Don’t Listen To Your Users, Dance With Them Instead.

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In ‘’Mark Cuban on Why You Should Never Listen to Your Customers’’

Mark says the following:

‘’I’m working with a company that at one point had a product that was not only best in its class, but also technically far ahead of its competition. It created a better way of offering its service, and customers loved it and paid for it.

Then it made a fatal mistake. It asked its customers what features they wanted to see in the product, and they delivered on those features.

Unfortunately for this company, its competitors didn’t ask customers what they wanted. Instead, they had a vision of ways that business could be done differently and, as a result, better. Customers didn’t really see the value or need until they saw the new product.

When they tried it, they loved it.

So what did “my” company do when it saw what its competitor had done? It repeated its mistake and once again asked its customers what they wanted in the product. Of course, the customer responded with the features that they now loved from the other product.’’

This is the famous (misattributed to Henry Ford) quote you hear all the time: 

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

This philosophy is based around the idea that true innovation is the result of a gifted visionary who ignores customers and instead simply executes her prophetic vision of a better tomorrow.

Then on the other side of the debate, we have ‘team customer’.

The people who advocate that innovation is the result of letting your customers give you a list of features, implementing them and that anything else is typical Silicon Valley arrogance.

So who’s right?

Neither.

The job of a doctor is to heal you, not to make you happy.

So when you walk in with your own diagnosis of why your leg hurts asking for painkillers, any doctor worth his salt would conduct his own thorough investigation first.

Her job is not to give you what you want. She needs to figure out what’s wrong with you so she can heal you.

To do her job more effectively she listens, yes, but she won’t simply execute your orders.

Founders are not unlike doctors.

Except our job is to create the best possible product that users hire for the job that they have. Said another way: to make something they love.

This doesn’t mean simply giving them what they ask for and going about our day.

It means conducting our own investigation of what the job specs are. Why are they hiring this product and not something else? What is the job they are hiring us for?

You ‘listen’ to users to find out how you can create something that they love.

Although this back and forth process might be better described as dancing with your users.

RJ Youngling