4

There was tremendous agonizing when Steve Jobs resigned from Apple and speculation of about what would happen as the company lost the great leader who had shaped the Apple brand so dramatically for so many years. In contrast to Steve Jobs, great leaders can also turn into bad leaders. A leader you’d have followed anywhere because of their confidence, strong communication skills, and self-confidence CAN lose the handle on leadership…in a major way.

Having witnessed leaders undergo this unfortunate unraveling up close, it’s worth sharing twelve ways a great leader turns into a bad leader:

  • Ignoring the characters of the people you surround yourself with and depend on for leadership.
  • Making people selections based on the “least bad” choice.
  • When another business is in trouble, loading up on its cast-off people, thinking you’re upgrading your talent.
  • Orienting your business decisions toward building your ego & personal wealth.
  • Seeking out limelight even when it distracts from what matters to your organization.
  • Overpaying for other companies out of ego, bad strategy, or a fear there won’t be anything you can buy later.
  • When the people who’ve been smart and served you well in business battles disagree with you, don’t listen.
  • Thinking a leader can afford to not solicit input and put off making the decisions everyone expects the leader to make.
  • Overstaying your welcome. (Hint: Ask other people what “over stay” means for you specifically.)
  • Going beyond the edge of your talents. (Hint: Ask other people where the “edge” is for you specifically.)
  • Not having incredible people ready to take over when you do hit the edge of your talents.
  • When the business world views you as defeated, refusing to acknowledge at least a couple of mistakes on the way out the door.

What would you add to the list of ways great leaders turn into bad leaders? – Mike Brown

 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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17

Coca-Cola has introduced a new Diet Coke can design for fall 2011, with Turner Duckworth, a design firm based in San Francisco, re-imagining the familiar Diet Coke can. The most striking element is the logo is blown up in size, making the script “D” in Diet the only letter of the major brand logo which appears fully on the can! This move with the Diet Coke brand holds both great strategic branding and creativity lessons.

5 Branding and Creativity Lessons

1. The Diet Coke logo violates the can’s physical space.

Absent the self-imposed restriction of  containing what you’re doing to the physical space available to you, all kinds of new creativity options open up. How often do we ask about how much of something we have to fill? Forget that. Fill up the creatively appropriate amount of what needs to be filled without a concern for physical space or completeness boundaries.

2. You can be bold and still hedges some bets.

For all the boldness of not including the product’s full name in the major logo treatment, Coca-Cola hedges its bets with 4 other full, albeit smaller, logos on the can. It pulls the design back from being completely edgy, but it strikes a good balance between creativity and brand imperatives. Some will claim though that hedging bets went into overkill mode with 4 other logos.

3. Incompleteness creates attention.

Since the major logo doesn’t fully display the product’s name, it creates both attention (from a new, striking design) and forces the customer to use imagination to fill in what’s missing. When you can get an aluminum can to tweak engagement, you have a winner on your hands.

4. You CAN stretch your strengths.

Coca-Cola knows it can take advantage of an iconic logo’s ability to be stretched to freshen it and create interest. When a brand element is so well known (in this case, the logo), it’s an opportunity to play against the strength and expand how people view the brand. And what applies to consumer and business brands applies to personal brands, too. It’s important though to know how much of a stretch people will accept from the brand before making a move. You want to stretch, but not break your brand.

5. Not every promotional offer is about price.

Too often, we think of a promotion (which one of my mentor’s drilled into me is “a short term change in the marketing mix”) as only focusing on price, discount, or “get more for your dollar right now” offers. If you look at any element of the marketing mix as a promotional opportunity, however, you can easily get to a short term revamp of a packaging design. Additionally, as an AdWeek article points out, Coca-Cola has also introduced a short term change in the publicity element of the marketing mix, by being a bit mysterious about how long the can change will last.

Summary

What are your thoughts about the Diet Coke can change? Is it simply interesting or do you think people will drink more Diet Coke than they would already have this fall?

To me, it’s a really smart promotion with strong banding and creativity lessons. Plus this move is a relatively easy strategy others could employ, if they’re smart about it and have strong enough logo recognition in their own market to pull it off successfully.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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10

No news is good news.”

It is a comforting, albeit horribly wrong belief, as we all know. Maybe sometimes no news is good, but most of the time it isn’t. And if no news isn’t really good news, what is “no news”?

That was a question I was discussing with Emma Alvarez Gibson the other day both on Twitter and via phone. Emma and I were talking about a situation where a client had contacted her twice for proposals, but then after she delivered, they went silent and wouldn’t respond. We both wondered aloud about what “no news” meant in this situation – beyond frustration!

Thinking back on times when I’ve gotten no news (or wasn’t sharing news with someone else eagerly awaiting it), it is apparent you can fill in a lot of things in place of the “good” in “No news is good news.”

