Dr. Edward de Bono

    Parallel thinking. Lateral thinking. Random word. Six thinking hats. These are just a few of the theories and tools developed by Dr. Edward de Bono. Dr. de Bono is one of the foremost authorities on creative thinking. He was born in Malta in 1933 and is a PdD in medicine. After practicing and researching medicine, he moved to how humans think and create new ideas.

He taught at prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard. He has been at the forefront of creativity and innovation for decades. Dr. de Bono has written over 50 books that have been translated in over 35 languages. His teachings have been adopted by schools, public and private companies, and governments. Companies across the globe such as IBM, Siemens, AT&T, Du Pont, and British Airways have trained thousands of employees and adopted many of de Bono’s teachings.

The two most accepted and “famous” innovations from him are parallel thinking and lateral thinking. Parallel thinking was developed to overcome the innate issues with Western-style thinking which are based on arguing and trying to get your idea accepted, rather than the best idea. The goal of parallel thinking is to develop as many ideas as possible, and work together to the best solution, not just the solution your Vice President wants. The Six Thinking Hats (Hats) are the key tool within parallel thinking.

The Hats are six colored hats, each representing a different thinking process. The benefit of the Hats is to separate each thought process to ensure focus and avoid jumping between different ideas. Each hat is discussed for only a few minutes before moving to the next hat. The benefit of the Hats is to ensure all the information on a topic is reviewed by the team holistically – pros, cons, feelings, new ideas, etc.

 Lateral thinking focuses on changing perspectives to develop new ideas. It is a proactive, deliberate way to continually move forward to develop new ideas rather than finding an immediate solution. Not all the ideas will be useful, but it is important to focus on quality and deal with quantity later. Within lateral thinking, the two most adopted tools are random word and PO. Random word uses a word that is not associated with the topic of focus to drive new connections.

For example, you are developing new ways to improve your accounting system. You choose the random word BIRD. Then you pick four words related to BIRD. For example, feathers, flies, nest, and tweet. You would then use these four words to develop new ideas linking to the topic, improving the accounting system. The random word forces you to think outside of normal patterns and to forcefully look at unrelated words to drive new ideas. PO is another excellent tool within lateral thinking.

PO stands for provocation. A provocation forces thinking in a new direction. You use the word PO to precede a provocation/statement. PO is used to overcome limitations and optimize the pattern behavior of the human brain. Use PO as a stop sign to pause and then develop new ideas. Instead of immediately saying NO to something, you can insert PO to expand the thinking and look for more options.

For example, someone on the product planning team says they need another $10 million. Before saying NO, restate the problem using PO and develop new ways to create new products with the current budget. Stating PO indicates that it’s time for new ideas and to not immediately say NO. PO forces you to avoid traditional thinking patterns and search for new ideas. The product planning team might develop ideas to crowdsource suggestions from customers, talk to engineers in a different industry and understand how they solve similar problems, or talk to suppliers on ways to reduce overall costs.

PO can also be used to connect two disparate ideas. For example, automobile PO deodorant. PO links these two unrelated words (ideas) to drive new ideas. This prompts expanded thinking and look for ideas that are not directly related to the topic. Some potential ideas; develop new ways to incorporate scent into the driving experience or develop a roll-on paint dispenser to cover-up scratches.

Change the way you think. Move from EITHER/OR to AND. Say AND instead of BUT. Think of WHAT CAN BE rather than WHA T IS. If you want to improve your creative thinking skills and help your teams innovate, read Dr. de Bono’s books. You can watch his lectures on YouTube, but they are slow and painful. Here are a few of his great books to help you on your journey of self-improvement.

Dr. de Bono was a very interesting person. His theories can be used in your personal or professional life. The power of parallel thinking and lateral thinking is the adoption of deliberate and systematic methods to develop new ideas any time and any place. Read his books and start using the tools every day to transform your life.

