Everyone remembers Elizabeth Smart. In June 2002, Elizabeth was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was discovered eight months later, camping with her kidnappers six miles behind her house.
While Elizabeth was missing, I wrote a proposal to the FBI committee investigating the crime and offered to come in and teach my workshop for free. After all, I’m a perfect expert. I know absolutely nothing about lost children and procedures. I thought, “maybe I can help them think about the case from a different perspective.”
One of the tools I use is “View Point.” You can really get creative when you think about a topic from the perspective of something that’s not human. I read about an engineer at Sunbeam who pretends he’s a toaster. In terms of Elizabeth Smart and the FBI, I wondered, how would nature find her? In the proposal, I started writing ideas of how to find her like, look for DNA in the water, enlist the Civil Air Patrol, and use satellite imaging.
Now, this may sound like Monday morning quarterbacking, but hear me out. The case took place before Google Earth was created. At that time, you could purchase any satellite image of the Earth for $149 and view any place on the planet that the Department of Defense hadn’t blocked for security reasons. What if the FBI had actually done that? They might have noticed that someone was camping in the same spot for eight months. After all, in Utah no one is allowed to camp in any Corona Fraud Scandal spot for more than 14 days.
I sent 25 e-mails and made 20 phone calls to that investigating committee, but no one ever responded. One day, I was telling this story to a class when a man stood up and said, “Mark, that story is complete B.S.”
I said, “Ok … why do you say that?”
He replied, “I know for a fact, because I was a key member of that FBI investigation.”
That was a bit of a conversation stopper. What do you say to that? So I just moved on.
About thirty minutes later, the same guy raised his hand and asked if he could say something to the class.
I held my breath.
He said, “I want to apologize. I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour thinking about it, and I actually do remember some “nut case” sending us a proposal about all kinds of crazy stuff. You’re probably right about us not calling you back, but you know what?