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Can an Innovation Get You Into Heaven? Bob Moesta and Brian Walker talk Jobs-to-be-Done

Chris Spiek // 05.08.17

Bob Moesta recently appeared on the”Brand Labs Series Podcast”, hosted by Brian Walker and Natalie Pyles. On the show Bob gave an overview and background of the Jobs to be Done Framework and used it to explain how people shop and why people buy.  You might remember Brian as the Mattress Interview Guy who was interviewed by Bob and I at a Switch Workshop at Basecamp’s Headquarters in Chicago.  The Mattress Interview was featured on JTBD Radio and was later immortalized in Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck.

Below you will find:

  • A full overview of Bob’s appearance on the “Brand Labs Series Podcast”.
  • Some quotables from Bob.
  • Show Notes:  (with a link to the podcast on Brian’s blog)
  • A full transcript of the interview.


Mattress Interview from November 2012 Switch Workshop

A moment from The Mattress Interview at the November 2012 Switch Workshop hosted by Jason Fried and The Re-Wired Group at the Basecamp Headquarters in Chicago. The Mattress Interview was immortalized in Clayton Christensen’s Competing Against Luck book. Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek – Partners at The Rewired Group, Brian Walker, CEO at AEGroup and the Mattress Buyer. None of the 30 plus people in attendance would have guessed we would still be talking about this interview 5 years later.

Quotables From Bob Moesta

Below are some of Bob’s best quotes from the podcast with direct links to jump to the relevant section in the transcript – this should make your quote easier to share with friends and co-works.

“Figure out what you want to go learn, go find the person that is the best in the world and go talk to them.”

– Discussing how and why he studied at MIT, Harvard and Stanford and worked with Clayton Christensen, Dr. Taguchi and Dr. Demming – in spite of the fact that he is dyslexic and can’t read or write. In Bob’s unusual learning method

“…from a marketer’s perspective they need to communicate it. But from an engineer’s perspective, I’ve got to create it.”

– On the challenge of working in crucible of new product development. In the disconnect between Engineering and Marketing

“…people don’t actually buy products, they hire them to do a job.”

– Explaining the JTBD premise. Most companies see the world from their products’ eyes, whereas Jobs focuses on the situational context and outcome – dimensions that are technology independent. In the JTBD premise

“CrossFit is doing three quarters of the job of church and it’s doing it way better so people will stop going to church and they’ll go to CrossFit three times a week.”

– In how CrossFit and Church compete

“I don’t fundamentally believe in anything called an impulse purchase. Everything is caused but we just might not have the perception to figure out what it is and so we need to dig deeper.”

– Explaining the common misconceptions of buying habits – why you need to interrogate interviewees to understand what caused them to purchase.

“…I’m constantly trying to find the trade-offs as opposed to the ideal solution ’cause I actually don’t believe there is ever an ideal anything. Because there’s always variation and there’s always context that’s going to change.”

– On how context creates value and contrast creates meaning.

“…in business school, they taught me basically to get people to buy you just add more features but the reality is, more and more features cause more and more anxiety.”

– On competing forces in buying decisions; how understanding them helped Bob increase home sales by 17%.

“The first moment of truth is the moment when the push and the pull become greater than the anxiety and habit… But the second moment of truth is really when people use it and what are their metrics of satisfaction. So the interesting part is people will buy for one reason and measure satisfaction on a completely different level.”

– Explaining the potential disconnection between why someone bought a product and how they measure satisfaction. In finding the two moments of truth

“The real premise around Jobs is, the struggling moment is that seed for all innovation. And so, finding the struggling moments and figuring out where people want to make progress is what it’s all about.”

– How seeing the struggling moment helped him create the product he is most proud of: The Gas Arrow.  In the struggling moment

“And we all know that progress will give us better knowledge as we can measure more but to me Jobs-to-be-Done is a theory that’s going to help us get to the next level, but it’s not going to be around forever.”

– Explaining that Clayton Christensen taught him to be humble and say “this is my best theory at this point in time”; Bob’s prepared to have his theories blown up at any point in time.  In the Milkshake Man.

*Special thanks to Alexandra Brandt for helping write this post. 

Show Notes:

  • To listen to this podcast head over to Brian’s blog here:  See Re-Wired CEO Bob Moesta on Why People Shop and Why People Buy from the Brand Lab Podcast Series
  • To listen to or read the transcript of the full Mattress Interview (pictured above) and featured in Clayton Christensen’s “Competing Against Luck” click here
  • To listen to other Brand Lab Series podcast episodes visit, follow them on Twitter or reach out to them at
  • Have questions, want to learn about how to apply Jobs to be Done to your product or just want to say hi? Message us in the chat bubble below.



Introduction to the Brand Lab Podcast & Bob Moesta, CEO of the Re-Wired Group

Natalie [Pyles]: Learn from today’s most innovative brands and observe how they empower employees, engage consumers, design products and co-create experiences together. Welcome to the Brand Lab Series from AE Marketing Group.

Brian Walker: Hi everyone, I’m Brian Walker. We’re excited to have you with us for a new episode of the Brand Lab Series podcast where each week we broadcast from 1871 here in Chicago and we explore today’s most innovative brands alongside today’s most insightful executives and entrepreneurs. This week our guest is Bob Moesta. He is the CEO of Re-Wired Group and we are talking about how people shop and why people buy. And with that said, let’s enter the Brand Lab. Good morning Natalie.

Natalie: Good morning Brian. Hi.

Brian Walker: So I’m excited to have Bob on and it’s funny, a little note about him is I’ve known him over the years but I wanted to make sure I pulled up his bio before we had him on the show and kind of like Luis Rodriguez at IBM on episode 43, Bob’s education background is stunning. He studied at Michigan State, at MIT, at BU, at Harvard, Stanford … I’m beginning to think I might have to go back to school just to keep up with our guests on the show.

Natalie: You could go get that math degree you’ve always wanted.

Brian Walker: I’ll tell you what. You know that it’s hard as a parent to try to teach math and science to a way, especially when they’re young, that they’ll understand it when you know the answer. That’s always tough.
Natalie: True.

Brian Walker: So Bob, thank you for being on the show. Welcome to the Brand Labs today.
Bob Moesta: Thank you. Thank you so much Brian and Natalie. It’s … exciting to be here.

Bob’s unusual learning method – overcoming dyslexia to study at Stanford, Harvard and MIT:

I am the target text.

Brian Walker: So I know I talked a little bit about your education background but let’s talk about your broader background. I know you have some deep engineering roots so I’d love to talk a little bit about that and then kind of the disconnect, if you will maybe, between engineering and marketing.

Bob Moesta: Got it. Cool. So, little bit of my background is, the other thing you need to know is I’m dyslexic and I cannot read and write. And so, one of the reasons why I’ve studied at all those places is primarily because I learn through … I’m a kinesthetic and an auditory learner so I actually have to learn by being in front … I can’t learn from books. And so, I just pretty much signed up and I’m an auditor of all these different classes and so I find something that I’m interested in or that I need to know about and I just finagle my way in, I’m able to monitor classes or basically have, sign up for the degree. But for the most part I had to struggle till I was almost about 25, 26, ’cause I never told anybody or my mom basically told me that, I should never tell anybody I have a disability like that because she was afraid that the system would take care of me and basically I wouldn’t be able to find my own talents. And so, I’ve done a lot of school but at the same time I haven’t done school in any normal way that anybody’s done it. So the notion of you going back to school is actually kind of funny ’cause I would say, just figure out what you want to go learn, go find the person that is the best in the world and go talk to them.

The disconnect between Engineering and Marketing – translating words in to something you can create:

Brian Walker: Well that’s great advice and I remember you telling the audience at Basecamp when we met that day, that you had had dyslexia and it’s fascinating how you’re able to overcome some of those challenges. So let’s talk about the engineering side. You’ve sold thousands of products if I’m not mistaken.

Bob Moesta: Yes, so I’ve built and launched over 3500 products and services ranging from, I worked on the materials for the Stealth Bomber so radar absorbing materials. I worked on the guidance system for the Patriot missile. I’ve worked on Pokémon, Mac & Cheese. I’ve worked on 5 Gum. So I’ve worked pretty much the gamut of everything from consumer products all the way to military products to home products, I’ve built houses, I’ve been tinkering in building things my whole life and so, for me it’s one of those things whereas an engineer we’re taught to basically get guidance from marketing and sales to be able to figure out and understand, and the new technology and say, “All right, how do we put things together to create new experiences for consumers?” if you will.

