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Lessons of the Square Watermelon

Posted in Models by fedwards on February 23rd, 2009

Find an extract (and some pictures) from an article, Lessons of the Square Watermelon by Peter Drucker on the Lean Thinking Network.

Japanese grocery stores had a problem. They are much smaller than their US counterparts and therefore don’t have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it. That is how the vast majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, “How can we provide one?” It wasn’t long before they invented the square watermelon.
Square watermelons

The solution to the problem of round watermelons wasn’t nearly as difficult to solve for those who didn’t assume the problem was impossible to begin with and simply asked how it could be done. It turns out that all you need to do is place them into a square box when they are growing and the watermelon will take on the shape of the box.

Square watermelons 2

To read the full article visit the Lean Thinking Network.

3 Responses to “Lessons of the Square Watermelon”

  1. AK Says:

    March 11th, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    As an aussie living in Tokyo now for 1.5 years, I’ve had to really readjust to the lack of space here. Just to give an idea of the level of density here: people live in my suburb alone then the whole of the population in Canberra. Being space efficient is critical, which has led many manufacturers to not just design products for one purpose but many. E.g. our microwave is also an oven, grill, steamer. All Tokyo machines are smaller than the aussie counterparts and use less energy. Store aisles are narrower and trolleys are small (they can only fit 2 baskets: one each on the top and bottom). Almost everyone here rides a bike, especially to the grocery store, encouraging you to buy less (buy only what you can fit on your bike and in your small fridge!) but buy more frequently – however the upside is you’ll be buying food that’s more fresh. Thinking about our life in Australia, we realise now how much unnecessary electricity, food and space we consumed: big houses, big stores, big cars, big fridges (and big stomachs!) – I think we all (but especially policymakers and city planners) need to completely re-think the way we live in the future to reduce our carbon footprint.

    As for the square watermelon, I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet, as they’re quite expensive here. I’ve heard that they’re somewhat delicious, however not as delicious as the round ones – growing them in a box seems to affect the amount of light it receives & therefore the taste? But I can’t verify if this is true.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. AK Says:

    March 11th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Oops, I’ve noticed many typos in my message…the longer I live in Tokyo, the worse my english gets! I meant to say:
    “in my suburb of Tokyo alone, there are more people residing here than the entire population of Canberra.”

  3. fedwards Says:

    March 12th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Great comment! The issues you raise are really interesting – how increasingly density is leading to less consumption overall in terms of electricity, wasted food, big material goods, and so on.