Thursday April 6, 2006

Learning From OXO

Our wrong assumptions lead to the best learning.

—Alex Lee, president, OXO (in Fast Company's First Impression for Mar 31 2006)

You're probably familiar with OXO from your grocery store's kitchen tools aisle. OXO makes those interesting spatulas, ice cream scoops, potato mashers, and vegetable peelers with the thick, black rubber handles that fit so nicely and ergonomically in your hand. They're not cheap but they're obviously well made and a pleasure to use.

In October, 2005, FastCompany Magazine published an article entitled OXO's Favorite Mistakes in which they said "The company behind some of the best-designed kitchen tools learns the most when it does something wrong."

It's an interesting an informative article. Here's my favorite excerpt:

After learning that a lot of Sunday morning emergency-room visits involved bagel-slicing injuries, OXO sensed an opportunity. The engineers and designers set about creating a safer slicer that would hold bagels and keep users' hands out of the way. They planned to introduce the product at the annual International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago in 1997. But when the team tried a demonstration just before the show--yikes!--the bagels slipped and slid around in the slicer. Turns out Chicago bagels are puny compared with their hefty New York counterparts used in the development and testing.

One of the company's guiding philosophies, dating back to OXO founder Sam Farber, is universal design. A product's function should be immediately apparent, and anyone should be able to use it. OXO had its nationwide sales force send in every bagel they could find. The samples helped engineers design a more accommodating bagel slicer, not simply a New York bagel slicer. They extended the internal ribs deeper into the device to hold small bagels and also made them flexible enough to contain large ones.

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Learning From OXO ( in category Noteworthy , Odd Corners ) - posted at Thu, 06 Apr, 14:36 Pacific | «e»