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Thread: Customers don't know what they want

  1. #1

    Customers don't know what they want

    With the semi-recent passing of Steve Jobs, I've been thinking about his various philosophies and whether or not they have anything to do with knives. The big one, and one I've occasionally thought about, is whether or not you should listen to customers. In a 1985 interview with Playboy, he said: “We built [the Mac] for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research.” Twelve years later, he told Business Week: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And then on the same topic there is the possibly-not-from-Henry-Ford quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

    A similar thing happens time and again when up and coming knifemakers appear on these forums. They show some knives, some people use them, and say what's wrong with them. Generally this has an effect of making the knives made by makers that frequent the boards similar in many ways. Sometimes the knives change enough that the original designs are hard to recognize. Sometimes they are simply the product of knifemakers that really didn't know how to design a knife, and needed obvious changes to impractical designs and sharp spines. Without pointing fingers I would say that the geniuses of design are a bit of a rarity in the knife world. Some are downright ugly. However, sometimes innovative products are lost to time because of the forum "focus groups."

    This leads to the question of whether or not there is any innovation left to the humble kitchen knife. I can't argue for many major innovations that could be made on the order of the automobile or the personal computer. Unless you want to count the food processor or the slap chop: The closest thing to actual innovation is the catching on of Japanese styled knives, so that we're no longer held down by overly thick European style blades. However, it's hard to call centuries old ideas an innovation, it's more like it just started to catch on in the U.S. Some ideas such as the Alton's angles ( or the hump spine design ( don't catch on because customers are looking for something else. Maybe they're ugly, maybe they just don't work, or maybe people just aren't/weren't ready. What innovations are there? There are changes in things like belly that are mostly preference. Does the handle really need a major change from European and Japanese styles? There are many traditional styles and patterns, do we really need another one that would shake things up?

    On the topic of Apple, only rarely did they actually create a whole new product. Often they just gave clean, functional design to an old product, made it work right, and gave it an effective marketing campaign. While innovative designs are one thing, it's surprising how many knifemakers can't just make a traditional knife look "right" and work right. Either they can't see what's wrong or they're not able to do what they see in their mind's eye.

    Then the final problem: factory knives have flaws in execution, and usually aren't hand-friendly, and custom knifemakers with quality products just can't make enough knives to meet the demand. Will factory knives be able to up their game? Will custom knifemakers be able to make more knives? Will anyone show real innovation?

  2. #2
    I have talked about the re-inventing of the wheel issue a lot with a forum member,and I do mean a lot!

  3. #3
    WillC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    herefordshire uk
    What i've found with invention, it fun till you realize someone already thought of it. But its also nice thinking someone came to the same solution as you.

  4. #4
    Senior Member stevenStefano's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Norn Iron
    Perhaps the fact that everyone loves Japanese knives that follow a Centuries old design is what holds innovation back. Perhaps their attraction is that they combine the old and new, why they are so popular is that they haven't changed, therefore there isn't so much innovation?

  5. #5
    I think some innovation can be had not in knife design, but in performance. Knives are hand tools and most hand tools don't change much through out the history, but I do like the idea of refining and improving where possible. Not big a fan of "designers" whose work makes you scratch your head and wonder if these people ever prepared food themselves.


    "All beauty that has no foundation in use, soon grows distasteful and needs continuous replacement with something new." The Shakers' saying.

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  6. #6
    Weird Wood Pusher Burl Source's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Kerby, OR
    I guess I will take a chance and play the Devil's Advocate.

    I feel customers do know what they want.
    They want a product that performs well, looks good and has a good reason for it's value.

    But ............... I think customers may have difficulty verbalizing just what it is they want.

    I feel it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to educate the consumer on what makes theirs a good product.
    Public awareness, independent product evaluations and forum discussions will either reinforce or debunk the manufacturer's claims.
    But the maker or manufacturer is who needs to get the process started. .....and to listen to suggestions how to make their product better in the eyes of the end user.

    Too many times product advertising is like politics.
    They tell people what they think they want to hear with exagerated claims and think the public will be dumb enough to believe them.

    In my opinion, if you produce a quality product, an educated customer is the most valuable customer.
    People are willing to pay a higher price and want the producer to prosper as long as they can see the value in the product.
    These same customers become repeat customers and provide the best form of advertising there is, word of mouth.

    If a manufacturer makes an inferior product that sells based on hype, they make one sale, but never a second sale.

    If you make a customer happy, they tell a friend.
    If you make a customer unhappy, they tell everyone.

    I am sorry if I wandered off topic a bit.
    To make a long post short;
    Customers do know what they want, they just need a little help identifying it.
    Mark Farley / Burl Source
    Phone 541-287-1029, Email
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  7. #7
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    Is this not innovation? I never knew I wanted it until I saw it.

  8. #8
    I bet the person who designed it sold a bunch of these. Sad.

    "All beauty that has no foundation in use, soon grows distasteful and needs continuous replacement with something new." The Shakers' saying.

    If my KKF Inbox is full (or not), please contact me via Email:

  9. #9
    SWEET!!! No more PITA Wa handles to make,bike handles.....why did I not think of that.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by RRLOVER View Post
    SWEET!!! No more PITA Wa handles to make,bike handles.....why did I not think of that.

    You must not have gone to design school.

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