And so, part of it is I’m usually in the crucible of new product development every single day. And so, it’s the inputs and the outputs that to me of translating what is fun, we need a fun concept that is delicious, for example. It’s like all right, what does all that mean? Because one, from a marketer’s perspective they need to communicate it. But from an engineer’s perspective, I got to create it. So creating fun is a lot harder than just talking about fun.

Brian Walker: Yes.

Bob Moesta: So that’s really where kind of the … what some of the methods that I’ve developed was the, I’ll say the frustration of, marketers to me are what I call “word people,” and that they’re trying to find the right words that resonate with the most potential customers and also build their image of what they want the brand to be. And so what happens is, they would much rather have a vaguer notion of something like fun or delicious or tasty as opposed to, “Yes, I need a hard first bite, I need it to have a salty hit and then I need to be able to have it chewed and masticated into a ball and then I need a clean aftertaste.” Like, the details of actually creating a tasty experience is really hard and so, to me it’s that translation of, what do you mean and how do I actually cause it. And so that’s where I’ve spent most of my life, is translating what I would call, in the CPG world they have a winning BASES concept and unpacking it down to, what the hell do I do?

The JTBD premise – people don’t actually buy products, they hire them to do a Job:

Natalie: Okay. Can you explain a little bit the Jobs-to-be-Done premise?

Bob Moesta: Yes. So the Jobs-to-be-Done premise is most people focus on the product, the product that people buy. And so The Jobs-to-be-Done premise is that people don’t actually buy products, they hire them to do a job. And so what that means is that there’s a situational context that somebody is in, that basically is what I call struggling moment that says, “Boy I need something else because what I’m doing now isn’t working.” And then they have a desired outcome of what that is, that’s irrelevant of the product. And so the job aspect is really about what product is being put into that situation to help them make the progress that they want. And so, spent a lot of time trying to understand how to specify both that situational context and the outcome, that is what I call technology independent. And that helps us then be actually more creative in the technological side as opposed to deciding specifically what the product is from a very ambiguous perspective.

How CrossFit and Church compete – finding the real competitive set:

Brian Walker: So Bob, just kind of building on the Jobs-to-be-Done framework, I know that a lot of industries are in flux today, what would be another example of one where using this Jobs-to-be-Done framework is really creating some interesting insight?

Bob Moesta: So actually, one of the things I’m wor- … so I have a … so a third of my business is not for profit. One of the things I’m actually working on is why is the church … So I’m working with the Harvard Divinity School on how they’re getting disrupted and we’ve been doing Jobs-to-be-Done interviews around people who have switched religions or dropped religions and what is the real competitive set. And so, one of the things I found is that CrossFit is one of the largest competitors to any formalized religion.

We find that people are literally going … so they’d say, “I could make time for church and … ” would you ask what you got out of church and everybody thinks there has to be a spiritual component but when you start to look at the crossfit … ” and all of a sudden you start to realize that CrossFit is doing three quarters of the job of church and it’s doing it way better so people will stop going to church and they’ll go to CrossFit three times a week. And the moment that you pull the word CrossFit out and you put in church, it literally is what church was 100 years ago. Crazy.

Natalie: Wow.

Bob Moesta: It is crazy. And so all of a sudden you start to realize that the church is almost like the milkshakes where they’ve been trying to do everything for everybody and they do everything for everybody halfway and so the people who are really focused on like, “I need to get inner strength, I want to build a sense of community … ” blah blah blah, it’s like, “Yes, I’m going to go here.” And so they’re literally stealing people right and left and we found all these little communities of what we call social entrepreneurs who are literally stealing, if you will, time from formalized religions and doing awesome things for the world but they have no business model. They have no way in which to stay afloat. They’re literally just scraping by, it’s just the craziest side of the world that I’m really interesting in trying to create what I call … I feel it’s like Silicon Valley in 1980. It’s like they’re doing all this social good but they have no way in which to actually figure out how to scale it. It’s really interesting stuff so …

Brian Walker: I think that’s another great analogy of just really explaining the Jobs-to-be-Done because as you know better than anybody, at least on the three of us, is that I think people get so focused, marketers and engineers and companies, about … they think they’re competing against, Ford is only competing against Toyota, which is only competing against Chevy, when they’re not thinking about Zipcar, they’re not thinking about Divvy Bikes, they’re not thinking about Uber, they’re not thinking about all the other ways that-

Bob Moesta: Not thinking about Skype!