Lateral thinking: Creativity Step by Step. (1970). New York, NY: Harper & Row Publisher (http://amzn.to/2GjCcBo)

Six Thinking Hats. (1985). New York, NY: Back Bay Books (http://amzn.to/2E9ErH5)

Teach Your Child How to Think. (1992). New York, NY: Penguin Books USA, Inc. (http://amzn.to/2FhwtuD)


#parallelthinking #lateralthinking #sixthinkinghats #creativethinking #innovation #creativity

Inbound Marketing and the Product Manager


Product managers are the tip of the marketing spear. You develop overall product strategy, identify target customers, develop positioning and messaging direction, and create the roadmap for sales and marketing teams. As the unnamed (and often unheralded) marketing expert within the company, the product manager is tasked to ensure customer-focused products are developed and effective sales and marketing tactics are deployed for optimal market success.

Many marketing teams are constrained with limited budgets and immense pressure from executives and board members. In addition, too many marketers are using a traditional marketing playbook that is inefficient and ineffective today. Most marketing teams do not have budgets for national campaigns which result in a miniscule number of effective leads; though they continually focus on TV, radio, and print and pushing product information to groups of people who are not interested. Sales leaders spend large amounts of money on sales incentives which devalue the brand must. These are not long-term strategies to survive. It is time to stop. It’s time to rethink what you do.

With increasing “noise” in the consumer landscape, traditional sales and marketing tactics ineffectively result in large amounts of wasted scarce and valuable resources. So, how can your organization build a loyal and excited following that spreads word of your new product and they line up to purchase your products? Inbound marketing, often referred to as content marketing is the optimal method to build loyal and rabid fans. Inbound marketing uses less money (than traditional marketing/advertising) and results in high engagement, specifically with targeted customers. The goal is high conversion rates.

Inbound marketing is all about engaging with targeted customers and providing valuable content where these customers consume information. It is not about selling. It is about educating, entertaining, and informing. Organizations need to be a valuable source of information and content. Don’t talk about your product and all its features. Demonstrate how the product solves the customer’s problems. Develop stories of how customers use your product to make their lives better. Focus on customers.

To become a great inbound marketer (and a great marketer in general), you need the mindset of a journalist marketer. You need to create blogs and podcasts to engage customers. You need to make informative (and often fun) videos to attract your targets. You must leverage the power of social media and share informative posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You need to develop effective calls-to-actions (CTAs) to drive engagement.

You must change your mindset and embrace the new reality. The days of national TV campaigns that have horrible ROI, press events that focus on dying media channels (where your targets are not spending time) and websites that are basically “digital brochures” are over. The communication landscape is a messy, noisy, and congested environment. To ensure you are “surgical” with what you develop and to engage your targets, you must be laser-focused on the optimal mediums, and continuously monitor performance and adapt as needed. Ongoing “tweaking” of everything needs to be a key part of your organization’s culture.

As Bob Dylan noted 40+ years ago, “the times they are A-changin”. The days of spending millions on TV ads to “interrupt” a wide range of targets and (mostly) non-targets is over. The mentality of “shotgun blast” tactics is inefficient and ineffective. It is time to have fun, be extremely creative, and closely engage with potential customers. It is time to develop an internal army of marketers who continually improve; they build-measure-learn.

Product managers need to focus on developing an intimate understanding of the target customers and determine where and how they can be engaged. What medium do they use to find out about products to solve their problems? What type of content do they prefer to learn about new products? Most importantly, who are they and where do they spend their time (I’m talking about how they access information, not necessarily geographically or physically where they reside).

Product managers must carefully identify their target customers, develop a product that helps them meet their needs or overcome pain points, and provide engaging content where these targets spend their time. What I’m talking about is really Marketing 101, but is even more important in this chaotic digital world that we try and navigate effectively.

Train your teams. Build a powerful organization of skilled inbound marketers. Empower your internal teams and create a Marketing Army. Build trust. Everyone must be a marketer of your product, not just the folks in PR or your social media team. Empower employees to write blogs, create podcasts, or develop video series. Have engineering teams develop effective frequently asked questions (FAQs) or how-to videos. Develop an endless stream of valuable content to keep the focus on your customers and how you solve their problems.

