He also documents a personal history of “lessons learned the hard way” through a startup venture that nearly failed. At various points in “The Lean Startup” Ries asserts that customer research is pointless because “customers don’t know what they want in advance.” (Ries, 2011, p. 49) While that statement is largely true on the surface, it is also deeply misleading. No one with experience in new product research would ever directly ask a target customer “What features or functionality do you want in ‘New Product X’?” … and expect to get a reasonable answer. That’s not how it’s done. Instead, you ask your customers to help you understand their world, and then build something that fits well within it.
There are many variants on the theme, but stripped to the basics, productive new product development research is a two-phase process that usually starts with a category exploration, often qualitative in nature, and then continues with at least one artfully crafted concept test.