Hot air balloon model

Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon

The Hot air balloon and the related exercise of Hot air balloon by Hyper Island is a metaphorical model/method that aims to identify strengths, weaknesses, external forces, stakeholders and goals all in a simple and well-structured process. The exercise is often best done at the start of a session, followed up with deeper, more creative excercises.

The charm is that you’re not relying on another dull matrix (like the SWOT) but actually going through an imaginary journey that engages us to think outside of our typical thought patterns. This will already help to take away some reservations with yourself and participants who are dreading another tireless SWOT analysis exercise.



Identifying strenghts, weaknesses and goals in a more playful, metaphorical way.

Source / credits

Hot air balloon in Miro

Hot air balloon in remote meetings

The Hot air balloon exercise is also really easy to implement in a remote meeting session. With the right collaboration/white boarding tool (e.g. Miro), it is easy to collect the ideas and remarks for each step of the way. It only requires small adjustments compared to the steps below.

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Hot air balloon

The Hot air balloon has 6 distinct metaphorical elements, that each stand for a strength, weakness, stakeholder or goal:

The 6 Hot air balloon elements


Wind These are all the external forces that can have an impact on the course of our hot air balloon no matter if they’re threats or opportunities. These typically encompass legislative, social or technological changes that we don’t have any control over.


Sandbags The sandbags are all the internal challenges we are facing and the weaknesses that are literally dragging us down.

Hot air

Hot Air The hot air on the other side are all the strengths we have in our organization, our product and anything that we have control over to give us a competitive advantage.


Passengers These are all the internal stakeholders that have an influence on the direction of our hot air balloon and in this sense our project.


Observers Observers are all the target audiences and users of our product or service that we are aiming to serve as well as external stakeholders that have an interest in our journey.

Paradise Island

Paradise Island This is the dream destination and goal that we are working towards in a 5 to 10 year timeframe. How does the future look like in our imagination?

Hot air balloon alternative

An alternative is to see the wind as all the strengths we have in our organization, our product to give us a competitive advantage (the proverbial wind in our back) and to see hot air as the ‘fried air’, the bullsh*t surrounding your product or organisation, as an alternative for an exercise like the ‘stinky/smelly fish‘.

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Polle de Maagt

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