The £5 Challenge
Kobus Cilliers | On 11, Aug 2019
Here’s a little exercise to try next time you have ten minutes to spare:
What would you do to earn money if all you had was five pounds and two hours? Imagine being given an envelope with five pounds of seed-funding. You can spend as much time as you want planning. However, once you have cracked open the envelope, you have only two hours to generate as much money as possible. To make the exercise finite, let’s say that everyone has two weeks after the publication of this edition of the ezine to submit a single slide describing what you have done, and, then a day later you will have three minutes to present your project to the rest of the SI world via a webinar.
Are you up for the challenge?
What are you going to do?
Would you look to use TRIZ/SI? Which tools would you use, and where would you start?
(To calibrate you in terms of what success might look like, when the experiment was run with a group of Stanford University students, the winner managed to multiply their initial seed-funding by a factor of 130.)
Let’s start in the world of TRIZ and see what it might have to offer by way of a structured approach to achieving a better winning solution to the problem. Figure 1 offers up the first step of one of the more sane 1985 versions of ARIZ, the one found in Yuri Salamatov’s book, ‘TRIZ: The Right Solution At The Right Time’ (Reference 1).
Straight away we seem to have a problem. We don’t have a system and we don’t have a process that we’re trying to improve. We have a blank piece of paper and a desire to make money quickly. ARIZ doesn’t look like it will help.
Okay, so now let’s think about how we might begin to apply some Systematic Innovation structure to the problem. Our default ‘process’ for participants of a one-day introduction will close the day with the map shown in Figure 2.
This process begins with the question, ‘what do I want to improve?’ Given the three possible answers to the question, we know in the Challenge we’ve been given that the answer isn’t ‘nothing’. This means we either know or we don’t. Which already seems somewhat unclear. On the one hand we know quite clearly that we have an objective to leverage our resources and make as much money as possible in two hours. On the other, TRIZ will tell us that this definition is merely a description of an administrative contradiction: we know what we want, but we don’t know how to get it. We could try going down the ‘I don’t know’ route of the Figure 1 process, but the moment we start to think about the Ideal Final Result, we will hit a very quick stop: it’s difficult to define any kind of Ideal when we don’t know what the function we’re trying to deliver is. Or who the customer might be. Likewise, we can’t draw a Function Analysis model, because there is no system. Nor can we construct an Outcome Map, because again, we don’t know who our potential customer might be, never mind what tangible and intangible outcomes they might want from us.
Aside from offering up the clues that we don’t know function or customer yet, this route appears to be closed to us. In which case, all we are left with is the ‘I know’ route. All we know so far is that we’re trying to make money quickly. If we take this as our start point, the next question we need to ask is, ‘what stops me?’ Looking at the available options, the only meaningful one seems to be, ‘I don’t know how to’, and once we allow ourselves to travel down that route, we have the choice between going to look for some ‘knowledge’ or thinking about ‘resources’ and ‘trends’.
Using the ‘Trends’ part of SI again works best when we already have a system in place, and quite clearly we don’t have anything as yet. And its difficult to know what ‘knowledge’ to go and find when we don’t have a customer or function in mind… although a quick Internet search on ‘how to make lots of money in 2 hours’ reveals two seemingly relevant references: ‘The Sixty Minute Millionaire’ and, even more promising, ‘The One-Minute Millionaire’. (References 2 and 3). In theory, I suppose it would be possible to purchase one of these books with the £5 inside our envelope, but that feels like it might be a bit of a long-shot. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the description of either book to indicate we could become millionaires within two hours. As an alternative, I could see if my local library has a copy I could borrow. At least this way, I could read it before the 2-hour clock starts ticking. But then again, one suspects that whatever insight the books might have to offer, we’re still talking about a bit of a long-shot. Let’s, instead, make a quick exploration of the ‘resources’ part of the story. Figure 3 shows a Nine-Windows analysis of the initial situation:
On the face of things, the analysis, such as it is, doesn’t appear to offer up much by way of any clues. Except…
Four things strike me:
- The £5 begins to seem like a very small amount of seed-capital. All I can buy with five pounds is small stuff that will inherently be difficult to scale in a two-hour period. Perhaps it is a red-herring? Perhaps I am better off assuming it is zero? Maybe this ‘resource’ isn’t actually a resource at all in the context of my two hours. Maybe it just encourages incremental thinking for a problem that appears to demand the opposite?
- If the £5 is redundant, that also means the 2-hour time window is redundant. I actually have as much time as I like if I’m able to ignore the envelope.
- Now that I have as much time as I want, however, I’m still limited by the fact that I have no money I can spend. Travelling, apart from walking, is out of bounds, and if I’m to communicate with others, I have to do it using ‘free’ resources…
- …which then suggests that my only real resource (apart from myself) is the 1-slide, three-minute presentation slot. Who might value this slot? And how might I access them? If it were a TV slot, to take an extreme perspective, three-minutes would cost an advertiser several hundred thousand pounds.
What my limited resources tell me I need is to find ‘someone’ (and ideally ‘one’) that I can speak to from where I am, that will value the opportunity to spend three minutes talking to the ‘SI world’.
So now I have an end customer, nebulous as they may be, the ‘SI world’. At least I have something that I can begin to focus the still-missing ‘function’ part of the story on. What functions might the ‘SI world’ want from a three-minute presentation? And, more to the point, once I understand that, which paying customer might be willing to offer me money to access the ‘SI world’ participants and give those participants something useful?
I can now return to the top of my Figure 2 process map and see if another iteration can help make the opportunity more tangible. Let’s again start with the proposition that, while I’ve got a first ‘clue’ about how I’m going to make money, I still don’t really know what I need to do. So again, I travel down the ‘I don’t know’ route and can see that constructing an Outcome Map is one of the recommendations. Here’s what I think the ‘SI world’ might be interested in from the perspective of the outcomes people might want:
Figure 4: Outcome Map For The ‘SI World’
If that’s what the audience is looking for, the final question is who might be willing to pay to give the audience some or all of these outcome wishes? Someone selling tools? A big consulting company looking to recruit problem-solvers? A company looking to have people work on an important problem on their behalf? A Government agency? An intermediary Open Innovation organisation needing more solution providers?
Just for the sake of closure, we decided to make a couple of calls. Within ninety minutes we had an offer of £200. Another couple of hours later, we had an offer of £1500. Considerably beating the previous winner. And also, hopefully, making the point that when we’re in this kind of heavily resource-limited problem situation, thinking carefully about what apparent resources are actually resources is a really important early step.
Over to you, then, to see if you can beat our total.
- Salamatov, Y., ‘TRIZ: The Right Solution At The Right Time’, Insytec BV, New edition (24 Mar. 1999)
- Kinder, H., ‘Millionaire In Sixty Minutes: 7 Surprising Things The Rich Do Differently’, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (5 July 2016)
- Hansen, M.V., ‘The One-Minute Millionaire’, Crown Business, 2002.