Why it’s harmful to listen to the users

02/17/2011

foto: Mihai Dragomirescu
It’s time for brands to step up and trust themselves again.

Take Apple. One evening, well into the night, we asked some of our friends on the Apple design team about their view of user-centric design. Their answer? “It’s all bullshit and hot air created to sell consulting projects and to give insecure managers a false sense of security. At Apple, we don’t waste our time asking users, we build our brand through creating great products we believe people will love.” Another hyper-growth brand, IKEA, has the same belief. One of us had the privilege of working closely with IKEA’s global brand and design leaders; at IKEA the unspoken philosophy is: “We show people the way.” IKEA designers don’t use user studies or user insights to create their products. When I asked them why, they said “We tried and it didn’t work.” Of course, neither Apple nor IKEA will say this publicly since they are both extremely closed companies and would risk offending users (and the design community) by speaking out against user-centeredness. And since no one will speak up, the false value of the user-as-leader has spread.

Users insights can’t predict future demand
The demand for something fundamentally new is completely unpredictable. Even the users themselves have no idea if they will like an entirely product before they start using it (and maybe, only after years of use). Demand for something new cannot be predicted.

Full article: User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea (Written by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen)
Photo: Mihai Dragomirescu