Common misconceptions of buying habits – marketers are taught incorrectly about correlation vs causality:

Brian Walker: Yes. So along those lines, and I know you’ve worked with companies across many, many industries over the years, do you see that there is sometimes a common misperception they might have about consumer buying habits?

Bob Moesta: Yes. So the first thing is that, what I would say is that I actually think marketers are taught incorrectly around correlation versus causality. And so what happens is they try to correlate that I’m 52 years old and I live in this zip code and I have this kind of car, that I would have a propensity to buy that product or service. And so, they’re triangulating around things but what they don’t know is they don’t know what actually causes me to buy something today. And so what happens is they’re almost treating innovation as luck. And so by doing that, what happens is they look at probabilities and everything revolves around this notion of correlation as opposed to causality. And so what Jobs does, is we actually go back and we look at the progress people are making and we understand, if you will, the dominoes that have to fall for you to say, “I’m buying a mattress today.”

And so what would happen is though, Brian we did the mattress interview, that’s actually how we met. I pulled you out of the audience at the Switch Conference and you have now been immortalized in Clay Christensen’s new book that I helped write with him, “Competing Against Luck.” And for me, the coolest part was when you said, “Yes yes, it was a total impulse purchase.” And you’re talking about it … you’re running through COSTCO with your two kids and it’s like it’s on a Saturday, it’s absolute chaos and you say, “Yes, we took a shortcut through a different aisle … ” and you’re with your wife and you saw the mattress and she tried it and she looked at you and said, “Yes it’s time.” Like, “If you want this get it.” And you’re like, “Ugh,” and you ran all the way back out and got it. Got the cart, got the mattress, brought it home and the thing is that you labeled it as an impulse purchase. But then I asked you the question, “So how long have you been really not sleeping well?” And you said, “Two years.”

So the reality is, it wasn’t a planned purchase but the reality is from a causal perspective, you had been trying all these different workarounds to get you to a new mattress and it just happened to be the last piece of the puzzle was the approval of your wife around the fact that says, “Yes, okay we can do something about it.” And so, I don’t fundamentally believe in anything called a impulse purchase. Everything is caused but we just might not have the perception to figure out what it is and so we need to dig deeper. The method itself is actually built on what I call … So it’s not actually a market research method, it’s an interrogation method. So I went to Quantico and I learned both criminal and intelligence interrogation methods and so everything is based on what caused you to buy that mattress that day.

Brian Walker: So you’re taking me back. Boy, that was probably 4+ years ago now. But you’re taking me back to the moment, at least at Basecamp in the Switch Conference because what’s so funny, and I’ve had the opportunity to, as we said before we started the show, to see a lot of the work you’ve done over the years and I’m so … I learned just from watching you guys, but it never occurred to me but it totally makes sense that you have this interrogation method training because even though it’s not confrontational or direct, you and Chris do this phenomenal job and I know Jason has participated in a couple of these as well at Basecamp with you guys at the time.

But yes, you guys do this amazing job of like, one of you is clearly thinking about one path, the other one’s thinking about another and you’re asking just really interesting questions and as a marketer myself who works in the areas of co-creation and customer experience and consumer behavior, it’s fascinating because I think you’re right. We’re used to, and this is true whether you’re on agency sides or brand sides, you’re kind of used to, well, Brian’s demographic is that he’s 43 years old, he lives in Chicago, he’s this, he’s that therefore acts. And I love the way that you’ve kind of brought some of this stuff back. And I know another thing that we do as marketers is we have a huge focus on content. I mean you can’t go anywhere now with … like an entire sub-industry of marketing has been created just around content but I think sometimes we make the mistake of forgetting context.

Bob Moesta: Yes. For sure.

Brian Walker: And can you share a bit about that as it relates to products?

Context creates value and contrast creates meaning: Do you like steak or pizza?

Bob Moesta: So for me, I think conte- … So the phrase I use is context creates value and contrast creates meaning. And so what happens is the phrase I use is pretty much like, “Do you like steak or do you like pizza?”

