Why Steve Jobs Never Listened to His Customers (Really?)The idea of not asking the customers before making a product or startup reality, is an oversimplification. You don't ask the questions you don't want to ask. Sure, don't. Then ask the ones you want to ask. Don't take answers at face value. Answers help the intuition and lateral thought. Discover what you must ignore and what inspires you as a product person or entrepreneur.
One of the most analyzed company is Cirque du Soleil. They are one of the most sophisticated marketing organizations in the world. Just read MARKETING LESSONS FROM CIRQUE DU SOLEIL with an interview of Jerry Nadal,
The creative part which does the Cirque du Soleil show like a ballet, eliminating the slapstick, animals of the classical circus, sells 140,000 tickets a week in Las Vegas. In Los Angeles the cost of a ticket is $243. However there many types of customers. One are the ticket buyers. But their real big buck customers are co-branding partners.
For example, Cirque promoted Google’s Chrome browser by creating a game-like app, Movi.Kanti.Revo, in which the user makes his way through a surreal world, encountering Cirque characters along the way.
Microsoft hired Cirque to launch the Kinect system for Xbox with a customized performance during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. There, Cirque created a jungle-like environment including a stage where gamers battled it out on an enormous screen.
According to Jerry Nadal,
":We have a corporate marketing department that works collaboratively with our business units to help create best business practices that allow us to learn from the past to allow us to be better prepared for the future. We essentially work locally with our partners on direct sales and marketing programs and our corporate headquarters focuses on our brand, brand hierarchy and company-wide messaging."So Cirque du Soleil thrives, it became a $ 1 billion in revenues per year company - by talking to lots of people and adjusting the shows for advertising partners.
Something Steve Jobs did a lot. He did not ignore the customers. He did not become their blind follower, he distills what he sees and hears. To understand what Steve Jobs did, let watch some fifty year old videos
Gestalt scholar and social psychology pioneer Solomon Asch, known today as the Asch conformity experiments, filmed people in an elevator to prove his point.
It is amazing how they copied each other. From About.com:
"At the conclusion of the experiments, participants were asked why they had gone along with the rest of the group. In most cases, the students stated that while they knew the rest of the group was wrong, they did not want to risk facing ridicule. A few of the participants suggested that they actually believed the other members of the group were correct in their answers."
"These results suggest that conformity can be influenced both by a need to fit in and a belief that other people are smarter or better informed. Given the level of conformity seen in Asch's experiments, conformity can be even stronger in real-life situations where stimuli are more ambiguous or more difficult to judge."The law of conformity is another good reason to interview customers. Because people will follow Jobs and change their conformities to Apple standards.
I did observe this in the Bosco software scientist user interviews. From one side we listen to the non-power users and see their wishes. On the other side we gently influence their behavior looking at their motivations, their ability and we design triggers to subtly make them act.
There is a mentality in Academia, that the more the scientist sweats, the more he learns and discover. The interviews blew away this myth. The scientists, even Nobel grade types, want easy to use non-complicated tools just like everybody else. They prefer to sweat over their core work, not system administration scripts as easy to use as having a root canal. The next step, that of associating Bosco with pleasure, still waits to be implemented.