Is the customer a moron or you?

A decade or so ago I was in a CEO leadership mentoring group. Around 15 of us met for a day or so each month to discuss the latest thinking and progress personally and with our respective businesses.

First posted in my weekly LinkedIn newsletter >

What struck me, and in some ways it was not a new epiphany, is that some business leaders are morons. Which is likely fine if they are living life in isolation with no responsibility for others, but when morons are let loose, in positions of responsibility, making decisions that can and will have negative ramifications on their staff, businesses, customers, families and the broader community, it is downright bloody scary. Morons are a safety risk.

The thing is that morons, typically don’t have enough self-awareness to know they are in fact a moron. Others need to point it out, but that is something that is very hard to do, and would likely ruin the day of whoever is brave enough., so morons often never know their stupidity.

And, even worse such morons generally view themselves as quite the opposite, the smartest in the room. A moron viewing themselves as the smartest in the room, is a potentially lethal combination.

Each of the world’s problems fundamentally comes back to a moron.

A moron is like a tick, tick, tick, tick, ticking time BOMB!

Think former Prime Minister Scott Morrison or former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Or, former President Donald J Trump, rebuilding for the sequel when much of the world and the US legal system has almost literally been saying “YOU ARE A MORON,” like water off a moron’s feathers.  The last person to see themselves as a moron is a moron.

They suffer from overconfidence bias and confirmation bias and a slather of other bias that make morons insanely dangerous.

In one meeting of my monthly leadership mentoring group, the guest speaker was discussing the importance of being customer / potential customer focused, and the critical role of research. Mr Moron, noted above, an accountant, proclaimed, as he was clearly the ‘smartest in the room’ – “Henry Ford once said ‘If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’.”

I audibly groaned. The moron confirmed all I had thought, about him.

In my experience, the “faster horses” quote is used generally by morons, and is a misquotation. Ford never said those words 100 years ago, and it underplays the importance of listening to customers.

Henry Ford in reality was concerned with revolutionising production lines, more units, more sales, profit than understanding customer desires, epitomised by his infamous decree, “Any colour … so long as it is black,” a mantra that nearly drove his business to the brink.

“In 1921, the Ford Motor Company sold about 2/3 of all the cars built in the U.S. And in 1927, that percentage fell to about 15%.” HBR, Henry Ford, Innovation, and That “Faster Horse” Quote

General Motors swooped into the market in the 1920s, adeptly catering to various customer segments.

The scary thing is that leaders acting like morons seem to be an epidemic, ignoring the evidence deliberately or otherwise. Believing they know better than everyone, treating the customer as a moron.

“The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.” 1960’s former researcher and ad guru icon David Ogilvy

Listening to customers, potential customers, citizens and real people through robust research helps businesses grow and cities to flourish.

Many of our global success stories wouldn’t have grown without customer research, data analytics and being evidence based: Apple, Netflix, AirBnB, Google and more. Data is the new black, and it is now about protecting and ethical use, more so than ignoring customers.

According to Statista, “the global revenue of the market research industry exceeded 84 billion U.S. dollars in 2023 and has grown more than twofold since 2008″(More >). The global research industry shows no signs of slowing down.

Research improves the success of entering new markets; enhances the customer experience; creates better products and services; and helps brands (small to larger) to grow BIGGER. Research is about notbeing the ‘smartest person / moron in the room,’ more so being open to listening to real people to make progress. To be evidence based.

Still, too often business, government and other leaders ignore customers, citizens and real people. Poor government policy misaligned to reality, new products worse than established alternatives and marketing spends wasted more than ever.

There is too much complexity in business, cities and the world, and progress to be made to waste money and time from allowing morons to get behind the wheel of the bus towards the future.

Please find a mirror and ask yourself …

“Am I a moron?”

Hopefully the answer is “no.”

Choosing to be a moron and ignoring the evidence is scary.

Research, such as that conducted by Square Holes for approaching 20 years, guides the optimal road to toward a better future.

If this made you think, here’s another going deeper on taking personal responsibility …

Are ‘people like you’ the problem?

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