Why user focus must be more than lip service
In Greek mythology, Antaeus was a giant who was stronger than everyone. He derived his extraordinary strength from his connection to his mother, the earth. As long as he maintained contact with the ground, he was invincible. Learning this, Hercules lifted Antaeus up to sever his connection to the earth and then was able to squeeze the weakened giant to death.
Antaeus Inc. is the modern day equivalent of the same story. Successful companies are built and sustained by maintaining a strong connection to their users. The origin of their strength is in the connection to customers - the same origin that birthed the idea, back when it was just the founding team. But as companies change hands, grow bigger, and start cycling in new leaders, managers, and employees, it becomes increasingly easy to forget this source of strength. They become mired in internal politics, management desires, and other problems that come with maintaining the organizational machinery.
Antaeus Inc. doesn’t need a Hercules to lift it from the ground - it severs the connection itself, by simply forgetting the importance of understanding its own users. Every company claims to be “user-focused” but ask yourself how many things are done simply because someone senior said so? How many of your colleagues can really articulate who your users are, let alone have talked to one? How much work does any individual do that is geared towards ensuring a promotion rather than a clear user need? Unlike the mythological giant who was forcibly lifted by Hercules, Antaeus Inc. lifted itself.
Now for the dangerous part - Antaeus Inc. doesn’t know it has abandoned the source of its strength. Clever competitors, small or big, can come after it and each take away more and more of Antaeus Inc.’s users and market share. Antaeus Inc.’s misstep gives opportunity to all its competitors to achieve the same feat as Hercules and slay a giant.
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