Toast and melted butter | Breakthrough Funding

Monday, August 31, 2015

Toast and melted butter

A one minute story to sharpen your problem solving skills.

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day. What do you choose? Fruit or cereal or porridge? Bacon sarnie or “sorry but no time for any breakfast ever”?

Whatever your breakfast routine, apparently the process of making toast can be used to prepare a team to overcome complex problems. Tom Wujec gave a famous Ted Talk lecture back in June 2013 to explain just how.

First you have to visualise yourself going through the whole routine – getting the bread out of the packet, putting it in the toaster, making sure its on the right setting. Getting out a plate and a knife. Spreading the butter and maybe putting something else on top; peanut butter, marmite or jam. All three? Well perhaps not.

Wujec has created a website called It encourages businesses to get their employees to draw their toast-making ritual on paper. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds.

Regardless of artistic ability, all examples essentially illustrate nodes that are linked, and this creates a systems model. Once this first step is taken, groups can examine each other’s jottings then collaborate on the most efficient and effective way to make toast.

This will start off as a messy enterprise with pieces of paper strewn all over the place. Individuals will have different preferences and perspectives. But gradually the picture becomes clearer and more in-depth as everyone has an input and finally agrees on the ultimate process.

Collaborative visualisation is easily transferable to real business issues. Problems such as organisational vision, customer experience, long-term sustainability, cash flow, client engagement, sales strategy, etc. can all be discussed and thought about in real detail.

Stripping back a problem and looking at it from the ground up, with everyone inputting from their point of view, can help you gain a fresh perspective or renewed momentum. It’s a really interesting problem solving tool and worth checking out the website. 

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