Customers don’t know what they will want

Quentin Stafford-Fraser debunks the idea that businesses (or the IT shops of a business) should be focused on what customers say they want.

How many of those people now carrying iPods could have told you a few years ago that that was what they really wanted? … in the words of Wayne Gretzky, you want to skate to where the puck is going to be, rather than where it is now. And to do that, you can’t usually rely on the customers. Nor can you relay on the business guys, or the sales guys, or the marketing guys. They’ll learn what the customer wants at about the same time as the customer does. No, to be ready for the future, at least to some degree, you need to be a technology-focused company.

Hat tip: John.

3 thoughts on “Customers don’t know what they will want”

  1. Let’s see
    1. People like music and listen to it on radios
    2. Portable radios make it possible to do the same anywhere
    3. Tape recorders let people choose the music they like
    4. Portable cassette recorders make it possible to do the same anywhere
    5. Walkman are a more convenient form of 4
    6. Discman are a more convenient form of 5
    7. iPod are a more convenient form of 6

    I would agree with you that some inventions come “out of the blue” as it were, but the iPod is not one of them.

    To ask people if they want an iPod before it is invented will obviously bring blank stares, but to ask “do they want a devise that is smaller than a Walkman but contains their entire music collection” seems to me to be an obvious winner.

    I’ve been trying to think up an invention that is “out of the blue” and I’m drawing a blank. Every one I think of has some antecedents including the PC, radio, TV, photography, car, train, aeroplane. Maybe everything is just a better mousetrap.

    PS: Your comment box goes right under the “recent posting list, so I can’t see the right hand text as I type. Can you change some setting.

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