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A-Ha Moments

Aha-Moments: Changing Assumptions

Written by: Bill Sherman on Monday, 22 June 2009, 11:15 AM

Here’s a short digression from social networking and social capital, but it illustrates the principles of an aha-moment very well.

For a long while, washing machines have required a large amount of water (measured in litres and gallons) to clean the laundry. We have come to take this process for granted. What if you could clean an entire load of clothes with just a single cup of water?

Dr. Stephen Burkinshaw at the University of Leeds has created a washing machine that defies conventional thinking and only uses a small amount of water. The technology requires a simple set of cleaning pellets that activate in the presence of moisture. These pellets can be used a hundred times before being replaced.

In order to reach an aha-moment, you have to be willing to challenge conventional assumptions and ask (with some curiosity) “why do we use this approach? Is there a better way.” Just because current washing machines require vast amounts of water doesn’t preclude other solutions.

Many years ago, Johnny Carson, the late-night talk show host would interview guest. When the guest revealed something unfamiliar, Carson would freely admit, “I did not know that.” Instead of glibly feigning familiarity with every topic, he took interest in the unfamiliar and he showed a delight in learning new ideas.

Look around you. What assumptions could be replaced with better solutions? Just because something has been one way doesn’t mean that it’s the best way.

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