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Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Listening to Users May be Harmful to Your Product

Kathy Sierra, one of the wonderful bloggers over on Creating Passionate Users, writes on why you may *not* want to listen to your users. While interviewing Pat Parelli, founder of extremely successful programs on "natural horsemanship", the she assumed that the major changes they made to the already successful program were the result of member feedback. That assumption was wrong:

Pat: "No, listening to our members was maybe 20% of it, but the other 80% was something else."

And then he said it:

"We changed our entire program because WE knew we could do better. Because WE were still frustrated that people weren't learning quickly enough or progressing through the higher levels as well as we thought they could. People still weren't having the kind of relationship with their horse that we knew they could have, even though our students were delighted with the progress they were making. So we changed it all."

It turned out that most of the major changes they made to their program came not from user requests and suggestions, but from the Parelli team's own innovations. He went on to explain that their members/students/users had no idea what was needed to make better, faster, deeper breakthroughs. In fact, many of the changes went against what their user feedback seemed to suggest. In other words, in many ways the Parelli team deliberately did not listen to users.

They trusted themselves, and did what they believed was right for their users, even if it meant doing things that on the surface seemed even less user-friendly.

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