I was given the Steve Jobs Biography for Christmas. It is a quick and diverting read if you are interested in computers/technology/big business. There are some good anecdotes and some startling stories. Initially there seemed little that can be learned from the book and applied to Stan’s Cafe but my opinion is changing on that. Most valuable for me at the moment is some back up for my response to the questions that are starting to come in from undergraduates about our relationship with audiences.
– How has your work changed over the years in response to Audience demands?
– Not at all.
In the current political / economic climate this feels like the wrong answer. There is an implicit assumption abroad that we should be deferring to audiences more by, crowd sourcing, using scratch nights and works in progress, encouraging ‘participation’ and ensuring ‘accessiblity’. So say you don’t respond to an audience’s demands seems like heresy but now Steve Jobs can be called to our aid and he brings with him Henry Ford.
My position is that you can’t ask audiences what they want because their answer will always be based on what they already have. Steve Jobs claimed Apple never do market research, they just try and make brilliant products they they’d love themselves. He then quotes Henry Ford who said that before the car people would have said they just wanted a faster horse.
Audiences don’t know what they want until they’ve got it. That’s part of the difficulty of writing copy (which I’m doing a lot of at the moment), audiences don’t necessarily know what they want even when they read about it.
I’m not sure Steve Jobs and Henry Ford a great role models but on this I’m happy to use them as exemplars.