If I asked you to design a house that could be built for $300 or less, what would your response be? That it’s a crazy idea? That it’s impossible?
In fact, it’s entirely possible. In an HBR blog last year, Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar posed this challenge: Could anyone design a $300 house that could be easily built and replicated in the developing world? They received hundreds of responses, and they recently announced the top design, which includes water- and insect-resistant walls, 100-gallon drums to catch rainwater, a solar-powered outdoor cooktop, and bottles that allow light to stream in.
I love this challenge because it demonstrates the power of problem solving through creativity, imaginative thinking, and reverse innovation. It reminds us of what we can accomplish when we are willing to believe that YES, there is a solution, and YES, we can create it. Not only that — it also shows the power of brainstorming, particularly when we are willing to learn from a broad range of sources. We can achieve amazing results when we put our collective heads together.
The relevance for business leaders is clear. No matter your industry, the greatest ideas start with identifying a problem, and then posing questions about how that problem might be solved. Rather than starting from a point of “we could never do that” or “that would never work,” start with what the ideal would look like. Begin with the belief that it IS possible, until you prove otherwise. Our best solutions come when we set our sights high and devote ourselves to proving that the impossible is absolutely achievable.
Take a few minutes to listen to this talk by 12-year-old child prodigy Adora Svitak on why adults should be more like children, focusing on good ideas rather than on limitations. Children’s “audacity to imagine helps push the boundaries of possibility,” she says. What ideas are calling you to be more audacious?
Share the results of your experiment in the comments below or contact the author directly at
DONNA RAE SMITH is a guest blogger for Smart Business. She has forged a career, enterprise and an applied discipline on the practice of teaching leaders to be masters of change. She is the Founder and CEO of Bright Side Inc., a transformational change catalyst company with an emphasis on the behavior-side of change. For more than two decades, Donna Rae Smith and the Bright Side team have been recognized as innovators in executing behavioral strategies coalesced with business strategies to accelerate and sustain business results. Bright Side®, The Behavioral Strategy Company, has partnered with over 250 of the world’s most influential companies. For more information, please visit www.bright-side.com or contact Donna Rae at
Leaders. Change. Results. ®
® Copyright 2011 Bright Side Inc. All Rights Reserved