Monday, December 29, 2008

Stimulate Nonprofits, too

"But in the end it would be unwise to leave this sector (nonprofit sector) out of any initiative to restore the health of the economy." - Brookings Institution

An economic stimulus package that ignores investment into the nonprofit sector is irresponsible and short-sighted. It would be an opportunity to direct money not only into the very programs supporting our country's human infrastructure but also for the necessary capacity building and systemic infrastructure needed for these organizations to be clear on their purpose and creative in meeting the growing needs.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Celebrate What's Right & Embrace the Self

DeWitt Jones encourages us to celebrate what's right in the world. He asserts it starts with the self. Be who you are with discipline and grace. Be the best not in the world but for the world -- with a 'both/and' balance between who you are and what you want to do. What do you need to do in your life in order to discover that within yourself, live forward those intents and positively influence the world around you?
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Considerations re: Change

When seeking to inspire, initiate or manage change, consider this: Believe and it shall be. Consider that there might be more possibility if you celebrate what's right rather than dwell on what's wrong. Think about what is working and what could be better. Then, find ways to convert those thoughts into action(s). You might consider that by opening yourself to those possibilities, you can transform the ordinary. You can go beyond business as usual. You can find a renewed source of energy to sustain the change.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Link to LinkedIn

Put online networking to work for you. LinkedIn can provide you with opportunities to build your professional network and your reputation.

//Ask & Answer
Use LinkedIn Answers to ask a question of the online community and gain perspectives from people around the world. Better yet, answer questions posted by others with thoughtful responses that reflect your positioning and your expertise.

//Share Kind Words
Write a recommendation about one of your connections. [But, if you don't mean it, don't write it because it becomes part of a permanent record outside of your control and as part of your profile.]

//Build Your Network Purposefully
Ask for introductions. One purpose of LinkedIn is to leverage your connections. Remember, though, neither you nor your contact is under any obligation to connect with someone or make an introduction. If you're not comfortable, decline politely. Scott Allen on Linked Intelligence recommends handling these situations with an e-mail, perhaps beginning, "Thanks for inviting me to connect on LinkedIn. I would like to start a dialogue, get to know each other and find out how we might be of service to each other ..."

LinkedIn can be a helpful tool for you or your organization. Leverage it carefully. Be authentic and consistent. And, remember that whether you're networking on-line or in-person, proper etiquette goes a long way to positioning you as someone others want to get to know.
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Great Idea to Spark Giving

What a great idea from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region in Wisconsin. It is hosting an Open House for Giving Hearts on December 18 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The community foundation will match up to $100,000 in gifts from individuals to any charitable organization serving residents of the Foundation’s service region. Cash, checks, credit cards ... whatever the individual prefers. Hopefully this example will inspire creative thinking from funders in all regions of the country.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Facebook Isn't For Everyone

Online networking is fascinating. Established tools like Facebook and LinkedIn make it as easy to connect with people around the world as across the hall. You can share interesting pieces of information about yourself, your interests and your skills. You can share your network with others. You can become part of an online community. Yet, people seem to lose sight of the fact that technology doesn't yet completely override the rules of engagement that differ between friends and colleagues.

While your boss or your Board might be encouraging you to jump on the Facebook bandwagon, remember that Facebook is primarily personal. It's an exchange among friends. It's the place where people can throw virutal snowballs at you, where they can see silly photos of you posted by someone you knew years ago from an event you'd rather forget.

There are ways nonprofits can benefit from Facebook, certainly. If you choose to pursue it, however, know your objective and shape your actions. Put a plan in place to make it work over the long term.

And, before you send out a friend request or accept one, think about whether or not it is in your professional interest to invite that person and all of their friends into your home. If you're not sure, you might want to ignore the friend request and send them an invitiation to link with you on the tool positioned for professionals: LinkedIn.
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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Talking With Type

Typography is a language that speaks through the words it creates. The nuance of the letterform holds meaning and creates an impression that can make or break your intention (and your brand). Just as you carefully choose your words, spend time and thought on your font.

For the most part keep it simple. Identify an appropriate serif and sans serif font to serve as the foundation for your organizational typographic go-tos. Consider whether Times, though convenient and readily available, really does convey the emotion you want to project for your organization. Think about readability by your target audience and scalability; you want your brand fonts to be as legible and beautiful at 6 points as at 7 feet tall.