Brian Walker: Both.

Bob Moesta: Both. And so I say, “All right, let’s talk about the last time you had a steak. If I took the steak out and put pizza in it, do you like steak or do you like pizza?”

Brian Walker: I like steak because pizza would no-

Bob Moesta: That’s right. It doesn’t fit. There is a couple of things that happened is that, what marketers did for us as engineers is they actually took all the context away and they’re trying to have you design the best pizza. But the best pizza is context-dependent so it’s for what situation? And so what we end up doing is averaging things. So very early on I actually worked on like frozen pizza and you end up with data that says, “Boy, some people like thin pizza, some people like thick-crust pizza,” and you end up making something in the middle that nobody wants, because you didn’t understand the context of where they came from and why they hire it and what was the real competitive set. Because thin pizza sometimes is more about, “Boy, I want something lighter that competes with a salad,” where Uno’s competes with the steak. And so all of a sudden, you start to realize that they are completely different situations and completely different competitive sets and though they’re both pizza they actually don’t compete with each other.

Brian Walker: Natalie, how about you? Steak or pizza?

Natalie: Pizza, every time. Pizza.

Bob Moesta: Pizza every time. That’s right, that’s right. So-

Brian Walker: But I love the context though, because the last time I had steak was for a nice occasion and I was out, and if I wanted pizza I wouldn’t have gone out for that. So, yes.

Bob Moesta: Well, but then you start thinking about it’s usually at celebrating, it’s usually either with somebody special or it’s with a group of people that you’re trying to have conversation with. Pizza is usually more relaxing and more about winding down. What we realize is that the experiences that we have to design as engineers, context plays an important role because at some point in time, we’ll get a complaint after the fact and it’s like we have to go jump on it and the reality is well, they’re not using the product in the right way. And so part of it is being able to understand what things we … So my favorite is Jason, in his book “REWORK,” he talks about the notion of, don’t listen to what the complaints your customers have. So he’s had this complaint all the time that people want Gantt charts and they want resource allocation.

And what he’s realized is the trade-off between the fact is, if I start adding all these things that people want in my product, the main reason what causes people to sign up for Basecamp is the simplicity of it. It’s most of the time they’ve tried something more complicated. Basecamp is extremely simple and if they start adding all these other features people want, the best users want, they actually eliminate the new users, which is where they’re growing the business. And so, the aspect to me as an engineer is I’m constantly trying to find the trade-offs as opposed to the ideal solution ’cause I actually don’t believe there is ever an ideal anything. Because there’s always variation and there’s always context that’s going to change.

Competing forces in buying decisions: how understanding helped Bob improve home sales by 17%

Natalie: So the coolest thing about how you interview buyers about their purchases is that you’re actually able to get in someone’s head, so can you talk to us a little bit about the competing forces in their buying decisions?

Bob Moesta: Yes. So we have a couple frameworks. One framework is called “The Forces of Progress.” So for example, I built houses for a long time and I built over 1000 houses in Detroit from 2005 to 2008, and I basically sold another 500 used houses so it’s about 1500 units, which is pretty good. But what we find is that we don’t talk to people who want to buy a house, we talked to people who already bought a house. And instead of worried about what they bought, what we want to know is why they bought. And by stripping away the product side ’cause most people try to interview about the product, but if I’m interviewing about the situation and the outcome that you seek, I can then figure out new ways in which to innovate that are much better than where they’re at now.

And so we have this thing where we talk about the push of the situation, which is, think of it … So one of the people we built for were … think of your parents and they’re downsizing, and the push is going to be things like, well, has nothing to do with the answer, has everything to do with the context they’re in. The house is too big, the taxes are going up, the stairs because the laundry’s in the basement, it needs a new roof … there’s all these things that says, “Boy it’s time to move.” The neighborhood’s turning old et cetera. And then there is this pull once they see a solution, they have magnetism towards that solution, we call the pull of the solution. And that’s where, I built a condo that was ranch so, two-bedroom, two and a half bath, first floor laundry, granite countertop, hardwood floor and it’s the kitchen your mom always wanted but never had. It’s all those things where they have this huge magnetism but the reality is there’s two other forces that are at play.

