Chapter 6

Don’t Wait for the Next Big Thing

If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

—Henry Ford

The future’s already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.

—Paul Saffo, technology forecaster and board member, The Long Now Foundation, quoting novelist William Gibson

Why didn’t the flying car ever “take off”? There is nothing wrong with daydreaming about possible innovations, but if we’re obsessed with quantum leaps inspired by science fiction, we’re missing the point.

SOURCE: Corbis.

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If you’re trying to come up with the next big thing, don’t ask your customers—they can’t tell you—even though conventional wisdom says you should begin with market research. Thanks to the Internet and other innovations, power (including pricing power) has shifted to consumers, who are increasingly the co-creators of the products and services they buy—and a certain level of customer engagement is indeed necessary in a highly interconnected world. However, companies need to avoid being continually reactive; suc­cessful companies of the future will be those that surprise and delight their customers—something the world came to expect from Steve Jobs.

And if you are simply treading water and waiting for the next big thing or next big boom, think again. Remember that old bumper sticker: “Please Lord, just one more boom—I promise not to blow it this time”? If you ...

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