Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Seeking User Input When Making Changes

There's not much technology involved in this story, but an important lesson comes our way from the world of competitive sport - basketball.

Shortly before the 2006-2007 NBA season, the league decided to switch from the traditional leather basketball to a new microfiber composite basketball. The new ball, designed by Spalding, featured better grip, feel and consistency over the old leather basketball. As players began using the ball in preseason training camps, preseason play and regular season play the complaints began rolling in. They said the ball bounced differently than the old ball and the composite material was rough on their hands. Overall, it just didn't feel right.

On Monday, the NBA bowed to pressure from the players and have agreed to go back to the old ball. NBA Commissioner David Stern admitted in an interview last week that they should have fielded more input from the players before they made the change.

Whether technology or sports equipment, the lesson learned is to be serious about soliciting input from end-users when a change is going to have a significant impact. Don't just assume the changes will be accepted no matter how well your intentions may be.

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