4 Netflix shows that will inspire you to think in new ways.

Have you ever found yourself thinking there is nothing on TV? I have. But that is complete poppycock. Today, smart TVs enable you to watch cable, Youtube, Amazon Prime and Hulu on your television set. Not to mention every video ever uploaded to the inter-webs. The problem isn’t a lack of good programs. It is that there is so much programming that it is hard to sort through it all to find the good stuff.

4 Entertaining Shows That Will Stimulate Your Brainium.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, we seek out thought-provoking Netflix programs to watch during our lunch hour. It’s part of our program to stimulate creative thinking. As we watch, we frequently hit the pause button to discuss the interesting, inspiring or provocative stories. The 4 latest shows we have watched have generated so much conversation on our team that I thought they would be worth sharing. So here they are, ranked from Wholesome to Holy Shiznit!

  1.  Walt: The Man Behind The Myth.

51cpwj62eal._sy445_

This family friendly program follows the improbable story of Walt Disney’s rise, from humble midwestern child, to the man who changed movies, TV, merchandising and amusement parks forever. Dick Van Dyke narrates the documentary, which features interviews and images that will make you admire Disney more than ever. It’s clean enough for the whole family to enjoy, yet provides a fascinating path for entrepreneurs and creative minds to emulate. I recently read Walt Disney by Neal Gabler, which is an outstanding book. But this 90 minute program covers much of the same story as the 851 page book. So, see it real soon.

2.  Follow This

186570

This Buzzfeed News production is exactly what the curious modern mind needs. It investigates interesting, if not obscure phenomenon in 20 minutes or less. It is like 60 Minutes for the next generation. Each episode follows BuzzFeed.News journalists on their journey to uncover a unique, untold story. Which means that viewers not only learn about the new topic, they learn how the reporter is learning about it too.

The topics are fascinating. From The dumping of Bird scooters across America, to video game addiction centers, to the ASMR video explosion. (I was surprised to discover my 13-year-old daughter knew all about ASMR. She was just as surprised to hear that I knew about it too.) 

The series often covers topics I know little to nothing about. Which makes them all the more interesting. I can’t wait to see what they uncover next.

3. Slobby’s World

images-8

This is my current obsession. Slobby Robby is a true character who owns an 80s and 90s vintage store in Tuscon, Arizona. The store, Generation Cool, provides the backdrop for Slobby’s wheeling and dealing in old school sneakers, clothing, toys and so much more, bro!

3 reasons to love this show.

First, Slobby Robby is over the top. From his ridiculous clothing, to his insane hair, to his hilarious language, he is a character for the ages. I wish I had made him up. I can’t tell if he is channeling Chris Farley, or if Chris Farley was channeling him

Second. The things he buys, sells and trades are fascinating. If you spent any part of your life in the 80s or 90s this show is likely to bring back some memories of the way we were (sing that line like Barbara Streisand).

Third: Slobby Robby is a shrewd business man. Under all of his loud and clowny exterior (which I love) is a man who really knows his business inside and out. He knows how to find the goods to sell. He understands the true market value of another man’s junk (no, not that kind of junk). And he knows how to offer great customer experience, which keeps people coming back.

4. The American Meme

hqdefault-2

Wow! This show is crayer than Crayola Crayons. The 90 minute documentary takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon of internet-famous celebrities, who have achieved celebrity status despite a lack of traditional talents. This all-access look at publicity fiends, including Paris Hilton, The Fat Jew, DJ Khalid, Kirill (The Slut Whisperer) and Bethany Furlan, shows the upside, and dark downside to social media-borne fame. I loved this. And if weren’t for all of the swearing, dildos and boobs I would make my kids watch it to understand that if you try to dance with this type of fame you will get burned.

Key Takeaway:

There is a lot of great programing available today. Much if it is good and stimulating for your brain. I hope you enjoy these 4 shows. If you have been watching something that has really made you think, please share. I am always looking for a good excuse to spend more time on my couch.

Advertisements

Why going too far is so good for you.

One of my goals for 2019 is to push things further. I have always been fascinated with limitations, and what it takes to move beyond them. We are capable of far more than we realize. And if we don’t flirt with the limitations of our minds, muscles and machines we will never know what is truly possible. And suddenly, I’m hoping my kids are not reading this.

Discovering Limits

I find great pleasure in discovering the outer boundaries. I have driven my cars out of gas, just to know where the true limit is. For those of you afraid to experiment with a fume-y gas tank, they can go farther than the gauges advertise. Knowing the true limitations helps you recalibrate, and know what your real options are.

My Junior year in high school I pushed my automitve limits and got into a single car accident. Late one night I was speeding way too fast and lost control of my Ford Escort on a dirt road. I flew off a 10-foot embankment, hit a tree in mid-air and landed on the passenger side of the car. When I came to a violent stop, I was staring at a herd of cows who were staring back at me as if a UFO had just landed in their pasture. And we all know cows and UFOs don’t mix.

The fascinating reward of losing control of your car is that you discover where the limit of control is. And that is a valuable asset the rest of your life. What’s more, I walked away from the accident without a scratch. And the next day in my track and field meet, I broke a 25-year-old conference record in the discus, and set my new personal record. (#TwoFer)  My Escort was tougher than I would have ever imagined too. I never had it repaired, and drove it for another 7 years.

salvador-dali.jpg!portrait

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist, was known for pushing his art into strange, new and bizarre realms. When people told Salvador Dali he had gone too far he would respond:

It’s the only place I have ever wanted to go. -Salvador Dali

I love this quote. By pushing to the far reaches of his imagination, Dali created artwork like the world had never seen. In 2016, Dali’s Painting, Portrait De Paul Eluard, sold for $22,000,000. Had he not gone too far it is likely that we would have never known Dali’s name, or his melted clocks, or his redonculous stache.

Creativity

At The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, I often ask our team to take things too far. Find the breaking point in a concept, design, or layout. Find how many words is too few. Find the edge of good taste or credibility by pushing beyond it. Because you don’t really know where the limits are until you have bumped up against them. Or better yet, until you have moved beyond them. This is true in the physical, mental and emotional world. It is true in business, art, science, athletics, fashion, medicine, travel and humor. We must push the limits to explore, innovate and discover.

Key Takeaway

This year, go too far. Find the edges and boundaries. Find out what you are really capable of. And where things really fall apart. It may be much farther out than you thought. And discovering where the true limitations are, or are not, may be the most valuable thing you do in 2019. Unless you are my kids. In which case, keep the grape juice off the carpet like your Mom said.

Why I encourage people to fight in the office.

Designing an office space that fits your company culture is like creating a clubhouse. When we signed the lease on our new office space a year ago I couldn’t wait to give it a serious makeover.* The drab office we leased was move-in ready for a lobotomy clinic. That wasn’t quite the vibe we were going for at The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched the year before. So as soon as we got the keys to the office we began transforming the space to match our personality.

A Sign Of Things To Come.

One of my favorite features of our office is the large sign that now greets you when you first come in the door. The bright red and white, 5-foot by 5-foot sign invites you to, in no uncertain terms, Fight With Your Brain.

IMG_5307

Business Is War

I love this statement. because at The Weaponry, we believe that business is war. To win the war of business you need to outthink the competition. You win with strategic thinking and creativity. You win by summoning your intelligence and accumulated knowledge. In fact, your brain is your most powerful weapon in any battle, whether you are talking about business, board games or back alleys.

The Double Entendre

As much as I love the obvious meaning of this statement, I love the second meaning even more. The next level message encourages you to fight against your brain. It is a call to resist your brain’s tendencies. It is a reminder to fight your brain whenever it attempts to follow a well-worn path. To default to habit. To think too small. To simply follow others. Or to delete the last sentence in a paragraph (phew, that was close).

Fight With Your Brain is a warning to resist the feeling that you think you already know the answer. It is a call to fight against assumptions. Fight the belief that there is only one right way to approach a problem.

We want you to fight with your brain when it wants to reject a new process, procedure or plan. Fight with your brain when it wants the old version of an app back (I know you know what I mean).

