7 lessons that even ‘a one year old baby’ can teach you about product development.

baby1It is many a times said that a child is the father of man. Surprisingly its true. I believe this, post last weekend, when a one year old baby taught me great insights about product development that several books couldn’t.

First things first – the story. I visited a relative last weekend. After a wholesome lunch we all relaxed to chat a bit. Within a couple of minutes we find that a year old kid in the family starts disturbing repetitively. The grand father decides to get rid of this by giving her a toy game purchased on her last birthday. Silence!  for a few moments. We proceed with the chat. Exactly after 2 minutes the child again starts shouting / crying. The dad says “What a mischievous kid. We used to die for simple and stupid toys in our childhood days and she isn’t able to play on with this costly thing even for half an hour!”
Something hits really hard to me. There has to be a reason behind this. (I know you don’t generally start analyzing such situations, but at times it is such situations that reveal you great insights. Carry on and I show you how). I said “I want to give it a try. Let me try to convince the kid and let her play. So that, you can enjoy the chat”. All laugh at me and leave me with the kid. The toy is dead simple. You have to push a button and balls start popping out of the funnel in the toy. It makes various sounds. Throws various lights and in a round robin fashion the balls dance before getting into the base of the toy again to pop out from the funnel.
The cover of the toy says that the color of lights used is softer and will not harm your child’s eyes. The music that comes amuses tiny tots and the plastic used is completely safe. Most of the parents (those who care) will check this and later buy the toy. But here’s where the problem is. The toy wasn’t made for the parent to play. Was it? Here the customer and the consumer are different. Again there is one more important thing that I notice. (Very important) Whatever you give a one year old, he will either try to eat it or throw it back at you. Try your luck as much as you can but this is what he does. Why is this so? The reason is again dead simple. This is what he knows yet. He can either eat or throw back. Nothing more than that. The grave assumption the toy company makes is that the kid will press a button and then enjoy the show of dancing balls without doing anything! Is that possible. Yes it amuses the kid once or twice to see but the third time he is utterly frustrated. I take out the balls and ask the kid to throw. He does that and enjoys. The next time he throws it goes in another direction. He enjoys again. He is now a part of the game and not a spectator. More than an hour and we are still playing…

Great insights !
We make awesome products to an existing demand. But we can sustain and reap more profits understanding how the product is used. Apple knows multi touch is important than a 5 mega pixel camera in an iPhone. Ask yourself how many of you use your mobile camera more than 2 days in a week. Ok that can be confronting. Have you ever used all the features/options/settings of your mobile phone? At times we concentrate on wrong features. And these so called ‘features’ are the features of death for our own products.

So here are the 7 quick lessons told to me by a kid who can’t even speak

  1. Knowing your consumer is much important than knowing your customer.
  2. Understand how your product is getting used. Don’t Assume.
  3. Asking at times to the user is better than shelling out tons on your so-called research and development.
  4. List all those awesome features and ask the customer which one, if not present, will not make any difference? That’s the one that needs no further development.
  5. Don’t consider the customer post your product development. Make him a part of it.
  6. Don’t play with the basic fundamentals of your product, customer and Business. They make a foundation for your success.
  7. Lastly, often play with a kid. There are great insights hidden there for grown-ups.

Hope you enjoyed the post. Finally a takeaway quote from thinkexist.com

“A child is not a vase to filled but a fire to be lit”

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Abhinav Sonkar June 23, 2009 at 4:15 am

Great insights there… The first point, highlighting the difference between consumer and customer is very interesting. It’s so easy to focus on the customer and miss out on the actual customer – the consumer!

Chanda Himanshu June 23, 2009 at 5:50 am

Thanks Abhinav, I believe not only in child products. We do this mistake a couple of times. Companies create a schema in their minds of their customers and make products in the same line. And then out of no where comes some one who disrupts the whole competition and changes the rules of the game 😉

Viren June 23, 2009 at 6:52 am

Very good article, the best example is new buildings in mumbai. It won’t have proper water & electricity. The rooms would be small like a garage & ceiling will be low but builders will provide you jacuzzi, sona, gym etc…..

Also I totally agree with the 7th point. I have a very hyperactive nephew and one thing i learned is patience and playing with him is a great stress buster for me. Sometimes i wonder who is playing with whom, I am playing with him or he is playing with me.

Chanda Himanshu June 24, 2009 at 3:47 am

Quiet good observation Viren :) and Of course at times even kids play around with us.

Maria June 24, 2009 at 2:49 am

Pretty nice post. I just came by your site and wanted to say
that I have really liked browsing your blog posts. Any way
I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

Chanda Himanshu June 24, 2009 at 3:48 am

Thanks Maria. Currently I post 2-3 times a week. But since the readers have increased quiet gradually, I plan to gave daily posts quiet soon. Stay Tuned and Thanks for commenting!

Amol Limaye July 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Nice one!!
I came across your blog and I must say that your blog not only has good content but a great design as well.
Looking forward to learning lots of things from this blog.
Incidentally, I am a part of a product developement team and that too in the same company which you work in !
So I found these tips really useful :)

kavita kampani September 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm


Similar incident. I remember, I took my daughter with me for buying grocery items few years ago, when she was around 3 years of age.

Looking at a toy shop, she insisted to buy one for her. I reminded her that few days ago she had got many toys on her birthday; stuffed toys, dolls, crayons, ping-pong. Wasn’t it better that she first play and finish those toys and then proceed further. I tried to give her very logical reasoning that where would we keep all those toys and the new one she was insisting to buy.

She, very gentally, asked me…Did any of the person who gave me the toys asked me would I play with those toys? Were they of my choice?

I want something of my choice.

I stood stunned there looking at her, bought her a new toy of her choice. I came back home thinking about her simple yet meaningful statement.


Chanda Himanshu September 27, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Quite witty and timely, I would say :) And of course many a times Child is the father of man in this sense too.

Rod Macbeth September 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Very good points.

I wonder how many people actually use the camera/video on their cell phones?

Not too many is my guess yet try to buy one without a camera.


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