Thursday, March 31, 2011

8 steps to a “bad day” turnaround

We can all have our share of lousy days. You know the kind I mean — demanding clients, grouchy co-workers, unpleasant reviews.  And when the stress on the personal side of life collides, it can make for a really epic bad day.  

So what can you do to turn it around?

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, offers these tips, to help turn a terrible day into possibly a terrific one.
  1. Resist the urge to “treat” yourself – instead do something nice for someone else. Often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day.  “Do good, feel good” – this really works. Be selfless, if only for selfish reasons.
  2. Seek inner peace through outer order. Soothe yourself by tackling a messy closet, an untidy desk, or crowded countertops. The sense of tangible progress, control, and orderliness can be a comfort.
  3. Exercise is an extremely effective mood booster – but be careful of exercise that allows you to ruminate. For example, if I go for a walk when I’m upset about something, I often end up feeling worse, because the walk provides me with uninterrupted time in which to dwell obsessively on my troubles.
  4. Stay in contact. When you’re having a lousy day, it’s tempting to retreat into isolation. Studies show, though, that contact with other people boosts mood.
  5. Things really will look brighter in the morning. Go to bed early and start the next day anew. Also, sleep deprivation puts a drag on mood in the best of circumstances, so a little extra sleep will do you good.
  6. Remind yourself of your other identities. If you feel like a loser at work, send out a blast email to engage with college friends. If you think members of the PTA are mad at you, don’t miss the spinning classwhere everyone knows and likes you.
  7. Keep perspective. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in a month? In a year?”
  8. Write it down. When something horrible is consuming my mind, I find that if I write up a paragraph or two about the situation, I get immense relief.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

N-of-8 web-based focus groups

One of the more enjoyable parts of my job is web-based N-of-8® focus groups.  I've really appreciate both the tool and the technology -- and how much it helps me learn and understand our customer's current situation, ideas, challenges, and goals.

During these sessions, I try to practice "active listening," making a conscious effort to hear more than the words, but also to understand the total message being sent.

Friday, March 25, 2011

8 references used in my "Change Agent" presentation

I had a really great time in Dubai with my client and the team of about 200 managers from around the world.  As I promised them, here are the books (and link) I shared during my Change Agent presentation.
  • A Sense of Urgency by John P Kotter
  • The Leadership Engine by Noel M Tichy
  • "Polaroid case study"-
  • The Momentum Effect by J.C. Larreche
  • Culture Shift by Price Pritchett, PhD
  • The Change Function by Pip Coburn
  • Forward. Fast. by Mark Stinson
  • N-of-8 by Mark Stinson

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 R's of Change

"Change Agent": The 5 R’s of Change

I'm in Dubai, UAE where I’m speaking today to a global group of business managers on the topic of change management.

In our industry of life sciences, “Change Agent” is defined as a catalyst to spur the transformation of molecules during chemical synthesis.  It can accelerate the rate of reactions, providing a pathway between reactants and the end product that requires far less energy than the transformation would take on its own.  Medicinal chemists might use change agents to make the discovery phase much easier, and reactions may also further streamline production of drugs.

In my talk, I’ll frame this change agent mechanism of action to management – preparing and aligning resources, considering and planning contingencies, as well as anticipating and altering our OWN reactions.

I’ll be reviewing The 5 R’s of Change:
  1. Relevance 
  2. Risk
  3. Roadblocks
  4. Rewards
  5. Repetition
Looking forward to sharing more in future blogs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Culture and progress - Dubai shows that you can sustain plenty of both

Dubai has experiences incredible commercialization and immense urbanization as a result of its economic prosperity.

But the city has not abandoned its Emirati heritage.  I learned a lot about that Monday at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

As I prepare to speak to a global managers meeting on the topic of “change management,” I’ve looked for examples here in Dubai of driving growth while maintaining original value systems.

The socio-cultural foundations of the UAE remain strong, even in the face of fast cars and fast food.  And the traditions of pearl divers is still remembered, even as a green-mermaid-logo coffee shops expand.

