Assumption number one in the food industry used to be that the way to find out what people want to eat – what will make people happy – is to ask them.  And for years and years and years and years, Ragu and Prego would have focus groups, and they would sit all you people down, and they would say, “What do you want in a spaghetti sauce? Tell us what you want in a spaghetti sauce.” And for all those years – 20, 30 years – through all those focus group sessions, no one ever said they wanted extra chunky. Even though at least a third of them, deep in their hearts, actually did.

Malcolm Gladwell

Update:  Nigel Bell cogently observes:

He is, of course, spot on. Sauce manufacturers are not universal service providers. That makes the public sector service designer’s life more difficult, though it does not change the basic power of the perception that we are none of us even experts on our own preferences.


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