If you are like me you find yourself reading a lot every day. But most of my reading, and I imagine yours, is in short bursts. An email here, a blog post there, comments on a message forum, ten pages of a PowerPoint deck, etc., ad infinitum. So when I find something that I read for hours at a time, that is noteworthy.
That happened to me recently with the book, The Goal, A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt. First off, it feels pretty geeky to say that I found a book on process improvement a page turner. But Goldratt’s book has two very strong things going for it.
One is that it presented what was to me a new way of thinking about process improvements that he calls Theory of Constraints. What he has to say about process improvement goes beyond industrial engineering and offers learnings for marketing, sales and organizational communication.
(Very short version: If you trying to get more output from your office/factory/restaurant, don’t try to make everything more efficient and productive at once. Find the bottleneck and either fix or improve it first before wasting your effort and resources elsewhere. Also, understand the bottleneck could be the market(ing), and you may be calculating productivity really badly.)
The second was that it was written not in a regular nonfiction format but as a novel. Its primary setting is a mythical (but totally plausible) electrical components factory in the Northeastern US. The protagonist, Alex, is the factory manager who is battling backed up orders at the same time he is seeing stagnant or falling product sales. His problems are compounded by corporate demands for greater productivity and a personal life that is steadily falling apart. There is also a cigar smoking, globetrotting physics professor named Jonah who . . . maybe you should read it for yourself.
The book was a concrete illustration of the impact of telling a story. It also shows how looking at problems without being bound by others preconceptions and their standard ways of evaluation and then presenting the answers you find in an unexpected format can produce dramatic impacts. – Barrett Sydnor
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 email@example.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.
At some point I lost track of the number of different presentations during last week’s 2011 TED simulcast. Beyond standard 18-minute TED presentations, there were video segments, 3-minute talks, audience talks, musical interludes (from the house band comprised of teenagers), introductions of TED-related people, and Skype exchanges with remote simulcast locations (BTW, the Swiss had the right idea, holding their simulcast in a winery). Let’s just say there’s no way here to share every talk (that’s what the videos are for), every challenging idea, and every insight which didn’t occur to me until after all the live TED simulcast tweeting was over. To manage the glut of content, today’s post recaps a few of the more innovative science-oriented stand-out presentations. We’ll cover a few more presentations on Thursday (after a Wednesday post on creativity and taking time to reflect). Friday’s post will highlight the big ideas I took away from the 2011 TED simulcast.
The first simulcast session was titled “Deep Mystery,” and it was packed with really smart scientists and one cellist (hey, it’s TED). Scientists don’t talk in natural one-liners; their messages unfold and the big ideas emerge. This makes them tough to live tweet but yields loads of (and by “loads of,” I mean “too much”) blog content. Here are my “it’s been forever since I was in a science class, and when I was, we didn’t cover this stuff” reflections:
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explored what constitutes the conscious mind and our sense of self – the “me” in our minds. The critical connections are between the cerebral cortex (which provides the visual spectacle of our minds) and the brain stem (the grounding for the self), and between the brain stem and the body, which creates the autobiographical self, setting us apart from other life forms. The process depends on the interrelationship between the image-making and memory-forming parts of the brain, and the precise workings between them.
Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a geobiochemist, addressed a wondrous question: How do you know what you’re looking for if you’ve never seen it before? Her focus is identifying alternative microbiological systems both on earth and elsewhere. She claims we look at the tree of life too closely (ignoring many other branches), which causes us to notice great diversity and conclude ALL life must be comprised of the 6 elements making up everything we view as “living.” Wolfe-Simon’s contention is that taking a giant step back to look at the full tree of life opens the view to many other possible life forms. Searching for alternative biochemistries, she began by looking at elements in the periodic tableadjacent to those we “know” comprise life, i.e. could a toxin such as arsenic substitute for nearby nitrogen or phosphorous? She indeed found an instance where arsenic does function in a life-supporting role. Her summary, applicable in SO many situations, is what we don’t know easily precludes us from seeing new forms of life all around us.
