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How to Get a Great Understanding of Your Customers

Article-How to Get a Great Understanding of Your Customers

How to Get a Great Understanding of Your Customers

I recently went to visit Autodesk's new facility that is built on a pier in San Francisco. They call it their Pier 9 Workshop. For somebody who likes to build stuff (like me), it's like being a kid in a candy store. The various labs within the workshop include a digital fabrication lab, woodworking and metalworking shops, an electronics workshop, a commercial test kitchen (shown below), and an industrial sewing center. It reminded me a little of the various workshops we had in high school, just taken up several orders of magnitude.

One of the key goals for the facility is to gain a better understanding of what its customers are trying to accomplish. For example, if a customer wants to build a particular product, the Autodesk engineers can literary build that product in the workshop, and then understand the customer's pains (and hopefully alleviate those pains using its software). It's a pretty expensive bet, as the equipment in the workshops is all state of the art, but the early returns are quite positive.

The workshop is primarily open to employees and what Autodesk calls "artists-in-residence." But the ideas can come from anywhere. To that end, employees can take classes in the workshop so they can learn how to use all the equipment (just like high school!). I was particularly impressed with the 3D printing lab and the laser cutting and printing capabilities (see the image).

And the fun goes right to the top. This go-cart was designed and built by Autodesk's CEO, Carl Bass. He designed it using the company's Fusion 360 software. It's great that the CEO is so hands on and actually walks the walk.

I have a few ideas of my own that I'd like to create. I'm hoping the Autodesk folks will let me loose in their workshop.

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