What are the limitations of market research?

One of my favorite blogs is Signal vs. Noise. That’s where I recently read a post about the meeting between Steve Jobs and apparently one of his biggest heroes, Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid. Here is a little taste:

Dr Land was saying: “I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.”

And Steve said: “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.” He said if I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say now what do you think?” (Click here to read the rest of the post.)
_ _ _

My 2¢: In his concluding remarks, Abraham Lincoln said the following in December of 1862 to the second annual meeting of the US Congress: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

Let me ask you: can market research really help you create something remarkable? Instead of an answer, I offer you a quote from Henry Ford, regarding the first car he ever built: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”