Here’s my list of 33 substitute to complete, “No news is __________ news.”

#1 . . . I just got back from vacation and have no recollection of ANYTHING that happened before I left . . .

#2 . . . a time of newfound spirituality as I pray you’ll quit calling me . . .

#3 . . . my boss was on my ass for this project last week, but forgot about it this week so I did too . . .

#4 . . . utter shock and surprise at how much you want for your work . . .

#5 . . . we lost the invoice . . .

#6 . . . we’re going to say we lost the invoice if you ever happen to catch us on the phone . . .

#7 . . . we’re trying to lose the invoice right now . . .

#8 . . . proof I was full of crap when I said I wouldn’t blow off responding to you . . .

#9 . . . I don’t know what to do next . . .

#10 . . . you’ve overstayed your welcome . . .

#11 . . . coming from a deep-seated sociopathic tendency I see no reason to address in counseling . . .

#12 . . . I’ve wrung every bit of value you could ever provide out of you already . . .

#13 . . . not bad news yet, but it will be as soon as we sign the deal with the other vendor (or “hire the other candidate for the job”) . . .

#14 . . . I’ll get around to it someday . . .

#15 . . . you’re my worst nightmare . . .

#16 . . . what you want to talk about is my worst nightmare . . .

#17 . . . less painful than having to pick up the phone or email you . . .

#18 . . . you shouldn’t have asked me to reimburse your travel expenses . . .

#19 . . . I have no response to that . . .

#20 . . . my cell phone is broken . . .

#21 . . . I’m pretending like my cell phone is broken . . .

#22 . . . makes me feel guilty but not guilty enough to tell you any news . . .

#23 . . . that’s how I roll . . .

#24 . . . my life has changed and you’re not a part of who I am now . . .

#25 . . . don’t hold your breath . . .

#26 . . . it takes us a month to schedule the meeting we have to have to schedule the REAL meeting . . .

#27 . . . we’re decompressing over here right now . . .

#28 . . . and I would know you from? . . .

#29 . . . hurting me more than it’s hurting you . . .

#30 . . . I’m working so hard to get you some news I have no time to give you the news . . .

#31 . . . sorry, but you’re too boring for us to get back to in a timely  fashion . . .

#32 . . . you didn’t really think we were serious . . .

#33 . . . just what you suspect it means . . . news.

That’s my list for all the other kinds of news that “no news” can be. What would you add to the list? – Mike Brown

 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com  or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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0

These two 2011 TEDxKC presentations from Patrick Meier and Marcin Jakubowski dramatically speak to the “radical collaboration” element of the TEDxKC theme. Each one points to the innovative possibilities when diverse people bring expertise and passion to a common cause benefiting others.

Patrick Meier – “Changing the World, One Map at a Time”

If only crowds can use the means they have to share knowledge to help others.

Only if there is a framework for them to effectively collaborate.

Patrick Meier’s 2011 TEDxKC presentation is an incredible innovative story of people collaborating to contribute, organize, and map their knowledge to help others – Haiti (after the earthquake), Libya (during the uprisings), and the Horn of Africa (famine).

Using the African-based Ushahidi platform for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, crowdsourced maps aggregate and frame on-the-ground knowledge from many parties, providing relief and governmental agencies vital maps to improve their aid efforts.

The stories Patrick Meier shared have to be watched (and I’ll be adding the videos as they become available) to be fully appreciated. For instance, what started as an individual effort in Boston to map live tweets, pictures, and some video in the wake of the Haitian earthquake expanded (via Facebook) to volunteers in 49 countries who were translating updates from Haiti in an average of 10 minutes to update the collaborative map.

Meier’s story of radical collaboration, while not necessarily shared as one of explicit creativity, offers outstanding creative examples:

  • The creative genius of linking disparate ordinary elements to create something extraordinary.
  • The creative importance of providing a framework for others to participate successfully.
  • The marriage of humility and audacity in thinking creatively AND actually changing the world for the better, even if your world is half a world away.

I’m in complete awe of the innovative mapping tools, the creative ingenuity, and the collaborative spirit of caring in Patrick Meier’s stories.

Marcin Jakubowski – “Civilization Starter Kit”

If only people weren’t beholden to a planned obsolescence mind-set.

Only if diverse resources collaborate to be collectively smarter, wiser, and richer.

In the shortest 2011 TEDxKC talk of the evening, TED fellow and Polish-born fusion physicist Marcin Jakubowski shared an overview of his work just an hour north of Kansas City directing Open Source Ecology in developing the Global Village Construction Set. Its objective is a set of 50 open-sourced blueprints for the most important machines that allow life to exist. These construction and farming tools can be created from scratch and form what has been called a “civilization starter kit.” Essentially all the knowledge to build the machines can be captured on one DVD.

