Home > NewsRelease > Innovation is a Brutal DIY Project
Innovation is a Brutal DIY Project
Gregg Fraley -- Best Keynotes on Creativity & Innovation Gregg Fraley -- Best Keynotes on Creativity & Innovation
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago , IL
Friday, January 04, 2019


Innovation Learning Points From the Great Faucet DIY Fiasco

DIY is a Form of Innovation


I’m the Abraham Lincoln of home fix-it DIY projects. Like Lincoln, I ultimately win, but painfully fail many, many times before I “git-er done”. (FYI: DIY = Do It Yourself.)
As an innovation consultant who is a facilitator, team builder, idea person, and strategist, my need for hands-on engineering skills are minimal. I’m not bad at prototyping and am excellent in concept development, but I’m horrible when it comes to hands-on maker skills. As a home owner, this is really Not Good. But I try. And I learn.
So after I finished the bleeding on my latest DIY effort, it strikes me that, on a larger scale, DIY pain is exactly what an organization trying to innovate goes through. It’s freakin Brutal.
Here are some lessons learned from my most recent DIY process. Pain is humorous if it’s not you. My innovation teaching points are in Bold.

The Great Faucet Fiasco Story:

  1. The Challenge: My bathroom faucet leaked water, from the hot spigot. This annoying-as-hell problem went on for some time, but then, I planned a holiday party, so, I was motivated, finally, to change. Point One: Don’t wait until it’s an emergency. This is a classic innovation mistake. Best to get projects started before a crisis. You have more time to learn. Point Two: Making a challenge a project is always a good move. Innovation is Projects.
  2. I attempt to take off the faucet handle, and strip the screw head. I could have stopped before it was completely toasted, but noooo, I tried to force it. EFF Up One.  I should have used penetrating oil first, I learn via YouTube. Taking time to prepare the job would have saved me many of the steps below. By stripping the screw, I quadrupled the degree of difficulty of the job. Trip One to the Hardware store to buy drill bits. Point Three: I knew the challenge and had a project, so, why didn’t I do any research? Hubris? Stupidity! Explore your challenge first, before taking action. 
  3. I then try to drill out the stripped screw, which fails, and I break brand new drill bits in the process. I didn’t have a good angle on the faucet head and that doomed my effort. Getting the right angle would have required me to remove a solidly installed shelf just above it, and I didn’t think I had time to do that. Call this EFF Up Two. I then have Emotional Breakdown One, I curse like Captain Ahab missing a clean shot at Moby Dick. I punch the wall and damage it, which means I’ve got another DIY project. I drink a six pack of Killian’s to contemplate my next move.
  4. I decide to replace the entire faucet — because it’ll be easy! I feel smart for a couple minutes. My thinking is that I won’t have to deal with the stripped screw, but will just remove the entire assembly, from below, and get a new one, upgrading my bathroom in the process. Point Four: Projects can, and will, change, as you fail and learn.
  5. Reality bites, and I learn how difficult it is to remove the large plastic nuts under each faucet. They’re on too tight for finger work, and you can’t get a regular wrench up into the confined space. You need a special tool, I learn on YouTube. Of course, I skin my knuckles trying, Blood One. So, off I go to buy that special tool. Trip Two.
  6. Upon return home, and flat on my aching back looking up under the sink, I cannot make the special tool work, so back to the store for the fancier, pricier, easier-to-use version, Trip Three. Point Five: Don’t cheap out on tools, they can make a difference. 
  7. The pricey tool works, but I bang my knuckles again, Blood Two. Still, it feels good to cross a milestone. My grandfather once said a job’s not over until you bleed on it, so, I’ve got that going for me.
  8. I get the blasted faucet assembly off the sink. I had to bend the metal water hoses a bit to get them off, they were so stiff. I hear cracky noises when doing this, which I ignore. I drink a bottle of champagne to celebrate. The subsequent hangover delays project a day. Point Six: It’s not over until it’s over, finish projects before you celebrate your innovation.
  9. I buy a new faucet assembly, and feel very adult and competent doing it on Trip Four to Hardware store. By the way, those guys and gals at the hardware store, LOVE ME. All kidding aside, their community of support and advice made a difference for me. Point Seven: Expert innovation mentors, coaches, and experts can make a difference.
  10. I get the new faucet assembly installed, and feel like I’ve got the ball on the five yard line, but alas discover I don’t have the right connector pipe sizes to hook up and seal the drain pipe underneath. Crap, Captain Ahab returns. So close, yet so far and Emotional Breakdown Two happens. Despair is part of innovation.
  11. I buy pipe lengths I think I need on Trip Five, and also a small hack saw in order to to cut the pipe to size. I’d taken in the old pipe and I thought by showing it to them I’d get the same size. Ha! Not.
  12. I make two cuts using my new hack saw to get the length right, but it’s tough because the pipe is soft metal and I can’t anchor it in a vise without it breaking. I end up cutting myself with the hacksaw causing Blood Three. Then discover my new pipe is the wrong size to marry up to the one below, foiled again. So, I’ve failed in the DIY project, and can’t get the ball over the goal line. Breakdown Three occurs where I ponder my inadequacies as a human being, a man, and a home owner.  I find a bottle of Irish whiskey and make a hot toddy. And then another. I fall asleep in utter despair and when I wake up it’s time to get serious.
  13. Because I have a gathering at my house the next day, I hire a plumber, who comes in on a Saturday (weekend rates).
  14. Plumber looks at my work and laughs with abandon. He points out to me that, beyond the pipe problem, my gasket install under the downspout, is upside down. It would have leaked like mad. If you look at the picture closely you can see the upside down gasket.
  15. Plumber re-does my flawed work, cuts a proper sized pipe, and replaces my old hoses — which I had broken, and ignored, in the faucet removal process. Those also would have leaked like mad.
  16. Plumber gets it all done perfectly in about 45 minutes. We talk about guitars and his home town of New Orleans over coffee. He plays me a couple songs and I see he’s as good at music as he is at plumbing. I so respect people who master their arts and crafts.
  17. As usual, I feel like an incompetent idiot, and, realize my process, was in fact, an innovation failure — until I got a pro in to help. I did learn, but I could maybe have done this all myself with better preparation. Look again at Point Three: Stated another way, You need to learn to innovate.  Not just about your specific challenge, but about innovation process. You can learn by doing, by researching, by hiring expertise, and by getting training. Better yet, all the above.

What’s the Macro Point of telling this Story? Get Innovation Training.

Innovation, at any level, requires research, training, persistence, projects, patience, expert help, and time. Like home DIY, you can do it yourself, and, if you do, plan on frustration, bleeding, emotional breakdowns, heavy drinking, time overages, and failures — before learning and ultimate success. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency, prepare, get training, and get the right people and equipment to assist.

Get in touch to learn more about GFi Innovation Training and Facilitation options.

Founding Partner
KILN Ideas, Ltd.
Three Oaks, MI