Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of how Malcolm McLean, the person who was responsible for revolutionising the world of container shipping, reframed the way in which we should approach the problem.

Before the year 1956, the import and export trade was plagued by inefficiency, controversy, and the involvement of organised crime [the mafia].

At each stage of the process, manufacturing, delivery to the dock, warehousing, ship loading, freight hauling, and delivery at a new port, the process was siloed, with each player attempting to maximise their own profitability.

As a direct consequence of this, the cost of exporting goods skyrocketed.

However, how can the issue be reframed in order to reduce expenses in a way that is truly transformative?

Malcolm McLean had the answer: stop thinking about the problem in the silos of shipping stages and think about the underlying difficulty of transporting goods from the place of manufacture to the ultimate consumer.

McLean’s first plan was to skip the dock warehouses entirely, drive the trucks directly onto the ships, and then drive the trucks off the ships after they were at their destination.

However, this plan did not work out for a number of different reasons related to the logistics of the situation.

But what about dismantling the truck bed once it has been loaded onto the ship?

The shipping container was invented, ushering in a period of time marked by significant disruption throughout the whole distribution supply chain.

Companies that were unable to adjust to the most recent technique of transporting goods could not make it; this is because the container method required adjustments to be made at every stage of the supply chain.

If you reframe the problem in the words of Malcolm McLean, transferring a box from the manufacturer to the customer, you will arrive at the most efficient solution. Container shipping was born.

Problems can be reframed in ways that lead to breakthrough innovations.

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