A friend of mine, Cliff Dennett (Twitter: http://twitter.com/cliffdennett ) is seeking input/examples into a book he in the process of completing about applying innovation to achieve elegant problem solving. An idea of what he is researching is reproduced from his blog below. Any suggestions for examples (& sources) are very welcome.
You can reach Cliff on cdennett [AT] mac [DOT] com or via http://cliffdennett.typepad.com/
“My book is on elegant problem solving and the link below with some brief examples will give you a feel for what I trying to do …
I really like situations where the problem is the solution. Anything that simultaneously drives value up and cost down.
Examples of where the problem is the solution …
1) Call Centres
The problem with call centres is that the more people who call in, the worse the service becomes (we’ve all been stuck in phone queues). If we re-design the call centre as an internet forum, suddenly, the more people involved, the more likely that the problem will be solved better and faster. The intelligence for solving moves into the community with the problems. Note this simultaneously increases value and decreases cost.
2) One Water
We all know of the problems of getting fresh water into remote villages. One Water sells expensive bottled water to consumers in developed countries and uses the money to put playground roundabouts into African villages. These roundabouts are connected to water pumps. When the children play on the pumps, water is pumped to the village. Note this uses water-as-a-solution in one geographic area on water-as-a-problem in another geographic area. It also uses the power of play to help address a very serious problem.
3) Sick notes
Teacher Frank McCourt kept getting sick notes from his pupils who would skip his English classes. One day, he hit on the idea of using the sick notes themselves as a lesson. So he asked the pupils, as part of their homework, to write sick notes from famous people. He ended up receiving sick notes from Eve to God excusing her behaviour towards Adam, one from Eva Braun etc. The class was a great success. This example shows how searching for the good characteristics in any problem situation can reveal innovative answers.”