The Problem with Problems

The problem with problems is we only see the same old solution.  For example, littering.  How do you get people to put trash in the trashcan?  The normal solution would be to fine them for not picking up.  OK, how do you prove it’s that person’s trash?  So fines and fees won’t work.  What will?

In Roger Von Oech’s book,  A Whack on the Side of the Head,  he mentions a city in the Netherlands that wrestled with this problem. Most suggested the easy answer, “Double the fine for littering.” Then one creative thinker came up with a better idea. Instead of punishing people for not picking up, what if we rewarded them for picking up?   “How so?” “I don’t know, maybe we could put some sort of sensor on the trash can and when someone deposited trash it would pay him ten guilders.” Brilliant idea, but there was just one problem. Paying people to pick up trash would bankrupt the government.

But there was a kernel of truth here that they wanted to hang on to. They’d turned it from a “punish the litterer” problem to a “reward the law abider” problem.

They used this as a stepping stone and asked themselves, “What other ways are there to reward people for putting their refuse in the trash cans?” This led to the following solution. The sanitation department developed electronic trash cans which had a sensing unit on the top that would detect a piece of trash being placed in the receptacle. This would activate a recorder that would play a joke. Joke telling trash cans. Different cans played different jokes. The jokes were changed out periodically. And the city was cleaned up in no time.

All because someone decided to look at a problem a different way. We can learn from this. You have problems every day. The biggest problem you have is that you tend to view your problems the same old way.  One wag said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer you will see every problem as a nail.” Think outside the box.

I don’t know what problem you face this today.  I do know creativity is critical to the solution.  Try to see it a different way.  Look for solutions you never considered.  Ask God to help.

Consider this prayer of David in Psalm 25:4-5

“4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”


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