Autocratic, democratic, it’s problematic

“I’m a creative. I’m autocratic.”

It was Henry Ford who said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

I understand your needs better than you do, and I understand your customers’ needs better than they do. I’m all about following my gut feeling and relying on my instincts; about applying my knowledge, talent and experience to a problem.

“I’m a creative. I’m democratic.”

I understand that the end user is an expert in his or her own life. I know that a design will only be successful if I truly understand the individual’s life, their wants and needs; I know that I need to understand this context to create a relevant solution.

IF I HAD ASKED MY CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANTED, THEY WOULD HAVE SAID A FASTER HORSE.

Opposites perhaps, but both are important. Did consumer research tell Apple the public wanted a phone with no keyboard and a multi-touch interface? On the other hand though, if Ford had understood the changing needs of its customers, they may have switched to producing smaller, more economical cars (instead of trucks) in time to ensure the company’s future.

The trick is to know how much of which approach to apply when – when to watch and when to ignore, and when to fight and when to learn. If we always take the autocratic path we risk creating irrelevant white elephants. Similarly, if we always play it purely democratically we’re guaranteed to produce mediocre solutions in bucket loads.

It’s all about balance.

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