As one writer put it, “Perhaps the landscape, lifestyle and demographic has changed enormously in the past few decades but what is inherently Emirati will most likely endure.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dubai - learning about "change" from a city that has defined change

I’m fortunate to be in Dubai, UAE this week speaking to a meeting of global managers on the topic of “change management.”

How fitting we should be discussing change in a city that has seen some of the most enormous and swift changes in the history of modern civilization.

In fewer than 20 years, Dubai has transformed from a barren wasteland into the most rapidly developed city on the planet.

Here are a couple of photos that illustrate the difference between 1990 and 2009 – with the dramatic construction, architecture, man-made islands, tall buildings, 7-star hotels and much more.

This morning, I had the chance to step back in time to enjoy the old neighborhood of Bastakiya, a traditional Emirati area in Bur Dubai. The expert tour guide led a small group of us on a walk through the unique narrow sikkas and beautiful wind towers built atop the original homes in this historic district.

After the tour, we enjoyed a traditional Emirati breakfast The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. In addition to the “home-cooked” meal, our Emirati host shared insights about UAE culture, customs and religion – overcoming many misconceptions about all of them.

One specific program he discussed was an effort to bridge the divide between Emirati and non-Emirati employees in the workplace. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has set up the initiative aimed at large companies to offer presentations to address questions about Emirati and Arab culture.

"The initiative is bringing the corporates of Dubai and all business institutions to become partners with us, so we are partnering with big banks, companies at large, to have their staff run through our programme and allow them the freedom to ask, and that enhances the knowledge and alleviates the misconceptions," said Nasif Kayed, the general manager of the Centre.  "It becomes less stressful to live in a place when you don't have so many unanswered questions. We do indirectly enhance their ability to make deals. It yields better productivity."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

8 Indicators of people who lined Up for an iPhone

In researching my latest book, N-of-8, I came across this list that profiles the earliest adopters of the iPhone.  What inspiration might this offer for your next N-of-8 customer profile exercise?

  1. Average age of 31 years old
  2. Male 
  3. Between 25-34 years old
  4. Completed college
  5. Lived in NY or CA
  6. Mainly current T-Mobile users (which means they were willing to
  7. Household income $75,600+
  8. 48% did not currently own an iPod

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

8 People & Trends To Watch

The Gadflies
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus pissed off a lot of their green friends when they skewered the enviro movement for its failed 15-year crusade against global warming in their 2004 paper "The Death of Environmentalism." After lambasting enviros for becoming self-absorbed and irrelevant, the researchers are now pushing a Health Care for Hybrids bill that requires automakers that get financial bailouts to produce cleaner cars. Plus, they've taken on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a high-profile environmentalist, in his fight against building a wind farm on Cape Cod - a battle that could sour investor interest in wind energy. "Developing wind power is more important than saving the Alaskan wilderness," Shellenberger says, "which is all going to end up underwater from global warming anyway."

The Evangelizer
Frustrated by the inability of scientists to sound the alarm on global warming, Laurie David, a talent booker-turned-activist married to comedian Larry David, sought out the moral authorities of our time - funnymen Jack Black, Tom Hanks, and Steve Martin. It worked. Dolled up, dumbed down, and democratized, climate change has been rebranded from a fringe issue for wonky worrywarts to an A-list fret. In 2005, David began a campaign to embed the topic into everything from Alias and The Bold and the Beautiful to the National Council of Churches. Her latest win: conceiving and producing the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, starring Al Gore. "It's the march of the penguins!" David says of her push to give the eco movement mass-market appeal. "I want everyone marching!"

The Diesel Governor
Montana's coal fields hold the equivalent of 240 billion barrels of clean diesel, which almost makes the state another Saudi Arabia. Governor Brian Schweitzer has been hustling GE, Shell, South African Sasol, and the US military to invest in converting that coal into diesel; with oil at more than $40 a barrel (the price at which coal-to-diesel conversion becomes cost-efficient), they're interested. Schweitzer also wants to jump-start a US biofuels industry by adding farm subsidies to alt-energy-producing crops like soybean, safflower, camelina, and canola. Schweitzer, a Democrat, picked up his agricultural self-reliance in Saudi Arabia, where he helped design the irrigation system that turned the kingdom from a wheat importer into a net exporter of wheat in the '80s. The US, he says, can do the same for fuel.

