Mark Zuckerberg presented a different perspective at Startup School a few years ago where he mentioned that at Facebook they listened to their users both quantitatively and qualitatively.
This is very different from the more Jobs-ian perspective of building what the company believes their users want and not listening as much to the noise from the masses.
I love these varying thoughts and different points of view as I think it’s healthy to consider all points and perspectives; although you shouldn’t do it too frequently, just enough to remember that you don’t hold the golden truth nugget of customer engagement, product development, or business creation.
Historically I’ve tried to balance these competing tensions to varying degrees and I’m sure that I can do a better job altogether. There have been times where I ignore the masses entirely and there are times where I’ve listened to the disparate voices far too much for my own good.
I think over time I’ve begun to bend more in line with Mr. Jobs – I know what I want to build (scratching my own itch) and the last few products I’ve simply built them for myself. I think the longer you live in a building mindset the more you realize that what you build will always have an audience, as “odd” as your solution might be.
Listening well, then, isn’t so much about what you’re hearing and how you’re interpreting it than it is about who you are listening to. I trust my own thoughts more than the suspect and uninformed masses.