A Slice of Silicon Valley – Season 1, Episode 3

We talk about the importance of understanding customer needs and how one can satisfy those needs. Where do you put your time and energy? A lot of it starts with customers. What’s important to them, what satisfies their needs, and how do you innovate and provide them ways to live a better life?

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Today we’re going to talk about the importance of understanding customer needs and how one can satisfy those needs.  Earlier we talked about Kondratiev and the long wave of economics and how that has shaped the global economy through the adoption of technology that came out of Silicon Valley and others around the world, and the importance of our understanding how that is accelerating and causing a lot of challenge.  So where do you put your time and energy, and understanding and unpacking Silicon Valley?  A lot of it starts with the customer.

Having been in the Valley for decades, I saw in their early days how one would really sit in front of a customer to understand what their needs were and provide them unique solutions that were hard for them to cobble together or hard for them to apply to solve problems. Customers would pay for that.  In my earlier career, the term bootstrapping came up a lot.  When working with a customer to solve a problem, they were willing to pay you to develop that service, to be able to accelerate that and help take a load off of them, and then you’d end up with a product that you could take to others and hopefully satisfy a similar kind of challenge that they have that they’re willing to pay you for.

That notion really hasn’t changed a lot, except for the fact that now we have technology, we have new ways that people are touching each other, and expectations are being set, and people are trying to connect in a bootstrap way to solve problems.  And as they get good at that, they start getting bolder and looking at, well, how do you apply that at scale?  How do you do that to disrupt a market?  And to do that as well as you can, you really have to understand a 360-degree view of your customer.

I had the good fortune in the early days of my career to grow up with a company called Applied Materials.   Their CEO, Jim Morgan, believed that everyone internally needed to understand everything about the customer, everything about what they can do to serve that customer.  He used to have some very competitive meetings where people would be challenged as to how well they really understood that to help train them to better listen, understand and serve those customers.  And a story that goes along with that.  One of his early leaders in marketing was one of the founders of Intel and helped at a company called Fairchild in working with the government to solve a big problem they had.

And at that time, the problem was mainframe computers. The big original computers were run using tubes. Tubes get hot, they burn out.  There were significant rooms filled with these computers that we have in our hand the same kind of power, but they would break down a lot.  They took a lot of room.  They were hard to program.  Along came this thing called the semiconductor and integrated circuits as a replacement for the tube.

And at that time, the industry was struggling with seeing this new piece of something they hardly could see that probably broke a lot.  What came out of that was a question of how do you define quality?  And at that time, it was the military who was defining this.  And how do you define when this new technology was equivalent and able to replace the older technology at a fraction of the cost.  That solved a big, complex product challenge.  And that solution was developing a standard specification that defined that quality level.  And when that happened, they reached it, they surpassed it, and an industry was born that has powered the global economy for the last 50 years.  That transition I just shared was a hard one for everyone in the industry to start to understand.

How do you adapt to this?  How do you apply it?  We had PCs, we had the internet, we had smartphones, and now we have AI, and the Metaverse.  That transformation transition is hard for people to adapt to.  And now we’re heading into Web3. It’s the same thing.  How do you serve people where there’s value?

Right now, we’re having a major adjustment in the market.  The market was down 1,100 points today, and a lot of that is because this transition, this adaptation of new technology is hard.  There’s fear, there are challenges, and it’s hard to really understand what is the customer need and how do you satisfy it? The most important thing is understanding from movers, where the customer is meeting you, whether it’s online or in person – these days, more online, check out https://www.miraclemovers.com/.  What’s important to them, what satisfies their needs, and how do you innovate and provide them ways to live a better life?  Today, we do that by either taking something done and improving the efficiency or innovating and bringing a new way to do it.

Those two things don’t get along with each other all the time, and that’s what I’m going to talk about next week.  As we go forward, I’ll stay on some customer issues and how we improve it, how we apply ourselves in that arena, as well as understanding this great transition that we’re going through.  In the next few weeks, I’ll bring some other folks who are thought leaders in this to help us try to make sense of it.  It’s hard, it’s challenging, it’s changing our politics, it’s changing our economics.  It’s changing us.

So, let’s see if we can work together to learn how to adjust, adapt, and work our way through this in a positive way. 

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