Focus Groups Never Lie

George GilderI’ve been re-reading George Gilder’s brilliant Telecosm and I came across this telling anecdote about focus groups.
In 1980 when Bob Metcalfe, inventer of ethernet, came to the industrial megacorporation General Electric on behalf of his fledgling company 3COM, the GE executives explained that they had done considerable research on the new personal computer and networking industries. In focus groups composed of GE customers held all over the country, executives were told over and over that there was no consumer interest in personal computers. PCs, the focus groups said, only were of interest to businesses. And the same could be said for networking. The was no home PC market, and never would be.

General Electric decided to stick with refrigerators, nuclear reactors, and light bulbs, and to this day has never dabbled in personal computing or networking.