Kathleen Alfano, 62, has run Fisher-Price's Play Lab for 28 years. After a toy is designed, area children come to the lab to play with an early version. More than 10,000 children are on the waiting list to participate.
"Fisher-Price introduced the play-lab concept to the industry—it's part of the foundation of our company. There is a window where a team of design and safety experts are watching. How we do things hasn't changed since the recalls. We interview parents after the sessions to get their feedback. We often tell designers to go back and make adjustments to the size, shape, or other dynamics of toys. You can test a toy with as many as 100 children before you get it right, or sometimes you know you've got it with just 10. It is not an exact science."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.