Business Lessons from a Pinewood Car

3 02 2012

Every year, Cub Scout packs across the U.S. hold pinewood derby races. In Canada, Cub Scouts take part in a similar event, known as the kub kar rally. In both events (and others like them), the idea is simple. Participants are given a block of wood, four plastic wheels, and four small nails to use as axles. They can fashion their cars pretty much any way they want, as long as they meet the guidelines for the race. Weights are added, and the cars are raced down a track, with gravity as the only source of power.

As you might imagine, designs and color schemes run the gamut. Some scouts will create traditional-looking race cars, while others will add their own creative flair. As racers line up, it’s hard to imagine that all those cars started out exactly alike, as simple blocks of wood.

In business, many companies start out with similar sets of raw materials or similar product lines. Some focus on creating flashy or innovative designs and marketing campaigns that help them stand out from the crowd. Others focus on the basics, like making sure the axles and wheels are sanded smooth and properly lubricated with graphite, to ensure an optimal ride. Still others strive to distribute the weight properly, to maximize efficiency and make sure the right people are doing the right jobs that best suit their skills.

And the best companies? You guessed it. They do all three.

So, while the business world may not always run on a nice, smooth track — and the playing field is not always level — with the right preparation and some good, old-fashioned hard work, your company can win the day.

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