Why Do You Want A Faster Horse?

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

A quote (never said by Henry Ford) always accompanied by a smug face who thinks they know better than their users.

I think it's an excellent quote.

But precisely for the opposite reason.

Because it so neatly illustrates why Ford lost its foothold and lost over 50% market share in a mere 6 years as they went from 66% in 1921 to 15% in 1927.

Ford created the process to manufacture cars at scale by using (and tweaking) available tech at the time (such as the assembly line).

They were able to further decrease cost by fixing the design and only shipping 1 color.

''Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black''

Which he said during a meeting in 1909 *1.

They went from 10,000 cars manufactured in 1908 to almost a million in 1920.

But Ford's tone-deafness hurt the company when GM listened to customers and gave them “A Car for Every Purse and Purpose” in 1920.

This essay in the Harvard Business Review describes why it’s not important to have the best product at the best price, but rather the best product according to the user. (Something that people who call Apple customers sheep, never quite understand.)

‘‘When Sloan took over the firm in the early 1920s, General Motors was a mess. Its founder, William C. Durant, had created the corporation by cobbling together more than a dozen smaller car and part manufacturers, with little obvious logic. Worse still, not one of the company’s assorted products could begin to compete with Ford’s Model T on price or quality. Most were losing money.

Yet in little more than a decade, each GM product line was turning a profit, and the corporation as a whole had established itself as the world’s premier automaker and the nation’s largest single employer. Moreover, Sloan did this by means of organizational mastery, without the major engineering breakthrough that other GM insiders believed was their only hope. Ford still may have produced the best car for the money, but Sloan’s GM trounced Ford Motors by producing the best product lines for the market.’’

The only good reason not to listen to your tribe is because you suspect you can create something they''ll love even more.

If that turns out to be wrong, shift.

Don't be stubborn.


Resources:

  1. Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther in My Life and Work. 1922. Page 72

RJ Youngling