In 1924, Kleenex launched its “facial tissue”, a disposable makeup remover.

Makeup remover?

While there are no doubt lots of people who use facial tissue to remove their makeup, clean up spills, hold chewing gum, and a thousand other things, I’d venture a guess that most of us, when we say, “I need a Kleenex”, mean we need a handkerchief.

Therein lies the lesson: expect the unexpected.

At Blackboard, we love talking to our users, partly because they are endlessly innovative. They see uses for our products that we didn’t plan on, but that we love.

Using the survey feature to hold a school-wide mock Presidential election? Wonderful! Creating blogs so students can have a space to attach files and back up their work? Genius! Building a course so the parents’ association can have a space to communicate? Amazing!

When we build or improve features of Blackboard Learn, we do our best to come up with the most likely scenarios for their use. We talk to students, to faculty, to staff, and ask them about how they see themselves using it, and we do research where people play in our virtual sandbox so we can see what’s working and what could be improved.

But the most important thing is that we design flexible experiences. Because no matter how many users we talk to before we release the product, there are going to be people who come up with new and ingenious ways to make use of it that we never could have imagined.

What are some of your favorite creative uses of products that the designers probably didn’t anticipate?

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