What Henry Ford Got Wrong and Right About Customers
If you advocate for including customers in the product development process you are going to inevitably will be confronting this:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
There isn’t any evidence that Ford said this but there sure are a lot of people who believe this quote means they know better than their customers.
If you went back in time and asked people about their challenges instead of what they wanted you would learn how travel by horse was expensive, slow, unreliable, involved a lot of poop and could potentially get you crushed by a 1,000 pound animal. You would learn that there was a market hungry for an affordable automobile who weren’t being served, Henry Ford did.
I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for…. it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces. – My Life and Work by Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther
Sadly, Ford lost sight of his customer when the market moved towards installment selling, closed car models and annual model changes and his market share plummeted.
The lesson is not to ignore customers, to assume that we magically know what’s better for them. Instead, let’s talk about pain points, observe behaviors, prototype, test and know that customers are always evolving.
Image: A painting I created about cycling and movement