Brian, OEM/Engineering manager for a global leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of material handling equipment based in Portland, OR told Session 7B of the Leadership Development Lab™ (LDL):
We were quoting a customer on a set of three cylinders for a forklift truck mast, two main lifts and one free-standing lift. We were competitive as a package, but compared to our client's Japanese supplier, our pricing was high for the individual main lift cylinders. The customer wanted to know why our price was so much higher, and what we were going to do 'to bring our pricing in line.'
It was my design and as simple a design as I had ever created. I just couldn't imagine anything that we could possibly do to reduce costs any further. We set up a conference call between our cylinder manufacturing plants in Cramlington, England and Springfield, OH to have a brainstorming session. First, we put the problem in the can. I had the question up on everyone's PC screen, 'In what way can we simplify our three-cylinder lift?'
We followed the rules for brainstorming we had all learned in Session 5A of the LDL. Agreeing that no idea was stupid, and that there would be no comments on anyone's ideas until we had exhausted all possibilities, we ended up with 26 possible items to work on. Twenty-six ideas for simplification of a design that was so simple in the first place, there 'could not possibly be any further cost reduction.' From these ideas and the added engagement brainstorming created, we went on to a still simpler design, and secured the order. Our new simpler design is in production now.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of keeping an open mind, asking for, and listening to ideas others have to share.
"The action I call you to take the next time you are up against the wall with no idea on how to solve your problem, is to get an ad hoc team together, and ask Turbo's magic question, 'In what ways can we . . . . . ?'
"The benefits you will gain are innovative ideas, reduced costs, and you will ensure you get and keep satisfied customers.
When two or more minds brainstorm together in the spirit of true openness to brainstorm a third "mind" is created. Miraculous ideas that no one would think of alone in isolation are born.
"When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven't."
- Thomas Edison
Improve everything to get and keep new customers.
—Larry W. Dennis, Sr. President Turbo Leadership Systems