Apple
In a truly excellent article, entitled “You can’t innovate like Apple”, Alain Breillatt also discusses Apple’s approach to user research.

“While I’m sure Jobs says he doesn’t do research, it’s pretty clear that his team goes out to thoroughly study behaviors and interests of those they think will be their early adopters. Call it talking to friends and family; but, honestly, you know that these guys live by immersing themselves in the hip culture of music, video, mobile, and computing.

The point is not to go ask your customers what they want. If you ask that question in the formative stages, then you’re doing it wrong. The point is to go immerse yourself in their environment and ask lots of “why” questions until you have thoroughly explored the ins and outs of their decision making, needs, wants, and problems. At that point, you should be able to break their needs and the opportunities down into a few simple statements of truth.

As Alan Cooper says, how can you help an end user achieve the goal if you don’t know what it is? You have to build a persona or model that accurately describes the objectives of your consumers and the problems they face with the existing solutions. The real benefit, as I saw in my years working at InstallShield and Macrovision, is that unless you put a face and expectations on that consumer, then disagreements about features or product positioning or design come down to who can pull the greatest political will—rather than who has the cleanest interpretation of the consumer’s need.”

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