Like most innovators, for years I struggled with the question “what do customers want”? That struggle ended when I realized that successful innovation wasn’t about studying “what customers want”, it was about creating what customers want.
You’re studying the past when you study customer’s needs. As we’ve seen time and again, customers don’t know what they want or need until you show them. Sure, some customers might be very creative and pour a lot of energy into imagining how their world could be different – but most don’t. In fact, customers are not supposed to do all that hard work. That’s what we innovators are supposed to do. We’re supposed to imagine a better world for customers, offer it to them, and figure out how to get them there. It’s our job to make choices for customers. That’s what they pay us to do.