Over the past week, we have seen a lot of great essays and stories on Apple's visionary co-founder Steve Jobs, a man who combined exceptional design and science to produce some pretty extraordinary products.
Many of these essays have cited a Jobs quip to a reporter who asked about the market research that went into the iPad. He famously told the reporter, "None. It's not the consumers' job to know what they want."
While Jobs and team eschewed research for R&D, it should be noted that Apple has done a lot of research ranging from customer satisfaction with AppleCare to research around the launch iTunes and maintains a significant marketing research department.
Jobs and his R&D team could get away with not doing market research or talking with customers because of the markets they played in, their innate skills, and their cult-like customers. They simply designed elegant high quality products with simple interfaces that appealed to one audience—themselves. And in their market and with their brand, they could get away with it.
If you’re Jobs and your team has that discipline and skill to think through what people will want, you can skip research. But how many companies have a Steve Jobs? Jobs was one of a kind and I doubt that there will be another. Unless you have a Steve Jobs as CEO or as head of R&D, I would discourage eliminating your research budget.