Horace Dediu:

Looking at new features like 3D Touch, Live Photos, and better cameras, one can observe how easily acceptable and desirable they are to those who first see them. As were Siri, FaceTime, Touch ID and iCloud, making something meaningfully better is a sign of sustaining innovation which does not over-serve. Paradoxically, the improvements are not usually things that users ask for. Surveys always show that consumers want “better battery life” or a “bigger screen” but delivering something else entirely which nevertheless leads to mass adoption shows an uncanny insight into what really matters.

I love this passage from Dediu. Coincidentally, the Evening Standard had an interview with Apple SVP Eddy Cue, in which he said something very similar:

Can customer feedback be something of a minefield? “There are things people can tell us and there are things they can’t,” he continues. “Both are really important but one of the dangers is to only do things people tell you to do. You would never do [new iPhone features] Live Photos or 3D Touch if you only listened to people. To innovate you have to look beyond. We used to say that we get paid to look around corners.”

It reminds me of a story I heard in college about cars in the 1950s. (You know, the cars with the big fins on the back.) The parable told was that the big car companies asked people what they wanted in a car, and cars kept getting more and more boring. Then they started asking people what their neighbors would want in a car, and people said things like: “Oh he’d want something crazy with wings, and bubbles, something like a jet.” And thus they made cars with tail fins, and people loved them.

It’s an adaptation of this Henry Ford quote:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

We are often the worst judges at what we truly want. We would all love better battery life, but very few us would be compelled to go spend another $400 for better battery life.


Posted by Ben Brooks