Physicist Aaron O’Connell discussed the “weirdness of quantum mechanics,” an area which has been confined to explaining small particles, not larger objects. The interplay between his logical and intuitive points of view launched him on a path to find quantum mechanics playing out on a visible scale, i.e., a visible object which could be in two places at once. Again, I won’t delve into the science, but using a small piece of metal, and getting everything around it (air, heat, etc.) away, allowed the metal to act very differently. O’Connell was able to get the metal to both vibrate and not vibrate at the same time - being in two places at once. He pointed out that the scale differences between an atom and the piece of metal is the same as between the piece of metal and humans, opening up a whole new set of considerations about our ability to be in two places at once.
The most accessible of the science presentations was from cognitive scientist Deb Roy whose remarks incorporated multiple elements which draw in audiences – kids, poignancy, and video of both. Roy installed cameras throughout his home to continuously capture activity (200 terabytes of video) with the purpose of better understanding how children (specifically his son) learn language. Through examining video “space time worms” it was possible to look at the connected places, events, and language which led to his son learning words. Roy demonstrated the technique being applied to media analysis to see how people engage and learn from media exposure.
The intriguing take-away for me was the interplay between proximity and connectedness throughout each of these talks. More about this Thursday in the take-away lessons.
Salman Khan, a former hedge fund manager and now YouTube education star, covered the inception and growth of his 12-minute tutorial videos on a variety of mathematical, scientific, and other topics. Growing out of a very informal and convenient means to help tutor his cousins, his videos are now seen by 1 million students monthly. The videos allow for time shifting classroom learning: teachers can use class time for direct student interaction and what is traditionally considered “home” work. Outside class, students are able to review the engaging tutorial videos at their own pace, potentially multiple times, with skills testing that creates enough repetition for a student to have to demonstrate mastery by getting 10 correct answers in a row before moving to the next topic. And since the learning is delivered online, Khan envisions a global classroom community where students around the world are in a position to help each other learn.
Thursday we’ll cover some additional 2011 TED simulcast presentations, including the 2011 TED prize winner who invites you to join in changing the world through REALLY big pictures.
What do you think? Are these TED overviews starting to suggest some big ideas for you? -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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you focus your brand strategy to improve on the things which really matter for your business.
Last week I wrote about the tools for creating innovative ads detailed in the book “Cracking the Ad Code” and our #BZBowl strategy to use its model to evaluate Super Bowl ads. The book’s authors maintain that most ads that are judged to be creative by both ad professionals and consumers use one or more techniques from a rather limited toolbox of eight techniques.
My look at the 68 national Super Bowl ads that ran from kickoff to the end of the break following the final whistle showed that 77% of the ads used one or more of the “Cracking the Ad Code” tools. (This excludes the movie ads in the Super Bowl, where the tools really don’t apply.)
I also looked at how the Super Bowl ads were rated on both the Foxsports.com/ads website and by the USA Today Ad Meters to see if highly rated Super Bowl ads were more or less likely to use the “Cracking the Ad Code” tools. The visitors to the Foxsports.com site gave the average non-movie ad a score of 63 (out of 100). Those that did not use any of the tools got a score of 55, while those that used one tool had an average score of 69. Interestingly those that attempted to use two tools got an average score of only 57. There must be something to be said for simplicity and focus.
USA Today used handheld meters to track the second-by-second scores given to Super Bowl ads by 282 adult volunteers at two locations. On their 1 to 10 scale, the average non-movie ad came in at 6.51. Those ads using no tools scored 6.28, those using one tool scored 6.79 and those using two scored 6.05. Eight out of the top ten Super Bowl ads used at least one tool; the ones that didn’t were the crowdsourced ads for Pepsi Max.
