Photo credit: Julian Hanford
Photo credit: Julian Hanford
A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: A beautiful constraint

Adam Morgan's new book is called A Beautiful Constraint. About the way opportunity often presents itself as a problem.

Because most people can’t see past the problem, they miss the opportunity.

So what Adam’s book is really about is creativity.

Real creativity isn’t about restyling an existing solution, it’s about finding a new solution.

For instance, in 1954, Ron Hickman was a clay modeller at Ford in Dagenham.

He enjoyed working on cars, but he was frustrated.

Ford is a massive company, and he was only ever reshaping and restyling one small part of the bodywork.

Until, at the motor show, he got talking to Lotus.

He got on so well with them that they offered him a job.

The problem was Lotus had no money and hardly any employees.

This was an opportunity disguised as a problem.

The problem was a big cut in salary.

But the opportunity was he’d be the only designer.

Instead of restyling part of a car, he’d be designing a car from the ground up.

Ron grabbed the opportunity and immediately came up against another problem.

Any car he designed would have to be really cheap to produce.

Again, Ron saw the opportunity.

Other manufacturers were already making cars with good parts.

He would take the best of these parts and put them together.

So he took the engine from a Ford Classic.

He took the steering from a Triumph Herald.

He took the windows and bumpers from an Austin-Healey Sprite.

And he designed and built the Lotus Elan.

It was beautiful, and it accelerated as fast as a Jaguar E-Type. 

It cost a fraction of cars such as Ferrari and Aston Martin, yet its handling, speed and looks were as good as theirs. 

Ron knew the difference between creativity and styling.

At home, he was sawing a plank of wood while making a wardrobe. 

He laid the wood on a chair.

And he sawed through the plank and through the chair.

Again, he saw an opportunity disguised as a problem.

He saw that all men needed a portable workbench.

But that wasn’t possible because every workbench needed a vice.

Again, this was another opportunity disguised as a problem.

And Ron thought: what if the workbench didn’t have a vice; what if the workbench was the vice?

And he designed a folding workbench to fit into the boot of a car.

For the legs, he used the suspension struts from a Lotus to give it lightness and rigidity.

But no manufacturer was interested.

So Ron began to manufacture it himself. And when he’d sold 14,000 units, Black & Decker became interested.

It agreed to manufacture them and pay him 3 per cent of the royalties.

That became the Black & Decker Workmate.

It sold 70 million of them all over the world, and Ron became a very wealthy man.

By being able to see the opportunity in a problem.

What we call creativity.

Dave Trott’s new book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now