What would McDonald’s do?

The Aravind Eye Hospitals are the best and largest eye hospitals in the world. How did this Indian hospital group become so big, efficient and successful? Easy. They have copied the success formula of the world’s biggest chain of fast-food restaurants: …McDonald’s! Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy quite literally asked: What would McDonald’s do? And you should too.

If you try to solve a problem, it helps to change your perspective. Approaching a challenge from a different angle allows you to see and seize opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.

In an earlier article, I wrote how you can find surprisingly creative solutions by imagining how someone with a different occupation would deal with your situation. Similarly, it can be very helpful to imagine how a vastly different organisation might approach your challenge.

In this article, I’ll describe how you can use famous organisations to help you look at your challenge differently. Brands and organisations can be a marvellous source of inspiration. The simple thought experiment described below will oftentimes lead to ways of solving the problem that you had never even considered.

What would McDonald’s do? Three steps to new insights

Step 1. Pick an inspiring organisation

Choose an appealing organisation (or brand) that operates in a different field. Look for an organisation that is miles removed from your organisation or field. Bigger differences will lead to a more inspiring thought experiment and better results.

Think of famous brands and organisations like IKEA, Google, Unilever, Heineken, Lego, Playboy, Amazon, Netflix, Coca-Cola, Nike, Greenpeace, Apple, Shell etc.

Make sure you know enough about the organisation. It makes no sense to pick an organisation if you’re not familiar with their way of working. You should know roughly how they operate and what their values are. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly sure how the organisations you find interesting work; you can usually find plenty of information about this online. Don’t spend too much time researching though, the point of this exercise is to find inspiration. You need just enough background information to stimulate your fantasy.

Step 2. Imagine how this organisation would solve your type of problem 

Imagine this organisation would have your type of challenge. What would they do if they were in your shoes? What would they do to solve the problem? 

Different organisations lead to different ideas. Imagining how Tesla will solve a problem, for instance, will generally lead to very different ideas than imagining what Disney, WWF or Facebook would do.

Step 3. Translate the approach back to your particular situation 

Look at what you wrote down at step 2 and think about ways to make this work in your situation. 

Can you implement the actions one on one? Or can you tweak an approach so it fits your particular situation?

Use the input of the second step liberally. Don’t feel obligated to limit yourself to the exact approaches you wrote down at step two. If any of the approaches triggers a new thought, feel free to explore that direction. Whatever thinking technique you use, the results are always more important than following the technique to the letter. 

What would [organisation X] do? Some innovative examples:

Whether you ask What would McDonald’s do? or How would Nintendo collect money for charity? the results may surprise you…

How would Nintendo collect money for charity? 

How would Lego offer disaster relief? 

The Aravind Eye Hospital: How would McDonald’s make eye surgery more efficient?
Watch the mini-documentary below for the amazing story behind the Aravind Eye Care System.


What organisation could you use as a source of inspiration to solve your problem?


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