The most frequently used tool from the “Cracking the Ad Code” kit was the one they call Extreme Consequences. It was used in 18 of the non-movie Super Bowl ads. This technique involvesthe exaggerated or absurd result of using a product. Think of the Doritos spot (another crowdsourced ad) where the chips bring a goldfish, a plant, and somebody’s grandfather back to life.
Eleven spots each used the Extreme Effort and the Inversion “Cracking the Ad Code” tools. The Extreme Effort technique shows the exaggerated lengths to which a consumer will go to get (or protect) a product or that the company will go to bring it to him. The Bud Light Product Placement ad is probably the best example from this year’s Super Bowl.
The Inversion tool shows an extreme version of what your world would be like without the product. The Careerbuilders.com Super Bowl ad showing the chimps hemming the guy in his car is a good example.
If you are assigned to come up with your organization’s next great ad, using the tools won’t ensure that your concepts will be innovative and effective, but they will give you a good benchmark from which to work. - Barrett Sydnor
While these lists are often entertaining and the comments potentially insightful, they generally lack any objective criteria that allow you to apply the success or failures of Super Bowl ads to your own situation.
In an attempt to provide criteria, last year #BZBowl, sponsored by The Brainzooming Group, used ratings from the SUCCES (Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotional, Stories) model the Heath Brothers explained in their book on effective communication, Made to Stick. While this raised the Super Bowl ad analysis above “I liked it ‘cause I thought it was funny,” I’m not sure that an ad that hit on multiple parts of the SUCCES criteria is any better than one that hit really well on only one criteria.
In their book, however, the Heaths cite research on advertising creativity from a group of Israeli social scientists. That research showed award winning ads nearly always make use of a rather short list of tools. The researchers’ subsequent book, Cracking the Ad Code, describes the eight tools and two complementary principles present in nearly every ad professionals judge as award winning and audiences describe as “creative.”
Briefly, the eight tools are:
Unification – using an element of the medium or in its vicinity to deliver the message.
Activation – using the viewer as a resource to reveal the message.
Metaphor – exploiting symbols or cognitive frameworks that already exist in the mind of the viewer to deliver the message.
Subtraction – excluding an element of the medium considered to be indispensible.
Extreme Consequence – presenting an extreme—sometimes negative—situation that happens as a result of using the product.
Extreme Effort – depicting the absurd lengths a consumer will go to obtain a product or the extreme lengths a company will go to in order to please a consumer.
Absurd Alternative – showing a possible, though highly outlandish and impractical, alternative to the product being offered.
Inversion – suggests how horrible the world would be without the advertised product.
The two complementary principles are Fusion and Closed World:
Fusion involves melding the symbol for something, its story, and the product or brand you are advertising. If your story is connection and your product is a telecommunications, the fusion is your logo becomes the world, i.e. ATT.
Closed World uses symbols or ideas from the actual world of the product. E.g. detergents would use clothes, stains, washing machines, not flowers, sunshine and mountaintops.
Ads employing Fusion and Closed World are judged more creative.
Remember, if you want to tweet your thoughts live on which Super Bowl ads are good, better, best (or even crappy), include the #BZBowl hashtag in your tweets and join us for the smart, intimate, and conversational Super Bowl ad chat before, during, and after the Super Bowl this Sunday, February 6, 2011! – Barrett Sydnor
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 at gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.
When thinking about your social media strategy, you should be planning for 6 important metrics. What are the six? There are 3 different levels of social media participation and 2 different types of measures. Put them in a 3 x 2 matrix, and you get six.
Here’s the rundown on the 3 social media engagement aspects to measure:
Activity - Any metrics relating to actions your organization is taking on social media: blogging, tweeting, posting, promoting, etc.
Interaction - This category’s measures focus on how your audience is engaging with your social media presence: followers, comments, likes, sharing, user created content, etc.
