As explained by Tony Ulwick in What Customers Want, the term customer “needs” can be confusing. It’s best to separate what customers want into outcomes (their desired end-result, or the “what”) and solutions (your answer to their need, or the “how”). Keep your interview focused on their outcomes, not solutions. If they offer a solution, simply ask, “What would that do for you?” Poof: You’re back into outcome space where you want to be.
More in article, Discovery Interview Blunders that Frustrate Your Customers.
Could customers help with a product as radical as iTunes or iPod? Sure. If you know how to ask. They’d probably be hopeless on solutions… but helpful on outcomes: access a broad range of music, instantly purchase music, transport music anywhere, purchase single tunes, store music on multiple devices, etc. These would be great insights for any solution-provider.
Read more in this article, Should You Develop New Products like Steve Jobs? (Originally published in B2B Organic Growth). Steve Jobs made a good point when he said “you can’t just ask customers for the next big thing.” The customers’ area of expertise is the “outcome”—what they want to have happen, not how it should happen.