Early in his career, Thomas Edison invented a vote-recording machine for use in legislative chambers. By moving a switch to
the right or left, an official could vote for or against a proposal without leaving his desk. The machine would replace
the tedious business of marking ballots, counting them, etc. Elated with the prospects, Edison obtained a patent -- his
first -- and headed for Washington.
Eagerly he demonstrated his machine to the Chairman of Congressional Committees. This
gentleman, while complimenting Edison on his ingenuity, promptly turned it down. "Filibustering and delay in the tabulation of
votes are often the only means we have for defeating bad or improper legislation." he told Edison.
The young inventor was stunned. The invention was good; he knew it and the chairman knew it. Still, it wasn't wanted. Said
Edison later: "There and then I made a vow that I would never again invent anything which was not wanted."
Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 11-12.
There is a story of a tool company that manufactured drill bits. Faced with financial losses, company executives gathered to
discuss the problem: a declining demand for drill bits. The CEO challenged his men: "How can we revive the bit market?" After
an embarrassing silence, one member of the team dispelled the fog: "Sir, the market isn't for bits--its for holes!" The
story, though apocryphal, does illustrate a basic but often overlooked truth: "The customer never buys a product. By
definition, the customer buys the satisfaction of a want" (in the words of Peter
Drucker). To put it another way, there are no markets for products--only markets for what products can do. In
contemporary industry, the Xerox Corp. shows this principle in action. Xerox successfully pioneered the copy-machine industry
by leasing copiers at a "per copy" price rather than selling machines outright. They correctly saw the market was for copies,
Four Implications: 1)We must constantly evaluate customer needs; 2)We must design products to meet specific needs; 3)We
must redesign products as needs change; 4)We must delete products that no longer meet customer needs.
Today, April 4, 1986.