Conventional wisdom says you should listen to your customers. Most people will agree to that without questions.
The idea of listening to the people you serve – be they customers, users, etc, becomes so prevalent that the discipline of gathering feedback and reacting to them have been codified into repeatable models. In marketing, you have survey, focus group, etc. In project management, you do requirements gathering, prototypes, inviting client feedback, etc. And now recently, even in building a company, you have the lean startup model.
The good thing about this is that it reduces risks. After all, if your target group gives you the stamp of approval, it’s hard to imagine things will go wrong later.
This is all good if we want incremental improvements on well-defined problems – logically sensible and emotionally comforting next steps.
But what about radically new ideas?
Ideas that require huge amount of effort to build. Ideas that will take time for people to understand and adopt. Ideas that ultimately change how we live and work.
If we go back in time, how do you think a focus group of random strangers will react to Twitter, before Twitter becomes so popular? How about to the internet, before internet’s time? How about a computer, before Microsoft?
As a company, not only should we listen to our customers, but we should go one step further: imagine and deliver something that makes radical improvements, and, through that, build a better tomorrow for everyone – even if everyone might not fully understand it today.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
–Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company