Chain of Thought

Seeing Things Can be a Blessing, Not a Curse

Innovators see things differently. What appears to be an empty engine plant to you and me looked like a “Factory of Terror” to John Eslich when he bought a dead Canton, Ohio engine plant a few years ago. During a sour economy, innovators like him turn into lemonade squeezers--and they command a premium price for it. And now that Halloween is around the corner, Eslich squeezes money out of the ghosts of past productivity. Today people that enter this plant's doors gladly pay $23 to get scared by made-up bogey men, unlike the plant's previous owners whose money was squeezed out of them by being on the losing side of the mysterious forces of supply and demand.

I read about this latest spin on haunted Halloween attractions in a Plain Dealer article last week and it got me to thinking how many diverse forms innovation can take. Another article reported on a horse that fell into a 20-foot water-filled well. To most people that would signify a dead horse. To one SPCA investigator with an appreciation for the horsepower of a lift truck, it meant a life-saving solution. After managing to place a harness around the 1,100-pound animal, a lift truck was used to extricate it.

These are examples of people connecting seemingly non-connectable dots. In a new book, “The Innovator's DNA,” association is identified as one of the key discovery skills shared by all innovators. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, while association is a cognitive skill, innovators also share behavioral skills like questioning, observing, networking and experimenting. Those also happen to be skills that are part of every material handling and logistics professional's job description.

MH&L will be celebrating such innovation in its December issue when we announce the winners of our first Innovation Awards program. Our Editorial Advisory Board is looking back at some of the best examples of material handling and logistics innovation we've covered in the past year and they will help us select the best of the best at making, storing, moving and competing. The people being considered were faced with daunting material handling and logistics challenges and made the connections needed between disparate factors to craft solid solutions.

Keep your eyes peeled for that issue, but in the meantime, if you've been through that process of solution creation yourself, share your story with us. You could be among MH&L's next class of innovators. Just shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] describing the opportunity you ran toward while everyone else was looking for an escape hatch.

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