Anyone can solve a problem. But not every solution is satisfactory. The trick is to find elegant solutions which benefit everyone involved.
Why elegant solutions? Isn’t any solution good news?
Any problem can be solved. But not all solutions are equal. Some solutions hurt almost as much as the problem they solve. The most obvious (and easy) solutions are often far from pleasant. Whether it is prohibiting certain activities, laying off staff, ceasing operations or investing tonnes of money in a panicky attempt at damage control… All might solve a problem (or at least a symptom of the problem), yet none will be received with applause.
However, if you dare to look past these rough and ugly fixes, you can find much more clever approaches to deal with tough challenges. I’m talking, of course, about elegant solutions.
What are elegant solutions?
Elegant solutions are the beautiful counterparts of the rough and ugly solutions that are, unfortunately, much more common. While unsophisticated solutions ‘work’ in the sense that they uncouthly take away the most pressing problem, elegant solutions are the type of solutions that make everyone happy. Not just the problem-owner, but the other stakeholders as well. Often, these types of approaches are cheaper, easier to implement and more effective. They also lack the ‘collateral’ damage that less graceful solutions often bring with them.
Imagine, for instance, you work in public transport and you are responsible for solving the following problem:
During the peak hours of the day, passengers don’t get on and off the train quickly enough. Because of this, the train gets delayed at each station and subsequent trains inevitably get behind schedule too. The rail timetable gets all messed up and passengers have all the reason in the world to complain (as you know they will). An easy, yet unpleasant solution would be deploying fewer trains during the peak hours. Sure, the problem will be solved (as there is enough time in between trains to not impact each other’s schedules), but travellers will not take to this kindly.
With a little bit of creativity, much more elegant solutions can be devised. By focussing on the core of the problem (passengers take too long to get in and out of the train), a lot of misery can be prevented. Large time displays that indicate how much longer the train will wait at the platform, for instance, can prevent people from desperately throwing themselves en masse at the first wagon they encounter. If you know you still have a minute, you might be persuaded to walk a bit further, to an emptier part of the train. Spreading out the crowd over the length of the platform will speed up the time of embarking. Another way you could do this is, of course, by creating an app that shows the traveller exactly where there are empty seats. And why not start a pilot with opening the train doors on both sides at the same time, allowing passengers to leave and enter twice as quickly…
The benefits of a bus that never shows up…
Or what to think of a problem Alzheimer clinics face: elderly patients regularly panic when they don’t recognise their surroundings. Scared and confused, they flee the building and start wandering the streets. Often the police have to be called to find the confused patients and return them to safety. An obvious solution would be to lock the doors of the facility. Effective, but not very humane. Coming across a locked door would only aggravate the state of panic the patient is in.
In Dusseldorf, they thought of a much more elegant solution to the problem.
A fake bus stop has been placed in front of the clinic. Confused residents still sometimes wander outside, but now they stumble upon something familiar: a bus stop. While their short-term memory is damaged, their long-term memory is often remarkably good. They recognise the bus stop and know exactly what to do… “If I wait here, the bus will come to take me home.” Of course, the bus never shows. Instead, a nurse turns up and tells the lady or gentleman who is waiting “The bus is a bit delayed. Why don’t you come in and wait inside with a cup of coffee?” Once inside, the would-be traveller has forgotten all about the plans of ‘escape’.
Let’s look at one other example. Imagine you sell luxury bikes. What would you do if you notice that many bikes (which you sent by post order) get damaged during transport? Do you wrap the package with some extra layers of plastic and foam to protect it better? It might help, but this is hardly a sustainable solution (there is already enough packaging in the world as it is). Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof came up with a much smarter solution.
They decided to focus their attention on the culprit: the delivery man. Instead of adding extra layers of protective packaging, they came up with a brilliant nudge. VanMoof made a subtle change to the boxes they ship their bikes in; they added the image of a flat screen tv. The result? Delivery personnel sees the image and assumes they are dealing with a delicate tv screen. They handle the boxes with the utmost care and the number of complaints about damaged goods dropped to almost zero.
Would you also like to find an elegant solution to your problem?
We are specialised in helping you to find elegant solutions to tackle the most complicated problems. We do this by structuring the creative process and making it easy and fun to come up with original ideas. Not sure what types of problems qualify? Well, honestly, almost any problem can be solved in a smart way. But to give you some examples of tough challenges that make us eager to help you out:
- The HR department of a large manufacturer notices that absenteeism in one of their factories keeps growing
- A large hospital is struggling with lengthy waiting lists as they can’t keep up with demand
- An organisation has grown so large that employees can’t find the right colleague for the right job anymore (they have no idea who has relevant knowledge and expertise and potential stays untapped)
- A major electricity company needs to replace a power plant but wants to limit the downtime to an absolute minimum
- A non-profit organisation needs new (highly sought-after) specialists urgently, yet can’t compete with the salaries commercial competitors offer.
Does your organisation have a challenge that is similar to the ones above …or one that is totally different; give us a call. We’re eager to help you find an elegant solution that makes everybody happy.
Send me an email at email@example.com or give me a call: +31 (0)10 30 70 534 and let’s find out how we can help you.