Michael Schrage’s Harvard Business Review blog explains the Japanese design insight called poka-yoke – Japanese for “avoid mistakes.” The idea is to design the “simplest, cheapest, and surest way to eliminate foreseeable process errors.” One example he gives is where an assembler uses three screws, so the screws are packaged in groups of three: the package is a poka-yoke device.
My son’s high school biology teacher tries to use poka-yoke with her students by having all the homework on one color of paper, test prep on another, and so on. Can’t say it always works, but you can’t blame that on the device!
Along with being a nifty name, this made me wonder what poka-yoke are in use and might be designed for court ADR and for mediation in general. For our court mediation programs, we might use color-coded forms like the biology teacher to help mediators know which is the party evaluation form and which is the mediator report, but what are the other poka-yoke innovations that might be designed?
How about when we are mediating? I sometimes suggest to mediators in training that they can write words like “summarize” on the corner of the page they are using to take notes to help them remember what to do if they are afraid they will freeze up. After all these years, I still have a checklist with me to be sure I don’t forget anything in my opening statement. Has anyone come up with great ways to keep from making stupid mistakes?
Poka-yoke – a fun term for a great idea.