The Builder
"People who aren't building green buildings are building obsolete buildings," says Douglas Durst, whose reign as copresident of the Durst Organization, his family's 90-year-old Manhattan real estate firm, has been as successful as it is idealistic. He's turned high-rises into eco-towers ventilated by outside air, insulated with high-performance glass that cuts energy bills, and made of recycled materials (like steel and carpeting). Even the US Green Building Council, a standards body, is impressed: It certified Durst's 4 Times Square (home to Condé Nast, Wired's owner) the nation's first green office. His latest project? The Helena, a tower with on-premises black-water treatment and a solar-paneled rooftop garden. With another apartment and a BofA tower in the works, Durst is turning New York green.

Pollution Trading
In 2003, after the US bailed on the Kyoto Protocol, the Chicago Climate Exchange began trading permission to pollute. Companies like Bayer, DuPont, Ford, IBM, and Motorola signed on, eager to position themselves ahead of any government carbon regs to come. Under the program, they agree to reduce their carbon emissions 4 percent by 2007 (or, for newer members, 6 percent by 2010). Hit their target early and they can sell their credits for roughly $2 each (one credit equals 1 metric ton of CO2). CCX, which has 140 members, includes cities like Chicago and Portland, Oregon, and multinationals facing mandatory reductions in Europe. Founder Richard Sandor, who pioneered the financial futures market on the Chicago Board of Trade, says carbon emissions could outpace oil to become the most heavily traded commodity.

Nuclear Power
Solar. Wind. Hydro. As replacements for fossil fuels, they're not enough. So countries are increasingly turning to nuclear energy for the clean power that the global economy demands, and now, 20 years after Chernobyl, there's a resurgence of nuclear plants. More than 400 reactors in 31 countries (104 in the US alone) provide 16 percent of the world's electricity. China expects to add 32 more facilities by 2020. Nuclear is cheaper than other energies, it doesn't need to be imported, and it doesn't come with emission taxes. Nonetheless, it remains controversial for all the obvious reasons: disposal of spent fuel rods, vulnerability to meltdown or arms proliferation - but even the US, which hasn't seen a new nuclear plant in a decade, is getting ready to build reactors in Mississippi and Alabama.

Green Machines
The Prius is just the beginning. This year, Toyota will roll out a hybrid version of the Camry, the top-selling car in the US. The next phase of green car tech follows fast: The Mercedes F 600 Hygenius pairs a lithium-ion battery with fuel cells to run nearly 250 miles on a tank of hydrogen. Meantime, about 40 percent of cars in Europe are now biodiesel-ready. Adoption of the fuel in the US, where it lags, may soon get a boost thanks to new additives and blends that reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions and keep biodiesel from jelling in cold weather. Other innovations in the works include BMW's Turbosteamer motor, which harnesses heat from its exhaust and cooling system to power the engine, and Mitsubishi's plant-based plastics used throughout its autos.

Power Plants
Coming soon to US cornfields: ethanol plants. There are now 95 facilities in operation, 34 under construction, and more on the way. The goal: to more than double production of the corn-based fuel to nearly 10 billion gallons by 2015. (Still, that's just a fraction of the 140 billion gallons of gasoline Americans guzzle each year.) Among those turning maize into gold is Jefferson Grain Processors, led by Paul Olsen, a third-generation Wisconsin farmer. His operation will produce 140 million gallons of ethanol, plus biodiesel, electricity, CO2, animal feed, and 8 million pounds of fish - farmed, processed, and fried - all using the excess energy from ethanol production. "It's a Wal-Mart society - you've got to be efficient," Olsen says. If prices fall? "It's ethanol. We can always make hooch."

Monday, March 14, 2011

8 Types of Headlines that Sell

For my upcoming book, N-of-8, I have been collecting a wide variety of “top 8” lists you can use for inspiration.  You might find seeds of ideas that can apply to a wide array of challenges.

Here is a list of 8 types of headlines that sell.

