Monday, June 16, 2008

OXO Gets Innovation Right By Design

I saw Alex Lee, CEO of OXO, speak at GEL 2008. He provided great insight into their innovation funnel. I thought it very interesting that the byproduct of a company known for its user-centric design is a built-in idea channel. He said that they constantly get ideas from consumers. Most of these are of course either obvious or unrealistic, but they have a great way of filtering these ideas. They have 4 criteria that each idea must meet. If an idea is great, but only meets 3 of 4 of the criteria, it doesn't get commercialized. Here are their 4 criteria:

  • You must be able to understand what it does just by looking at it
  • Knowing how to use it has to be obvious (no instructions!)
  • It must be thought provoking
  • It should warrant consistent use (not a use-once-and-put-away product)

Having a very clear map of how to vet ideas seems like an invaluable tool, especially when you are swamped with ideas.

Another thing that jumped out at me from his talk was that verbatim feedback from customers is not useful. They have found that their customers can't articulate their problems well. This is true in most domains, not just in kitchen gadgetry. Being able to filter customer feedback is essential to innovation.

Recently I received an email from Christopher Kimball's America's Test Kitchen. They are like Consumer Reports for cooking. In it, they reviewed OXO's Mango Splitter. At the end of the review is validation that OXO's idea filter is working as intended:

Oxo Mango Splitter is one of those rare kitchen gadgets that works.


Justin Knecht said...

I miss GEL over here ... we use OXO as a case study and as the basis of an exercise during our user-centred design workshops. Hadn't heard of their idea filter which is great, and a necessary step. Generatign ideas is "easy", but selecting the right ideas is hard.

Michael Grossman said...

Thanks for the comment. Sounds like a great workshop you have there. I somewhat agree with you that ideas that are are easy to generate, especially if they are surface level. There are methodologies to generate a higher level of idea fodder that I've used to isolate more of the "unknown unknowns" type. I think there is a balance between garnering good idea material through field study work and then being able to filter which ideas to put into commercialization.