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15 posts from November 2004

A Book with Legs

The Art of Possibility by the Zanders (he's the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic) must be some book. I haven't read it yet, but I just added it to my wish list. This book was featured years ago in Fast Company, and just last week the leader of Creative Leaps recommended it. I'd love comments from anyone who's read it.

Here's a choice Zander quote from the article by Polly LaBarre:

The Success Game runs in an endless win-lose cycle -- which means that the people in it live with a sense of anxiety and fear.

So I invented a new game, called "I Am a Contribution," or "the Contribution Game." It's easy: You wake up in the morning, convince yourself for a few minutes that you are a contribution, and you go out and contribute. Then you go to bed and do it again the next day. What I've discovered since I started the Contribution Game is that people have an endless amount of energy for it. Sure, goals can be energizing -- when you win. But a vision is more powerful than a goal.


Leaping into a New Line of Thought

This year’s Net Impact conference was a big, energizing experience. Held at the Columbia Graduate School of Business (my alma mater), we had hundreds of speakers and professionals as well as students. Everyone was overflowing with information, and unlike the Ad Tech conference I attended at the beginning of the week, there was no hype!

Net Impact has come up with a more succinct mission statement: Business Leaders for a Better World. As much as I like the last executive director, the new director has me very excited about the organization’s ability to grow its awareness and capabilities. Liz Maw is not only listening to our members, but she has lots of valuable suggestions to share.

One of the best sessions was Creative Leap’s Concert of Ideas. A group of professional musicians and actors performed snippets of plays and music organized around the ideas we’d met to discuss at the conference, as well as opportunities to lead and contribute new ideas. It wasn’t just stimulating, it was nourishing. Sessions like this are very valuable in helping me see into a different set of ideas I never noticed before. It leads me to wonder what kind of role the arts could play at FastHouston.


Fair Trade = Personal Trade

At the Net Impact conference yesterday I saw a presentation called "Fair Trade Coffee: A Sustainable Development." Speakers from Green Mountain Coffee and Pura Vida Coffee emphasized that an important part of their marketing program is communicating how farming families are sustained by the higher prices paid for certified Fair Trade coffee. The quality of the coffee has to be above average, but the romance of contributing to the economic and educational welfare of a family is strongly communicated with portraits of the individual families and news about their kids and successes. This approach plays directly into the growing desire for more authentic connections in the marketplace.

Coffee was called a "failed market" by Barbara Fiorito, chair of Oxfam America. At the end of the 1990's, the open market price for coffee beans fell below the cost to produce them. The livelihood of 25 million families was jeopardized, many of whom were manipulated by middle men who controled their access to information as well as the market. Some farmers turned to growing crops that produce illegal drugs. Fair Trade practices, certified in the U.S. by TransFair, have saved many families.


Stop Spinning and Speak

I haven't been blogging because I've been in New York City at two conferences. It's not that there isn't a lot to say, it's just so hard to figure out what to say first.

Conferences are extremely important to my ability to innovate because they force me to change my perspective. And the first thing that happens is my head starts spinning! It may stop soon.

I don't know how conferences affect other people, but I'm very sad when people say they can't justify the expense. It seems to me they are short-changing their own future. How else can you make sure your focusing on the right things, unless you compare with other people? I find the best place to do that is at a conference. And I don't even meet very many other people. Being outside of my everyday environment, I see how my concerns fit into the larger world.

The good news is that I'm proud of the decisions I've recently made in my career and in my focus. Now I need to start leveraging those decisions by pushing more knowledge out of my head and into this blog. So look for more and more postings and emails coming from me.

Watch out!


The Many Roles of Marketing

The publication MarketingNPV Journal points the way to a 2004 study by Booz Allen Hamilton entitled "Are CMOs Irrelevant?" CMO is the new acronym for Chief Marketing Officer, and the article proceeds to prove that just how relevant they can become. One of the most interesting arguments they make is that to become effective the CMO must define their role at the company as either "marketing services," "marketing advisor," or "growth driver." The article includes many valuable tips for all types of marketing leaders. Download it here.


Suffer the Idea Thieves

Credit for Ideas is Overrated

People who generate a lot of ideas quickly get accustomed to those ideas being "stolen" by other people. I look at it this way: I have more ideas than I can ever execute. I appreciate it when someone take one of them and makes it happen. If they think they came up with the idea, well maybe they did. I can't keep track of all my ideas.

The link above is to an excellent article by Penelope Trunk on how you should not worry too much about people claiming your ideas. I would like to find a web site where she has posted more recent articles...

Let me tell you something: in this economy, few companies can afford an ideas guy. Companies are hiring people who generate revenue: executors.


Go Nobly into a World of Cynics and Thieves

If you find, as I do, your professional career to be a series of ongoing battles to champion new ideas, then you'll have to read, as I will, Harold Evans' new book They Made America.

Tim Manners of Reveries, spotted an essay by Harold Evans in The Wall Street Journal this morning which I would have missed because I seldom read the opinion pages. You'll have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing, but here are some of my favorite excerpts:

...the U.S. has been -- and remains -- the source of most of the innovations that created our modern world, and many of them have sprung from a desire to serve rather than steal.

Charles Goodyear was the very opposite of the left's stereotype of the grasping American capitalist. A Dickensian hero going nobly into a world of cynics and thieves, he was typical of many innovators in America's advance. More of them were (and are) fired by an ambition to be remembered for achieving something worthwhile than for making money.

The innovator has to bring the brainwave to market, and that, more than invention, is the distinctive characteristic of America.

I've excerpted some pretty generalized remarks, but the essay contains many meaty examples, and I hope to find even more in the book. Harold Evans last book was the bestseller The American Century.