The Work Ethic of Comedians

Pewdepie

In this era of instant stardom, YouTube and Instagram celebrities, and reality TV “stars” more and more people expect success to just happen. The problem with the expectation versus reality is that success most often comes from hard, ongoing work – working at your craft so when opportunity arrives, you are ready to take advantage. Sitting around and dreaming will not result in success. Success comes from continuous learning, ongoing practice, and failure. Successful comedians are an excellent example how hard, consistent work equates to success.

The life of a successful comedian is about writing every day, going to clubs every night to practice in front of a live crowd, and pushing the limits of the status quo. The late, great comedian Ralphie May was a great example for how hard work results in success.

An excellent video is Ralphie May discussing what it takes to be a successful comedian at a comedy workshop (https://vimeo.com/15182852). May’s “secrets of success” are writing every day, learning from those with more experience, and being prepared when opportunity knocks. These recommendations can be applied to any profession.

Ralphie May

If you listen to successful comedians (Jerry Seinfeld, Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Christopher Titus, Whitney Cummings, Tom Segura, Bert Kreischer, Dean Delray, Amy Schumer, Ari Shaffir, Greg Fitzsimmons, etc.) there is a common pattern they all follow – write daily, practice every night, take any job to get experience (no matter the effort), accept failure (e.g., bombing) as the only way to learn, improve, and grow. These comedians have worked year-after-year, driven thousands of miles, performed in all types of environments (e.g., dive bars, coffee shops, colleges, restaurants), and never gave up. This same work ethic needs to be adopted by anyone who is serious about becoming excellent at their craft or career.

Ari Shaffir

The lessons from these comedians are transferable to any career, especially business. Too often, business professionals stop learning when they leave university and enter the workforce. They join a company, do what they are told or how the company wants things done, and that’s it. Growth stops. Unlike professional comedians, professional athletes, or medical professionals, people in business typically do not live a life of continuous learning and improvement.

DeLaSalle basketball coach Dave Thorson analyzed video footage of other teams with the players on their ipads and from his laptop after practice Thursday, January 31, 2013. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES ¥ eflores@startribune.com

Most people go to work, do the basics, and go home. This habit does not result in improvements, competitive advantages, or future growth. It is perfect for a relatively easy life, but one with a not-so secure future. If you are not improving every day, you are falling behind and there is a good chance you will eventually be replaced.

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It is not just about you toiling away by yourself. It often takes a community to succeed. Many of these successful comedians work together, continuously talk and engage with one another, and learn from each other. In addition, they help each other grow, help each other get new jobs, and work to ensure the entire community succeeds. As a business professional you need to be doing the same thing. Interact with people outside your company and industry. Become an expert. Learn from others and share your knowledge.

As you spend 1/3 of your time at work, why wing it or do things haphazardly? Business is fun and should be conducted to win, create, and/or help others. Why spend 1/3 of your life accepting the status quo and mediocrity? Why not work your ass off, become great, and enjoy life?

Office Space

As global business becomes increasingly competitive with new entrants, quickly changing technologies, and ongoing socio-economic challenges, every person who is serious about their business craft, needs to continually evolve and adapt. What’s the easiest way to achieve excellence? Reading. Read the works of Sun Tzu, Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, W. Edwards Deming, and other “business legends”. Learn new skills – statistics, market research, critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, etc. Use your skills and share with others. Don’t just read, but apply your learnings, practice, and improve.

Work hard quote

Listen to the following podcasts to get motivated and understand that success results from hard work. Success is about daily practice and embracing failure. A habit of lifelong learning is the surest path to success and fulfillment. Don’t do what everyone else does, be unique, zig when others zag, keep experimenting and learning. Success does not happen overnight. It happens after lots of work, pain, suffering, and continuous improvement. Don’t worry, it will be worth it when you’re 90 years old and sitting on your front porch contemplating your life. Don’t regret anything. Be proactive, get out there and get stuff done.