1. The News Headline: 
If your product or service offers something newsworthy, announce it in your headline. You would normally use this to introduce a new product or the improvement of an existing product. Here are some words you can use in your News Headlines: New, Announcing, Introducing, Finally, Just released, Now, At last.
“At last! A Tooth Paste Kids Will Love”
“New Diet Burns Off More Fat Than If You Ran 98 Miles a Week”
“Announcing . . . The New Bald Cure Guaranteed To Make Even Trevor
Crook Look Like He’s Got A Full Crop Of Hair!”

2. The Guarantee Headline:
These state a desirable benefit and guarantee results or other benefits. If you offer a powerful guarantee . .. let your prospects know by stating it in the headline.
“Makes Money In 90 days Or It’s FREE Under my 100%, Unconditional
Money Back Guarantee”
“Hands Which Feel As Smooth As Silk In 24 Hours . . . Or Double Your
Money Back!”

3. The How To Headline:
With over 7,000 book titles starting with ‘How To’ you can’t go wrong with this one. If you ever get stuck, try adding ‘how to’ in front of your headline as these type of headlines promise your prospect
a source of information, advice and solutions to their problems.
“How To Win Friends And Influence People”
“How To Avoid Snake-Oil Selling Scumbags On The Internet”

4. The Benefit Headline:
Benefits sell . . . features DO NOT! To write a successful benefit Headline, you must know your market so well,you can offer them a powerful, compelling benefit driven headline which they can’t easily get somewhere else. You must do your homework though in order to know what benefit will motivate your prospect/s to take action.
“Dries Up Your Hay Fever In 15Minutes”
“Stops Diarrhea in 30 Minutes”
“It Cleans Your Breath While It Cleans Your Teeth”

5. The Question Headline:
Be careful when using this one. You must know your market backwards otherwise you can blow your whole advertising campaign. The best types of questions to ask are questions which get your prospect involved.
“Do You Make These Mistakes In Marriage?”
“Do You Make These Mistakes In English?
“Can You Smash Through 6 Bricks Like Dr. Stan ‘Breakthrough’

6. The Reason Why Headline:
These give your prospect specific reasons why they should read your ad, sales letter or website. These are very effective because they contain facts and specific numbers.
“27 Reasons Why You Should Attend Trevor Crook’s Persuasive Writing
Sells Online Course”
“37 Fun And Easy Ways To Earn$500 In Your Sleep”

7. The Testimonial Headline:
This is just what it says. It uses a customer testimonial for a headline. This gets your customers to sell for you by talking about the benefits they received.
“How I Make $557.63 Per Week In My Sleep”
“I Had Never Purchased A Share In My Life. I Opened A Share Account
With $14,000.00 After Attending The TradingEdge Workshop . . . In Six
Months My Account is OVER $21,000!”

8. The Command Headline:
This tells your customers what to do. Your command should encourage action by offering your prospect a benefitwhich will help them. The most effective command headlines start out with action verbs.
“Stop Baldness Today Before Your Head Looks Like A Bowling Ball”
“Stop Wasting Time On Advertising Guesswork”
“Stop Being An Advertising Victim”

If you also have lists, quotes, or articles, I invite you to share themin the comment section below.

Innovation that come from the words and thoughts of others often come through a new route in the imagination:  free association.  This can lead you to explore links that would not be ordinarily brought to bear.  It increases your probability of looking at the challenge in a new way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

8 kinds of creativity

One way I’ve found to gain innovative insights is called “forced connection.”  When you give concentrated attention to seemingly random information or visual, you can allow your brain to process it and find a new relationship or meaning. This leads to original ideas and original ways to implement them.

So for my upcoming book, I have been collecting a wide variety of “top 8” lists you can use for inspiration in your N-of-8 exercises.  They contain seeds and sources of ideas that can applied to an array of challenges.  And when you find one seed you might find an entire garden – or even a farm – of new insights.

Here is a list of 8 kinds of creativity from The Creativity Conundrum: A Propulsion Model of Kinds of Creative Contributions by Robert J. Sternberg.
  1. Replication
  2. Redefinition
  3. Forward incrementation 
  4. Advance Forward Incrementation
  5. Redirection
  6. Reconstruction/Redirection
  7. Reinitiation
  8. Integration
Consider collecting your own lists, quotes, and articles. From books, magazines, biographies, the Bible (or other religious texts), newspapers, trade journals, best-selling songs, and many more sources.

