FRESH IDEAS, HAND-CRAFTED WEEKLY

Inspiring thoughts on innovation, growth, leadership, creativity, transformation, and disruption. Quick reads, powerful results.

2011: The Year of Creativity

Most of us set bold resolutions at this time each year. Unfortunately, most of us will fall short. Losing those pesky ten pounds, landing your dream relationship or getting that raise are too often based on wishful thinking instead of actually being resolved. We don’t miss the mark due to lack of good intentions… we […]

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Three Magic Questions

In an era where creativity and original thought are the currency of success, three simple questions will lead you to more (and more astounding) breakthroughs. Tape these to the walls, make them into a screensaver, and tattoo them on your teammates: 1. Why? 2. What if? 3. Why not? Most of us have become trained […]

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11 Thoughts for My New Nephew

My sister Sarah had a baby on Saturday morning – a big beautiful boy named Lane. It got me thinking about what advice I’d give to someone who will graduate high school in 2029, have kids of his own around 2040 and, with advances in healthcare and a little luck, should ring in the year […]

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Deer in Headlights Die

We can all picture that hapless deer. Frozen with fear and awaiting the inevitable, the immobilized soul locks up instead of leaping to safety. As decent people, we just wish that sorry creature would get moving and avoid the Mack truck, racing 70 miles per hour to put an end to this innocent being. With […]

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“My Hands Are Tied”

I’m sorry sir, my hands are tied.” These were the appalling words I heard twice in the last week – one from a large mobile phone network, and one from a health insurance carrier. Both were from customer service reps that were clearly un-empowered, bitter, and really didn’t care much about helping me (so much […]

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Get SNUBA’d

The scuba industry in Hawaii was facing a real problem. Declining sales, increased competition for shrinking entertainment dollars, and new consumer alternatives were creating a downward spiral. While scuba diving was an incredible experience, it was a real burden to customers. It requires certification, carrying heavy tanks, and restrictions on when you can fly home […]

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The Downside of Traditions

If you live in the U.S., you’ll probably be celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday. And if I asked you what you were serving for dinner, you’d give me a puzzled look and think to yourself, “who is this idiot?” Like a couple hundred million others, you’ll be enjoying turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the other […]

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Me Too No More

There’s a pattern in business in which an original, breakthrough idea is launched to great fanfare success; then it’s copied repeatedly by the pack of followers. As a result of copy-cat innovation, many industries are swimming in a sea of sameness. The airline industry, for example, is full of me-too players whose offerings are virtually […]

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Instructions vs. Imagination

When I was growing up (circa mid 1970’s), Legos were my favorite toy. Back then, Lego sets consisted of random bricks of various sizes and shapes and it was up to me to build what I imagined. It was all about discovery and exploring the possibilities. Problem-solving. How to construct what was in your mind. […]

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Your Company, Version 4.13

The software world enjoys many advantages. Smart people. Lots of capital. High leverage. But one that should probably be celebrated more… the idea of “versions”. That’s’ right, versions. Software companies are in a constant state of reinvention. As soon as one version of their product is out, they start imagining the next. The goal each […]

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Stick it to the Man

Sir Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group, announced this week that the first Spaceport (an airport for recreational space travel) will be built in New Mexico to support his newest business effort, Virgin Galactic. As he’s done in the past with music and air travel, Branson is pioneering new ground. And he’s always been […]

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Flood the House to Catch the Mouse

Imagine you had the challenge of inventing a better mousetrap. Literally. A typical brainstorm session may yield incremental improvements in the spring on a mousetrap, or the bait, or the construction materials. The whole essence of igniting your curiosity is to question and challenge everything. Why does a mousetrap need to use a spring at […]

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Escaping the Sea of Sameness

The world is full of me-too players. Half the cars on the market are nearly identical. Detergents, sodas, and potato chips are pretty much all the same no matter what the ads say. When was the last time you went to a restaurant that was so different that you really noticed? Competitive advantages of the […]

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The Long List

When developing ideas, we’re always told to shoot for quality over quantity. Here’s a powerful technique that flips the model, and drives higher quality by way of quantity… In my undergraduate work at the University of Florida, I was an Advertising major. One time, I was in a course about creating magazine and newspaper ads. […]

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The Unconventional Alternative

Most business (and life) decisions come down to a multiple choice question. Should we launch Product A or Product B? Should we expand to Cleveland or Dallas? Should we choose ad campaign 1, 2, or 3? This is where 99% of the world stops, selections an option, and goes on to spend countless hours justifying […]