References

Ralphie May – Stand-up Mastery: https://vimeo.com/15182852

Joe Rogan Experience: http://podcasts.joerogan.net/

Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank: http://www.arishaffir.com/category/podcast/

Greg Fitzsimmons – Fitzdog Radio: https://gregfitz.libsyn.com/

Musings from Inroads to the Future

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The annual Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) symposium took place November 15, 2017 in Carson, CA. The event (Inroads to the Future) allowed MIC members to meet and discuss how to prepare for the changing future of the powersports industry. The audience was composed of representatives from the major powersports distributors (BMW, Can-Am, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Polaris, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc.) as well as teams from after-market parts & accessories distributors and manufacturers. In addition, industry media and marketing agencies were also in attendance.

Shama Hyder from Marketing Zen Group was one of the keynote speakers. A motorcycle enthusiast, she shared some marketing tips to the crowd to better navigate the digital landscape. Shama focused on the benefits of targeted Facebook advertising and provided case studies of her client’s success.

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The speaker most of the crowd came to see was Dr. Paul Leinberger from Denny + Leinberger Strategy, LLC. He has provided an economic overview and futurecast over the past several years. His insights were excellent and provided attendees with brain food to prepare for the challenging future of the industry. Dr. Leinberger noted that in the next 5 years we will experience the biggest fundamental changes since WWII. The key areas of change will be:

  • Transportation
  • Urbanization
  • Medical
  • Mobility
  • Frictionless commerce – more engaging, immersive retail experiences
  • AI and robotics

Leinberger

Leinberger also noted that we need to move away from talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) to focus on the Internet of Everything (IoE). A completely connected world will be a challenge for all businesses in terms of privacy, massive amounts of data, and changing socio-economic influences (not to mention technology advances). Digital and physical will merge changing the retail landscape and changing consumer preferences. The industry needs to change now, to prepare for and shape a challenging future.

Internet-of-Everything

The symposium is always a great event to reconnect with associates in the industry. In addition, it was insightful to hear from individuals outside of the powersports industry and gain new perspectives to help attract new consumers. I highly encourage you to attend your personal industry and also non-industry events. Connecting and listening to a diverse set of people helps drive creativity and provides new ways to conduct business. If anything, just getting out of the office for a day to hear insightful speakers is worth the time to separate from your normal schedule and gather insights for new creative ideas.

Musings from PDMA Conference

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The past week I attended the annual Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) annual conference. This year’s conference was held in Chicago at the Swissotel and was a great opportunity to meet fellow product geeks and get a taste of what’s happening in the “real world”.

With several hundred attendees from a wide variety of industries, academic institutions, and countries, the event was an excellent opportunity to engage with the global product community. I had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on creating an innovative ecosystem titled, Strategic Agility: Building an Innovative Organizational Ecosystem. This title is a mouthful, but the concept is very straightforward. To create an innovative organization that can properly adapt to the changing business environment requires four key areas of focus.

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The audience was a great mix of practitioners and academics. And from the lack of hands raised to my questions, “Who considers their organization innovative?” and “Who knows their organization’s strategic plan?” there is a lot of work (and opportunities) ahead of us. The four main concepts for an innovative organization are:

  1. Strategic agility – composed of three meta-capabilities (collective commitment, strategic sensitivity, and resource fluidity)
  2. Cognitive skills – creative thinking, critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, etc.
  3. Strategic roadmap – a clear understanding of where you are and where you plan to go
  4. Culture – encourages experimentation, accepts failure as a key aspect of learning, and most importantly has a high-level of trust between senior management and employees at every level

Too many organizations are not focused on innovation and out-maneuvering the competition. Business leaders are content with the status quo (or what worked in the past will continue to work in the future), offering consumers me-too products, and overseeing a demoralized workforce. Executives must take the lead to build an organization of capable thinkers who have a strong understanding of the market, and leverage evidence-based management to encourage data-driven decision making and problem solving. Skills, knowledge, and ongoing experimentation are vital to stay ahead of current and future competition.

