The other key disruptor is empathy. Probably every company would say they try to understand their customer — and that they’ve done the market research to prove it! — but what I’m talking about in this context is a bit more subtle, it’s a combination of respect and emotional intelligence (i.e. the ability to recognize and relate to the feelings of another person) that enables you to create truly amazing user experiences. (Instagram is a good example of a company that soared ahead of its competition with a better designed, empathy-driven product.) I just don’t think it’s possible to build an amazing product or app or whatever without being able to empathize with and understand the person who is supposed to be using it. On some fundamental level great design is able to get into the mindset of a user and anticipate, guide, and delight. None of that is possible without empathy.
This is why I’m skeptical of things like UX research and A/B testing. Either you, as the person building a product, have the passion and empathy to create something that people will truly love, or you don’t. No amount of research will lead you to something that people embrace in the way they embrace something like Instagram or Tumblr, and in my experience things that are the product of research can often end up feeling functional but a bit hollow.