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In an article about X Prize founder, Peter Diamandis, Wired quotes him on the entrants to the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge. He says: “Out of more than 350 entrants, seven teams doubled the clean up rate. The winner quadrupled it. The fascinating thing is that one team that doubled the rate was bunch of guys who met in a Las Vegas tattoo parlor”. I guess it says as much about me as about the guys that I would not have expected that.

The point he makes in the article, is that the people who ‘should’ have been innovating the oil clean up process had become so steeped in ‘what’s done’ that they didn’t have any new ideas. Coming in from the tattoo parlor, outsiders had a new perspective. I often find trying to explain a work problem to someone who is not involved works for two reasons – the first, that very reason. Because whoever I’m explaining it to isn’t involved, they sometimes give me a perspective I hadn’t thought of. The second is the same as the old medical teaching meme: see one, do one, teach one. In trying to explain it, often I solve my own problem. Getting it out of my head helps.

It’s easy to sit at your desk and try and try to solve a problem. It’s sometimes harder to ask for help. But when getting help can save you hours or days, it’s worth it.

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