Have a Ball with Creativity

How do you save a city of 18 million people that is suffering through the drought of the millennium?

Create a giant, waterlogged, Chuck-E-Cheese-style ball pit, of course!

Faced with the problem of a rapidly dwindling water supply, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently released 96 million black plastic balls into its reservoir.  The balls cover the 175-acre reservoir, shading the water supply from evaporation and inhibiting the growth of harmful algae and bacteria. 

The innovative plan was the brainchild of a retired employee who got the idea after seeing a similar technique used to discourage birds from nesting in ponds near airport runways.  Now, it is estimated that the very creative solution will save over 300 million gallons of water per year, and $250 million in treatment expenses over the longer term.  The solution is well worth a look, and the New York Times site has some wonderful images and a short video.

If your organization is in need of innovative ideas, think of what can be learned from the story of the California “shade balls.”

  1. Defer Judgment and Embrace the Wild Idea– Once your problem is clearly stated, allow people to generate ideas undeterred by judgment.  The simple act of withholding judgment for even a short period of time (10-20 minutes) has shown to generate nearly twice as many high-quality ideas.
  2. Don’t Dismiss.  Tweak Instead! – It would have been easy for people to dismiss the idea of the shade balls early on by offering only drawbacks such as “They’ll blow away!” or “They’ll degrade too quickly!”  Instead, XavierC and other makers took a problem solving approach to design balls that would stay in place by filling them with potable water and coating them with an environmentally safe material to prevent degradation of the polyethylene.
  3. Pilot, Pilot, Pilot – While the Los Angeles Reservoir was the big story, the city started on a smaller scale and tested the concept in four other smaller reservoirs before releasing them on this 175-acre body of water.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients develop breakthrough ideas over thirty-five years.  If you would like to have a ball and solve problems at the same time, give us a call at 800-386-5611!  We would love to help.


























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