Innovation that come from the words and thoughts of others often come through a new route in the imagination:  free association. This can lead you to explore links that would not be ordinarily brought to bear. It increases your probability of looking at the challenge in a new way.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

N-of-8: a view from a creative group perspective

The lessons of effective innovation transcend brand category, market sector, business model, media, and even regulation.

My firm has worked with creative groups from more than three-dozen companies in health, science, and technology.  I have written, supervised, and conducted hundreds of surveys, teleconferences, and focus groups for nearly every kind of pharmaceutical, device, instrument, and service imaginable.  At last count, I had worked on more than 50 new product launches in my career.  And our consultancy has created and/or advanced more than 150 brands since 2003.

And now my upcoming book, N-of-8, takes on a creative storytelling process.

I’ve outlined the principles in a logical flow of situation-problem-solution-application.  Then, I offer a series of examples that might best illustrate those principles. This has meant reconstructing case studies from both my personal and my company’s memory.  Finally, I’ve attempted to document the N-of-8 processes in a meaningful and useful way.

All the while, I reflect on the successes, failures, and learnings from the experience with the N-of-8  tool.  I've learned from brands ranging from Fortune 100 pharma corporations to start-up biotech companies.  They represent N-of-8 projects conducted in some 23 countries.  And I have insights gained from in-depth interviews with clients, colleagues, moderators, participants, and sponsors of many of these projects.

In addition, my book references dozens of books and articles on group dynamics, storytelling, creative process, and idea facilitation – including how movies, music, and theater can teach us about developing and executing ideas in business.

N-of-8 is a creative brand innovation model that uses the science of "breakout" idea facilitation.  By definition, it represents:
  • An ideal group size -- 8 -- with participants who respect each other’s expertise
  • An optimum timeframe to create productive group interaction
  • A set of proven facilitation tools and technologies to accelerate ideas and capture action steps
In their book The Breakout Principle, William Proctor and Dr. Herbert Benson support this model and this group size.  They write,  “More than a numbers game. Each participant recognizes that the others have been chosen not because everyone is the same or naturally compatible, but for the opposite reason -- i.e., because as many participants as possible are quite different from one another and may even be prone to intense disagreements."

Monday, March 07, 2011

Instead of simply entertaining big ideas, empower groups to execute vision

A few years ago in Toronto, I was shocked by a seminar speaker who opened his keynote address by telling us, “Don’t believe a word I say.”  Why would he say that?  Because he was only speaking from his own experience.  And I say the same thing to you as you read my books, blogs, white papers, or other publications.  None of the concepts and insights I share are inherently true or false, right or wrong.  They simply reflect my own results, and the results I’ve seen in the dozens – even hundreds – of N-of-8 participants I’ve worked with.

Having said that, however, I do believe that if you use the principles, you will achieve true innovation.  Don’t just read the book.  Study it. Mark it up. Then try the exercises for yourself.  Whatever works, keep doing. Whatever doesn’t, you’re welcome to modify it.

I am no doubt biased when I say this, but when it comes to brand innovation, this tool has provided a missing link between my desire for change and my achievement of it.

No matter what market you’re in, your future success is being shaped by innovation occurring today.  Remember a time when you asked yourself, where did all those Starbucks come from?  And what happened to all the video stores?  And why do both Best Buy and Radio Shack exist? Same with Costco and 7-11.  Can you recall the first iPod you saw (or laptop computer, or Walkman, or mobile phone)?  Who thought these things up?  More important, how did the creative groups bring them to market.

N-of-8 principles can train you how.

It is specific, practical, linear, and intuitive – yet stretches your imagination.

