Theodore Levitt's 1960 article "Marketing Myopia" is a business classic that earned its author the nickname "the father of modern marketing". It is also a beautiful demonstration of the problem solving skills that are crucial in so many areas of life - in business and beyond.
The problem facing Levitt was the same problem that has confronted business after business for hundreds of years: how best to deal with slowing growth and eventual decline. Levitt studied many business empires - the railroads, for instance - that at a certain point simply shrivelled up and shrank to almost nothing. How, he asked, could businesses avoid such failures?
His approach and his solution comprise a concise demonstration of high-level problem solving at its best. Good problem solvers first identify what the problem is, then isolate the best methodology for solving it. And, as Levitt showed, a dose of creative thinking also helps. Levitt's insight was that falling sales are all about marketing, and marketing is about knowing your real business. The railroads misunderstood their real market: they weren't selling rail, they were selling transport. If they had understood that, they could have successfully taken advantage of new growth areas - truck haulage, for instance - rather than futilely scrabbling to sell rail to a saturated market.
Dr Monique Diderich holds a masters degree in psychology from the University of Groningen and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.