CE#662: The Visionary’s Lament (Linkedin)

Eric Ries

November 01, 2012

“But customers don’t know what they want!”

It’s an anguished cry that I have heard often from startup founders. In a way, I don’t blame them. I’ve been there myself. If we’re not attempting something truly new and innovative – what’s the point? If we’re just going to conduct the world’s biggest focus group to decide what to do, why couldn’t any old idiot do it instead? Isn’t the whole point of devoting our life to this enterprise to show the world that we have a unique and visionary idea?

I remember one conversation with a visionary quite well. He had just come back to the office after a few days away, and he was filled with big news. “I have incredible data to share!” which was pretty unusual – a visionary with data? He carefully explained that he had conducted a number of one-on-one customer interviews, showing them an existing product and then documenting their reactions. His conclusions were well thought out, coherently based in the data he was presenting, and painted an alluring picture of a new way forward. His team almost exploded on the spot.

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