1. When NASA began launching
astronauts into space, they found out that the astronauts’ pens
wouldn’t work at zero gravity (ink wouldn’t flow down to the
writing surface). It took them one decade and $12 million to
solve this problem. They developed a pen that worked at zero
gravity, upside down, underwater, on practically any surface
including crystal, and at temperatures ranging from below
freezing to over 300 degrees C.
And what did the Russians do? The Russians used a pencil.
2. One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese
management techniques was the case of the empty soap box, which
occurred 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 of time and money to
But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed
with the same problem, he did not get into the 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.
3. A 50 feet long trailer having 48” wheels got stuck while
entering a midtown tunnel in New York because it was
approximately 2.5 feet taller than the height of the tunnel.
The fire department and the state department of transportation
spent the whole day searching for a solution, to no avail.
Then a child, aged about 9 years, asked his father, “Why can’t
they take out the air from the tyre tubes? The height will
automatically come down.”