Take care, too, in their usage. Exercise restraint when bolding, underlining, italicizing and capping. Each treatment sends a message, and too many messages diminishes your positive impact.

Rules are made to be broken, yes. But only with good reason. So, since talking with type can take a lifetime to master, tread cautiously and build a basic knowledge to improve the credibility and validity of your organization's communications.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Integrate Your Events

A well-integrated event doesn't always require a department or a team of full-time event planners. It does, however, require attention to planning and to details.

Start with a clear purpose for the event, know whom you want to impress (and why), get commitment to the objectives and communicate it consistently with everyone involved in making it a success (before, during and after). Make a plan of action months before the big day and find the thread that is going to bind all of the components together.

Hone a message (words and visuals) that reflects your planning. Connect your invitation with your program with the name tags and the signage. Tie in the welcome remarks and closing send-off. Theme your menu with your music with your thank you after the fact.

These basics can help you create a simple, yet strong slate against which your attendees can craft the next chapter in your story.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MOVE parallels Appreciative Inquiry

Interesting how new ideas and process breakthroughs are often unknown interpretations of other genius moments researched and documented in a parallel world. Take, for instance, the Timpano Group MOVE Methodology. During recent training on appreciative inquiry, the similiarities were unmistakable. Different labels, yes, but the thinking, the process, the focus on collaborative, participatory, whole-brained thinking about connecting people and improving organizations ... remarkably similar. And those similarities only validate and affirm the value of discovery and inquiry for organizations seeking a more positive way to move beyond business as usual.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Before You Go Social, Check Your Site

There is considerable pressure for nonprofits to engage with social media. Too often, however, the accounts gets opened, a flurry of activity ensues, and then atrophy sets in as the presence becomes anything but fresh. Rushing to be part of Web 2.0 without forethought can do more harm than good for your nonprofit.

Before you go social, get your Web in order. A prime benefit of social media is driving users to your Web site. If your current site has the oomph of a wet mop, spend time refining its content before talking it up on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you want in on Web 2.0, make sure your site is easy to use and gives people a reason to come back.

//Map Your Content
A well-planned information map that considers your audience is essential. Build the map for the future of your site, not just for today. It makes incorporating social media (and other whistles) easier down the road.

// Link Your Brand
The experience someone has at your site should reflect the connection you want them to have when they are thinking about giving of their time, talent and/or treasure. Carefully consider your colors, select your imagery and write your copy to motivate your visitor. And, be consistent.

// Analyze Your Visits
Get some treasured stats to help make your case, monitor your progress, tout your success and retool your approach over time. Consider incorporating Google Analytics to get started.

// Enlist Your Friends or Insider Constituents
Sometimes you're just too close to the project. Ask friends or others who know you well to take a spin through your site and tell you a few things they liked and would want to change about their experience.

A solid online presence is the platform from which your social media efforts can spring. Start with your Web, then explore your e-mail power and then make a plan for how you might branch out into other avenues, what you want to accomplish in each avenue and how many resources you're ready to put behind it. With a purpose and a plan, you're ready to grow.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Innovation in politics ... for all sectors

Remember that there is nothing more disruptive, more revolutionary, or more innovative than an ideal, says Umair Haque, director of the Havas Media Lab strategic consultancy. Read the more in-depth article and find lessons for improving your position, your connection and your efforts.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Build Sponsors Into Your Story

"If you have the best real estate in town and you're still not making money, keep the real estate but change the concept." So shared Martin Lindstrom, as someone had once shared it with him. Lindstrom's research on neuromarketing offers insights for nonprofit leaders interested in increasing equity from events and partnerships. If you or your sponsors aren't getting the return you want from an event or a partnership, take a look at the messaging and the positioning. His research showed that "if a brand is part of a story line, our brains will accept the role of the brand and remember its presence. However, if a brand and its role don't support the story line, the opposite will happen: Our brains will simply erase it." Don't get erased. Take the time to help your sponsors connect with your story; think of telling your story in a way that better connects with your sponsors. You won't change your mission but you can consider thinking about how you define the purpose to connect the players in order to move beyond business as usual.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Be Open for Innovation

