Sand For Your Inbox

Ideas to help you think and work more creatively

Sand for Your Inbox - May 2006


It’s time for another shovel-full of creativity from Idea Sandbox! With the weather changing, a nature related problem-solving tip seems appropriate. Enjoy!

Let Mother Nature Provide Solutions

A time-tested technique for problem solving is to take your challenge out of context and look at it from a different perspective. One context we all can relate to is nature... Mother Nature offers much for us to learn.

To generate solutions with the help of Mother Nature, ask…
“How does nature deal with a situation like this?” Or,
“How do plants and animals address this situation?”

Here is a list of some common business challenges:

  1. Your company’s product or service has low awareness.
  2. You are bored or lack growth opportunity in your job.
  3. You have items in your store (or home) with high potential for theft.
  4. Sales have been declining in your product line-up.

So, let’s take a look at how nature reacts in these situations and how we may apply the analogy…

1. CHALLENGE - Your company’s product or service has low awareness.

What do nature’s awareness-builders do?


The firefly uses her light to attract a mate.

Perhaps your customers are the ones in the dark and you need to provide illumination and let them know what makes your product special.

Birds use their song to defend their territory. Perhaps you need a new advertising approach. Or maybe even a jingle - your bird call!

2. CHALLENGE - You are bored or lack growth opportunity in your job

What happens when something in nature is outgrown?


When the hermit crab begins to outgrow his shell, he looks for a larger one and leaves the old one behind.

Perhaps you need to get out of your old shell. Is there a different opportunity within your organization that will provide you with new challenges? Or perhaps you need to find a new place to work altogether.

3. CHALLENGE - You have items in your store (or home) with high potential for theft.

How does nature protect things from being targeted?


Oxen organize themselves so that the stronger oxen are on the outside of the herd and the weaker within. They respond to a threat by forming a circle with the females and young in the center.

In your store… Consider putting high-theft items in the center of your store where they can be easily monitored by the surrounding sales team.

Tree bark shields the tree with protective layers of dead tissue that lack nutrients. Plant-eaters rarely consume dead bark on a standing tree. At home… Protect valuables within items that look like they lack value by using a ‘diversion safe’. You can buy a book safe and common household product decoys with secret compartments to protect valuables.

4. CHALLENGE - Sales have been declining in your product line-up.

How does nature create efficiency?


Natural forest fires kill invading weeds, release nutrients, and reduce competition allowing existing trees to grow larger.

You may have too many products. More isn’t necessarily better. Eliminate products that, like weeds, are invading your stronger products. This will release resources and reduce competition allow existing products to grow larger.

Next time you have a challenge; ask yourself how nature manages in similar situations. The analogy doesn’t have to be a one-to-one match, but use it to inspire solutions you may not otherwise have thought of.

Thanks for reading, I hope you find this month’s Idea Sandbox tip helpful.
As always, if there is anything I can do to help you or your company; please don’t hesitate to drop me a note.

Take care,

Paul's First Name


Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam