Focusing on what we do for our customers is short-sighted. Rather than looking at what we do, we should look at what our customers want. This is the core message from a seminal article written in 1960 by Theodore Levitt, a distinguished Harvard Business School professor.

This is as true today as it was 50 years ago. Too often we look at innovating what we can, rather than what is wanted by existing and potential customers. Sustainable business growth requires a particular mind set and focus.

Growth cannot be taken for granted, even in so called growth industries. It is more a management task of spotting where future growth may lie, rather than just exploiting what is already known. It is all about being customer centric and delivering the benefits they want.

Most growth plans are predicated on assumptions about the current status. That profit can be increased by delivering ever lower costs. That their product knowledge is such that their product cannot be surpassed or that growth is commensurate with population trends. These assumptions are short-sighted or myopic, yet they still prevail.

To achieve long term, sustainable and profitable growth focus instead on delivering the fundamental benefits that customers are seeking. Start by doing the research about what it is that your customers actually want from your company.