Wednesday, September 29, 2010

7 Ways to G.E.T. when you A.S.K.

Ask and you shall receive.  How many times have you heard that? But how many times have you used this fundamental truth in your daily life recently?

At Stinson Brand Innovation, we consult with many clients on motivating "closes" in sales and "call to action" copy in promotion. But asking goes beyond that.

My friend and mentor, Jack Canfield, sent me a message recently that said, "Let me put it this way: when was the last time you asked for a written endorsement from a client or colleague? How about feedback from your customers? Or the opportunity to renegotiate something that just doesn't work for you?"

Here's more of his advice:

I can't tell you how often I watch business professionals -- especially those in sales and marketing positions -- falter because they simply stop practicing the art of asking.

If you were to ask successful top executives how they got to where they are, I bet most would admit they "asked to get to the top." In other words, they knew when and how to ask the right questions so they could gather the right information, build their reputation, seek useful referrals, generate new business, and expand their audience or customer base.

If the simple act of asking is so critical, then why don't more people do it?

Because for some reason, people falsely think asking implies weakness and sets one up for potential rejection. It's easy to come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid asking questions that can return unexpected or critical answers. Yet the world responds to those who ask.  If you are not moving closer to what you want, you probably aren't doing enough asking.

Here are 7 asking strategies you can implement in our business (and in life) to boost your results:
  1. Ask for Information You can never have too much information; in fact, the higher up you go, the more you need to know. To win potential new clients, you first need to have an understanding about their current challenges, what they want to accomplish and how they plan to do it. Only then can you proceed to demonstrate the advantages of your unique product or service. Ask questions starting with the words who, why, what, where, when and how to obtain the information you need. Only when you truly understand and appreciate a prospect's needs can you offer a solution. 
  2. Ask for Business
    Would you believe that more than 60 percent of the time salespeople never ask for the order after giving a complete presentation about the benefits of their product or service?! It's true, and a painful statistic that could put anyone out of business quickly if it's not changed. Always ask a closing question to secure the business. Don't waffle or talk around it--or worse, wait for your prospect to ask you. No doubt you have heard of many good ways to ask the question, "Would you like to give it a try?" The point is, ask.
  3. Ask for Written Endorsements
    These can be difficult to ask for if you don't like tooting your own horn, but well-written, results-oriented testimonials from highly respected people are powerful for future sales. They solidify the quality of your product or service and leverage you as a person who has integrity, is trustworthy and gets the job done on time.  When is the best time to ask? Right after you have provided excellent service, gone the extra mile, or made your customer really happy. Simply ask if your customer would be willing to give you a testimonial about the value of your product or service, plus any other helpful comments.
  4. Ask for Top-Quality Referrals
    Just about everyone in business knows the importance of referrals. It's the easiest, least expensive way of ensuring your growth and success in the marketplace. Your core clients will gladly give you referrals because you treat them so well. So why not ask all of them for referrals? It's a habit that will dramatically increase your income. Like any other habit, the more
    you ask the easier it becomes.
  5. Ask for More Business
    Look for other products or services you can provide your customers. Devise a system that tells you when your clients will require more of your products. The simplest way is to ask your customers when you should contact them to reorder. It's easier to sell your existing clients more than to go looking for new ones.
  6. Ask for Feedback
    This is an important component of asking that is often overlooked. How do you really know if your product or service is meeting your customers' needs? Ask them, "How are we doing? What can we do to improve our service to you? Please share what you like or don't like about our products." Set up regular customer surveys that ask good questions and tough questions. It's a powerful way to fine-tune your business.
  7. Ask to Renegotiate The negotiating room should never be locked up for good. Regular business activities include negotiation and often re-negotiation. Many networkers get stuck because they lack skills in negotiation, yet this is simply another form of asking that can save a lot of time and money. All sorts of contracts can be renegotiated in your personal life, too, such as changing your credit card terms and rates. As long as you negotiate ethically and in the spirit of a win-win, you can enjoy a lot of flexibility. Nothing is ever cast in stone. It's only in stone if you don't speak up!
The 5 Secrets to Successful Asking

