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Oh My!  That’s an Ugly Baby

By Ken Scheel Founder, KEVA planks Not the words a mother longs to hear, nor does a toy inventor want to hear them said about his new game. Many of us creative types can be thin skinned when it comes to criticism of our "baby". Criticism, however, is an important ingredient of a successful product. Eighteen years ago when I was developing the FlingSock®, I scheduled a visit with a highly experienced (and expensive) business consultant. My prototypes had been refined and were working beautifully, I had my logo and instruction manual completed and I was about to go to production. I walked into his office with optimistic visions of people all over America playing catch with their Sling Socks. One of the first things out of his mouth was, " I don't like the name. It's too hard to say. It's a tongue twister and would be a poor name for your product." At that time of development, I had fully bonded to the Sling Sock name and I was shocked that he said my cleverly named product had an "ugly" name. Since you swing it sort of like a biblical slingshot, and the first prototypes were made with long sweat socks, I thought Sling Sock was the perfect name. Since I was paying him by the minute for his advice, I did not argue with him long, but I went home and started asking others' opinions and trying to say Sling Sock tthree times fast. It was, in fact, a tongue twister. Try it. I knew I had to let the Sling Sock name die. After further brainstorming, I came up with the fun and easy‐to‐say FlingSock® name. Before long, I bonded with the new name and the rest is history. Eighteen years later, the FlingSock® is a classic toy still in production and people are throwing it all over America. As inventors, our first impulse when hearing our new game or toy criticized is to defend or explain why we did it. Inside, I am thinking, "What? How can you possibly misunderstand my carefully written rules?" But, from experience, I know that if one person is confused, others probably will be confused too. Most of the time, when I go back and review suggestions from players, I find that their comments and criticisms point me to the weak spots that I might otherwise overlook. They hone the product and bring it closer to being ready. A much more productive response is to say, "Very interesting, tell me more. How could I improve it? Thank you so much, your insight is very helpful." Negative comments hurt but they are absolutely necessary to improve your game. So buckle up and refine your baby in the crucible of criticism. (November 2014)


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