Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Collective Souls

You have a project that needs getting done.

You recognize there is no way this can be pulled off by yourself.

You need help.

A collaborator.

Two candidates appear on your radar screen. One is perfect. Just like you in every way, with a very similar personality, skill sets and world view. The other hardly resembles you at all, with talents and abilities that feel completely foreign to you.

Which candidate would you choose?

This is precisely the same dilemma facing a rambunctious 21-year old named Steve, who fancies himself as a bit of a design freak. History has revealed Steve to be somewhat of a right-brained, "loose screw" visionary type, intent on changing the world. But to do that, he recognizes the need for a left-brained, process-drive, "nuts and bolts" type thinker to complement the collective corporate soul he is attempting to create.

Enter Steve #2.

As in Wozniak.

He is the guy who just wanted to build computers, but decided to leave his career as a Hewlett-Packard engineer in 1976 to jump in to the start-up foxhole with Steve Jobs and launch Apple Computer.

That decision triggered a personal-computer revolution.

Apple would never be what it is today without either Steve.

Jobs, the "loose screw" visionary, and Wozniak, the "nuts and bolts" technical genius.



More and more organizations are slowly starting to recognize the benefits of cross-pollinating left-brained, "nuts and bolts" types with the creative "loose screw" right-brainers, who at times can come across as a little off the wall. Sadly, too many MBA-trained, spreadsheet savvy pseudo-intellectuals will trumpet data, facts, statistics and case studies to drown out the sound of what might be a game-changing creative idea, usually from a lone artist, struggling to articulate what he or she knows to be true.

When it comes to a new way to collaborate and make your company shine, is there a page from this songsheet you can steal from the two Steves?

How effective has your organization been at blending "nuts and bolts" thinkers with "loose screw" big idea types?

Do you have too many of one type sitting around the table in that boardroom of yours?

When was the last time you asked "why is that"?


"Off upon my journey I must go to where the river flows"
ED ROLAND



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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Planes, Trains and Patdowns

OK, I can't help it.

All this talk in the news media about increased security in U.S. airports this week has me reflecting in a strange sort of way.

Full body scans, patdowns and viral video threats of customer boycotts are a far cry from what we typically think of during the U.S. Thanksgiving, which celebrates the Pilgrim settlers' first successful harvest in 1621 shared with American Indians.

But, for some of us, the true spirit of Thanksgiving will always shine through the 1987 exploits of Neal Page and Del Griffith - a couple of road-weary characters played by Steve Martin and the late, John Candy.



Page, a high-strung advertising executive and Griffith, an accident-prone shower curtain ring salesman, endured many ups and downs in their Thanksgiving travels. Page, in particular, discovered that you don't always find helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff on the customer service front lines.



But, hey, don't let the F-bombs fool ya ...

We're just messin' around today ...



Happy Thanksgiving America!


“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts”
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER


p.s...For many Americans, Thanksgiving without football is as unthinkable as the Fourth of July without fireworks. This "pass the pigskin" traditions began in 1934 when NBC Radio broadcast the first national Thanksgiving Day when the Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears. And, except for a World War II timeout, the Lions have played - usually badly - every Thanksgiving Day since. This year, the Lions host another team with a bit of a Thanksgiving theme - the New England Patriots. Later today, the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints visit the Dallas Cowboys while the New York Jets play host to the Cincinnati Bengals in the evening match up.

One of the greatest social commentators of the 20th century, once made some interesting observations about football and how it compares to America's past time.




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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Herolding Entrepreneurship

Does our education system cripple a potential entrepreneur before she has a chance to find her legs?

Is it possible, as early as Grade 3 or 4, she is knocked off her feet without ever being given the opportunity to crawl, walk, or let alone, run?

Some will argue the factory-model of education was never designed to foster original thinking and creativity, essential ingredients for any entrepreneur. Born of a need to train workers to fill safe, secure wage-earning jobs, North American school systems taught us how to memorize as opposed to think, while herding us through a maze of grades, tests and exams. As a result, many have stocked up on diplomas and degrees that are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a 21st century Digital Economy that increasingly calls for superior communication and problem-solving skills.

Cameron Herold, the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK has seen this movie play out many times over the last several years. The Vancouver-based entrepreneur pulls no punches in this interview with respect to the irrelevance of education.



