The Number 1 Rule for Business

The old number 1 rule in business was to find out what your customers wanted and to give it to them. Today, if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you’d miss a huge opportunity. Their answers will never give you more than a fraction of the true potential. In addition, the answers they provide are the same answers they are telling your competitors when they ask. In other words, you and your competitors will take your customers’ answers and develop similar solutions that will result in high competition with low margins.

Our skills and capabilities are changing far too rapidly for this old rule to be useful. Customers today don’t know what is technically possible because change is so fast. The things they might really want are things they don’t yet know are possible. For example, customers did not know they wanted an iPhone,  ipod or iPad until Apple gave it to them.

To survive and thrive, look at your customers’ visible future and related trends. Look at what you’re certain about regarding their future. See what problems they are going to have and solve them before they happen so that by the time they’re just starting to experience the problem, you already have the solution.

Technology driven transformation will not wait. There are two critical truths about business in this new era that you cannot afford to ignore:

  1. If it can be done, it will be done.
  2. If you don’t do it, someone else will.

This is happening in every field.

  • If the big three automakers don’t make the cars people will both want and need in the future, Tesla or someone else will.
  • If the big four record labels weren’t moving fast enough to embrace MP3 technology, Apple was only too happy to step in.
  • Blockbuster didn’t move fast enough to make the home video rental business virtual, so Netflix did.

Always ask your customers what they want, but remember that they will always under answer. Therefore, give your customers the ability to do what they can’t currently do, but would want to… if they knew it was possible. 

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