Heather Ishikawa, co-author of Now You’re Thinking!, once told me a great story about finding creative solutions.
She told me about a company that was having trouble with their Packaging Department. The company started using old newspapers to wrap their delicate items before shipping. Using old newspapers helped them save money (because the newspapers were donated) and helped lessen the impact on the environment.
However, they realized that their employees’ productivity slowed once they transitioned from using plain brown wrapping paper to the old newspapers. It turned out the employees were reading the newspaper as they used it for wrapping.
So, they brainstormed ways to keep the newspapers, but remove the problem of reduced productivity. They exercised a brainstorming technique called “suspension of judgement” which meant that every idea was worth considering, no matter how silly it may sound. The question became “how do we stop employees from reading the newspapers while they wrap the products?” Ideas included dying the newspapers, hiring non-English speakers, and dimming the lights in the warehouse.
In the end, the idea that seemed the most surprising became the perfect solution. Someone suggested that they blindfold employees. While blindfolding probably wouldn’t go over well with the employees, the idea made them realize that they hadn’t considered hiring individuals who were visually impaired. The company ended up hiring individuals who were blind and productivity instantly skyrocketed.
This is such a great example of creative and critical thinking. This company was able to “think differently” by considering every possible solution to the problem.
I was reminded of this story when I watched the following video on Ted.com this evening. Some people might think it is impossible for blind people to drive, but this company is choosing to think differently about how to put visually-impaired individuals behind the wheel.
How can you think differently about a challenge you’re working on today?