The first stumbling block for most is knowing how to ask. There are five secrets to great asking that can guarantee you results, however big or small. If you ever find yourself hitting brick walls and coming up short in responses, come back to these 5 tips:
  • Ask Clearly: No one likes getting a vague or fuzzy question. Be precise. Think clearly about your request. Take time to prepare. Use a note pad to pick words that have the greatest impact. Words are powerful, so choose them carefully. For example, if you throw out the "How am I doing?" question without specifics, it may take time for the other person to understand what you're talking about. Instead, try, "How is my attitude with customers? Do you see room for improvement? Where?"
  • Ask with Confidence: People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you've figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness and confidence. Practice in the mirror if you have to, or write out your question in advance.  Be prepared to hear the unexpected or the unwanted. Try to have an open mind and heart (it's okay to feel intimidated by the experience, but don't show it). Don't get defensive if you hear something you don't like or that makes you uncomfortable. It's good to get a little uneasy once in a while upon the observations or insights of others. They will inspire you to stop, reflect, and take steps to make a shift for the better.
  • Ask Consistently: Top producers know that they can't quit if they ask once and don't get a good response. Keep asking until you find the answers, and try different ways of asking if one doesn't seem to be working. In prospecting there are usually four or five "no's" before you get a "yes." You may, for example, want to ask a co-worker about your performance on an important team project, but you sense reluctance from that person to offer an opinion.  You can always ask another person who is more receptive to the question, or consider how you are asking it and try again. Because people don't normally go around asking others for opinions on how well they are doing, it's not a question typically heard. So be prepared to ask over and over again before you hear a clear--useful--answer.
  • Ask Creatively: In this age of global competition, your asking may get lost in the crowd, unheard by the decision-makers you hope to reach. There is a way around this. If you want someone's attention, don't ask the ordinary way. Use your creativity to dream up a high-impact presentation. Bear in mind that asking someone to stop and evaluate you can seem awkward or time-consuming. Show respect for them first and find the ideal time to ask the question. Here's one way to engage the insights of a superior: "I highly value your opinion and honest perspective, and would love to know what you think I could be doing differently on a daily basis that would make your life easier and make our clients happier."
  • Ask Sincerely: When you really need help, people will respond. Sincerity means dropping the image facade and showing a willingness to be vulnerable. Tell it the way it is, lumps and all. Don't worry if your presentation isn't perfect; ask from your heart. Keep it simple and people will open up to you.
Like speaking a different language, asking takes continual practice until it becomes a regular, reflexive habit. The sooner you build your "Ask Muscle," the sooner you'll see the results you've been waiting -- and searching -- for.

Don't think asking only relates to work-related goals and tasks. Bring this practice home to enrich your relationships with your family members and your friends, too!

I trust you'll be surprised and delighted at what you discover about yourself in this process.

Happy asking!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 potential advantages of virtual marketing (and market research)

Virtual events such as webcasts, podcasts continue to grow in popularity as marketers are beginning to get a grip on how to conduct these events effectively. When you have to do more with less, as we have in a troubled economy, the internet can be your best friend.

There are a few advantages of online events over live events:
  • Online events can be a fraction of the cost of a live event
  • It can be left on the internet forever and accessed anytime
  • Its effectiveness can be measured easily and in greater detail
Now, a strong case can be made for the face-to-face interaction that live events provide; however, a similar impact can be made via video-conference technologies as well. Some may say that nothing can replace the effect of a handshake between two people - except, perhaps, the incredible amounts of time and money saved by online meetings. 

At Stinson, we are currently engaged in conducting online market research, and we have decided to leverage web-based technologies to reach our audience and capture their insights. We held a series of focus groups online, using a video conference platform and webcams. We sent the respondents a webcam and few handouts by mail in advance. And a few hundred dollars later, we had a full length transcript and audio/video recording of the focus group. Not to mention, we could see the expression on every respondent's face during the research session which is harder to do from behind a one-way mirrored window.

The day when business can be done over digital handshakes may not that far in the future.

Monday, September 27, 2010

12 Boston area biotechs profiled for their acquisition appeal

These days, Stinson Brand Innovation has been doing a lot more business in Boston.  So we’ve been following the deals (and talk of deals) in the area.

Here’s a look at what the Boston Globe recently said about the trend.

Genzyme Corp., which is locked in merger talks with French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis SA, is not the first major Massachusetts biotechnology company to be pursued by a major pharmaceutical company. And it likely will not be the last.

Analysts and industry executives note that drug makers and other life sciences companies have engineered a flurry of billion-dollar merger deals over the past few years as they try to expand their product lines, acquire cutting-edge technologies, and move into new markets — a trend that does not show any signs of letting up.

Last year alone, Thomson Reuters, a business information firm, tracked more than 1,400 life sciences mergers worldwide. They totaled about $206 billion, including 46 deals worth more than $5 billion in Massachusetts. In October, for instance, Japanese drug maker Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co. scooped up Sepracor Inc., the Marlborough company behind the Lunesta sleep aid, for $2.4 billion.

“It’s reality,’’ said Robert Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, a trade organization based in Cambridge. “The industry is going through a roll-up and a consolidation.’’

And the deals keep coming. Last month, German pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA completed its purchase of Millipore, a Billerica life sciences company, for $6.9 billion. Genzyme, the Cambridge company which has also reportedly received inquiries from other potential suitors, could ultimately fetch more than $20 billion.

Many of the biggest potential deals, such as Sanofi’s pursuit of Genzyme, involve giant pharmaceutical companies trying to buy mid-to-large biotech firms to lift their product portfolio as patents on blockbuster drugs expire.

“They have a lot of cash, but they are running out of product,’’ said Simos Simeonidis, a biotechnology analyst with Rodman & Renshaw LLC in New York.

