Good Products Bad Products

Good Products Bad Products

Essential Elements to Achieving Superior Quality

James Adams

Summary in 100 words or less

All products could be improved. An improved product helps add value to both a company and its customers. Improving the quality of products goes beyond just performance and profits. We should also think in terms of human fit, aesthetics, craftsmanship, and eco-friendliness.


My Highlights

All products could be improved.

Improved product quality, however, brings added value, increases competitive ability, does not necessarily add to cost, and leads to higher demand.

Company growth would be determined by the need to provide enough resources to keep new product development strong and engineers motivated and proud of the product line, and that their product would be the best of their kind.

The universities are obsessed with theory, optimization, rigorous and logical thinking, breakthroughs, and the next big thing – not “goodness”. We teach critical thinking more than creative thinking.

Characteristics of good products, such as elegance, and the emotions involved with outstanding products, namely love, are not easily described by these languages – you can’t put a number on elegance or love. It is also difficult to define such things with the degree of clarity necessary to allow for improvement.

Traditions and values, especially in large organizations are extremely difficult to change. It takes time to develop new sensitivities and values on the part of consumers as well as products.

The Economic theory seems to have several embarrassing flaws when it comes to product quality in dealing with anything that does not have a price determined by supply and demand, such as the pleasure and pride the owner receives from an extraordinary crafted, well-functioning, elegant and beautiful product.

Attributes of design thinking on product quality: creativity, comfort with many intellectual disciplines, cost consciousness, coordination abilities, knowledge of the customer, understanding of overall quality, and “whole brain” thinking.

We like to quantify performance, but our interaction with products is extremely complex, and putting numbers on such things as performance seems to simplify describing the product.

Performance should include reliability, durability, serviceability, and maintainability as factors, since failures, even if for reasons not directly the fault of the producer, reflects poorly on the performance of the product.

Another example of the difficulty of quantifying performance is that “more performance” is not necessarily better.

Traditionally, the price of a product has included the cost of design, materials, and production plus associated profits and business expenses that are passed along to the buyer. The true cost might also reflect the social cost of environmental pollution, cleaning up after the product, or exploitation of scarce resources.

The true cost of a product to a customer includes not only the purchase price and any charges on financing but also repair and service, operating costs, insurance, and other costs incurred while owning the product.

Advertising tends to exaggerate the positive qualities of the product that might not lead the consumer to the desired outcome.

For producers of high-quality products, honesty is the best policy.

Traditionally, performance and cost goals and selling price are determined by marketing, competition, technical feasibility, organizational capability, and the intuition of various experienced people. But we should keep in mind the nature of the process may constrain and guide the designer or manufacturer of the product.

Performance, cost, and price also look different when examined from different viewpoints.

By changing perspectives, almost any product can be found to have a downside as performance, cost and price increase.

Good products must fit people.

Designers often become so distracted by considerations other than human fit that it does not receive the attention it deserves. Product function, cost, appearance, and reliability may dominate the designer’s attention. Tight schedules or budgets do not encourage prototypes and usage tests. Even worse, designers may design for themselves.

We all believe in products being user-friendly, but as individual products become so, our growing panoply of products seems to require increasing numbers of neurons to deal with it.

Designing products for safety is the most challenging task, since people seem to be at their most brilliant in devising ways to hurt themselves.

Craftsmanship is the process of making things extraordinarily well. It involves fits and finished, obsession with details, tender loving care, and pride.

To neglect craftsmanship in the production of industrial products is foolish – perhaps in the long run suicidal. Craftsmanship is a state of mind that permeates design and manufacturing and is highly appreciated by consumers.

Good craftsmanship results in aesthetic pleasure and pride both to the manufacturer and to the user.

Despite its importance, craftsmanship is often inadequately stressed in industry, partly because it is difficult to measure and describe in words and numbers.

Craftsmanship requires both left-brain and right-brain thinking, involving knowledge, sophistication, and emotion.

Despite the fact that we humans pride ourselves on our cognitive abilities, we are heavily, if not dominantly, influenced by emotion when assessing the quality of a product.

Our actions and responses are molded by a combination of thought and emotion.

If a user loves a product, everyone involved benefits – if the user hates it everyone loses.

A major complexity in dealing with emotion stems from the great diversity in emotional responses among humans.

Humans also carry conflicting emotions within themselves.

The social sciences have developed powerful methods of qualitative understanding of societies that will be useful to the designers of products.

Most people involved in the design and production of industrial products do not even spend a year becoming sensitive to, and comfortable with, aesthetic considerations.

Aesthetic considerations are not limited to appearance. Therefore, feel, smell, sound, and in the case of food products, taste, are equally important considerations with their own elements and principles.

Products please us by satisfying certain criteria in our mind. Some of these seem innate, such as pleasure from things that are precise, neat, and simple, and therefore probably efficient and dependable.

Simple forms that have evolved through usage often become extremely elegant because the unnecessary has been stripped away over time.

A symbol is something specific that typically stands for something more abstract.

The products of industry are also symbolic. They are specific, and rightly or wrongly, we assume that they convey a message about the owner.

The symbolism associated with individual products is partly historical, partly a function of the role they play, and partly a function of a conscious effort by the producers and distributors.

Globalization is making it more difficult to correlate products with countries of origins. One of the effects of globalization is the increasing standardization of industrial products.

But there is a potential downside, which is the products lose their strong cultural identity.

Compatibility with the Earth and its ecosphere will unavoidably become increasingly important in product quality.

Protecting the ecosphere and moving ourselves to a sustainable and high-quality level of existence is a huge problem, but the making of the high-quality products needed to do so is a huge opportunity.

More book notes

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