If Henry Ford asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse and other myths

Henry Ford supposedly said that if he listened to his customers he would have made faster horses.  There are a few things wrong with this quote.  It doesn’t appear to historically accurate.  OK, perhaps the quote is educational. . . . . well, not so much.  Let’s assume for a minute that one of the things customers said is, “I want a faster horse.”  Fair enough.  A competent market researcher would simplify that comment to, “Faster.”  What else might a pre-automobile customer have said?

“I spent too much time taking car of the horse even when I’m not traveling.”  Which could be said as, “No maintenance when not in use.”

“I don’t like getting wet when riding.” Which could also be, “Covered/enclosed compartment for traveler.”

“It takes too long to get the saddle and gear on the horse when I want to go somewhere.”  Which could be restated as, “No pre-travel time.”

The marketer now has a list of requirements:

“Faster.”; “No maintenance when not in use.”; “Covered/enclosed compartment for traveler.”; “No pre-travel time.”

Steve Jobs is said to not have listened to customers because he said, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups because sometimes people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  Designing by focus groups is incredibly difficult but with a focus group Apple could have understood that before the nano that customers had limited music selection because of carrying all the tapes, it was difficult to carry a big selection and mixing music from different albums was a chore.  That would give the product developers a list of requirements to innovate toward.


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