Simeonidis predicted that pharmaceutical companies are most likely to buy companies that already have products on the market, such as Biogen Idec Inc. of Weston, or those that are close to winning approval for major drugs, such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge. Other prominent local firms with drugs on the market include Alkermes Inc. of Waltham, Amag Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Lexington, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Lexington.

Amag chief executive Brian J.G. Pereira said his company, which markets a treatment for iron deficiency in patients with chronic kidney disease, wants to build “a strong and vibrant company for the long run,’’ rather than look for a quick sale. But like other publicly traded companies, Amag has an obligation to shareholders to consider any offers that come along, Pereira said. The other companies declined to comment or could not be reached.

In addition to Sanofi, Simeonidis said a number of other drug companies could potentially be interested in a large acquisition, including European firms such as GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Novartis AG, AstraZeneca PLC, and Bayer AG, as well as American companies, such as Pfizer Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., and Eli Lilly and Co. GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson have all been cited as potential buyers for Genzyme if talks with Sanofi break down.

Still, the majority of biotech companies, such as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge, are years away from bringing a drug to market, making them less attractive to bigger firms looking to boost sales.

Cowen & Co. analyst Eric Schmidt agreed that large pharmaceutical companies will continue to buy promising biotechs but doubted there would be a sharp increase in acquisitions because of a Genzyme deal.

That is because, Schmidt said, a lot can happen between initial talks and final approval. Last month, Charles River Laboratories International Inc., a Wilmington company, abandoned its $1.6 billion bid for a Chinese drug research company, WuXi PharmaTech Inc., after shareholders objected.

“There’s no such thing as a wave of mergers and acquisitions,’’ Schmidt said. “For this thing to happen, it almost has to be a perfect storm.’’

In addition to the interest in Genzyme, takeover speculation has swirled around Biogen Idec because of activist investor Carl C. Icahn’s involvement in the company. Icahn successfully prodded Biogen Idec into briefly putting itself up for sale two years ago, though the company later said it could not find a buyer. Icahn’s team has since won three seats on Biogen Idec’s board, leading to speculation that it could be ripe for a takeover.

Jan Wald, a Boston analyst for the Noble Financial Group, said there will also likely be more acquisitions of medical device makers as companies try to expand by moving into new areas or buying competitors. “With the stock market the way it has been, there are a lot of cheap companies and larger companies can take advantage,’’ Wald said.

In particular, Wald sees potential for more consolidation among companies that make lasers and other devices to treat cosmetic conditions, such as Palomar Medical Technologies Inc. in Burlington. Palomar did not respond to a request for comment.

Some investors have also questioned whether Boston Scientific Inc. in Natick, one of the largest medical device makers in the state, might also be acquired because its stock has declined sharply over the past few years. Boston Scientific declined to comment.

But Wald said Johnson & Johnson, the most likely buyer, is unlikely to launch a bid because the two firms have become such fierce rivals. “I think it’s a cultural mismatch,’’ Wald said.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New term I like: “bio-betters”

As Congress approves a regulatory pathway for “biosimilars,” start-ups think the bigger opportunity is “bio-betters.”
  • Biosimilars are the closest thing possible to generic versions of biotech drugs. Unlike conventional small-molecule drugs made through chemical synthesis, large-molecule, biopharmaceuticals are produced in living organisms – such as animals or bacteria – and cannot be copied exactly.
  • Bio-better means a drug is in the same class as an existing biopharmaceutical but is not identical. While a biosimilar should perform as well as the original, a bio-better is expected to have certain advantages, such as improved safety and efficacy.
And unlike biosimilars, there’s no abbreviated regulatory route for bio-betters. But because they follow in the footsteps of a drug that has already been shown to be a therapeutic and commercial success, the risk of failure is expected to be lower than with most new drugs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

100 physician practices are driving the sales of your brand -- but which ones?

Ross Weaver, president of DDI Research, recently challenged me to think about a pharma brand we're working on.

According to Ross, here are three simple questions for you:
  1. Do you know the top 100 practices driving the sales of your brand?
  2. Do you know the top 100 practices driving the sales of your leading competitors?
  3. Do you why the practices that prefer your brand do so?  Or why they prefer your competitors?
Imagine how you could drive sales with that information.  

Ross and DDI can help by:
  • Accurately connecting physicians to offices to practices. 
  • Determine which are the top 100 practices for your brand and for your competitor’s brand(s).
  • Identify why practices that prefer your brand do so, and help you apply those learnings to other practices
  • Identify why practices that prefer your competitor’s brand do so, and help you develop initiatives to increase the share of your brand.
If using practice information and insights to drive sales is of interest, contact me and we'll get a call together with Ross to discuss it further.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

90 percent of docs see more than 10 reps a week – but they prefer an appointment

As we are developing new brand launch strategies for our pharma clients, we at Stinson Brand Innovation are often asked about the trends in rep access to physicians' offices.

So, I was interested to see that SK&A’s latest Physician Access report says 90 percent of physician offices are visited by more than 10 pharmaceutical or medical device reps each week.

