Do customers have latent needs?
Getting the right inputs for successful innovation is all about understanding customer needs. The problem is that most innovators believe that customers have latent, unknowable needs, which leads them to skip this step altogether (why ask customers about their needs if they don’t know them?).
This misconception may stem from misinterpreting famous quotes from leading innovators, such as this one by Henry Ford:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
And this one by Steve Jobs:
“A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”
It’s true that customers do not know what solutions they need. It’s not their job to dream up the solutions to their challenges. However, customers can tell you all about what they’re trying to get done, the challenges they face in getting it done, and how they measure their success along the way. When you look at customer needs through this lens, they are all knowable, and there is no such thing as a latent customer need.