half way there. We are getting there, so the next
one is an easy one. How do you get people take time out their
day to talk to you? You pay them. It’s not that complicated of a
formula. I don’t think we ever done less than $100, but if you
are going to interview 10 people, throw $1000 at it, give them
an Amex gift card or a Visa gift card, whatever you want to do
and pay them for their time.

Bob: Yup, there are some cool things out there like [Wantful] and other
things you can do, say hey, we are going to send you a gift. You
get to pick. I mean there is stuff you can do.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So the next question I think is an
important one. Do you prefer phone interviews, face to face, or
Web video like a solution like

Bob: Yeah, so I think first and foremost, always prefer face to face but
they are expensive and they are not . . . they are just to kind
of logistically get, but the fact is that face to face is by far
the best. Because you get mannerisms. You get body language. You
can see the struggling. You can see the emotion. I mean as much
as it’s about words, it’s also about what . . .

I always talk about music. Half the beauty of music is the silence.
It’s the space between the notes, so the notion is that when
there is no speaking and there is thinking, that’s when you can
see what is going on. So to me, I always love face to face,
especially even if we are going to do voice, over the phone, or
video, I prefer to do it a couple face to face because you got
get the feel. So to me, I can only get a feel for the basics of
the job with a couple face to face minimum.

Chris: So I’ll add. We have never done Web video without doing at
least ten, no, five face to face or phone interviews first. I
just think it is impossible to write that Web video what you
call discussion guide, what you are going to have them do,
without getting that face to face time first or over the phone.

It is interesting you brought up a point that I had never thought
about too but I am reflecting on a lot of the phone interviews
I’ve done in the past and I do think it might be difficult for
people to sit and reflect and think on the phone because it’s
like, people are afraid of that dead air. In an interview room
when you are face to face, they can lean back and you can reach
for your coffee, and I am going to take a couple sips here while
you think about this question and we are cool.

But on the phone it is like they don’t want to just go dead air and
make you feel like they hang up on you. I am still a big
advocate of phone because it gives you a wide distribution and I
can actually, we are doing this radio show at 10:30 a.m. If I
had interviews coming up, I can pick up the phone and dial a
couple people up here during the day. It is easier to slot in
but you are right, you lose a little bit of that intimacy.

Bob: But you could again, if you are thinking about this is a yard stick,
you can get 80-90% of what you need on a phone interview too. So
again, if I am trying to be practical and trying to just
bootstrap the whole thing, it’s like how do I get 10 people on
the phone for a hour? And not at the same time obviously but I
can have 10 and what I would do is I always would say, hey can I
have half a hour and you start the half a hour and as you start
the half a hour and as you get closer to the half hour, do you
have extra time. Some people might not be willing to spend a
hour with you but 45 minutes is enough to get there, but you can
do 45 minute, 10 45 minute phone calls in a week and it will
change the way you do a lot of things.

Chris: Yeah, and so I think Web video is like setting it up is like
calculus. That’s the tough part is that you need to have your
initial interview nailed. You need to know what exactly you are
going for. It provides a lot of scale so you can do people all
around the country. You can get a little bit of that intimacy
because you can see their facial expressions but you got know
what you are looking for going in.

So we done quite a bit of it. We are getting better all the time.
Also, I did a call with the Qualvu guys earlier this week. They
are launching a new product called 24 Tru? T-R-U. So it’s
totally just been birthed there. They are working the kinks out
but they’re live. It’s a really cool platform and I think we are
doing some interview using that. So we will keep everyone
updated as to how that goes because that is exiting.

Bob: And just so people know, Qualvu is basically one of the [else fitted] for the data collectors. They help do the recruiting in some
cases but your job studies that we’ll be doing. They’ll actually
have the protocol. They have that technological platform to
collect all the data and do video capture and do editing and do
transcribing and kind of all that stuff. So what we will end up
doing is helping build the protocol of the assignments and they
will recruit the people, get them to do the assignments, and
then we end up just interfacing through our laptops and we can
literally see every interview and cut and paste and analyze and
do everything. So we never actually have to leave Detroit to do
that which is awesome.

Chris: The technology is fantastic. So their interface–we’re getting
way into this–but their interface, you can click on a word in a
transcription and hit play and it will play from that word. You
can cut . . . it’s just very cool. Thee big caveat. If I hear
people going right to Web video and not doing face to face, I am
going to be pissed. You can’t skip it.

Bob: Well, some people might do it and it is what it is. At the same time,
we want to make sure people understand. I’d rather do ten voice
to voice phone calls before I go to video is it is not cheap and
it is going to be, well let’s put it this way, it’s cheaper than
flying all over the world or all the country. At the same time,
it’s not as inexpensive as getting in the phone for 45 minutes
with 10 people. So again, stay simple, stay practical and when
you need some scale, there is scaling tools.

