Creative Ventures Newsletter
Volume 81, November 2012
Austin, TX Logo

The BIG move to Austin is all done and all that’s left is getting settled in.  But as anyone who has moved knows, living out of boxes is no fun at all.  Things are a little chaotic with the added element of my hectic travel schedule.

Here is the new info:

Creative Ventures

109 Top O The Lake

Lakeway, TX  78734

Mobile: 972-345-9480  Office: 512-712-5279

October was a fantastic month for projects and, as usual, had me bouncing all over the country.

  • I launched a new project that addresses the revision and simplification of key organizational issues and will keep me going through the end of 2013.
  • I went to beautiful Vermont to teach The Architecture of Presentations and Presentation Skills as well as introducing the Power of Elegant Simplicity to a big portion of the company.
  • I had a chance to offer the first glimpse into my 2013 strategic platform The Idea Factory for a client that wanted to add the elements to their 2013 strategic initiatives.  It is a little premature, but will play a key role in the way this client positions internal idea development.
  • Why We Love the Movies was presented as a client appreciation event to over 250 folks in California and has two more offerings before the end of the year.  This has been one of the biggest and most satisfying surprises of the year for me, as I was very skeptical of the idea’s gaining any momentum beyond its initial charity presentation.  It is now one of my biggest programs for clients looking for a unique, dynamic, and entertaining program to use as either a client appreciation event of for a learning opportunity.
  • I did a version of the new and updated Repeatable Successful Acts (RSA) platform as a daylong workshop for over 120 invitees in Chicago.
  • I hurried to the airport from the Chicago program, caught a plane to Los Angeles (arriving 4 hours late and getting to the hotel at 2 AM) to present the RSA platform to a brand new client.

Add all of that to the big move from Dallas to Austin and you might get an idea of how weird things are and the incredible debt I owe Laura, who has coordinated every aspect of the move.
November has me bouncing all over the country with projects in Miami, Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Dallas.

I Love Movies

Seeming to do is not DOING

[Thomas Edison]

As fall hits the seasonal calendar, it’s not only time for the colors to change and sweaters to be taken out of moth-balls, but is also the heart of strategic planning season for businesses.  I know this not by the shift to cooler weather, but by the number of strategic planning projects I have the honor of being involved in.  I have six major strategy projects underway for five different clients in four different industries.

I have written a lot about strategy and the most effective planning methods, so much that this may sound like a broken record:  SIMPLICITY and DISCIPLINE drive outcome.  With strategic planning in the air I want to talk about the process, and in particular about the need for critical analysis and thinking in the planning process.

First let’s talk about process.  There are really only two methods of defining strategic issues:

  • OPEN PROCESS allows all those involved in the planning process to submit issues for strategic consideration.  The process then involves a culling down to the most important issues for planning consideration.
  • FIXED PROCESS occurs when only selected topics are in play and creates a more restricted or defined field for consideration.
In both types of process I move each issue through the ELEGANT SIMPLICITY PLANNING TEMPLATE, which consists of (yes) three steps:

  1. CURRENT REALITY is always the starting point.  Define the initiative on the table by where it is now.  By agreeing on a clear definition of your current reality, you have a realistic starting point that exists in real time and is well understood by participants.
  2. VISION:  After current reality is set, you brainstorm and clarify your vision of where you want the initiative to go.  What are the parameters that will define success?  Can you create a simple and clear statement that describes the goal?
  3. LEVERAGE POINTS:  It will be clear that there is distance between the current reality and the vision, hence the need for planning.  Problems occur at this point when an abundance of issues are perceived to require action.  The key to success in strategic planning is discipline, and the boundaries of that discipline revolve around “only 3.”  You get to identify no more than three key action items, and each action item must have a SINGLE accountable person, not a team, not two!  Three action items and singular accountability drive the outcome of the model.
Connections I have utilized and written about the Elegant Simplicity model for years, and it’s involved in each of the projects I work on.  So, let’s consider the previous paragraph to be a simple review for those of you who’ve been exposed to any Creative Ventures project.  Now I want to talk about the critical thinking and hard analysis that needs to go into each step.  Let’s refer to this as “the grind.”

The grind is the hard-core critical analysis of the ideas that are in play, a task that is often lacking in the planning process.  I don’t know how often I have heard “There are no such things as bad ideas or stupid questions in the planning process.”  Of course there are!  Well-constructed critical analysis rapidly identifies stupid stuff.  You want to know why well-facilitated critical analysis is missing in the strategic process?  It’s because it’s very difficult and hard!  It involves peeling away layers emotion and feelings surrounding issues, so that ultimately, you know the initiative is your very best work.  

The Pixar animation studios’ version of the grind is legendary.  It is often described as exposing every raw nerve ending of a story, then irritating each one until only the very best stories survive.  This process has impressive results, as PIXAR has global earnings exceeding $8 billion.  

The grind is a difficult process to self-administer if you don’t have a process or model to utilize.  Here is a very rudimentary but simple method for getting started with the grind:

  • INTERNAL IMPACT:  Take the idea to carefully define the internal impact of your initiative.  Does it really make a difference?  Will it consume too many resources?  Is there a true champion to be accountable for the issue?  Does it “move the needle?”  Does it make us extraordinary?  Is this our best idea?  If the issue cannot make it past the internal screening, save it for future consideration.  If it passes the internal grind, send it to the external impact filter.
  • EXTERNAL IMPACT:  Does it separate and differentiate you in the market?  Does it move the economic needle forward?  Will there be space between the cause and effect of the impact?  Does the same accountable person internally become the accountable person externally?

The grind is one of the great separators that allow strategy to be significant.  So take the critical thinking plunge.  Get rid of the armor that protects an idea and strip it down to its core ability to make a true and real difference.  Hey, 23 Academy Awards at Pixar should be proof enough!
Blackout Haunted House “BOO! THAT’LL BE $60”: The Blackout Haunted House in Manhattan is one scary place.  You have to sign a waiver that states you acknowledge you will be subjected to graphic simulated horror, darkness, fog, strobe lights, tight spaces, strong odors, exposure to cold and water, as well as physical contact.  All this joy for $60 a person!  This horror experience takes a full year to plan, design, and build and has lines around the block.  Hurricane Sandy put the kibosh on this year’s offering, but it will be back and ready to terrify next year.
Kiwi Crate Logo

NOT TOO YOUNG TO GET STARTED: Kiwi Crates is a new company that has created a subscription service that sends out do-it-yourself (DIY) projects for kids 3-7 years old.  The topics include science, inspiration, imagination, and arts/crafts.  One month’s project had the young DIYers making “stomp-worthy dinosaur feet,” and the next month participants actually made small stain glassed windows.  Imagine the money you will save in the future when your child can fix and design everything you will need!

Taylor Swift - Red

1.2 MILLION – THAT’S A SERIOUS NUMBER: Country-western pop sensation Taylor Swift has hit an impressive mark for the sale of her latest CD, Red.  In the first week alone, this latest offering of music from Swift hit the 1.2 million sold mark.  This is her second CD to exceed a million sold in the first week.  The last previous act to do that was the boy band 'N Sync over a decade ago.  Swift continues to impress with her songwriting ability and expansion into acting.  She is a great example of a powerful, personal brand!

Interested in these ideas?


You can contact Steve at or give him a call at (512) 712-5279.
See more at and

Steve Harvill • Office: (512) 712-5279 • Cell: (972) 345-9480
109 Top O The Lake • Lakeway, TX 78734