Should Entrepreneurs Waste Their Time on Market Research?

Author: Ron Morris, The American Entrepreneur

In Walter Isaacson's biography entitled "Steve Jobs," the author (page 143) paraphrases the Great Reality Distorter's belief that there is no sense in "researching" a market or a specific product offering if yours is an innovative company.

This is not new; I have been preaching this to my students for at least a decade. After all, if you are "ahead" of the populace in terms of technology and trends, then why spend your time and effort to further confirm an immutable belief?

To quote Mr. Jobs, "...customers don't know what they want until we've shown them." He said this as he showed his Macintosh development team a device that was about the size of a desk diary. "Do you want to see something neat?" he said. He flipped open this "desk diary" and it was a mockup of a computer that could fit on your lap and included a keyboard and screen hinged together just like a notebook.

"This is my dream of what we will be making in the mid-to-late 80's" he said. In essence, Jobs was building a company that would "invent the future."

And who is to argue with his Royal Highness? When you have that kind of prescience, why ask people to confirm whether or not you're already in the ballpark? Jobs believed, and right up until the day he died, that he knew best insofar as computer and computer software products were concerned, and thus no one was going to dispel his beliefs by presenting insincere consumer surveys.

Entrepreneurism is a lot of things; but primarily, it all starts with someone inventing or creating a product or service that not only fills a true human need, but that also trumps anything else that might even remotely provide similar utilities.

It's not easy being an innovator. Some say it's a God-given talent made available to only a select few. And by "select few" I'm talking about fractions of one percent.

So, where do these Jobs-like insights actually come from?

In Steve Jobs' case, I think it has a great deal to do with the contradicting circumstances he was forced to deal with while young. For example, Jobs was never one who could sit still and pursue an engineering or computer science curriculum. He just was too restless and too curious to stay on target for that long of a time.

But, and just like a honey bee cross-pollinates a meadow, Jobs would pick up snippets of ideas and technologies in his day-to-day life. Then somehow, these insights found their way into the "Mixmaster" that was Steve Jobs' brain. The result? A completely innovative approach. One that most individuals just could not conceive.

But as the Great Creator giveth, so doth He take away. And by this, I refer to the fact that Steve's remarkable future views, views that were primarily high-level theories and thoughts that were the direct result of his insatiable curiosity, somehow morphed into world-changing computer products.

I can't tell you how difficult this is for "normal" human beings. Think about it ... you must clear your mind of all preconceived notions relating to how "work" gets done. Then, you must "work backwards" to your goal; whatever that may be.

But like I said, there's an associated price tag. For while Steve was capable of coming up with these brilliant insights (insights that ultimately resulted in similarly-brilliant products), he was almost, and by virtue of his own brilliance, quite incapable of seeing these products through to fruition by himself.

This is why he so wisely surrounded himself with people who could grind out the electronics, schematics, and source code that brought these products to life. These people could no more conceive of Steve's product ideas than fly. But they served an important purpose.

So, should you, and as an entrepreneur, invest your precious time and money researching markets and products?

Or, should you proceed directly to "GO?" In essence, "Build It And They Will Come." (You know, the last and only time I saw a BIATWC strategy succeed was in the movie "Field of Dreams.")

Truth be told, I know CEO's who would just as soon fire you as take that particular piece of advice.

And yet ...

I think it all depends on your business model. If yours is a competitive product that merely leap-frogs its brethren every couple years, then I strongly suggest you load up with developers and tell your marketing team to get out in the street and put their ear to the ground.

But if there is no product or service even remotely akin to that which you have imagined, then I say "full speed ahead." Build it. Spend every dime you have on an ongoing product/feature release plan that will guarantee you at least a number-two seat as you take on your prime competitor.

After all, you've already won a great victory by being unique and alone in the marketplace ... so why not go all the way and make that offering as fresh and innovative as it can possibly be.

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Ron Morris

About Ron Morris

Ron Morris puts over thirty years of entrepreneurial experience to work answering your business questions, solving your business problems, and bringing you all the latest information about everything that is happening on the entrepreneurial landscape. “I’ve built companies with ZERO money and I’ve been associated with companies who have borrowed money”, says Morris, “I’ve merged companies, I’ve sold companies, and I’ve even bankrupted a company. (My “greatest learning experience.”) So, when you tell me about your business problem, it’s a pretty sure thing that I’ve ‘seen it at least once before ... this ain’t textbook stuff ...this is ‘real bullets’, real world stuff.”

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