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Easily Remedied

Mistakes are always costly.  No matter what caused the error, the remedy can cost time, money, reputation, or loss of life.  The tragedies of history that were most costly are known long after the event occurred.  Consider these….

Titanic – $7.5 million in 1912 in construction costs and 1517 lives. In today’s economy, the adjusted cost would be over $200 million.

The Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico in 2000 started as a prescribed fire which spread due to high winds and drought conditions. The flames burned for more than a month, destroyed close to 48,000 acres, and left more than 400 families without homes.  Total cost – $2 Billion.

B-2 Stealth Bomber – On a practice flight in Guam, America’s most expensive jet, the B-2 Stealth bomber, was destroyed when faulty sensors caused it to pitch up on takeoff, stall and crash, according to the Air Force. The B-2, one of 21 in existence at the time, cost $1.4 billion.

Some mistakes would be costly to truly remedy, but alternative approaches met the need cheaply.

Edward de Bono, Maltese physician, psychologist, philosopher, author, inventor and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, suggests that when we can’t solve a problem using traditional methods, we should try “detours and reversals,” anything that will give us a different angle from which to ponder solutions. To illustrate, he tells this story about a problem faced by executives of a large company.

The company had moved into a new skyscraper and discovered that the builder apparently had not put in enough elevators.

Employees were disgruntled because there were over long waits for the elevators, especially at both ends of the working day.

The company got a wide cross-section of the staff together and asked them to sit down and solve the problem. The task force came up with four possible solutions:

  1. Speed up the elevators or arrange for them to stop at certain floors during rush periods.
  2. Stagger working hours to reduce elevator demand at either end of the day.
  3. Install mirrors around entrances to all elevators.
  4. Drive a new elevator shaft through the building. Which solution would you have chosen?

According to Professor de Bono, if you chose the first, second, or fourth solutions, then you are a “vertical” or traditional thinker. If you chose the third possibility, then you are a “lateral thinker.” The vertical thinker takes the narrow view; the lateral thinker has a broader view.

After some consideration, the company chose the third solution.

It worked.

“People became so preoccupied with looking at themselves (or surreptitiously at others),” said de Bono, “that they no longer noticed the wait for the elevator. The problem was not so much the lack of elevators as the impatience of the employees.”  (Copied).