Trying to be Too Fancy

computer_109.gifIt is obvious that people react to problems in their own unique way or style so to speak. I have seen people who believe that resolving a problem in the most sophisticated manner is the only way because it is a reflection of how slick and clever they are. These people ought to be in sales because they are glory hogs, reveling more on the prestige that is a corollary to their achievements and contributions to the cause.

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group, there’s less competition there.” — Indira Gandhi

Now I am not categorically vilifying these glory hogs because despite their obsession for recognition, most of them are quite proficient in what they do. I have noticed that more often than not these people have the tendency to get overwhelmed by the problem that they immediately act like strategists, focusing on the long term ramifications of the solution, forgetting that they are also tacticians capable of providing a simple, straightforward solution to the problem.

Here’s what I mean by this, from an mail sent to me by a friend :

One of the most memorable case studies in Japanese management was the case of the empty soap box, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty.

Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soap box went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent whoopee amount to do so.

But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, did not get into complications of X-rays, etc but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

We sometimes become so enamored with being strategists, because it is hip and cool making us feel smart, that we fail to recognize that one really needs to be both – a strategist and a tactician at the precise time. Moreover, we tend to keep the problem within our domain, often hesistant to ask other people for advice or comments, especially those who we think possess less knowledge of the subject.  I can chastise myself for this because I behave like one opinionated dork sometimes 😦 The above example clearly illustrates that people you don’t expect to be as smart as you can come up with an equally effective solution. The fan solution may look “ungraceful” or “low-tech” but it was a strong solution – low cost and easily deployable.

There are problems that look big but can be resolved in a simplistic manner minus the bells and whistles and the other wow factors. In our daily grind perhaps we must try to be tacticians first before attempting to be strategists.  In this way we can filter the easy ones and conserve our energy to deal with the big ones,  the show stoppers. It also doesn’t hurt to ask people’s opinions and comments.  For all we know, they may already have the answer ! Keep it simple – not too fancy.  I’m guilty of this too 😯 Just a thought 😀



Last Monday an officemate of mine dropped her left hand winter glove before she exited the elevator at the 14th. Before I could tell her she dropped her glove the door closed. Since I didn’t know her name, I came back to the 14th floor after I had my morning coffee to look for her and return her glove. I was going around trying to spot her in the office areas but couldn’t find her and gave up after 15 minutes. While waiting for the elevator to go up to my office, an office mate I knew very well who worked in the same floor said hi to me and we talked for a bit. I told her I was looking for the slender Caucasian girl who dropped her glove at the elevator and her eyes glowed – “You got her glove? Darn, she was bitching about it at the water cooler! Oh, thank you – she will be very happy she got it back “! I finally got her name which sounded quite familiar but now I was able to put a face to it. But more importantly she got her glove back 🙂

Interestingly, the glove is one of the “most lost” personal items in this part of the world. A woman in Pittsburgh did an unthinkable project – a website that publishes lost gloves in an effort to reunite the glove with its owner ! What is the reunion rate ? Not too high but it is comforting to know that it is possible to reunite with a lost lowly glove albeit the odds are much like a letter in a bottle adrift at sea finding itself back with the owner 🙂

Have you ever lost something important and got it back ? Or found something and returned it to the rightful owner ?


41 Responses

  1. I always ask for help so I think I am safe =)

    I have lost my wallet just once but I came back to the store the next day but the cashier kept it for me. I was lucky 🙂 It’s okay to lose money but not my atm and credit card!

  2. Surprising, huh? That the answer to some of the most complicated of problems usually is the simplest one. We should really learn to think outside the box from time to time…

    As for lost things, the odds are, at least in Japan or in some western countries, the chances that you’ll get back what you lost is higher than in a third world country. 😀

  3. You have an interesting blog. I enjoyed reading your post!

  4. Using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut huh? hehe Yeah big problems sometimes have simple solutions…OA lang yung iba hehe 😀

  5. “The way we see the problem is the problem”
    -Stephen R. Covey-

    “I was looking for the slender Caucasian girl”

    Too bad slender Asian girls don’t wear gloves here… 😉

  6. such a simple solution overlooked by complicated people

  7. one need not only be effective, he has to be efficient, too… that is to do things, with less effort, time and money. 🙂 it pays to ask for help sometimes.

    i always loose things.

