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Thomas Hansen
Thomas Hansen

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Do NOT give your customers what they want

If you're a software developer like me, chances are you have an aspiring entrepreneur inside of you, waiting to show the world some brilliant piece of innovation, having everybody using your stuff, while you cash in a fortune on delivering it to them. If so, I will give you an advice, arguably provided in the title of this article, which is as follows; Do NOT give your customers what they want.

It's a little bit of an exaggeration of course, and for those having seen some Steve Jobs quotes, it might be easily recognisable, since Steve said "your customers don't know what they want before you show it to them". However, Steve stole it from Henry Ford. Henry had a slightly different twist on it, which was as follows ...

If I was to give people what they wanted I would breed faster horses

Ford's quote is better I think, since it illustrates a fundamental problem with innovation, which is that (most) people only want incremental changes to their existing products, such as with their phones for instance they want ...

  • Longer battery life
  • Water resistance
  • Less weight
  • Etc ...

If Apple was to build phones according to what customers wanted, we'd never have iPhones in this world. Hence, if you want to truly innovate, you have to ignore what your customers wants - At least for a while. If you focus exclusively on what your customers wants, it becomes impossible for you to frog leap your competitors, and invent for instance "the 'flying' phone" (or whatever really, that completely changes the way the world interacts with their phones). And whomever invents the "flying phone" will inevitably steal the entire market when they go to market.

You could copycat the existing iPhone and make it a billion times better than Apple - Still, 5 seconds after the "flying phone" hits the shelves, you'll be obsolete and irrelevant, and nobody will remember who you even are!

About Aista

If we had focused on "what the market wanted" as we invented Magic, we would have ended up creating either yet another O/RM library, yet another message broker, yet another Saga library, or (sigh!) yet another NoSQL database. In fact, when we started out, everybody thought we were fundamentally insane. Something you can see from the disclaimer from Microsoft's side as I published my first article about the base innovation facilitating for Magic.

I'll repeat its most important parts below.

When I approached MSDN Magazine Senior Contributing Editor James McCaffrey to review the preliminary draft of this article, he came away fairly outraged by some of the opinions and ideas put forward by the author

To translate; "This guy is probably bat sh*t crazy". James wasn't the only one who was "outraged" for the record. In fact, almost an entire world of software developers were "outraged" by my code initially. Still today I sometimes hear statements such as ...

  • It has no use cases
  • It's too simple
  • It's madness
  • Etc, etc, etc ...

Of course, today I'm hearing less of the above, and more of the following ...

  • It can be used for everything
  • It's easy to use
  • It's brilliant
  • Etc, etc, etc ...

When the Wright brothers started creating flying machines, I'm sure they heard similar objections - Without comparing myself to them for the record. However, it illustrates the innovator's dilemma, which is as follows ...

They'll think you're bat sh*t crazy the first decade!

Which of course should just encourage you more, and avoid listening to them, and move forward using their objections as fuel to make you even more dedicated. In order to be able to do this, you have to base your life around a simple axiom, which is as follows ...

I am right and everybody else is wrong!

Unless you can truly believe the above, you can never invent something truly brilliant. We had t-shirts created for the whole team to embody this idea. You can see us wearing our t-shirts on our last kick off below. The idea of course is us trying to explain our competitors why they're only seeing our backs as they do ... ;)

We are EPIC

Our vision

Within 5 years we will have automated 80% of all (manual) software development world wide

Still today the majority of the world thinks I'm crazy. However, more and more people are starting to believe in us now. People are gathering around our tools and uttering "Wow!" more and more, and I hear less of the "bat sh*t crazy" parts. The advantage of course being that once the people who have no other capacity beyond simply copying existing innovations understands what we've done, it's already too late, and we're miles ahead of all competition on the planet, and they'll spend the next 5 decades playing catchup with us. Hence ...

Never give people what they want, because what they want, is to bury great ideas, destroy disruptive technology, that is endangering their abilities to make money on yesterday's technology ...

When you have invented something truly brilliant of course, and everybody sees it for what it is, then you can start listening to them, as they provide you with feedback, bug reports, and feature requests. However, until that time, ignore them, because ...

You are right, and the whole world is wrong! ;)

Psst, want to play with our stuff to see what all the fuzz is about?

Top comments (8)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard

I've thought two minutes more about Henry Ford "faster horses" quote and its a very strange one because it seems to imply that Ford was the guy who invented the car. Which was invented twenty years before in Germany.

Henry Ford is known for something else entirely: making the Ford T affordable. Why would have he asked users? The goal (make it cheap) is obvious. The way to get there is (huge assembly lines of a standardized car) is nothing a user can contribute too.

As expected I found that the quote is fake:

I deeply regret googling for Henry Ford quotes though, I had forgotten what a huge antisemite he was.

polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

I deeply regret googling for Henry Ford quotes though, I had forgotten what a huge antisemite he was.

Ouch, I didn't know. If you go far enough back in time, we're probably all descendants of cruel people. I'm a Norwegian, so I sometimes apologise to British people on behalf of my ancestors (mostly like a joke to start a conversation) - However, there is some truth to it.

Anyways, when Ford started manufacturing cars, only 2% of US (or something) could afford cars. The rest would use horses and carriages I presume is the idea ...

... most of whom I guess would want faster horses. Regardless, the idea is old as dust, and didn't originate with Steve Jobs ...

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard • Edited

None of us is perfect, but Henry Ford was vile on a complete different scale. He was a conspiracy theorist, owned an antisemitic newspaper, published the antisemitic book The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem which quotes I was saddened to find and which is still banned in Germany, financed Hitler, was quoted favorably by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Ford the company also contributed to the nazi war effort during WW2. In sum he was perhaps the leading antisemite in the US.

Thread Thread
polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Wow ...!!
I had no idea ...

techman09 profile image

I thought this was clickbait :)

polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Hehe, who said it wasn't ...? ;)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel πŸ•΅πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ Fayard • Edited

The real piece of advice is to listen to the underlying problems that your customers have.
Customers don't care about your solutions, what should they?, but they will only buy something that adresses their underlying pain points.

By listening to its customers Henry Ford understood the underlying problem with transports by horse was that it is too slow. Had he listened even more carefully, he could have discovered a second underlying need: horses take too much place and pollute too much in the city. The invention of the car solved the first need but failed at addressing the second one and today the urbanism of US cities (except the old ones) is ironically... horse shit.

By the way there is a mythology skillfully built around Steve Jobs, but apart that nobody else will invent the iPhone, even the iPhone itself is an incremental innovation, based on hard innovative work especially from the government, the military, scientists and also a few big companies to invent the internet, the web, GPS, touch-screen, mobile networks, mp3, email, maps, youtube... Apple mostly built a coherent and very lucrative marketing package on top of all that. Progress is always standing on the shoulders of giants.

polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

The real piece of advice is to listen to the underlying problems that your customers have


By the way there is a mythology around Steve Jobs, but apart that nobody else will invent the iPhone

I used to own a Qtek 1010, it was released 8 years before the iPhone. However, the iPhone was lightyears ahead of Qtek and other Pocket PC based phones when it was released - Especially in regards to UX ...

Still, the point is valid. You could compare Magic to Microsoft Access, FoxPro or Clipper, and say it's an ancient idea too, the same way Alan Kay delivered the Newton for Apple already in the late 1980s, which arguably was the first version of in iPad, etc, etc, etc ...

Innovation never exists in a vacuum - However, if you only deliver what people wants you to deliver, you might as well give up immediately, since you're destined to lose ...