Chris: All right, so we got three more questions and then we will
start to wrap this up. So this is a cool one. This came through
the expert user group. This is the question out the last Switch
Workshop from the W and how do you know when to stop? So we had
people saying I am going 45 minutes and I feel like I got a good
story but I want to just keep talking because I don’t know when
to end and I just thought it was a great question.

Bob: So it’s a . . .

Chris: I will give you my answer, how about that?

Bob: Yeah, why don’t you start that?

Chris: So the answer that I gave in the expert user group is I want to
know why they brought the product that they brought at that
exact minute at that exact second and if I can answer that in my
head, I can say I understand why you walked into the store,
picked this off the shelf. Of all the things you can be doing in
that moment, what is motivating you to go get this item either
online or in a store or whatever. This is why you did this at
this exact moment, not any other product, not any other moment.
And if I have that story nailed, shake their hand, let them go.
If I can’t, then I have to through another question out there
and continue to probe. And you can’t kill them obviously, we
talked about this in the past, but keep pushing and keep

Bob: So to me, being the engineer that I am, this is all a bunch of
variables, right? How long have we been talking? How articulated
are they? How good is the memory coming back? How much emotion
was in it? I mean there is all these different things and so at
some point, it is kind of like what I would say is the best
example that I can come up with is when you and I look at each
other and we kind of the question. God, I am not sure I have any
more. This has been awesome, right?

And you always have two or three more and I will have two or three
more but the notion is that it’s just like at some point and
time, you have to be able to make that call. So my thing is in a
lot of cases, I might only have 80% of the story but 10 more
minutes and 20 more questions isn’t going to get me that other
20%, and so to me, in some cases it might be two more
interviews, the next two interviews will help fill the 20% that
person couldn’t articulate, and so to me, I’m . . .

Chris: So it’s like when the conflicts have been resolved. So the
other thing that I added in that answer on the expert user group
was it’s an easy extension. If I can’t solve the question, it’s
easy for me to challenge and have them keep talking. And what I
think we typically do is like you just got done telling me how
busy your week was and how your day was and you took time out to
buy this thing, doesn’t make any sense to me, and let them keep
. . . it will usually rejuvenate the conversation and get them
back into it but I think you are right. When all . . . it’s like
I can understand with high resolution what their energy was and
what their emotion was, then that’s when we usually say a couple
wrap up questions and let’s call it.

Bob: The other kind of limit test I have is can I play their role in the
movie? Not necessarily physically but I could direct somebody or
I could literally say, yup, they walked into this. This is what
is going on. This is how they felt. This is what is going on. If
I feel like I could give directions to somebody who is an actor
to play that role, I got the bulk of the story. Part of me is
sometimes I don’t have the whole story but I have enough of it
that it doesn’t get pieced together until I hear more
interviews, and so I am not worried about getting how do you
know when the story? Most of the time it stops when I keep
getting the same kinds of information, they are tired, or the
fact I can play the role.

Chris: So I think that is a good segue into it. So I am going to
switch to the last two questions but I think that is a good
segue into the next one. So the next question we got was how do
I know when to stop doing interviews? I’ve done ten. Should I
keep interviewing people. I got kind of a good feel for the
space but it’s one of those nebulous things. Do I just keep
hammering away at people?

Bob: I always have this rule of ten, right? So to me, I always like to do
ten interviews and take a step back and ten more interviews and
take a step back.

Chris: Yeah, and the other things we always say is that if you are
kind of the same stories over. So it’s like I’ve heard two of
this story, three of that story, four of that. You can start to
say I’ve kind of, everything is starting to get repetitive. I
almost know what they are going to say.

Bob: Or to the point of you know what, I need to change my recruiting
because I want to get different stories, because again, we learn
from the contrast, right? We don’t necessarily learn from when
everything is the same. We learn when people contrast the two
different. Yeah, I use it here but no, I use it that way. Oh
wait a second. So they are valuing these things completely
differently, and so part of it is to understand where is the
value. What’s value?

Chris: So next question. I work in a space that involves like an
impulse sort of purchase. If I talk to a bunch of people that
can’t remember the details of the purchase, what do I do? We
have a slide that I will put up on the website along with this
radio episode that kind of details the energy or emotion related
to a purchase against the perceived risk whether it is time or

Bob: Or commitment.

Chris: Yeah, commitment is a better word. If it is a 99 cent candy bar
and I am just going to throw it away if I don’t like it, very
low risk. How do I get to the stories?

Bob: In a lot of cases, it is . . . When it is low risk and low emotion,
to be honest, low emotion is basically it’s almost like no, it’s
habitual buying. To me, it’s not necessarily impulse, it’s the
habit of I buy a pack of gum every time I go through the
checkout line, but it’s the notion of you actually just have to
find people who can articulate those things. So to be honest,
it’s like I might have to go through 20 or 30 interviews to find
that impulse low commitment things where I can do in five
interviews. At least ten but I will say ten interviews, when
somebody is buying a laptop, buying a house, a car, what I would
say are meaningful things. It is hard to get to when people are
buying things that are meaningless. When meaningless, it becomes
very difficult to actually do this kind of work.

