As some of you know, I am in the process of adding Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps LinkedIn to my blog. I realize I can no longer escape social networking if I still want to communicate with much of the human race. Given a few weeks I will probably have them all interacting reasonably well and have forgotten the difficulty of entering an activity that has been going on for some time. To those of you who have neither taken the Stanford Good Products Bad Products course, been following my blog, or otherwise heard me rant about product quality, a few words concerning my present interests are perhaps in order. To those of you following my neophyte attempts at social networking, any help is appreciated.
In the latter part of the 20th century, amazing gains were made in what was then called manufacturing quality. These were stimulated by international competition appearing first in northern Europe, and then in Asia. The results were impressive in product reliability, cost reduction, and customer appeal. The campaign was based on sound economic and management principles, and motivated by metrics.
But after these amazing gains, attention shifted to other aspects of industrial production, and even during the “manufacturing quality revolution”, many aspects of product quality that are not easily described by metrics were passed by. I am interested in overall product quality, which includes such things as human, cultural and environmental fit, craftsmanship, emotional appeal, aesthetics, sophistication, and elegance. It is much more difficult for people in business and engineering to consider love than performance.
But even with performance, we have a problem. We use obsolete measures and tend to focus on product features which result in quick sales and immediate profits. Do you often have the opportunity to fully use the 0 to 60 time of your car? Should you really need a new iPhone every year?
We accept present quality because of tradition and the values inculcated in economic systems, industry and in the professionals who work there. If you think a bit about products you produce and/or use, you can come up with many valid insights as to how they could be improved, often with no increase, or even a decrease in cost. Do we really need all of the bells and whistles on products, that when added together keep us confused and constantly referring to our products to see how to adjust and maintain them? Are we perhaps becoming weary of the ever increasing choices we have among products that essentially do the same thing? Finally, have we become innovation crazy? Do we need more apps or better apps. Do we need to use the entire capability of the integrated circuit, or just what we really need. Do we need more and more of everything, or just what is compatible with our limited abilities and resources? Technology is supposed to serve us, not the opposite.
I recently wrote the book Good Products Bad Products (McGraw Hill, New York, N.Y., 2011) about such things, and added the blog and now social networking to try to encourage more thought about this issue. I believe that in this day and age, those making and buying the best products win—and in the process feel very good about themselves—why not you (and us)?