You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.
— Steve Jobs
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
— Steve Jobs
When people talk about innovation, the name Steve Jobs is always mentioned. His values, mindset, attitude, and successes have intrigued a lot of people of different walks of life, and has caused a number of debates. Whether you agree with how Steve Jobs thinks or not, he has made strong points particularly when it comes to Innovation.
What exactly is Innovation without being too technical about it? A common belief is that it’s about coming up with better solutions, being more effective and efficient, or making things better. Though these are correct, it’s incomplete. It lacks the importance of what Innovation is all about. Innovation is about being different and making a difference. It’s about leaving a legacy and making history.
It’s not difficult to come up with better solutions, being more effective and efficient, or making things better. Just do your homework and you can achieve this. This is merely making an improvement. However, true Innovation doesn’t just happen. In fact, it only happens during “Eureka” moments.
Some studies have been conducted to determine if Innovation happens more often when great minds meet and brainstorm or when individuals do their own thing exasperating their brains. The results revealed that it’s the latter and the former often leads to fewer or poor quality ideas. This is because during brainstorming sessions, people bring with them their own ideas and opinions rooted from their experiences, values, paradigm, etc. Most often than not, people will defend their ideas and opinions, and tend to reject others’. This is most true in highly competitive companies with highly competitive and opinionated individuals especially when a promotion is on the line. Have you ever noticed that sometimes meetings with only a few attendees are more productive than when there are too many people involved?
Do customers really have a place when it comes to Innovation? Is it essential ask what they think? Are your customers the best resource to push the boundaries of the norm? Should you depend on what your customers want? Or will they just hinder your company’s ability to be innovative?
Don’t get me wrong. Customer feedback is valuable in every business. There’s so much that companies can learn from what their customers are saying, but the problem comes in when companies are not critical with the use of the information. Ineffective techniques and methods in gathering information from customers will only give companies vague and inaccurate information. The problem even gets worse when companies are not even sure what they need from their customers. Now let’s say you have a proven effective information gathering system in place, how and when you use the information now becomes the common pitfall. Companies who don’t “play it right” end up wasting time, effort, and investment that causes the business to lose revenue and customers.
If you depend too much on what customers say and want, you might just end up with something that has already been done by other companies or just merely improving on them. This is not innovating.
Most of the time, if you ask customers what they want, their biased response will be guided by their pleasant experiences, values, paradigm, current pop culture, influences, etc. These are circumstances of their past and present. Innovation is about the future.
What customers want now becomes a guide and not a basis of your innovation. Use the information that you get from your customers to help you further stimulate your creative minds, but never let it set boundaries. Remember that Innovation has no boundaries and only those how are bold enough are the ones who make a difference, and leave a legacy.