Global industries and local communities struggle with the pace of change. Typically, the pace of change is reducing resources like time, money and people. Reducing resources creates difficult problems that appear to be impossible to solve, what we call impossible problems. In local and global marketplaces, impossible problems occur for organisations and for individuals. For all these impossible problems, we need brave individuals to take action to solve the problems and then implement the solutions.
The Plastic Bank
Let’s look at a global problem?
Can we solve the problem of ocean plastic pollution and end extreme poverty at the same time? That's the ambitious goal of The Plastic Bank: a worldwide chain of stores where everything from school tuition to cooking fuel and more is available for purchase in exchange for plastic garbage -- which is then sorted, shredded and sold to brands who reuse "social plastic" in their products.
Tackling this problem is David Katz, founder and CEO, The Plastic Bank, an internationally recognised solution to ocean plastic, www.plasticbank.com. A system providing an opportunity for the ultra-poor to collect and trade plastic waste as a currency.
His humanitarian work has earned him international recognition. Katz has been featured in Forbes, TIME Magazine, Fast Company and National Geographic. Global partners include IBM, Shell Energy and Henkel. With his solution to two impossible problems — ocean plastic pollution and end extreme poverty — David is a steward of the earth and a champion for the poor.
Watch David Katz’s 20 minute TED talk here.
Human Solution plus Technology Solution
The Plastic Bank story is inspiring enough, but there’s more with an interesting technology twist.
In exchange for plastic, the ultra-poor are paid in digital tokens that can be redeemed at any store or recycling center that uses the Plastic Bank app; or as Katz says items like “School tuition, medical insurance, Wi-Fi, cell phone minutes, power, sustainable cooking fuel, high-efficiency stoves”.
What makes this a great story is, David saw an impossible problem and solved it at many levels. Solving an environmental problem at a human level and enhancing a human solution with a technology solution. He uses IBM Blockchain technology to track the entire cycle of recycled plastic from collection, credit and compensation through delivery to companies for re-use.
Technology solves problems when implemented by creative humans. Combining both makes the solutions more powerful than either humans or technology would alone. Do you have the skills you need to make the most of technology? What is human intelligence in the age of artificial intelligence?
Impossible Problems need a process
Bouquet, Barsoux and Wade’s HBR article, Bring your Breakthrough Ideas to life, argue quite convincingly that despite recent digital advances in the innovation process, game-changing innovation is still hard to come by. The article outlines five practices that can help create breakthrough ideas.
Breakthrough ideas and innovations only occur when everybody working on the project understands deeply the problem that they are trying to solve. It helped David that he was a monomaniac on a mission, with a heart for the poor and the ocean.
Whether you are trying to solve a major problem or leverage a great opportunity for your best accounts, using a process ensures your organisation chooses the problem that will have the biggest impact on your client’s business results. The process then generates breakthrough ideas and chooses the best idea to efficiently use your scarce resources — time, money and people — to deliver the best possible value to your best accounts. So using a process gives you better results for your organisation and better results for your best accounts. Check out the Rapid Results from Teams process.
Impossible Problems need Brave Individuals
For the environment and the future of healthy oceans, a brave individual with a process was needed to facilitate action. It is one of the reasons why climate change is creating fear among many people around the world. Too many people say somebody must do something about climate change, but who are they? What are you doing about climate change?
David knew he had to take action. Your top accounts are looking for solutions for business problems – what are you doing to work with them to find mutual solutions?