Brilliant Solution For An Obvious Problem

The Problem

When you own a company that sells a fragile product, breakage is always a concern that can quickly eat away at the company’s bottom line. So earlier this week, I posed a question that needed a creative approach.

During a creativity exercise, a problem was posed by a business colleague. My group was asked to come up with a few solutions to a problem a company faced with breakage of the glass tumblers they manufactured, packed and shipped to the distributors. To protect the tumblers, they were packed with newspapers free of charge.

In time, the company owners began to notice that tumblers were being dropped and broken more than usual. After some research, they found that the packers were reading newspaper stories. When reading the newspaper, the ink would rub off onto the hands of the packer, causing their hands more slippery, leading to more dropped and broken tumblers.

The Solution

The problem was obvious, but the solution was definitely not what most people would expect. Facing this question, our group began to brainstorm. “Use shredded newspaper,” someone mentioned. “Hire illiterate people,” I said. The ideas started flowing, and when it came time to share them, though we had some good ones, another group guessed the company’s chosen solution.

The company hired blind people! With a few modifications to the shipping area, they found that hiring blind people offered more solutions than fewer broken tumblers. Blind people cannot read a standard newspaper, which means less breakage and less time wasted reading the paper. Blind people also have a heightened sense of touch due to the lack of eyesight. With a heightened sense of touch, they found that they were better at handling the tumblers, which meant fewer tumblers were dropped.

Apart from these apparent benefits, the company received government grants for hiring people with disabilities, and its reputation improved in the community.

The Takeaway

These exercises increase our ability to solve problems and think outside common thought patterns. For example, uncovering the solution began with a shocking phrase by one of the brainstormers, “Pluck out the workers’ eyes!” From one unconventional phrase came a solution that increased the company’s bottom line and reputation in the community.

Thinking outside of the box happens through training and re-training the mind.

Before you can find a solution, you must find a problem. If you are a business owner, talk with your customers, employees, and colleagues and find out what they dislike. You will discover through a quick conversation that there are problems that need solutions.

I recommend gathering a group of thinkers to brainstorm over a couple pizzas. Don’t just choose employees, but choose a variety of thinkers. Choose a friend, a customer, a colleague, a mentor, an employee, a manager, an owner of another business, a young adult, a retiree… You will be surprised by the solutions you come up with. Take notes and never throw out an unorthodox idea because it doesn’t fit. Have fun and enjoy yourself.

Ryan Boutin
Ryan Boutin
Owner of Zeal Media, Ryan, is passionate about helping owners take their small businesses to the next level. As a long-term entrepreneur, he has started and grown multiple small businesses for himself and his kids, from building homes to selling online products.
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