  8. Reuniting lost gloves. hahaha.

    I like that soap box story. 😀

  9. i laughed when i read the first part of your post. i just came from a 3-day workshop & all we did was to find a solution or methodology on something. basta. hehehe.

    re the gloves, there’s a website? wow! then it’s really a popular lost and found item. hehehe ;p

  10. Irrealis – good for you to consult with people all the time 🙂

    Lucky you the store cashier was honest . It is OK if you lose your ATM or credit card and find out about it immiediately because you can cancel it right away. The bad part is if it takes you days to find out you’ve lost it. Thieves nowadays have sophisticated ways to use a stolen card 😦

  11. Snglguy – it is sometimes amazing that big problems can have simple solutions 🙂

    The economic disparity will have a lot to do with it. Here you have to lose something really good for people to keep it. I once found a wallet with no money in it but full of credit cards + ID’s. I placed it in an envelope pouch and mailed it to the owner. I spent 5 bucks doing it but I was more concerned about the misery he would go through 🙂

  12. Tim – thanks 🙂

  13. Sidney – that’s a nice quote 🙂 We are a bit of racially diverse in the office and it was just a consequence that the owner of the glove was a Caucasian woman hehe 🙂

  14. Verns – I hear you. The are people who would want to kill a fly with a flame thrower hehe 🙂 Sometimes we can be quite over the top esp if we are mad with people like we want to topple a building to fall over them haha 🙂

  15. Tutubi – yep there’s no shortage of complicated people it seems . We got lots of them everywhere hehe 🙂

  16. Bingskee – yes – it has to be easily deployable and must not be too costly 🙂 I’m one person who likes to do things fast so I look at the quickest way to solve problems all the time. The bad part of me is I have no patience for very detail oriented people 😦 Maybe I am not a patient person, duh.

    It’s OK to lose things as long as you find them 🙂 I have quite a good record with my winter gloves. I have a few sets of gloves but I have one favorite I have used or at least 6 years until and it is still in the closet 🙂

  17. Wil – isn’t it crazy ? It is OK if you have a leather glove worth 50 bucks but why bother to look for a 5 buck pair of gloves and spend more time and money finding it 🙂

  18. Tin – so you’ve just been to a seminar and my post jived with the subject.. coincidence hehe 🙂

    Yes, there is a strange website that deals with lost gloves believe it or not. I am not sure what the website owner’s motivation is because if you spend 10 bucks for gas to collect a 5 buck glove, let alone your time to coordinate the appointment, I don’t think it’s worth it. But it could be fun though 🙂

  19. isn’t it a wonder sometimes that the best solution is the simplest? there are times when management overkill and all they need is a simple stitch. 🙂

    in the house…it’s more on forgetfulness. 🙂

  20. If there’s only an “industrial fan” solution to the problems that plague our poor country, no? Hay!

  21. Ipanema – it is not a surprise because part and parcel of management is the pursuit of bragging rights hehe 🙂

    It’s OK if you lose things in the house – sooner or later you will retrieve them 🙂

  22. Abaniko – the industrial fan better work in congress, that it blows away those with corruption in their blood hehe 🙂

  23. while there are instances when complex solutions are necessary, many issues require only simple answers. sometimes, all they need is a little common sense, which seems to be scarce these days 😀

    talking about lost and found, i’ve lost about 7 celphones since college; two of them were returned to me by good-hearted tricycle drivers, one of whom is a mother. i’ll never forget her face — and her honesty.

  24. That’s a very interesting story about the empty soap box. Actually, it is a rather good illustration of how some Japanese tend to “overdo” things, oftentimes to the point of being superfluous. It makes me wonder why they try to solve problems with lots of flair and hitech methods instead of opting for simpler, more straightforward solutions. Is it because they have the means to do so? Or is it because it is what is expected of them, and any less hitech would be frowned upon? Have they advanced so much in technology that they tend to employ such powerful tools which are available to their disposal? Or is it simply dictated by economics? Consider the x-ray device they came up with for the assembly line. The geniuses who devised the apparatus would enormously benefit from the sale of their product (not only to that company in particular, but to other companies as well), and the two extra staffs assigned to ocular inspection would earn extra yen just for watching the boxes! 🙂