Jakubowski and the others onsite at his farm are in the midst of rapidly building prototypes for the low-cost machines (the tractor was built in 6 days). The prototype building may have been the reason for the brevity of  Jakubowskis’s innovative story since he planned to head back to continue working on the “midnight shift.”

Open Source Ecology Video

As with Patrick Meier’s presentation, it’s important to hear from Jakubowski personally to understand the passion behind the radical collaboration of ideas, technical expertise, labor, and financial support that are all part of Open Sources Ecology.

Marcin Jakubowski 2011 TEDxKC Talk

Marcin Jakubowki’s approach to this effort is an excellent example of looking at objects and processes and decomposing them into analogous pieces (i.e., the interchangeability of children’s building blocks is at the heart of using interchangeable parts across the machines).

The idea of being self-sustaining in a largely agrarian setting flies in the face of the industrial revolution. Perhaps it’s a vital strategy though to benefit those parts of the world struggling to function economically, providing a way to improve lifestyles. It seems the Open Source Ecology strategy is not so much about “back to the future” as “forward to our roots.” – Mike Brown

 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com  or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3

The two TED talk video presentations by Kathryn Schulz and Eli Parser during the 2011 TEDxKC  event were related in treating transparency in thinking and how we receive and process information. They’re both featured today. Attempting to link the Kansas City presenters back to the “If only. Only if.” theme for  2011 TEDxKC, each recaps begins with my perspective on how the theme could be completed for that presenter’s talk.

Kathryn Schulz – “On Being Wrong”

If only you would understand the danger in believing you’re on the correct side of anything.
Only if you come to realize the most right you are is when suspecting you’re going to be wrong.

Kathryn Schulz’s 2011 TEDxKC talk was a video from TED 2011 all about being wrong. Schulz – a “wrongologist” – has spent five years thinking about why we misunderstand things and the insights uncovered about human nature.

Something quite evident that seemed new in the way Schulz discussed is absent a point of comparison, being wrong and being right feel the same. Her claim is we don’t tend to have internal cues about “wrongness,” but more on that later. Since people perceive themselves as correct, they have to rationalize those who disagree. Schulz offered three assumptions individuals us to deal with those who disagree:

  • The Ignorance Assumption – The person disagreeing is ignorant, and you just need to educate them.
  • The Idiot Assumption – The person disagreeing is an idiot and beyond education.
  • The Evil Assumption – The person disagreeing with you knows you’re right and is simply distorting the truth for his or her own gain.

Karen Schulz’s point is we continually expect one thing to happen and then something different happens – with both big and small events. We generate stories about how the world is going to play out and then the world astonishes us by doing something different.

This was a topic near and dear to me, and even more so after Schulz referenced a quote from St. Augustine’s “City of God” which translated to “I err, therefore I am.”  For me, that good Catholic sense of suspecting (okaying “knowing”) you’re wrong has shaped my life, attitudes and willingness to hear others out on their (even extreme) points of view. Because, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, “I’m probably wrong.”

 

Eli Parser – “Beware of Online Filter Bubbles”

If only algorithms realized humans don’t follow perfectly executed behaviors.
Only if people stand up and demand to know how their online information is being curated.

Eli Parser, author of “The Filter Bubble,” in a 2011 TED video talk discussed the negative implications of the web’s growing propensity to create personalized views of results. While Parser never mentioned EdgeRank by name, he did share Mark Zuckerberg’s perspective that, “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

Algorithms examine your social graph to deliver content, recommendations, visuals, user experiences, schedules, etc. tailored to you. According to Eli Parser, Google employs 57 cues even when you’re not logged in to personalize your experience. Parser describes this artificial view of information as “filter bubbles,” and hints we may be surrounded by “information junk food” based on what and where we’ve clicked online in the past. He points out it’s not confined to Facebook and Google; the same phenomenon applies in varying degrees for other online content providers too.

The internet story of readily available, unfiltered information may be (I think “is”) wrong hypothesizes Parser. Rather than the Internet eliminating information gatekeepers, human gatekeepers have simply been replaced by algorithmic ones. Because of this, Parser advocates for programming civic responsibility and a sense of the public life into the algorithms so we continue to receive uncomfortable and challenging information, just as we would in looking at general offline communications.

And, based on Kathryn Schulz’s talk, we better program a lot of inaccuracy into the online algorithms as well!


– Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com  or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2

The 2011 TEDxKC event was Thursday, August 18, and based on the tweets and blog posts during and after, it was a tale of two TEDxKC experiences at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. For those who arrived very early and made it into the Nelson’s auditorium to see the presenters live, it was the typical idea-enriching TEDxKC experience.

