FRESH IDEAS.
HAND-CRAFTED WEEKLY.

Inspiring thoughts on innovation, growth, leadership,
creativity, transformation, and disruption.

 

Quick reads, powerful results.

When Traditions Should Change

I had the great honor to deliver a keynote speech this past Sunday on Northern Michigan’s beautiful Mackinac Island. Sweeping vistas. Historic homes. Unpolluted air. It’s right out of a storybook, but there is one tradition that is long-overdue for a change. There are no cars on the island, which is pretty darn cool. Fun […]

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Creating the Perfect Circle (a Zen Proverb)

One day a small boy was playing near the river when he saw an old man with a long beard seated in the sand. The boy moved closer and watched as the old man drew a perfect circle into the sand. “Hey, old man, how did you draw such a perfect circle?” asked the boy. […]

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Two Danger Traps That Can Derail Your Growth

Whether you run a two-person graphic design shop or a 200,000-person global manufacturing conglomerate, you’re likely craving growth. We all do. Expansion fuels profits, serves customers, drives share price, and impacts the world. Through building five companies of my own and helping at least 100 others scale, I’ve seen two repeating growth traps that have […]

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Duct Tape and a Paperclip

From the time I saw MacGyver use candlesticks, an extension cord, and a rubber mat to create an improvised defibrillator to save a man’s life, I was hooked on the show. Whether it was creating a makeshift bazooka out of a muffler, gear shift knob, seat cushion stuffing, and a cigarette lighter to escape a […]

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Want Fresh Ideas? Try This.

In these competitive and uncertain times, most of us long for that bold, fresh idea that will shake things up and drive meaningful progress. Yet great new ideas can feel harder to find than a five-leaf clover. We stare at the same problem – with the same set of eyes and the same perspective – […]

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A Simple Way to De-Risk Innovation

We know that embracing innovation is the only way to grow and win over the long term, but it sure can feel risky and overwhelming. This is often because we overemphasize idea generation while skipping the most important step in the process: experimentation. Most of us think: Step 1: Generate an idea Step 2: Widespread […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

We are unquestionably living in a landscape of overwhelming VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and uncertainty).  In other words, we find ourselves in batshit-crazy times.  The only way to fight back: inventive thinking.  Here are three real-world examples of bold creativity in action, leveraging the hottest tech trends of our day: (1) LASER BEAM SHOOTING DRONES […]

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WARNING: These 17 Questions Will Result in Dangerously High Levels of Creativity

What is this thing made of? What’s missing? What was the thinking and context that led to its initial creation? Why did this work in the past? What’s different today? How has the customer’s or user’s (internal or external) needs changed since this was originally conceived? What are the core rules, truisms, traditions or beliefs […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

(1) THE BAD IDEA With so much pressure to discover the perfect idea, we can easily get stuck. Instead, try thinking up the worst ideas you can imagine. Stupid, impractical, illegal, or downright lousy. That’s right, conduct a Bad Idea Brainstorm. After you exhaust your bad thinking, review the list and see if you can […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

(1) FOXCONN OR FENDI? Foxconn, a Taiwanese contract electronics manufacturer, rang up $179 billion in sales last year by a relentless focus on cutting costs and creating huge volumes of non-sexy stuff to sell to other companies. Fendi, on the other hand, is an ultra-luxury brand that hand-makes bespoke apparel, shoes, timepieces and fragrances, selling […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

(1) IDEA CHIPPING When staring down a big problem or opportunity, most of us try to solve the challenge by seeking out a single, gigantic, perfect, silver-bullet solution. But when that idyllic answer doesn’t appear from the heavens, we throw in the towel. Instead of trying to conquer all at once, try Idea Chipping instead. See if you can […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

(1) PLAN Z The great majority of us live our lives playing it pretty safe. Then to be even safer, we craft and scrutinize and ruminate over our Plan B’s – that game plan for what we’ll do if everything goes wrong. Flipping that around, why not also craft a Plan Z? Your Plan Z is […]

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Three Little Big Ideas

(1) THE ALL-AT-ONCE TRAP When tackling a big problem or seizing a juicy opportunity, we instinctively try to solve the challenge with one, gigantic, perfect idea. Problem is, those silver bullets can be elusive and we end up freezing or quitting when perfection fails to magically appear. Instead of the all-at-once approach, try discovering a […]

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The One Question Effective CEOs Ask Themselves Everyday

Jaws dropped last week when readers devoured The Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO compensation report. Despite the pandemic-savaged economy, Paycom Software founder and CEO Chad Richison hauled in a whopping $211 million in 2020. Robert Kotick, CEO of the video game maker Activision Blizzard, came in second place with $155 million, while Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer scored $135 million. […]

