Our team at Abram’s Nation, with the help of all of you in our community of families, is never short of ideas for what products we could create or ways to customize our existing products. I’m often asked how we decide which products to develop, so I’d like to provide a look behind the scenes and share some insights about what drives us every day. I always say that I love my job, and this story behind product launches is exactly why – I am blessed to work with a creative team and amazing community to innovate the best products to serve our families in their daily lives. So how do we do it?
- Understand the need
We start by understanding what need we are trying to solve. These ideas originate from several sources, including drawing upon the experience and knowledge of our Abram’s Nation team and by listening to friends and families. We foster a creative environment, inviting team members to share ideas at any time, not just at a formal meeting. Once we start talking about a new idea, we’ll add it to our regular R&D meeting schedule to continue the discussion and dedicate time to understanding the need and potential product. We look at home solutions our families have created and understand what need they are solving and how the DIY product is being used in their daily lives. Overall, we look for trends. Do we hear similar requests for a solution? Do we see various home solutions intended to solve similar problems?
I also rely on my own experience and instinct. I was attending a mobility conference on a cold and rainy day, where I noticed many people in wheelchairs who were being protected from the elements by wearing their coat backwards. I was struck by that experience and could not get out of my mind the visual of adults wearing their coats backwards, with the hood hanging below their chin like a child’s bib. While practical, it wasn’t a very dignified solution. Knowing our Abram’s Nation team could design something better, and picturing my own mother and a friend who sewed a fleece cape for her to use with her wheelchair, we started designing the Abram’s Wearables line.
- Design a new solution
Once we understand the need, we determine whether we have a better way to solve it. We look at other products on the market, not so we can recreate them, but to decide if we can make a better solution, whether that means more durable, more portable, customizable to meet the needs of more families, or made in America of the highest quality materials available. First and foremost, we evaluate safety; we won’t proceed until we are certain that a solution will be safe for our families. Having heard our families and how these products will be used in their daily lives, we brainstorm the functionality of each product. We sketch the design on paper and create a binder with a unique page for each product attribute, making it easy to add or remove pages as the design matures. I’m always anxious to get my hands on a product, so we cut and sew fabric by hand to get a first mock-up. Then the fun starts. We get on the floor and play, identifying how the product will be used and whether there is additional functionality we should add. We test durability and portability of the design, making sure the product can travel with a family wherever needed.
- Solicit authentic feedback
When a design passes our initial tests, we solicit authentic feedback from our trusted friends and families. Sometimes we’ll have specific variations of a product for a family to test in their daily lives. We keep demo products in our office so visitors can see them and touch them and provide feedback. For our Fidget Folder released late last year, we shared an early design at an open house, providing an opportunity for children to play with the product so we could observe how it would be used and request feedback from their parents and therapists. This is even how the product got its name – a parent followed up with us to ask when that “fidget folder” would be available. Our goal is to learn something new at this stage, whether a more descriptive product name, a design update or a way to make a product more durable or portable.
Coming off a strong 2018 with the release of The Fidget Folder, 2019 is off to a fast start as well, with the February release of our Fidget Mat and the upcoming release of our Abram’s Wearables cape, the first product in our line of adaptive clothing. As we develop new products, our focus continues to be on serving the needs of you, our community of families. We’re listening: do you have ideas or areas of need that you think we can address? Please leave a comment below to share your ideas and we’ll evaluate for potential addition to our R&D list. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions!