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Walid's Blog

You Create, We Improve

…that’s what your customers might be saying. Or as Henry Ford put it

If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a ‘faster horse’ “.

Business success stories may start from a new (or borrowed) idea followed by a continuous process of improvement. This is the iphone story, and part of the “Toyota Way” known for “Kaisen“ or “change for the better” . Did you know that Toyota makes thousands of improvements a year based on real market feedback?

Taking market feedback into your improvement process is a real sign that you are listening to your market and the market can reward your business handsomely for this.

But can you expect the market to think outside the box on your behalf?

Extra Chunky taste buds …

Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the food expert Dr Howard Moskowitz who discovered during the 1980s that one third of Americans would like “extra chunky” spaghetti sauce while not one spaghetti sauce maker was making it. When Prego took on his advice, they immediately took over the market and made $600m in 10 years from this extra “chunky” line alone.

Moskowitz did not simply dream up this sauce. He conducted experiments on thousands of testers with every conceivable variation and combination in taste and texture (sweet, chilli, thin, chunky, etc). Then instead of looking for the “most popular“ taste, the Holy Grail for food experts, he had the insight to group the results into different segments, and so discovered the “extra chunky” group.

When Moskowitz moved away from the notion of a perfect and “authentic” Italian sauce that everyone was so focused on, he realized that consumers’ tastes in spaghetti sauce are in fact segmented into three groups: plain, spicy, and extra chunky.

Moskowitz was ignored by Pepsi years earlier during the 1970s for a similar advice, that there is no “perfect diet Pepsi” with the perfect amount of sweetness, but “perfect Pepsis” each for a different group of consumers.

What is more important is that Americans could not “know” that they like extra chunky sauce, just as they did not know they’d like a car instead of a faster horse.

Lesson

Your clients’ feedback can be very helpful in the continuous improvement of your products or services. They can attend your focus groups but do not expect them to think outside the box on your behalf.

‘It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ Steve Jobs.

‘How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.’ Bill Gates.

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