2015 has started at a blistering pace for Creative Ventures. We have had consulting projects ranging from cultural development to implementing our learning programs into a client’s existing educational curriculum. Our DNA OF SUCCESS platform introduces a two study into leadership teams and creates a new way to look at leadership development, has us working overtime to fulfill client requests for the new content.
We have flown coast to coast rekindling relationships with old friends and working with new clients alike.
We live in extraordinary and exciting times in which companies are not satisfied with the status quo, which enables us to partner with many in building a strategic and unique tomorrows.
Now that the Oscars have been awarded, you might want to check out our annual “Top 10 and Bottom 5 Movies of 2014” list. Just send a note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get it out to you.
Moving a Hurricane of Ideas:
You can hear it on the coconut telegraph. they can't keep nothing under their hats. You can hear it on the coconut telegraph, say who did "dis or dat".
- Jimmy Buffett
Do you ever wonder how an idea moves? Where does an idea get momentum? How do ideas change things? That is, how do ideas move?
The answer is not a mystery and is known to
anyone who has ever failed to an idea off the ground. The failure (assuming the idea is pretty good) can almost always be traced back to an inability to communicate it to those who are needed for its implementation.
Ideas follow a simple cycle.
Genesis - This is the birth of the idea. Every idea has a starting point. Legend has it that Isaac Newton’s play on the idea of gravity can be traced to a falling apple. Though this is a key part, as ideas cannot happen without a beginning, an idea’s genesis is not the most important part of the cycle.
I Get It - Here lies the heart of an idea’s ability to gain impact. Do I understand not only the idea itself, but how it impacts me and what I do? Can I engage in the idea? Can I enroll my efforts here?
I Can Do It - The final leg is when I can take my understanding of the idea and actually do it. I can apply the idea.
The I GET IT phase is where the journey of an idea happens. It is where key strategic thinking is centered on developing communication plans around the idea…and where most new ideas DIE.
Many organizations skip this level entirely. They simple tell their teams to “do it.” We see it time and time again in our consulting as we are often brought into a strategy to figure out what’s going wrong. We focus on the lack of a cohesive communication plan, lack of a story that can be told to influence the impact of the idea. Communication IS a strategy, and without this key piece’s having a laser-like focus, the idea can have the lifespan of a mayfly (<24 hours).
Communication strategies have a coherent story and a continuity of delivery as their focal points. These are living entities that move, and that motion is best dictated by a thoughtful approach; otherwise, it will develop the organic life of Jimmy Buffett’s islands’ “coconut telegraph,” which spirals into gossip and long-legged untruths.
In his fantastic book Creativity Inc. Ed Catmull tells the following story. In 2005 Pixar and its distribution partner Disney were going to war. Steven Jobs (Pixar) and Michael Isner (Disney) had a huge falling out and bad feelings were everywhere. Disney had formed Circle 7 to execute the studio’s right to make sequels to Pixar movies without Pixar’s involvement. It was akin to kidnapping Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the creative nurturing womb of Pixar. So in October of 2005, when Jobs informed partners John Lassiter and Ed Catmull that he was considering selling Pixar to Disney, it was like a jump into an icy lake for the Pixar boys. Jobs’ idea had started to form when Eisner left Disney and was replaced by Bob Iger. Jobs said Iger was the kind of guy they could work with, but that he would not go forward with the sale, without John’s and Ed’s agreement.
As usual, Jobs laid out a well-thought strategy and asked that they get to know Iger. After a series of meetings and maneuvers behind closed doors the sale became a reality. During the high-powered money talks that resulted in a $7.9 billion sale everyone acknowledged the success of the deal would be based on gaining a high level of engagement from the whole Pixar gang who had thought the companies were adversaries. So began the development of the communication strategic platform.
From small meetings to filling up an entire soundstage on the Disney property, a well-crafted story was defined and delivered. Key documents were created to show the pathway that a new culture would follow. The top leaders delivered the message. To this day, follow-up meetings and communication roundtables that were designed in 2005 and 2006 are still being held. The result is one of the most successful large scale corporate transactions in history. Two of the most successful creative powers the world has ever seen overcame every opportunity to butt heads and crash, but the communication strategy carried the cultural message through all the bumps and road blocks that occurred. This is impact an effective communication strategy can have.
From a strategic foundation, the crafting, development, and delivery of a communication strategy can make all the difference in the success or failure of your idea! It is an indispensable tool for reaching your outcome, and it is as important as any element on your balance sheet.
