True story: A large company is part of a trillion-dollar industry. The industry is competitive, answers to multiple federal and state regulatory agencies, and is litigious enough to worry a saint (note - litigious, adj.: greedy, slimy lawyers coming out of the woodwork to sue you for nothing.) In this industry, the company is a star. It is also large, a player. It is extremely profitable, innovative and a model of professionalism and fiscal responsibility. If a prudent company plans for unwanted contingencies, this company plans for the contingencies' contingencies.
Recently, management identified a potentially serious problem, one that could threaten the company's profitability. Always ahead of their competitors, they seemed to be first n seeing the coming storm. As a result, they didn't have much to go on in the way of how other companies were dealing with the threat. In fact, they had nothing at all. They called a meeting of their upper managers. We were privileged to be able to eavesdrop on the meeting.
The room filled, and quieted as the leader of the meeting stood up. "Where do you hide an elephant?" In the fact of the quizzical looks and guffaws, the leader was unmoved. "I'm dead serious. You have five minutes to come up with an answer."
Two or three protested. "This is ridiculous. We don't have enough information to answer the question."
"Maybe, but that is all the information you're going to get, and I must have an answer. Get busy."
The answers were great! Put him right out in plain view. Stick him in with a herd. As each answer was read, enlightenment dawned on the room. There were no wrong answers to the question. This was an exercise in thinking outside the box. It was not frivolous in the least. It was batting practice for the extremely deadly, real adversary that would be faced next, the real problem the company faced - just like the elephant question - with insufficient information.
What does your company do when faced with one of these tidal wave company-killers bearing down on you? How do you stay in business with an already-serious entry-level labor shortage that every indicator says will get worse? How do you increase profit margins when they already seem far too low, and yet the trend seems to be toward lower and lower pricing? How do you find your way among the new dizzying array of products and suppliers, when a misstep could be a killer?
Big questions, little information. Small and big companies face the very same problems, which is why we can learn from our big brothers. Where do you hide an elephant?
The example shows what Total Quality Management calls employee empowerment. My own experience in business taught me a rule that never failed: a decision reached together with an empowered group of my employees was ALWAYS better than one reached by me worrying the problem alone.