attitude Business culture Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Ideas Improvement Leadership Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

5 sources of innovation

Reflected Nest
Creative Commons License photo credit: cmaccubbin

Amid the turkey sandwiches and (making it right now) turkey pot pie, I’m also serving up a guest post about innovation.

You may not be aware that Google “gives” their employees “20% time“.

20% time is effectively 1 day a week to work on the pet projects, things of interest or just curiosities. Results have varied, but some of them have turned into Google’s products.

They promote and encourage, if not demand, that their staff “work” on feeding their ability to innovate.  In addition to being a great way to keep employees, it’s obviously a way to encourage the best and most innovative to join Google.

Innovation, not price, is what sets you apart for the long term. Here are “5 secrets” to innovation.

PS: You may not be thinking so hard about attracting talent right now…but you should be.

Competition Creativity customer retention Entrepreneurs planning Positioning President-proof Small Business Strategy

Scared is the wrong word

You’ve probably heard the saying “No rest for the wicked” (or weary). Weary might be a better choice in this case.

Should you be scared like the author suggests that Microsoft perhaps should be?

Microsoft, like many successful companies large and small, has reinvented itself before. It’ll probably have to do it again, and perhaps so will Google. I’m not here to help them though.

If Amazon starts selling online to your market and does so with better prices and free shipping – do you just roll over?

I don’t think so, but that’s your choice.

One thing to keep in mind – Never forget what business you’re really in.

If it’s a business in a market that is easily transformed into a commodity, transform how you deliver value. Deliver it to additional markets.

Think a little…

Scared is the wrong word, don’t you think?

attitude Business culture coffee Creativity event marketing Hospitality Ideas Marketing Public Relations Restaurants Retail service Small Business Starbucks The Slight Edge Word of mouth marketing

What’s Scary? Ordinary coffee, Michael Jackson and a dancing tiger named Mike

So…what did you do to have a little fun?

Here are a couple of examples:

One of the many coffee shops that I prod now and then came up with this (among other things) for Halloween.

Note the R.I.P. sign, then check out the 2nd image.
Having a little Halloween fun at Starbucks' expense

Below in the hand of the chalk outline, a familiar green logo. Who could it be?

Note the familiar green logo on the cup. Refer to the display board in the prior photo.

Wonder how many people commented about that when they got back to their office?

But it wasn’t just retail and restaurants getting into the act. Major colleges did too, like LSU who remade the Michael Jackson Thriller music video:

Good stuff and just a few of the creative examples I’ve come across this week.

PS: For those wondering about the highest adult spending holiday, it’s Valentine’s Day. Get a head start.

attitude Automation Business culture Competition Creativity E-myth Employees Entrepreneurs Ideas Improvement Media Motivation Photography Productivity Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge Time management

The thing in the way of amazing

Creative Commons License photo credit: Br0m

You know the thing I’m talking about. The thing that just wouldn’t go away. It’s so big, you can’t see it.

It’s like that creep at the dance who just wont take no for an answer. Or that thing hanging over your head that you *know* you have to do – but you just can’t seem to get to it.

Maybe because you don’t want to do it, or maybe because those “pesky customers” keep calling or having you run across town doing stuff for them.

So the money is coming in, but there’s that thing you gotta do.

What’s worse

In this case, it’s work that you make for yourself by doing all that stuff you’re doing for clients. So, it’s kind of a good thing, but it’s also stacking up.

More every day.

Video and still photography are good examples. You go out and capture an event or a portrait or some such and then there’s the studio’s editing station sitting there.

Just. Mocking. You.

The Pile

Thousands of frames have to be edited, corrected, cropped and perhaps a few of the images or a few moments of video are turned into amazing artwork.

Hours and gigs of video have to have the sound cleaned up, bad takes removed, frames removed for whatever reason, titles and effects added, and so on.

These tasks are labors of love at times, but at others, they are long hours of brutal grunt work.

How much did you say you make an hour for this work? Is that editing time factored in? (different discussion for a different day)

Editing might be fun when there are a few hundred shots of something you love shooting, like landscapes, sports, portraits or what not.

It might not be as much fun when there are 5000 sit and grin shots of kids or families or what not. Video – same deal.

Just say no (mostly)

What if you didn’t have to do it?

Don’t think about the WHO quite yet, but on what you get when you don’t have that work weighing down on you.

It’s the time and what you do with it.

How long after these marathon editing sessions does the “wow, this is gonna take x hours of editing time” thought process start creeping into your shooting?

When shooting something with fast action in it, does this “force” you to dial back from 6.5 frames per second to 3?

Does it enter your mind as you shoot 3000 frames (or 15 hours) of wedding coverage, or some marathon sporting event? Do you eventually get the equation in your head that every x shots = 15 minutes of editing?

Does that put a box around your creativity, even subconsciously?

Eventually, I’m guessing that it will.

You, Robot.

At some point, one risk is that this editing work will become mechanical.

If you think about it a bit, how could it not after months, years?

