I relayed this idea to a more senior associate in an email, ending it with a modified version of the saying, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
The response back was essentially, "We're in the business of selling fish," oh - and get back to work. While I'm sure I could have done a better job of pitching my idea, it still strikes me today as being a short-sighted strategy.
I've found several people who had heard this story that side with this approach. In Chris Guillebeau's book The $100 Startup, he talks about a similar idea. He paints a picture of ordering a fish for dinner at a fancy restaurant and then having the waiter hand you an apron so you could cook it yourself. The point is that you should give your customers what they want and not make them work for it.
But is that the only way to go? In the software market our competitors were more like the high-end restaurants, so shouldn't we have taken a different approach? After all, they do have restaurants where you can cook your own food.
I heard a podcast from HBR titled Who Your Customers Want to Become that points out that who your customers are and want they want isn't static but dynamic, and a successful business is mindful in helping them on their journeys. Think of your customer as in his own story and you're wise to do everything possible to make the him the hero of the story. I think there's room for building customers knowledge and serving them.
When confronted by the possibility of change, is your first action to defend the status quo? Is your business model designed to thrive on your customer's ignorance? Are you in the business of selling fish? Am I completely mistaken? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter. (If you're shy you could even email me.)