Enhance Productivity and Efficiency with Stephen’s Innovation Insights

Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Summary of Tip 7 (of 40) from Best Practices Are Stupid.

The Goldilocks Principle

Today, we delve into a simple yet critical aspect of problem framing: The Goldilocks Principle.

When attempting to solve a problem, we often frame it either too broadly (e.g., solving world hunger) or too narrowly.

A prime example of the latter is the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Clean-up crews grappled with removing the oil from the icy waters of Alaska. Whenever they attempted to extract the dense liquid, it froze.

At first, the problem was defined too narrowly: “How can we prevent an oil/water mixture from freezing?” This presupposed that the solution lay within the realm of oil. Nearly two decades and almost $1 billion later, no solution emerged.

However, when the challenge was reframed as, “How can we prevent viscous shearing in a dense liquid?” (a force on a dense liquid making it behave like a solid), it shifted the focus from oil (a specific fluid) to a broader issue in fluid dynamics. A solution was found in six weeks for only $20,000.

By presenting the challenge in this manner, it paved the way for solutions from diverse fields, including the construction industry, where the ultimate solution was discovered. Someone dealing with clogging cement chutes pinpointed the answer.

This chapter offers many other examples and strategies for getting the right level of abstraction. Master this tip, and you’ll be well on your way to uncovering superior solutions.

In the next tip we’ll explore “open innovation” with the tip: “There Is No Such Thing as a Know-It-All.”

Get your copy of Best Practices Are Stupid today in Kindle or paperback

(be sure to get a copy with the purple cover as that’s the updated edition)

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