You must also fight against negative thinking. You need to fight self-doubt. Fight unwarranted feelings of insecurity. Fight against giving up. And fight your bad habits. In fact, you should fight against anything that limits your thinking. Except maybe city hall. Because come on, it’s city hall!

IMG_3020
We have also created Fight With Your Brain pins. If you want one leave me a message in the comments section. 

Key Takeaway

By fighting, while using your brain, you develop better strategies and ideas. By fighting, against your brain, you keep your thinking flexible and adaptable. You keep your emperor organ positive and prepared. It is the best way to keep new and valuable ideas flowing. Which is what makes the brain the most innovative research and development lab on Earth. So keep it cranking. Because when you fight with your brain you will be amazed at all the good you can produce.


*In 2017 I chronicled The Weaponry’s search for an office in a 3-part mini series that shares what the process of finding, negotiating and leasing office space is like for startups. My agent believes he can get the trilogy made into a movie series and have it distributed at every Blockbuster Video store in the country! Until then, you can find the story of our journey at these links:

  1. Looking for office space: A startup story.
  2. Looking For Office Space Part 2: The Messy Middle.
  3. Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

Forget what you see on TV. This is what an advertising agency is really like.

I admit, I am a fairly loud human. As an extrovert I love to interact with other people. I like to talk, laugh, and not-so-occasionally sing. It doesn’t surprise people when they find out that I  work at an advertising agency. More specifically, in 2016 I founded an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. Naturally, you would expect an agency to reflect the personality of the Founder. And indeed, it does.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reality Check

But right now it is deafeningly quiet in our office. There is no witty banter among colleagues. No loud music thumping. No pinging and ponging. No pinball machine dinging. No sounds of ball-smacking at the foosball table.

Just quiet.

Tour Disappointment

Many times during my career, in moments just like this, an agency executive would stride through the quiet office, excited to show off the totally cool agency to a client. And the executive would be clearly disappointed by the quiet.

They would often apologize to their tour mate with a line like, ‘It’s usually much louder in here.‘ Or, ‘We have a lot of people out right now.’ Or ‘We have to be careful since we got that last noise violation…’

This is all because ad agencies like The Weaponry are supposed to be loud, fun, energetic and entertaining, right?

And often times we are.

IMG_8840
I think this is a picture of thinking.

But other times, like now, we are as quiet as a library on Saturday night. Because creators gotta create. And we don’t need to get loud to do it. Quite the opposite (or is it quiet the opposite?). The harder I work, the more focused I am, the quieter I am. So are my fellow Weapons. Because the most important work we do is the mental processing we perform when we are alone. That is when we are finding the language to articulate our new ideas in words and images. It is when we are editing our thinking down to the simplest, cleanest, clearest expressions. And that takes quiet focus.

Key Takeaway

If you stop by an ad agency when the people are really, really quiet, don’t be disappointed that you didn’t get a show. Stick around a few minutes to watch the work in progress. It’s usually, fast, focused and fascinating. During a break in the action ask if you can see the work hot-off-the-fingertips. When you see the freshly crafted art, read the  newly woven words, or ingest the just-birthed strategy, you’ll understand that silence is golden.

It’s where the real magic happens.

Do you really want serenity? Or do you want to solve problems?

My time is my most precious asset. Not because my time is any more important than anyone else’s. It is certainly not. Just as Steve Miller’s time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future, I know that my finite time on Earth is steadily slipping away too. Like sand through an hourglass. Literally. Yet, it is this scarcity of time that is the major motivating force in my life.

My Increasing Impatience

More and more, I find myself interrupting others as they recount their disappointments in the past. I often crash pity parties to point out that time spent dwelling on the things that went wrong will not make them go right.

Spending Your Time Wisely

I am a problem solver, both by nature and by profession. As an entrepreneur and as a professional creative thinker, I view the limitations of any given situation simply as the rules that govern the solution. I have no time to relive something that went wrong in the past. All I care about is what I can do moving forward.

The Serenity Prayer

I find great value in the Serenity Prayer. If you don’t know it, or don’t know it by name, here it is:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  –Reinhold Niebuhr

Serenity Now!

Many see this statement as a path to Serenity. But I would have named this The Problem Solver’s Prayer. Because what Reinhold is praying for is the essence of problem solving.

