We’re always thrilled when a simple, manual solution to a problem can surpass the performance of expensive technology. Regular readers know that we often rant on the downsides of complex manufacturing scheduling systems when a simple whiteboard will often suffice. We saw a similar case of simple elegance last month during the Olympics in Beijing.
High-tech televisual bells and whistles have carried couch-based
Olympic watching way beyond the mere reality of being here. Thousands
of cameras are catching the action in China — every one of them
high-definition. Yet for a feat of engineering magic that dazzles as it
baffles, nothing beats the DiveCam.
Yes, producers wanted the ability to watch divers as they plummeted to the water… from the level of the height of the diver. Ingenious technology was tried, but then someone remembered something from his high school physics class.
"When you stand up there," he [David Neal, NBC Olympics Productions Supervisor] says, "it makes you
marvel at what these athletes will do. We were thinking: What must it
be like to plummet from that height? How can we capture the sensation?"
At which point the apple landed on Mr. Neal’s head:
"Why not let gravity do the work?" On the requisite cocktail napkin,
and in keeping with Sir Isaac’s universal laws, he sketched a
The idea was born, and soon became reality.
Well, there’s a rope. There’s a pulley. And the rope and the pulley
work a contraption made out of a pipe. The whole gizmo is based on the
brilliant insight that objects fall at the same rate regardless of
mass. A Tuscan by the name of Galileo came up with it about 400 years
ago; if he were alive, he’d call it cutting edge. And there’s the
beauty of it: It’s sophisticated, yes, but only because it’s simple.
Sophisticated… because it’s simple. Simple elegance. Applying this to the waste-conscious lean world, I could coin what is probably the tenth or eleventh waste by now: the waste of unnecessary complexity. As applicable to diving cameras as to unnecessarily complex supply chains.