Thinking out of the Box

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A couple of random topics came up today in the office, and it seemed like they all had a common similarity. Simplicity and ingenuity are sometimes the best solutions to the hardest problems.


Here are a couple of stories of smart humans coming up with smarter ideas to solve difficult problems.


Image from google search


1. The Lifts are too Slow!

Back in the early days of engineering, we did not have the expertise to harness the powers of hydraulics or electro-magnetism. All the lifts from that era were operated purely by gears and pulley systems. This meant that lifts moved slower and passengers had to spend longer waiting times inside these moving boxes. Soon enough, more and more passengers started to complain that the lifts were too slow.


Many companies frantically tried to design better pulley systems, get better grade gears and parts to try to make these lifts move faster, thinking that the problem lies with the mechanics of the lifts. However, some ingenious person decided to look at it from a totally different angle.


In the olden days, humans did not have smartphones, music players or tablets to keep us entertained while we were in the lifts. Therefore, your brain would naturally start to be aware of the waiting time it takes to get to your destination. And along with that, the potential of a life-threatening situation should something in these moving boxes fail.


Image from google search


The solution was simple. Give them something to do. And what was the thing that nobody would get sick of seeing even if they saw it for the 61982421st time? Themselves, of course. So companies started putting mirrors in the lifts to give these complain kings and queens something to do while they were in the lifts.


Once people started fixing their hair, adjusting their clothes and squeezing their pimples in the lifts, suddenly nobody complained that the lifts were slow any more. And yet, not a single thing had been done to improve the speeds of the lifts. The problem didn't lie in the lifts, but in the mentality of the passengers!



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2. The Space Pen

During the early days of space travel, the American space travel was one of the most documented activities. Humans wanted to know what the astronauts were doing in space, what they saw, how they felt etc etc. And of course, the best way to keep track of these details were to write them down!


However, there was a huge problem. Up in space, there is no gravity. This meant that all your ball-point and fountain pens could not work, as the ink would not flow downwards and onto the writing surface like how it does back on Earth.


Rumour has it that NASA spent millions of taxpayer dollars in Research and Development and they finally created a pen that could work in space.


So one day, a NASA representative was bragging about this achievement to his Russian counterpart, telling him the difficulties they went through to achieve this new-found technology. And when he finally turned around and asked the Russian how they kept documentations of their space trips, he simply replied: "Oh. We use pencil."


Image from google search


I just love reading stories about people using creative yet amazingly simple solutions to mind-fuck the brains of the traditional thinkers. And when you actually manage to do something like this, it feels like you successfully caught a Mew with a standard PokeBall. [Gamers will know]


However, when it doesn't go the way you planned, it feels like a Magikarp escaped from a Master Ball. Yes, it is possible. So are you willing to take that leap of faith?



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