“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.”
– Henry Ford
For me there are two lessons to take away from this famous quotation.
First, of course customers have a hard time articulating precisely what they want. Few customers are inventors.
But if you listen carefully you can hear the source of their dissatisfaction, the compromises they are forced to make. And you can attack those. You can glean that they want a hole, not a drill. Or a place to shop that doesn’t require them to drive twenty minutes, navigate a vast mall or store and settle for what one particular merchant happens to have in stock that day.
The second lesson is that a truly remarkable and powerful new business model rarely is an incremental iteration of a current one. Zappo’s doesn’t look much like your local shoe store.
So if you are hoping your consumer research is going to design the next great thing for you, you might want to change your expectations.
If you are working on a cheaper, smaller, faster, sturdier, lower calorie, better tasting, or whatever version of the particular horse you are riding, you might want to think again.
And if you think opening on Thanksgiving is the cure to what ails you, prepare to be disappointed.