"I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, "What are you drawing?" and the girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." And the teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." And the girl said, "They will in a minute"
SIR KEN ROBINSON


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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bob The Sales Guy


This post will be direct.

And to the point.

With a video that illustrates everything I abhor about the left-brained, step-by-step, robotic and often moronic sales people we encounter each day.




If you happen to be in sales for a living, customers want you to control the authorship of your career. The pen that writes your destiny must be held in your own hand.

Nobody else's.


"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else"
JUDY GARLAND



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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alchemic Dreaming

As you read this, I am on assignment, speaking to a national conference, at an international location with one of the largest companies on the planet.

The company in question was formed in 1870, survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other changes too numerous to mention. My reason for sharing this with you has less to do with the company and the magnitude of the engagement, but more to do with how the opportunity presented itself in the first place, simply by following the omens began appearing in the fall of 2009.

TSB readers might be interested in knowing that much of what has unfolded in a successful way from this corner, can be attributed to a posting published on January 4, 2010. Since then, the list of personal and professional accomplishments include the release of "Nuts, Bolts And A Few Loose Screws", the trip of lifetime to Italy and a chance to debut "DreamDay 7" at the recent Atlantic Dream Festival that featured Richard Branson, Clara Hughes and Kevin O'Leary, among others.

"DreamDay 7" identifies seven key elements that MUST be present for any dream to come true. Besides a standing ovation from the 300 or so in the crowd, some of my toughest critics called it one of the most original and compelling keynotes they had ever seen. Invitations to deliver the program at other conferences are rolling in and 2011 is already shaping up to be a year where even more dreams come true.

But, what about you?

Do you have a goal or dream which intimidates you?

At times, do you find yourself feeling unworthy or fearful of your dreams?

Or, do you believe some dreams should simply remain as dreams?

My hope (and my reason for sharing this today) is that you give yourself permission to enjoy similar success and discover treasures that lie within.

Treasures that have been there all along.

Looking for a place to begin or resume your journey?

Here is a good place to start: http://seamlessbrand.blogspot.com/2010/01/2010-alchemy.html


“We have to stop and be humble enough to understand that there is something called mystery”
PAULO COELHO



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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

It was called the "war to end all wars".

It officially ended as pen was placed to paper in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest, just outside Paris, on this day in 1918.

That final stroke at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, formally signalled enough blood had been shed for one generation. The principal signatories, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of the Allies and Matthias Erzberger of Germany, concluded a treaty that ended the First World War, but not without a portent of things to come.

Erzberger, a civilian who had made a passionate plea for peace in the Reichstag more than a year earlier, protested the harshness of the Allied terms. Before leaving the railway car, he concluded by saying, "a nation of seventy millions can suffer, but it cannot die". (Marshall Foch ignored Erzberger's attempt to shake his hand and is said to have replied, "Très bien".)

Erzberger later became Germany's finance minister in 1919 before being assassinated by right-wing extremists who viewed his signing of the armistice as treachery. Other extremists would soon emerge to form the Nazi party and convince the German people they had been "stabbed in the back" by the Treaty of Versailles; fuelling flames that would eventually erupt in 1939 with the start of the Second World War.

Decades later, American author Joseph Campbell would write, "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself".



"It's a song written about the military cemeteries in Flanders and Northern France. In 1976, my wife and I went to three or four of these military cemeteries and saw all the young soldiers buried there"

The song "Willie McBride" is still a powerful indictment of war, and has been recorded many times since it was composed by singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1975. A version by Makem and Clancey is reputedly the largest selling single in Irish history. The song has also been covered by the Chieftains, the Dubliners, John McDermott and the Dropkick Murphys among others.

Lest we forget heroes like Matthias Erzberger and "Willie McBride".



"In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row. That mark our place; and in the sky, the larks, still bravely singing, fly, scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead, short days ago, we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throw, the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow, in Flanders fields.
JOHN McCRAE


P.S. ... Look at the back right-hand side of a Canadian $10 bill. You will see an old veteran standing at attention near the Ottawa war memorial. How he got there is another story altogether.

Robert was one of the 400,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force sent to the mainland where they found quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the German blitzkrieg. While treating a wounded comrade, he was hit in the legs by shrapnel. En route to hospital, his ambulance came under fire from a German panzer, which then miraculously ceased fire. Evacuated from Dunkirk, Robert recovered, and joined the allied campaigns in North Africa and Italy.