Even so, nearly half of physicians say they require or prefer appointments to be made prior to one-on-one meetings.

The number of physicians who restrict access altogether has remained unchanged in the past 12 months at about 23 percent.

Other significant trends found within the report include:
  • Specialty physicians are less likely to grant sales reps access than general practitioners. The top-three accessible physicians are allergists/immunologists (4.4% no-see rate), diabetes specialists (7%) and gynecologists (7.5%). The least accessible physicians are diagnostic radiologists (91.8% no-see rate), pathologists (91.7%) and neuroradiologists (91.5%).
  • Offices with fewer patients seen daily are less likely to host sales reps. Sites with a daily patient volume of one to 10 have a no-access rate of 28.9 percent and those with a daily patient volume of 31-40 have a 13.6 percent no-access rate.
  • Health system- and hospital-owned offices are less likely to grant sales reps access than offices not part of a health system or owned by a hospital. Health system- and hospital-owned offices have no-access rates of 30.3 percent and 29.5 percent, respectively. Non- health system and hospital-owned offices have no-access rates of 21.5 percent each.
  • Larger practices are less likely to grant sales reps access. Offices with one to two physicians have a no-access rate of 13.4 percent while offices with 10 or more physicians have a no-access rate of 42.1 percent.
  • Physician offices in the Western U.S. are least likely to allow sales reps access. The South had the lowest no-access rate with 19.4 percent, and the West had a 28.2 percent no-access rate.
These findings and more are available in SK&A’s updated Physician Access study. Are practice location, specialty, ownership and office size determinants in physician access? Discover the answers in this complimentary national report

Monday, September 20, 2010

2D barcodes in new ASCO Post connect readers to more resource

A new print and online publication has been launched by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The print edition is a “newspaper-style” publication that covers oncology meetings around the world, offers summaries of clinical literature from other general and specialty journals, provides cancer-related political commentary, and details specific oncology cases. Columns from editor-in-chief James Armitage, a former ASCO president, will be featured in the title, along with columns from ASCO affiliates Richard Boxer, Nora Janjan, Allen Lichter, John Marshall and George Sledge.

For 2010, ASCO Post will be published monthly, then will increase its publishing cycle to 18 issues per year in 2011. Advertising in the form of banners will appear on the website, and traditional advertising will be present in the print issue.

Articles on the ASCO Post homepage includes updated ASCO guidelines on aromatase inhibitors usage in postmenopausal women with breast cancer, new clinical results showing denosumab's superiority to zoledronic acic in delaying some skeletal events, and an article titled “Now is the time to fix the Medicare physician payment problem,” penned by columnist and ASCO CEO Allen Lichter.

There are also 2D barcodes used in The ASCO Post to connect readers to further information about the articles they are reading. For instance, a report from the ASCO Annual Meeting may include a barcode that will connect readers online to the original abstract of the study discussed. In this way, the editors of The ASCO Post hope to provide readers with further resources and validated information about the news in these pages.

ASCO Post is distributed free to ASCO members in the US, and can be read online free at

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Remember the Rule of 5 -- especially when success seems slow

I'm grateful to my mentor Jack Canfield for sharing these insights with me.

Pop Quiz: Can success be sped up? Is there an antidote to slow outcomes despite arduous planning and actions taken? What's the secret for seeing huge results right now?!
I get versions of these questions frequently from people who feel frustrated at sluggish progress in their success journey - despite all the know-how and principles they rigorously employ.

Let's get one thing straight...

When we admire someone's success, or even our own, we often focus on the end result and not so much on the effort (and time) that it took to get there. This can cultivate unrealistic expectations, especially the idea that overnight success can happen through careful strategy and an execution of sound advice. 

The truth be told, success typically follows a series of little events and achievements that can seem to take an eternity, that include a few disappointments along the way, and that challenge everything about you to the core - your stamina, courage, integrity, and even your willingness to keep going. 

If you focus on what's not working, guess what: You're likely coming from a place of aggravation as your mind wraps around all that is wrong. 

You may even have negative thoughts like "I'm not good enough," "It will never work," or "Something must be wrong with me."
What this mentally does is engender more of these counter-productive feelings. And given what we know about the Law of Attraction, you attract what you are feeling. So negative experiences, people, and results will beget more negative experience, people, and results. There's not much success in that. 

The key is to focus on what IS working. 

To do so, I recommend two simple practices: journaling and meditation.
  1. Maintaining a journal (I call it an Evidence Log, Results Journal, or Gratitude Journal) is a great way to steer your attention to the positive and continually renew your vision for yourself.
  2. Start each day with reflections on what you are grateful for in your life (list them out!) and end each day with notes on what went right (again, write them down), however small they may seem.
Spend time each day in quiet contemplation, prayer or meditation. 

