July 13, 2020

Faster Horses

Supposedly Henry Ford once said:

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

I have three problems with this statement:

  1. Faster horses probably would have sold just fine. If creating faster horses was impossible, then okay maybe he needed to invent the Model T. But the not-so-subtle-implication that the consumer is stupid doesn’t sit right with me.
  2. People who subscribe to the “customers are too dumb to know what they REALLY want” worldview are making their lives a lot harder if what they really want to do is help people and make a nice living doing it. You don’t have to invent an entirely new market to be very successful in business.
  3. Ford’s disdain for what the customer wanted (as exemplified in his inflexible “you can have any color you want as long as it’s black” attitude) didn’t work so great once a competitor came along. In the four years from 1921 to 1925, Ford’s market share was cut in half by General Motors wider product range. So there’s that.

Here’s the thing...

If you really want to come up with a game-changer like the Model T or the iPhone or a rocket that can land on its tail fins, then that’s great and I applaud your chutzpah.

But you don’t have to come up with a genius-level, market-defining innovation to build a successful business.

You just have to help people you like get what they want.

It feels great, they’ll happily pay you for it, and you can start right now.