It is the year 1983. Toto hit the number one spot in the charts with “Africa” — a song which, by now, truly had many, many lives. It was the year the Internet came to be and the first mobile cellular telephone call was being made. But it was also the year when, should you have bought a personal computer — likely an Apple IIe or maybe an IBM PC-compatible machine — you might have found yourself leaving the computer store, the new computer in your shopping cart, ready to be loaded into the trunk of your car, being approached by a nicely dressed young man who introduced himself as being “Scott from Intuit”. Scott — that is Scott Cook, the founder and CEO of software company Intuit, would have told you about his new accounting software, called Quicken, and asked if he could give you a copy and watch you install it.
And so Intuit established their “Follow Me Home” (FMH) tradition. To this day, Intuit employees regularly spend time with their customers — not asking them to come to Intuit HQ in Mountain View, California and sit down in their nice cafeteria under the Californian sun, sip some flavored sparkling water imported from some exotic sounding town in Europe, enjoy one of the many free snacks, to talk about their use of Intuits software, but actually following their customers home. Following in the footsteps of biologist and nature documentary filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, Intuits employees observe their study subjects in their natural habitat — carefully avoiding any interference, just taking in everything their customers do; their little annoyances, the small hacks they deployed to make something work just they way they want, the things they do by hand despite having their computer in front of them, the moments where they could do something with their computer but don’t as they might not even know it is possible.
This practice has since been expanded and refined since those early days of Scott talking to PC users on the parking lot of the local computer store — with the most important element of a successful FMH being the ability to walk into a session “with no assumptions or expectations on how the interviewee will use the products or what set of challenges they face on a daily basis.” By doing so, you allow yourself to “be surprised”, avoid applying preconceived notions and biases to the situation, or seeking out confirmation for assumptions you hold (confirmation bias). Cook and his team at Intuit, as well as countless organizations which have adopted a FMH practice, found the insights into their customers jobs-to-be-done invaluable, often surprising, sometimes even counterintuitive — and regularly the spark for wholly new business lines.
When will you do your first (or next) Follow Me Home?