Figuring out what students want: Jobs’ approach was no market research

Here’s an interesting view to contrast with the student-as-consumer view that sometimes drives master teachers out of their jobs (since master teachers make students work). Nobody will ever say that Steve Jobs ignored the consumer — Apple didn’t get to be the huge consumer electronics company today without trying to please the consumer. But he never asked them what they wanted. They did get a vote: To buy, or not buy. Are there lessons for us in education? Are course evaluations the education equivalent of market research?

In the Preface to Inventing the Medium, I write about the limitations of asking users what they want since people “often cannot think past the familiar conventions of existing devices and applications.” A similar theme emerged from the many admiring reminiscences that followed Steve Jobs’ death this month. From the New York Times obituary : When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

Deepa Singh
Business Developer
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