A Japanese soap factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the soap inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Customers who come all the way to the supermarket would end up buying someone else’s product.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the soap factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using some high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a soap box weighing less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That’s some money well spent!” – he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report. It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the new high precision scales was “zero” after three weeks of production use. It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the high precision scales were installed. A few feet before it, there was a $ 20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that — one of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”, says one of the workers.
Moral of the Story: Everyone has a “solution” sometimes requiring an expenditure of “8 million bucks”. It requires an engineer with a high spirit of innovation and ingenuity to come up with a “$ 20 – simple cost-effective solution”!

Design Thinking is not about problem solving. Its about making things better. Fixing a Car which got broke down is problem solving. Fixing a Car to run smoothly and fuel efficiently is Design Thinking

Key Points

  • Learn to Fail Early
  • Test your end result.Make sure you are doing the right one
  • Don’t spend too much time on Planning. Start working

Other Notable Things

  • Ask questions not with solutions which you already have in your mind
  • Questioning Basics

    • What you think about It
    • What you feel about It
    • What you do about It
  • People hesitate to tell No.So you need to change the question according to that. Eg – Petrol Bunk Story – There was high turn around in petrol bunk for special petrol when “Shall I put Special Petrol” was asked instead of asking “Sir special or normal petrol” to customer. Instead of giving option to choose from ask shall I offer that. The one which you offer is the one which you like to sell
  • Empathy – Understanding how other people feel, communicating your understanding, Apathy – a state of not caring, being unsympathetic or not empathetic, Sympathy – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone, Antipathy – Glad they have those problems
  • Convert Implicit needs to Explicit Requirements Eg – TV not clear is a Implicit need to someone and TV to be bought is a requirement to someone.Turn Implicit needs of customers to explicit needs to make it as selling point