“FIRE!” How My Neighbor’s House Fire Reminded Me That Solving Problems Requires Creativity

John Fitzgerald - Partner

Over the weekend there was a fire at my neighbor’s house. I had just fired up our grill and put some brats on. I looked out the window and saw tons of smoke and thought dinner was ruined. As soon as I opened the door I realized, “That’s not brat smoke!” My wife and I ran outside to figure out where the fire was. She spotted the flames across the street. We knew we needed to let the neighbors know to get out of the building. The way our houses are setup we face the garages of the row of townhouses across the street. Their kitchen windows are directly above the garage. We ran back and forth screaming “FIRE!” but it was like nobody heard us. What a horrible time for my phone to be on the charger inside with a dead battery.

As I screamed like a madman, my wife tried to open a car to use the horn to attract attention. No dice; The car was locked. Finally she said, “I’m going to run around the front and knock and ring doorbells.” The neighbor whose house was on fire finally saw me as did a few other neighbors. Some didn’t hear me at all, they only found out when my wife rang their doorbell. Another neighbor called 911 and within a few minutes – that seemed like an eternity – there were 6 fire trucks and about 30 firefighters on the scene.

Another interesting part of the story… in that row of townhouses one of the units has a hose on the roof for watering plants. Unfortunately the hose was just a little bit too short to reach the flames. So the neighbor (who is actually a firefighter for the City of Chicago) and his wife filled small garbage cans with water and he ran back and forth trying to knock the fire down. Don’t try this at home…

My point in all of this: The first attempt at solving a problem might not always work. In my experience most hard problems aren’t solved with the first approach. You have to be willing to get creative and try new things. whether it’s new technologies, new features or new functions. The first step is taking a step back and evaluating your results. If my wife hadn’t stopped and thought about it we would have spent even more time screaming and may have never achieved our goal of getting people out.

The neighbors sustained some damage to the top deck and loft. All-in-all, it was a lot better than we thought it was going to be. The firefighter’s wastebaskets didn’t fare as well… two of them slipped out of his hands as he was launching water onto the fire. He found them melted to what was left of the deck.

When was the last time you looked at your approach to evaluate your results? When was the last time you tried a new approach? When was the last time you got input or new ideas from someone else? When was the last time you acted like the world was on fire and you had to take action?

Umar Ali

John Fitzgerald aka “Fitz”, is a US Partner for Pomerol Partners. He is responsible for all aspects of Pomerol – business development, service delivery, and. management for the US. His technical experience includes business intelligence, data warehousing, and, AI/predictive analytics.

He has Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Fitz has almost 30 years of professional experience with over 20 of those years in consulting. His consulting experience includes lean management and lean manufacturing as well as leading CRM and ERP implementations.

Fitz prides himself on digging deep into understanding his clients’ businesses and helping them make better decisions through better use of data. He also thoroughly enjoys mentoring younger consultants.

Prior to starting in consulting Fitz spent many years in technical sales in the construction products industry. During those years he learned a lot about sales, marketing, and, distribution. Since then he’s worked with clients in life sciences, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and many more.

One of Fitz’s proudest project moments was helping a client transform a manual process that previously took 40+ hours to complete. The refined process completed in 5 minutes. This freed up the analysts to spend time analyzing the data rather than wasting time collating data from over 30 countries.

When he’s not working, Fitz enjoys reliving his past by watching his son play rugby and, generally, spending time with his family.  His Twitter (and LinkedIn) alter ego is bizintelli.