I hope that I don’t get into the habit of doing this, but I simply could not resist re-posting a story I received by email today, as it touches on the main issues I have been discussing with a friend recently: Focus on Problems vs. Focus on Solutions.
Still curious? Read on!
When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn’t work at zero gravity. That is: ink won’t flow down to the writing surface. In order to solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C. And what did Russians do?? The Russians used a Pencil!!!
One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soap box, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soap box went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent whoopee amount to do so.
But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, did not get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.
Moral of the story: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), i.e. always look for simple solutions. Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problem 🙂
So, learn to focus on solutions not on problems.
“If you look at what you do not have in life, you don’t have anything.
If you look at what you have in life, you have everything.”