Almost every company competes to some degree on the basis of continual innovation. And to be commercially successful, new product and service ideas must, of course, meet a real—or perceived—customer need. Hence the current managerial mantras:
“Get close to the customer” and
“Listen to the voice of the customer.”
The problem is, customers’ ability to guide the development of new products and services is limited by their experience and their ability to imagine and describe possible innovations. How can companies identify needs that customers themselves may not recognize? How can designers develop ways to meet those needs, if even in the course of extensive market research, customers never mention their desires because they assume those desires can’t be fulfilled?