When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out
that the pens wouldn't work at zero gravity (ink won't flow down to
the writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade
and US$12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity,
upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal
and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.
And what did the Russians do...?? They used a pencil.
One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the
case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan 's biggest
cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer
had bought a soapbox that was empty. Immediately the authorities
isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the
packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason,
some soapboxes went through the assembly line empty.
Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the
engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution
monitors manned by two people to watch all the soapboxes that passed
through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they
worked hard and they worked fast but they spent a huge amount to do
But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with
the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc.,
but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong
industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He
switched the fan on, and as each soapbox passed the fan, it simply
blew the empty boxes out of the line.
Moral: Always look for simple solutions.
Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems
Always Focus on solutions & not on problems
On Chinese New Year Eve, after having washed my car, I decided to drive it back into the car porch. The engine could not start and so with my two boys, we decided to push the car instead. Later in the evening, I had a gripping pain at my spine near the kidney area. Somewhere around 11 pm, unable to tolerate the pain anymore, my son drove me to the Pantai Hospital Cheras for checkup. I was given some ointment and some pain killers, total bill that came up to RM84.
On the second day of Chinese New Year, the pain did not subside and I had to pay my sister-in-law a visit. Seeing me in that painful condition, she gave me a bottle of Chinese wine (in Cantonese, it is called 'tit ta chau') to rub my back with. I was given a rub over there and then and after 10 minutes, the pain was gone. Cost of the ointment RM3.50. Why didn't I think of this in the first place?