Develop the core skills and encourage co-workers from all parts of the organization, not just sales or marketing to engage with customers. Train teams in copywriting, photography, search engine optimization, etc. Make it easy for your teams to develop great content. Develop standard operating procedures (SOP) with clear constraints of what they can and cannot do. Provide helpful hashtag terms (#) to allow everyone to use the same keywords for the most effective engagement. Most importantly, this must be done in-house. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, waste your precious dollars outsourcing most of this to ineffective creative agencies.

Test and experiment. Most marketing teams just shoot out a lot of “stuff” and hope some of it sticks. Advertisers have been testing and experimenting for over 100 years. Unfortunately, most marketers avoid this. They prefer to focus on fancy websites, pretty designs, and avoid effective content. They build it and hope people will come. Unfortunately, they do not know their customers or what they need. They stare at spreadsheets but never talk to actual customers. There are no plans to measure what works and what doesn’t. There is not an incentive to continuously improve. They don’t test different messaging or media. They avoid the hard work of constantly tweaking and experimenting to determine the optimal and most effective engagement tactics. In other words, they are unprofessional and lazy.

The “good ole days” are over. Marketing communication teams must stop wasting time and pretending to live in an episode of Mad Men. Product managers need to drive marketing strategy. This begins with a deep knowledge of the customer and their struggles. This begins with knowing exactly where to provide content and engage with these audiences.

Get out and learn who your targeted customers are. Learn everything you can about them, create amazing products that solve their problems, and then develop remarkable content to engage these target customers. Don’t “spray and pray”. Be a sniper. Be focused on your target. Keep adjusting until you “hit” them over and over again.

Inbound marketing is fun and effective. Enjoy being creative and developing awesome and amazing products and content. Watch your teams’ morale skyrocket. Be constantly engaged with customers. Build a community. Don’t focus on “one and done”. Use inbound marketing along with traditional methods and measure everything. Focus on what works and stop wasting time and money with marketing tactics that were developed before the internet and social media. Rethink how you think.

The following are excellent references to become a master of inbound marketing.

HubSpot Academy – https://academy.hubspot.com/

David Meerman Scott – https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/

Ryan Holiday – https://ryanholiday.net/

Brendon Burchard – https://brendon.com/

#inboundmarketing #contentmarketing #marketing #productmanager #socialmedia #content #strategicmarketing #madmen #advertising #hubspot

5 Critical Product Management Skills

(1) Writing

Communicating with team members, vendors, customers, etc., is an ongoing part of product management. It is one thing to text your friends and not worry about sentence structure, grammar, or spelling. It is another thing when you are writing an email to your team, developing a business plan, or creating product training – your writing is what will empower your message. A few simple rules to remember are: use the active voice (not passive), keep sentences and paragraphs short, avoid adverbs, and practice every day. Yes, practice every day. Writing is a skill and like any other skill it gets better with daily practice. The following books will make you a much better writer.

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (http://amzn.to/2D4iH1U)

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (http://amzn.to/2D7sc0g)

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley (http://amzn.to/2D34xNV)

(2) Market Research

How do you develop the best product in its class? You get out of the office and talk to customers. You interview retail store owners, your customers, and your competitor customers. You create questionnaires, gather data, and use statistics to understand what the data is communicating. Sitting in an office all day and staring at spreadsheets or creating PowerPoint presentations is a big part of the job. However, the only way to beat your competitors and excite your customers is to understand what customers want, how they use the products, and their pain points. The way to do this is interact with them and learn first-hand. Learning the intricacies of market research is a powerful tool that keeps giving. Check out the following books to improve your skills.