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It is critical to “rub elbows” with individuals outside your industry. Understanding how a variety of individuals, organizations, and industries practice product management is vital to leveraging best practices and uncovering new methodologies to stimulate the organization. Product managers need to get out of the office and interact with practitioners from different industries. The more your network, the more you learn.

Meeting new people and learning new ways to excel at product management will help you develop innovative and interesting ways to create exciting products and allow you to position your portfolio for competitive advantages. To become a master product manager you must become a life-long learner. Reading, research, and roaming the Internet are all good ways to learn; however, it is also vital to interact with different people and groups to expand your world knowledge. A key element of creativity is connecting unrelated dots. The way to build a large supply of “dots” is traveling, meeting new people, and applying your new learnings to work.

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An innovative organizational ecosystem is critical for sustained, positive growth. The ability to continually surprise competitors and keep them off balance while wowing customers with new and exciting products and services ensures long-term success. Leaders need to stop outsourcing their basic business needs. They need to create a skilled and innovative organization for long-term success. An innovative ecosystem founded on empowered and highly skilled employees, clear and effective strategic development and execution, and a corporate culture based on trust, learning, and strategic agility, is critical within the increasingly turbulent and disruptive global business environment. Now get out there, attend some conferences, meet new people, and change the world.

Market Research – Best Practices

marketresearch  One of the most important skills for product managers, brand managers, and anyone involved in marketing is market research (MR). To wow customers and out-maneuver competitors it is critical to understand what your customers need, how they use your products, why they don’t buy competitor products, etc. In addition, you need to understand the same information about your competitor customers. To uncover these insights, you need to conduct both qualitative and quantitative MR.

Foundational MR skills can be learned from books, videos, or classes. However, like any other skill, you need to practice in the real world. You need to get out of the office and interview consumers. You need to go to retail stores and observe consumer behavior. You need to shadow experienced researchers and learn how they do it. It is also critical to practice writing questionnaires for both qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys. Writing and design questionnaires are an art form and takes a lot of practice, failure, and continuous improvement.

MR

No matter what type of MR you use, there are a several best practices you need to keep in mind. It is important to use these best practices to ensure strong response rates and keep participants engaged so they will participate in future MR studies. Treat your participants like friends and they will agree to future research requests.

The following best practices are from the recent Participant Engagement – How to improve the online survey user experience guide compiled by Global Research Business Network. You can access this excellent guide at http://grbnnews.com/special-report-improving-the-online-survey-user-experience/.

  • Keep the questions simple and short, and use every day terminology
  • Design the questionnaire so it works on mobile devices
  • Keep screeners as short as possible
  • Avoid using large tables or matrixes
  • Provide incentives that align with the participants’ effort
  • Keep surveys to a maximum of 10 minutes – if you have to go longer, be honest about how long it will take to complete

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In addition to best practices, use metrics to ensure you achieve what you want. Keep your MR goal in perspective by asking “Why and now what?”. Remind your team why are you conducting the research and once you compile the data, what are you going to do with it.

Create a survey people enjoy taking. Use creativity to keep participants engaged (e.g., gamification, animation, videos). Develop a MR study which participants feel their responses are valued and are being used to improve business, products, etc.

When the research is completed, create a compelling story to share insights with team members. Don’t just gather data to sell your products. Think of MR as an additional touch-point with your customers; just like advertising, customer service, packaging, social media, etc.

MR story

Too often teams make decisions based on guesses or relying on intuition or experience. It is vital to adopt a data-driven, evidence-based decision-making culture. The importance of “going to the spot” and seeing how products are used, how consumers behave in the “real world”, and struggles they encounter will provide insights for innovation.

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Staring at data can only provide a limited understanding of consumer behavior. Using qualitative MR to gather deep insights and quantitative MR to identify patterns leveraging the strength of statistics will help you create competitive advantages and separate yourself from your competitors. Learn, practice, and implement MR tools and techniques for long-term growth.

