FRESH IDEAS, HAND-CRAFTED WEEKLY

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

Nine Simple Pre-Game Questions to Maximize Business Results

There’s an old saying in the boxing world: “Champions don’t become champions in the ring, they are merely recognized there.” The implication, of course, is that hard work, day after day, in the cold gym is what enables a fighter to win. This makes sense in many areas of life. “Sweat more in practice, bleed […]

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Lifelong Kindergarten

Peeking into a typical kindergarten classroom, you’ll see a vibrant setting of creativity and collaboration. The colorful setting is messy, playful, and expressive as students smile with delight and their imaginations run free. Unfortunately, the creative wonder we experience as small children often declines in each subsequent year as we confront the world’s difficulties. It’s […]

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Is Your Work Environment a Greenhouse or a Prison?

A friend of mine’s passion is growing orchids. We’re talking perfect, exotic, contest-winning orchids. To get the best results, she does her work in a greenhouse. An environment that is perfectly situated to maximize growth. It fosters the ideal conditions for the natural act of creation. It’s pretty obvious that orchids grow better in a […]

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11 Leadership Lessons from Jazz Musicians

For over 40 years, I’ve proudly worn the title of jazz guitarist. Deeply passionate about the art form, I performed my way through college and continue to savor the delicious melodies of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie. Ironically it was jazz – not B-school – that gave me the foundation to win in […]

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You’re Always Interviewing

You hardly slept the night before and arrived to the meeting 25 minutes early. You were wearing your favorite outfit and were fully prepared to put your best foot forward. No, I’m not talking about your first date, but rather that job interview that landed you your gig. Think about how you were fully present, […]

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Plant Seeds. Protect Saplings.

The mighty redwood grows to over 350 feet tall and can live 2,500 years. Like every tree, even the gigantic redwood begins as a sapling. In the redwood’s case, that sapling may take up to 400 years before it reaches its true potential. Imagine the impatient landowner, scoffing at a puny redwood sapling after only […]

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Reimagine

Ayal Lanternari was facing the same angst and frustration that millions of other parents endure. His infant son was crying for food in the middle of the night, creating an agonizing moment for both dad and child while the bottle was heating to the proper temperature. Since baby milk can’t be microwaved or heated directly […]

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Fender Guitar’s Rules of Groundbreaking Innovation

Since Leo Fender started making guitars back in 1946, the Fender name has become synonymous with musical innovation. The iconic brand has outfitted countless music legends with their precious axes, and has set the standard with instantly recognizable inventions including the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Jazzmaster. Today, Fender is the largest guitar manufacturer in the world. So why […]

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Do It Anyway

Born in 1914 in Austria, actress Hedy Lamarr was the personification of glamor. Discovered for her beauty in her teens, she dazzled audiences from the silver screen for decades. At 19, she raised eyebrows by doing what is believed to be one of the first nude sex scenes in a movie. The film was banned […]

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Why a Culture of Innovation is the Only Path to Sustainable Growth and Success

You’ve fine-tuned your processes, extracted every drop of cost from the system, and are meeting basic customer needs. In the previous era of business, strict managerial controls may have been enough, but today running a tight ship is table stakes. If we’re honest with ourselves, business as usual likely poses an existential threat – sooner […]

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The 14 Rules of History-Making Teams

It’s often been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The notion is that the belief system – or core operating principles – of an organization are what matters most at the ground level. These core beliefs guide everyday decision-making, behavior, and responses to challenges. Clearly defined core values permeate every corner of a company, […]

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Lady Gaga’s First Song; Picasso’s First Painting

At the age of four, Lady Gaga wasn’t bringing down the house for 30,000 roaring fans. In fact, Stefani Germanotta didn’t even become the Gaga we know until she’d studied and practiced music for years. Just like every other kid who picks up an instrument, she took up piano and plunked out an uneven version […]

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Skip the Resolution; Go With a New Year’s Theme instead

The last week of December marks the creation of uncountable New Year’s resolutions. By the end of next month, however, the vast majority will be broken. 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 conclude that […]

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The Tyranny of Good Enough

Your chicken salad sandwich wasn’t bad, really. It was ‘good enough.’ The service wasn’t speedy, but also wasn’t horribly slow. It was just good enough. The environment was a bit messy and a tad dirty, but didn’t justify a call to the Health Department. “I guess it was good enough,” you mutter as you leave […]

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The Power of Surprise and Delight

Following the polite knock on my hotel room door, I was stunned. “Just a little something to welcome you to our hotel,” said the smiling and well-appointed young man as he placed it down on the desk in my room. The beautiful display included a chocolate guitar, hand-dipped strawberries, and a few other candies. Along […]

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Heads Down vs. Heads Up

We’ve all heard people in the business world proclaim that they are “heads down” on a project. Or that they are unable to explore new opportunities since they are “heads down in execution mode.” Consider, for a moment, the advantages of being “heads up” instead. Let’s compare the two states of being: Heads Down Focused […]

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Setbacks: Game Over or Game On?

