Jeff Sexton wrote a long blog post earlier this week on his dislike of the term, “personal branding”. He doesn’t disagree with branding on a personal level, mostly he dislikes the term. As part of that post (read it here), Jeff scanned and posted a short essay by The Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams. I think it makes a great point about telling your brand story in a way that makes people care about what you do. So, I lifted it, and reposted it here as this week’s Friday Inspiration:
Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category
Last week, Forbes printed a short interview with Dick Foster, Senior Partner and Director at McKinsey & Company. Foster is most famous for his book, Creative Destruction. From the interview, it would appear that Foster is more than a little skeptical of business gurus who advise doing the same things you see high-performing companies doing: “There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!”
The Dick Foster interview is today’s Friday Inspiration. Here’s a short excerpt:
“Let me tell you how I got to the term “creative destruction.” In the 80’s, I was in a search for “the excellent company” – the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise company that made all the right moves in advance, and that made more money for its shareholders than any of its competitors. This was the permanent outperformer stock – the really good deal. I looked at 4,000 companies over 40 years, and what I found stunned me. There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!
“I thought something had to be wrong. Was I looking at the problem in the right way? No company had been able to outperform the market for any substantial length of time. (GE came as close as any, but didn’t do any better than the overall index). Somehow the market – managed by nobody – was performing better than all the brains on the planet. But why? Then I realized that the reason markets outperform companies was closely tied to what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” This was actually a phrase that came from the Hindu religion, dealing with the transformation of an individual throughout their life, from creation, onto death, and ultimately rebirth.
“That whole notion of creation, life, and destruction seemed a like a good model for what was going on in markets. When the time comes for a company to face its maker and file for bankruptcy, it does it – the markets don’t care. And when there is opportunity out there to create something new, hundreds will go after it. Most will fail, but one or two will succeed (and we’ll assign Apollo-like status to the latter, while quickly forgetting about the 500 others who failed). Markets are better at creation than any individual company, and they are much better at destruction. A company cannot perform better than the markets that are adapting more rapidly – it’s just a fact of life.”
Check out the rest of the interview at Forbes.com.
He shares a few of the things he has learned over his career and what he learned in business school that has no application in the business world. The first 20 minutes or so is David’s presentation, followed by about 30 minutes of Q & A.
Worth a listen if you have about an hour.
Just a short TED video to give you something to think about. This one is from Rory Sutherland (yes, I know it’s been available for quite a while and you have probably already seen it, but just in case you haven’t, it’s today’s Friday Inspiration).
Mr. Sutherland talks about how changing perceptions is a critical part of creating value. He cites the brilliant Diamond Shreddies campaign as proof (among other things). Enjoy…
Posted by Rob Marsh.
I have long been a fan of Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, having read several of his books: The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solution, and Seeing What’s Next as well as many of his personal essays on his website. A few days ago, Dan Pink tweeted a link to this an article from the Harvard Business Review by Dr. Christensen called, How Will You Measure Your Life?. It’s a reworking of a speech that Dr. Christensen has given in a religious setting. This particular version is directed at recent graduates from Harvard Business School. It’s excellent advice and worth reading. Here’s a sample from the article:
Allocate Your Resources
Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources: I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, contribute to my church, and so on. And I have exactly the same problem that a corporation does. I have a limited amount of time and energy and talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?
Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term perspective.
When people who have a high need for achievement—and that includes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
The rest of the article is today’s Friday Inspiration. You can find it here.
It was always Steve Jobs’ mantra: “Let’s make a dent in the universe”.
I liked that phrase so much, I incorporated it into theHughtrain Manifesto:
Whatever you manufacture, somebody can make it better, faster and cheaper than you.
You do not own the molecules. They are stardust. They belong to God. What you do own is your soul. Nobody can take that away from you. And it is your soul that informs the brand.
It is your soul, and the purpose and beliefs that embodies, that people will buy into.
Ergo, great branding is a spiritual exercise.
Why is your brand great? Why does your brand matter? Seriously. If you don’t know, then nobody else can- no advertiser, no buyer, and certainly no customer.
It’s not about merit. It’s about faith. Belief. Conviction. Courage.
It’s about why you’re on this planet. To make a dent in the universe.
I don’t want to know why your brand is good, or very good, or even great. I want to know why your brand is totally frickin’ amazing.
Once you tell me, I can tell the world.
