FRESH IDEAS.
HAND-CRAFTED WEEKLY.

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

 

Quick reads, powerful results.

If You Want to be a Leader, Start Acting Like One

People are constantly asking me for advice on how to get promoted. They want to move up the ranks at their company, take on more responsibility, and expand their spheres of influence. While the notion of being a leader seems nice (but possibly far off), you’ve got it backward. It’s not suddenly that you’re anointed […]

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An Inside Job

The New Normal. Unprecedented. Great Resignation. Ugh. We’re all sick and tired of these COVID-inspired buzzwords, and even more frustrated having to actually navigate their implications. With a global reset, people are viewing work and jobs and family and geography very differently than the innocent bygone years of the 2010’s. As leaders, it’s no small […]

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Dare to Suck

I’ve long wondered… why do some people consistently generate unforgettable creativity, while others simply never get out of the gate? The research on creativity and imagination is crystal clear: all human beings are capable of creative expression, which shows the problem isn’t natural talent. It’s also fascinating to see someone shine creatively after changing jobs, […]

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What a Japanese Word Teaches us about Creativity

Those of us who seek – and study – human creativity are besieged with overused tropes. “Think outside the box” and “color outside the lines” are right up there with words like “disruption” in the cliché Hall of Fame. But I recently stumbled on a Japanese word that made my Corporate Lingo Bingo card fall […]

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What’s Your Training Schedule?

There’s an old saying among professional boxers: “Champions don’t become champions in the ring; they are merely recognized there.” The implication, of course, is that the hard work of winning happens during an intense training regimen. The blood, sweat, and tears on the gym floor; the relentless planning for every possible scenario; the sacrifice and […]

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Effort vs. Results

Imagine that a loved one is on the operating table in a life-or-death situation. You and your family gather in the waiting room waiting with bated breath for the doctor to communicate the results of this life-saving procedure. When the surgeon finally arrives, you don’t want to hear about how hard she and her team […]

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Simulate to Stimulate

Pilots are required to invest hundreds of hours in simulated flight scenarios before taking command of a live aircraft. Race car simulators help drivers prepare for the unexpected, so that they’ll be fully ready for unforeseen circumstances. Astronauts first experience weightlessness in a simulation chamber so they can become accustomed to a gravity-free environment. Simulations are […]

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Fear and Creativity Cannot Coexist

As business leaders, we know that innovation is the only way to grow. We demand inventive thinking, but are we creating the right conditions? It sure would be nice if we could order up a family-size bucket of innovation in the same way we order food from a mobile app delivery service. But human creativity […]

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The Five New Faces Of Leadership

In the context of seemingly endless volatility, the pandemic has led many of us to pause in order to reassess what it really takes to win in this new era of business. What leadership attributes are needed right now to create a sustainable competitive advantage? In the past, it was enough to be a thoughtful and deliberate […]

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Invent Your Own Language

I’ve often wondered why some organizations enjoy a disproportionate share of the wins. It’s easier to explain in business when a company might have a bigger war chest or better real estate or more efficient software. But it gets more confusing in sports, when teams must play with the same number of players by the […]

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Are You a Thermostat or Thermometer?

While these two temperature-related instruments may be easy to confuse, they’re actually surprisingly different. Thermometers can report the current temperature with remarkable precision. Your shiny new digital thermometer will ensure you know that your family room is exactly 69.3 degrees. Or if your five year old daughter seems warm, it will only take a couple […]

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Ditch the New Year’s Resolution; Try This Instead

By the end of this second week of January, 29% of us will abandon our New Year’s resolutions. By the end of the year, only 9% of resolutions will remain resolute. Sobering. So many of us resolve to change, only to have those commitments meet an untimely death. A single, small temptation can lead us astray, causing us to […]

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Question Everything

Progress only occurs when we challenge assumptions and question the world around us. Here are 27 questions that’ll really get you thinking, questioning, and wondering: If you describe something as indescribable, haven’t you already described it? If bald people work in a restaurant, do they still need to wear a hairnet? Do you think if […]

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The No Decision Trap

When we have an important decision to make, we often fall prey to a most insidious trap. Wanting to make the right choice, we carefully weigh all our options before finalizing a decision. We gather information, solicit opinions, read articles, receive coaching, and consult with trusted mentors. With high stakes, we mistakenly believe that delaying […]

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Sent is not Received

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to fly on a small, owner-operated plane while listening in on the conversation between the pilot and air traffic control. Besides geeking out as both a tech and aviation nerd, I observed a powerful communication technique that can be a game-changer for us all. ATC: “989-Foxtrot-Echo, ascend to […]

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Flood the House to Catch the Mouse

Imagine you were tasked with inventing a better mousetrap. Literally. A typical brainstorm session may yield incremental improvements in the spring or the bait or the construction materials or the packaging. One common innovation mistake involves an over-commitment to a particular solution type. We envision a typical mousetrap and search for ideas to optimize the existing approach. But […]

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Innovation Techniques from Jazz Musicians (Part 3 of 3)

For the last entry in my three-part series featuring the creativity techniques of jazz musicians, I’m excited to share two more approaches to sparking ideas and unlocking your creative genius: Technique #5: Isolated Substitutions Great jazz musicians love to substitute one thing for another. Like a chef who decides to swap out red pepper for […]

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Innovation Techniques from Jazz Musicians (Part 2 of 3)

As a music geek and a student of jazz for over 40 years, I’m obsessed with the intricate, dangerous, soul-filled improvisational skills of legends like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald. Which is why I’ve decided to share some of the inside approaches that have delighted audiences and made history. Last week, we covered two techniques: Trading […]

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Innovation Techniques from Jazz Musicians (Part 1 of 3)

Having studied jazz improvisation for nearly 40 years, performing thousands of times all over the world, I can tell you that instantaneous creativity is the language of jazz. Jazz music is a real-time art form; there’s no going back to re-do or touch-up your work. The improvisation is intense, fluid, and dangerous. Let’s take an […]

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The Stone Cutter’s Quest for More

There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could […]

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There’s Always an Alternative

There are few projects more complex, difficult, and expensive than rebuilding a gate at an existing airport. Inoperable during construction, gate closures create huge losses for airlines. Further, doing the construction work in a live airport setting is especially tricky for the craftspeople working the project. Often toiling away in the middle of the night […]

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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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