Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs are two of the most legendary technology leaders in history. And both subscribed to the same principle about innovation — one that's the opposite of conventional business wisdom.
An often repeated piece of business advice is to listen to your customer. Asking for feedback from consumers can help ensure you make and sell a product people want.
But there's an important exception, according to both Bezos and Jobs: when you're building something truly revolutionary that people have never seen before. To do the extraordinary, a company and its leaders need to think further ahead than its customers are even able to.
Take smart speaker Amazon Echo with voice assistant Alexa, for example. "No customer was asking for Echo," Bezos wrote in his annual letter to shareholders, published Thursday.
"Market research doesn't help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said, 'Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?' I guarantee you they'd have looked at you strangely and said, 'No, thank you.'"