Meditation can be a powerful tool for arriving at solutions to problems and shifting your attitude so you can attract success sooner rather than later. The magic of meditation is its ability to essentially shut down the outer layer of your judgmental, highly-critical brain and allow your unconscious mind to take over. This is where you enter a deeper state of inner peace and joy, tapping into a higher level of creativity that will help usher in the results you want. (Don't know how to meditate? Lots of books and materials are available to guide you through this practice. It's easier than you think. ) 

Let's say you're doing ALL these things, but you still aren't happy with your results...

I'll ask you then, are you taking real ACTION? 

You may be taking the actions you are used to taking. But if you keep doing what you've already done, then you'll keep getting what you've always gotten. It's a matter of practicing some new behaviors. Shake things up a bit and see if you can take new actions or modify existing ones. 

Remember the Rule of 5. 

Every day do five specific things that take you toward your goal. Change up the five actions regularly and be open to feedback so you know when you're off course. 

Lastly, I want to remind you about patience. 

It's natural to underestimate how long a certain goal can take, especially a profound one. When I set a goal to become a millionaire, the year was 1983. How long did it take? Eleven years. It took time for Chicken Soup for the Soul to hit the bestseller lists. You could say our tenure on the New York Times list was more than a decade in the making. That's a lot of patience for someone who initially wanted overnight success.

So, yes, patience is a virtue. But keep at it, and in no time, you'll be only one week, or one day away from your ultimate success. 

Remember... be GRATEFUL, reflect on what IS working and continue to take ACTION!

Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

Friday, September 17, 2010

20 top pharma brands & their promotional activity

The competitive intelligence research company PharmaVoxx has analyzed the promotional activity of the top 20 pharmaceutical brands by revenue, as ranked by Med Ad News.

Patient access was the leading messaging focus for the majority of 2009’s best-selling prescription drugs. Eleven of the top 20 brands devoted the highest percentage of their promotional activity to patient access, according to an analysis conducted by PharmaVoxx, a competitive intelligence research company. PharmaVoxx defines patient access as messaging/content related to reimbursement, formulary coverage, patient access/support programs, drug costs, co-pays, and savings offers.

The PharmaVoxx database is comprised of detailing aids, promotional literature, branded merchandise and electronic communications collected from a diverse and geographically dispersed panel of healthcare providers. Promotional material and online content is also systematically collected from a broad range of medical conferences, publications, manufacturer-sponsored programs and Internet.

Each item in the PharmaVoxx database is carefully cataloged by drug, key subject matter, audience and source, in addition to other identifying data. This thorough cataloging enables quantitative analysis of messaging focus, target audience and distribution channels as well as other parameters.

Key Subject Matter Descriptions:

Efficacy - related to the effectiveness of a product. Efficacy must be related to the indication(s) for which the product is approved

Safety - related to safety, tolerability, adverse events. This does not include black box warnings and safety information sections required by the FDA

Other Benefits - related to the benefits of a drug, but are not a primary measure of the drug's efficacy. This may include quality of life benefits, convenience, reduction of risk, compliance etc

MOA - related to the mechanism of action of a product. The content must be specific and scientific in nature

Patient Access - related to reimbursement, formulary coverage, patient access/support programs, drug costs, co-pays and savings offers

Comparison - content that makes a direct comparison between two or more named products

The topline of the PharmaVoxx analysis is available for download. Click here to download.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Deeper thoughts

I enjoy delving deeper into what researchers know about the mind, and the mind-brain connection. What goes on within the human skull is more complex and fantastic than anyone can imagine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2005 to today -- Stem Cells: how far have we come?

In June of 2005, National Geographic’s cover posed the challenging question “Stem Cells:  How Far Will We Go?”

Can you believe it’s been 5 years?

Here at Stinson Brand Innovation, it seems like only yesterday we were working with Baxter Cellular Therapies to educate cardiologists on its promising research in adult autologous stem cells.

And in the pages of National Geographic we read, “The dream is to launch a medical revolution in which ailing organs and tissues might be repaired - not with crude mechanical devices like insulin pumps and titanium joints but with living, homegrown replacements. It would be the dawn of a new era of regenerative medicine, one of the holy grails of modern biology.”

The article continued, “In such varied political climates, scientists around the globe are racing to see which techniques will produce treatments soonest. Their approaches vary, but on one point, all seem to agree: How humanity handles its control over the mysteries of embryo development will say a lot about who we are and what we're becoming.”

So I think a question for us to consider now is, "How far have we come?"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

6 ways to reduce stress -- with science

With so much complex science and technology we're working on with healthcare clients, it can be hard to keep up.  But every now and then, I read the science behind something you think is simple, and then I say, "That's really cool."

