Back in the 80s, in Canada, Greenpeace were fighting hard against seal hunters.
Specifically those slaughtering and skinning thousands of newborn pups.
Not to control the population, but for profit.
Harp seal and grey seal pups are called whitecoats —
because they are born with beautifully soft white fur.
It only stays white for 14 days.
And at the time there was a lot of demand for whitecoat pelts, which made for soft white fur coats.
(The fur industry was still at its height, and most countries hadn’t banned seal products yet.)
Hunters would simply walk up to newborn pups and club them over the head, because shooting them would damage the pelt.
How do you stop that kind of mass murder?
There were too many hunters for Greenpeace to stop them individually.
Plus it could get seriously violent and dangerous: the hunters were tough men protecting their trade.
So Greenpeace thought and thought and thought.
And they reframed the problem.
Their brief wasn’t to stop the hunters.
It was to prevent newborn seals being killed.
And they were being killed for their fur.
Greenpeace just had to remove that incentive.
The activists went all over the Arctic armed with cans of green spray paint.
Marking each white pup with a bit of paint.
This didn’t hurt the whitecoats one bit.
But it ruined their whitecoats.
(the paint would come off within days, when they would moult and turn speckled grey)
All of a sudden there was no point for the hunters to club the baby seals: they wouldn’t be able to sell sprayed pelts.
Seal sprayers had defeated the seal slayers.
Before you get down to work on a difficult problem, stop and ask:
should you rethink the brief?