Simple stuff Featured

10:29am EDT July 21, 2004
I was following a commercial cleaning vehicle one afternoon and noticed a roll of duct tape hanging from a rope on its rear door handle. This was a pretty sophisticated, late model truck, no doubt engineered to near perfection for its intended purpose.

Still, the operators apparently find enough use for duct tape to keep a roll handy.

I've used it for many purposes, from blocking a hole in my minivan where the rear windshield wiper motor used to be to securing a microphone to a stand when the mounting bracket broke. I've patched a vacuum cleaner hose with it and used it to close a tear in my car upholstery.

Here are a few other things that have myriad uses beyond the original intent of their inventors.

Sticky notes. I use them as temporary labels on tape cassettes to keep track of interviews, as appointment reminders, even notes on other notes.

The paper clip. Right now, an unwound paper clip is in use in my office as a hanger for my wall calendar and the company phone directory.

The rubber band. It holds things together long after they should have been discarded.

Cellophane tape. I have 30 yards of it holding together 16 panels of a road map.

Super glue. Everyone has a story about the holding power of this stuff. I fixed a switch knob on a car once, and it held for five years, maybe longer. It was still attached when I sold the car.

Spray lubricant. I have been using this stuff for years for everything from drying out alternators and distributors to flushing cola out of keyboards and printed circuits after a clumsy spill. I've used it to clean tar from fenders and doors, loosen rusted bolts and stop the control knobs on electronic equipment from making scratchy noises when they're turned. And, it loosens the gummy residue left on anything that you fixed with duct tape.

There are others, like the bungee cord, and most share a single important characteristic: They're simple. And that's the secret of their success.

So instead of putting together a task force to solve those knotty problems in your business, make sure that everyone has a box of sticky notes, paper clips, rubber bands, super glue, spray lubricant and, of course, duct tape. And tell them to keep it simple.