In the August 2010 issue of Wired, Jonah Lehrer asserts that "stress doesn't kill us, but it makes everything that does kill us much worse."  Lehrer explains 6 ways to reduce stress with science.
  1. Make Friends: "Social relationships are a powerful buffer against stress. In fat, several studies in Europe and the US have found that people with fewer friends and family members they're close to have significantly shorter life expectancies."
  2. Drink in Moderation: "While the moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the stress response, blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent - most states consider 0.08 the legal limit fir driving - trigger an automatic spike in stress hormones [and convince your body] it's in a state of mortal danger."
  3. Get Enough Sleep: "Recent studies have found that even a single night of insufficient sleep triggers an automatic spike in stress hormones. "The result is increased stress and insomnia.
  4. Don't Fight: Recent and extensive research (on baboons) by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky suggests that human beings as well as baboons with a less aggressive personality (i.e., "the ability to walk away from a provocation") have much more stable relationships.
  5. Meditate: Extensive research suggests that "even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety." My own take on this point is that, at least once or twice a day, it is a good idea to take a brief "time out" from tensions and pressures: calm down, relax, take a few deep breaths, and envision an especially pleasant scene (for me, walking along a tropical beach). I always feel refreshed and usually energized after these brief moments of decompression.
  6. Don't Force Yourself to Exercise: "While exercise is remarkably effective at blunting the stress response, at least for a few hours, this effect exists only if you want to exercise in the first place." Otherwise, those who force themselves to suffer through exercise will not reduce their stress level; on the contrary, they may exacerbate it.
Click here to read the full article.

And to learn more about this subject, here are a couple of links to Lehrer's blog posts:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Next stop is "Paulina Station"....

A year ago, Paulina Station was just a stop on the CTA Brown Line with a cool sculpture in the entrance-way.  Now, it's a bustling neighborhood branded with information kiosks and an Innovation Garden.

Last summer, we collaborated with local merchants and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce to bring our idea to life.  Through a complete community branding initiative, we were able to work together to turn this former passageway, between North Center and Lincoln Park, into a destination.  As a result of our initiatives, kiosks such as this are sprinkled throughout the area, directing visitors to shops, restaurants, and destinations throughout Paulina Station.  This particular kiosk is located right outside of the Brown Line stop, welcoming all to the community.  Thanks again to the team of interns from Stinson Brand Innovation who led this initiative - Norah Tang (now in New York City), Katelyn Phillips (who has continued to work with us on projects the past year), and Kayte Curtis (now working in public relations in L.A.).

The newest addition to the Paulina Station community is what we're calling the Innovation Garden.  Part of the Lakeshore Sculpture Exhibit, this display has transformed a dirt-filled eyesore into a gathering place for conversation and innovation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Creative and innovation process in Dave Stewart’s idea factory

Dave Stewart is best known as a Grammy-winning musician and producer - he was Annie Lennox's bandmate in the Eurythmics and has collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Bono.

The business world was hungry for his way of thinking, and soon he took on roles as U.S. creative director of the global ad shop the Law Firm and "change agent" for Nokia. His company Weapons of Mass Entertainment, an "ideas factory" based in Los Angeles, works with partners including HBO and Virgin Comics on projects in film, television, publishing, theater, and interactive gaming.

Last month Stewart and Mark Simmons published The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide, a guide to creativity and brainstorming that introduces the straight-laced world of business to an artist's approach to innovation. Ian Sanders of CBS‚ BNET spoke with him recently about how to present an idea, why it's better to relinquish control over your ideas, and how businesses can create better environments for innovation.

Click here to watch video

Thursday, September 09, 2010

CIP bridges industry and academia: Chicago Innovation Pipeline enhances biotech research and bringing discoveries to market

When the Stinson Brand Innovation team attended BIO2010 earlier this summer, we met with dozens of representatives from pharma and diagnostic companies, university tech transfer offices, and government entities.

One particular meeting we enjoyed was with Alan Thomas, director of UChicagoTech, the University of Chicago's office of technology and intellectual property.

He was featured in this month's U of C magazine sharing his view that the recent economic crisis may have pushed universities and corporations to come out of their silos and communicate.  "There's a bunch of forces driving everybody to be much more collaborative," said Alan Thomas, director of UChicagoTech, the University's office of technology and intellectual property. "Everybody's got a piece of everybody else's puzzle."

"The term biotechnology implies a bridge, a connection between scientific discovery and its application to the broader world," the article states.  "But the link between two major components of that bridge - academic centers and private companies - is often tenuous, with different motivations, languages, and policies creating structural strain. Frequently, the struggle to bring a new biological innovation to market is not so much scientific as logistic, with financial and regulatory hurdles."

In the meeting room of the Illinois BIO exhibit, Thomas introduced us to the Chicago Innovation Pipeline (CIP), the result of regional teamwork, organized by Chicago with Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, Children's Memorial Research Center, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The goal: to help industry and academia join forces for biotechnology development.

With promising research projects aggregated into what Thomas described as an iTunes-style database, CIP participants hope to make it easy for companies to quickly find drugs and devices they may be interested in using for partnerships.

While the majority envisioned transforming biology into technology, in the form of a new drug or diagnostic tool, the application of technology to biology was just as exciting. Rick Stevens, a U of C professor of computer science, described the opportunities presented by dramatic improvements in computational power at centers such as Argonne. As the speed of sequencing complete genomes and modeling complex biological systems increases, Stevens said, the potential for running experiments entirely within the computer will revolutionize biology and medicine.

