I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to make a statement that you shouldn’t spend any time or money on consumer research or market research for new product development. In fact, you might have thrown brickbats at me, though lucky for me no one these days has a clue as to what exactly a brickbat is. In this case it is Steve Jobs who made the statement, and it raises the question: what kind of businesses can make similar claims and thrive, and which should not be taking this route?
Most global consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, hotels, airlines and others spend untold billions trying to divine the wants and needs and preferences of their current and future customers. Most of us are endlessly listening for the voice of the customer. Yet Apple doesn’t seem to operate on that level. Neither does it show up at the top of lists for customer service. That has not gotten in the way of their shooting to the stars in revenue growth. They know before any of us know what it is we want: Anything with an i from Apple.
How many companies are hiding behind “Social Media” and “Customer Participation” as a shield protecting them from the bankruptcy of their own original thinking about their future products and services? It takes focus, concentration, genius and self-certainty to go before a board or management leadership and fight for your ideas. It is easier to show slides supporting your view: “a fact based culture” is all the rage.
Then there are the drop-dead fantastic companies over the years like Apple and Disney and Intel and Amazon and Nordstrom’s and 3M and Lands’ End where management is dedicated to coming up with the products and services through hard work, strategizing and sheer genius. Of COURSE they poll customers, and listen to the voice of the customer – don’t misunderstand. So does Apple – they spend endless hours observing customer behaviour. But they are also fearless in their R&D, out-thinking the competition.
Let’s hear it for visionaries, and may we view with caution those who come bearing spreadsheets.