This month's issue: Focusing on your 2016 strategy.
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Simple. Powerful. Elegant.

A Newsletter from Creative Ventures

Issue #117

Big News

This is my best opportunity to say:  THANK YOU!

I owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people for the fantastic year we had at Creative Ventures.  So, please bear with me for a few seconds of kudos:
  • Thanks to Colin, who has given me the gift of time and through his greater understanding of our mission created our multigenerational strategy we call THE MILLENNIAL UPSIDE.  His vision for the use of video created the OVER COFFEE series. I am proud to continue to build the business with his hard work.  Thanks!
  • To my newsletter editor and great friend Dr. Jim Hengstenberg, thanks for making me look smart.
  • To my literary agent Lynn Johnson, thanks for believing in the value of my ideas.
  • To my literary editor Lauren Lipton, thanks for holding my nose to the creative grindstone and for your incredible input.
  • To our friends at the Washington Speakers Bureau, thanks for opening the door to so many successful engagements.
  • To the gang at Develare, thanks for making our web site secure and beautiful.
  • Thanks to the love of my life, Laura, who for 31 years has been the most supportive spokesperson for my wild dreams.  I could never imagine embarking on a project without hearing her say, “Knock ‘em dead!”
Most of all, thanks to all of YOU who take time from your incredibly busy day to read and watch our stuff.  This year our newsletter subscription list grew by leaps and bounds, with a staggering high open rate.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from our team to yours!
We can’t wait for 2016!

Here is the latest episode of OVER COFFEE!



"Some people love to lead, some refuse to dance. Some play it safely, some take a chance." 

- Jimmy Buffett

The New Year is right around the corner and we all have a tendency to look at our plans and our strategies with bright eyes.  The year is sure to be filled with both adversity and opportunity.  Adversity is a guaranteed reality and most of the time it is easily recognizable, while opportunity is often disguised in the sheep’s wool of risk.  The ability to leverage opportunity is usually based on a new perspective.

In 1909 Rudyard Kipling’s epic poem IF was published, and one of its key lines, one that greets every competitor making their way to centre court Wimbledon, is, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those imposters the same….” That is the great goal of any leader, and your 2016 will certainly challenge you to meet these two realities with the same insight.
Many of your 2016 strategic plans will require a hefty price.  I’m not talking about committing funding or resources, but instead the price of a different way to think.  Albert Einstein was a quote machine and one of my many favorites is:
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them. 

New results require new thinking. New behaviors are the result of new thinking. 

If your plans call for a commitment to innovation, you have to create value around the elements that bring innovation.  If your plans call for stressing the impact of your culture, you have to create value around a shared defined culture.
What does value look like in a new thinking model?  Here are a few examples of a commitment to innovation as a thinking model.

AMAZON Lab 126

If innovation is a core strategy, give it a home.  At Amazon the home of its innovation is Lab 126, where diverse groups of Amazon team members meet to apply innovative thinking to test new ideas.  The e-reader the Kindle, Fire TV, and the new Echo home electronic assistant are all results of committing thinking and resources to the strategy of innovation in Lab 126.

Nike Innovation Kitchen

Between 1998 and 2000 Nike appeared to be losing its market leadership position.  It was determined that if they were to remain an international leader in the sports world they needed a much bigger commitment to innovation.  Their commitment produced the Innovation Kitchen, the Nike lab where crazy ideas gain traction and become reality.  From the original Nike + iPod fitness measurement system to the Flyknit shoe made from a single woven thread, Nike treats innovation as a responsibility.  In 2013 FastCompany voted Nike the most innovative company in the world.
If you decide that one of your 2016 big ideas is a commitment to culture, the behaviors that drive outcome, guess what?  It too will take a dedication of thinking and resources.


Here is a shoe company that is known as much for its culture as for its phenomenal selection of shoes.  Their commitment to culture starts at the very beginning of the hiring process with a “culture fit interview” to make sure that there is match of the person to the culture.  Advancement comes from completing various classes, one of which is grammar.  If you are going to be on the phone with customers, it’s nice to know you still should not end a sentence with a preposition, and a person is a who not a that.


