Rotten Apples Sink
About a year ago I was on flight to NYC. Now, like most business travelers I’m not generally one for chit-chat, however, the gentleman seated next to me looked like he’d been beaten with sack of door knobs and it was pretty clear the scotch in his hand wasn’t the first and certainly wasn’t going to be the last on that day.
“Rough trip?” I asked, toeing the water.
“You could say that, “ was the reply.
“Rotten apples sink…” he stated.
“Come again?” I said, hoping this wasn’t the start of a poem or something.
Turns out our friend was returning from Japan. As an executive with an x-ray sensor company, he believed he was flying to Japan to ceremoniously attend the kick-off of a project worth millions to his company.
You see, fruit in Japan is a luxury product. Much of the country’s fruit must be imported and the risk of importing and purchasing rotten fruit could be economically disastrous for a company. Also, as most of these wares are purchased by the pound, there is a risk of foreign objects being placed in containers to pad the weight. I’m sure by accident.
So, insert our friend and his x-ray company. Over several months they’d developed an incredible solution where they could not only x-ray shipping containers, but also entire trucks as checkpoints. They could see if the fruit had spoiled, but also check for weighted contaminates. Genius!! Time to start shopping for live tigers to adorn the yard…we’re gonna be rich!! Well, as you may have predicted, our story has a sad ending for our boozy friend. His entire project was undone by a high-school science project.
Before the checks were signed, they realized something very simple. Bad apples sink and good apples float. All they had to do was dump all the apples into tanks of water and anything that sunk, they didn’t buy. This also solved the problem of hiding anything in the shipping containers. And just like that, the need to invest millions in x-ray equipment vanished. Right along with our friend’s tigers.
I’ve never forgotten this story, and it will always serve as my personal parable when I feel like I’m over-engineering a solution. Simple always works.
We have bells, whistles and do-hickies coming out of our eyeballs in this industry and it keeps everyone just distracted enough to forget what we’re trying to do. You don’t need lasers, pano’s and CAD CAM machines to take amazing care of people. I feel a lot of doctors hide behind all the bullshit because it gives them an ‘out’ when patients say no.
“Well, look at my technology!!! That means I’m good, right?”
Maybe. However, I believe most docs would get better case acceptance simply sitting down, slowing down, doing a comprehensive treatment plan and listening. Maybe offer them a glass of water, and see what good ideas float to the top.