I am Smart. You are Smart. Whose Opinion Counts?

By | September 5, 2012

thumb_argumentI’ve lived it many times…two intelligent executives arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong. Both with smart compelling arguments that are diametrically opposed, and neither one budging on their position. Or perhaps its the bright eyed product manager trying to sell through their idea to a stakeholder who questions every assumption they have made. When you’re working with smart people, smart responses are never enough. You’ve got to know whose opinion counts. Don’t let your company make the mistake of deferring to the highest paid person’s opinion. IT’S THE CUSTOMER WHO COUNTS.

During my five years of leading new product development initiatives at Leapfrog, a children’s educational software company, we never presented to an executive until we had customer feedback. LOTS of customer feedback. Our frequent interactions with children and parents to test our ideas, prototypes, and functional products led to higher quality products that hit the mark (and won awards), as well as a more streamlined approval process. In the making of “FLY THROUGH MATH: Multiplication and Division” for the FLY Pentop Computer we worked with nearly 500 tween toy testers throughout the year long development cycle and made adjustments according to their feedback. Most of these interactions were casual – one or several kids coming to the office to check out a prototype and answer some questions in exchange for a gift card. Other interactions were more formal using an off-site facility with a two way mirror and a professional facilitator.

The result was the same – when presenting to executives, we didn’t use theories and persuasive presentations to back up our ideas, we used data. And when data alone didn’t work, we showed video examples of testers interacting with and commenting on the product. There’s no better way to shut down the “I think…” statements that can chip away at the integrity of a product concept than to be able to say, “well, I talked to the customers and this is what they think…”

FLY Through Math

FLY Through Math

So, use focus groups and usability tests not only to make your product better, but to ease executive approval. Don’t make up excuses that you have no budget (you can always facilitate it youself and give away swag or $25 gift cards – everyone can afford that), or that you don’t have enough time. You’ll be amazed how much time it will save in the end to rid your executive staff of doubt.

After all, no one, not even the smartest highest paid person in the room, can argue with the customer…

Laurie Peterson published 8 software titles at Leafrog and launched 4 new educational gaming platforms. Her products received the following awards:

FLY PENTOP COMPUTER
The first product to earn three toy industry association awards
!
Best Toy of the Year, TOTY
Most Innovative Toy of the Year, TOTY
Best Educational Toy of the Year, TOTY

LEAPSTER:
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
Most Innovative Toy of the Year, TOTY
Best Educational Toy of the Year, TOTY
Toy Wishes All Star
Toy Wishes Hot Dozen
Toy of the Year, Nick Jr.
Best Software and Video Games, Children’s Magazine
The High-Tech Hot List, Family Circle

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS SAVED THE DAY:
5 Stars – Amazon
Best Audio, other media – Game Audio Network Guild

DORA THE EXPLORER, WILDLIFE RESCUE
5 Stars – Amazon
5 Stars – Children’s Software Review

iParenting Media Award

MY OWN LEARNING LEAP
Best Pick, Computing With Kids Magazine

QUANTUM PAD
Best Educational Toy of the Year, TOTY
Toy Wishes All Star
Toy Wishes Hot Dozen
Winner’s Circle, the Today Show Toy Test
Recommended Award Winner, Parent’s Choice

 

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