Productivizing the Engineer

Engineers adore solving problems that nobody has and we love solving problems with technology, even if non-technological solution would be much more efficient. Occasionally this approach produces things that gain mass appeal and then we like to pat each other on our engineering's backs that we are so smart and the users so stupid. You hear even very bright and open-minded engineers uttering non-senses such as that "if Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses", though history teaches us that Karl Benz patented automobile in 1885, while  Model T was introduced more than 20 years later when the concept of a automobile was already validated by the users.

The best remedy how to bring engineers from their ivory towers is to get them in contact with the real users of their products. But if you'll force your programmers to participate at user interviews their feeling of superiority will only increase while watching users' ignorance. Much better approach is to show to the engineers only the parts of the interviews where their product was obviously failing and the parts where the users used the product in an innovative way unanticipated by the programmer. Showing the engineers such unexpected episodes shatters their feeling of omniscience and superiority and make them interested in actually listening to the users, which is the first step towards building the products that people would actually buy and use.