What can a hot dog eating contest teach us about project management?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 By Jack Nevison

What can hot dogs teach project managers about solving problems? On their own, not much. But if your goal is to eat 50 hot dogs and win a contest, that's a different story.

Everyone's heard of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, New York. Contestants who are indifferent about how the sausage is made compete to see who can scarf down the most dogs in a set period of time.

It's a straightforward, if difficult, challenge, but in 2001, competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, doubling the previous record. He then went on to win the contest every year through 2006.

What allowed Kobabyashi to make achieve such dramatically better results? Entrepreneur contributor Kathleen Davis writes that Kobayashi found ways to "redefine the problem" of the hot dog eating contest, despite competing against people who were far larger than him and had much more contest experience.

First, he used strategy. Kobayashi experimented with a number of different techniques to eat hot dogs more efficiently, such as splitting them in half, dipping the buns in water to make them more compact, and even wriggling his body to force them down faster. By thinking creatively, he overcame the psychological constraint of the 25 hot dog barrier that had stymied most contestants. Instead, he challenged it.

New Leaf offers a number of ways to help you think creatively about your work. Our program, "Complex Problems, Difficult Decisions, Innovative Ideas," shows teams how to become collectively creative. Our free white papers and QPM, an online estimating game, let you earn affordable and convenient PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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