This month's issue: Maintaining a flexible mentality. 
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Simple. Powerful. Elegant.

A Newsletter from Creative Ventures

Issue #118

Big News

Welcome to ...

A new canvas awaits. 

We are especially excited about a number of new projects:
  • A custom strategy we have designed around the idea of innovation and its implications on operations. We have created a phenomenally simple two part process for our client. 

  • A debut of a new Dazzling Blue Platform on creating extraordinary client experiences through simple shifts and changes. 

  • A brand new version of Repeatable Successful Acts, our sales strategy based on the power behaviors of million dollar producers, is the foundation of our upcoming book. 
And that's just JANUARY!

Our key internal strategic plan has Colin spearheading a design process that will deliver our first self-contained product.   In 2016 we will have a learning tool available for purchase that will have the entire aspect of a strategy, from video to workbooks to impact evaluation.  WOW! 

Our 2015 Top Ten Bottom Five List is ready! This list is by request only so, If you want to a copy of the best and worst of films of 2015 drop us an email and we will shoot it your way. 

Here is the latest episode of OVER COFFEE VIDEO highlighting one of the Repeatable Successful Acts, time blocking. 




"I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times." 

- Everett Dirksen

In the October newsletter I discussed the critical importance of strategic planning and how most companies get a failing grade for the process and application of planning.  Most of you probably made adjustments and all that time and effort of peeking into the very “iffy” future resulted in the launch of plan, and here you are in the initial stages of the plan where, like the first stage of the Saturn rocket, you’ve been lifted into Phase 1.

For most of you there are already strange intrusions of reality that are pushing you a little off course.  It happens.  Markets make both swift and subtle shifts that even the best prognosticators could not predict.  Competitors create new ideas that require a response, and the very spinning of the planet seems to create unpredictability. 

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

--Helmuth von Moltke

So, the idea of flexibility becomes a driving strategic principle if your plan is to do what you had in mind.

The Omaha Steak Company has been shipping meat for 98 years.  They are the #1 food retailer in the US, with annual sales exceeding $450 million.  This despite the trend of Americans eating less meat than ever before.  If you are in the meat business this downward trend beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2014 would be expected to knock the rib eye right out of your spread sheets. How did the folks at Omaha Steak combat this shrinking meat issue?  FLEXIBILITY.  They expanded their product line to include other proteins like turkey, chicken, and bison.  They offered smaller portions.  They added side dishes like wine, chocolate, and yes, even the dreaded vegetables.  They shifted from catalog to web-based strategies ahead of the market.  In other words, they paid attention to their strategy and created an elastic focus that moved with the market.  They never let their plan stagnate.
Office Depot saw shifts in buying patterns during the recession, shifts discovered in their MONTHLY strategy meetings.  Based on the patterns they observed, they shifted from large packaged items like a 5-pen Sharpie package and 5 reams of copy paper to new displays of single pens and one ream of copy paper.  This simple adaptation to their sales strategy had a positive and immediate impact on sales.


This idea is not about a monthly trashing of your strategic plan.  I’m not recommending filling a lifeboat with your hard work and setting it afloat.  I’m instead talking about diligent focus, very regular communication, and the courage to make adjustments.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

-T. Robbins

Our world seems defined by its pace.   No doubt things move fast, but with a strategic focus on the simple discipline of “paying attention” you can make the adjustments needed without discarding your original plan.  In fact, your ability to be nimble will actually create opportunities out of your adjustments.  So allocate some time and resources to the idea of regularly checking in with your plan, and agile, tactical shifts will become an asset!



Do This!


