In business we are always thinking and obsessing over what the market wants. We tend to look up to men like Steve Jobs as brilliant innovators – those people that always seem to know what we want, even before we know we want it ourselves.
This weekend I came across an excerpt from Derek Sivers’ blog that makes me think that maybe we are going about this all wrong.
A new green college campus was built, but one thing was still debated:
Where in the grass should we put the paved walkways?
Some felt the walkways should be around the edges, to leave the center green and untouched.
Some felt the walkways should cut diagonal, connecting all buildings to all buildings.
One professor had the winning idea: Don’t make any walkways this year. At the end of the year, look at where the grass is worn away, showing us where the students are walking. Then just pave those paths.
Isn’t this how we should be thinking about our business?
We should let our customers and prospects determine where our own “paths” and our business should go, not the other way around.
Sure, this goes against most conventional wisdom and our instincts – the “early bird gets the worm” and all the pressure to be the first or the quickest, but the biggest mistake a small business owner can make is to act on impulses.
Instead, take the time to learn about your target before you act. Do some research. Learn from those that came before you, and watch what others are doing right now. Ask your customers what they want and actually listen to them when they tell you.
Most importantly, as Sivers says “Resist the urge to figure it all out in advance.” After all, you’ve likely got a whole lot more learning to do.
Do you act on your impulses?