These changing times with changing conditions put nonprofit leaders on the hot seat for finding ways to do more with less. Sparks of innovation can move nonprofits beyond business as usual with new ways to work smarter, not harder. Yet it isn't always easy. Perhaps Tim Brown's insights translate from the corporate world into the third sector: "The biggest barrier (to innovation) is needing to know the answer before you get started." He doesn't discount the need for a business case when seeking incremental innovation. But, he notes that if you're looking for the next iPod, you have to embrace both the convergent and divergent thinking involved. Articulate your purpose and then spark curiosity with new ways of thinking and different kinds of questions. Don't go straight for an answer, but be open to a more winding path. You just might open your mind and your organization to truly innovative solutions.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good Managers Focus

Good advice from Harvard Business Review:

Just 10% of managers really move their organizations forward: They zero in on strategic goals and see them to completion; They fuel breakthrough innovations in products, services, and processes; And they tackle heavy workloads under tight time constraints.
What about the remaining 90%? Short on self-awareness, they don't ask themselves the hard questions required to examine--and improve--their leadership skills. Overcommitted, they succumb to the temptation to concentrate on short-term tasks when pressure mounts. Blurring their focus even further, many accumulate "monkeys" on their backs by taking on subordinates' problems.
How to ensure you're in the 10%--not the 90%? Regularly take stock of your effectiveness as a leader, rather than waiting for others to give you feedback. Rivet your attention on efforts that support your organization's long-term objectives. And throw off time-hungry monkeys. The payoff? You redirect your energy to where it exerts the biggest impact: your company's strategic priorities.
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Nonprofit Lessons from a Political Playbook

Whatever your persuasion or perspective, the analysis captured in The 'Obama Way' by Howard Fineman is worth a read. He lays it out as "a veritable play book for political success." Yet there are lessons to be learned for nonprofits as well amidst this disciplined approach. The threads of simplicity, decisiveness, consistency and brand may benefit nonprofit leaders greatly.

A David Plouffe quote to remember: "It's better to have one strategy and stick to it than to try ten in pursuit of the perfect answer. The point is that there is no perfect answer."

A branding insight to remember related to symbolism: "... the entire Obama family wore matching outfits, representing a unified familial front by smiling and rocking out with Bruce Springsteen to 'The Rising.'"
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Raw Power

If you spent any time listening to the speeches of this evening, how can anyone doubt the power and the value of communication that seeks to persuade, inspire, inform and reward? What a glorious evening of action and hope. May each of us think back on this momentous evening in U.S. History and remember a word, a phrase, an emotion, a connection that was made that brings us back to the very core of our ideology and our identity.
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Gaberman's Guidelines for Non-Profit Leaders

Barry Gaberman, senior vice president emeritus of the Ford Foundation, kicked off the UW Center for Nonprofits' "Communiversity" with a lecture on November 3. Delivering a mainstream presentation on civil society, he offered five guidelines for nonprofit leaders for achieving in these times:
  1. Don't Panic. Be attentive to staff anxiety.
  2. Do Continengency Planning. Go through the paces.
  3. Think Strategically. Not only about what you do, but also about how you do it.
  4. Engage in High Touch. Connect with key stakeholders clearly and consistently.
  5. Be Vigilent About Mission. Reinforce it for funders seeking a 'true to the core' mentality.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In the moment

It's hard to listen. Yet, listening in the moment and in the moments between, can yield such clarity that the resulting communication becomes easier, simpler and better. Soak in what's being said and not said. Open your mind to all of its possibilities. Then, convert it to something amazing that moves your objective, position or idea forward.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

eNews Tip: Offer Real Value

Creating quality content is the first step in creating value for readers. However, the newsletter must also provide readers with something they didn’t have before. Offer links to outside sources. Share dates for important events. And always include a call to action. Whether asking people to donate, register for an event or simply start a conversation, let them know how they can help. After all, readers care about your organization. Reward them for their time and commitment with a thoughtful and imaginative glimpse into your world, straight to their inbox.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Embark with New Eyes

"The only real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes; in seeing the universe through the eyes of another, one hundred others--in seeing the hundred universes that each of them sees." -- Marcel Proust.

