Today, you will read a wonderful metaphor for entrepreneurs on:
“How Creative Innovation Can Work“
I heard this story many years ago from Alain Neumann. I will retell it and modify it a little in the process.
Switzerland is famous for its chocolate. When I was a child, I was always craving very ordinary chocolate. My favourite was “full-milk”. But even when I was young, “just chocolate” was no longer a hit. Because the market of the economic miracle country wanted more.
In order to expand, the chocolate industry enterprises had to offer more. For instance chocolate with hazelnuts.
The story I am going to tell plays in Switzerland. A medium-sized enterprise produced chocolate with hazelnuts as their specialty. It was not easy, because the cracking of the nuts was sometimes a problem. More often than not, the nuts would break into many small pieces and, even worse, there would occasionally be splinters of nutshells in the bar of chocolate.
This was not only detrimental for the degree to which eaters enjoyed it, but also less than fortunate for the enterprise, because the nutshell can be rather hard and thus might well damage the occasional tooth when you bite into it. And selling the chocolate with whole hazelnuts was not at all an option, because when you cracked the nuts, they would regularly break into several parts, which made the pickings of whole nuts rather small.
Consequently, they gave a team of engineers the task of having to revolutionize the process of nut cracking. The nuts were to remain totally undamaged. Besides, it had to be avoided at all costs that nutshell splinters ever got into the chocolate. And, of course, the entire process had to be automated and done by unmanned machines.
The engineers worked day and night, but found no solution. It seemed to be a hopeless assignment and the engineers became more and more frustrated with each passing day.
The enterprise also had a porter. He came from what we would today call the “uneducated”, but everybody rather liked him. He felt pity for the engineers who left the building late at night and became more and more frustrated every day.
The porter really felt bad for these engineers. Consequently, he promised to think about the problem and later offer a solution. Of course, the reaction of the engineers was a pitying smile, rather than hope.
One morning, after he had worked the night shift, the porter told the engineers that he had now found the solution. In best Swizz-German (which I cannot pronounce), he said:
“You want to find your way into the nut like a worm and then open it from the inside“.
Initially, when the engineers heard this, they just laughed. But then one of them had the right idea. And then the engineers drilled a small hole into the nut-shell in order to implode the nut from the inside with pressure.
That was the breakthrough!
From then on, the number of split nuts dwindled to practically zero. Since that day, you can buy nut chocolate with whole nuts and with a guarantee that it contains no splinters!
It is quite possible that hazelnuts are still cracked in exactly the same way today. At least, this is how Alain Neumann told it ten years ago. That was the time when Alain was allocated a place of honour in my private collection of people I know in the “Hall of Fame” for great orators. Decades ago, he already made people understand in his unique way what it means to found an enterprise and mange it well. By just giving them enthusiasm and then let them do the job.
Whenever I find creative innovations in my own environment, I add a new story. On the other hand, as of now, I have never found a successful innovation that was created in the laboratory.
(Translated by EG)
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