Even in an economy that's driven by ideas, you can't succeed unless you get your hands dirty. Often, that means interacting more closely than ever with customers to make sure that your products address the real challenges of daily life. That's the philosophy at OXO International, an award-winning household-products maker, based in New York City, that is best known for its "Good Grips" kitchen gadgets (as well as for car-care tools and other products that are designed for ease of use).
How do you keep a staff of cerebral designers focused on the hands-on reality of how their products get used? By creating a wall of 120 gloves, of course. "When I moved to New York, I started noticing all the gloves on the sidewalk," says Alex Lee, 40, president of OXO. The wall began as an offbeat way to build a sense of community. "When we relocated to our new space, I told everyone to keep collecting gloves." And collect they did. Some staffers even carry bags for grabbing orphaned hand gear. And everyone records the location and time of each discovery.
But what started as a way to build community has become a rite of passage for new staffers. And the gloves symbolize the firm's mission: to create tools that everyone can use. "These gloves," says Lee, "represent all the kinds of hands that our products must fit."
Contact Alex Lee by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or visit OXO International on the Web (www.oxo.com).
A version of this article appeared in the May 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.