5.03.2008

Square Watermelons

I cannot pass up the opportunity to share kaizen with everyone! Thanks, Kris for passing this along!

Japanese grocery stores had a problem. They are much smaller than shops in the USA and therefore don't have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it. That is how majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, "How can we provide one?" It wasn't long before they invented the square watermelon.


The solution to the problem of round watermelons was solved as the farmers did not assume it was impossible - and simply asked how it could be done. They found out that if you put the watermelon in a square box when they are growing, the watermelon will take on the shape of the box - and grow into a square fruit.

This made the grocery stores happy and had the added benefit that it was much easier and cost effective to ship the watermelons. Consumers also loved them because they took less space in their refrigerators which are much smaller than those in the US meaning that the growers could charge a premium price for them.


Five lessons learned from this example:
  1. Don't assume anything. How many things in life do you regard as fixed, like the sacred round watermelon?
  2. Make it a habit to always question your habits. There are false assumptions lying underneath them.
  3. Be creative. Think outside the box - but remember that there are good ideas inside the box too, like our square watermelon. Sometimes we just have to get creative with the fundamentals contained within the box.
  4. Look for better ways - by not assuming anything, habitually challenging your assumptions and trying creative things.
  5. There is no such thing as impossible. Square watermelons? YES!

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