What Steve Jobs taught us about not listening to his customers

What Steve Jobs taught us about not listening to his customers

August 04, 2014 by Guest contributor

What Steve Jobs taught us about not listening to his customersSteve Jobs famously said that he didn’t need to listen to his customers, because they don’t know what they wanted yet. Technology entrepreneur Alan Kay is also quoted as saying: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it”.

In a 2012 report in the Harvard Business Review, Mario D’Amico, senior VP of marketing at Cirque du Soleil, said: “Customers don’t know what they want until they see it. You can’t rely on them to decide what your next product will be.”

Is this true? Should we listen to customers or is sticking to our guns the best way to succeed?

Market research

Studies have shown that most innovative ideas come when we work alone. It can be tempting to follow your market research and adapt your original ideas to better fit the market. However, this can be problematic, because you risk losing sense of your original product and take away that which sets it apart from other products.

Apple has been a market leader for decades and has put innovation and uniqueness at the forefront of its product releases. However, Apple has gained many loyal followers and is seen as a desirable luxury brand with stylish and ‘on-trend’ products, so there isn’t too much risk when releasing a product following little market research and trials.

Cirque du Soleil is a performance art company that has always been unlike anything else, known worldwide for its creativity. Therefore, it does not rely on customer feedback – its popularity is based on its uniqueness.

It is likely that your business is unlike either of these and therefore, although their advice is based on years of experience and success, it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

So, what we can learn from Steve Jobs is…

  • Listen to your customers, but in areas of customer satisfaction and feedback.
  • If you have a great idea, release it! Don’t be put off by market research if you believe it will sell.
  • Take in mind some reports, however, it needs to be saleable and profitable.
  • Retain the product’s original qualities and uniqueness – make it stand out.
  • Not every business is going to be like Apple or Cirque du Soleil. Innovative and unique products may not work for every business. Consider what kind of business you are and who you want to be.

Copyright © 2014 Natalie Naik for Miss Macaroon

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