Show Them What They Want

“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”—Steve Jobs

I just spent several days in discussions with a small group of the top people in a technology company where I am on the board. The topic: should we launch a completely new service that we believe will have a huge market potential? The issues: it will take significant time and money to finish and launch it and we haven’t done any market research.

This reminded me not only of Steve Job’s wisdom on this matter but also of the story of the cordless vacuum cleaner. According to Alexandra Wolfe’s article in the Wall Street Journal, market research found that people weren’t especially interested in them. James Dyson’s response to that?

“You can’t ask your customers to tell you what to do next. They don’t know. That’s our job.”

Dyson went on to create the cordless, bagless, stick vacuum that is now one of his company’s top selling products at a price of $300 to $700. And now he’s developing an electric car…

As Henry Ford put it, if he had asked people what they wanted they’d have said a faster horse.

Dyson, Ford and Jobs took the lead, and we all followed along. For companies, sometimes the best path to take is to just follow your idea, with confidence that once the public sees the finished product they will realize they can’t live without it.

Yes, in many instances, in order to develop a new product, you need a clear understanding of the desires of the customer. And many improvements to existing products and services also come about by listening to what customers want.

But what about when it’s not a matter of a few enhancements or fixes to something many already know about and use? When you’re creating something completely new? When there are no customers?

As for our company, we decided to trust our gut and take the risk.

As I write this missive our people are working away creating the initial version. We created the brand identity map and a short presentation we’ll soon put in front of investors.

We’re proceeding armed not only with confidence about how our new service will be received, but also with assurance that we know what we’re doing. The work we’ve done on building other products and services gives us the knowledge and tools to make this too a success.

Not doing any market research is risky…but so is doing market research. If you don’t do market research you lose any customer insights or ideas that might pop out, but you don’t get distracted by people unable to envision what you’re doing Doing market research leaves you with mounds of information, much of it useless, and numerous opportunities to hear things that discourage you or lead you off in other directions.

As the quotes above attest, numerous inventions that we all use daily were developed by entrepreneurs trusting their instincts. People like us who have decided to just get on with it. We’re set to launch our service and see what happens..














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