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An Incrementally Better Bucket

This week’s message is from guest contributor Bob Dodds, Region 20 director:

BobDodds2I like visiting gardening centers as spring nears as it’s a great morale boost. While looking through the new gadgets and general supplies on a recent visit, I came across some very bright-handled buckets. As I looked closer, I knew that I needed this one-of-a-kind 3.5-gallon bucket. Now, we have no less than 50 buckets on our farm. However, this one was different, and at $7.50 I just had to have one.

My newly purchased bucket is not high tech. I will not be able to do incredible things that I cannot already do with the other buckets I have on hand. I thought about this on the way home from the garden center. What made this bucket a “must have”? It could be the size, 3.5 gallons instead of the traditional 5-gallon bucket. It could be the soft and colorful handle. It is definitely a step up from most of my favorite recycled buckets that once held oil. I’m referring to those buckets missing the plastic handle so you grip only wire; leaving a line and a bright red mark on your hand each time you use it. Another reason could be the great spout built into the bucket that keeps your shoes dry as you pour, versus the traditional farm bucket that pours everywhere. The unique finger grips on the bottom of the bucket are a nice improvement in engineering over the quarter-inch plastic rim on the bottom of a standard bucket from which your fingers always seem to loose grip and slip off just as the bucket is half empty. This, of course, results in a quick upright motion and a great splash in the face. The hand grip on the side, molded into the plastic, also is a great help. Inside the bucket are marks in quarts and gallon measurements with lines, quite helpful when measuring and evaluating the mixing of various concoctions. For sure it will be much more accurate than the method of eyeing 1/4, 1/3 or 5/8 full. Did I mention that this bucket has just been patented?

I think this bucket story applies to programs and tasks in Extension and Outreach. Many times our successes are not something incredibly new or high tech. Success can be as simple as taking a research-based program and adding relevancy, value, or new technology, or maybe taking a minute to measure and evaluate with greater accuracy than the eyeing method. It might mean that we may turn to Mail Chimp or Constant Contact instead of the traditional newsletter. Instead of handing out paper after paper at a council meeting, the documents could be stored and viewed on an iPad. It could mean adding a marketing plan to a program or offering the program to a new audience. As we review the program catalog and select programs from our signature issues, give thought to the bucket story. Let’s make our bucket better!


I agree with Bob. There are two ways forward- – radical innovation or incremental innovation.  The idea behind incremental innovation is simple: instead of thinking up and executing against completely new and risky ideas, you make small changes to existing products and services. This method of user-centered design thinking can be accomplished much like the bucket redesign by focusing on single tangible customer “pain points” and using existing anchors to build from.  What “pain points” exist for the users of your programs?  What anchor can be extended or enhanced?  Let’s work together to make our bucket better. See you there.

— Cathann

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  1. Nice job with this message, Bob. You make a really good point with your message. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know I’m going to view buckets differently and it should carry over to Extension work.