How to make a sticky bomb

Posted on April 2, 2009



‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a great movie on so many levels but especially on Creative Leadership. This movie about heroes, duty, and courage, follows the leadership of Tom Hank’s character, Captain Miller, as he navigates a perilous mission to save a lost Private Ryan. They find Ryan but the team realizes they will be forced to defend a bridge from an eminent German assault. Outnumbered and over powered, Miller has to think of creative ways to help even the odds. In one scene he suggests using ‘sticky bombs’. A soldier replies, ‘sir, are you making that up?’ Miller explains that a sticky bomb is a sock filled with explosives, wired with a fuse, and then coated with axel grease. When you throw it (at a tank), it sticks- a ‘sticky bomb’. The other men chuckle but are in agreement that it’s the best plan they got. In a later scene, you see soldiers successfully stopping a tank by using these sticky bombs.

Whether you were in war-torn Europe during World War II, in an internet start up business, or working in the non-profit world, you need to be proficient at creating “sticky bombs”. You won’t find instructions on how to make sticky bombs in a new employee handbook or in a seminary class. Sticky bomb solutions come from developing your creative improvisation skills. Creative leaders need to be able to take basic resources at hand and turn it into practical solutions. It’s taking ordinary objects, programs, or people and combining it together to create new solutions. You may have exhausted your best ideas, but you haven’t exhausted the combination of your ideas. Sticky bomb solutions may look like:

  • Switching the roles of two teammates to help them understand each other’s roles
  • Use a software program outside of what it was designed to do
  • Try ‘low tech’ solutions like a Polaroid camera or an Etch-A-Sketch
  • Ask a complete stranger to give input on your project then ask a competitor the same questions.
  • Partner with another struggling organization to see how you can solve each other’s problems
  • Read a “Blank for Dummies“ book. There are over 1,400 titles out there. Better yet, write one of your own. Even if you don’t publish it, the exercise will bring a lot of clarity.
  • Start a blog and ask for help. You’d be amazed with how many are willing to offer advice. Offer a free prize for anyone who comes up with a solution.
  • Create an art piece from materials only found in your garage

There is nothing fancy or sexy here. In Saving Private Ryan, the use of sticky bombs was crude, messy, and sometimes dangerous. A sticky bomb may blow up in your face or it may give you the edge you were looking for.

Creating sticky bombs are worth it- if you don’t think so, try asking Sergeant Fredrick Niland- the real life story the movie is based after. I bet he would say otherwise.