Monday, September 10, 2012

Lace, Listening and Learning

Bobbin lace from the 1600's
My wife and I were in St Paul in early August attending the International Old Lacers' annual convention hosted by the Minnesota Lace Society.  Do some research if you want to learn more about bobbin lace, tatting, needle lace and wire lace.  It's a wonderful and fascinating hobby that makes a great change of pace from our always-connected, in the cloud lives.  The results are astonishing.  Interesting geek note: some of the first computer programs were written to run the early automated lace making machines in the late 1800's.

Bruce Bennet
Market Research Guru
While staffing our vending table, I was reminded (yet again) of the importance of listening, observing and soliciting feedback from your customers by the vendor at the next table.  Bruce Bennet, like me, is married to a lace maker.  Since lace makers can never have too many bobbins, Bruce started turning them for his wife's use.  He got proficient enough to start selling his creations - but with a twist: Bruce asks for feedback directly from his customers, especially with new designs, with each and every sale.  He wants to ensure his customers are happy and the bobbins are useful.  What better way than to ask them directly?  Brilliant.  And dead easy.

Bobbin lace underway.
A lace maker can't have
too many bobbins!
My own route to bobbin turning was slightly different - I learned to make lace myself.  While no expert, I know enough about it firsthand to know what makes a useful bobbin and what doesn't.  I don't sell any of the bobbins I make but I still want to make sure they are useful first and pretty second.  To keep myself learning, I spent a few minutes during classes wandering around and watching how people were making lace, how bobbins rested on the pillow, the type of tools they used and how they organized them in their work areas, etc.  I got some ideas for new designs and how to improve some other things I do.

Wood turners can get carried away with embellishments, fancy designs and exotic decorations.  The results can be visually stunning but if it doesn't work well, sit right on the lace pillow or doesn't feel right to the lace maker, then you've wasted your time making it and wasted the time and money of whoever bought it.

Remind you of any engineers or product managers you know?

How are you listening and learning?

Key Take-Aways:

  • You can't make a decent bobbin if you don't know how it's used.  The same applies to ALL products.
  • Never stop asking your customers for feedback.
  • Reminders can come at any time from any place - be watching for them.
Some of my creations

No comments:

Post a Comment