Steve Jobs On Focus Groups

I have my Twitter application, “TweetDeck”, monitoring conversations about focus groups. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t Tweet that “Apple doesn’t do focus groups…Steve Jobs says that people don’t know what they want…you have to show them.”

Was that more than 140 characters? Well, you get the gist.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen’s famous line from his Vice Presidential debate with Dan Quayle (watch it here!), my response is “I knew Steve Jobs. I worked with Steve Jobs, and you’re no Steve Jobs.”

Truthfully, I worked on Apple years ago but never got to meet Steve myself. But the obvious point here is that if you have a one in a million visionary running your company why bother with research? I couldn’t agree more.

The problem for the other 99.9% of businesses is that they are run by mere mortals. Some are exceptionally bright and innovative, to be sure, but there are few Steve Jobs walking among us.

Focus groups have the power to be transformative. They offer a unique experience: Live interaction with your consumers, the bonding and consensus building of being on the road with your colleagues, the ability to observe, reflect, challenge, brainstorm and evolve.

Given the environment, the right tools, the vocabulary to articulate difficult to express feelings and emotions – it is simply stunning how much progress can me made through the qualitative process. I believe that groups done well is often all you need to make decisions, conventional marketing wisdom aside. Regardless, well executed qualitative will be directly reflected in significantly superior quantitative scores for the feint of heart.

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