A consulting view of the hot air balloon tale

Andrew M. Lothian, Insights Group

A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below.

He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman below replied, “You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.

“I am,” replied the woman, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is that I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve been no help whatsoever.”

The woman below responded, “And you, you must be in management consultancy.”

“That’s amazing, I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the woman, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you were due to an ability to generate a large quantity of hot air. Coming down to earth you need to find someone to talk to. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, you are blaming me.”

Andy Lothian is Chief Executive of The Insights Group

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