Creative Thinking 101
Nov 12, 2014
This month we bring you a guest column from our friend Michael Crooks. APTCO's approach to promotional marketing has been influenced by Michael's brand of thinking. Forget about the “outside of the box” clichés — this is a unique approach, described in an entertaining manner.
Golf Ball Hunting
Look Beyond the Obvious
Whenever we go on vacation, we scope out the local golf courses to see how many golf balls we can find. While on vacation in Bushkill, PA, my son helped me discover a very powerful creative problem-solving insight.
We were walking up one of the holes, about three feet into the wooded rough when we stopped to watch a golfer tee off. He gave the ball a good smack then drove down in his cart looking for it. He drove around in circles for a couple of minutes with no luck. Finally, he dropped another ball, whacked it and took off, shooting us a dirty look over his shoulder. I shrugged as I said to my son, “He thinks we stole his ball.” We did not. In fact, as we made our way back down the fairway we found the guy’s ball. It was less than three feet from his cart’s tire tracks.
“Dad?” my son asked. “How come we can find 50 golf balls without hardly trying and that guy couldn’t find one ball that he just hit?”
“Well,” I replied with a chuckle, “that guy is looking for a golf ball where he thinks it should be. We’re simply looking for golf balls — wherever they might be.”
And that’s when it hit me: If you limit your search for an idea or solution to where you think it should be, you narrow your entire spectrum of possibility — and likely your success.
In the case of golfers, their perception of exactly where the ball lies is often skewed by such things as distance, pitch, terrain similarities, and being blinded by the sun or alcohol. In marketing and business, the perception of exactly where the idea or solution lies may be skewed by budget, time, misinformation, misunderstood information, blind ambition or — alcohol.
Here’s an example. Management of a zoo is upset about the amount of trash generated each year by patrons throwing away the zoo map at day’s end. The first solution would be to become “tight-fisted” with the number of maps that are handed out by instituting a “one per family” policy and charging for additionals. No one wants to pay for a piece of paper.
However, if you expand your idea search, you might find another answer such as, print the map on something people won’t throw away — like a bandanna. Give one to each group, charge for additionals. People will pay a buck for a souvenir bandanna that tells them where the important stops are. If they turn it in at the end of the day they get their $1 back. The bandanna maps can be washed and reused. Or, underwrite the cost of the bandanna by selling space to a local restaurant or other area attraction that allows the bandanna to be used as a coupon at its establishment. This approach opens the creative door to development of cross-promotion of other owned properties or even reciprocal partnerships.
The point is, you’re looking for ideas outside of, “If we give out fewer maps then fewer maps will get thrown away.” Now you’re looking for golf balls — not A golf ball. When you look for “ideas” or “solutions” as opposed to “a specific idea” or “a specific solution,” you expand your horizons. And when you look for ideas and solutions outside of where you think the answer or solution lies, you expand your horizons even more.
The trick with golf ball hunting is to look where others don’t or won’t. The same is true for idea hunting. You must allow your mind to go where others fear to tread.
How a golf ball ends up on the backside of a tree away from the direction the ball was shot is beyond me. It doesn’t make sense.
But you know what? When you find what you’re looking for, where you find it doesn’t have to make sense.
Did You Know?
It's not the product, it's how you use it.
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”
~ Meryl Streep
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