This Blog is soooo wise about the potential of asking a different question….

Here’s why you may need to stop asking customers what they want, and start asking them, “Which superpower do you want?”

The latest apps and devices grant customers abilities that match or exceed what we used to think of as superpowers. But when you ask a customer what he or she wants, they answer in terms they consider to be practical. This is a basic human instinct; no one likes to appear foolish. The result can be that companies think their customers don’t want cool new toys, until a startup comes along and proves that they do.

To illustrate one way to break down this barrier, in mid-December we ran a web survey in the United States that asked 1,500 people, “Which superpower would you most like to have?

The results demonstrated that when it comes to superpowers, there is no single answer. Responses varied widely by age, sex, income and geography.

Men wanted to be able to predict the future, closely followed by learn faster and five other superpowers. I say “men wanted” with caution, because if you break down the results by age or income, it would be hard to get a consistent answer for “men.”

The number one superpower for women was to stop pain at will. Number two was to read minds.

Predict the future, the top choice for men, was way down at number seven for women.

With a couple of exceptions, every answer described an ability that could soon be within the bounds of practicality.

For example, there already are a number of apps that not only translate spoken words, but also replace the words written on signs and menus (understand any language). Smart glasses and even video cameras that sit behind your ear already enable you to record your life (remember everything).

We plan to keep experimenting with this approach, in an effort to help entrepreneurs and executives gain insights into what people actually want to do with all the new technologies flooding into the market. I welcome any suggestions or observations you can share in the comments section of this article.

Each respondent saw just five answers, rotated randomly, so the results do not necessarily add up to 100%. Also, not all respondents were identified by their sex.


Bruce Kasanoff is Managing Director of the customer experience consulting firm, Sense of the Future. He is co-author with Michael Hinshaw of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies.

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