Why I Learned to Love Band-Aid Solutions and You Should Too
Sometimes complicated problems need simple solutions.
The Band-Aid is an inexpensive, convenient, and remarkably versatile solution to an astonishing array of problems. In their history, Band-Aids have probably allowed millions of people to keep working or playing tennis or cooking or walking when they would otherwise have had to stop.
The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost.
— Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
When you hear a clopping sound coming down the street, what’s your first reaction?
A horse, right?
When we hear a familiar sound, we attribute it to the familiar.
Why, on the other hand, do we solve problems with complicated solutions rather than familiar ones?
In other words, why do we go looking for a zebra rather than a horse?
This metaphor is used to teach new physicians how to diagnose patients.
After hearing all the ailments and symptoms, new physicians — fresh out of med school and eager to test their newfound knowledge — tend to attribute common symptoms to complicated illnesses.
Seasoned doctors know too well that when you hear a cough, it’s a cold, not lupus.
When faced with a seemingly overwhelming problem in our own lives, we search for expensive, complicated, and time-consuming solutions.
We assume elaborate solutions work better than simple ones.
We scoff at quick fixes and Band-Aid solutions.
And yet, they work.
What Does A Band-Aid Solution Look Like?
The Gladwell quote I used at the beginning comes from the very end of his book, The Tipping Point, in the conclusion of all places.
I loved The Tipping Point, but this Band-Aid quote tucked away in the final paragraphs, hit differently.
I became obsessed with the idea. What were the simple solutions — the Band-Aid solutions — I overlooked in my life?
I tend to overcomplicate things. When I tackle a problem, I want a sophisticated solution.
A Band-Aid solution, however, looks a lot different:
- It’s quick to implement, involving only a few necessary steps
- It’s inexpensive and doesn’t cost you time or money
- It’s dependent on your skill level, you don’t need to spend time learning something new
- It’s effective, it won’t deliver huge results but it gets the job done
The Band-Aid approach is versatile and works for the many facets of your life — career, personal, creative.
Once you shift your thinking away from complicated solutions, you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually tackle.
I decided to try it out myself.
Putting Band-Aid Solutions to the Test
One of my goals this year is to build up the passive revenue side of my business.
If you Google “passive income” you’re bombarded with millions of techniques and empty promises.
Pre-Band-Aid-Approach Declan would have spent weeks building and implementing crazy schemes to make some money (they’d all fail).
This past weekend I took a different approach. I wrote down a Band-Aid to-do list. Each item on the list had to meet certain criteria:
- It had to make money, even if it was only $1
- It couldn’t cost me money
- It had to take less than an hour, preferably only a few minutes to complete
I gave myself 15 minutes to brainstorm ideas before tackling them one by one.
Some of the Band-Aid ideas I came up with were:
✅ Ask for refunds for subscription services I don’t use anymore (I got $199 back)
❌ Start a paid writing group for aspiring Medium writers (I realized it would take too much time and not meet the criteria)
✅ Call a client to get our project back on track (I had previously spent 2 months emailing with no response, now we’re good)
✅ Clean up a very old website of mine that was losing ad revenue (I added an ads.txt file to the root and updated the SSL certification, simple stuff I knew how to do)
❌ Email my hosting clients asking to upgrade their plan (they said no, worth a shot though)
Am I rolling in passive income after one weekend of Band-Aid fixes? Of course not. But that’s beside the point.
The purpose of Band-Aid solutions is to avoid wasting time, energy, or money implementing complicated solutions (that might not work) and instead focus on smaller, quicker efforts which yield positive outcomes.
I used the resources and skills I already had to make simple changes. Changes that have a positive benefit.
For one weekend’s worth of work, I’m happy with that.
How to Start Using Band-Aid Solutions
In order to implement the Band-Aid approach, you need to first start approaching problems from a different angle.
What I like most about the Band-Aid approach is how it changes the way I look at problems.
Instead of “How can I solve this entire problem all at once?” I look for ways to break the problem into micro problems, ones that require Band-Aid fixes.
Going back to my passive income example above, I spent additional time creating a spreadsheet with all the different streams of revenue I currently have.
For each stream, I asked myself, “what can I do today to make this better?”
Some required me to write a blog post or send an email or ask for a refund (which surprisingly works by the way).
Instead of stressing about the bigger problem (lack of passive income) I took smaller more manageable actions.
Take the Macro and break it down into the Micro.
My Personal Experience
In 2014, I began a new job at a medical device production facility.
Hired as an industrial engineer, I came in as the young hot-shot, eager to improve all the production processes.
“Question everything,” that’s what I was taught in school.
On my first day, my manager took me on a tour of the production lines. One of the lines produced probes for endoscopies.
Coming down the line, I noticed one worker wrapping a Band-Aid around the probe’s sensors to hold them in place.
“What’s happening here? Why is she using a Band-Aid?” I asked.
“That’s just how we make them,” my manager replied.
My industrial engineering instincts kicked in.
This couldn’t possibly be the best solution. We were a high-tech, Fortune 500 medical company and we are fastening wires with mere Band-Aids!
For three years I petitioned to change the process and for three years I was met with indifference.
“It gets the job done,” the higher-ups gently reminded me (time and time again).
I left that job without conquering my nemesis.
But now, years later, I appreciate the simplicity and brilliance of the Band-Aid solution.
The Band-Aid is adhesive, cheap, and from a medical standpoint, sterile.
Why over complicate things when a literal Band-Aid was all we needed?
I’m Declan and I write for creatives and cubicle captives. If you’re struggling to tackle an insurmountable goal, download my Goal-Getter’s Self-Audit Workbook to help you uncover why.