When you straddle the world of business and the world of the arts, it can sometimes be a stretch. Josh Linkner reminds us that the only thing that can’t be commoditized is creativity. He has come up with 5 steps to follow that both discipline and enhance creativity process – for as those of you know who work in a creative space, creativity is also a discipline. When you are fighting to maintain ‘share of mind’ – some solid tools help the process. Simple and yet effective. The five steps are : (1) Ask (2) Prepare (3) Discover (4) Ignite (5) Launch. Linkner believes that this methodology can help anyone and encourages you to let your ideas come out and play. In order to play to win – instead of playing not to lose – to stand out and be truly remarkable – creativity is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
Some questions from the book to whet your appetite:
1. What percentage of your time is spent creating something new, as opposed to working out operational details or protecting the past?
2. List five ways you can beat your competition. How can they beat you?
3. If you were entering your industry as a start-up, how would you break the mold to beat the incumbents?
4. What elements of the past or status quo are you clinging to? What do you need to let go of?
5. List five ways your company is stagnating; for each of these, list at least two ideas addressing how to break through those barriers?
Some great food for thought and would work at the beach.
I have to admit I’m getting a little nervous. In a couple of weeks (or as my niece calls it – 15 more sleeps), I am getting on a plane for Doha, Qatar to speak at the Global Innovators Conference in Education. Certainly one of my passions and pet peeves at the same time. Education needs reform the same as our economy – and if you work in any large organization – you know how difficult it is to change bureaucracy. One of my favourite authors to read when feeling discouraged is Tony Wagner. His previous book, The Global Achievement Gap, outlines some of the changes currently taking place in education (reviewed last year). It might be slow but it is steady and we need all the support we can get. In Creating Innovators, he speaks to both educators and parents as to how to keep that wonderful creative spark alive in all of us. He provides countless examples of school programs that encourage both art and science – both sides of the brain – that spur creative and critical thinking. He also has included video content right in the book – technology working at its best. Download the Microsoft Tag Reader into your phone and you can watch various interviews with both Tony Wagner and many other innovators he has interviewed for the book. Available in both the Kindle edition and hardcover, this is a great read to add to your library of how to make the world a better place. I’ll let you know what happens in Qatar – some incredible work being done in education world-wide. So, patience for a little while longer. We are working as fast as we can to bring about educational reform.
Starting the New Year off right, to me means honouring my roots. The Power of Story. Paul Smith has written an excellent guide to why the art of story is the most probably the most important leadership skill. As Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Proctor and Gamble, Paul got a lot of practice. Storytelling and the power of story has finally come of age in the business world. Most successful companies now use storytelling as a leadership tool. Some examples:
At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Scenario planning (or storytelling in multiple forms) is now a highly effective form of strategy. And if you are in my faovurite transmedia space, well … I don’t have to tell you about the power and profitability of narrative. The rest of North America is slowly catching on to what successful global organizations have been using for years.
Business schools are beginning to add storytelling to coursework. I use story and build storytelling into every course I teach – strategy, competitive intelligence, consumer behaviour, marketing – all benefit from the use of the best communication tool ever invented. Start your New Year off by joining a movement that is both instructive and fun. If you want your organization to prosper in 2013, why not increase your competitive advantage? Sometimes, the old ways are the best.
In your wildest dreams, you probably have not envisioned Socrates running a brand workshop. It is a little mind bending! But in The Philosophy of Branding, Thom Braun has explored the history of great philosophers and linked their work to branding practice. Its not as much of a stretch as you would think. If you consider that a brand is the essence of something, rather than a concrete representation, you are getting close how branding should be done and seldom is. Some call a living brand corporate religion. Brands stand for something – more than a product or service. Something deeper that resonates at an emotional (or in my language archetypal) level. In a world where branding is driven by prosumers, this is a great little surprise text to deepen your understanding of how a brand operates. For example:
“Nietzsche’s Top Tip: Values are at the heart of branding – but in a much more potent sense than we normally assume. Brand values should not just be ‘attachments’ to a product or service, but rather the driving force for what the brand can dare to become. Competitive edge lies in creating new values – perhaps risky values – rather than repacking existing market values. The way to ‘superbrands’ is through owning the territory that goes with those values.”
Think insight – not information, not data. An interesting read and great reference tool. Methinks it might become one of my branding textbooks.
Curious as to how to win hearts and minds of your clients (internal or external)? Dan Hill has written an fascinating book on the latest contributions from psychology, neuroscience, human interaction design and behavioural economics that shatter old assumptions. I had the pleasure of listening to his presentation at a recent Conference Board retreat and was intrigued by his approach. For anyone interested in Branding – this book is a must. If you are looking for insight – this book pushes the limits of research into a proven method that answers the all important question – ‘what do customers want?’ Hill is an expert in facial coding and uses a combination of the ancient art of storytelling with recent advances in brain science to drive actionable results.
For too long, business has been crunching numbers instead of harnessing emotion. Big data doesn’t give you insight. If you want to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, this is an invaluable resource. If you only read one book on customer insight or branding this year, Emotionomics wins my vote.
I have been following the work of Grant McCracken for a while and have yet to be disappointed. McCracken is an anthropologist that studies culture in organizations and has taught at MIT, Harvard and is a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Following his previous work Chief Culture Officer in 2011, his latest book on Culture is just as informative and more importantly, for summer reading, entertaining. Culturematic is about making an ingenuity engine that drives performance – something sorely needed in this economy. For emerging producers of culture, this book serves as a digital guide to the territory. For traditional producers of culture – hopefully the book will act as a source of inspiration. How to manage innovation from the C-suite? This book provides some welcome guidelines for creating a culture of innovation. If you want to get ahead of your competition, the most secret sauce of competitive advantage is your culture. McCracken shows you both why and how. He blogs extensively at culture by.com on the intersection points between anthropology and economics. Worth checking out.
Jonah Sachs has written a great book on the proper use of story and the five deadly sins of marketing (vanity, authority, insincerity, puffery and gimmickry). Tapping into the power of myth, Sachs speaks to empowerment marketing and what that shift would entail. The most important takeaway for me from this new offering was the importance, again, of the value system that guides individual and corporate behaviour. In short, SHOW DON’T TELL. Any brand who has maintained its value over time has relied on clearly expressed and lived values. Brand communication becomes sharing your values with your customers and can be expressed in the following values “bucket”:
1. Values built into the founding story
2. Values expressed by products and services
3. Values held by leadership
4. Values you believe will most deeply resonate with your audience
To Sachs, these are the building blocks of the stories you tell about yourself and your organization. If possible, the values should align over all the categories. Hard to do, yes! Living by values is never an easy choice. But it is the most sustainable and profitable course. So your intent for your organization? If sustainability and profitability matter, then you might want to add this offering to your reference shelf. The book can be purchased now for pre-release – Winning the Story Wars will be available in July. You can also check out the video.