The Complete Guide to Writing Questionnaires: How to Get Better Information for Better Decisions by David F. Harris (http://amzn.to/2CYshPR)

Marketing Research Essentials (6th ed) by Carl McDaniel and Roger Gates (http://amzn.to/2D64PU1)

(3) Creative Thinking

You have to continuously develop new ideas. Tattoo the Japanese term kaizen, meaning continuous improvement, in your memory. The only way to improve yourself, your products, current processes, or solve problems is developing new creative ideas. The best way to develop creative ideas is with a structured and disciplined approach. Using creative thinking tools such as SCAMPER, random word, or biomimicry avoids wasting time “brainstorming” or haphazardly thinking of new things. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best ideas are developed with a structured process, tool, or technique. Read the following books to improve your skills.

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko (http://amzn.to/2DnNIe2)

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward de Bono (http://amzn.to/2CV4HDw)

(4) Storytelling

How do you get a new product concept approved from executives? How do you convince salespeople the new product is exceptional and will beat the competition? The best way to build a movement is exciting people. And the best way to excite people is with a compelling story. Creating a compelling story is not easy. It takes practice and a lot of work. Impart visuals, video, audio, and other tools to pull your audience into the story. Video customer testimonials and share the feedback with co-workers. The following books will help build this skill.

The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam (http://amzn.to/2DrdCh5)

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (http://amzn.to/2EBxDAY)

(5) Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is something everyone needs to be good at, but most of us have never formally learned critical thinking. If your advertising agency tells you the new TV ad concept will improve brand awareness by 64%, you better ask how this will happen. How do they know this? Where is the data? How did they collect the data? Critical thinking is putting your skeptic hat on and dissecting what someone is telling you. It is not about attacking someone or their argument, it is pausing, stepping back, and asking questions to ensure nothing is missed. In this age of fake news and the allure of Big Data, critical thinking is vital to ensure the best decisions are being made. The following are a few excellent books to reference.

A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston (http://amzn.to/2Ft35Tj)

Critical Thinking for Marketers (Volumes I and II) by Terry Grapentine and David Dwight (http://amzn.to/2FvUNdt)

Musings from TJ

“You’re nuts to go down there!” was what I kept hearing from co-workers regarding my plan to visit Tijuana and walk around. Sorry to disappoint, but Tijuana (TJ) is not the scary, crime-ridden city from 30 years ago. It had a rough patch in the mid-2000s, but is now a great place to wander around in relative safety. The people are helpful, there are cops everywhere, and the foodie culture is growing (good or bad).

There are multiple ways to sightsee TJ, but we chose the simple method – park in San Diego and walk across. We tried to book a walking food tour but were out of luck, so we did our research, printed out some maps, and headed across. (Yes, we printed out our maps since we are too cheap to pay for international roaming on our phones, or too lazy to just get some extra browsing time for the day). Either way, it was nice not dealing with our phones all day, except to take pictures.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, creativity, innovation, and inspiration come from experiencing new things. The best method to get inspired is visiting new places. What better than visiting a new city just a few hours from home? After we parked our car in San Diego ($25 for the day), we walked about 5 minutes and entered the Mexican immigration center. After some quick paperwork, passports stamped, we were in Mexico. Yup, that easy.

Walking from the immigration center to downtown TJ took about 15 minutes. Tijuana has always been a tourist city, so there are lots of souvenir shops, barkers trying to get you in their restaurants, as well as many California license plates cruising around.

Our first stop was the Tijuana Cultural Center and museum (http://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/51716/en/tijuana-cultural-center-cecut-.html). There was an exhibition of local photographers and it was nice to check out some local history. From there we journeyed to the Museo de la Luca Libre Mexicana (http://www.mullme.com/). This is a new museum that houses an amazing collection of superhero memorabilia, various old-stuff from the past (e.g., comic books, milk jugs, radios, etc.), an unbelievable collection of Lucha Libre masks/billboards/art, etc. and locally made leather masks.

The museum was difficult to find. We asked multiple people and finally found it after about 30 minutes walking in circles (next time I will pay for cell service). When we entered, the manager greeted us and explained the facility (his English is great for all you non-Spanish speakers). The museum opened in April 2017 so they are still building a following. The owners got together and with their love of all things nerdy, decided to open a spot to display their amazing collections.