Thanks to Matt Minahan for sharing this keynote closing quote used by Patricia Shafer, co-founder of The Change Leaders, at the 2008 OD Network Conference this week in Austin.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long live individual expression of associations

We may vary in the associations we make, but BTW summarizes a new psychological study that points to the thematic thinking that drives our minds --- and influences our behaviors. Thus, some might think coffee and tea while others think coffee and cream. As you think about your next appeal to customers or donors, step back and enjoy some moments of association to see what new ideas spark or doors open simply by pushing the limits of whether a+b=$, a+z=$ or (a+b) + (a+z)=$$$. You might uncover two message channels that can be targeted to two different types of stakeholders both moving the organization forward in the same direction.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

eNews Tip: Don't Skimp on Editing

Your newsletter may have compelling articles, but the process doesn’t end there. If it has misspellings and grammatical errors, readers will notice and may think less of your organization. Value the details as much as you value your brand. Think of it as building credibility with every crossed “T” and dotted “I.”
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

They Keep Saying Bigger Isn't Better ...

Yet why do so many organizations focus on nothing more than asking for things to be bigger? Bigger logo. Bigger type. Bigger photos. While definitely a trend in Web design, it affects all mediums. If you're working with amateurs, perhaps those things are the crux of the matter. Yet, if you're working with qualified professionals, they bring expertise, a sense of proportion and the intent to do good work.

Do clients default to asking for 'things' to be bigger because what they really want is a bigger idea or a clearer message ... perhaps. But, if they can't ask for it then there is something broken in the relationship. Address it before the people, the organizations and the brand get hurt. And, if you want that type bigger, or the logo blown up, ask for it in the context of a conversation so that the best possible solution can emerge -- which might even be a bigger logo.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

eNews Tip: Don't Forget Eye Candy

Never underestimate the value of a pleasing layout or a colorful image. People respond to visuals, so don’t hesitate to use eye-catching pictures to tell your story as well as text. Use captions and call-outs so that everyone can share in the story, even if they choose not to read every article.
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Saturday, October 04, 2008

eNews Tip: Compel with Your Content

Don’t be afraid to share testimonials and stories featuring people involved with the organization. As you write, continue to ask yourself: What emotion will this evoke in the reader? Is this relevant to their lives? Will they feel a connection with the story?
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

eNews Tip: People Prefer Personal

Improve clicks and subscribes by making your eNews personal – and easy to read. Let’s face it, people don’t want to read corporate speak. It’s important to write your newsletter in a conversational, friendly tone that makes it accessible and fun to read. Readers only fully read 19% of newsletters, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, so make sure to keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use bullets, bold headlines and chunks of text to increase readability.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

eNews Tip: Hook 'em

The first contact recipients have with e-mail is the subject line. Make yours descriptive and invitational, but keep it brief at less than 50 characters. Additionally, most e-mail programs display only the top part of e-mail in the preview pane. This leaves 2–3 inches of space to lead with your best story or image. Follow the inverted pyramid style, and start with the most important information first.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Up with Actual Public Speaking

Compelling presentations don't begin with PowerPoint. They don't end with PowerPoint. In fact (well, in my opinion), they are about as far away from PowerPoint as you can get. John Kotter's book, A Sense of Urgency, reinforces the message with his commentary about stepping away from the PowerPoint, out of the dim lights and into less-than-perfect delivery. This doesn't take the place of a coherent message or a practiced presentation, it simply reminds us that the power of a presentation lies within people's ability to connect with it, its speaker and the intent.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Approachability Balance

Approachability means a lot. It allows people to let down their guards for just a moment and explore the possibility that you might be able to help them improve their lives. Too much, however, and it's over. There is a balance between approachability and aloofness. Research has shown in terms of consultants that the less friendly, the higher the perceived value. Why is it that the human need for connection becomes overshadowed by the business sense of distance?
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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Speaking to SMEI-Madison

I'm looking forward to speaking to the Madison chapter of Sales & Marketing Executives International. They've invited me to kick-off their 2008-2009 season. We'll be talking about the value of involving stakeholders in your creative and brand development. Why not use creativity to connect people... it works to your advantage! If you're in the area, register and come down to The Madison Club. Bring your questions. I'll stay late.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Color Speaks

Color provides information, brings immediate comprehension, creates an identity, evokes emotions and explains products --- often with little help from text or other components of the materials.

Messages sent internationally may become "lost in translation," but this can be avoided through carefully chosen colors. Colors communicate in ways that transcend verbal boundaries, sending messages to audiences previously unreachable. This is especially true for internet-based endeavors and products, where anyone in the world can access your materials.