The Yellow Hat

The Six Thinking Hats (Hats), developed by Dr. Edward de Bono is a powerful tool for decision making, solving problems, or developing new product ideas. The Hats are a simple, easy-to-learn tool that ensures teams work together to develop optimal solutions. The Hats forces teams to explore subjects in parallel; everyone focuses on one hat at a time, in a short amount of time.

debono Compared to less productive tools such as brainstorming, the Hats avoid argument and confrontation. The Hats directs teams to focus on an optimal decision, not one based on ego, emotions, or personal agenda. Everyone is forced to develop pros and cons of a subject, not just a single point-of-view.

Brainstorming

The Hats require everyone to look at a topic holistically (from all points-of-view). A holistic analysis ensures all benefits and risks are identified; the goal is to develop the optimal solution for the organization, not one based on an individual’s personal agenda clouding the discussion.

sixhats-1A key element of the Hats, is the yellow hat. The yellow hat focuses on benefits and feasibilities of a topic. Often depicted as the pros (compared to the black hat, cons), the yellow hat forces team members to develop benefits and values (along with justification) of why the topic is beneficial. Even if someone is against the idea, they still have to develop benefits and reasons how the idea can provide value.

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As with all creative exercises, yellow hat analysis needs to be driven by questions. Several helpful questions when analyzing the benefits and advantages are:

  • What ideas, suggestions, or proposals are there for how to approach this problem?
  • What is the benefit of this?
  • What positives are there for this idea?
  • What could be done to make this faster?
  • What could be done to make this work better?
  • What could make this cheaper?
  • Under what conditions would this work?
  • What would it take to make this proposal acceptable?
  • What is your vision for how this could work?

Most discussions are based on arguments, I am right, you are wrong, focusing on satisfying the ego rather than developing the best options. The Hats unbundles and separates thinking, to think of multiple perspectives and develop the best options. Also, the process avoids thinking of too many things at once.

Parallel Thinking

The Hats helps you explore subjects in a disciplined way, focus on individual aspects of the subject, balance thinking, and maintain discipline (don’t jump between hats). In addition, the Hats create structure in important conversations, and allow all sides to be heard. Use the Hats the next time you want to thoroughly analyze a topic and ensure the optimal decision is made for the benefit of the organization.

Improve the Business With DMAIC

 DMAIC-Cycle

DMAIC is a data-driven, five step improvement cycle within the Six Sigma process. it is an excellent tool to identify root causes of problems and develop solutions. DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. The goal is to improve processes or products to achieve the Six Sigma level of 3.4 defects per million.

Six Sigma is a data-driven improvement process to eliminate defects. It was developed in the 1970s by Motorola Corporation. The goal of Six Sigma is to achieve 3.4 defects per million instances (sigma (σ) is the Greek letter used to measure statistical variability in a process). Defects are considered anything outside of base specifications, typically derived from customer needs or manufacturing requirements. Six Sigma leverages data and statistical measures to solve problems and improve processes.

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Define is the first step of the DMAIC process. Under this step it is necessary to clearly define the goal of the exercise (e.g., problem, process, product). You need to also define who the customer is that is experiencing the problem and determine overall objectives. In addition, it is helpful to Define the overall process where the problem occurs.

The second step is Measure. This step focuses on objectively developing baselines and understanding deviations from the norm. This data-collection step is critical to ensure the entire process is moving in the correct direction to understand “what is happening” in the environment. An effective method to gather data and understand the problem is to “go to the spot” and see the problem first-hand.

Measure

Talk to people experiencing the problem or do the process yourself and understand what causes the problem to occur. In addition to gathering qualitative data, gather quantitative data to identify any patterns that can be statistically analyzed to identify patterns. Gathering data is critical for effective analysis using statistical tools.

Go to the spot

The goal of step three is to Analyze the data you gathered and determine the root cause of the problem. During this step the team needs to understand what is causing the problem, when the problem occurs, where it occurs, etc. This step requires strong critical thinking and patience to ensure a careful review of the data leads to the identification of the root cause.

