Yesterday the Department of Transportation reported an encouraging if not amazing statistic. Highway fatalities in this country for the year just ended were just over 33,000, the lowest in any year since 1949. Fatalities reached their peak with 52,000 in 1972.
The reasons are many but all have their origins in various systems which have been intentionally improved over the years.
Cars are better. Airbags, side curtain air bags, stability controls, better tires, and more recently spacing control radar in high-end models. Highways are better, smoother, and with more gradual curves as road builders have improved their techniques. DUI enforcement is much stricter and values have changed along with the law. Law enforcement no longer lets intoxicated drivers go with a warning.
Medical techniques for trauma have improved. EMT response time and techniques are vastly better than in the 70's, and trauma care in emergency rooms improved significantly with doctors coming back from Vietnam and seeing how they had better techniques in the bush than did most hospitals.
Seat belt use is now mandatory and reflects a change in values. 85% of drivers surveyed report wearing your seat belt and those annoying alarms hound you until you put the darn thing on.
Why is this relevant to a workplace blog?
Because it points out what happens to a system when the people executing it become intentional about improving how things are done, not just getting things done.
In a workplace focused on quality we should have two goals every day: to accomplish what is set in front of us and to get better at how we do it. While in our workplace we focus so much on creativity we should also leave some room for innovation. What problems could we solve if over the next 10 years we set about to intentionally solve them? This is how Japanese cars went from the tinker toys of the industry to the envy of the industry.
What seemingly impossible problem in your area needs to be solved?