Innovation and Launching Balloons to Solve Problems

Long time no blog. I took an intentional break.  On the advice of a colleague, I tied a balloon to a vexing problem and let it drift away. Then I looked around and noticed what other problems remained. Turns out there were a few. But they were smaller and easily conquered.

Here’s how I constructed my balloon launch:
I opened the day with a long walk. I intentionally set the problem aside so I could focus all my senses on the woods. The mossy aroma rising from the forest floor, the knotted vines that weave the trees together, the doe poised to take me in—it all swirled around me. And then I considered the problem. I asked out loud, in the middle of the woods: What should I do about this? Then I imagined myself tying the problem to a balloon and sending it aloft. 

I spent the rest of the day tackling smaller problems. Concrete tasks, handily mastered. In the evening, I went out to a ball game. I sat in the cheap seats, looking out at the twilight sky, imagining my balloon floating out there in the darkening night. 

By morning, the key to the solution came to me by way of an email from a friend. Completely out of the blue. He was sending me a case study from an innovative project he’d encountered. It held the clue. Presto!

I love solving problems. But I hate when the endless grinding ruins an otherwise perfect day. As Winifred Gallagher argues so brilliantly in her book, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, our ability to focus on one thing and suppress another is the key to how we experience life. By choosing what we pay attention to, we control how our lives feel minute by minute. 

This economy is rife with urgent problems. But perhaps the best way to address them is to let go. This creates space for something new, fresh and completely unexpected to drop in. 

Works for me!