EMAILED ON September 27, 2016 BY THE HUSTLE

Problem Solving at Its Finest

One of Einstein’s most famous quotes goes a little something like this:

“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

In reality, there’s no evidence he ever actually said that, but the message is still the same — problem solving is most successful when you take a step back to understand the situation, rather than diving head first into determining a solution.

And yesterday, 2 companies exemplified this exact trait… coming up with unique solutions to address very different problems.

Problem #1: Shipping damage

Dutch bicycle company, VanMoof, had a problem. Their meticulously-made bikes were routinely being returned by customers due to shipping damage.

Rather than invest in more expensive materials (they were using standard cardboard boxes) and extra packing peanuts, they printed a graphic of a flat screen TV on the side of their boxes, instead… sending a message to handlers that they needed to be treated with extra care.

Shipping damages dropped by 70-80% after making the change, and although they wanted to keep their little “hack” a secret, an impressed WSJ sportswriter tweeted about the genius idea and that was that.

Problem #2: Selling more furniture

You’re the CEO of furniture store, West Elm. Your task is simple: Sell more sofas and other home furnishings. What do you do? Open more stores in more markets, right? Wrong.

Jim Brett, the crafty president of West Elm, knows that opening too many stores can quickly put retail brands out of business. So instead of going deeper down the rabbit hole, West Elm just announced plans to open a chain of boutique hotels.

Makes sense, right?

Stay in a hotel room for $200-400/night, sleep comfortably under the high-thread count duvet cover, and head online the next morning to buy it… along with the side table, the throw rug, and the hand towels.

Restoration Hardware (home goods), Shinola (watches, etc.), and Equinox (gyms) all also plan on opening hotels over the next 3 years. Look out Airbnb!

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