We spend so much time trying to find clever, sophisticated solutions to our problems that we can miss the simple, obvious ones.

A new dual carriageway is being built close to our village (a remnant of the Labour party’s response to the financial crisis). At various points new bridges are being built over the new road.

What has struck me is how the engineers are putting the bridges into place.

I expected them to build the road and then construct the bridges over the new carriageways, but the builders are doing it in reverse. To lower implementation costs and reduce the risk and impact of mistakes, they are putting the bridges in place and then digging away the ground underneath the bridge to create a cutting for the road to follow.

It reminded me of a story that Rick, one of my clients, told me. Prior to commencing his business career, Rick was a mining engineer in South America, looking for gold. The best place to find gold is in rivers, but getting it out of the water can be very difficult. Various mining companies had therefore invented their own complex machinery that sifted the base materials of the river from the water in the hope of finding gold. The machines and the processes they used were slow and costly.

Rick’s team decided to try a different approach. Using explosives they blew up the course of the river, causing it to divert down a different path, and rejoin the original course further down the stream. This allowed them to walk down the river and pick up the gold quickly and easily.

Business plays to the same rules as gold prospecting in Bolivia and bridge-building in Nottinghamshire. Companies that deliver simple, bold innovations often beat those who have their heads down delivering incremental improvements through increasingly complex solutions.

Where is your effort focused?

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.