To ask or not to ask the consumer; 'tis the question

'Great innovations come from understanding the consumer's unmet needs and desires. Regardless of the market, innovation must be consumer-led. That is not the same thing as consumer-decided. As Henry Ford once put it, if he had listened to the marketplace, he would have built a faster, cheaper horse. He understood that what people really wanted was a better way to travel. Consumer insights lead to innovation opportunities. You must develop an appreciation for who your consumers are and how they live, to know their needs and also their aspirations. Only then can you figure out how to deliver a product that can improve their lives.'

- A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan; 'The consumer is boss'

Apple scoffs at the notion of a target market. It doesn't even conduct focus groups. "You can't ask people what they want if it's around the next corner," says Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and cofounder. At Apple, new-product development starts in the gut and gets hatched in rolling conversations that go something like this: What do we hate? (Our cellphones.) What do we have the technology to make? (A cellphone with a Mac inside.) What would we like to own? (You guessed it, an iPhone.) "One of the keys to Apple is that we build products that really turn us on," says Jobs.

- Betsy Morris; 'What makes Apple golden'


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