Tag Archives: Creative Thinking

Where is the shark in your cubicle ?

A friend sent this story sometime back:

The Japanese have a great liking for fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So, to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring back the fish. The longer it took them to bring back the fish, the staler they grew. The fish were not fresh and the Japanese did not like the taste. To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen fish. And they did not like the taste of frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price. So, fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. After a little hashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive.
Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish. The fishing industry faced an impending crisis! But today, it has got over that crisis and has emerged as one of the most important trades in that country! How did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan?
To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged and hence are constantly on the move. And they survive and arrive in a healthy state! They command a higher price and are most sought-after. The challenge they face keeps them fresh!
Humans are no different. L. Ron Hubbard observed in the early 1950’s: “Man thrives, oddly enough, only in the presence of a challenging environment.” George Bernard Shaw said: “Satisfaction is death!”
If you are steadily conquering challenges, you are happy. Your challenges keep you energized. You are excited to try new solutions. You have fun. You are alive! Instead of avoiding challenges, jump into them. Do not postpone a task, simply because its challenging. Catch these challenges by their horns and vanquish them. Enjoy the game. If your challenges are too large or too numerous, do not give up. Giving up makes you tired. Instead, reorganize. Find more determination, more knowledge, more help. Don’t create success and revel in it in a state of inertia. You have the resources, skills and abilities to make a difference.
Moral of the story: Put a shark in your tank and see how far you can really go!

Not sure if you agree with such extreme measures to push people (or is it motivate people ?) to achieve the impossible or even accomplish everyday tasks, but I think there is an important message in the story. Quite often, we underestimate the power of ‘positive pressure’ (some might prefer to call it a negative pressure, though) dismissing it as a constraining force rather than an enabling one. However, there might be situations where such tactics might actually be a good, rather better, way to get things done.

I believe opportunities almost always masquarade as problems. I have never seen an opportunity present itself as a career-building assignment, or a game-changing company event on a silver platter. They all present themselves as a small, constant irritating pain of no major importance or immediate consequence. Most of us ignore them and walk right past them, prefering to often wait to work on ‘bigger’ problems, strategy and so on. I remember a highly inspiring talk by Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, a few years back in Bangalore. Scott talked about how they do the strategy for their products. Instead of a very hi-tech way to define product development strategy, they go about identifying pain-points their customers experience while using their products. They simply work on improving the user experience as the primary way to create opportunities for themselves. And it works for them.

Don’t run away from the shark in your cubicle, and if you have none, start by putting a shark in your cubicle first 🙂

Are you helping your competitors succeed ?

I just read a nice story on the home page of Luke Watson, and was struck by its ‘simple power’. It goes like this:

A few years ago, there was story going around about a farmer who won a particular category in the Nebraska State Fair four years in a row, which is unheard of there. The local newspaper sent a reporter to interview the farmer to find out what he did to achieve such a feat.

The reporter asked, “What’s your secret? Do you have any special corn seed?”
The farmer replied, “Absolutely, I develop my very own corn seed.”
The reporter said, “Okay, so that’s your secret – you developed your very own corn seed.”
And the farmer said, “No, not particularly.”
The reporter exclaimed, “I don’t understand. What’s your secret, then?”
The farmer said, “Well, I’ll tell you. I develop my own seed, and then I give it to my neighbors.”
The reporter said, “Huh? You develop your own seed and then give it to your neighbors? Why would you do that?” The reporter was incredulous – why would anyone in his right mind develop his own award-winning seed and then just give it away??
The farmer said, “You don’t understand how corn is pollinated. It’s pollinated from neighboring fields, and if you have fields around you that don’t have top-quality corn, then your own fields are not going to grow top-quality corn. But if my neighbors’ fields have strong corn, then I’ll have awesome corn! That’s how I won the Nebraska State Fair four times in a row.”

(Adapted from “Success From Home” magazine, Vol.4, Issue 10, Oct 2008, p109, Plus Publishing)

Is this open-source competition, open-source innovation, open-source collaboration or what ???

Hats off to the farmer in the story who exhibited such an unconventional and long-haul thinking. How many of us would be willing to apply such a bold thought in our business ? I find this a brand new approach to innovation – one that is really deep-rooted in helping others succeed because that is the only way to bring one’s own success. Even though our farmer is still winning hands-down in the competition, his neighbors are clearly happy using his high-quality corn (otherwise they would not use those corns) and despite the fact our farmer always wins, they don’t seem to mind his success – because his style of innovation is helping them all improve their own respective yield. Without their support, he can’t succeed, and he won’t get their support it they themselves are not succeeding. So, first he must help them succeed so that they, in turn, could bring him bigger success ! wow !

I am trying to think of companies that flourish using such a model of innovation…could not think of one, but there must be some. Write back if you know of some such company.

…but, are you helping your competitors succeed ? maybe, that’s the key to your own success !