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Step five is to Improve; develop, implement, and test a solution for the problem. This step focuses on developing creative solutions to eliminate the root cause of the problem. Teams should use tools such as the Six Thinking Hats or Random Word to develop creative ideas. The team can leverage the plan, do, check, act (PDCA) cycle to test new ideas and determine which ideas result in improvements and eventual elimination of the problem. Within this step, the team develops new ideas, tests, then implements.

Improve

The final DMAIC step is Control. The purpose of this step is to ensure improvements are sustained. It is critical to monitor the improvement steps and measure any deviations from the norm. This step is extremely important to ensure the root cause of the problem you identified eliminates the problem from reoccurring. If the problem reoccurs it is time to analyze what is occurring and develop a new solution.

Control

Let’s look at a real-world example. A large chemical company sells a two-stage adhesive that bonds plastic pipes; the company sells business-to-business (B2B). The company has received a product complaint from a customer. The customer bought the two-stage adhesive to join plastic pipes and it is not working; the adhesive is gelling before the two components are mixed.

Chemical Plant --- Image by © Keith Wood/Corbis

It is imperative to solve the problem and get the customer new product that is not defective. Most importantly, the customer needed a replacement, non-defective product ASAP. They have their own customers that need the product for several large projects. There is a lot of pressure to get this figured out quickly.

The team has Defined the problem and outlined the entire process from obtaining raw materials to shipping finished goods. In addition, the team has outlined three goals of the exercise.

    • Determine root-cause of gelling
    • Implement actions to verify if root-cause is issue
    • Develop procedures to reduce issue to zero defects

The team then gathers data to Measure the current situation. The team interviewed workers in the engineering lab, the quality lab, production areas, and the warehouses. In addition, the team called customers to understand details of the problem (when it occurred, where, etc.).

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Through phone interviews it was determined there was large amounts of inventory in customer stock. In addition, the team identified that all gelling was only in batches produced from Nov 2016 to January 2017. In addition, the team then measured production levels from the past 18 months. Customer order data was gathered to understand which customers received the faulty product. The team also identified that 164 complaints of defective product was noted from five U.S. states.

Phone interviews

The Analysis determined that the batches used a new formula of the adhesive (the only batches to use this new formula). It was also determined that 39,899 total items were produced. As the team gathered a large amount of data, and took the time to properly analyze the data, they identified several potential root causes. A fishbone diagram was developed to graphically represent possible causes and narrow-down the most likely issues.

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Within this step the team also identified that a supplier of one of the key components of the adhesive had to cease operation due to hurricane damage to their manufacturing facility. The purchasing department identified a new vendor of the same raw material to ensure production was not affected. The new raw material was quickly added to the production process to ensure all deadlines were met. Unfortunately, the raw material from the new vendor was not properly tested by the QA group before being introduced into production. The team narrowed in on the raw material as being the root cause of the gelling problem.

Bags of material

After analyzing all the possible causes, it was time to Improve the process and ensure the problem does not reoccur. A list of possible recommendations was developed; the focus was to eliminate the problem and ensure the customers were satisfied. The cross-functional team (engineering, quality, manufacturing, marketing, procurement) developed recommendations to avoid the problem and improve the overall process to ensure this problem is not repeated.

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To ensure the problem was Controlled and the solution was effective, the team developed a new process. Each step of the process (which was noted in the Define step) had a new monitoring step added to ensure every batch produced meets specifications. And most importantly, ensure customers do not get defective products.

Flow-Chart

A quality control (QC) chart was produced and hung in the engineering lab, the quality lab, and within the production area to ensure everyone reviews and understands the new process. The goal was to ensure that any time a new material is introduced; it must be reviewed by engineering and tested by QA before using in production. This visual communication device was an excellent reminder for everyone to follow the process.

