In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple after having been asked to leave the company he founded. In a town hall meeting, he said:1
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.
With this, he gave insight into how he was going to turn Apple around: by reversing the equation of product development.
At the time, his approach that lead to the meteoric rise of Apple seemed revolutionary. To some degree it was. But it wasn’t necessarily new. In 1960, writing in his famous article “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt, the famous Harvard professor wrote:2
An industry begins with the customer and his needs, not with a patent, a raw material, or a selling skill…The industry develops backwards, first concerning itself with the physical delivery of customer satisfaction.
Much of the business literature of 1950s and 1960s reflects similar perspectives. So, Jobs’ comment really represents a return to core business principles that were already present in theory but not in practice. The notion of “starting with the experience and working back toward the technology” symbolizes the renaissance in customer-centric thinking.
We see other signs of a shift in business thinking. For instance, in 2015 Mark Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce said:3
The business of business isn’t just about creating profits for shareholders—it’s also about improving the state of the world and driving stakeholder value.
Most notable, the notion ...