User-Led Innovation Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Steven Spielberg

A friend in Tokyo passed me this article written by the two Danish designers Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen via Twitter yesterday:

In the article, they claim innovation takes place inside the corporation, specifically in the design department. The designers should trust their craft, the corporation should market the product. The users will eventually buy it.

Making user-centric designed products just adds to costs with unnecessary consultants involved in the process.

They also have references:

Could you imagine Steven Spielberg starting out new film projects with intense user studies and insights? Not really.


Steven Spielberg revolutionized the struggling film industry in the seventies.

But how did Spielberg do it?

On an early test screening for the film a nervous Spielberg watched the film play out to an audience from the back of the theatre. Twenty minutes in a man stands up and runs out of the auditorium. Spielberg thinks to himself he has overdone the violence. The man eventually returns from the bathroom, the director realising the guy went in there to throw up. Wow, he thought, maybe I do have a hit on my hands. He recalls, “The audience was screaming and the popcorn was flying in the air. I thought someone had hired 650 clackers, and had paid them a lot of money to scream at all the appropriate moments.” Spielberg, eager to get more screams out of his film after the audience test cards were wholly positive, added the shot of Ben Gardner’s head coming out of the hole in his boat. Subsequent test screenings were even more enthusiastic. Spielberg had captured the word of mouth buzz surrounding The Exorcist, and the universal appeal of The Godfather’s familial opus, and given it to everybody. Because even though those films were very special, they were made for adults. Now everybody had their film – the mass audience: children and adults.*

The reference is not that relevant in the first place. A movie director wants to be an artist with freedom of expression. The product development is a compromise he has to make with the studio. The studio wants to test “the product” with users. In this case it worked brilliantly. It created a gamechanging blockbuster.

The other references – in the headline, no less – are the obvious “holy” companies from the design crowd: Apple and IKEA. Right now, both companies are under hard scrutiny from the users. Apple for their child labour in production facilities and censorship in their app store. IKEA from hiding profits from taxation and racism inside the organization. Both are sitting on huge piles of cash that they should activate by involving their users more. (Hint: they want lower prices, better service, more openness).

I predict we will see a reaction AGAINST companies like Apple and IKEA and more sympathy towards companies INVOLVING and LISTENING to users more in the future.

The article itself is published on I could not comment on the post. I had to go to Fast Company, the mother site, to register first. I went back to comment, but it still did not work.

They should do more user tests on the site.

It just might create a breaktrough one day.


One thought

  1. Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s