Clients Don’t Know What They Want, or Do They?

Why am I suggesting in this series about five areas you can explore to uncover innovation opportunities that you bother asking about your customers needs or wants as a path to identifying these innovation opportunities?  Let’s face it, it has been shared often and in varying contexts that Steve Jobs famously said: ‘If you ask someone what they want, when they have no idea of new innovation, they will use their present paradigm as the benchmark. The result will be an adaptation of what already exists, rather than new concepts.’  

So it must be true, your clients do not know what they want, right?

It’s true what Mr Jobs said, I admit, I could have never imagined the iPod even though I in a first world sort of way needed it.  Here’s the story, I love music, a very broad and eclectic range of music.  In the days of my early adulthood, my album collection was one of my prized possessions.  Whenever I moved, and I did move quite a few times then, there would be an entire ritual associated with the relocation of my music.  Special precautions were made for a trip dedicated to loading up the albums, the electronics gear, the speakers and so forth to assure their safe transport to my new home.  It was about more than careful handling, it also addressed my need to have my music at the new home even if I did not have a bed or a couch or chairs. The moving van may not have yet shown up, but I would be able to enjoy my music while I did last minute painting touch ups, cleaned the kitchen cabinets or whatever at the new home sweet home.

To Steve Jobs’ point, I could not have told you that I wanted to have my entire music collection fit in an 4.02″ x 2.43″ x 0.78″ device (the measurements of the original Apple iPod) that I could have not only at my new home destination but literally anywhere I might go.  However, if you had talked to me about my music collection, you still could have gleaned that I had the following desires and challenges (to name just a few):

  • I wanted to have my music with me as one of the first things that I established to mark a new place as a home;
  • I would move my music and its gear separately and carefully to assure it was not damaged because of its form factor;
  • I would delight when I discovered the Tower Records (and I date myself on this because even NPR did a story on the death of this icon of the past) nearby in a new city where I could go in and sample new music on headphone stations prior to actual purchase.

And any of these might have eventually led your smart creative team to figure out that maybe I did not need a special carrying case (adaptation of a current concept) to handle and care for the media, maybe the media itself needed to change forms (something entirely innovative)!

So even though your current and potential customers will not likely provide a prescription for a disruptive new product, a new technology, or a new “offer package” that you can go off and produce, you can still learn a lot from listening to them, and I am certain that in some forum or venue Steve Jobs and the team at Apple were listening when they created some of the iconic industry changing products like the iPod.

So open your mind and your ears and go on a round of listening with your customers or potential customers in preparation for your next strategy session!  Would you share ways in which you have gleaned insights in ways not expected by listening as a preparation for strategic planning?

 

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