When the goal is curing disease, speed is good. That was the message at the convention's Translational Research Forum, cosponsored by University of Chicago, where speakers from research centers and patient advocacy groups argued that better partnerships and study design could shorten the path from lab to clinic. Julian Solway, director of U of C's Institute for Translational Medicine, said that public-health issues in the Medical Center's neighboring communities underscored the urgent need for new interventions. "It's in this context," Solway said, "that we seek to improve health by translating research discoveries into real and effective therapies."

The recurring theme, heard in practically every meeting room of McCormick Place: Such improvements are better made with academia and industry standing together. Communication in particular, strong. "There's much more of an open innovation environment now," Thomas said, "so speaking each other's language becomes much more important."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

5 tips for effective body language - from the book "You Say More Than You Think"

It begins even before you say your first word.

As the client or prospect walks toward you to shake hands, an opinion is already being formed.

And as you sit waiting to "sell" what you have to say, you are already being judged by your appearance, posture, smile or your nervous look.

We all want to appear confident and successful, but often forget how much body language affects how others perceive us.  It's important to raise our self-awareness and understand the nonverbal signals we send.  Often it's not what we say that influences others, but rather what we do not say.  The clues we send nonverbally suggest attitude, understanding, empathy, and ethics.

Janine Driver, in her book You Say More Than You Think: A 7-Day Plan for Using the New Body Language, cites the "7%-38%-55% Rule," coined by psychologists who claim that the impact we make on others depends on what we say (7%), how we say it (38%), and most importantly, by our body language (55%).

Whether sitting, standing, or making eye contact, we are always communicating nonverbally. If you've spoken to a group or participated in a meeting lately, you've undoubtedly noticed body language at play.  Here are 5 nonverbal messages to be aware of - for both speakers and participants.

As a speaker

Strong and effective body language can help establish an immediate rapport with an audience, signaling confidence in your message.
  • Vocal expression.  Does your voice project warmth, confidence and enthusiasm, or is it flat, strained and blocked?  A voice that has a lot of variety in tone, pitch, rate of speech, and expression is the opposite of a monotone, which quickly becomes boring.  A moderate rate, punctuated by appropriate pauses is also important. Mastering just these 2 aspects of the voice will infuse your delivery with a level of power and energy that will engage participants.
  • Posture.  If you are standing, certain positions can be viewed as aggressive. Arms crossed over chest may be viewed as defensive, and hands on hips translate to "You can't tell ME what to do." Keeping your hands stiffly by your side or stuck in your pockets can give the impression that you're insecure whether you are or not.  Stand in a comfortable body position that is not slouching in order to convey confidence and openness. Use slight hand gestures while speaking to suggest energy and emphasis.
  • Eye contact.  It's important to build rapport with your audience by looking at them. If it's a fairly small group (20 or fewer), you should try for contact with each person. In a large group, take in small groups. Aim for 3-5 seconds per contact.  If you don't look people in the eye, they may feel that you are insecure or aren't being truthful.
  • Movement.  Great speakers move around the room, pointing to a slide instead of reading from it, placing their hands on someone's shoulders instead of keeping their distance. Don't animate your slides - animate your body!  Standing in one spot makes you seem stiff and uninteresting.  Pacing back and forth shows your nervousness and insecurity.  Moving around comfortably conveys confidence and a sense of ease
  • Use your hands.  When you're speaking, let your hands support your message. Positive hand gestures convey confidence and strength.  Great speakers use hand gestures more than average. Watch charismatic speakers like Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, or Barack Obama. You'll notice that they punctuate nearly every sentence with a hand gesture. To support messages about things that are spiritual or uplifting, raise your hands shoulder level or above (note how a church minister will raise his hands in blessing).  Regular messages are supported by gestures at the middle level of your body, and gestures below the waist support unpleasant or less than desirable messages.
To get a sense of strong, positive body language, look back at memorable speakers you've heard. Which ones stand out? The ones who were more animated and entertaining, or the ones who just gave out information?

As a meeting participant or listener

You may only be listening, but your nonverbal signals can speak volumes.
  • Posture.  Sitting in a straight but relaxed position in a chair during a meeting signals that you're open and attentive, and leaning forward slightly indicates that you're interested and engaged with what's happening.  This quickly changes if you slouch in your chair or lean back with your hands behind your head.  Suddenly you're expressing disinterest, boredom or superiority.  Cross your arms in front of your chest and you may be expressing insecurity or a defensive position.
  • Eye contact.  Rolling the eyes, checking your watch, not focusing on a speaker or not making eye contact can all be viewed as workplace body language that says "I'd rather be doing something else," and expresses disinterest.
  • Active listening.  Smiling and nodding are appropriate workplace body language when talking with others. They are a form of active listening that says, "I get you, and I agree with you." (When you don't agree with someone it's usually not appropriate workplace body language to smile and nod, and it will seem like a contradiction.) Leaning forward or in more closely to a speaker also shows interest.
  • Don't fidget. There is nothing worse than people playing with their hair or jewelry, tugging at their clothes, clicking pen tops, tapping feet or unconsciously touching parts of the body.  This type of body language can express insecurity, boredom and disinterest, and immaturity.  Offer your speaker respect and don't distract others by fidgeting.
  • Put away the electronic devices.  Yes, we're a tech savvy world.  But tech devices have their place and it's not in a meeting.  Checking email and banging away on a laptop is disrespectful to the speaker and sends the signal that you're bored, not interested, or not fully engaged in the meeting.  If you must reply to an urgent email, do so at break or politely excuse yourself.
What types of body language have you observed, or what nonverbal signals do you want to work on?  Post your comments.

To learn more, check out SmarterBrain Training or Janine Driver and Mariska van Aalst's book: You Say More Than You Think: Use the New Body Language to Get What You Want

Monday, September 06, 2010

5 tips to be an active listener

During our N-of-8® workshops, our goal is to learn and understand as much as we can about our customer's current situation, ideas, challenges, and goals.  During these sessions, the Stinson Brand Innovation team practices "active listening," and we make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that the participants are saying, but also more important, to understand the total message being sent.  Active listening is a great tool that can be used in any situation - meetings, on the telephone, and even with friends and family.

Why is it important to become a good listener?  The web site outlines these key reasons:
  • We listen to obtain information.
  • We listen to understand.
  • We listen for enjoyment.
  • We listen to learn.
Unfortunately, most of us only remember somewhere between 25-50% of what we hear, which means when we're receiving directions or being presented with information, we probably aren't hearing the whole message.  So, boosting our listening skills is important.  By becoming better listeners, we can avoid conflict and misunderstandings and improve our productivity, as well as our ability to influence, persuade and negotiate.

There are 5 key elements of active listening. They help ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they are saying.

1.      Pay Attention.
Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge what they're saying. Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly.
  • Look at the speaker directly.
  • Shelve distracting thoughts. Don't mentally prepare a rebuttal.
  • Avoid being distracted by other things happening around you.
  • "Listen" to the speaker's facial expressions and body language.
  • Refrain from side conversations (when listening in a group setting).
2.      Show that You're Listening. 
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
  • Put away electronic devices. They can often be used as a distraction and a way to tune out.  Using them is disrespectful to the speaker.
  • Nod occasionally, and smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.  Crossed arms or "lazy" posture indicates that you're not engaged.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue.  Use small verbal cues, such as "yes," and "uh huh."
3.      Provide Feedback.
Our personal beliefs, assumptions and judgments can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said.
  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. "What I‚m hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying" are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. "What do you mean when you say," and "Is this what you mean?"
  • Summarize the speaker's comments periodically.
4.      Defer Judgment.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
  • Allow the speaker to finish.
  • Don't interrupt with counter-arguments.
5.      Respond Appropriately.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
  • Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
  • Assert your opinions respectfully.
  • Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.
How can active listening help you in your professional or personal life?  Share your comments.

Click here to learn more about active listening.

Friday, September 03, 2010

10 sites for soulful web surfing

In his latest book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Clay Shirky laments, "Digital media have made creating and disseminating text, sound, and images cheap, easy and global. The bulk of publicly available media is now created by people who understand little of the professional standards and practices for media.  Instead, these amateurs produce endless streams of mediocrity, eroding cultural norms about quality and acceptability, and leading to increasingly alarmed predictions of incipient chaos and intellectual collapse."

While the Internet does offer us nearly limitless potential for our cognitive surplus, or free time, here are ten sites that Shirky suggests are worth a diversionary visit:

  • Fans of pop singer Josh Groban raise money for underfunded charities
  • Admirers of DBSK used the Korean boy band's site to protest imports of American beef
  • Lenders who want to finance entrepreneurs across the globe to fight poverty
  • Citizens interested in promoting a green lifestyle, in addition to human rights concerns
  • African activists who track political violence in Kenya, Congo, and elsewhere
  • NGO activists and supporters looking to team up with like-minded neighbors
  • Residents offering a night's stay to complete strangers, including intrepid travelers
  • Philanthropy-minded individuals looking to help students in need
  • Commuters dedicated to the improvement of the carpooling system
  • A project of Action Without Borders that connects volunteers with organizations
To his list I would add:
  • the Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions is a nonprofit think tank and catalyst for action that works across sectors and diseases to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the medical research enterprise
  • committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering. Creating a world in which every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to enjoy good health and live in peace.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The power of 'open innovation'

One of my favorite conference I ever attended was the World Innovation Forum.  I was reviewing my notes and came across this video of MIT Professor Eric von Hippel discussing how Lego accidentally stumbled across the power of open innovation. 

Click here to watch the video.
Consider the implications of the “open” idea on our mission at Stinson Brand Innovation to accelerate the adoption of new medical treatments.