Sand For Your Inbox

Ideas to help you think and work more creatively

Sand for Your Inbox - March 2006

March already? How times flies. I hope you enjoy this month’s creative problem solving tip! It’s one I use all the time when brainstorming and problem solving...

How Would They Solve It?

When you’ve got a problem to solve, if often helps to get advice from various friends, family members, mentors and colleagues. But there are other resources you can call on as well. You may use what you know about famous people or businesses to solve problems.

If you know enough about a business or person, you may look at your problem through their personality, style, brand or way of doing things.

For example, you may ask, how would Oprah solve this problem? What would Ben Franklin do? How would Nordstrom or 7-Eleven execute this if this were their challenge? By applying what you know about their ethics, attention to detail, business style, personality, interests, and so on... you will be presented with insight and perspectives you may not have discovered on your own.

Specific People (Real or Not) you may want to consider may include...

Bugs Bunny, Dr. Seuss, Katie Couric, Lance Armstrong, Lucile Ball, Oprah Winfrey or even Santa Claus.

From a business perspective how would these companies approach your problem?

7-Eleven, Amazon, Coca-Cola, FedEx, Google, In-N-Out Burger, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Starbucks Coffee, The Apple Store, The Disney Company, The Gap, or others...

The more un-related the company or person is to your business, the better. If you’re a clothing company, don’t compare to Nordstrom or The Gap. Use Disney, Apple or Coca-Cola as your filter – you’ll get more interesting solutions.

I’ll give you an example... Let’s say I’m the person in charge of improving Drive-Thrus at Starbucks. Since I know Disney is great at providing a great Guest experience I’m going to use Disney as my filter... 

  • Turn the experience into a ride... I pull up, put my car in neutral, and like a car wash, the cars are pulled through the drive-thru lane.
  • I can tune my radio into a short-range FM broadcast and am able to listen to the same music playing inside the store.
  • The drive-thru is completely enclosed, like a mini-tunnel. The walls are covered with digital panels showing videos of the journey of coffee from green cherry on the farmer’s plantation, through the roasting process and into your cup. There are props relevant to telling the story like coffee trees, burlap bags of coffee, roasting machines, etc. You either tune into the radio station mentioned above, or open your windows and listen.
  • Instead of speaking into a speaker, an audio-animatronic barista takes my order at the beginning of the drive thru.
  • The smell of fresh roasted coffee is blown into the drive-thru lane – I can smell the aroma in the car.

If there are people or companies you want to utilize on a regular basis I would suggest you create your very own Imaginary Board of Directors... Click here to read a blog post that describes more about an Imaginary Board of Directors.

Explore the resources below to learn about some great minds... – an excellent, free on-line encyclopedia. – allows you to search over 25,000 of the greatest lives past and present.

Mental Floss” magazine – the current March/April issue cover story is about American Genius features Ben Franklin, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Richard Pryor, George Lucas, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and more...

Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds” book by Michael J. Gelb – he features... Plato, Brunelleschi, Columbus, Copernicus, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Darwin, Gandhi and Einstein.

Radicals & Visionaries: Entrepreneurs Who Revolutionized the 20th Century” book by Thaddeus Wawro features short biographies about 90 men and women who have shaped the past 100 years. Including... Akio Morita, Berry Gordy, Bill Gates, Clarence Birdseye, David Ogilvy, Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, George Lucas, Henry Ford, Howard Schultz, Hugh Hefner, Jim Henson, John Johnson, Martha Stewart, Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Kroc, Ron Popeil, Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, Thomas Watson Jr., William Hewlett & David Packard, and others...

if you have any questions about this tip or about Idea Sandbox, please drop me a note!

Take care,

Paul's First Name


Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam