Why a variety of feedback is great for product development

Many of us remember the 1988 movie “Big” with Tom Hanks when he majestically awakens as an adult and eventually finds himself working at a toy company.

His enthusiasm and excitement are admired by his co-workers as he puts many of the new toys to the test with quick assessments of “cool” toys and toys that are “lame.” Executives at the toy company quickly notice his unique approach and question how and why he reacts differently than their employees.

I recently recalled this storyline when I was reading “What if there were more women in tech?” by Zoe Kleinman on Oct 11, 2016, in BBC News. Kleinman’s article highlights missed opportunities in product development due to a narrower view of the product’s assessment and design.

Some examples highlighted in the article as opportunities:

■  New laptops and phones aimed at women would focus on technical specifications and features rather than on being pink.

  DSLR cameras would have smaller, lighter bodies with buttons positioned for smaller hands.

  Cars would be less of a status symbol and include more woman-friendly aspects such as extra storage, different body size assumptions and different features highlighted on the displays.

As I get in and out of my car, I often find the central console ineffective for the many things I have to store, access and connect.

No surprise, “the vast majority of female car designers are employed doing decorating-type jobs,” as stated on CNN.com on Jan. 28, 2016, in the article titled: “See this car?It was designed by a woman.” It goes on to share “Though most vehicles are in fact designed by men, that gender disparity is fading, albeit slowly.”

Angus MacKenzie, editor-at-large at Motor Trend magazine adds that “Good design is good design; it transcends gender, and everyone knows it when they see it.”

How do you make sure your design, product and end solution meet the needs of your buyers?

Here are some suggestions to engage fresh eyes with proper non-disclosure agreements into your product development cycle:

  Engage existing customers.
  Organize site visits for specific guests.
  Arrange visits to specific groups of people (colleges, nursing homes, community groups).
  Partner with organizations (Tech Savvy Women, National Association of Women Business Owners).
  Create contests or social media posts to find specific viewpoints.

As I reflect, I have worked with companies that have successfully engaged existing customers and desired buyers into the development cycle. Although it often lengthens the development process, it can generate enhanced results.

For those of you discussing future career tracks with young adults, Stewart Reed heads the transportation department at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and he encourages more women to apply.

He states “carmakers would be delighted to have more women. The notion of, ‘Oh, she’s just a woman, is long gone.’”

JJ DiGeronimo is President at TechSavvy Women.