It gets hard to explain to people what we do. Just like all of you, we are asked all the time, “What do you guys do?” The answer is always something like:
We are a small boutique consulting firm that specializes in business strategy. HUH? We come up with original ideas that can help businesses move to a higher level of performance. What kinds of ideas? Well, we have strategies on sales, the client experience, planning, simplicity, and the power of story to name a few. Where do your ideas come from? That’s easy: through our history we have been exposed to just about every form of business and product/service you can imagine. By working in their “real” business world we discover needs and then design, produce, and apply ideas that make a real difference in our clients’ performance and results. How do you get clients? Well, one success leads to another and that path has served us for 31 years.
Our answer to “what do we do” is ever evolving. Think about your answer.
It’s a good place to start your thinking about the direction you want
to take your company.
We had another huge month in March, with projects around story, the idea of sketchnoting, and the client experience. We sold the foreign rights to our new book in China and Russia as well as deciding on a home for the audio version of the book (Simon and Schuster will do it in-house, which I understand is quite an honor). You can pre-order the September released book on Amazon now.
April starts the busiest 6 weeks in our history with new projects and trips to California, Hawaii, Missouri, Las Vegas, and Dallas!
Here is the latest Over Coffee Video. It’s about our idea process.
"I watch TV more than I used to, and the commercials don't impress me. The standard of execution is very high, but the standard of ideas is appalling. "
- Paul Arden
"Ideas are cheap. Ideas are easy. Ideas are common. Everybody has ideas. Ideas are highly, highly overvalued. Execution is all that matters."
Compare the two quotes above one more time. I have always been fascinated by the apparent battle between idea and execution. Many business experts will tell you “Ideas are a dime a dozen,” or “Anybody can have an idea. The ability to execute is all that matters.” Others will tell you the real value is in an idea that can create value-based traction. On Google you will find thousands of articles that support skirmishes where this war is fought. This battle mystifies me.
Last month I wrote about the creation and management of ideas, so I thought I would book-end the March newsletter with an April look at execution. First, I want to state my position. Ideas and execution are dancing partners. One without the other makes you look kind of crazy, like if you were dancing around by yourself at the prom.
The genesis of an idea versus the “doing” of the idea cannot, especially in business, travel independent paths. Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Coco Chanel, and Jeff Bezos all had the winning combination of idea and execution. They changed the world by marrying unique and powerful ideas to excellent implementation strategies to produce something real and meaningful.
Here is a more detailed example of that delicate ballet.
I spend a lot of my time in hotels. I mean a LOT of time. I also have the privilege of working with some of the world’s best architectural firms, and through this combination I know what hotel people want in a room. It’s really a simple list:
Good water pressure
A quiet room is a construction consideration, as is good water pressure, but a comfortable bed is a purchase/budget decision. So, at the Westin hotel chain the idea was, “Let’s take a look at the bed. What can we do there?” Through their process of idea development and exchange they asked, “Can the bed be a brand decision? Can it actually attract travelers?” So, enter the Heavenly Bed. They tested the idea. They built model beds. They looked at thread count on linens. From an EXECUTION process the idea took form and became one of the most revolutionary ideas in the hospitality business. The bed has 900 coils! The linens are WHITE! White? Yep, despite the increased washing cycle the white sheets and pillows made the bed look comfortable and fluffy!
So what was the impact of idea to execution?
The bed became a profit center! At $3,000 per king sized bed they have sold in excess of 30,000 beds.
It created branding power where the bed is a focal advertising point.
It launched rapid imitation with the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper as a competitor.
Idea and execution are not valuable independent of each other. They have to move in unison. Last month I gave you three ways to develop an idea. This month here are your three concepts around execution.
IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK:One of the stumbling blocks around execution are our assumptions around the idea. We build entire structures of assumptions. If we do this, this will happen. Really? How do you know that? During his troubled tenure as CEO of JC Penney, Ron Johnson made assumption after assumption about the Penney’s client base. They didn’t really want sales and coupons to get discounts. They didn’t like the apparent arbitrary items in the clearance racks. All wrong. Firestone Tires controlled almost the entire market for car tires until the French company Michelin came to our shores with the radial tire. Firestone knew the radial was coming, as it had dominated the European market. They assumed they had time to make the changes to their own product line to compete, but soon found themselves chasing a new market. You may be wicked smart in your field, but don’t allow that market intelligence to lead you to believe you know everything. Challenge your own knowledge and assumptions, and you will enable better idea execution.
I HAVE AN IDEA, LET'S TRY IT: This is where the success of prototyping comes into play. Test the idea. Sounds like a simple addition to the idea execution cycle, but you would be shocked by the number of times an idea gets tossed into the deep end of the market without any real physical assessment. When Nike is working on a new shoe, they just don’t send it to market or stick it on Serena Williams’s foot. They build prototypes and samples. They watch behavior trends. They figure out colors. They build model after model. They try it. The Westin Heavenly Bed went through a ton of prototyping before it was deemed THE model. September 4, 1957, was E-Day, the day Ford launched the Edsel! The Edsel was the car that had “everything the car buyer wanted.” There were an unheard of 18 versions of the car, available at a higher price than anyone wanted. No testing, no prototype, many assumptions…and a $250 million loss back when $250 million was a HUGE number. Test!
LITTLE CHANGES MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE: You have worked hard to test against your assumptions. You have developed and tested your ideas through market analysis, prototyping, or direct client focus groups. But still the idea needs just a few tweaks. This is called the “tinkering” phase. We make little changes. At Creative Ventures when we are preparing an idea for presentation to a client, we go through an entire “architectural” process of development and design before we go the actual construction of the idea. We then pull out all the key elements of the idea and put them on colored post-it stickers. This allows us to “tinker” with the content. We can move pieces around and play with the idea before it goes to production. The concept that an idea in its execution phase is still a dynamic, evolving thing is critical to expert execution. Small changes happen even after initial production. In the tech world we know these as “updates.” They are simply tinkering with the software to make the idea better!
I LOVE PIZZA, BUT... REALLY?: Pizza has gotten pretty easy to get into your belly over the years. With delivery, phone orders, websites, apps, and twitter all working to produce your slice as fast as possible, I thought we had all our bases covered, pizza in the palm of your hand so to speak. I was wrong…at least that’s what Pizza Hut is now telling me. Pizza Hut is releasing their first ever sneaker. Yes, I said sneaker. These sneakers, dubbed “Pie Tops,” can order your pizza wherever you happen to be. Click the button on the sneaker, and two large pepperoni pizzas will be in your hands before you know it. Now, I’m big on innovation, but this seems, well, ridiculous. But no press is bad press, and if you google “pizza shoes” you will see everyone is talking about these bad boys. Way to go, marketing team!
BEZOS IS EXPANDING TO THE MOON:If taking over the digital market place and keeping UPS ever relevant in your daily life wasn’t enough, Bezos is now shooting for the stars. Well, the moon at least. Through his company Blue Origin, similar to Elon Musk’s Space X, Bezos is aiming to place a lunar lander on the south pole of the moon. Deriving its power directly from the sun, this lunar lander is touted to be the potential first fulfillment center on the moon. Currently Bezos is hoping to get the support of NASA for the idea, which would put him at the forefront of a possible future moon settlement. This idea might seem a little out there, but Bezos has never been one to play it safe.
MCDONALDS HAS A $150 SPOON?: McDonald’s is using its vast resources and a team of aerospace and robotic engineers to solve some of today’s most pressing problems. Not really, but they are making a cool STRAW (Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal). Leveraging a cult following can be powerful, and if you have a cult following around a product like the Shamrock Shake and its multiple variations (the Shamrock McFrappe) you may have the opportunity to have a serious impact on your business. Not sure in this case if that’s true, as the STRAW’s production numbers have yet to cross the 2,000 mark and it’s toting a $160.00 price tag online. My guess, if you were into collecting Beanie Babies for a future unknown fortune, this collector’s item might be right in your wheelhouse.
Pretty cool stuff ...
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