In the past, whenever we’ve had power outages at the library, or our computer system has been down, we’ve resorted to the tried and true method of checking books in and out on paper. Somewhere along the way, long legal size papers were made up with rows and columns of boxes where we could fill in patron’s library card numbers as well as the bar codes that were in the books they they were returning or checking out. We could potentially have sheets and sheets of these numbers that would all have to be entered into the computer once we were back up and running. This would often take lots of time, even with all of us working at it, but there was really no other way. Or so we thought.
Last week, Lillian, who previously worked in a library in Newfoundland, told us about a great method to record barcodes and library card numbers when our library system was down but the computers were working. She showed us how we could use our barcode readers to scan the barcodes as usual, right into a Microsoft word document! Voila! There they were, lines and lines of little numbers that we could simply cut and then paste back into our system once it was active again (they were performing updates, so our program was hit and miss that day). We had never considered that we could use the barcode readers this way, but what a great discovery! Although it won’t help if we have a power outage, it sure will make a difference at other times.
This got me to thinking about how we think and discover new ways of doing things out of necessity or just creativity. Which brings me to a very interesting idea by Japanese grocers who were in need of extra space in their stores. They found it hard to stack watermelons which were so large and rolled easily, so they created square watermelons!
Lessons of the square watermelon is a creative thinking list that was spawned out of the idea that these Japanese grocers created. You can read the whole article here, but this is a summary of the list:
Here are a few of them:
Don’t assume: The major problem was that most people had always seen round watermelons so they automatically assumed that square watermelons were impossible before even thinking about the question. Things that you have been doing a certain way your entire life have taken on the aura of the round watermelon and you likely don’t even take the time to consider if there is another way to do it. Breaking yourself from assuming this way can greatly improve your overall life as you are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things.
Question habits: The best way to tackle these assumptions is to question your habits. If you can make an effort to question the way you do things on a consistent basis, you will find that you can continually improve the way that you live your life. Forming habits when they have been well thought out is usually a positive thing, but most of us have adopted our habits from various people and places without even thinking about them.
Be creative: When faced with a problem, be creative in looking for a solution. This often requires thinking outside the box. Most people who viewed this question likely thought they were being asked how they could genetically alter water melons to grow square which would be a much more difficult process to accomplish. By looking at the question from an alternative perspective, however, the solution was quite simple. Being creative and looking at things in different ways in all portions of your live will help you find solutions to many problems where others can’t see them.
Look for a better way: The square watermelon question was simply seeking a better and more convenient way to do something. The stores had flagged a problem they were having and asked if a solution was possible. It’s impossible to find a better way if you are never asking the question in the first place . Always ask if there is a better way of doing the things that you do and constantly write down the things you wish you could do (but currently can’t) since these are usually hints about steps you need to change. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “Is there a better way I could be doing this?” and you will find there often is.
Impossibilities often aren’t: If you begin with the notion that something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you decide to see if something is possible or not, you will find out through trial and error.
There are some great books in the library to help you boost your creative thinking, such as:
A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech
Thinking Games to Play with your Child by Cheryl Gerson Tuttle
Or try this selection, which we could order through interlibrary loan:
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Get more information on this book at :
And if you are looking for a great read regarding the square watermelons, this is a really fun website:
Have fun thinking creatively!