“Clients don’t know what they want.” Unfortunately, It´s common to hear this in conversation about products and clients.

And smart people will utter the famous quote from Henry Ford, the automobile inventor:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford


Even Steve Jobs, Apple’s eternal CEO, enjoyed repeating this sentence to exhaustion.

Nevertheless, I disagree. Clients do know what they want. They want a solution for their problems. That’s where Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and us, mere mortals, come in, willing to develop products to solve these problems.

The first steps to create a good product are:

  • To realize that there are people with a problem or need to be solved;
  • Understand very well what is this problem or need;
  •  Understand what motivates people to want this problem or need solved.

When you talk to people with problems or needs, some will even say that this problem could be solved like this or that; however, in this initial moment, the priority is to find out if there really is a necessity to be solved. You must decouple the problem from the suggestion of solution your interlocutor is trying to give.

People used to take a long time to move. This was the problem to be solved at Henry Ford’s time. No matter how.

It could be more horses in front of the carts, it could be horses trained to walk on roller-blades, it could be using genetically modified horses that would ride faster, it could be the invention of the car, the invention of the airplane, even the invention of tele-transportation.

The specific solution for the problem didn’t matter, as long as it was solved. Many people probably gave solutions, like the fastest horses from Henry Ford’s quote, but this is just a suggestion. The problem to be solved is that people took too long moving from one place to another. The problem was not that they wanted to move faster. That’s already part of the solution.

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