Never, ever underestimate your customers


We all worry. Will our customers get it? Will they know what to do? Will they know where to click? Have we made things as easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy as humanly possibly?

Well, get this.

The utterly wonderful One Laptop Per Child project recently dropped off a consignment of over 20 Android-powered Motorola tablets in an Ethiopian village where the locals had no reading and writing skills. “You won’t even see printed labels or words on bottles,” said OLPC’s chairman, Nicholas Negroponte, “these people have never even seen words.” The boxes were taped shut and contained no instructions and, not unreasonably, Negroponte thought the local kids would just play with the boxes and leave the tablets in the dirt.

But here’s the thing…

Within four minutes, one child had figured out how to turn his tablet on (remember: he’d never so much as seen an on-off switch before).

Within five days, the children were using an average of 47 apps every day.

Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs. In English.

And, within five months, they realised that the tablets featured cameras but they’d somehow been disabled. To solve the problem, they hacked the Android operating system to get the cameras working.

Children who had previously had absolutely no reading or writing skills hacked Android within five months.


And we worry whether we’ve put a button in the right place, or phrased an FAQ just-so. It’s a massive lesson to us all: get your ideas out there, minimum viable project, get people using them. Because, if the concept is good, they’ll learn, they’ll adapt, they’ll use it. They’ll just get it.


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