Even when people can understand what you say to them, people often doubt the truth of the words you say. There is a natural tendency, however, to trust what a color says to you. On a subconscious level, colors speak volumes and never lie, making them a communicator's very dear friend. This trust, in turn, can be used to move people in one direction or another, sparking emotions, actions and purchases.

Color should serve as a main method of message transmission, not as a feature to embellish text and logos. Color choice should be a part of an integrated design process. We do not interpret the world as black and white, which is why color ads seem more realistic and inviting to target audiences.

Black and white are obviously useful, and have their own time and place, but all colors come down to context and content. People advertise to sell a product or service, and each message is unique. The color combinations chosen to sell these messages should be equally original and meaningful. Finding the right fit between what people want to say, and how they should say it is an invaluable skill.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Proper Color Enhances Processing

Monica S. Castelhano (Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst) and John M. Henderson (Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland) published some interesting research demonstrating the power of proper color. They tested various scenes to see how quickly people processed the "gist" of it and then whether that processing was enhanced purely by the use of color or it it was the use of "proper color." They tested abnormally colored blurry scenes, normally colored scenes and monochrome blurry scenes. The results? Proper color matters.

Our brains register the colors in the pictures and link the colors to our expectations of how it should be. Colors supplement and strengthen the structural information we absorb. In 42 milliseconds, our eyes can receive an image and send it to our brains. Our brains can then manipulate this information, and activate schemas that rely on a network of stereotypes that help us make sense of it all. Color, in effect, allows our brains to be more efficient and allows us to function better and react faster in any environments we may find ourselves. Hooray for color --- and for psychology.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Drive Your Reader

Your choices of colors and placements influence your reader's reading. There is an order underlying how we process information and design.
  • People are drawn from dark to light areas and from large to small objects.
  • Image position determines where the reader goes next.
  • Captions and callouts captivate.
We didn't make this stuff up nor did we do the original (and ongoing) research. But we do study it, use it and share it for others to improve how they connect with their reader(s).
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Envelope Eye Patterns

When people receive mail, they typically do four things in a very specific order:

1. they look at their name
2. they notice the sender's name
3. they check the type of postage
4. they flip the envelope over

They don't spend time thinking about it, but if you do then you can use the envelope to your advantage. Combine it with the knowledge that size and color matter and your next envelope could become a powerful tool for communicating your message.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Common Credibility

Great brands have brand champions who find common threads that are pulled from the organization's mission and strategic framework. They connect them to the targeted audience and the intended outcome. Such alignment promotes the organization's credibility, particularly when it reaches out to different types of stakeholders.
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quotable Quote

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." -- Leonardo Da Vinci
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PowerPoint 1-2-3

1. Target for no more than 15 words on a slide -- think quality, not quantity.

2. Use the slide to reinforce your main point and to serve as your backdrop -- please don't read to the screen.

3. When a slide lacks value or insight, delete it -- did you really miss it during your practice run?
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Embrace A Different Process

The strategic planning process is as valuable as the resulting documents -- perhaps moreso. A well-constructed and well-facilitated process brings leadership together for constructive conversations. It removes the element of competition. It reduces fear or uncertainty about the volume of post-it notes you can or cannot generate in a defined period of time. An engaging process that sparks reflection, supports conflict and drives toward a practical outcome actually encourages strategic thinking and generates discussion. Through these discussions, people decide upon an aim and a pathway to achieve it. They connect and align around a purpose. They have breakthroughs on elements of the business that will never even make it into the strategic plan. They key, however, is a non-traditional process and a facilitator with an open mind, contagious energy and a gift for listening, distilling and laughing.
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tasteful Takes Talent

Assertions that taste and aesthetic sense count for very little in direct response are nothing more than excuses. Perhaps for poor creative talent, perhaps lack of knowledge about the target audience, perhaps laziness or a focus on nothing more than squeezing billable hours.

When coming from a creative team, it reflects a poor understanding of their purpose (to advance the objective of the client by connecting with stakeholders to move a desired action). When coming from a consultant, it reflects ignorance that de-values the power of effective creative problem-solving and talented designers. When coming from a client/organization, it indicates they haven't worked with the right creative professionals or don't care enough about the outcome to invest in an effective solution up-front.