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Awesome, Dude

Most of us have experienced that chills-down-your spine feeling of awe. The texture of handmade al dente pasta at La Darsena, an outdoor café in the lakefront town of Como, Italy. The dangerous acrobatics of a Cirque du Soleil performance during a hot Montreal summer. For me, seeing my newborn twins—Avi and Tallia—make it through […]

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A New DaVinci Code

I never had a dog growing up. In fact, for years I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Pets seemed messy, expensive and illogical. And then my wife Tia and I found the smallest yorkie you could imagine and I discovered a new partner-in-crime. My little sidekick with a big name… DaVinci. […]

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What Your Brain And Your Lawn Have In Common

When we hear stories about world class creators like Lady Gaga or Lin Manuel-Miranda, or ultra-successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk or Sara Blakely, we immediately think these people must have some special gift that we normal folk are missing. As if the skies opened for a brief moment and the gods anointed a chosen few […]

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An Open Letter—A Sperm’s Advice on Improving Your Odds

Hi, my name is Samuel J. Sperm Jr. I know you’re hoping to have successful innovation up there, so I figured I’d drop some wisdom. If human conception is the ultimate act of invention, I’m clearly a qualified expert since my entire life’s focus is on that one thing. I don’t play golf, watch reruns, […]

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How a Forced Experiment Led to a Faster Commute

When news of the labor strike broke, commuters were furious. London’s Underground, affectionately known as the “tube”, is the subway system responsible for transporting millions to their destination each day. So when some routes were shut down during the 2014 strike, commuters were forced to find alternative ways to get to work. Since Underground passengers […]

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Busting the Five Myths of Creativity

Mention the word creativity, and people begin to squirm in their chairs. The very thought can prompt anxiety, fear, and doubt — even in the most accomplished professionals. At the same time, we know that innovation is mission-critical in these disruptive times. As many competitive advantages of the past have become automated or outsourced, creative problem solving and […]

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Overpromise

We’ve heard it a hundred times. “Under-promise, and over-deliver.” It’s one of those truisms that appears indisputable, right up with “the customer is always right” and “the early bird gets the worm.” But as one who enjoys balking traditional approaches, I respectfully disagree. To me, this false wisdom encourages mediocrity. It grants permission to make […]

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The Math of Worrying

Think about how much time you spend fretting about what might happen.  Those deer-in-the-headlights moments are not only agonizing but they are profoundly unproductive. With each minute you spend in a state of worry, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to contribute to your own success and the world around you. The funny thing about […]

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The 7 Sins of Mediocrity

Since ancient times, we’ve been fascinated with the seven deadly sins that lead people astray. Gluttony, greed, and lust (among others) have certainly been the downfall of many. But lurking in the shadows lie traps just as sinister. While less overtly treacherous, these sins befall most of us at various times in our lives. They […]

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The Anatomy of an Idea

We often think of human creativity as an act of wizardry; a mythical talent bestowed upon a select few directly from the heavens. But I prefer a more scientistic approach. Instead of waiting around for a lightning bolt of creative genius, let’s dissect an idea in the same way you dissected that formaldehyde-soaked toad in […]

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39 Quotes on Innovation, Creativity, and Performance

As we work to learn, grow, and thrive, let’s learn from the legends. Here are 39 of my favorite quotations from the giants of business, art, music, and innovation. I hope you guzzle and share these powerful nuggets of wisdom…

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Becoming Backable

Getting someone to take a chance on you is one of the most important steps to achieving success in both business and life. Yet mastering the art of persuasion is often overlooked and misunderstood. Alexander Fleming, the inventor of penicillin, was especially bad at communicating his discovery, despite it being one of the most important […]

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How Tiny Bubbles Led to a $28 Billion Cost Savings

Each year, over 50,000 large vessels travel the oceans to move people and cargo through the turbulent seas. While a solid ship gliding through malleable water should be… well… smooth sailing, it turns out that intersection between vessel and water is anything but smooth. As the giant metal structures plow through the ocean, friction and […]

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This Dish Isn’t Very Good

As consumers, we’re besieged with puffery. Brands shout at us, boasting they have New York’s #1 pizza, the world’s best coffee, America’s favorite car, or the best blue jeans in the universe. But these hollow claims fall flat with our exceptionally well-developed BS detectors. In sharp contrast, one creative restaurateur took the opposite approach. The […]

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What Everyday Innovators Can Learn From Fresh Salsa

Words like ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption’ can feel overwhelming and out of reach. Too often, we think an idea must change the world or have a billion-dollar value in order to count. Instead of establishing an impossibly high minimum threshold, let’s think of innovation more like fresh, delicious salsa: mild, medium, and spicy. A flavor option […]

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Innovation Swapping

Behind only water, concrete is the second-most used material on our planet. It’s low cost, durable, and beneficial in a variety of construction applications. As our population continues to swell, demand is expected to skyrocket. But there’s a problem. As useful as concrete may be, the production of this sturdy material is responsible for eight […]

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