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. Earlier this week I was posed a question that needed a creative approach.
During a creativity exercise, a problem was posed from 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 newspaper that was provided free-of-charge. In time, the owners of the company began to notice that tumblers were being dropped and broken more than usual. After a little research they found that the packers were reading stories in the newspapers. 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.
Thinking outside of the box is something that happens through training and re-training the mind.
The problem was obvious, but the solution is definitely not what most people would expect. Posed with 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 the ideas, though we had some good ones, another group guessed the solution that was chosen by the company.
The company hired blind people! With a few modifications to the shipping area, they found that hiring blind people actually offered more solutions than less broken tumblers. Blind people are unable to read a standard newspaper, which meant not only less breakage, but also less time wasted reading the paper. Blind people also have a heightened sense of touch, due to the lack of eyesight. With a greater sense of touch, they found that they were better at handling the tumblers, which meant less tumblers were dropped.
Apart from these obvious benefits, the company also received government grants for hiring people with disabilities and their reputation improved among the members of the community.
These type of exercises increase our ability to solve problems and think outside of common thought patterns. 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.
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 find 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 instead gather a variety of thinkers. Choose a friend, an customer, a colleague, a mentor, an employee, a manager, another business owner, 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.