It's a myth that 'customers don't know what they want'

A common perception: If I ask a customer how to improve a fan, they’ll ask for a bigger fan, not an AC. If Henry Ford asked people what they want, they would have asked for a faster horse.

Such phrases imply customers don’t know what they want; customers will lead you astray. You should know what the customer wants before they ask for it. You don’t have the time to talk to customers. You are Steve Jobs.

In fact, the customer is not oblivious. It’s often us who are mistaken. We ask the wrong question, refuse to listen to what customers are telling us, or subscribe to the wrong philosophy…well, that story doesn’t end well.

‘How should we improve this fan?’ is the wrong question.

Instead, for example, I would start by asking ‘Tell me the last time you used a fan. Walk me through how you used it and what you used it for?’

Deciding how to actually improve the fan is not the customer’s job. It’s your job.