The Paperweight

Miss Application had a desk near an open window.  When the breeze would blow in from the window, the papers would be blown off her desk and it was very annoying.  She decided to have a system engineered to solve the problem.  The first engineering group came in and did a study of the situation.  They collected data on average wind speed and the weight of each piece of paper.  From this they were able to calculate the precise size and position of the weight to hold down Miss Applications’ papers.  They presented an impressive spreadsheet showing the data collected and the rationale behind the engineering decisions.


Miss Application was quite impressed and decided to implement the engineered system.  At first it seemed to work very well but over time, Miss Application became careless in the positioning of the weight and there were instances when the right combination of wind velocity and misplaced weight would cause a paper chase around her office.


Discouraged, and somewhat annoyed, Miss Application called in another consulting firm to see if they could better address her problem.  These folks had a very different approach.  They used the “If a little is good, then a whole lot would be better” technique.  There were no spreadsheets, no data, and no impressive graphs. They brought Miss Application a large cement block as the solution to her problem.


This solution worked very well in that there was never an issue of papers blowing off the desk.  No matter what the wind velocity or the positioning the cement block, the papers stayed put.  At first Miss Application was quite impressed but then she began to realize that the solution had certain drawbacks.  The constant moving of the cement block did prove to be good exercise, but it was time consuming and tended to make scratches on her desk.


She had decided to live with the cement block solution until one day when a vendor came into her office and inquired about the unusual paper weight.  Miss Application explained her problem and that the cement block had proved to be the best cure.  The vendor thought for a moment and then reached into his bag and pulled out one of his company’s coffee cups with their logo on it.  He handed it to Miss Application and said she might want to give it a try.  He explained that it was considerably lighter than the cement block and yet much heavier than the engineered weight she had first tried.  In addition, it had a handle for easy repositioning of the cup.  It also had the advantage of having a variable weight system in that she could fill the cup on very windy days and insure the papers would be held steadfast on her desk.


Miss Application was skeptical but agreed to give it a try.  She was delighted with the result.  With the exception of a few coffee stains on some papers, she was able to do her work with hardly a thought about the wind/paper situation.


One breezy day as she was leaving her office, she accidently knocked the cup off her desk and it shattered on the floor.  She was late for an appointment and had to leave.  As she walked into her office the next morning, she braced herself for the sight of her papers strewn across the floor.  To her surprise, everything was in place exactly as she had left it except the broken cup had been removed and the area cleaned up.  She knew that it must have been Mr. Wright, the maintenance man, who had cleaned up the broken cup and so she gave him a call to express her apology and appreciation.  Mr. Wright was very polite and thanked her for the call.  As he was about to hang up, he added, “Oh, by the way; I closed the window in your office.  I hope you don’t mind.”