We want to go faster, not another horse

18th January 2015
Paul Bailey

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford. Really?

In a recent interview with Sir Jonathan Ive he mentioned that Apple didn’t do consumer focus groups, market research, etc, explaining that Apple knew the future possibilities better than their consumers. This led me on to think about the famous quote from Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Now this quote is often used to show how consumers have no idea what they want, e.g. listen to those people wanting another horse, that’s so old-fashioned.

Wrong.

What the people wanted was to go faster, they just didn’t know how.

As designers, strategists, or whatever we want to call ourselves, it is easy to think that we are the experts and so we know best. However, if you speak to people then you might get a good idea of what they want. Not what they want specifically but in the sense of their real desires. It is up to us to understand what consumers really want as an end goal, not to simply take their ideas of how to get there but to use our knowledge and experience to create ways of achieving what they want in a way that they may never have considered.

It’s up to us to listen to consumers desire to go faster and design a way for them to do that, not to simply give them another horse.

Image 1 © Satoshi Tomiyama
Image 2 © tpower1978

It’s up to us to listen to consumers desire to go faster and design a way for them to do that, not to simply give them another horse.