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The Pike Syndrome

The pike is a fierce carnivorous fish that eats other smaller fish. They are cunning, mean, and always find a way to get their prey (sounds like some people I know who work on Wall Street, but I digress). Scientists conducted an experiment where they put a pike in a tank with many other smaller […]

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The Poison of Labeling

Jenny, a 1st grader, shows up to art class and doesn’t do so well with her first project. She feels embarrassed, stupid, rejected, and sad. Later she goes to music class and has a similar experience. She didn’t pick it up as quickly as the other students, so she is once again stung by negative […]

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Creativity or Bust

In the past, there were creative companies and non-creative companies. Ad agencies were creative. Bolt manufacturers were not. The music industry was creative. The steel industry was not. The difference today is that all companies and industries must embrace creativity in order to compete. In today’s hyper-competitive world, everyone at every level of the organization […]

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Choosing the Best Ideas: Value Mapping

Once you’ve brainstormed a long list of powerful new ideas, the challenge becomes choosing the best ones to pursue. We all know that great ideas without execution is about as productive as protesting the rules at the DMV. One of my favorite techniques for idea selection is *Value Mapping*. In this case you are scoring […]

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Zapping vs. Sapping

There are two types of people in the world – Zappers and Sappers. When you are with a Zapper, you feel energized. You become engaged, you lean forward, you feel stimulated. This enhanced state is ideal for creative expression. On the other hand, there are the Sappers. These are the folks that drain your energy. […]

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Imaginary Barriers

Think of all the stories we tell ourselves that hold us back. “I’m too old”, “I didn’t go the right school”, “I’m too short”, “I’m not good-looking enough”, “I can’t take the risk”, “I don’t have the right connections”, “I’m not creative”. We all have fears and doubts. Even Ghandi. Even Steve Jobs. Even Barack […]

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Are Schools Killing Creativity?

My daughter, Chloe, recently had an unfortunately all-too-common experience in school. Chloe’s 4th grade art teacher asked the students in her class to draw a bear. Chloe went to work and came up with a cool purple, odd-shaped bear. She walked proudly to the teacher and handed over her work, anticipating great praise and admiration. […]

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The Age of Creativity in Action

Shadan Malik is an Age of Creativity entrepreneur. His company, iDashboards , provides exactly the type of value people seek today – aesthetics and insight as opposed to raw data. Shadan started out as a game developer, and also has a deep engineering background. He realized the businesses trend around a concept called Balanced Scorecards, […]

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The Creativity Gap

The cover story of Newsweek (July 19, 2010) reports on the state of Creativity in America. The findings, unfortunately, point to the first measurable decline in our collective creative abilities in our country’s history. While we are still the beacon of imagination on the world stage, there is now a leak that could significantly damage […]

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What’s Your Color?

If you wanted to start a groundbreaking business in 1981 where you could express your creativity and beat your competitors, I bet you wouldn’t have chosen the nail polish industry. At the time, it was a mature industry with deeply entrenched leaders such as Maybelline and Max Factor. Going head-to-head with these giants who were […]

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Rocket Science, Brain Surgery and… Art?

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do that!” the common phrase goes. “C’mon man, this isn’t brain surgery after all.” I started wondering why these two disciplines – rocket science and brain surgery – are so highly regarded. They both involve tremendous precision, years of study, mathematical calculations, complex directions, excessive memorization, […]

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What’s Your Idea Schedule?

Take a quick look at your schedule for the next two weeks. If you are like most people, your calendar is packed to the gills with endless appointments, meetings, conference calls, and deadlines. When, in this insanely-busy schedule, are you planning to come up with your best ideas? In the always-on, 24/7 business world we […]

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Now That’s a Prezi!

Bad Power Point presentations have reached the same punch-line status as lawyer jokes, yet most of us still use this ubiquitous tool. Some have moved to Apple’s Keynote, which has cool transitions and flaming bullet-points, but it is still essentially the same thing – a linear presentation system. A hot new company called Prezi finally […]

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The Weekly Roundup – June 19, 2010

10 Signs that Innovation Will Go Horribly Wrong Big companies – and even modest-sized ones – depend on innovation. But how can you tell when things are about to horribly wrong? This list of 10 danger signs is very helpful for spotting the problems early: http://bit.ly/cuvQUy The Innovation Life Cycle It’s extremely difficult to foster […]

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The Mind of a Jazz Musician

Jazz musicians are a curious breed. They study for years to master the rules, only to break them as quickly as possible. They approach their craft with intensity and purpose, but then can let it go and just groove when the feeling is right. I’ve known musicians that are bold and expressive on the bandstand, […]

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