One is what we call the anxiety of the new, which is, “How am I going to sell the house? I don’t know where the grocery store is. We don’t know anybody out there.” There’s all these questions that come into their head that become a force that says, “No, we shouldn’t move.” And then there’s the habit force, which is this force that really causes people to say well, “This is where we raised the children, we have all these memories,” all these different things. And so what happens is if the push and the pull are not greater than the anxiety and habit people will never switch. But by interviewing people we can understand how they actually overcame those things. And so, to be honest at this time I was the head of sales in marketing for this builder and what we realized is one of the greatest anxieties was they didn’t know how they were going to pack up 20, 30 years of stuff from the basement and all the closets. And how they were going to purge all that stuff to move into a condo.

So what you heard was people are like, “Yes, I just don’t know how to get rid of this stuff and boy, we have to cancel because we have to wait a year ’cause this is going to take us a long time to get rid of all this, all of our junk,” well they say their junk. And so what I did is I actually raised the price of the condo, I included in the price of the condo basically the moving and two years of storage. And so what happened is that, I improved sales 17% by just changing, if you will, it’s not a feature of my house as a builder, it literally is wrapped around the solution of what’s there. And what happened is like in business school, they taught me basically to get people to buy you just add more features but the reality is, more and more features cause more and more anxiety.

Like an eight-in-one, “Can it really do everything well? Do I really just want to get bleach or do I want to get that eight-in-one cleaner that’s going to do all these?” It’s like all of a sudden there’s this anxiety that’s there. And so what happens is, marketers have been trained on both correlation and features and benefits. And the features and benefits themselves don’t cause people to basically buy. They’re part of it but they’re not the causal reason. And so that’s where you need to be able to understand what causes people to hire your product or fire your product.

Finding the two moments of truth – the Switch and delivering on expectations (satisfaction):

Brian Walker: Well, and I love the analogy you just gave a minute or two back about Jason and Basecamp because there is so something also for keeping things simple and I think that that’s another huge problem that we have is, brands as marketers is everything and it makes it very hard to cut through the clutter and along the lines of cutting through the clutter, talk about the importance … and I think you maybe just described one but when you’re doing these interviews, talk about the importance of finding that moment of truth.

Bob Moesta: Yes. So the moment of truth is that, there’s actually two. The first moment of truth is the moment when the push and the pull become greater than the anxiety and habit. So what happens is over time is, you have a first thought you should do something, “Boy, I should get a new mattress,” for example. And it’s like, “Yes, I’ll look online, yes I’ll do … ” this and this and this but at some point. Like your first full sleepless night or your eighth full sleepless night you’re like, “All right, I need to do something about this.” But the anxiety of going to the mattress store and your wife not thinking there was a problem and there’s all these different things, but at some point in time the moment of truth when you actually were able to buy it.

So the interesting part is, the expectations for satisfaction are locked in at the moment of when people commit. So if you interview people beforehand and they’re what we call “active looking,” they want all these things but the reality is they don’t value all these things. So an example that is in houses we basically … people kept saying, “Yes we like ENERGY STAR. We like it to be ENERGY STAR compliant, we like … ” and then when it came down to buying something, and it was about the same price as a finished basement. I literally never sold one energy’s-compliant house and I always sold the finished basement. And so, you start to realize that what they said and what they do is something different. So you got to understand when do they make that commitment.

The second part though is the marketer’s job is over when somebody buys but the engineer’s job now has to deliver on those expectations that were set. And so the second moment of truth is, does it ac- … ’cause most purchases all happen in the mind. And they’re really about, “Yes, this what I have now isn’t going to work, this what I’m going to do is basically I want this to be better,” and they have some hope that that product is going to do it. But the second moment of truth is really when people use it and what are their metrics of satisfaction. So the interesting part is people will buy for one reason and measure satisfaction on a completely different level. And so, all of a sudden why they bought it and how they measure satisfaction are disconnected. And so part of it is we have to be able to understand that second moment of truth as well.

The struggling moment – the seed of innovation:

Natalie: So you said you designed or helped design over 3500 products, which is astounding. What’s a product that you’ve designed that you’re most proud of?

