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Why is it a bad idea to ask your customers how to innovate?


Brand is about being different. Not better. Different.

But different is harder to put into words than better is; it’s harder to conceive. So if you ask your customers how to innovate, they’re going to ask you for something better, not different.

In fact, asking customers how you should innovate for them is asking them to do your job for you. And you’ll be rewarded by getting small, incremental, innovation ideas, not the big, groundbreaking ones.

Customers would ask for something better, not different, kind of like this.

They might ask for:

  • A firmer mattress
  • A faster horse
  • A phone that has a longer battery life
  • A car with better mileage
  • A larger selection of movies to rent

Customers don’t ask for different, because different is harder to conceive of than better is. And customers frankly don’t think all that much about your category or your product. They kind of feel like they have better things to do than come up with creative ideas for your business. They’re in the mode of solving a problem, and they might ask for a better way to solve that problem.

And that’s why no customer ever asked:

  • For Airbnb
  • Or for the automobile
  • Or for the iPhone
  • Or the Tesla
  • Or for Netflix

Are you asking your customers to do your job for you?

When you’re trying to innovate, listen to customers talk about what they care about in life, and what it’s like to be them, when they’re trying to solve a problem that your type of offering solves. And then think of a way to make their life better – in a way that they never could have thought of.

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