There’s more to building a great product than just studying the market or the technology or competitors. You need to have taste too. You need to understand what “great” means in a big picture sense, not just in your chosen field.
At least that’s what Steve Jobs thinks:
Great products, according to Mr. Jobs, are triumphs of “taste.” And taste, he explains, is a byproduct of study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you are doing.”
Want to build a great iPhone app? Go listen to Billie Holliday. Trying to design a piece of hardware? Visit a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Aiming to write great marketing copy? Read Aldous Huxley. Need a color scheme? Go to the museum and check out some Mark Rothko paintings.
Studying masters in a wide range of fields is how you learn greatness. Their creations may not have a direct, instant benefit on whatever you’re making, but soaking them in will change the way you think and the decisions you make. (Side benefit: You’ll be a lot more interesting person too.)
Related: Acquire taste [SvN]