Necessity is the mother of invention. This aphorism has been clearly illustrated during the current economic challenge. More than a few of our clients have shared stories of projects or initiatives that have been dragging on for up to two years but have been brought to fruition in just a few weeks.    

How can that be?

It’s a combination of urgency and innovation. As the aphorism suggests, urgency often inspires innovation. Innovation is not just about new ideas.  It is also about new, faster, more efficient ways of getting things done.

Here’s a fun, unlikely story to help you stretch your thinking about what innovation looks like.  After the story are eight areas to ignite your team’s innovation. 

An elderly Italian man lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it would be difficult work as the ground was dry and hard this year.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was unfortunately in prison. The father wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent, 
I am feeling sad, because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot.  I know if you were here my troubles would be over.  I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
Love, Papa

A few days later he received a reply from his son:

Dear Pop,
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
Love, Vinny

Early the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area, but did not find any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

The very next day the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Pop,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.  
Love you, Vinny

Now, Vinny was a creative problem solver!  

On the business front, your challenge is to out-think your competition, not to out-spend them. 

A good place to start innovating is with the eight areas of waste. They spell TIM WOODS:

Transport—Moving people, products, and information
Inventory—Storing parts, pieces, and documentation ahead of requirements
Motion—Bending, turning, reaching, lifting

Waiting—For parts, information, instructions or equipment
Overproduction—Making more than is immediately required
Over-processing—Tighter tolerances or higher-grade materials than needed
Defects—Reducing rework, scrap and incorrect/incomplete information
Skills—Underutilizing capabilities, delegating tasks with inadequate training

Involve your team in addressing these areas of waste to ensure your business is competitive in any economy.


We can help you with coachingworkshopsassessments and consulting on your culture.