You have to decide for yourself why you want a model for new ideas.  Here are a few goals clients have shared with me:
  1. Find new avenues to make money.
  2. Expand into new business opportunities.
  3. Modify existing ideas to create a more innovative and powerful idea.
  4. Design new products, services, and processes.
  5. Improve old products, services, and processes.
  6. Develop solutions to complex business problems.
  7. Revitalize stagnant markets.
  8. Learn to view problems as opportunities.
  9. Become more productive.
  10. Be the “idea person” in your organization.
  11. Know where to look for the “breakthrough idea.”
  12. Generate ideas at will.
  13. Become indispensable to your organization.
In my book, I will shed light on why some people, some teams, and some companies are moving beyond “creativity” and accomplishing such innovative results.

It’s because they have challenged their old approaches and have learned that these methods were in fact obstacles to innovation.  They have chosen not to simply entertain big ideas, but actually empower groups that can execute their vision.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

N-of-8 Advisory Boards -- producing actionable results

Life science industry marketing executives rely on key opinion leaders (KOLs) — physicians and other stakeholders who have earned credibility with their medical colleagues based on their expertise and scientific stature — to diffuse innovation and disseminate scientific information regarding innovative treatments and new products. Thought leaders are a critical component of a bio-pharma company’s professional marketing and medical strategies.  But companies face a real challenge in creating, maintaining, and leveraging those relationships while safely navigating logistical issues and regulatory waters.

One enduring problem is in finding an appropriate way to measure the impact of interactions between brand innovators and KOLs. In part, this is a matter of regulation: Because advisory boards shouldn’t be treated as sales occasions, it is risky to assess them the way you’d assess a focus group—by number of positive reactions.

But even without regulation, that sort of metric would seriously misrepresent the nature of the relationship between a product development group and KOLs—a relationship that is based on science, mutual collaboration, and engagement, and tends to evolve over longer periods of time than interactions with inline marketers.

The thought leader interaction is a process; as such, it may not yield the same kind of immediate, measurable results seen on the commercial side of the company.

In my upcoming book, I will apply the principles of N-of-8 to the ubiquitous tactic of “advisory boards.”  That means we will review how the tool can be use in identifying the right advisors, maintaining a practice focus, creating an agenda, and producing actionable results.  I’ll also share some very functional guidance on the reporting of the N-of-8 sessions.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

8 communication traps that foil brand innovation

Most leaders are interested in growing their businesses through innovation, but it's risky business: most innovation efforts fail.

After years of helping to make innovation happen as chief communications officer at Steelcase and as a consultant, Georgia Everse has a point of view that she’s willing to bet on:  Innovative ideas, initiatives, products, culture transformations, you name it, have little chance to succeed if they aren't enabled by smart communications.

In a recent article on the Harvard Business Review website, she says this includes communication within the core team, broadly in your organization, and with key stakeholders outside the organization, including your distribution channel partners, suppliers, journalists, investors and of course, existing and potential customers.

Ms. Everse is a communications and marketing executive with 30 years of experience and a proven track record of finding innovative solutions to complex business problems. She specializes in helping C-level executives find and articulate their vision and successfully use strategic communication to achieve their growth goals. Georgia is a visiting professor for the Ferris State University MBA program, in Design and Innovation Management. She is currently a partner with Genesis Inc., a brand, strategy and communications consultancy.

Here are the 8 traps she says to avoid as you innovate.
  1. Don't break ground in the wrong direction. If your organization hasn't explicitly communicated your core reason for being, you'll need to start here.
  2. Don't lose sight of the horizon. The complexity and uncertainty of forging new ground makes it easy to get lost.
  3. Don't make the process a mystery. Successful initiatives are supported by a well-defined process, which should become the foundation for successful internal communication.
  4. Don't under-communicate. For it to be successfully implemented, your development project needs to be accepted into the operations side of the business.
  5. Don't let cynicism undermine the process. Taking your company into new territory of any kind never comes without some healthy skepticism from your positive team players and cynicism from your naysayers.
  6. Don't let key insights hide in a binder. The best ideas are born out of a discovery process that unveils insights into the behavior patterns of people.
  7. Don't let jargon hide the truth. In most organizations different functional groups use their own languages. Recognize the power of words in getting the development team aligned and achieving the positive results you hope for.
  8. If it's off-brand, don't do it. There should be a strong connection between your growth initiatives and your brand strategy. The two should inform and sustain each other.
Click here to read the full article.