Effective process improvement requires the willingness to look everywhere. That includes looking beyond the obvious, even when the subject is highly advanced information technology.
Consider the electrical power in network connections between computers, servers, and other devices—it may seem insignificant compared to the energy required to run the equipment itself.
However, according to The Register, the world’s packet-switched networks are wasting a billion dollars in power costs.
Expert Mike Bennett says most of the problem lies in our high-speed connections. They’re usually overkill. Network cables and interfaces operate at peak performance, even in the quiet midnight hours when almost no one is online. Just reconfiguring equipment to automatically switch to lower speeds can mean big savings:
A lot of the problem is connections running at higher speeds than they need to, said EEE chair Mike Bennett. He added that the problem has worsened as more and more systems – from business servers and network printers to home IPTV set-top boxes – are left on 24×7.
“For example, measured at the wall socket, a device that operates at 100BASE-TX instead of 1000BASE-T when the link is operating well under 100Mbit/s could save close to 2W,” he said. “Multiply that by two for the other end of the circuit and you’re saving roughly 4W per link. It may not sound like much, but over an enterprise with thousands of links, it can add up.”
Even if you don’t work in information technology, these kinds of process improvement techniques can still apply. How much paper are you wasting that could be turned over and reused on the back? How many lights do you leave on when sunlight will suffice or you’re the only one working on the entire floor? How many emails do you keep in your own private inbox filing system when your colleagues are doing the same with the very same emails?
You’re probably thinking that this is a strange way of thinking. And in fact, it’s a relatively new idea known as lateral thinking.
Approaching problems about resources in this unique fashion can identify creative ways to conserve and reduce costs. But it’s not just a savings technique: it’s also a method for innovation. Learning to think differently is a common refrain, but a helpful exercise. We all need to “get outside the box”—even if it’s just beyond the networking equipment down to the wall socket.
A nice piece on the topic comes from the website 99u.com. To quote:
“We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries,” explains Edward de Bono, who coined the term in 1967. “Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces.” It’s the art of reframing questions, attacking problems sideways. They way a computer hacker or, say, MacGyver would think.
Breakthroughs, by very definition, only occur when assumptions are broken. In creative fields, this often happens when people break rules that aren’t actually rules at all, but rather simply conventions.
It’s hard, but it’s worth it. The best solutions often come not from doing what’s obvious, but from trying things that seem completely crazy and unorthodox. And sometimes, it’s not even the attempt that makes the difference. Sometimes it’s the failure that provides the inspiration for success.
This may be something you can do in-house. Or, you may need to talk to an outsider to get a fresh perspective. If your company wants to better assess existing systems, services, and workflow, contact us at AccelaWork to schedule a consultation. We’d love to help you think differently, challenge assumptions, and achieve more.