Leadership lessons of Steve Jobs, pt6

Leadership is about challenge. Don't be a slave to focus groups...

6. Don’t be a slave to focus groups

This lesson I think is quite fascinating, as it turns a multi-industry function and almost necessity right on its head to say we don’t necessarily need it.

Whilst on one of their executive retreats, the question was asked as to whether or not the Mac team should be conducting market research to really get under the skin and understand what the consumer wanted from their PC? A fair question you might think and a direction that might not often be challenged in business.

However, Jobs’ response was a rather emphatic ‘NO’, ‘people don’t know what they want until we show them’, it goes back to that old saying – you don’t know what you don’t know. Jobs philosophy behind this was that caring deeply for what the Mac consumer wanted was very different to continually asking them what they wanted.

This depth of care came with having an instinct and intuition about the desires of the Mac consumer that had not necessarily formed yet, knowing what would really press their buttons and provide the ‘wow’ factor when using their products. Jobs would say ‘Our task is to read things not yet on the page’. Instead of Market research and focus groups, Jobs was driven by an innate intuition about the wants and desires of his customers, this use and nurturing of intuition being driven by his interest and study of Buddhism.

Jobs was his own focus group, he made products that he and his friends wanted to use. His view of portable music players in 2000 was that they were lame and he wanted a simple music device that would carry thousands of songs in his pocket, keep it simple, make it beautiful – the seeds of the iPod.

When we think about some of the key facets of leadership, one key behaviour has to be about challenge. Challenging the status quo, what has gone on before, the usual thinking and so on. This is the perfect example of just that, a leader confident to listen to his intuition and the thoughts of a few close friends and not be reliant on the usual process of market research in order to understand the needs and desires of the consumer.





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