A story, possibly apocryphal (i.e. I can no longer find the source), tells of electronics manufacturers asking customers what features they wanted in their home video equipment. “VCRs that rewind faster,” they cried. Instead they got DVDs that didn’t need rewinding.
I was remembering that story and went looking to source it and all I could find was my blog post from a decade ago.
Of course once we got DVDs, we then needed to solve the frustrations of the video rental store. Redbox’s automated DVD rental machines were but a bump in the road on the path to Netflix’s video streaming dominance (even though the company still does DVDs by mail).
The important point here isn’t about instant gratification—though that is certainly something to be considering—it’s about asking the right questions. Even though Henry Ford supposedly never said his famous quote, the lesson and the problem still stand. Asking the right questions, and listening carefully to find the bigger opportunities in the answers are critical skills for product managers.
Bonus: once your product is successful enough that it starts setting consumer expectations—basically, the moment you’re feeling at the top of your game—you’re open to disruption by another product that can meet those expectations even better..