Recall Prof. Eric von Hippel's research: many products and services are modified by users to meet their particular needs. Modern manufacturing is based on economy of scale so products are developed to meet the widest possible need. When individual users face their own “unique” problems, they develop their own modifications to existing products (or new products) to solve their issues. Users readily share that with the producer or other users in hopes that their changes and ideas will be incorporated into the product.
Case Study: The Feather Duster
The unassuming feather duster is used by most of Western society for dusting. Ah, but the Chinese mother has literally “turned it around” - into the child disciplinary tool of choice. The parent comfortably grips the feathers while whacking the child with the bamboo or stick end. I have never seen my mother use the feather duster for dusting…but I was very well acquainted with the stick end. Many Chinese parents have used the feather duster to the point of bending or breaking the stick while permanently compressing the feathers with their tight grips. My mother must have replaced at least 5 feather dusters because of me. (One replacement was due to my attempt to surgically saw a duster stick just enough so that it would break the next time it was used. Unfortunately, I sawed it all the way through which really upset my mom - leading to a serious beat down after she bought 2 new feather dusters, always keeping one in reserve for the future).
I never liked or understood this user innovation. Nor did I understand the warning that followed to “Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about” (I’m crying because you just beat me with that stick so you’re going to beat me some more because I’m crying? Talk about a “vicious circle”.) Now, of course, my mother as the grandmother of my children admonishes me to never physically punish her grandchildren: “You should always reason with them. They’re young. It can hurt them physically and mentally.” To which I reply: “Hello? Have we met? Who are you?! Don’t you remember beating me with that feather duster?” And my mother’s final reply would be “Well, you were a different case.”
Note: There is an actual Facebook group named 'My Chinese Parents Used to Beat Me with a Feather Duster'.