The team and senior leaders knew everyone was trying to do the right thing by making sure production was not delayed and product shipped to customers on time. This was a good example of how important it is to ensure testing is not skipped. Everyone understands that quality is the most important aspect of the business.

A town hall meeting was conducted to share the problem and solution with the entire company. The goal was to continue the development of a root-cause analysis mindset to encourage ongoing continuous improvement throughout the organization. Most importantly, the team worked together to properly go through the DMAIC process and identify the problem and develop solutions quickly, without blame. The goal was to fix the problem and ensure the customer was satisfied.

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The customers were extremely impressed with the thoroughness of the analysis and the quick response from the team. In addition, the customer’s confidence was renewed to ensure the relationship continues. In addition, several members of the team visited key customers to explain what was learned, why the problem occurred, and what the company was doing to ensure this does not happen again.

Customer meeting

DMAIC is an excellent process to improve existing products, processes, or services. It helps create a continuous improvement mindset throughout the organization to continually focus on eliminating defects. Using qualitative and quantitative data to drive analysis ensures a data-driven methodology is used to make critical decisions. DMAIC is easy to learn and use. If you do not have a formal root-cause analysis process, DMAIC is a great tool to use, even if the organization does not use Six Sigma.

    1. Observe some important aspect of the marketplace or your business
    2. Develop a tentative explanation, or hypothesis, consistent with your observations
    3. Based on your hypothesis, make predictions
    4. Test your predictions by conducting experiments or making further careful observations. Record your observations. Modify your hypothesis based on the new facts. If variation exists, use statistical tools to help you separate signal from noise.
    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between the hypothesis and the results from experiments and observations.

So stop guessing. Use a formal process that leverages data to make decisions. Discipline and systematic processes ensures a higher probability of success that knee-jerk reactions or a scatter-gun approach to solving problems.

A Whack on the Side of the Head

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I love dusting off old, classic books and getting inspired by great authors. Roger von Oech wrote a classic book on creativity in 1983, A Whack on the Side of the Head. Whack is a great read that provides a fun, simple overview of the creativity process.

I hadn’t read this book in several years but it is one of my favorites. I typically give this book as a gift to help motivate people to embrace creativity and improve their lives and business. The author explains 10 mental blocks, and the four roles in the creative process.

Whack

There are ten “mental locks” to creativity and von Oech provides guidance how to overcome them. These mental locks are myths of creativity that often hinder our creativity. Anyone can improve their creative thinking skills; it just takes motivation and learning a few tools. The ten myths von Oech notes follows:

  1. The Right Answer
  2. That’s Not Logical
  3. Follow the Rules
  4. Be Practical
  5. Play is Frivolous
  6. That’s Not My Area
  7. Don’t Be Foolish
  8. Avoid Ambiguity
  9. To Err Is Wrong
  10. I’m Not Creative

Von Oech also outlines four roles within the creative process, explorer, artist, judge, and warrior. Each role oversees the four steps of creativity. The need to shift between different thinking methods is critical as we move between each role.

Roles

The explorer searches for new information and resources. The artist creates new ideas. The judge evaluates the benefits of each idea and decides which offer the highest probability of success. And, the warrior puts the idea into use. Creativity requires the flexibility to move seamlessly between each role.

Anyone can improve his or her creative thinking skills. Like any other skill (e.g., playing the piano, skiing, shooting free throws), creativity requires using the proper tools and practice. Most importantly it takes commitment to become a creative individual. The information within this book will help you overcome barriers to creativity and allow you to navigate the creative process by adopting each role.

Roger failure

As the global business environment becomes increasingly competitive, technology rapidly iterates, socio-economic issues influence behavior, and ongoing political and environmental challenges all industries, every person within an organization needs to develop creative thinking skills. The need for continuous improvement and the development of new business and product concepts is critical to stay ahead of fast-moving competitors. Complacency and acceptance of the status quo is a recipe for disaster.

