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Myth 10: We know what our customers need (not want . . . need).

This myth or misunderstanding is tightly linked to our earlier discussions that firms founded on their own internal expertise and product knowledge often continue to believe that, due to their product expertise, they are the experts on what customers need. This is quite different from the issue of what customers want. It assumes that product expertise equates to also knowing what is best for the customer. In fact, firms with extreme product competence may be even less likely than others to know the (changing) needs of their customers. These firms are also the ones less likely to have processes and competencies for listening, understanding, and responding to customers in a rapidly changing environment.

Beyond that, even the companies that listen to what customers want almost always lack the insight required to know and fully leverage what the customer actually needs and would most value. This is because only the customer completely understands how they get value or benefit from something they want, and that underlying benefit is why they NEED it. Understanding what they want is good. Understanding why they need it is critical to creatively develop new products and services to better meet those needs. And that is why the customers, not only the company, must be included in creative visioning of needs-based, future products and services (see Chapter 9, "What They Need: Customer Visioneering").

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