At the core of flexibility are two simple principles: SENSE and ADJUST.  SENSE is about paying attention through a systemic approach to monitoring what’s going on within the context of your plan.  It’s not about reacting.  Most reaction is based on surprise.  A strong plan of sensing mitigates surprise.  Part of your strategic plan should be a constant looking around.  As the new movie The Big Short illustrates, the sub-prime mortgage market lacked any kind of sensing, and the result was financial disastrous.  Think about forming a small group of people who spend some focused time looking around! 
ADJUST means to make small but frequent adjustments.  The Apollo 11 astronauts were only on course about 3% of the time in their journey to the moon.  They were making small adjustments 97% of the time.  Big abrupt changes tend to be limiting and unsustainable.  If you are doing a good job of sensing, small will work.  Do these two things and your plan will be dynamic and consistent.

ADD A CASUAL FRIDAY TO YOUR PLANNING - Most companies have regular strategy meetings.  They review the numbers.  In the past those may have happened quarterly, but many are now being done monthly, which is a big nod to the idea of flexibility.  Spread sheets are laid out and hard core analysis is the order of the day.  This is a CRITICAL component of business, but with a financial services client we added another level of meeting.  These are called “chats,” and they happen over lunch or over bagels in the morning.  They are open to anyone who wants to attend.  They have a specific agenda but are loosely moderated.  People talk about how they feel about the ideas and strategies in play.  These types of conversations often provide a great augmentation to the numbers associated with the strategy.

Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything (NETMA).  You would be shocked at how this is mantra of lots of folks in your company.  You ask them some basic questions, and the look of confusion on their faces might lead you to believe it’s the first time they have heard of any strategy being in play.  If you are looking for the moat that surrounds the castle of your strategy, you can guarantee it is communications.  Despite the best efforts of companies, most are woefully lacking in a consistent communication strategy around their strategy.  RIGHT NOW, you should make a simple list of how your plan is being communicated to your teams and the people they come in contact with.  Yes, a simple list.  Is your current communication plan enough?  Are you using the right tools?  Is it passive (they have to go find it)?  Is it active (they are involved in it)?  There is a treasure of information that needs to be EXCHANGED between leadership and those implementing the ideas.  Make this a PRIMARY focus, and your strategic plan will have the suppleness and power it needs!

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."

- Lao Tzu




There is a rising (though still small) number of companies that are offering unlimited vacation time to their team members.  The caveat, get your work done.  LinkedIn has this element in their employment package and even General Electric is experimenting with it.  Early survey results are very positive.  It’s a strong recruiting and retention tool.  If frees the books from the liability of unused vacation time.  It requires very little record keeping, providing HR divisions with time to focus on education.  72% of those involved in this type of vacation strategy take the same amount of time that they did when it was capped at a certain number of days.  Heck, 41% of workers never use their vacation days!  Get yourself a pair of flip flops and get the hell out of the office, and by the way, turn off your cell phone!



The Golden Globe Award nominations have come out, and they point to a very interesting direction...and it’s away from network TV.  Our steadfast core of boob tube entertainment may still provide us the laughs of The Big Bang Theory and the illicit life of the recording industry Empire, but it’s fading as the place to go for our in-home amusement.  Only Empire got a nomination for either comedy or drama series.  That means other delivery options are now the overwhelming dominant source of programing for our flat screen high def watching.  Of the 11 Best Series nominations, five are available only via streaming.  Where is the future of television programming going?  The arrow is clearly pointing away from our friends at Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC.  Pay attention, guys, your advertisers are!

The Band Aid division of Johnson & Johnson is so synonymous with its product that we virtually call every bandage a Band Aid, kind of like every tissue is a Kleenex or every hot tub is a Jacuzzi.  But despite all of that, recent times had seen sales drop at this J&J star.  Band Aid had introduced superior breathability, better comfort and flexibility, and even added antiseptic to create a type of one-step infection protection, but none of that really helped.  Enter pop culture into the product equation, and watch sales boom!  Band Aid added licensing to its marketing strategy, and as fast as you can say Frozen or Star Wars, sales took a huge jump.  This simple idea added an almost immediate 10.2% increase in sales.  Though your owie may need medicine and protection, what it really needed was Chewbacca.

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