I read an article a while back I found quite inspiring and believe it has a special relation to modern day workforce development and innovation.

On the Japanese Bullet Trains there are people who walk up and down the aisles selling food and drink stuffs to the riders.  These people are typically known as ‘Wagon Girls’.  They buy their goods outside the train before the riders get on and then commence to walking and selling.  In this story there was one person, the authors found, who was selling 5x more than the others and they wanted to find out why.

You might think she was able to move faster, worked in first class, or sold better cheaper products?

This particular wagon girl would wait to buy her goods until the very last minute so she could profile the riders on the platform (market research if you will) and then buy her goods based on the demographics (getting a bunch of beer doesn’t make sense if school kids riding in large numbers that day).  She also decided to pull her cart backwards so she could see the faces of the people as she went down the aisles.  This way she was able to load up on what they wanted and watch her potential client’s reactions and attention thus being more efficient in her ‘sales calls’.

If we were able to teach all the wagon girls to follow these ideas do you think more money would be extracted from the riders on the bullet train overall?  Absolutely.  Sometimes one innovative idea can save a business.  Being on the lookout for ideas like these is tough – which is why keeping your business as connected to the community and marketplace as possible is key.  The information is out there – it is our job to now find the right questions.