Harness the Power of Outsight

Many times the most innovative ideas are right in front of us. Successful lean engineering requires Outsight. This is the ability to see things outside our normal experience. Outsight is our “peripheral vision”. During my workshops, I share the evolution of the bicycle as an example.

The first bicycles had two identical wheels. The rider sat on a seat and powered the bicycle by pushing it along with long strides. Then somebody had an idea. Why not put pedals on the front wheel? This would mean the rider could go faster with less effort. Then the idea came to enlarge the front wheel for even less effort and more speed.

Bicycle manufacturers began to try to outdo each other. The back wheel was shrunk to only a tenth of the size of the front wheel, which kept growing ever larger. The result was the “penny farthing bicycle,” so named for the English coins, one large and one small. Things worked well, although the penny farthing bike was dangerous if you fell. Ladies shied away from riding it.

I have an actual photo of one of these early bicycle plants showing all the factory employees standing in front of their lathes. On the left hand side of the shop are the employees manufacturing the large wheels. On the right are all the employees manufacturing the small wheels. Above them whirred the overhead belts that transferred power to drive the lathes, a system that had been in use for decades. It converted the slow rotational power from the water wheel in the sluice through a series of sheaves to the high speed needed for the lathes.


One day an employee looked up and asked, “Why not use the same drive train idea to power the rear bicycle wheel?” Within only weeks, this safer model with a chain drive was born. Also gone were the dangerous penny farthing wheels. Both front and back wheels were now the same size. Equal-sized wheels replaced the penny farthing wheels. The “safety bicycle” was born. The employee had used Outsight, the ability to extract an idea from one experience and use it in another.

To learn how to use Outsight, view our webinar “Eight Ways to Improve Anything”

readJennifer DeGlopper