What do Oprah Winfrey, Mick Jagger, and Jeff Bezos have in common? They are all incredibly successful, true, but they also have each suffered more than their share of knockdowns. Every great leader – from Gandhi to Galileo, from Beethoven and Zuckerberg – has stumbled. Those that make history also endure adversity. A common quality […]

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A Simple Approach to Boost the Appeal of Your Product or Service

If you have a burning headache, you’ll do whatever it takes to subdue it. If it’s 3:00 am on a cold, snowy night and you are out of pain killers, you’ll bundle up, drive to a 24-hour pharmacy, and desperately pay nearly any cost to alleviate your pain. Vitamins are a different story. They are […]

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What’s Your Firebird?

In 1953, a team of the most creative designers and engineers at General Motors set out to make history. Their task: invent the prototype car of the future. Unlike their mass-production counterparts who focused on streamlined operations, cost control, and maximizing profits, the dreamers on the Firebird project were charged with pushing the boundaries of […]

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Metrics That That Matter

With our national focus on productivity and financial gain, we carefully measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other metrics related to our economic outputs. Yet as our economy remains strong, our nation suffers greatly in other categories. Suicide rates have skyrocketed in recent years, while the opioid crisis has torn apart families and communities. Venom […]

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We’ve Been Banksy’d

The demure art world felt shockwaves over the last week as the dramatic news broke. The mysterious street artist known as Banksy made history when his painted work self-destructed minutes after being purchased for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction. Immediately following the thud of the closing gavel, the audience stood in bewilderment as the […]

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What Business Can Learn From Our (Nutty) Political Landscape

If there’s a silver lining in today’s polarizing political landscape, it’s the increase in activism that is sweeping our country. With intensity unseen since the protests of the 1960s, citizens are standing up for their beliefs in record numbers. Marches, protests, and rallies are a daily occurrence, covering issues ranging from gun control to equality […]

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The Honey Badger Mindset of Achievement

The Honey Badger – a hideously ugly, mean, and tough wolverine-like animal – gained fame and notoriety back in 2011 with a viral YouTube video. Narrated by a snarky commentator named Randall, the video called “The Crazy Nasty A** Honey Badger” has now been viewed over 88 million times. Hilarious and share-worthy, you’ve probably already […]

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Two Powerful (and Surprisingly Fun) Brainstorming Techniques

As many of us have realized, traditional brainstorming is a perfectly designed exercise to yield mediocre ideas. Instead of sharing our big, game-changing ideas, we tend to share the obvious, safe, incremental ones instead. The blocker here isn’t raw creativity, but rather the insidious force of fear. As public enemy #1 relating to imagination, the […]

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Back to School

As cash registers speedily ring up #2 pencils and file folders, the back to school craze is officially in high gear. Last minute haircuts, wardrobe enhancements, and new lunchboxes help ring in this time of year when students prepare to learn. New courses, new teachers, new classrooms, new possibility. The back to school ritual signifies […]

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Well-Rounded is Over-Rated

“And the award goes to… the most well-rounded person!” Said no one, ever. Achieving modestly in many areas may be what our middle school principal suggested, but it’s no way to become a history-maker. We’re led to believe we should be ‘pretty good’ at a lot of different things, but the truth is that the […]

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The Beauty of Forest Fires

The devastating fires in California remind us of our environment’s fragility and how little we can sometimes do to curtail the inevitable. They are also a symbol of power and momentum. In fact, there are few things in nature as mighty as the white-hot intensity of a forest fire. Once they gain momentum, these vicious […]

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How PepsiCo is Reinventing a Category with Bubly

Innovation is the hottest business buzzword, evoking images of bold tech startups taking dangerous risks to upend the sleeping giants. But what if you are the giant, or you’re in a traditional business such as hospital linens, automotive parts, or commercial food service? Can mature industries and businesses innovate forward, or is creativity only relegated […]

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Why the Term “Entrepreneur” Should be Replaced

Having built five startups from scratch and invested in or advised around 100 others, you could say I’m in the business of “entrepreneurship.” But I don’t think that’s the right term anymore. At all. The word entrepreneur was borrowed from the French language and implies an aristocratic polish. It conjures up images of backroom deals […]

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Lick the Screen

Steve Jobs famously said that he made the icons on the iPhone so beautiful, customers would want to “lick the screen.” By elevating a utility item (the phone) to a piece of art, history was made and cult-like loyalty was created. Reflecting on the “lick the screen” quote, I realize how he raised the stakes […]

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