For everyone else who had to view the 2011 TEDxKC event via video in an “overflow” room in the Nelson’s Bloch building, the evening was a huge disappointment poor audio / visual performance, ineffective seating, slow response to issues (which were quite apparent if you were watching the #TEDxKC hashtag), and audience defections.

A Disclaimer

Much of the rest of the week on the Brainzooming blog will feature very positive recaps of the outstanding 2011 TEDxKC program. I received my personal ticket to the 2011 TEDxKC event courtesy of VML, the primary sponsor and organizer. Having worked with VML as our agency for many years, I have a number of relationships there, and think that Mike Lundgren, who has spearheaded the Kansas City TED events, and VML have performed an incredible public service by bringing TEDx to Kansas City.

Because the TEDxKC programs have been so strong, the resulting buzz and popularity of the events have outpaced the support resources (venue, production, surrounding logistics, and activities) being applied. The challenges were not from what was happening on stage at the 2011 TEDxKC event; it’s what was happening (or wasn’t) beyond the stage that created negative sentiment this year.

The 2011 TEDxKC Experience

“Don’t Meet Me There, Beat Me There”

We’d invited several people to attend TEDxKC and arrived really early. That didn’t mean, however, we didn’t experience intra-line squabbles. A group (or groups – tough to tell because they all looked alike) of older women  hassled us several times, repeatedly accusing me of butting in line. I got the glares, the snide comments, the whispering – the whole nine yards. I guess festival seating still leads to poor behavior among older baby boomers, the same people who earned festival seating its bad rap in the 1970s.

Their reactions were ironic, because being known for working a line pretty aggressively for position, I was on my best behavior at TEDxKC, trying to play by all the rules we had been told beforehand. Amazing how mad people get when they feel you’ve invaded their $10 worth of space.

If Only Someone Would Say “Why”

The 2011 TEDxKC theme was “If only. Only if.” An intriguing theme, but one nearly unspoken from the stage. Any overarching explanation for why these presenters were chosen and some supporting context to the event was also lacking. Since TEDxKC is described (and rightly so) as a “curated” event, it would be helpful to have a perspective (delivered from the stage, contained on the lanyards, posted in the venue) that connects the theme, the presenters, and the thinking behind the program’s design. Maybe it’s in the iPhone app introduced for the 2011 TEDxKC. I don’t have an iPhone (as I’m sure SOME others in the crowd did not), so if that’s where it was, I missed it.

The Universal Service Recovery Tonic

Later on in the overflow room fiasco, the Nelson-Atkins Twitter account announced free beer during TEDxKC for the overflow attendees. It may have helped a little. In a later Twitter conversation with Chris Reaburn, he remarked that free beer is the universal service recovery beverage, communicating, “Hey we screwed up, but about a cold one on us!”

Gotta Be Moving On

It’s evident the Nelson-Atkins, while a grand location, is not working anymore as the TEDxKC venue. The post-TEDxKC reception was a madhouse in Kirkwood Hall. There was no apparent signage and the interactive aspects of last year’s event were obscured by the mass of people waiting in line for drinks at only two serving locations.

The Rest of the Week

The next several days’ blog posts will feature recaps of the TEDxKC presenters, including the two video presentations of 2011 TED talks. Rather than recapping the evening chronologically, the recaps are organized on the brief thematic explanation that was offered for TEDxKC:

  • Transparency (Tuesday)
  • Radical Collaboration (Wednesday)
  • Mind-set (Thursday)
If you were at TEDxKC, what type of experience did you have? If you’ve been to other TEDx events, how were similar challenges addressed? – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Wall Street Journal “Creating” profile featuring Soleio Cuervo, a product designer and member of the team that created the Facebook “Like” button shed some light on creativity and perspective. Since I always appreciate a profile that looks behind the scenes at how someone who creates does the creating, I recommend you check the article out if you haven’t seen it already.

5 Creativity Lessons from Soleio Cuervo

In the meantime, here are 5 creativity lessons from Soleio Cuervo and his Facebook experience that stood out in the Wall Street Journal article:

  • Before you start creating, push yourself to look for intriguing analogous situations to what you’re working on. Learn from how others address comparable situations to yours.
  • Plan in a different creative medium than you’ll ultimately implement in. Draw the document you’re creating. Write prose about the design you’ll be doing.
  • Test what you’re working on with real-life situations/data/elements, etc. Real users don’t use things in clean elegant ways; they beat on them and use them incorrectly. Your testing should do the same.
  • When creating, you have to look closely at what you’re doing, but also step far away from it to see what things look like at a distance. You’ll see very different patterns and specifics.
  • Just because you spent a lot of time on something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be willing to walk away from it if it’s not right. You’ll spend more time fixing it or disaffecting others by keeping what’s clearly not on target.
Interestingly, Cuervo says that he invests 80% of his work into planning what to design. How much time do you spend planning what you’re going to do? – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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