Neil Tambe

Husband, Father, Citizen, Professional.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Has anyone really thought about what Detroit needs?

One way to simplify business school, is to know that to succeed in business you have to do this. Seriously, this is all you've gotta do:

  1. Define who your customer is.
  2. Find out what they need.
  3. Imagine something that will fill your customer's need.
  4. Make it.
  5. Give it to them.

That's it, that's all you've gotta do. Of course, there's a lot of  sophistication with how to make this happen.

The beauty of this 5 step process is that it's broadly applicable. You could apply it to lots of different organizations across sectors, whether it is a foundation, a family, a government, a neighborhood, a non-profit...anything. What I can't fathom is what Detroit needs. I have my own opinion on what Detroit needs, but I can't find anyone articulating it clearly across the city. In my observation, everyone is prescribing solutions and not understanding real needs. Here's what I mean:

Breaking it down for Detroit to succeed

  1. Define who your customer is. - This is easy, sort of, let's assume citizens of the City of Detroit.
  2. Find out what they need. - This is what I don't see being articulated. Do people need agency? Do they need to feel safe? Do they need distraction and entertainment? Do they need opportunity? What does Detroit need, really?
  3. Imagine something that will fill your customer's need. - Street Lights, No Blight, Public Transportation, Good Schools (notice that these are solutions, not descriptions of need.)
  4. Make it. - Self explanatory.
  5. Give it to them. - Self explanatory.

Here's why it matters. For every need that exists, there's hundreds of ways to solve that need. Take "bring light to darkness in your home" as an example of a need. You could solve that need with a fire, a lantern, a fluorescent light, an incandescent light, a flashlight, etc. People don't need lamps, they need light in dark places. There's a difference.

The problem is, when you don't define what someone needs really well, it's hard to give them a solution that really works for them. Providing solutions to problems is aided greatly by defining the right need. Solutions without real needs don't last and aren't useful.

So for real, if anyone has found good articulations of what Detroit needs (or what subgroups of Detroiters need) please point me to it. If nobody has found anything, we're in a bad spot because it means people are prescribing solutions without understanding needs. That leads to bad solutions or solutions that work only because of luck.