A Whack on the Side of the Head should be a part of everyone’s library. Along with classic creative thinking authors such as Dr. Edward de Bono, Michael Michalko, Doug Hall, and many others – von Oech provides a great foundation to improve your creativity skills. I also recommend his other book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants as well as his deck of cards, Innovative Whack Pack.

A kick in the pants

Teams need to use deliberate and systematic methods to drive creative thinking. A structured method of creativity ensures effective and efficient creativity sessions. Having mental flexibility along with the foundational creative thinking skills allow anyone to develop new ideas to change the business and delight customers. The more everyone in the organization challenges themselves, stretch their thinking, and use creative thinking daily, the higher probabilities of business and product success.

Whack Pack

Changing the World is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man

   Gossage book

The stars of the “Mad Men” advertising era were David Ogilvy and Rosser Reeves (among others). Another advertising legend, though less well-known was Howard Luck Gossage. Gossage was the driving force behind the success of the advertising agency Weiner & Gossage (W&G) and he challenged the established norms and status quo of the advertising industry. Gossage was referred to as “The Socrates of San Francisco”.

In today’s world of online communities, viral news stories, and the blurring of real and fake news, the story of Howard Luck Gossage shows that everything new is really old. An advertising legend from the 1950s and 1960s Gossage changed the way the advertising industry operated. He was decades ahead of his peers in terms of building communities and spreading viral messages.

Gossage ad

In Steven Harrison’s excellent book Changing the World is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man, Harrison provides a great deep-dive into the life of Gossage. Harrison follows Gossage from his beginnings to becoming one of the advertising industry stars. The book outlines the creative and innovative ways Gossage “zigged” when everyone else “zagged”.

Gossage was extremely demanding of his self. He changed the advertising landscape with his excellent marketing skills, along with being one of the top copy writers of his time. He wrote all the copy and headlines himself, and was not open to ideas or recommendations. He was headstrong, arrogant, and a master of public relations (PR); he set out to change the advertising industry. The goal of his work was to create an “event” that would generate ongoing publicity through various media.

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He focused on creating stunts or spectacles that would be shared through multiple media. The objective of his advertising was to create successful propaganda. He wanted the original advertising message amplified. Unlike the larger agencies at the time, he avoided expensive mass-media and focused on creating a focused message to a targeted audience.

Pink Air

Gossage felt headlines must generate headlines of its own. His conversationalist writing style pulled readers in and allowed them to feel as part of a family or community. The style was based on creating information loops; keep the conversation going – send out information, receive feedback, and repeat.

Gossage quote

He felt an advertisement must have a big idea to catch someone’s attention. It needed to be simple, yet be impactful for other media to amplify the message. Mainstream press and broadcast media had to be seen as an integrated part of any communication plan.

W&G focused on being different not just in how it created advertisements, but how the agency operated as well. It was focused on being a large agency, it was about working on impactful projects to continuously create and innovate new ideas. Rather than bill clients based on the amount of media purchased, W&G charged based on work and ideas (upsetting many of the large agencies). Also, W&G avoided the trend to push advertising through a massive mainstream media buy.

Firehouse

Most agencies focused on buying large amounts of mass media for an attrition-type advertising campaign. W&G focused on developing an impactful advertisement that pulled people in, created a conversation, and developed a community of like-minded people. The goal was to find the targeted group of people who were interested in the content. The majority of the successful campaigns was low-budget but centered on great headlines, copy, and design.

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Unlike the larger, mainly white male agencies, W&G was small, only about 15-20 people. Located in a refurbished firehouse in San Francisco, W&G was racially diverse – women, Asians, blacks, etc. They focused on creating a learning environment and encouraged employees to continue their education and engage with diverse groups of people. The agency culture mirrored the changing times of the 1960s and the atmosphere within San Francisco. Celebrities, politicians, and business leaders frequented the firehouse.

