John Smith turned up to work on Monday. He sat down. He reached for his pen. It wasn’t there. He looked for it for a while before having a cup of tea. Refreshed, he had another look. Still no luck.

He asked Steve and Karen to help. “Many hands make light work, and they increase the chance of finding pens” said John. Steve and Karen had some reports to finish, but nevertheless agreed to help John, which John appreciated.

After 10 minutes, it was apparent the pen was not on, in, or under John’s desk. “We have to expand the search area” said Karen. “We need to use a grid search” said Steve. They all agreed on an 8 yard square search area, and Steve got the string.

The criss-crossing string in 8x8 formations made the grid look like a giant chessboard. “Let’s have a game of chess!” said Steve. “We haven’t got any pieces, or a pen” said John. “I don’t know how to play chess” said Karen.

A meticulous search followed. They found:

• 8 staples (used)

• Malcolm’s desk

• 5 pringles

• An engagement ring that Julie from accounts lost last Thursday , the day before she was dumped by her fiancée, and two days before she slipped on photocopying fluid and got paralysed from the waist down.

“Julie will be pleased!” said John as he ate the 5 pringles. “I wonder were my pen is?”

“Let’s do a public appeal!” said Karen. “We could post all the details on Facebook.” “Good idea” said John. “We need to get a photo of a similar pen so people know what to be on the lookout for”. John went to his desk and pulled 7 pens from his drawer: “Just photograph one of these – they are exactly the same as the missing pen”.

Steve photographed one of the 7 identical pens with his iPhone 4, and uploaded the image to his, Karen and John’s Facebook pages. “We are harnessing the power of a combined total of 248 “Friends”” said Steve. “80 friends are from this department and are common to all 3 of us, so there are only 88 unique friends” pointed out John.

Within 10 minutes the public appeal had generated 7 “Likes” and 3 comments. Dave wrote “Fingers crossed you find your pen”. Julie somewhat pessimistically typed out “Sorry for your loss” from her bed in the paraplegic ward at the hospital. Malcolm wrote “Have you checked your pocket, and btw has anyone seen my desk?”

“Silly me!” laughed John as he retrieved the pen from his pocket. “Oh, it appears to have run out”.

Before going back to his desk, Steve glanced at the paper: “Cameron’s making more cuts to the public service”. "We will probably have to go on strike” said John. “There will be chaos – things will grind to a halt” said Karen.