Yep, a global energy company with a strong commitment to its culture.  They call it the Chevron Way, and it’s a good bet that anyone you run into at Chevron’s San Ramon headquarters campus will know their cultural statement, and--more importantly--what it means to them.  Their powerful and simple vision statement has only three core elements: our people, our partnerships, and our performance.  Their vision leads into an equally simple set of values.  There are regular cultural meetings that everyone attends that keep their vision and value top of mind.
Moving into a new year with new goals requires a high level of commitment around the thinking necessary to make those goals become reality, and the chances are it will be a different kind of thinking than that with which you ended 2015.  It will require a unique marriage of a little safety and a little risk!  So, what are you doing to be ready for all of this?  



Do This!


When team members are moved toward something new, especially something that will challenge their thinking, they can get a bit freaked out.  They want to know this is something real, something that has the commitment of leadership and is not just another lark.  If you are on the innovation wagon, you don’t need to set up an entire innovation lab, but you do need to create a  separate process to allow innovation to develop a value foothold.  We have set up IDEA FACTORIES with our clients that are simply regularly scheduled meetings in a conference room where NOTHING is done but following a process for creating new ideas.  The team regularly shifts its participants.  With two of our clients we set up an application process to become a member of the IDEA PIRATES.  You have to commit to new thinking!  

IT MATTERS - Once a company commits to their culture, focus often slips through the cracks as time advances.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, harms a company faster than a big culture push with non-existent follow- up.  People think, “What the hell???”  They lose faith, and fast.   So a simple method used by most companies with great cultures is the yearly commitment, or what we build for our clients, THE CULTURE BASH.  Every year EVERYONE is required to go through a cultural refresher course.  It can happen at big annual meetings or at separate offices.  It involves a celebration where success stories are mixed with examples of where the culture didn’t match the desired outcome.  Stick to it and reap the rewards. 

Do you think all of this is always going to be successful, or easy?  No way.  Innovative programs and culturally significant organizations are always in “edit” mode.  They watch new ideas closely and view this new thinking and its outcome as a “work in progress.”  Nike launched their successful FuelBand (a device to measure your daily activity) in 2012 and just recently discontinued it.  Why?  The device worked and they had a pretty good market share.  Nike decided that a commitment confined only to their wearable technology would limit their ability to tap into a much bigger market in working on their applications with all the new devices becoming popular.  They wanted more “wrist share.”  At Pixar Animation, the seven-time Oscar-winning animation division of Disney, they put their stories through a series of GRINDS in which they are dissected down to the very nervous system of the story.  The point is that new thinking needs to have a ruthless editing process.  Creating this type of review amplifies the value created and the impact of new ideas.




Phobos is a tiny moon, called a moonlet (about 1% the size of our moon), that orbits our neighbor Mars.  Due to the lopsided gravity of Mars, poor little Phobos is being pulled apart as it finds itself spiraling toward Mars’ surface.  As Phobos is inexorably being yanked to pieces a wonderful little phenomenon will happen.  The remnants of Phobos will form a ring around Mars.  If Phobos shatters completely (which some believe it will) the ring will form as quickly as a week after its destruction.  Mars will be become the fifth planet in our solar system to have rings, joining Jupiter, Saturn (the most prominent ring bearer), Uranus, and Neptune.



On November 24th Lucy the Australopithecus, the oldest hominid ever discovered (though a recent discovery might knock old Lucy out of her senior place) celebrated her 41st anniversary of discovery.  Lucy lived in Ethiopia about 3.2 million years ago.  She was discovered in 1973 with about 40% of her skeleton intact.  Named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” she was tiny, about 3’7”, weighed about 65 pounds, and walked upright.  Lucy currently resides in a special vault in the National Museum of Ethiopia.  Here is another interesting Lucy fact: anthropologists and scientists have not been able to determine her cause of death.

My friend and fantastic writer Warren Ellis has a t-shirt that says Coffee is my operating system.  Since we have named our video series Over Coffee, I thought I would entertain you fellow java drinkers with some coffee tidbits:
  • Coffee is technically a fruit.
  • New Yorkers consume 7 times more coffee than any other city’s residents.
  • Hawaii is the only US state that grows coffee commercially.
  • Voltaire drank 50 cups of coffee a day.
  • Coffee was the first “food” to be freeze dried.
  • The first web cam was at Cambridge, and it was pointed at a coffee pot to let everyone know if it was full or empty.
  • The average American spends about $1,000 a year on coffee.
  • I drink Peet’s coffee at home!
  • Oh, and you can thank an Ethiopian goat herder in the 9th century for your cup of morning joe.  He observed his goats going kind of crazy after eating coffee beans.  So…

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