10/11/2011 07:58 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

The Genius of Steve Jobs: Knowing What People Want Before They Do

Economists consider what consumers want to be God-given. We don't dare question consumer preferences. They are what they are. Well, it turns out God has a name, and it's Steve Jobs.

Jobs touched innumerable lives in many important ways. He's also famous for saying that:

It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

He was better than most at showing people what they wanted--certainly on par with the likes of Henry Ford, who a century earlier quipped: "If I listened to the public, I'd be making faster horses."

This fact also has important implications for policy. Many energy efficiency efforts benefit everyone. They are good for consumers, producers, and the planet. And you only get there if you believe that sometimes, just maybe, consumers aren't always the 100% rational automatons who would never consider buying an iPad because they had never thought about needing one in the first place. Recognizing that was the genius of Steve Jobs.