Communication is the real work of leadership. - Nitin Nohria (Harvard Business School)
ATTACK FEAR -All new ideas bring with them the threat of change, and despite all that is written about how good change is for the human experience, change usually is met with fear. So as a new idea hits the I GET IT phase, your communication strategy needs to attack the fear that new ideas bring. When Pixar developed their Disney announcement strategy, they created The Five Year Social Compact, a written tool that contained 59 (yes 59!) bullet points that addressed the issues important to Pixar people. It was a contract to protect the culture. It contained everything from keeping your creative titles on your business cards, the fact there would still be no assigned parking (first come, first served), and that various social events (wrap parties, Cinco de Mayo, and summer BBQ’s) would continue. This went to every employee and addressed the fear point of change. It created a tangible connection to the desire for safety. If you can allay the fear aspect of a new idea you stand to gain a much faster level of engagement. Look to create a defining tool to help everyone understand what the future can look like.
FACE TO FACE - Nothing costs more money than face-to-face meetings. They cost time away from the core business. They interrupt work flow. I’m normally not a big fan of meetings; however, in any communication strategy they are essential. In-person meetings provide a unique opportunity for open exchange of feelings, and when structured properly they can create environments of candor. Certain communication strategies need BIG meetings where large numbers of folks are gathered to hear about what’s going on and what will happen. By the time the ink was dry on the Disney/Pixar deal, Lassiter, Catmull, and Jobs had assembled all 800 Pixar employees to tell them the “story” and start the I GET IT process. Some communication plans need smaller groups where intimate exchanges can occur. The point is that this one element of your communication strategy is probably the key for gaining the highest level of engagement around your idea. We call this “enrollment.” The more a person or team is involved in the idea, the more engaged they become. We can help you get people enrolled in ideas, especially a big idea.
CONTINUITY - Guess what: the more complex a communication plan is, the greater the chance for ambiguity and confusion. The hope that a message can remain exactly the same in every interaction is unrealistic. Think of it like asking five people to tell the story of Goldilocks. Each person will tell the story a little differently, but each one will have a blonde girl and three bears! You are looking for continuity, so that everyone in the audience hearing a story is getting the same message. The more simple you can make the strategic messaging, the more likely the message is to strike home! Create a series of simple pieces with core talking points, and stress that everyone be familiar with the MEANING of each point. I recently had a conference call with a team of people charged with spreading the message from the communication plan. I asked each one to explain what the three part message meant to them. In this simple exercise we discovered the messengers had a hard time articulating the message. We regrouped, and after a little coaching each was ready. Any plan, especially one in which the continuity of the message is important, needs to be consistently revisited to keep the idea on track.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF FRUIT: It’s pretty hard to find a fruit that plays a bigger role in life than the apple. From the forbidden fruit in Eden to the legendary bump on Isaac Newton’s head, from the trail of seeds sown by Johnny Appleseed to the health benefits of a single apple eaten every day, the apple has a unique place in history. Now it seems impossible to pick up any publication without a healthy dose of Apple Inc. worship. Publications from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today have had recent major articles about the potential happenings stirring in Cupertino. The Apple smart watch has a sales projection of 20 million and most of us don’t even know what it will do! Now there is talk of--I kid you not--an Apple car. Whatever they are doing, it WORKS! Apple recently passed the $700 billion mark in market value, or the equivalent of Switzerland’s entire gross domestic product…and twice the size of Exxon-Mobil. Simple, functional, and magnificent design continues to drive this extraordinary company.
WINTER IS COMING:These three words have nothing to do with polar vortexes or another 12’ of snow in Boston; instead, they are the three word catch phrase of one of the most popular HBO series in history, Game of Thrones. This medieval fantasy show has captured the imagination of almost 20 million fans, making it the most watched show on premium television. Part of the allure is the realism of George R. R. Martin’s world. For 20 years Tommy Dunne has been contributing to the realistic construction of weapons that slash and stab--the “blades.” Dunne discovered his niche when a friend hired him to make the weapons for Braveheart. Every weapon is constructed from historical data with modern material. Since actors might not “benefit” from the danger of actual steel blades, Dunne uses aircraft aluminum as well as bamboo for training swords. His design skills have made him the king of sword makers, and his contribution to the world of Westeros is a main factor in the Game of Thrones’ success. Winter is coming!
THE GOLDEN YEARS OF THE GOLDEN BEAR: With 18 major titles, 19 second place finishes, and 73 tour victories, Jack Nicklaus can be considered the greatest golfer of all time. But after hanging up his clubs, this 74- year old built a business empire. The Nicklaus Company is the umbrella organization for all Jack’s business operations. Nicklaus Designs has built 380 golf courses in 36 countries. The Golden Bear (his nickname) logo appears on a stunning number of products from shirts to sunglasses, from lemonade to a pretty good cabernet. His brand equity is built around winning with class and sportsmanship, traits that marked his playing career. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and actually appeared on a five pound British note! All this success is built around a vision of how things connect. Golf courses connect to clubhouses, which connect to restaurant menus, which connect to wine. All of this “because I could hit a golf ball,” as Jack says.