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The Faster Horse

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"If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse"
—Henry Ford

One of the tricks to any business is balancing the importance of customer opinion with the sheer irrelevance of customer opinion. On the one hand, any customer utilizing a product or service is the foremost authority on its effectiveness. Often, customers are better at spotting a product's glaring problems and oversights than the team behind its release. Nearsightedness on the part of the vendor can result in blurriness where a consumer can see with great clarity. It is this fundamental principle of the marketplace that germinated the adage, "The customer is always right."

On the other hand, of course, the customer is quite simply not always right. A customer's expertise is mostly limited to the boundaries of your own offering. It still requires a sea-change of thought and a dedicated aversion to normalcy in order to truly innovate.

A customer's value, then, lies in their ability to use things practically. While a user's interest may not extend past the need for a faster horse, that user will be absolutely instrumental in making sure your horse-replacement has cupholders. Customers are unbelievably effective users, and are arguably the only ones who can hone your service or product to the nearly approachable limit of perfection. Your job is to create something for them to improve upon.