Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Epilogue: The NBA Puts The Final Nail In The Synthetic Basketball Design Coffin

Back in January of 2007, I blogged about the NBA fiasco of designing a new synthetic basketball. The key component that was missing from their product lifecycle was a listening channel. They didn't garner and filter feedback from their customers, the players, until AFTER they delivered it.

It was announced today that the NBA will end its attempts at developing a new basketball altogether and stick with the familiar leather version. Here is a quote from Tim Frank, NBA spokesman:

"We are committed to leather for the foreseeable future," league spokesman Tim Frank said. "We just realized leather is what our guys wanted."

They just “realized” is an understatement. The feedback from players was incredibly strong. The synthetic ball they deployed would actually leave tiny cuts on the players' hands. Another interesting comment from the NBA is:

The NBA also formed a committee of top players to test the new versions and offer their input, something that was not done the first time.

I'm still shocked that they didn't include actual users during the original synthetic design. At least they learned second time around, to ultimately deliver…what they had in the first place.

The value of vetted customer feedback synthesized into new products and features is something that should be ubiquitous. It should be as concrete a component to the product lifecycle as development and testing are. The companies that realize this succeed. For every company that doesn't, we have an NBA Synthetic ball story.

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