Wonderbag of Creative Problem Solving

A friend sent me a rather cryptic email recently that included a link to a website.

“This looks like something that belongs in your house.”          

I was skeptical.  Messages like this are usually the precursor to computer viruses and requests for help to move large sums of money to a US bank account.  Curious, I clicked the link.

The product advertised was something called a “Wonderbag,” a fabric bag they touted as “No plugs, no fuss: Slow cooks your food, unplugged, by retaining the heat from an initial simmer on the stove.”  The ad said you could just heat your food, place it in the bag, and the bag would finish the job.  I immediately thought of another name for the product.

The Salmonella Satchel.                                                     

My skepticism got the best of me, and I began to search the web for further information on the Wonderbag.  What I found was intriguing.

The Wonderbag is a creative product invented by a woman named Sarah Collins who grew up in South Africa. Sarah has a huge heart, and is passionate about community development, conservation, and helping lift people out of poverty.  One evening back in 2008, Sarah was cooking dinner when the power went off as part of South Africa’s rolling blackouts during an economic downturn.  Frustrated yet inspired, Sarah remembered how her grandmother used to wrap furniture cushions around hot dishes in similar situations to keep food warm.

So she tried it. 

And it worked. 

And then it hit her.

Cooking in this manner could save women time (no more hunching over the stove), save money (less use of propane and wood), and create a healthier environment (less wood smoke in the house).  So Sarah and her friend Moshey Mathe created a prototype stuffed with recycled polystyrene, and tested it in a lab.  Sure enough, after boiling for just a few short minutes on the stove, the Wonderbag kept food cooking and heated for twelve hours.  Now the two employ over 3000 formerly impoverished women to sew the bags, and have sold over 5 million to date.

There is a lot we can learn about innovation and creative problem solving from this story.  

Wonderbag Story

To develop creative solutions, try these powerful techniques:

  1. Combine Previously Unrelated Elements:  This is the heart of creativity.  Sarah brought her grandmother’s idea and applied it to her current problem.  How can you take successes, traditions and lessons from the past (even from other businesses) and adapt them to a current crisis in new and creative ways?  It takes less time and energy than you think. 
  2. Savor the Simple:  In today’s high tech world, we often become enamored with complexity.  How can you simplify your current process to become more focused on the core problem you are trying to solve?  Focus on simplifying will bring about its own creative solutions.
  3. Become Your Customer:   By living through the challenging times and spending time cooking with other impoverished women in difficult conditions, Sarah and her friend Moshey experienced the problem first-hand. How can you more directly step into the shoes of your customer/client to directly experience the problems as they see them?  If you can do this, moments of inspiration and creativity will more readily present themselves.

At Action Management, we have been helping people innovate for over thirty-five years.  If you would like help filling your “Wonderbag of tricks”, just give us a call at 1-800-386-5611.  We would love to help you and your organization achieve more through effective problem solving, decision making, and critical thinking.












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Creative Problem Solving | Problem Solving Training | Decision Making | Teaching Critical Thinking Skills | Critical Thinking