5 for 5 blog – “Fish net” solutions

18 Jan


This past Saturday I was taking a van from Dongguan, China back to Hong Kong to catch a flight. As we approached a tollbooth, I saw something that really made me think about how we can all strive to find simple solutions to our challenges.

For anyone that hasn’t driven between China and Hong Kong, more times than not the driver that is hired is from Hong Kong. Given that Hong Kong is a former British territory, the drivers sit on the right hand side of the car. Often it is not actually a car, but a larger van, designed to seat7-8 people (slightly wider and longer…and boxier….than the standard US mini-van).

In China, however, the drivers sit on the left hand side. Hence toll booths are designed, as in the US, for the transaction to happen on the driver’s side of the car. So imagine the challenge for the Hong Kong driver, and the toll booth attendant to complete the transaction (note they do not have electronic readers, at least at this toll booth). Typically, the driver would stop to pay and probably throw the van into park to either lean completely across the passenger, or get out and pay.

Now 99 time out of 100 I am either too tired or too engrossed in my phone to notice this exchange. However this Saturday morning, I popped my head up to see the attendant stretch what looked to be the fish net you would use in an aquarium, with a handle about 3 feet long, into the van, where the driver politely deposited the toll. The fish net was quickly withdrawn, the change rendered and that amount was quickly extended back to the driver, with the receipt. All in, transaction time ~20 seconds. No one had to lean over or out a window. The van was not put into park and we were quickly on our way again.

For the rest of the ride, I couldn’t stop thinking about it in the stark contrast to what we see and struggle with daily. In a world of complex processes and procedures that typically have too many signature to get approval, too many forms to document what is needed, and too many pages to describe what needs to happen, the simplicity of this blew me away. Even if I had wanted, the attendant wouldn’t have been able to tell me how she thought of it, or was it a recommendation from a frustrated driver, or why she thought of the fish net.

The thoughts that stuck with me as we zipped off to the airport were we should all be looking for more “fish net” solutions:

  • We have a choice to address unmet needs just as our clients have a choice to engage with us.
  • We need to understand how our clients engage with our product or service and find their frustrations.
  • Sometimes the solution may be more simple than imagined. And it never hurts to try something out, a prototype, if you will.
  • It is always worth it to review existing processes. Often they grow in bureaucracy over time, for what may be good reasons (quality issues, late deliveries, etc.), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be constantly reviewed. It should not have be an “Either or” choice between speed, quality, and simplicity.

Nicely played Chinese toll booth attendant. Nicely played.

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

What Can You Do With 100 Hours? – by Molly Sonsteng and Dev Aujla – via Holtee Blog

In Praise of Optimism – by Patti Sanchez – via Medium

Brainstorm Questions, Not Solutions – by Levi Brooks – via 99u

Resilience – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog

The Best Managers – Always – Develop Their Employees – by Victor Lipman – via Fortune

all the best, kevin


2 thoughts on “5 for 5 blog – “Fish net” solutions

  1. In reading this article I thought of Pete’s Grandma. Being from Italy and having a lot of old world charm this woman was the queen of “fish net solutions.” She made me laugh when she would serve food, or even when she would prepare it, she had a gadget she had made to make her life easier. She made “gadgets” for when she would ride the bus to hold her tokens. Even gadgets to hold her cleaning supplies for the home. I seen the same ingenuity in my mother in-law. I have to admit, I have gotten this quirkiness from these two women. “Fish net solutions” leave it to a woman!

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