AlienMachine: Using Creativity to Solve Systemic Problems

AlienMachine: Using Creativity to Solve Systemic Problems

  • Case
  • Teaching Notes

AlienMachine builds custom computers for the ever-growing gaming market. As demand for their product has grown, production has not kept pace. This threatens to undermine one of the core value propositions of AlienMachine: gamers receive their custom made machine very quickly after they order it. Senior management identified that team LookingGlass produces 25% fewer computers than other teams. Further, LookingGlass has one member, Carlos Franklin, who seems to be the bottleneck. The question is how to handle the problem so that production can increase. This case illustrates a common situation in teams: A problem that manifests in one team member but is ultimately the result of suboptimal task design. It also illustrates the sub-optimality of focusing on a single element in a larger system. Finally, it demonstrates the challenge of shifting perspectives on a problem once it has been defined a certain way, even when the change of perspective is relatively simple. Readers can find an elegant solution to the production deficiency, one that can accommodate the various elements of the organizational system, if they use creativity to change the assumptions they are making about the problem.

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