It's sad, really, that people are ready to sacrifice taste and aesthetics because it is more of a challenge to make something tasteful and effective than it is to make it ugly. A good conversation? Yes. A sad state of affairs? You bet.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Business + Branding

Business drives branding; branding builds business. "If a company does not have a good business strategy, there is no way to develop a good branding strategy and all the elements that will need to be designed and executed to get it out into the world," says RitaSue Siegel. That business strategy hinges on strategic thinking, practical planning and razor sharp focus on what needs to be done so that scarce resources (and they always are) can set about making it happen.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Old School Principles Drive New School Twist

David Kiley's article on Ford Motor Company (The Fight for Ford's Future) offers some good insights about brand building strategy that also apply for strategic thinking and practical planning. The same old strategies aren't going to work in an evolving world but some old school principles still hold power:
  • Bring people into the (creative) process.
  • Generate commitment by being clear and consistent.
  • Be disciplined and stay focused.
  • Edit.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Form Supporting Function

Great to read about the Steelcase Cobi chair in the July 28 BusinessWeek. Finally, a design that seeks to make sitting backward a bit more comfortable. When the function is creative thinking and brainstorming, two feet on the floor with knees at ninety degree angles facing front is not always the most effective form.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Chickens, Eggs & Other Ponderings

Organizational development is at the core of fostering and focusing (or re-focusing) the essence of a company. Delivering on that essence by creating and shaping experiences through operations, marketing, etc. not only stems from organizational development but also requires the ongoing reinforcement of the organizational principles. Link the thinking and you drive the organization forward.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Productivity Stat

"If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay more attention to morale."
-- Brad Bird, director of two Academy Award winning animated films
(The Incredibles and Ratatouille) as intereviewed in McKinsey Quarterly.

From my experience, building higher morale is less about fun and games in the office and more about respecting people for the contributions and their challenges. It's about clarifying objectives, sparking curiosity and communicating with people as openly as possible. When people understand the rationale of decisions, they are able to commit more quickly.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Looks Matter

Looks are important. Let's not fool ourselves. So, is consistency. People put greater stock in organizations that offer a sense of consistency in what they say and how they say it, particularly when they are talking to different constituencies.

Consistency for the sake of consistency is bad. Yes. But, consistency for the sake of reinforcing a core purpose with diverse stakeholders ... far from bad. In fact, very good. And, when it looks good: all the better!
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Go Back to Go Forward

Think back to simpler times. When approaching something, take a moment to put yourself back into the shoes of a 5-year-old. What do you see? What surprises you? What's possible? Researchers in the late 1960s discovered that humans are born with the capacity to approach challenges from four perspectives: analytically, procedurally, relationally or innovatively. Yet, by puberty, we've shut down half of that capacity. From that point forward, we only preserve the modes of thought that have seemed most valuable during the first decade or so of life. It speaks to the value of teams made up of diverse thinkers and varied perspectives. It also reinforces the value of stretching one's mind and reclaiming skills from yesteryear in order to deliver beyond business as usual for future success. Start small on something you control, then expand to larger projects and strategic planning efforts that set the stage for your future.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Habits for New Advantage

Too much routine hinders our ability to solve new problems, but brain researchers have shown that when we consciously develop new habits, we create entirely new brain cells that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks. And, once on those tracks, it is crucial that we allow time and space for wonder and reflection. Time to explore possibilities. Space to align those possibilities with the objective. Then, focus a constructive conversationto convert the talk into action. Take a chance today and see what develops tomorrow; become amazed by the creative energy that sparks.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Know Your Network

Succeeding in business can be hard enough on its own. Add to the mix the risk of an entrepreneurial or start-up venture and you need more than a solitary love for what you’re doing. You need people surrounding you, at work and out of work, who can push you, pull you and support you. Let them help you hone your plan to achieve your vision; and be sure they do it all while helping you be true to yourself.
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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Little Luck

We are all a factor of our environment and a factor in our environment. As you observe, as you adapt, as you build, you become a force in defining and achieving your destiny. And, research indiciates that luck may have little to do with it. Psychologist Richard Wiseman found that people who describe themselves as lucky share common habits that account for their success – he found that they tend to be friendly, fond of new experiences, relaxed and observant. They also tend to be, what he called, pigheadedly optimistic: They believe in themselves, they believe in their networks, they believe in their vision and they believe in their plan. In the end, when they face adversity, they don’t give up, they adapt. They get lucky.
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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Come alive