Really, is there any better way to spend one’s working hours? I don’t think so…
In 1998, I stumbled across Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth for the first time. I remember downloading it to my Palm Pilot so I could refer to it whenever I wanted to. I shared it with many of the creative people I have worked with over the years. In the time since I first discovered the manifesto, it has been posted to hundreds of websites, sometimes in very unique ways (like this and this). It has been plagiarized and satirized. But what Bruce wrote 12 years ago, is still applicable today. If you are interested in personal growth, this is a good place to start. And it’s this week’s friday inspiration:
1. Allow events to change you.
You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
2. Forget about good.
Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
3. Process is more important than outcome.
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
5. Go deep.
The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
6. Capture accidents.
The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
10. Everyone is a leader.
Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
11. Harvest ideas.
Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
12. Keep moving.
The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
13. Slow down.
Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
14. Don’t be cool.
Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
15. Ask stupid questions.
Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
18. Stay up late.
Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
19. Work the metaphor.
Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
20. Be careful to take risks.
Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
21. Repeat yourself.
If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
22. Make your own tools.
Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
23. Stand on someone’s shoulders.
You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
24. Avoid software.
The problem with software is that everyone has it.
25. Don’t clean your desk.
You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
26. Don’t enter awards competitions.
Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
27. Read only left-hand pages.
Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
28. Make new words.
Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
29. Think with your mind.
Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
30. Organization = Liberty.
Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
31. Don’t borrow money.
Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
32. Listen carefully.
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
33. Take field trips.
The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
34. Make mistakes faster.
This isn’t my idea – I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
38. Explore the other edge.
Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces – what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference – the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals – but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
40. Avoid fields.
Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
43. Power to the people.
Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
I am fascinated by the power of stories to stimulate change in the people that hear them. Sometimes the story is told in an advertisement that piques the interest of a customer and the result is a purchase. Sometimes the story is told by an executive who needs to get buy-in from employees on a new strategy or direction. And sometimes it comes from an author or movie maker who tells a story so brilliantly that you feel better for having read or seen their work (American author Pat Conroy has had this effect on me several times).
A story is a powerful tool.
Today’s Friday Inspiration is a few quotes about the power of stories in life, in books, in business…
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” —Robert McKee
“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.” — Janet Litherland
“Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” —Howard Gardner, Harvard University
“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.”
“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”
Earlier this week, I finished reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson. It’s a good read, full of small bits of wisdom—the kind of book you can read in an hour or two, or come back to from time to time for another hit of inspiration. Today’s friday inspiration comes from the section called Pick a Fight:
If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti-_____ is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.
For example, Dunkin’ Donuts likes to position itself as the anti-Starbucks. Its ads mock Starbucks for using “Fritalian” terms instead of small, medium, and large. Another Dunkin’ campaign is centered on a taste test in which it beat Starbucks. There’s even a site called DunkinBeatStarbucks.com where visitors can send e-cards with statements like “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”
Audi is another example. It’s been taking on the old guard of car manufacturers. It puts “old luxury” brands like Rolls-Royce and Mercedes “on notice” in ads touting Audi as the fresh luxury alternative. Audi takes on Lexus’s automatic parking systems with ads that say Audi drivers know ow to part their own cars. Another ad gives a side-by-side comparison of BMW and Audi owners: The BMW owner uses the rearview mirror to adjust his hair while the Audi driver uses the mirror to see what’s behind him.
Apple jabs at Microsoft with ads that compare Mac and PC owners, and 7UP bills iteslf as the Uncola. Under Armour positions itself as Nike for a new generation.
All these examples show the power and direction you can gain by having a target in your sights. Who do you want to take a shot at?
You can even pit yourself as the opponent of an entire industry. Dyson’s Airblade starts with the premise that the hand-dryer industry is a failure and then sells itself as faster and more hygienic than the others. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter puts its enemy right there in its product name.
Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers, too. (Emphasis mine.) Taking a stand always stands out. People get stoked by conflict. They take sides. Passions are ignited. And that’s a good way to get people to take notice.
Two unrelated quotes from advertising genius Bill Bernbach:
“Human nature hasn’t changed for a billion years. It won’t even vary in the next billion years. Only the superficial things have changed. We are “concerned with unchanging man…what compulsions drive him, what instincts dominate his every action, even though his language too often camouflages what really motivates him…if you know these things about a man, you can touch him at the core of his being.”
“The magic is in the product… No matter how skillful you are, you can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist. And if you do, and it’s just a gimmick, it’s going to fall apart anyway… Getting a product known isn’t the answer. Getting it wanted is the answer.”
Something to think about…