So…if you aren’t doing all that editing….What would you get done instead?

What about the work that you are totally in love with?

Isn’t that really where you want to spend your creative synapse firings? (assuming we all have but so many)

Isn’t that the work you *really* want to spend hours of loving, creative, out of this world editing time?

Just a question. You don’t have to answer.

Me, Nutcase

Let someone else edit my video/photos??? Am I NUTS? Perhaps, but that’s beside the point.

Think about it anyway. Not so much because you are the only one who can do it (really?), but because you really are the only one who can do that other stuff you do.

If you aren’t a photographer or videographer, you likely still have something like this on your plate.

Yet you still do it and it’s adding miles/hours between you and amazing.

attitude Business culture Competition Creativity customer retention Direct Marketing Email marketing Entrepreneurs Ideas Marketing Marketing to women planning Public Relations Restaurants Retail Small Business startups Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Shivering your business timbers

Who dressed YOU?
Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin

Today is Talk like a Pirate Day (TLAPD).

In honor of such a fine day, a few thoughts, er I mean… Aye, what would a pirate do t’ strenghen your business today? A pence for an old man o’de sea?

First, how about sliding over to Mashable and look at their tips for celebrating Talk like a Pirate Day… and then come back here for some pirate advice before you get business scurvy, matey.

Great ideas for celebrating the day, but bummer – your business is open on September 19 every year. Now what?

Wasn’t that awesome Mashable post a great example? Mashable is a tech news blog. See how they took TLAPD and turned it into their own – while doing exactly what they do best?

Yes, it’s your turn.

So…what can you do to (here it comes *again*) use the news (calendarrrr, whateverrrr) to make your business stand out on this fine, fun day?

Maybe by the time you see this, it’s too late.

Let me help: Put it in your appointment calendar for August 19. Make it recurring on an annual reminder. Type this: “Plan Sept 19 Talk Like A Pirate Day promotion.

Yarrr, some examples

“But Mark, our business doesn’t have anything to do with pirates…” (Yes, I *can* hear you saying that)


OK, some examples are in order to get your creative juices flowing.

Maybe you make custom coffee mugs for the day that you only use on Talk Like a Pirate Day. Or you order a gross of them for cheap and give them away with today’s purchases. Of course, the mugs will have a silly pirate image, your phone number, URL, etc.

If you own a boat store, raise the pirate flag, silly. Dress everyone up like a pirate, or have some temps come in and dress up like pirates. You of all people should be able to hit this one out of the, uh, dungeon.

Own a lingerie store? If you can’t see some great ideas to get publicity using TLAPD and some temp models, you really need a cuppa joe:)  Hint: Imagine it was Talk like a French Maid Day. Now translate that to pirate.

Run a computer store? What a great time to have a “Bring your computer in and scan it for pirates (ie: spyware etc) Day”. Or to have an event that educates your clients about software piracy (find a smart way, please), or similar.

Develop software? What a GREAT day to offer amnesty to anyone who pirated your software and is ready to come clean. They liked it enough to steal it and keep using it, now they’re convinced that they have right product. Help them buy. Don’t embarrass them.

Do you run blood drives? Put your “I donated” stickers on toy eye patches. You can get half a million of them for $3 at Oriental Trading (well, close) or make them yourselves (a fun event for kids). Dress everyone up. Don’t be so boring. It’s just blood.

No matter what you do, make a fuss…matey.

Promote your event far and wide, have some fun with it, dress up your staff or those temps I mentioned and be that purple cow.

Business culture Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Good Examples Ideas Improvement Marketing Motivation Positioning Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge Word of mouth marketing

Inspiring your customers with kangaroos and wombats

Isla de Media Naranja

Creative Commons License photo credit: lastquest

Today’s guest post comes from Nicholas Basbanes, who comments on the interesting and creative choice of paper used to print a book.

Little things mean a lot – the article explains it well, but don’t be distracted by it.

Instead, allow it to fertilize thoughts like “How can I create a context like this for my products and services?”

If you just think a little, what makes “pretty good” into “amazing”?

What makes people beg to show you this cool thing they have?

Being amazing is what does that. Being inspiring is what does that.

Read about it here.

Blogging Business Resources Community Creativity Customer relationships Customer service Direct Marketing Entrepreneurs event marketing Internet marketing Marketing Positioning Sales Small Business Social Media Strategy systems Technology Twitter Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Is real-time fast enough for you?

I thought I’d provide a few Twitter stories for you today – call it Twitter Thursday if you like.

First, a baker who uses Twitter to notify people what’s baking, what’s ready, etc. Customizable via the BakerTweet website, it takes a twist of a knob and a push of a button and you’re done.

Obviously you could use this to talk about your daily special, what beans you’re roasting and so on. Whatever the fanatic wants – tell them about it.

Only 3 million dollars

Dell has stated publicly that their @DellOutlet Twitter account has earned them about $2 million since they started issuing Twitter-only promo codes and other deals. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price

But then, one of the folks responsible for the tweeting did a little more math, researching where those Twitter followers go after chasing a promo code for a refurb machine.