Problem solving is like conducting a science experiment. To find a great solution to the challenges you face, you must accept the constants, and vary the variables until you get the results you are looking for.

Focus On The Possible

I don’t spend any time lamenting the constants. I accept the things I cannot change. I pour all of my time, energy and thought into the things I can change. You could say I focus on the positive. But I say I focus on the possible. Mine is not a rose-colored glasses outlook. I focus on reality. Because reality is full of positive possibilities.

Key Takeaway

Memorize the Serenity Prayer. Accept the cold hard realities of life. And spend all of your valuable, and constantly diminishing time focusing on the amazing opportunities and possibilities that exist anyway.

How to use Netflix in the workplace to increase creativity.

Creativity is one of your organization’s most valuable assets. It helps you develop new products, services, systems and processes. It solves problems. And helps you create culture. Creativity is the opposite of conformity. It drives you to think and act in ways that others don’t. Which is why creativity is key to both memorability and competitive advantages.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, our core service is creative thinking. We are major exporters of creativity, like Art Vandelay. Which means my number one responsibility is creating an environment conducive to creative thinking.

Growing vs Harvesting

Most businesses think about harvesting creative thinking, but not planting or growing it. Which is like milking cows, but not offering them the water, grain, hay and chocolate they need to produce the milk. You have to fertilize your environment to grow more and better creative thinking. But you can’t just call ScottsMiracle-Gro for that kind of fertilizer. Unless you know a number I don’t know.

Making Connections

Creativity, like innovation, is about connecting dots. It happens when random bits of knowledge that reside in your head meet each other at the community social. They share some thinks, one think leads to another, and the next think you know a new thought is born. That’s why it is important to always be exposing yourself to new ideas. Not like a flasher, of course. But if you don’t get your chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter, you don’t get Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Netflix

One of the tools we use to feed creativity at The Weaponry is Netflix. At lunchtime, we regularly gather in the conference room and find a program on Netflix to stimulate new thinking. We watch documentaries on creative people and their journeys.  We watch programs on noteworthy artists and entrepreneurs. We watch comedy specials, both for a good mid-day laugh, and because comedians offer new ways to think about ordinary things.

What To Watch

To enhance your creativity with Netflix you can watch anything that stimulates your mind. But here are a few starter ideas that have inspired and expanded our thinking. You can click the name of each program to view the trailer.

p13662947_b_v8_ab

Abstract: The Art Of Design

This series profiles great creative thinkers across several fields, including Architecture, Illustration, Sneaker Design and Typography. I recommend starting with this. I’m not sure why I capitalized each of those fields.

p14806772_p_v8_ar

House of Z

This documentary on Zak Posen follows his EKG-like successes and setbacks. It is inspiring to see early wins, his transformations and his comeback. It’s also interesting for creative thinkers to hear from the critics and gatekeepers who felt empowered to judge his work.

p12109657_p_v8_aa

The People’s Designer

Like House of  Z, this documentary follows the career of designer Jeremy Scott as he leaves a little town on the prairies of Missouri to become the Creative Director of Moschino. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the personal styles of Scott and Posen. It’s a great reminder that we all need to find our special formula.

p9364219_b_v8_ad

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

In this funny and interesting series, Jerry Seinfeld hosts a talk show. But unlike a traditional talk show, the interveiews are conducted in, you guessed it, interesting cars and coffee shops. There are 4 seasons of this show already. The episodes are short, ranging from 9 to 22 minutes, which makes them easy to squeeze in during a short lunch break.

images-5

Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards

This is a fascinating find. Manolo is a real character with a truly unique vision. It is interesting to follow his story, his vast body of work (even though the only part of the body it covers is the feet), his quirks and idiosyncrasies.

images-6

Fastest Car

This series pits Super Cars vs Sleeper cars. Which means that each episode follows an owner of a Super Car (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Viper, McClaren etc) and three builders of sleeper cars, which are essentially wolves in pinto clothing. Then, each show concludes with a drag race to see which car is the fastest.

