Boomerang Your Way to the Best Possible Solutions
By Carol Ring
Endless meetings…stalled plans…unresolved issues…poorly
recycled ideas. These are just a few of the challenges prevalent in
today’s workplace. If you’re tired of getting nothing but blank
faces when you ask for solutions to your company’s tough issues and
want to go beyond ideas that are nothing more than a tweak of an old
process, then it’s time for you and your organization to start
thinking in new ways.
Unfortunately, the way many people think today rarely allows
employees to unlock the limitless potential of their minds. Too
often, they seem to be on autopilot, just providing a knee-jerk
response to any problem that may arise. The reason for that isn’t so
much because of what they think as it is because of how
they think. Companies have done so much process improvement and
are running at such a fast pace that the truly visionary
entrepreneur skill set is not valued. As a result, the corporate
world has become an assembly line of production to get things out
the door faster and cheaper. And because people are so focused on
the problems, they rely on quick fixes or they settle for the first
solution (which often isn’t the best solution).
Most people don’t
use the full capabilities of their mind to find better answers to
today’s tough problems. Instead, they’ve trained their way of
thinking to follow a straight line, rarely veering off a predictable
path. They choose a solution because “it’s how we’ve always done
it.” Or they choose a solution because it’s the easiest or cheapest
Such a way of
thinking limits people’s professional and personal careers. And in
fact, often the best answer is not the first one or the obvious
one—it’s the one that comes after some clear and original thinking.
To do this, you need to release the talents and experiences your
team has inside of them with a process called Boomerang Think™.
A boomerang is a
tool and weapon of Australian aboriginal origin that comes back to
you if you throw it properly. It is usually carved out of wood and
consists of two wings connected at an angle. One side of the
boomerang will be slightly curved, and this is usually decorated.
The other side will be flat. Of importance is the smoothness of the
boomerang, as the wings act as an airfoil. As the air travels faster
over the surface of one wing than the other, lift occurs. The angle
of the two wings causes the boomerang to fly out straight for a
distance and then begin to turn to the left, returning to the
thrower. One of the secrets to a successful boomerang throw is the
smoothness, the lack of burrs or extra weight along the wings.
Just like the
successful flight of the boomerang, Boomerang Think™ has special
features and steps.
Step #1: Create
a Barrier-Free Environment:
In order to fly
correctly, a boomerang needs a smooth surface. The same concept
applies to your new way of thinking. You cannot have
barriers weighing down the flight of ideas. In most organizations, once
you announce a problem and a potential solution, people quickly list
all the excuses why the solution won’t work: “It costs too much,”
“The boss will never agree,” “It would take too long,” etc. At this
point, have everyone stop and put all those issues on sticky notes.
Put the sticky notes on the wall and instruct everyone to forget
about those issues for a moment.
Often the solution you need is obvious, but you only see it
when you’re issue-free. If you spend all your time talking about the
issues and all the reasons why you can’t do something, you’ll never
move forward. Therefore, allocate a certain amount of meeting time
to voice those issues so you can get them out of the way. If you
don’t allow people to voice them, then they’ll silently let the
excuses simmer and block the group’s creativity. Remember, a
boomerang won’t fly if you weigh it down.
Brainstorm or Dream about the Best Possible Solution:
you open your mind and toss the boomerang, you are now into the
second step, or the straight part of the flying pattern. This is
when you have the opportunity to stretch your thinking and come up
with that best possible solution. Have everyone think in terms of
limitless opportunities…no boundaries…the sky’s the limit. You may
have to do this part in two steps. First, get people warmed up to
the idea of thinking creatively. Then, encourage them to take it
For example, if you ask people to describe the best possible
airline flight, they’ll begin with such answers as, “No lines at the
gate,” “The airplane leaves on time,” “My luggage doesn’t get lost.”
But are these answers really describing the best possible airline
flight? No. These are the “warm up” answers that describe the okay
possibilities. Once people are warmed up, they can take it further
and start describing the best possible solutions. For our airline
flight example, they’ll continue until they start saying such
answers as, “I’m in first class,” “I’m on a flight to Cancun for a
month’s vacation,” “I’m sitting next to Tiger Woods.” These are the
“stretch” answers that start to depict the best possible solutions.
Step #3: Stretch
the Solutions Even Further:
The third step of the process occurs at the apex of the
flight. Here you list all the elements of the very best
possible solution. At this point, after people voice each possible
solution, ask “What would be even better?” Keep asking this question
over and over until the answer is amazing. For example, using our
airline flight example, the amazing answer might be, “I’m on a
private jet flying to my vacation home in Cancun, where I’ll be
spending the next six months working on my latest project from my
home office, which of course overlooks the beach. With me on the
plane are my family and my closest friends, including Tiger Woods.”
That answer is quite different than simply wanting short lines and
an on-time flight. Remember, if the answer is not amazing, then
there’s still something better.
Step #4: Assess
Your Ability to Implement the Best Possible Solution:
like a real boomerang comes back to your hand, you have to bring
your best possible solution back to the current business situation.
This is when you take your amazing idea and start to break it down
into steps. When you start to break the idea down and brainstorm the
components of it, you often find that you can actually do them.
Granted, about 20 percent of your idea won’t work. You rarely get it
all. But getting 70-80 percent of your best possible solution is way
better than getting 100 percent of your first possible idea.
Throw Your Own
The following is an
example of how to use Boomerang Think™ with a business challenge.
Suppose you have to
train 300 employees on a new technology. Your sticky notes would
include such phrases as “Not enough training rooms,” “Too expensive
to rent additional training rooms,” “Not enough time to get everyone
trained.” Now that the issues are out of the way, you can begin to
dream about the best possible solution. In this case it may be to
have all the training done in 30 days and to do the training in
multiple locations around the city rather than your lone in-house
training room so you can train more people at the same time.
With the vision of
the best possible solution in mind, you would break it down and
assess the viability of each individual component. In this case, you
may realize that some of your suppliers or clients have offices with
training rooms in them. Can you use those? You’re also a member of
the Chamber, and they have boardrooms that are free for members to
use. Could you use those boardrooms as training rooms? After a few
phone calls, you learn that you have multiple options for additional
training rooms that are either free or very inexpensive.
This is the
power of Boomerang Think™. You would never have started the
conversation by saying, “Let’s talk to our suppliers or Chamber
about training rooms.” Instead, you have to go all the way out with
your solution and then come back in with it. So throw the boomerang
in your organization today. The results you’ll achieve will amaze
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