The museum was an old restaurant that they refurbished. The architecture was a blend of the past and present. It is really beautiful inside. I am not a big superhero memorabilia fan, but the various collections were impressive. A local artist painted the murals of various superheroes on the walls, ceiling, etc. The art was amazing and blew us away – I want to find that guy and hire him for some work. After the first floor collection, we journeyed upstairs to the Lucha Libre collection.

If you are not familiar with Lucha Libre, it is Mexican professional wrestling where many of the wrestlers wear masks. I used to watch Lucha Libre when I was a kid and am a big fan of Lucha Va Voom (http://luchavavoom.com/), so this was really cool. One of the museum owner’s has been collecting wrestling memorabilia for 44 years, and the collection is a historical lesson in Mexican wrestling. Parts of the collection included hundreds of actual masks, various action figures and toys, as well as costumes, pictures, hair samples (from bouts where a wrestler lost and had his head shaved), to old TV episodes from the 1950 and 1960s. There is even a real wrestling ring.

After spending a lot of time being a little kid again, we moved to the third floor. Housed on the top floor is a gallery displaying local artist Jorge Ayllón Gutiérrez’s leather mask collection (https://www.facebook.com/encuerARTE-222118024582954/). Many years ago, a friend bought me a leather mask from Mexico and I have a small collection from various travels (e.g., Italy, Japan). The collection was excellent and all pieces were for sale.

After the museum, we journeyed to the Telefonica Gastro Park (https://www.facebook.com/TelefonicaGastroPark/). It was about a 30-minute walk. The U.S. food truck trend is everywhere, and TJ is no exception (there were lots of food trucks in Russia when we visited earlier this year). The “park” is really a parking lot that houses multiple food “trailers”, a brewery, and plenty of places to sit and enjoy some great food and drink. The place is tourist friendly and the food was excellent.

After stuffing ourselves with great tacos, we headed over to Mercado Hildalgo (http://www.descubretijuana.com/es/atractivos/mercado-hidalgo). The place was crazy as everyone was there buying stuff for New Years. There were more California license plates than TJ. The Mercado Hildalgo is a collection of open-air markets selling vegetables, fruits, cheeses, beans, spices, piñata supplies, etc. It was fun to walk around and sample the various items. Then, it was time to head back to the border.

On the way, we stopped by Container Coffee (https://www.facebook.com/conteinercofferoasterco/?rf=1756930457856837) for a great mocha latte (and to rest our feet). We then found the local tourist trap – zebra donkeys. TJ is known for zebra donkeys (white donkeys are painted with black stripes to show-up better in photographs). I am not a fan of using animals for tourist crap, but most of the animals looked very healthy, had lots of food and water, and had pads to stand on – not horrible. The stand that “grabbed us” were two funny local guys; one spoke pretty good Japanese so he bonded with my wife to practice.

For about $10 we got our photos taken, received a high-gloss color photo, and got some local perspective. We spent about 30 minutes hanging with him and hearing the struggles of kids growing up in TJ and trying to get a good education and well-paying jobs. There is a reason so many Mexicans cross the border to have kids.

As Joe Rogan always reminds his listeners, those of us who were born into the middle class (and above) are just lucky (and privileged). It was just a roll of the dice that we were born in stable families, in a safe place, with good schools and plenty of food, instead of being born in a ghetto or a worn-torn country. Like most places, when the hand you are dealt is not great, it is pretty damn hard to get ahead. There is nothing special about any of us; we are just lucky.

I then grabbed a Mexican Coca-Cola (cane sugar, not syrup), and waited in line to cross back to the U.S. About 45 minutes later we were back in San Diego. Too much fun, way too easy. Much better than driving.

As the New Year is a few hours away, think of what you want to accomplish in 2018. Think about how fortunate you are. And, if you are struggling, put a game plan together leveraging the internet, public libraries, free online courses, mentors, etc., to improve yourself. Moreover, experience new things, meet interesting people, and change your life and the life of others. Make this year count to destroy the negativity, hate, and lazy thinking of others. As Gary V says, “Crush It!”