Solutions from Unlikely Sources

It’s one of THOSE problems. You have tried every solution in your toolbox without success. It is not going away. The problem needs to be fixed so you can move forward. (In this context – it doesn’t matter whether this is a work problem, a home problem, a personal problem, whatever!) Known solutions are NOT working, so NOW what?

As you work to solve problems, are you overlooking someone as a source of a solution? Sometimes the person you least suspect just might have that break-through idea or knowledge desperately needed at that moment.

Consider this situation:

I’m at work and a product engineer invites me to go to dinner in a city about 45 miles away. The weather is beautiful and the evening forecast to be the same. An added perk is our plan to ride to dinner on his new high-end motorcycle! My shift ends and I arrive at his house 30 minutes early only to find this beautiful Kawasaki, surrounded by tools, with my visibly frustrated friend staring at it. Now, seeing one of the engineers frustrated is not uncommon during work, but this is obviously not a work issue.

My “what’s up?” is greeted with the explanation that he had decided to add an after-market option (front disc brakes) to the motorcycle. He had been told the installation would be fairly easy, and things had gone well until it came time to bend the stainless steel brake-line to the contours required. Next to the bike were two pieces of stainless steel tubing with obvious collapsed “kinks” rendering them useless. In his hand he held the third (and final) tube he had purchased. With the bike shop now closed, the line had to be successfully installed if we wanted to ride the bike to dinner.

As he began to reassess the situation, I asked if he had some tape. He did. I took the tube from him and taped off the end, to which he impatiently asked, “WHAT are you doing?” I quietly suggested he fill the tube with the sand I saw next to his garage. He sighed with skepticism, and I could tell decided to humor me. As we filled the tube with sand, I asked him to gently bump the end on the ground to further pack the sand in the tube. Once filled, I taped the open end and requested he try to bend it. To his surprise, it bent without damage! Quickly he removed the pieces of tape, emptied the sand, and blew out the tube. Ten minutes later, the line was installed, brake fluid added, and we were on the road to dinner, enjoying the power of the bike and a gorgeous sunset.

Once seated at the restaurant, he asked the question that had obviously been burning in him during the ride: “Would you like to explain to me HOW you would know to do THAT?” Legitimate question! There I was, a young female with a degree in math and a computer programming job. Certainly, I was NOT a likely source of a solution to his problem, yet had provided a successful one. What he didn’t know, I explained, I grew up with a father who allowed me to be his apprentice during car or house repairs, much to my mother’s horror. I spent many evenings and weekends working with my dad on cars for which parts were NOT available, so we made our own – including custom bending brake lines. It probably goes without saying I experienced a greater level of respect from my engineering friend after that!

Do you empower ALL of those around you to feel comfortable offering ideas, even when the problems are outside of their (supposed) areas of expertise or responsibility? If not, what great, timely solutions are YOU missing?

There are times when all organizations could use a fresh set of eyes to evaluate a process or a problem. Let the team at HVMC offer that fresh perspective backed by global experience!

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