Over the summer Olympics, we’ve seen athletes from every country, quite literally, pushing themselves to the limits of their ability. On the last Friday of the Paralympics, I took the family to the Olympic stadium to spend the morning watching the track and field events.
Of the four-hours that we were sat in our seats, the F11/F12 women’s long-jump was taking place right in front of us for 2½-hours – and I was absolutely spellbound by this event. The F11/F12 classification is for athletes who are blind or who have exceptionally limited sight. It’s the only Olympic event where the stadium announcers call for absolute quiet from the audience in the stadium, as some of the blind jumpers need to be directed by the claps and shouts of a guide.
This guide starts off by tapping the feet of the athlete to get them aligned in the exact position they need to be in. Once their feet are in the perfect position the athlete doesn’t move them until they start their run up. The guide puts the athlete’s arms out in front of them with their palms together and then points their arms down the centre of the running track to help them be even more perfectly aligned.
Once they have their position precisely right, the guide then walks backwards towards the jumping point, clapping as they go so the athlete can hear the claps getting farther away and can keep themselves mentally focussed on the correct running line. When the athlete starts their run up the guide claps faster and faster to indicate how close to the jumping board the athlete is. This is why the stadium needs to be silent at this point – and at the last moment, the guide leaps out of the way as their athlete makes their jump. An amazing amount of preparation getting the athlete aligned in the right direction at the start – but of course, absolutely essential.
Before you start any thinking exercise, how much time do you spend ensuring that you are thinking on the absolutely correct issue and that you have identified the perfect starting direction? Often, in the business environment, we like to start the thinking activities quickly so that we spend more time on the supposedly ‘creative’ part of the process. But, as we all well know, there is no point finding the perfect answer to the wrong question.
This process of spending time being absolutely sure you are asking the correct question is what we call Querencia. It’s possibly the most important part of any thinking exercise, and the part that most people spend the least amount of time and effort on.