Some of them go to the regular “Buy a New Dell” part of the store. Another million in sales from “some of them”.

609,000+ people following the @DellOutlet account.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to send a special offer to 609,000+ people who might be in the market for whatever you sell?

That’s what @DellOutlet gets to do all day long.

Another story offers some ideas about using Twitter for business.

On a more serious note

While the mainstream news was largely useless (if not ignoring) the stories breaking during the early hours of the Iran election demonstrations and violence, Twitter was one of the few tools that people in Iran could use to tell their story.

Cell phone networks were being blocked, internet access was cutoff or filtered, all in an attempt to cut off Iranians from the outside world and vice versa.

But the internet finds a way. Soon after, people found a way to access the net, often through hidden proxy servers and dial up connections.

If you were on Twitter a few nights ago, you were able to witness what was going on through the eyes of those experiencing it.

Not a reporter, but students hiding in dorms and others trying to avoid being beaten or killed.

Via Twitter.

Over the next day, the mainstream media struggled to catch up. Photos eventually showed up on the Boston Globe site 24-36 hours later, but those watching for posts containing “iran” in them had been hearing the story in real-time from people experiencing the violence and uproar – for more than a day.

Real life in real time.

Twitter has turned out to be such an important communications tool for Iranians that Twitter moved a major network upgrade from the middle of the night U.S. time (when most upgrades like this are done to avoid impacting U.S. users). They shifted it to 1:30am Iran time, solely to try and mitigate the downtime’s impact on those who are using it to try and survive, much less report what’s going on there.

The same kind of thing happen during the Mumbai bombings.

If you still don’t get it, try this

Think of something that is really, really important to you.

Maybe it’s your market, industry or some such. Maybe you’re into Forex trading, Tiger Woods, the NFL or fantasy baseball. Maybe it’s your faith or your favorite breed of dog or one of a million other things. Might be serious as cancer, might be something silly like Britney.

Google it, but add to the search. Or just go to and do a search.

See anything there that interests you. I’ll warn you, not all of it will be high-quality stuff.

Here’s the secret: See if there are people there who do or know things that provoke you to join their conversation because they know the topic that interests you. You might find experts who you would never be able to reach otherwise.

Think back to my story about swapping messages with Robert Scoble as he toured Ansel Adams’ studio at Yosemite with Ansel’s son, answering my questions in real time.

Real time is prime-time

What’s real-time about your business? What do the fanatics in your market do when they need more info about what you sell – or just more of what you sell – RIGHT NOW?

They might just be on Twitter.

attitude Business culture coaching Competition Creativity Customer relationships customer retention Entrepreneurs Improvement Leadership Management Marketing Motivation Personal development planning Positioning Retail service Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

What’s Your Fish?

Waiting for seperation
Creative Commons License photo credit: hapal

Unless you’ve been living under a fish, you’ve heard the saying “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

While it also might remind you of a childish South Park episode (and maybe that’s a little redundant) about fish sticks, think about how you do business – particularly if you are a consultant, coach or service provider.

Are you offering your clients more than just a plain old fish?

If you feed that client for a day with your services (fish), are they any better than they were yesterday?

Or is it just a case of their tummy being full for a little while?

5 years from now, do you give them the same fish? If so, have you really contributed to their growth as a client?

If that’s what you do services-wise, it sounds more like you’ve turned into a shipper of fish, rather than a helper of customers.

Seems to me that if all you sell is fish, it’d be awfully easy to replace you with someone who ships fish overnight or for a lower price.

On the other hand, if after 5 years your client requires a four course meal instead of an uncleaned, just caught fish – then maybe you’ve really accomplished something special.

Something with serious value that keeps clients coming back for more.

What’s your fish?

attitude Community Creativity Entrepreneurs Ideas Improvement Leadership Small Business Strategy

A Second Life for Retired Tennis Balls

Today’s guest post comes from Mike Critelli, retired CEO at Pitney-Bowes (blog highly recommended).

Mike’s story reminds me a bit of “Acres of Diamonds” with a bit more realism.

The value you bring to a community simply by being observant is the same value you can bring to your business by being observant and aware of what’s going on in your marketplace.

Looking at things from a different angle is a great differentiator. It’s very difficult to copy because copycats are rarely creative or visionary.

Tennis balls – Read Mike’s post here.

attitude Creativity Entrepreneurs goals Ideas Leadership Management Motivation Positioning Restaurants Retail Small Business startups Strategy

The Riskiest Thing You Can Do Right Now

Is to play it safe, careful and conservative.

Despite saying that, I don’t mean that you should be taking big risks.

It isn’t about avoiding or eliminating risk, it’s about reducing and managing risk.

Thinking big and risking big are not the same thing.

The startup guys down the street in the garage or in that too small retail space aren’t playing it safe and you can be sure they’re thinking big… and…

They’re gunning for YOU.

Think big. Swing hard. Manage risks. Reach.