The agency was the center of the changing culture and social environment of the 1960s. The firehouse became the nucleus for the exchange of new and radical ideas to challenge the status quo. W&G would sponsor speaking events creating a center for radical ideas and creating awareness of important events and people. For example, Gossage promoted Marshall McLuhan, creating a mainstream celebrity. The goal was not financial gain for Gossage (he did the work pro-bono), but getting McLuhan’s message and research to the mainstream.

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Later in life Gossage focused on social and environmental issues. He applied his skills to radical causes, partnering with the Sierra Club and helping to create Friends of the Earth. Being in the center of the counter-culture of San Francisco in the 1960s, Gossage developed campaigns to save the Grand Canyon and Redwood Forests, and worked on creating a revolution in the small Caribbean island of Anguilla. Gossage felt advertising should be used for the greater good; large, important causes. He wanted to change the world.

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He was a marketing genius who wrote amazing advertisements. He always focused on creating something new and exciting. He changed the way advertising agencies operated. A famous Gossage quote, “If you’re stuck with a lemon, make lemonade” epitomizes his mindset and spirit, to work incredibly hard to create change.

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Further Reading

Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves

The Book of Advertising Tests; A Group of Articles that Actually Say Something About Advertising by Lord & Thomas

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

Creative Alternatives

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A great method to drive innovation throughout the organization is to constantly search for alternative ways of doing business. A key part of the de Bono Thinking Systems is the use of alternatives. Creativity is about finding alternatives, different ways of doing things. Too often we are satisfied with the current state and avoid any effort for improvement. Before we realize it, our sales are declining and customers are moving to our competitors. We should always be looking for new ways to improve a product, process, or business operation. Not just when problems occur or during special situations, but always, every day!

Serious Creativity

It is critical to consider alternative ways to solve problems, define problems, and understand ways to create competitive advantages and differentiation. Being satisfied with the status quo allows competitors to pass us by and customers to grow tired of the same offerings. As the global business environment becomes increasingly competitive, disruptive, and ambiguous, we need to apply creativity to every aspect of the business; not just product development or marketing.

alternativeAnalysis

Even when there is no problem, we should be looking at new ways to improve (e.g., reduce costs, simplify). We must adopt a continuous improvement mindset to improve ourselves, the organization, and customer experiences. If something is working well, let’s think of new ways to make it more effective. If customers love our service, how can we ramp it up and blow them away. We must push beyond the initial new ideas. If we only stop at the first alternative, we will never know if there was something better. Keep pushing yourself and your team to develop more alternatives; it only takes a few extra minutes.

Why-Challenge-the-Status-Quo

What if something is working fine, should we just leave it alone? Let’s see the following example. Every year product managers conduct new product training for field sales. The training consists of PowerPoint presentations and hands-on product demonstrations. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive. So, should the product managers keep doing the same training year after year if everyone is happy? Or should they develop new ways to educate and engage?

It is these types of situations that require a proactive desire to focus on a process that is operating satisfactory. Don’t just change something for change sake, but develop a new and improved way to conduct various business operations. A key part of creativity and finding alternatives is asking questions. Asking questions allows us to identify and develop alternatives. We can use questions like the following.

  • How can we find a better way to do this?
  • What other ways can we solve this problem?
  • How else can we define the problem?
  • How do other people do this?

Constantly focusing on alternatives allows us to look beyond current ideas and business practices. The combination of motivation and skills can produce amazing creativity. It only takes a few minutes to do some Green Hat thinking. In a few minutes you can develop multiple alternative ideas for improvement. It just takes motivation and the desire to find ideas that might be better than the current idea.

change

We should continuously look how to improve and simplify the world around us. Taking a few extra minutes allows us to analyze a situation in more depth and possibly develop better ways to conduct business. In addition, finding alternative ways to improve is a great way to keep employees engaged and create a learning organization. As we develop the habit of continuously seeking alternative ways to improve the business, we will create an agile organization that keeps competitors reacting and customers excited. Never be satisfied!

 

Reference

Serious Creativity by Dr. Edward de Bono

The Fundamentals of Product Management

Product Management final

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