  25. Barry – common sense sometimes eludes the big thinkers ! hahaha 🙂

    You were lucky to retrieve some of them 🙂 I once lost my office issued cell phone and when i called my cell a person answered and he was watching a hockey game ! Good thing was my office is quite close to the Air Canada center and I told the man I’d like to meet up with him after the hockey game was over.I met him infront of a pub were he and his buddies were going and thanked him. When I checked the cell,
    the man tried to call the sex hotlines but couldn’t as I barred the expensive 900 and 976 area codes from my service hehe 🙂

  26. Kathy – I have no doubt that Japan is, hands down, the most hitech country in the world . Maybe it was just a knee jerk reaction to the problem hehe 🙂

    In this case I don’t think the less hi-tech solution should be frowned upon. It could have bought them time. It was a great interim solution which could have been deployed in an instant and would have given the company more time to develop the more permanent the xray solution, instead of the rush and the tons of money spent to delevop the system in a rush-rush method 🙂

  27. that fan was quite a good solution. Now, if only I canhave a quick , thinking and simplistic mind like that, I’m sure I’d go places.

    I’ve lost gloves , I cant remember how many, I doubt I’ll ever get them reconciled with the lost pair.

    I’ve lost my badge (security ID) at work and have gotten it back. Mainly because I lost it at work.

  28. Tactics. Saves precious time and resources.

    I like the soap box story. However, I think not even an “industrial fan” can sweep out durrrty politicians from office. They will just use “super glue”.

  29. McGyverism 😛 yun lang naman eh *lol*

    pag masyadong OA, nakakainis at boring sila.

  30. Ironically speaking, it takes genius to make complicated things simple, idiocy, to do the opposite. =)

  31. It takes genius to make complicated things simple, idiocy, to do the opposite. =)

  32. I like that story about the Japanese cosmetics company. It teaches an important lesson.

    Okay… so I like Monk, the TV show… and this sort of reminds me of the last episode shown in Cambodia where the other people in the police force were using a lot of technology in solving a crime but Monk was able to solve it with just plain common sense. 🙂

  33. Leah – a simplistic mind would be ideal he? I wish I have that too hahaha 🙂

    Maybe we should tie our gloves to the jackets much like what we do with the little tots 🙂

  34. Thess – I love that McGyver guy – I wish they continue that show 🙂

    Is there a difference between OA and maarte? What if one has both? hehe 🙂

  35. Lawstude – I hear ya hehe 🙂 Those dirty politicians are like leeches that no matter how strong the fan is they will stick because they feed on our blood duh 😦

  36. Jeff – I love that quote . So true ! 🙂

  37. Toe – those monks are quite amazing indeed. Imagine beating out the sleuths of the police force with just common sense. Maybe these sleuths watch too much James Bond movies hehe 🙂

  38. Reading the two articles; Maybe it would be cool if they’ll put tracking devices in each glove… or to make everything “simple” and not “fancy” a name for each gloves with the phone number …

  39. Richmond – as with the gloves, it is really a cost issue. They’re quite inexpensive so most people don’t worry cry about losing them unless they don’t have a spare set ! Now if you have a $50 pair of leather gloves, I agree, it is better to etch your phone number somehere on it so if you lose it, you’d likely to get it back, that is if someone bothers to pick it up 🙂

  40. I always buy extra pairs of gloves and even a pack of those 99 cents ones. The kids will always lose one glove and we don’t always have time to run to the store. When my kids were a lot smaller, I would tie strings to their gloves and slide the string inside the sleeves of their jackets so they won’t lose them. But this proved to be dangerous after reports of that child whose jacket strings got caught in the school bus and the driver didn’t see him and drove off and the poor kid was dragged and died. So I stopped doing that.

    I commute to work and I would sometimes get someone’s attention when they are getting off the bus that they’ve dropped their glove/s before they take off.

  41. Honeyville – I tell you I have a winter jacket with strings on the sides to tighten it and at one point, I got caught on the door handle as I was rushing and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling 😦

    Man, kids ALWAYS lose their gloves – it’s good if they’re only worth 99 cents and you can buy them a bunch hehe 🙂

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