At the NRA Show (National Restaurant Association) a couple weeks ago, I was struck by several really smart, really simple ideas I saw on display.
Each one did just one thing, each one was simple in its construction and each one solved a problem that restaurant operators have accepted as normal for decades.
That last part, “accepted as normal,” is really important.
Too often, we let the customer, the market, the situation, etc., define the problem, then we go about solving the problem they’ve defined. We learn to ignore things that at first seem illogical, incomplete or inconvenient.
To be truly effective, sometimes we need to step back and forget a little bit – or a lot – of what we accept as normal and take an unbiased look to idenfity the problem.
Without knowing then how well it would serve me in business, I learned the best way to do this in my college newswriting class. The professor drilled into us the basic reporting questions also know as the “5 Ws”: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
By systematically answering each of these questions, I’m forced to first acknowledge, then either accept or reject existing assumptions, either mine or someone else’s. For example, let’s say a client or prospect says, “I need a new Web site.”
In this scenario, The 5 Ws must be applied at several levels. First, they must explore whether a Web site is even the right approach. Then, what kind of Web site: informational? Transactional? Social? Then, how will the Web site differentiate itself? And so on.
The entire nature of this approach is on first identifying the problem. The solution and the steps needed to implement the solution are secondary and reveal themselves along the way. Together with the client, we begin better equipped to truly solve a problem and produce value.
That is what impressed me so much about the smart, simple ideas I saw at the NRA Show. Each one is an elegant solution, but more importantly, each one solves a problem everyone else either didn’t see or chose to ignore. Check them out here:
Flat Table leveler identifies and solves the problem of unlevel, rocking dining tables in restaurants: http://www.flat.net.au/
Instant-Off Water Saver identifies and solves the problem of needing to turn on/off faucets in environments that require frequent hand washing: http://www.instant-off.com/
Stove Shoes identify and solve the problem of moving heavy kitchen equipment: http://www.stoveshoes.com/