Why it pays to think outside the box.
Published: January 31, 2022

When your business is faced by a problem you may look to tried-and-tested solutions to fix it. These may be things that have dug you out of holes in the past. The problem with problems is that they’re often unique. The last few years have thrown us enough curved balls to last a lifetime. So what do you do at times like this? The answer is to think differently. To search for that idea that lies outside the box.   

One giant leap for mankind. 

Nowhere was the issue of unique problems better demonstrated than the original Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. The mission would have ended in disaster had it not been for Buzz Aldrin’s felt-tip pen. Following the moonwalk, Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were preparing to return to leave the moon when they discovered that a circuit breaker switch had broken off the instrument panel.  

“The broken switch had snapped off from the engine-arm circuit breaker,” said Aldrin. “The one vital breaker needed to send electrical power to the ascent engine that would lift Neil and me off the moon. The circuit breaker had to be pushed back in again for the ascent engine to ignite to get us back home.” 

The broken switch was reported to Mission Control, but after a fretful night, Houston had not figured out a solution the next morning.  

Aldrin figured that if he could find something to push into the circuit, it might hold. But since it was electrical, he decided not to use his finger or anything that had metal on the end. But he did have something. A felt tip pen. 

The idea may have seemed a bit weird, but he knew it was a gamble worth taking. After delaying the countdown procedure by a few hours in case it didn’t work, he inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch should have been. Sure enough, the circuit breaker held. They were going to get off the moon. And the rest, as they say, is history.  

Your lift-off. 

So what can you do to facilitate your own lift off? The answer is to see what you have at your disposal. If a problem needs solving, get your brightest brans together. Seek the advice of those you know and respect. Look to those who have overcome difficult issues in the past. 

When looking for the answer think laterally. Don’t be afraid to embrace the unusual. If the problem is unique, chances are, so will the answer. It may need an element of creativity. It may need you to do something your business has never done before. It requires you to be open-minded about fresh ideas. By thinking hard, being courageous, and having ideas that sit outside your comfort zone, you can achieve the success you’re looking for.