Don’t Challenge My Assumptions!

In a post on Maya Design’s blog, David Bishop asks, “Why is it so hard to talk to users?” and presents all the different excuses he’s heard for not engaging with customers in the design process.

In reading his post, I realized the answer to his question is simple, and wrote him the following:

People in organizations are afraid of what their customers actually think. If they had to face this reality, it would call into question many assumptions. People don’t want their assumptions challenged. So, they’d rather a) come up with excuses or b) use unhelpful “market research” tools like surveys and focus groups, tools whose data is squishy enough that it can be interpreted to suit any beliefs.

The reason I’m confident about this answer is because it’s pretty much true of human nature — we resist information that challenges what we already believe to be true. For many, if not most, companies, actual conversations with customers would demonstrate that closely held beliefs are actually canards.

Satisfying unmet needs versus creating needs

For a proposal I’m drafting, I wrote: “It’s important to recognize that successful innovations do not create needs—they satisfy unmet needs. The trick is figuring out what needs are going unmet.”

Is that true?