I often complete projects around the house. I like to think of myself as quite the handyman. I learned a lot growing up from my grandfathers about electricity, carpentry, plumbing, etc. The latest project was replacing of all the door handles to some nickel egg-shaped ones that are more trendy and stylish. Once complete, there was another pressing project. Replace all the door HINGES to match. I tend toward perfectionism and it really bothered me that they weren’t the same metal. There were somewhere around 60 hinges to replace on 20 doors…about 3-5 hours I estimated.
I’ve removed a door before by popping the pins on the hinges. It seemed pretty simple to replace the hinges the same way. So my first 5 doors went like this:
Requirements: 1 people, hammer, screwdriver, nail to help pop pin, drill (with screwdriver tip)
Time: 15 minutes/door
1. Pop the pins from the door.
2. Remove door.
3. Remove hinges from door and jamb.
4. Remove pins from new hinges.
5. Remove door and set to the side.
6. Install new hinges on the door and jamb.
7. Place door back up with the help of my wife.
8. Replace pins.
After a while, my wife got tired of helping so I thought of a way to do it on my own. Luckily, she was easily replaceable…by a folded newspaper that I slipped under the door to hold it up at the right height. (She is not replaceable by a newspaper in all circumstances.) I felt pretty smart about this process improvement. I also thought about the pin popping…maybe I didn’t need to do that either. So I eliminated one worker, some tools, and made the job simpler and faster:
Requirements: 1 person, drill, newspaper
Time: 10 min/door
1. Insert folded newspaper under door.
2. Remove 3 hinges from door and jamb.
3. Remove door and set to the side.
4. Install new hinges on the door.
5. Attach door hinges to jamb carefully while balancing on newspaper.
And so went the next 10 doors… I had a little helper during this period. Brielle would pick up the loose screws and place them into a little bag. It kept her busy.
Nearing the end of the job, my older daughter (4) Arianna showed up.
“Daddy, What are those?”
“Why are you taking off all the hinges?”
“Because I need to replace them all.”
Her question “Why?” is a common one for kids. It made me think for a moment. Why WAS I taking off ALL the hinges? Hmmm…Why not take off only one hinge…at a time? I tried it and it totally simplified the process:
Requirements: 1 person, drill
Time: 5 minutes/door
1. Remove one hinge
2. Replace the hinge
3. Repeat two more times.
You see, when you only remove one hinge at a time, the other two hinges hold the door in place! It was so simple and fast that I actually felt stupid at the end…that I had wasted my time doing almost all the other doors the hard way.
It required the outside perspective of my little girl to give me the new solution. I was so close to the problem and thinking about how I had done things in the past that it wasn’t obvious how to improve it. It wasn’t even that she exactly knew what the right solution was…but she did know what question to ask to make me think of it.
If you’re looking for creativity, it often helps to ask a child. If you can explain it to them then you must understand the problem pretty well. Defining the problem well is the first step. Then listen with an open mind to what solution they propose. It may lead you to the next big idea…a solution that could really help you.
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