Returns - This group accounts for where your social media activities directly or indirectly support measures driving successful organizations: revenue creation (and the activities that lead up to it), cost minimization (along with activities to help achieve it), and other critical financial performance metrics.
Relative to the two different types of measures, use the “whole-brain metrics” strategy we’ve recommended before: capture both quantitative (left brain) and qualitative (right brain) elements. Using this metrics dashboard strategy accounts for both the “hard” numbers and softer perspectives (stories, images, buzz-related feedback) to provide the most complete evaluative picture of your social media strategy.
There’s a clear advantage to considering the metrics strategy when devising your overall social media strategy. The earlier you think through what you should be tracking in these six categories, the better you’ll be able to shape your innovative social media strategy to be ROI-oriented. - Mike Brown
That’s incredible growth, making it challenging to keep up, even if you’re immersed in social media.
What can you do to stay current on social media if it’s not your full time gig?
Here are two strategies to use:
Make sure you have strategic teammates very immersed in social media, i.e. they’re constantly staying on top of even more new social media applications and what they’re used for than you are. Ask them questions and let them guide and keep you informed on the latest innovations.
Pick out a new social media application from one of the fifteen social media categories on KnowEm, sign up, and spend the next week or two gaining some familiarity with it. When you feel like you’ve got a sense of that social media application, strategically select another one from a different category to try.
I put these two ideas together last week to pick up from Nate Riggs’ advocacy for location-based applications and finally forced myself to try Foursquare more aggressively. Doing so led to insights about the value and related opportunities of Foursquare, thoughts on the potential challenges of motivating participation, and interestingly, mayorship of three churches – guess that says a lot about where I spend my time!
At one new social media application every week or two you’re not going to wind up trying all of them. But really, the more important point is to have a current sense of what’s out there. Pick out your new social media application to try, and while you’re at it, don’t hesitate to let me know what my next one to try should be! – Mike Brown
Metrics strategy is a vital topic relative to innovation. Despite how important metrics strategy is, it’s a challenging one for many businesses when it comes to innovation. Going back through my own experiences and secondary research on the topic, here are a few starting thoughts on developing what we call a “whole-brain” approach:
Begin developing your innovation metrics strategy by determining what factors drive ROI.
Specifically identify which factors increase positive business returns and which reduce necessary investment. Starting with the end result in mind will better align the overall effort toward delivering a positive return on investment.
Adopt a “whole-brain metrics” orientation.
This means consciously trying to capture both quantitative (left brain) and qualitative (right brain) metrics. Doing so, you satisfy the financial and performance-oriented need for numerical targets and tracking. Adding qualitative measures into the equation, however, also provides the basis to match the numbers with stories, images, and other insights, providing a more complete performance picture.
Within the whole-brain approach,consider three distinct types of metrics related to innovation.
Culture Metrics – If your innovation efforts are part of an overall push to instill a more innovative approach to a department, business unit, or company, culture-based measures help track how solidly the effort has taken hold. Quantitative metrics in this area may be more activity-oriented, i.e., how many people are participating in innovation efforts and what percent of employees have been trained in creative or strategic thinking disciplines. Qualitative elements can tie to success stories on personal & professional development or other workplace-based changes.
Process Metrics – The second group of measures relate to systematic innovation activities. Quantitatively, it could be how many ideas have been developed or are in various parts of the innovation pipeline. Longer term, it could incorporate how many patents have been filed and received. Qualitative measures in this area might relate to process learnings or images / descriptions of prototypes developed through innovation efforts.
Return-Based Metrics – The third group includes ROI, ROC, new products/services as a percent of sales, etc. Here too though, it’s important to augment the quantitative measures with qualitative elements, such as success stories, learnings (from both successes and mistakes), and customer comments (letters, email, online and social media-based responses, etc.).
This is hardly an exhaustive treatment on innovation metrics strategy, but it can be a good starter for expanding what you’re doing now. If, however, you’re doing more currently in this area, then please share what’s working for you. - Mike Brown