This summer, I read a fascinating article by Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker. It was titled “Looking for Someone: Sex, love and loneliness on the Internet.”
What resonated with me was less about dating and more about the curious assortment of algorithms that companies use to determine the dot.com chemistry.
“What you do is more important than what you say,” says Greg Blatt, who is the former C.E.O. of Match.com.
“You may specify that you’d like your date to be blond or tall or Jewish or a non-smoking Democrat, but you may have a habit of reaching out to pot-smoking South Asian Republicans.
This is called “revealed preference,” and it is the essential element in Match’s algorithmic process. Match knows what’s right for you—even if it doesn’t really know you. After taking stock of your stated and revealed preferences, the software finds people on the site who have similar dissonances between the two, and uses their experiences to approximate what yours should be.
You may have sent introductory messages to only two people, and marked a few others with a wink—a nonverbal expression of interest—but Match will have hundreds of people in its database who have done a lot more on the site, and whose behavior yours seems to resemble. From them, depending on the degree of correlation, the software extrapolates about you.”
What resonated for me was the concept of “revealed preference.” Basically, you can say whatever you want, but let’s pay even more attention to what you actually do.
This has powerful implications for innovation. Companies spend a lot of time listening to consumers trying to determine what they want next. But what are their revealed preferences?
Too often, companies get their answer when the product fails in the marketplace.
Sometimes an unmet need is just an unwanted item.
The lesson here is to listen to customers, but to see that input as only a part of the picture. It’s about tapping into behavior, trends, experiences, and your own sense of what would delight.
That combination just may be the perfect match.
- Can Science Explain Our Online Dating Habits? (huffingtonpost.com)