“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
When I was little, our family had one of those classic ‘lumbering’ family cars. I think it was a 55 Chevy. I say ‘lumbering’ because of how I could slide across the wide vinyl back seat when my Mom or Dad rounded corners.
Beyond the amusement-park-like experience, my fondest memory of that car was the feel of the fabric on the ‘dash’ behind the backseat where I’d get to lie down on longer trips.
Nowadays, kids need to be strapped into armored seats installed by ‘qualified’ technicians. In 49 of the 50 United States seatbelts and car seats are mandatory. It’s either “Click-it” or “Ticket.”
If you’re old enough to remember when Beatles’ songs were leading the Top 40, you likely recall the emergence of the original seatbelt- a simple 2-point restraint that buckled across your lap.
While statistics began to reveal the original ‘lap belts’ were saving lives, unintended consequences also emerged. In some accidents, primary restraint across the hips was causing more injury.
When a lap-only seatbelt contributed to the death of a family member, Gunnar Engellau vowed to do something about it. He was CEO of Volvo at the time.
His search for a better automobile safety restraint led him to Nils Bohlin, a designer working for Saab aircraft.
After a year working on the problem the solution emerged- a 3-point restraint, better known to you and me as a ‘seatbelt with a shoulder strap’. Volvo launched it into the market in 1959.
The BIG Idea
Interestingly, Mr. Bohlin’s primary work had focused upon enhancing ejection capabilities of cockpit pilot seats. In other words, he was configuring better ways to get people out of safety belts, not keep them strapped in.
Gunnar’s challenge gave Bohlin a shift in focus. Over the next twelve months he designed what has been referred to as, “an effective demonstration of geometrical perfection.”
Today this same basic design is used by over 93% of the population. It’s been estimated to have saved over 1 million lives.
Yes- those who do the work have the answers.
Problems, difficulties, and issues exist. They always have and they always will.
When you challenge yourself and your team members to create new and different remedies and solutions- you win.
And not only do you win, the rest of us often win as well.
For example, if you or someone you care about has been in a car accident within the last few decades, you likely owe a debt of gratitude to Gunnar Engellau and Nils Bohlin.
What can you do today to think different?
How can you get team members to leverage existing expertise in different ways?
What can you do to challenge the status quo?
Who knows- you might even save some lives in the process.
Until next time- be well and stay safe,
BTW- Ben Franklin’s ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure comparison originated in 1736. While today it’s most often used in reference to personal health, it was originally penned as a safety message in response to the fires that had ravaged Philadelphia.