OXO's Favorite Mistakes (13 Oct 2005)
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.
More recently, OXO made a similar mistake with a new toilet brush, which, as it turned out, didn't fit one-third of toilets on the market. Which raises the question: Shouldn't there be a way to anticipate problems like those posed by bagels and toilets, and cut out all the trial and error? As frustrating as the "rework" is, says Lee, it's part of the design process, a necessary by-product of experimentation. "You could design a process to catch everything, but then you're overprocessing," he says. "You kill creativity. You kill productivity. By definition, a culture like ours that drives innovation is managed chaos."
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