The best gifts are those that the recipient didn’t know they wanted. Yet most of us make wish lists anyways. It’s a great metaphor for understanding design.
Ben Thompson’s analysis of gift giving is helpful to understand why asking the customer what they want (focus groups and surveys) will never lead to a truly delightful experience.
But it also explains why so many companies don’t go beyond filling the customer’s feature shopping list. If you don’t fundamentally understand customers’ underlying motivations and desires—and most companies do not—there’s great danger is attempting to go further and guessing wrong.
John Moran’s terrific “Design Is About Intent" makes a similar argument regarding giving the user infinite choices - it’s like giving cash for a gift because you just don’t know enough (or take enough time) to give something more meaningful.
James Victore’s battle cry “your work is a gift" also mines this vein. (Salty language…)