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Volume #74 - April 2012
HAPPENINGS

March was a very interesting month at Creative Ventures.  It was filled with a wonderful combination of my three core services: presenting, teaching and consulting... and some creative development work.

I spent a lot of time in St. Louis, where I had the absolute honor of teaching my Interpersonal Communications course to three different groups for the same client.  What made it even more impactful to me was that these were “elective” education programs which were all full!  In preparing for the classes I had a great opportunity to do some extensive updating of content to give the entire program a new look and feel.

One of my largest clients embarked on a challenging new endeavor.  They want to create an “idea factory,” a place where various divisions can meet with the goal of developing new ideas around products, organization, production, sales, and design.  I have the privilege of being a member of the design team developing the “idea factory.”  The IDEA article below will give a few highlights about this project.

Then, on top of those fantastic opportunities, I had the chance to debut the new version of Repeatable Successful Acts.  Two new industries with 25 new interviews were added to the existing data.  I have nine bookings for RSA in April!  I also had the chance to present to a brand new client a planning workshop based on my 3-part Elegant Simplicity model, and we’re looking at additional dates to help them implement the model.

March also gave me the opportunity to work on a new program about how ideas are developed, what gives them impact, and what sustains their strategic importance.  The program has the working title  “The Half-life of Ideas.”

Despite all the fabulous business opportunities that March presented, the highlight of my month was the marriage of my oldest son Dylan to his beautiful fiancée, Amanda.  The wedding was held in the hill country just outside Austin, TX, on a perfect spring night.  I want to say thank you to everyone who has wished them well!

April begins a challenging three month schedule, with trips to Chicago, Georgia, Hawaii, Bermuda, Dallas, and San Antonio!  WOW!

IDEA

OVERCOMING THE IDEA CHALLENGE

Every new idea is born drowning

-Bob Woodruff

Mr. Woodruff’s quote is both sad and true.  Why?  It’s because most people don’t know how to generate, mold, play with, engage, or present an idea. Some people simply don’t know how to put together what they see.  It’s sad, but true.  And yet, ideas drive EVERYTHING.  

In early March I was sitting in a small conference room discussing the planning process for an upcoming meeting.  The discussion was following a very common thread.  What are the goals of the meeting?  Who should be there?  What type of support material do we need?  Yada, yada, yada.  At one point a young woman uttered the classic phrase, “I have an idea.”  I stopped in my tracks and turned on the active listening skill.  She proceeded to introduce what appeared to... maybe, kind of... be an idea.  It was rapidly shot down, but there was a real seed of something there.  After the meeting I met with senior leadership and brought up her idea again.  But this time I positioned it a little differently and suddenly they were interested.  This small meeting became the genesis for a project we are calling THE IDEA FACTORY, a special department around something new.

The problem my client faces is not a gaping deficit of ideas, but instead the lack of skill in developing ideas.  The IDEA FACTORY is not only going to be a genesis point for new thinking, but more importantly, it will become a development center for ideas.  The concept is to create organizational structure around a value-based creative process.  This isn’t a new concept.  Everyone from DuPont to GM, from Google to Microsoft has structures around idea development and application.

There is no unified idea theory or law to ideas.  It’s about what inspires you to action, what transforms what you see.

Here are some of the draft steps that will be in use at THE IDEA FACTORY:

DEFINE THE MODEL:  An idea needs form to be explained, designed, and moved forward.  So first give the idea a simple form. Try the development of a 1-3 sentence statement.  For instance, “This idea is a 3-part process to decrease the existing complexity between our product and our buyer.”  Immediately I know the idea has three parts and deals with a product and the customer.  When we started testing this element I used the Dazzling Blue platform as a simple statement that defines a model model: “This strategy defines the difference between ordinary and extraordinary performance and provides a map for the journey to extraordinary.”  It’s still a little vague, but now you get to move forward at the FACTORY.

TELL ME ABOUT IT:  Try this exercise:  10-20-30 rule, developed by Guy Kawasaki.  You get a maximum of 10 slides, 20 minutes and must use 30 pt. font to show the value of your idea.  This is your first large idea challenge. It provides the idea substance and forces you into a true idea development phase.   Basically it requires SHOW IT TO ME.  This is your idea pitch.  If at the end of this exercise your idea does not gain engagement, it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

RISK:  The idea factory is the home of risk.  Keep in mind, most people never have taken a significant idea risk in their lives.  They know and are attracted to safety.  That’s OK, every process needs an element of safety, but idea development has a tendency to stall when safety is a “must have” in the process.  The IDEA FACTORY is about the unknown, and the unknown lacks a safety address.  

These are three early draft pieces in the development of the IDEA FACTORY concept.  You don’t need a corporate division to get started.  You can start small.  Try having a small group meeting every week or a scheduled monthly session where you can start to apply idea development principles.  Make it a consistent endeavor so those involved will see a level of commitment to the value of producing new ideas.

To define the development of new ideas as a regular function in a company is to actively take a real and impactful step to tomorrow.

NEWS

SOUTH X SOUTHWEST:  An annual pilgrimage of the cutting edge occurs in the capital city of Texas.  Austin just finished hosting the 2012 SXSW conference that melds music, movies, and interactive technology into a uniquely Texas experience.  Over 300 movies debuted, over 2,000 musical performers shared their craft in more than 90 venues, and the ever-emerging world of interactive technology bloomed into reality like the annual bluebonnets of spring.  Almost 25,000 people attended and participated in this explosion of creativity as SXSW continued to push the boundaries of cultural activity.

 

THE POWER OF DIVERSITY:  A recent study in Science magazine has shown that a company is less likely to arrive at new ideas or find innovative solutions to tricky problems in a “monoculture” dominated by a single field of expertise, a single gender, or a single racial component.  Team performance correlates weakly with intelligence, but innovation and transformation thrive in an environment of social diversity and a mixture of business expertise.  By the way, you want to increase the success of even a socially-diverse group?  Add a few more females.  The same study showed that groups with more women had higher success ratings.

 

THE DEMISE AND REINVENTION OF THE VENDING MACHINE:  A health-conscious America has put the kibosh on the vending machine industry in the past few years.  From 2007 to 2010 vending machines have shown a decline of 134,000 machines, and the industry’s revenue has seen an 11% decline to $42.2 billion.  But as with any adversity, opportunity lurks right around the creative corner.  The vending machine industry has migrated to new and brighter fields.  Airports now feature vending machines that sell everything from smartphone charging units to iPods.  DVD rentals have created an entire new source of vending machine revenue, and innovative touch screens offer mobile payment options that allow for greater diversity in product pricing.  2012 will be the time in seven years that will see an upswing in vending machine revenue.  New ideas bring new opportunity!

CONTACT
Interested in these ideas?

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You can contact Steve at steve@creativeventures.com or give him a call at 972-490-7717.
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Steve Harvill • Office: (972) 490-7717 • Cell: (972) 345-9480 • Fax: (972) 386-9569
15615 Regal Hill Circle • Dallas, TX 75248