“Men have become the tools of their tools”
Henry David Thoreau

Today in business we are confronted with a mass of technological innovation that has become increasingly more sophisticated, expensive and difficult to keep up with; iPhones, iPads, tablets, GPS and so on. We often we become so intoxicated with new technology – its speed, power, gadgetry and the potential to solve our business problems that we neglect to solve problems in a simple and cost effective way.

Have you heard of the story about NASA in the 1960s when the space astronauts found pens would not work in space? NASA spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop a space pen while the Russian cosmonauts used a pencil! This is actually an ‘urban myth’, however it illustrates the need to try and solve problems in a simple, practical and cost effective way. In the first Gulf War, the fleeing Iraqi army set fire to hundreds of oil wells creating an environmental disaster. Red Adair the famous Texan oil fire expert was called in by the Kuwaiti government to ‘solve’ the problem. The solution was a complex technique of explosives to remove the oxygen from the flames thereby putting out the flames. It was complex, costly and dangerous and would take many years to complete the task. Instead, a team of Bulgarians were contracted. Their solution was simple, practical and cost effective. Using large bulldozers being driven by men in fire resistant suits they covered the burning oil well heads with sand in a fraction of the time and cost compared to the solution as advocated by Red Adair.

So next time you are confronted with a problem or the latest technology – stop and think. Can the problem be solved simply and cost effectively without technology that can often be unnecessarily complicated and expensive?