Bob Moesta: Well, so Clay asked me a similar question. So I worked with Clay Christensen for a long time and I’m lucky enough to have four hours a quarter for almost 25 years with him and he asked me this question about two years ago and I said, “Boy.” Of all the things he goes, “And what was your best innovation?” is the way he phrased it. And I’m like, “Pwoow.” I didn’t even know where to begin. And he goes, “No no no.” He goes, “I have to put some context around it. You just died, you’re on the pearly gates, Saint Peter has a list … ” He goes, “What’s the one innovation that’s going to get you in?” I’m like, “Oh, I got to think about that.”

And so, first of all the guidance system for the Patriot missile probably is not going to get me into heaven. Pokémon Mac & Cheese ain’t going to get me into heaven either. And so I really started to think hard about it and so when I was 18, 19 years old and I was an intern for a gentleman by the name of Dr. Demming. Dr. Demming was a gentleman who was in Japan and basically he was the father of lean, if you will. And he was in his 80s at the time and it turns out, I thought he was screaming at me all the time but he screamed at everybody. But one of the days I was driving him around and what happened is, when we rented a car and I was, at this time I was what … 20, 22 I guess at the time really and I worked for Ford.

And we’d be driving around and you’d go to refill the gas before you turn this rental car in and you’d literally slow down as you go into the gas station and you couldn’t figure out which side the gas tank was on. And then I’d guess and I’d pull in and be on the wrong side and Demming would be yelling at me like, “This is wrong, you should fix this, this is a big problem,” and so in 1987 basically I started a little study, I was basically showing all these struggling moments around people having a hard time remembering where their gas tank was. And so over a three-year period I was able to go to the ISU, where in the instrument cluster … and basically figure out how to help them put an arrow on the little gas tank that tells you which side your gas tank is on.

Natalie: You did that arrow?

Bob Moesta: So I worked … that was my first struggle, that was one of my first innovations and so, the thing is the in- … and I will get no credit-

Brian Walker: You’re in heaven. You’re in heaven Bob. You made it.

Bob Moesta: I have no patent on it. I have nothing. And it went from, “Fuel fill door this side of car,” and then an arrow. Like it was like the sentence because nobody knew what that was going to mean. But if you’re at it today it’s literally like a, it’s just almost like a bracket right next to the gas tank and so that’s the thing that I worked on that I would say is kind of like, it hasn’t saved the world, it hasn’t really done a whole bunch of things but it’s one of those things that it’s just, it’s made a lot of the world a little easier because of that. So that’s what I would say is one of my greatest innovations. The funny part is it’s everywhere and usually half your listeners are going, “Thank you so much,” and the other half are going, “What arrow? I don’t understand.”

Brian Walker: You’re right.

Bob Moesta: “Holy crap. I didn’t even know that was there.”

Brian Walker: Yes. Well, and it’s funny because you nailed it though where it really comes into play is if you are traveling and you have rental cars. Over time, whether there is an arrow or not, you’re likely to remember on your own vehicle where that is but it’s crazy because it’s clearly also not uniformed. It’s not as if it’s on the right side on every vehicle in the US either so …

Bob Moesta: So the highlight’s this, is that the real premise around Jobs is the struggling moment is that seed for all innovation. And so, finding the struggling moments and figuring out where people want to make progress is what it’s all about. So the premise of how I innovate and how I’ve worked on so many things and been able to bring so many things to market is, I only work on things where I know there are struggling moments and people want to make progress because somehow the world believes that if I can show them something better people are going to want it. But the Segway is something better but people don’t want it. And so this is the case where you got to be able to find that struggle, where there’s a push, where there’s … the thing that they’re doing now isn’t working and the outcome that they want is better than what they have now.

And if you don’t frame innovation around those two parameters, 90% of the time, 99% of the time you’re going to fail. Or at least I’ll say this, I don’t know how to innovate in that space. And so to me, just the notion of creating news for news sake to basically change something, it just doesn’t work. It’s just, the CPG industry launches over 7,000 new products a year … 7,000 new products a year, and less than 40 go over 50 million, less than 40 percent… that’s just dismal. And so how do we actually figure out what those are and so, I work with Nielsen to basically write a couple of reports around what’s special about these 40. Well, it turns out that those 40 were almost all focused on the job to be done that was not getting done.

