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Isaacson on why Steve Jobs refused to use "focus groups", to design new products

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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 07:58 AM
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Isaacson on why Steve Jobs refused to use "focus groups", to design new products
Heard Isaacson explain this today. Focus groups would have been useless when Jobs was trying to design new Apple products. People in a focus group wouldn't know what they even wanted. There is no way any focus group would have come up with an idea like an IPhone.

Isaacson said if Henry Ford had been using focus groups to come up with an idea to produce a better means of transportation they would have told him to get a faster horse.

Don
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RKP5637 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:03 AM
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1. I've run some focus groups for sw. By the time one dilutes the product to meet the
shared goals of the group often you end up with a mediocre product to design ... and then sometimes one so complex it's of little value.

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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:04 AM
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2. Personally, I can't believe that Jobs hasn't already risen from the dead
How could this miraculous man remain dead for so long? Doesn't he know that the media wants to run more free commercials for Apple products?
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krispos42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:15 AM
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3. Focus groups are a mixed bag.
I remember when Ford was introducing the Windstar minivan back in the late '90s. Ford's focus groups didn't like the idea of a driver's side rear sliding door, so Ford didn't put one in.

Chrysler, however, did, and the dual-sliding doors became the standard for the industry due to overwhelming popularity.

I'm sure that some at Ford got promoted to a research facility in Greenland for that little screw-up.


Engineers are people, too. When you're breaking new ground, just let them work on it. The geeks will give the first feedback, and as things trickle down to the non-tech people they will have refined the procedure so it's more intuitive and simpler.
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hlthe2b Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:20 AM
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4. Innovative ideas tend to be on the extremes, not in the 'middle' consensus zone
Jobs was absolutely right in this, IMO. Consensus for long term policies that impact a population, is of course important, but for innovation? No
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JoePhilly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-27-11 08:32 AM
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5. I ran focus groups in the mid 90s where we found that an Iphone like device would be HUGE
Phone, GPS, directions, small downloadable apps, games, built in camera, buy tickets to local events from the device, find the closet "X" to where I am standing, texting, "find my friends" ... all of it.

We even built WORKING POCs for it. Field tested them too.

The company we did this for (I won't name them), decided not to pursue it. That company, which was well known, is now out of business.

The problem Jobs refers to is well known to those who have run focus groups focused on innovation.

Most focus groups are run by people who are trying to SELL an idea already under consideration. They are usually run by MARKETING and SALES teams.

Rather than present YOUR ideas to the various groups you test, you describe a set of problems, and they you let the groups try to solve them with minimal assistance from your focus group staff.

To do this well, you need to select groups based on very selective demographic criteria, because if you don't, you get a group that is too diverse, and then you get the MUSHY MIDDLE effect Jobs describes. Ideas that resonate with specific sub demographics get pushed out.

By selected on very narrow demographics, you bring together people who are likely to agree on something much more innovative.

If you do this with multiple groups selected on different demographics, you can compare across the groups and then find the CORE elements of a solution, and then also see elements that resonate with specific groups ... which allows you to select which markets you want to target.

Lots of development folks think like Jobs does ... "the only good ideas are MY ideas".

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