During the Italian campaign, he met his future wife in a Canadian hospital. They were married in the morning by the mayor of the Italian town, and again in the afternoon by a British padre. After the war they settled in Chatham, Ontario where he went into politics and became the warden of the county and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Ottawa. Over a 45 year period, he helped raise thousands of dollars on behalf of veterans in need of pensions, recreation and medical centres. He also served as a Royal Canadian Legion speaker in the "Encounters With Canada" program, addressing grade 12 and 13 students.

One day, out of the blue, Robert received a call from a government official asking him to go downtown for a photo op. He wasn't told what the photo was for or why they chose him. "He had no idea he would be on the bill", his daughter said.

And now you know the story of Robert Metcalfe, the veteran on Canada's $10 bill.

Robert passed away in 2007 at the age of 90.



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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Church of Freedom; City of Heroes

It began with regular Monday meetings in the early 1980's.

At first it was only three or four people who gathered at the 800-year old St. Nikolai Church to pray and talk politics. The numbers grew slowly. Five or six would show up, then maybe a dozen. But the meetings continued to happen every Monday without fail.

For close to a decade.

Eventually, dozens and then hundreds were attending the Monday meetings at the church where Bach once played. They would discuss a wide range of causes, from the environment to the right to travel freely.

But, in October of 1989, the government said enough was enough.

The bastards cracked down.

Peaceful protesters were beaten and arrested.

Two days later, on October 9, 1989, St. Nikolai Church was overflowing with more than 3,000 people for the weekly Monday meeting. When it was over, 70,000 people were marching through the city as armed soldiers looked on, but did nothing. It was the largest protest demonstration in the country's history, setting the stage for a peaceful revolution that swept across the land.

Secretly recorded footage of the march was broadcast on television from a nearby country, inspiring more Monday Demonstrations. By Oct. 23, more than 300,000 people filled the city center, carrying candles and banners. As one government official put it, ‘We were ready for anything, except for candles and prayer.’”

And that's how the City of Leipzig, in what was then East Germany, earned the nickname "Heldenstadt," or "Hero City."

Two weeks later, on this day - November 9th, 1989 - the Berlin Wall was torn down, allowing people to travel freely to the West for the first time in 28 years. The fall of the Wall paved the way for German reunification, and triggered the demise of the Soviet Union, ending the communist stranglehold on much of Europe.

In the end, it took civil courage to dissolve a four-decade mental wall of East German fear, before a cement wall could collapse.





Little is left of the Berlin Wall at its original site. Some isolated fragments and a few watchtowers remain. Many fragments of the Wall were taken and were sold around the world. With or without certificates of authenticity, these fragments are now hawked on eBay as well as at German souvenir shops.

So how do the events of more than 20 years ago in Leipzig affect your life today? I guess that depends on the degree to which you are truly unhappy about something and the courage you possess to actually do something about it.

Is there a "Monday meeting" you need to start attending?


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has"
MARGARET MEAD



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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Big Balls With a Razors Edge

This is not a blog for the weak, timid or faint of heart.

So enter if you dare.

To be straight up, I've always liked the guys at Razor Creative.

But not in some namby-pamby, new-age, touchy-feely way.

Let's just say I admire Rich and Steve in a much more manly fashion. The kind of admiration based on a healthy, solid foundation of mutual, professional respect.

And now you can see why.



Rich Gould and Stephen Brander of Razor Creative think of themselves as creative mercenaries – ready to bust in and save the day whenever they are required. They and a few other good men, are motivated and brave soldiers, dedicated to the practice of high explosive, creative warfare, who will do whatever it takes to win battles in the trenches on the front lines of consumerism.

A nasty business, to be sure.

And while you may weep for companies and curse their marketers, people like Rich and Stephen have given you that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what they know. That the destruction of those two vehicles, while tragic, probably sold more Lotto Max tickets, helped someone in Cape Breton pay off a credit card and maybe even saved lives. But you don't want to hear that truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want guys like Rich and Stephen up on that guerrilla marketing wall.

And to be fair, the Razor guys have neither the time nor the inclination to explain themselves to readers of this blog who rise and sleep under the very blanket of consumer freedom they provide, and then question the manner in which they provide it!

Rich and Stephen would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way.

And buy something.