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. " - Howard Thurman
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shared Vision = Shared Success

When researching his book Startups That Work, Joel Kurtzman found that successful ventures usually have a team of two or three founders who share a common vision – their success rate, as a cohesive founding team, is a remarkable 50%. Compare that with the odds for solo founders. Research showed that individuals were more likely to find themselves as only one in 10 of businesses that succeed because the individual visionaries find themselves working at cross-purposes with hired employees who see things differently. It’s a strong case for connecting purpose and people.
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Creativity that connects

If you're going to invest in creative campaigns, make them work for your organization. Connect the creative to the essence of your mission, culture and identity. It creates an ever-present thread that connects the audience back to your organization. It also helps to engage your stakeholders so they become part of (or create) a conversation that includes you. Perhaps our goal as organizations shouldn't be to sell our product, service or mission but to become part of the way in which people think and live their lives.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Talk, talk, talk -- to yourself

A recent Wall Street Journal article explores a phenomenon that many of us might consider the sure signs of losing our minds: Talking to ourselves. The habit of self-chatter usually begins as babies and toddlers, where it plays a vital role of language acquisition and communication. However, researchers have found that as many as 96% of people still talk to themselves. And there seem to be many benefits. "Among the things it's useful for is what's called self-regulation: goal-setting, problem-solving, decision-making and planning."

Furthermore, self talking also increases during complex tasks and stressful times." Hearing your own voice can actually help get your ideas straight, keeping you focused and ready to act.
"The irony is that self-chatter, like sharp objects, is both most suited and least suited to the workplace. At work where we would most benefit from talking out loud ... we are least likely to do so for social reasons." So maybe the next time any of us have a decision to make or an important document to write, let's speak up and out loud!
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Honing In on Out There Marketing

"Out there" marketing works only when it connects "in here" for the audience -- and for the organization. It connects to the head, it connects to the heart, it connects within the audience and compels them to action. Preferably, the intended action. Campaigns that work break through the clutter with simplicity, clarity and creativity. They grab the right kind of attention so that the audience remembers the intent and thinks about it, talks about it or takes action on it. Effective campaigns stimulate intrigue and encourage participation as the audience takes the next step.

As you're preparing your next campaign or communication, start within. What do you need to see? What do you want to have happen? What new technique, technology or tactic might move you beyond business as usual? Get curious. Then, picture your audience. Think about the world from their perspective and their pressures. Get creative. And, before you sign off on final approval or hit "send," ask yourself if your new "out there" creative is going to bring *in* your audience.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Asking for money seems hard

We lose many things when we age, many of which aren't so obvious. As children, we have a certain freedom to explore, to try and to question. As children, we ask questions out of curiosity; as we age, we start to ask questions for other reasons. As children, we ask people for things that we need with a simplicity that affords a simple response; as we age, we make it harder -- for the ask and the answer. Add money to the mix for adults and the complexity only increases.

Yet, since we can't return to simpler days of childhood, we must strive to make it easier for people involved in helping nonprofits ask for money (particularly when involved with a capital campaign). Try starting with a creative discovery process that encourages people to engage like curious children -- eager to learn, encouraged to question. Allow the energy (and insights) from that process to inform the messages, the imagery, the case, the everything. Make it accessible. Shape it to be compelling. Then, bring people together in a safe environment to play (role play) in introducing the idea, building the relationship, making the ask and moving forward with the answer.

Capital campaigns and development are far from child's play, though perhaps we can make them easier by looking to lessons from simpler days.
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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Senses of Identity

BusinessWeek reported this week on the adoption of a sensory approach to enhancing the customer experience at Credit Suisse. The scents of choice: peppermint with hints of grapefruit and green tea. "Surveys showed an uptick in customer satisfaction at the sensory branches." The statistics are in on their experience, so make one of your own ... what's your scent?
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speak to the positive

Imagine if there was someone in your office or social circle designated to remind you not to gossip -- at least for the next hour. An interesting proposition raised as The New York Times reported on a national campaign in high schools sponsored by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, a religious group based in Suffern, N.Y. The campaign may stem from religious roots, seeking "to use religious teachings to raise awareness about the power of speech, for good and for ill." Yet, what a good reminder for all that social warfare stems from words; and words are very, very powerful weapons. Let us, too, use them for the positive.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Start with the box

