I came across this interesting extract in a white paper and thought it was quite an apt demonstration of thinking outside of traditional paradigms in order to find the answers you need.
Canon designers knew that for the first personal copier to be suc-
cessful, it had to be reliable. To ensure reliability, they proposed to
make the product’s photosensitive copier drum—which is the source
of 90 percent of all maintenance problems—disposable. To be dis-
posable, however, the drum would have to be easy and cheap to make.
How to manufacture a throwaway drum?
The breakthrough came one day when task-force leader Hiroshi
Tanaka ordered out for some beer. As the team discussed design prob-
lems over their drinks, Tanaka held one of the beer cans and won-
dered aloud, “How much does it cost to manufacture this can?” The
question led the team to speculate whether the same process for mak-
ing an aluminum beer can could be applied to the manufacture of an
aluminum copier drum. By exploring how the drum actually is and is
not like a beer can, the minicopier development team was able to
come up with the process technology that could manufacture an alu-
minum drum at the appropriate low cost2
So, next time you’re struggling to come up with the solution to your product problems, have a cold one. It’ll all work out in the end.