Otherwise, pick up a weapon - a Mac, a PC, a video camera, a manual typewriter or even a box of Crayola crayons if you have to ...

And dare to walk the razors edge.


"We follow orders son. We follow orders, or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?"
COLONEL NATHAN JESSUP


P.S ... As you can imagine, there is usually a "story behind the story" of the "story behind the making of ...". In other words what was the singular event that triggered the creation of the Lotto Max campaign?

In this case, Rich came back from the Razor store one day and was sitting around the family dinner table with 10-year old Zach who casually asked his father about the kind of music he used to listen to at a similar age. Being the transparent and loving father he is, Rich got up from his chair, walked over to the floor model television, turned off "SpongeBob SquarePants" and reached into a nearby stash of old cassette tapes. Without saying a word, Rich calmly loaded his favorite selection from "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" into the Gould family hi-fi stereo system, recently outfitted with the latest sub-woofer technology.

And taught Zach a lesson.



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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Firehose at a Teacup

Each day messages are being spewed your way.

Look up.

Look down.

Look up again.

Thousands of messages.

This morning, you may have glanced at a highway billboard inviting you to the Golden Arches as you daydreamed about a man selling deodorant on a horse while a radio ad exhorts you to visit a locally owned and operated value centre where "quality, service and selection" awaits from a "friendly and knowledgeable staff".

Look back up.

One market research firm estimates the average person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day. Today, that same person is being exposed to upwards of 5,500 messages each day. Absolute sensory overload in an overly saturated media landscape. Information is being hurled at humans like a firehose at a teacup.

Or is it a tirehose at a peecup?

Look back up.

More men have discovered that standing at a urinal to do their business, some other business will be staring right back in the form of a logo or an ad. Women are noticing as well, there are few places one can go to escape these types of messages.

Getting your business noticed, however, is a growing challenge for anyone who is serious about attracting more customers. "You can't imagine the pressure," declares the GEICO Gecko in a recent interview. "You only have a few seconds to grab people's attention while trying to sell them some car insurance. Most blokes don't realize its a lot 'arder than it looks". Reflecting on what he has learned as a TV pitchman, the GEICO Gecko admitted, "I don't care 'ow many times you run the ad or 'ow many people hear it or see it, there is no denying this fact. The bloke with the most powerful message wins. That's why we've been able to get people to buy into that "15 minutes will save you 15%" idea. I am just glad our message has been getting through. It saves customers money, grows the business, keeps me working and gives other people a TV job like me old mate R. Lee Ermey".



Whether they use cavemen, retired drill sergeants or an animated gecko, GEICO understands the value of crafting a message that cuts through ad clutter and lands with a thud in your brain. These ads work. In fact, Warren Buffett, owner of GEICO parent Berkshire Hathaway, has indicated he would spend $2 billion on GEICO ads if he could, far exceeding the $751 million spent on advertising in 2007.

If you are sitting on an endless supply of cash, you can run mediocre "fast, friendly reliable service" ads all year long, but I'm betting at some point you might start to question the return on your marketing investment. You also might start to ask if it makes more sense to craft a sharp, diamond-tipped nail of a message before splurging on media buys that see your ads get lost among the 5,449 others your potential customer is hearing or seeing today.

What are you doing to stand out in the ever growing crowd?

Do your messages engage a reader, viewer or listener?

Are you asking the deeper questions that people care about such as:

"Is Ed 'Too Tall' Jones really too tall?"
"Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?"
"Did The Waltons take way too long to say good night?"
"Did the little piggy cry 'wee wee wee' all the way home?"
"Do woodchucks chuck wood?"

Do people care about was you're saying and the value your brand is offering?

Look down.

Is it time you started giving this subject some serious thought?

If so, we know people who can help.


"You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place"
DAVID OGILVY


P.S... In case you were wondering ( I know I would be), former US Marine drill sergeant R. Lee Ermey was initially intended to serve as a technical advisor only, on 1987's "Full Metal Jacket". However, director Stanley Kubrick changed his mind after Ermey put together a tape that included an extended hair-raising tirade towards several Royal Marines cast as extras. Seeking absolute authenticity, Kubrick allowed Ermey to write and edit his own dialogue and improvise on the set. Kubrick found Ermey to be an excellent performer, who usually needed only two or three takes per scene. His role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman won critical acclaim and resulted in a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actor.



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