Research attributed to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has shown that the degree to which we use creativity at work is a safeguard against disengagement, low morale, burnout and absenteeism. In the interest of having creativity work to your advantage (and protecting the interests of those of us who infuse it professionally), take a page from our book. Always be prepared to make it relevant. Know your box and embrace it. Find the edges. Figure out how tall it is. Know what it’s made of. Basically know your parameters. Then, start pushing a little. Pull it. Try to jump out of the box. When you escape, soak everything in. Run amuck through the open fields. Feel the greener grass under your feet. And, do it quickly. Because the true value will then come when you bring everything you’ve discovered back into the box with you and use it to deliver a better solution while the problem is still relevant to your success.
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Try a little something new

Creativity often stems from perspective: primarily involving your ability to take risks in exploring a different one. Start small. HOW Design has a great new installment that is infusing a different creative technique over four weeks with the challenge to try them all and make your month more creative. While the magazine targets the design industry, the first push lays out a wonderful welcome mat for anyone with the desire to try new things. Happy experimenting!
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sounds of Success

The first thing people notice when they walk into our office are the orange and yellow walls. Eventually, they notice something else: the music. Sometimes it erupts in that they finally comment on the range of styles they've heard in the span of a few minutes; sometimes it's a sidenote about its mere presence; other times it is simply the supportive energy during a creative silence. We didn't invent the idea; we simply benefit from it.

A recent article cites a study that shows music in the workplace "releases a listener's endorphins, reduces stress and improves creativity." Furthermore, behavioral scientists also suggest listening to music in the workplace boosts employee relations. The article points out that music is a universal tool of nearly every background and generation, and it offers a great way of making connections.
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Evolving an Identity

The April 2008 issue of PRINT Magazine has a series of articles on the Lord & Taylor signature. Seeing the traditional approach to advertising is invigorating for "old school types" such as myself. There is something truly beautiful about classic sketches and ad layouts from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The attention given to integrating the logo into the ads, into that world, is commendable. The respect given to the identity's heritage by David Lippman and BrandBuzz is as well. Now, let's hope those involved with strengthening the brand remember that success stems from knowing who you are, what you stand for and what you want to achieve. Define that and connect it with your audience; you put yourself in a position to make things happen.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Power of Positive

'Tis the political season and it's exciting to see such a focus on language this time around. A recent Clinton line caught my attention: "It’s time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions..."

It may be the time, but perhaps not the best strategy. It goes both ways, after all, perhaps it's time some candidates moved from good works to good words, from sound solutions to sound bites. The great things come from a combination of those principles. Push only the practical, you neglect to inspire. Neglect the practical and you deflate your promise.

Obama has hit a chord with a lot of people. They are responding to what they crave in their society, in their communities. They crave some hope. While the language speaks of "change," hope is at the heart of the matter. There is a power to the positive. Many Americans, right now, really want it (even if they can't define it). So, rather than pushing for a movement from promise to policy, perhaps it's time for all of the candidates to strike their balance.
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Context is Crucial

Success lies within context. For anyone to succeed, they must know the context that defines success. For people to communicate effectively, they must know the context of the message. You can have a brilliantly crafted line but if put in the wrong or improper context, it loses all power. As you develop your next campaign, think about the context of how the message will be received and let that shape the context of its delivery.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Best Laid Plans are Sometimes Best Lain

In business, we have a tendency to get swept up in the mania of what needs to be done (or what we perceive needs to be done). In business, we think of goals; we set targets; we make plans; and, then, we feel a sense of panic or failure when an unexpected, unconnected emergency diverts our attention. We forget that we're connected with people who can and will help. So perhaps it's not just in business that we get swept up. Perhaps it is in life itself -- which might be why life sometimes takes the time to remind us that our true need is to focus on what's important. What's crucial. Relinquish those plans, those goals and targets. Breathe. Focus on what's important. You just might find you've created opportunities for so much more.
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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Make Your Choice

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to simply pass along words of others who share similar thoughts ... Here's something from Seth Godin: "... stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That's why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with. You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment -- just one second -- to decide."
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