- Leading change
- Creativity and innovation
- Getting results
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Managing during crisis
- Giving and receiving performance feedback
- Increasing engagement
Skill Level Appropriate for all
- Telling people to think outside the box rarely works. Now if you want people to be more creative problem solvers, a better solution is to draw them a bigger box. You know, that forces your audience to think outside the confines they would naturally set for themselves. Now, one of the best ways to do that is with a story about someone else who actually was thinking outside the box. And here's a case in point. Now, Tide has been the number one selling brand of laundry detergent in the US since soon after it was launched in 1946.
Now, the main reason for that is that the chemists and engineers at Procter & Gamble are constantly upgrading the cleaning formula. Well, in the late 1990s, one of the upgrades they were working on proved to be more interesting than most. Now, according to the former Chief Technology Officer Gil Cloyd, the challenge that year was a certain type of dirt that was unusually difficult to get out. Now, the other thing unusual about it was that it would often come off of one piece of clothing in the washing machine and then redeposit on another one, you know, instead of just staying suspended in the wash water.
Now, the typical challenge in strengthening laundry detergent is this. If the formula's too weak, it won't clean the dirt but it leaves the fabric safe. But if the formula's too strong, it cleans well but it could harm the fabric. The trick, of course, is finding just the right balance. So that's exactly what the development team was working on that year. Well, after months of effort and failing, someone asked the question, what if that dirt never got to stick on the second garment to begin with? You know, what if we could prevent the bonding reaction in the washing machine? So instead of trying to find chemicals that could remove the dirt, the team switched its efforts to finding chemicals that prevented it from redepositing on the fabric in the first place.
And not long after that they found a way to do it. Later that year they launched the most effective Tide detergent ever produced. Now, the lesson is this. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to avoid getting in it in the first place. So the next time your team has a difficult problem share this story and then ask, what if? And then have them finish the question.