Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

May 15, 2013

Why Giving People What They Want Is A Bad Business Strategy.

Sometimes everybody around you is wrong.  Frightfully, horrifically mistaken.  That’s important to remember.

One of the things business experts tell you when you are considering changes to your sales strategy is the idea that you need to “listen to your marketplace”. That you need to take your idea and run it by the people around you to get some feedback.

These same experts will remind you that you need to “give your industry what they want”.  Telling you that giving your industry what they want you will grow your company more quickly than anyone around you.  More sales.  More effective marketing.

But there are a lot of problems with that line of thinking.

Most of the time people don’t know what they want. Business people. People who are husbands and wives. People who are athletes, politicians, and industry titans. They don’t know exactly what they want.

Big picture — they know what they want; but when it comes to the details, the exact way things are executed, there’s a lot of uncertainty. A lot still to be tried.

If you give people what they want, you are usually only giving them what they think they want. Which is likely to change tomorrow and the day after and the day after that too.

More importantly, sometimes people are wrong.

Two hundred years ago southern businessman thought that slavery was the best business strategy to drive economic gain.  It was “what they wanted”.  Besides the catastrophic personal impact on the slaves themselves, that line of thinking crippled the long term economic growth of the entire region.

Because slavery uniquely relied on unrealistically inexpensive labor, southern businesses were much slower to innovate than their northern counterparts.  If you were to ask a southern business leader what he wanted, he would give you religious and economic plausibility for more slaves.

And that very strategy was morally and economically flawed.

You don’t get bonus points for being abrasive, abusive, or obnoxious. And you don’t usually “win” by running around telling people how wrong they are. That doesn’t work.

Just remember that what people want isn’t always what’s best for them or for everyone else around them. Sometimes what they want turns out to be a horrific human tragedy.  Along the way, you’ll hear all the reasons why what they want is right, but that doesn’t mean you need to be the person who gives it to them.

Instead, blaze a new trail. Think about where you want to lead your market. Your industry. The people around you. Think about where you want to go and then lead. Shepherd. Protect your vision.

Martin Luther didn’t ask for anyone else’s opinions when he nailed his religious thesis on the door of All Saint’s Church in 1517 and began a religious reformation that is felt all over the world to this day. Five hundred years later, Steve Jobs never asked you what you wanted in a better phone when he announced the first iPhone on June 29, 2007.  They didn’t care about “what you wanted”.

They didn’t ask permission. They lead with purpose. And passion.

And we all followed.

Because that’s what we do when people take us to where we want to be. Not just lead us where we think we want to go.

It’s something to think about the next time you feel like you need permission to try something awesome.  Just do it.


About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.