Moving roller coasters or Thinking outside the box…from within your box

by Jeff Hilimire on May 27, 2011

Move your roller coasters

I heard this story recently from someone I respect a great deal and I just love it.  To me it points to the power of creative thinking.

My friend/mentor was running one of the larger amusement parks in the country and at one of their board meetings they were discussing strategies to increase the attendance at their parks.  New roller coasters, it turns out, are the single biggest driver of attendance.

The problem, however, is that new roller coasters are extremely expensive to put in, as you can imagine.  The company he was with was struggling because attendance was down and they couldn’t afford to build a new roller coaster.  Kind of a chicken-and-egg deal.

Then my friend suggested what I think was an ingenious idea: MOVE THE ROLLER COASTERS FROM ONE PARK TO ANOTHER.  Genius!  Instead of having to build entirely new roller coasters, why not rotate them from park to park?  You’d get the same level of excitement from customers at a fraction of the cost.  You also wouldn’t be risking people not liking the new coaster because you would know from the previous park whether or not it was a popular attraction.

The idea, of course, was a huge success and helped to turn the company around.

I use this story when giving presentations as an example of thinking outside the box…within your box.  Too often when there is a major initiative we’re trying to achieve and we’re “brainstorming”, we try hard to think about new ideas or technology.  Many times we try so hard to think outside the box that we forget that its also possible to innovate from within your box.  In this case, the amusement park had the assets already and just needed to think about them differently to achieve their goal.

Social and mobile are the new shiny objects, and lord knows I love ’em.  However, are you maximizing the other channels that you’ve already invested heavily in?  Are there things you could be doing differently without having to create something entirely new?

  • Drew Hawkins

    I’ve heard creativity stems from more of a lack of resources than from an abundance. My old job was that way and we had to get super creative on how to pull off certain marketing stunts (especially in digital) for practically nothing. It was frustrating at times but a good learning experience. 

  • Bo Simmons

    Jeff – really good story to frame some balance around “shovel ready doable” vs. Chasing the next thing.

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