Brian Walker: Wow. That’s absolutely fascinating. Well I know you talked a little bit about what it’s like to work alongside Clay Christensen who I know a lot of our audience would know and you were kind enough to help me make a small cameo in his latest book, “Competing Against Luck” and I know you joked when we were going through that a year or two back now, you were kind of joking about a couple things. So is it true that you are actually part of the whole milkshake thing?

Bob Moesta: Yes so that basically-

The Milkshake Man – Bob’s work with Clayton Christensen:

Brian Walker: So you’re “The Milkshake Man”?

Bob Moesta: I am The Milkshake Man. I am the one who basically went to the stores and knocked on people’s windows and said, “Why in the world do you buy milkshakes at eight in the morning and … ” like, again, I’m a curious guy so being dyslexic I also ask a lot of questions. And so, my mom created this thing of a 3-foot rule that if she let people within three feet of me that I could talk to them because my mom was just tired. We all have … one of our children always asks a lot of questions, that was me. And so, that’s where I just got in this habit of being able to walk up to complete strangers and have conversations with them. You know, “Why you’re doing that?” And that’s how that kind of came about.

So that was one of the … So again, I’ve been working with Clay since ’93 on a whole bunch of different things and the interesting part is Clay is a very humble man and he’s obviously brilliant but his greatest gift is that he knows he doesn’t know and he doesn’t try to say he knows things. He’ll say, “This is my best theory at this point in time,” and he’s prepared to have his theories blown up at any point because at some point in the 1800s people were … they thought there was different kinds of blood and bloodletting was the best medical principles we had until we discovered germs. And we all know that progress will give us better knowledge as we can measure more but to me Jobs-to-be-Done is a theory that’s going to help us get to the next level, but it’s not going to be around forever. And that’s the kind of way Clay thinks as well and he’s really passed that down to me; to be very humble.

Brian Walker: Well, Bob Moesta, I could have talked to you for hours but I knew that your knowledge around the jobs that consumers are trying to get done along innovation, along engineering, how marketing could be more effective with engineering … I knew that this would make for a great conversation. I took a ton of notes and I think our listeners will really enjoy this. So just a final question is, if people want to learn a little bit more about you, about Re-Wired Group or Jobs-to-be-Done where can they go?

How to learn more about Bob, AE Group and Jobs to be Done

Bob Moesta: Well, there’s a couple. What is … the most important place to go is and they need to look up the mattress interview because they can hear you getting interviewed around basically why you bought your mattress and understanding how again that causality so if they want to see how the method is demonstrated they can do that and we can, I’m sure we can put a link on it on the podcast somewhere for that. But is pretty much the main place that we put everything. We have a website called the Re-Wired Group. We basically do innovation, coaching, consulting and advisory. We launched basically about what … 47 new products, 2015, 2016 … generated about 2.2 billion for the clients. So I want to be able to help, I want to be able to teach. The other thing, just follow me at bmoesta, B-M-O-E-S-T-A on Twitter and that’s it.

Brian Walker: Well thank you Bob. I know based upon what you just described with your travel you may not get to Chicago often or if you’re you do you’re in and out, but know that I owe you a cigar. And I actually love Detroit because really early in my company, an early engagement was with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and I spent 36 weeks of my first year there so I really have a fondness for Detroit and it’s pretty close, so worst-case maybe I’ll come see you.

Bob Moesta: Well I’m a … I’ve been teaching at North Wester- … so I’ve been teaching at three or four different schools to try to f- … I want to be a profe- … I’m 52, 55 I want to be a professor somewhere. It looks like I’m going to have a class and be an adjunct at Northwestern in not the fall but in the winter term next year and so I’ll be teaching kind of innovation and that kind of stuff so I will be in Chicago a lot more.

Brian Walker: Well I’m going to check that out myself. So Bob, thank you very much for being on the Brand Labs.

Bob Moesta: Thank you.

Natalie: I want to thank our listeners for joining us in the Brand Lab today and to invite you back next Tuesday as we continue our journey of today’s most innovative brands as we learn how they empower employees, engage consumers, design products and co-create experiences together.

Bob Moesta: To learn more about Jobs Be Done go to or follow me at bmoesta on Twitter, B-M-O-E-S-T-A on Twitter.

Natalie: To listen to other Brand Lab Series podcast episodes visit Follow us on Twitter at Brand Lab Series. And if you have any questions or ideas for a future Brand Lab Series podcast email us at