The comments are a much better read than the actual post, which coughs up the same tired mythologies you've already heard a hundred, if not a thousand, times. [e.g. Henry Ford and the "faster horse" soundbite, the "Apple doesn't do research" myth, and more of the same.]
Mr. Pallotta talks about his experience creating a successful charity fundraiser ride as if he created it in a complete vacuum, but it was successful because it was bold.
There are truths to be made on both sides of any controversy.
Truth #1: Good ideas are sometimes killed with bad research. I've experienced this personally, although I'm bold enough to claim that I haven't contributed the bad research, just some good ideas that died at the hands of others.
Truth #2: Leaders who claim to not need insight research are either idiots, or they have a strong pipeline of connection to customers that they are calling "not research." Sometimes the connection is a simple one -- they are part of the target group personally. More often, in large organizations, a lot of people are actually gathering insights all the time. But they might not call it that.
Truth #3: The focus group is only as good as the people using it. [aka: It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools.]
A few of the more insightful comments:
From Tony Flanders:
"The new model is --- engage, listen, dialogue, synthesize -- oops; that's actually the old focus group model."
[Tony has posted an interesting article on focus groups on his blog, here]
From Nick Coster:
"The opportunities for innovation exist when we are able to strip what the market says it wants back to it’s underlying needs.This removes any given solution from the discussion (ie horse or internal combustion engine car) and abstracts it to I need to get from A to B in less that 1 hour."
From Richard Harris:
"First, congratulations. I think you're the first person to post something on the HBR blog that pissed people off.
Second, I would have been curious to know what market-sensing mechanisms you do use to decide things like how bold to be. Something made you choose 7 days/600 miles/$2000 as your standard. It sounds bold, but you weren't so bold as to go for the round trip. How did you know how far to push the envelope?"
From Matt Towers:
"On the surface, it is sort of a flat Earth mentality that advocates that less information is better than more. It bespeaks a lack of confidence in understanding how to use information to make decisions."
And this gem: "Apple does do research, they just don't talk about it."
From Steve Willson:
"The key point that runs through the discussion is that to be successful an organization needs to listen to it's customers. They are talking, so you need to pay attention.
Whatever methods you use to engage them in a constructive dialog are better than shutting yourself off from the world and emerging with a set of features that are based on what you can build, not on what people want."
Care to add your own experiences? Please do.