You can’t just ask your customers what they want

Because customers don’t know what they want exactly:

So you conduct a survey, asking customers: would you like Walmart aisles to be less cluttered? And they say, “Yes, now that you ask, yes, that would be nice.” And you check the box by “customer input” and report back, hey everyone, good news, yes, customers like the idea.

Walmart spends hundreds of millions of dollars uncluttering their stores, removing 15% of inventory, shortening shelves, clearing aisles. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but this is what customers said they wanted, so you barrel through it…

Sales went down. Way down. I mean waaaaaay down. I’m talking, from the beginning of that project until today, Walmart has lost over a billion dollars in sales. (Yes, billion with a “b”.)

Henry Ford, the American businessman credited for mass production of automobiles, once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Looking and seeing

Tay Kay Chin, one of Singapore’s most well-known photographer, in an interview in 2005:

People looking at ordinary scenes in life translated into pictures often have one of the two reactions – “boring” or “hmm, why haven’t I see it all these years”. I think people who think they know everything in life or photography need to occasionally take five steps backward and ask: I am looking, but am I seeing? Because of the ease in which a photograph can be made, people have now forgotten to ask the other question: why or why not? I think many people have forgotten photography’s principle role – preserving memories.