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Myth 3: Customers cannot envision what does not exist; focus groups are a waste of money and, besides, no Sony customer ever envisioned the WalkMan.

This wonderful myth is born from many firms expending great sums on research, and sitting for hours behind one-way mirrors watching ineffective focus groups that yield little of value. Anything, done the wrong way, can be disappointing and ineffective, including focus groups.

It may be true that engineers, not customers, envisioned the Sony WalkMan. Probably no customer spontaneously said, "Eureka, I want to take my big console radio and strap it to my head for music while I am out jogging—if only engineers could reduce the size of the components and then come up with cool-looking headphones."

But that is not because customers lack the capability to envision things that do not exist. Rather, it is because market research techniques often do not generate a line of thinking that breaks the person out of using only currently available and existing things to develop their vision.1

With such approaches, Sony could have arrived at the same idea, probably earlier, and from a customer. And with such approaches, so can you.

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