Monday, 19 March 2012

Henry Ford really was a smart guy

He likely didn't consider it much at the time, but it's really quite amazing how much impact one man can have generations later - not that Henry is the first one, but I'm not writing an essay on historical influencers here lol.

However, one of Henry's quotes that is truly a favourite of mine is "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse!"  Makes me smile every time.

This goes hand in hand with a more recent statement by Mark Zuckerberg that was along the lines of "Meeting the needs of tomorrow rather than the demands of today."  I wonder if young Mark will be revered as much as Henry more than half a century after his passing?  I digress.

So with such smart and obviously successful people making such simple yet profound statements, why is it that mentors, teachers and leaders of so-called-progress still push the concept of "survey your customers" to the degree that they do?  I don't mean to devalue the importance of research, it most definitely has its place and something I spend hours upon hours doing.  But it is not always the be-all and end-all of the answers to forward movement and progress - in fact, it can be downright stifling.  At least in the way that most people tackle it.  It's like businesses who try to track their advertising by asking a customer "how did you hear about us" - most of the time their answer simply can't be trusted (as confirmed by advertising guru Roy Williams).

To truly lead in progress you absolutely must do so much more than ask people what they want or what they think they want. As Arlene Dickinson says in her book Persuasion, not only do you have to "listen" but you have to also hear the subtext of what they're not saying.  Which is exactly what we're doing in the development of our media revolution.

Our consumers currently know what they like and don't like in the products they have access to, but it's virtually impossible for most of them to even begin to fathom what our product will do for them and their lives when there is nothing tangible for them to compare it to.  But we can say with confidence that it's a whole lot more than a "faster horse"!

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