CAN-do strategy: in-your-face problem solving (Fast Company, 11/09)

Check-out the “Made to Stick” column that appears in the monthly publication, Fast Company.  Brothers Chip and Dan Heath write cutting-edge commentary on entrepreneurship, innovation, and the integration of Web 2.0 tools.  The November 2009 contribution “caught my fancy” with an irreverent approach to solving marketing problems.

The Heath brothers describe an intractable problem faced by a Procter & Gamble business unit.  The group director may have invoked the famous words of Albert Einstein, who said:  “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Unable to solve a problem within the P&G domain, the group director took the team on a field trip to the San Diego Zoo – looking for answers on another turf!

Observations of plant life and animal behavior sparked eight fresh approaches to the CPG problem, driving home the point that “…someone else may have a different perspective…problems that are difficult in one domain may be trivial to solve from the perspective of a different domain.”

The work of the Heath brothers promotes innovative thinking and problem solving strategies.  Their clever and slightly irreverent metaphors drive home the point that solutions to problems may be “in-your-face,” and yet not visible through your own mirror.  Clearly, the message is to search outside our own borders, beyond our own companies, and outside the paradigms created by our industries.  Maybe it is time to bring back my own irreverent metaphor for those in career transition:  the unicellular paramecium.