Copycats make clever problem solvers

“Why is it counterintuitive to look outside our own turf for answers?” ponders Dan and Chip Heath.

Same problem, new perspective

The Antarctic Icefish has a Big Problem.  It must digest the oils of the other fish it eats for dinner in the icy cold water where it lives and where oil doesn’t break down so easily. Proctor and Gamble has a similar problem for its detergents – trying to break down stains on your clothes in the cold water wash (that you use to save the planet and your energy bills).  While a half million R&D budget didn’t solve P&G’s problem, a day trip to the zoo did – where the researchers learned about the icefish.

If you do the same thing you’ve always done, you’ll get the same thing you always got.

Many companies try to solve problems by “tapping local knowledge, and if it’s insufficient”, looking for outside specialists.  If you’re trying to fix the same thing that was broken as last time, this solution may work.  But if you’re looking for a creative answer it’ll help to try something new.

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight

Using the right tool can make all the difference between success and failure.  What is a hard problem for you or your industry to solve might have already been figured out by a different industry.  When confronting a unique problem, five minutes of creative brainstorming and finding an analogous situation can be more efficient than reinventing the wheel.  I find that most problems in this world have already been solved by someone – the trick is finding the solution and applying it to your specific needs.

Anyone have a good story about cross-pollinating ideas to solve thorny problems?

Original Source: Fast Company – Stop Solving Your Own Problems

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Posted in Calvin and Hobbes
2 comments on “Copycats make clever problem solvers
  1. Kyden Creekpaum says:

    Nice post! lots of things have been “discovered” by accident. Penicillin is one of the most famous examples. I watched a “how they make that” show on TV recently and learned that Pyrex was created completely by accident in an industrial setting, and someone took a piece of this accidental material home to his wife who decided to use it as a baking sheet — and voila. A billion-dollar industry was born. Pyrex wasn't a solution to a “thorny” problem, but it shows that innovation can come from unlikely quarters. Like a college kid in a dorm who dreams up something called facebook, or a wierdo tinkering in his garage who names his lump of electronics after a favorite fruit — Apple.

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