Key Takeaway

It’s important to feed your creativity. And nothing is easier than watching some interesting program while you are eating lunch. Start with any of these shows and follow your own interests. It’s useful to watch as a team, because each of these programs stimulates conversation. You’ll discover what other people find most interesting too. So give it a try. And let me know what you think. If you have a favorite idea-inspiring program on Netflix let me know. I’m always looking for more.

5 reasons brainstorms are a waste of your time and money.

I have an idea. Let’s not do brainstorms anymore. Most organizations believe brainstorm sessions are a great way to generate a lot of ideas quickly. While you may feel like you see a lot of new thinking in these sessions, you don’t see what you don’t see. As a professional creative thinker, I consider the brainstorm session a highly visible, but highly inefficient way to develop new ideas. I thought about hosting a telethon to raise awareness of this problem. But I didn’t know where to find ten landline telephones. So this post will have to do.

Dissecting the Brainstorm Problem

One of the reasons brainstorms are so popular is that in a one hour session you can generate a visible collection of new ideas. But the pile of ideas you leave the meeting with is misleading. Because brainstorm sessions are like gathering 100 horses and only generating 50 horsepower. You would be better off letting those ponies run alone.

horse-herd-fog-nature-52500.jpeg

 5 Problems With Brainstorms

1. Brainstorming is made for extroverts.

Brainstorming is a game where you rapidly blurt out half-baked ideas in front of a small crowd. For extroverts this is good sport. But to the other 50% of the planet this is an uncomfortable and unnatural activity. The quieter half of the population thinks more than they speak. They generate a lot of ideas on their own. Which means that the brainstorm is simply not their natural habitat for idea generation.

QGWNg5J

2. The 80/20 Rule

In line with the core tenants of the 80/20 rule, 80% of the good ideas in a typical brainstorm come from 20% of the people. Brainstorms give the false impression that everyone is birthing ideas. But this is not the reality. If you conducted a brainstorm in a petri dish, and observed it under a microscope, you would see a small population of valuable idea generators, a larger collection of evaluators, and a smattering of cheerleaders and spectators. Of course, they would all be wondering why you were staring at them through a giant microscope.

Screen-Shot-2016-09-14-at-16.02.29

3. The Brainstorm Bottleneck.  

In a polite and orderly brainstorm session you have one person speak at a time. This is also a necessity when you have one scribe capturing the ideas and mounting them on a giant flip pad. The flip side of that orderliness is that when one person is talking, no one else is contributing ideas. There is simply not enough air time for all the ideas that should be generated by just three productive thinkers over the course of an hour.

Bottleneck

4. Invisible Clay Pigeons:

There are not supposed to be any bad ideas in a brainstorm. Participants are not supposed to evaluate or criticize ideas. But there are a whole flock of less-obvious ideas that never get tossed to the group because the thrower is afraid their idea will get shot down in the minds of the other participants. Even if the group adheres to the rules of brainstorming during the session, participants will still feel judged by the group, in silence.

Clay-pigeon-shooting-2

5. Great Brains Storm On Their Own

Great ideators generate ideas at a faster pace, with greater range and push more boundaries when working alone. A good thinker will quickly gather the low hanging fruit. Then they get to work on the rest of the tree. Then other trees. Then other orchards.  Then they harvest fruit on other continents. And finally, on other planets. You are far less likely to get a bushel basket full of Uranus Apples in a traditional brainstorm.

0bac9fb929ebc6897a1d78a4a71b47c1

 

The Solution

To generate the most, best and broadest range of ideas, people should always think alone first. Give your team members a quiet place, a pen and a pad of paper. The ideas will flow and fill the pages. Only after the team has thought on their own should you bring them together to share their sparkly new brain gems. During The Thinkers Reunion, you experience the Reece’s moment, when people can get their chocolate in someone else’s peanut butter. The mash-ups, surprise combinations, epiphanies and amplified ideas at this stage are far more valuable.

Key Takeaway

Stop wasting time and money on brainstorm sessions. They are not the Holy Grail of idea generation they are thought to be. Work in isolation. Then pour all the ideas together. You’ll get more and better ideas every time. If you have other idea-generating ideas  you’ve thought of on your own, please share them in the comments section.