Stop asking your users what they want

People find it hard to express or even know

Many organisations are audience focused and want to offer what is relevant to audiences. A question I often get is how to ask audiences what they want.

Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as that. People find it really hard to express what they want or even know what they want. A popular quote is Steve Jobs (in turn quoting Henry Ford):

“Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.“

Steve Jobs

This article (about digital design but generally applicable) highlights this with four common questions you should avoid in user research.

But what do they want?

So how do we figure out what people want? Well, we have to do the hard work of understanding them, their life, what is relevant to them and how we fit in their lives. Put the focus on “understanding what people want to accomplish, not necessarily how they want to accomplish it”. Often conversations can reveal more than just looking at data (Harvard Business Review). This sets the basis for developing ideas and offers, which can then be shown to audiences for their reaction. 

Image: Christina Wocin on Unsplash

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Author: sabine.doolin

Strategy consultant working with the cultural sector

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