Matthew May is the author of the book The Elegant Solution, a friend of this blog, and a blogger in his own right. He has a new “ChangeThis” manifesto called Mind of the Innovator: Taming the Traps of Traditional Thinking.
His piece gives some excellent examples of how we tend to jump to solutions without first properly defining and understanding the problem. He poses a fascinating challenge in the piece (read his piece for the “answer” and, more importantly, the powerful Toyota problem solving approach):
You own an upscale neo-luxury health club. As part of the membership perks, each of the 40 shower stalls is stocked with a bottle of very expensive, salon-only shampoo. The customers love it and rave about it. The front desk sells the bottles. Unfortunately, bottles disappear from the showers all the time. In fact, theft rate is 33%, presenting a costly situation. You’ve tried reminders, penalties, and incentives to try and reduce theft, but nothing so far has worked. You do not want to discontinue or alter the shampoo offering in any wayâ€”one bottle of the current brand per stall must not change. You want the problem solved within the guidelines:
- Theft must be 100% eliminated
- Any solution must be one of zero cost
- No burden on the patron
How do you prevent the theft of shampoo?
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