Chris: So I think the two things that we always say is one is a brute
force approach, right? So you just need to do more interviews
and the other, we always talk about shortening the delay. So if
you are talking to somebody about buying a home, you can give
them a year, a laptop, you can probably say if you bought it
within the last three or four months, I can still get that
story. If you are dealing with the candy bar, get them within
the week. If you are going to recruit him and say, tell me the
story. You were in the airport last week, you bought this.
Really shortening it up and you got a better change at getting
that recall.

Bob: My favorite right now is sitting in the aisle. I will go to Target
and . . .

Chris: Just do interviews.

Bob: Well, the funnest thing is what you do is you just sit there and you
stand at the pasta section and you just stand there and looking
at it and it is just a sea of craziness. It’s like how do you
pick which one and how do you know what brand. And so eventually
somebody comes along and says, and it’s not even from the store,
it’s actually a shopper, like you will have two in your hands
and they go, can I help you? And you are like, yeah, I have no
idea what to do here.

And they will say, I’ll buy this one and then you just say why do you
buy that one and have you ever try this one? And you start going
back and forth and you realize you can literally do an interview
in an aisle and it is just awesome. So that’s kind of the
Malcolm Gladwell talk about the 10,000 hours. My 10,000 hours
came from hanging out in retail stores in the aisles and
literally trying to play dumb about I don’t how to buy this, and
what is this? And people just helping me and so it is pretty

Chris: Very cool, and you had one more topic you want to cover I

Bob: Yeah. So I had a question around the notion of why do you always talk
about the purchase and not consumption? And I just want to bring
up the point because I think it is a really important aspect of
I think it is important to talk about why people for example,
they picked a Snicker bar and what about the Snicker bar, either
deliver or didn’t deliver satisfaction.

But what happens is that I can’t actually describe what is satisfying
to somebody without understanding the context of purchase and
the intent of what they are buying it for. And the notion is
that my standards of quality and my standards of performance and
my standards of satisfaction are all determined by the moment of
purchase. So without understanding moment of purchase, I
actually over engineer products to hit standards that don’t
necessarily, that people don’t necessarily value at the time.

And so the notion is that I got to understand the job they are hiring
to do, to then talk about how well I need to deliver on it
because I can actually tell that people would say, yeah, I
wanted to be fast but in some cases, it should be faster than
others. And so if I over engineered to just do it for everybody
and in that one situation, you realize that other people are
valuing it and I commoditize it.

Chris: So that’s a complex notion, right? Because as much as they have
that expectation of value going in, you still need to be able to
deliver on a changing aspect of or a changing level of value as
they use the product and that level evolves, right?

Bob: But [think] about everything. Your expectation for the iPhone changes
over time and the notion is when I first bought it, I expected
it to do this but now over time, well, why doesn’t it do this
and why doesn’t it do that? That’s why you need to understand
the situational context of why they bought it in the first
place, but then the people who switch out tell you what point
they get so frustrated that they switch away. So it gives you
the boundaries of where you have to be able to go and the
performance criteria and the changing expectations.

So to me, it is very hard to talk about satisfaction, consumption,
and usage without understanding the book ends it. What makes me
hire it and what makes me fire it or the situations or the jobs
around that, because that now sets my expectation for, because
again you and I are both developers. We are both engineers
trying to make trade offs to help people do things and this is
not about engineering to the Nth degree without making money. So
it is all about the trade offs we have to make and without the
book ends, it’s hard for me to understand the trade offs.

Chris: Got it. I feel like we could do a whole other show on that and
maybe we will because that is a really important concept. I
think that is a great way to wrap up. So once again, April 12th,
Chicago 37signals should be announced today or next week. Get
your tickets. You can follow me on Twitter at @chriscbs and Bob
at @bmoesta, and check out for all the latest
JTBD news. Anything to add?

Bob: No. The one thing I would ask is if anybody can give us some comments
back around length. I keep feeling like these should be two 30
minutes as opposed to going the hour but I know [Horace] is
amazing. He can pull those stuff off. Sorry but we are just not
that good. So I really like to know some feedback around length
because I don’t have a good feel for that.

Chris: And also, if there is anything still unclear around the
mattress interview, throw those questions out as well, keep them
coming. We can always circle back on the next episode and add
some more. We would be happy to do that.

Bob: Or any questions in general. The other thing is people would like
another interview up there so if we have any other interviews,
having them recorded will help.

Chris: Yup, absolutely.

Bob: Thanks.

Chris: Thanks everyone.


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