When you have a great idea avoid sharing it in a bad way.

I love ideas. In fact, I love them so much that I create new ideas for a living. And I can’t think of a better job. As a professional creative thinker my ideas help sell products and services. My ideas help name products, build brands and solve problems of all sizes and shapes, except hyperboloids.

Seek A Professional Opinion

In the same way a medical doctor is sought out to offer medical advice, businesses seek me out for creative advice. And I have written some pretty funky, yet effective prescriptions. Like filling a Prevost bus full of ping pong balls with Danica Patrick for Nationwide Insurance. And claiming that a Ski-Doo MX-Z snowmobile is so responsive it knows which butt cheek you’re flexing. And dressing 100 Argentinian men in pink bodysuits for Snickers.

Things I Hate

As much as I love a great idea I hate it when non-professional creatives share their ideas. You’re probably thinking that I am a typical creative A-hole who thinks no one else could possibly have a good idea. (See ‘The No A-holes Rule”). But, Au contraire, mon frère!

Where Great Ideas Come From

I know with 100% certainty that great ideas can, and do come from anywhere. And anyone. There is no monopoly on creativity in a creative department. No, what I abhor about non-creatives sharing their ideas is the way they typically do it.

analysis blackboard board bubble
Just keep thinking. Just keep thinking.

You’re Doing It Wrong!

I know that probably sounds like I am judging people on their idea sharing etiquette. Or shaming people for the poor idea sharing technique. But that’s not what I am getting at.

What profoundly bothers me when non-professionals share their ideas is how they often discount the idea before they even unwrap it. Nothing takes the punch out of a great idea like introducing it with one of the following phrases:

  • ‘This is probably stupid but…’
  • ‘I’m not creative at all but…’
  • ‘Feel free to shoot this down…’
  • “I’m not the creative person here…’
  • “Here comes a bad client idea…’
  • “Ok, bad account person idea…’
  • ‘What if… no, never mind, bad idea.”

Share Without Apology

These type of apologetic disclaimers are poison to the creative process. Just as improv works on the ‘Yes-And’ Rule, meaning that every idea shared is embraced and built upon, a strong creative development process requires us to embrace fully-baked, half-baked and raw idea as they are presented. Because there is something to build on within every idea.

Water splash
Sharing your idea can impact others in profound ways. 

Connect The Dots

Creativity is about connecting disparate elements. So we should all throw our unique thoughts and ideas on the table. Not just the professional creatives and strategists. Clients, account people, media, technologist, sales, engineering and accounting can all add a very valuable perspective. Spouses and children who know the problem to be solved can too.

Loud and Proud

We all need to contribute our ideas without apologizing. Because when you eliminate the disclaimers, and stop unselling your work before you share it, you’ll get a much better reaction. Which makes everyone more comfortable exploring and sharing their ideas in the future.

Key Takeaway

Great ideas can come from everywhere. There is no monopoly on creativity in creative departments and creative businesses. Which means that no one should ever apologize for having a good thought. The best idea wins. It’s that simple. So share your thinking without discounting it. Encourage others to do the same. And let’s recognize and value all the disparate thoughts that helped us build to the best final idea. When you do that you create an environment that generates more great ideas. I should know. I am a professional.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

It’s time for a more innovative way to celebrate the 4th of July.

Last Saturday night my family and I went to a fireworks display in Mequon, Wisconsin.  Like a good marketer should, Mequon wanted to differentiate their 4th of July celebration. They noticed that everyone else was celebrating the 4th of July at the same time. Which was ON the 4th of July. But nobody was celebrating in June. So Family Fun Before The Fourth was born. #Boom

Family Fun Before The Fourth

With a your-marketing-strategy-is-showing name like Family Fun Before The Fourth, if you can’t figure out who the celebration is for, what the main benefit is, and generally when it occurs, you are also likely to hold onto fireworks too long after you light them.

Family Fun Before The Fourth is like Friendsgiving. During a Friendsgiving celebration, friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, with a Thanksgiving meal, before they head off to celebrate again, by having the same meal with their family. The downside is that the appetizer event usurps the specialness of the main meal. #UsurpAsYouSlurp

ffwaterskigroup.jpg

Family Fun

True to its name, Family Fun Before The Fourth, or FFBT4, offers a lot of family fun. There is a parade. Then there is a gathering at a nice park on the Milwaukee River, with food vendors, a water ski show, dancers, tumblers and live music. The cherry on top of the event is the evening fireworks show.

IMG_5656.JPG

Fireworks

On Saturday night as the fireworks show was about to start I was excited. Fireworks have always been the highlight of my 4th of July celebrations. Like always, the fireworks show started with a bang, and some bright lights. Followed by more bright lights and more bangs. And more bangs and more bright lights.

Then I experienced something I had never experienced at a 4th of July fireworks display: boredom.

It’s Not You. It’s Me.

It wasn’t that the display wasn’t up to par. It was. It was a very nice and lengthy show, highly appropriate for a town Mequon’s size. But I had the feeling that I had seen it all before.

purple red white and orange fireworks display

Been There, Seen That Explode.

We have all seen fireworks shows many, if not many many, if not many many many times before. I guess I am a Triple Many, because suddenly the novelty and excitement of loud, colorful explosions in midair seemed to have worn off for me. Which felt very strange. Because I consider myself excitable, enthusiastic and easily entertained.

What’s Wrong?

But in that moment I felt like a thrill seeker who wasn’t getting enough thrill. Or an addict whose current dosage wasn’t creating the high. Or someone suffering from depression who could stare at a joyful thing and not feel joy. But as I laughed at myself for not feeling the thrill of the fireworks, my own laughter confirmed that I was not depressed.

IMG_9097

Overexposure Without Innovation

Overexposure to fireworks was to blame. With over 40 years of fireworks display watching under my belt (actually none of the fireworks happened under my belt) my oohs and ahhs had become mehs and hmms.

The world has also changed. Fireworks were once innovative technology that was perfect for entertaining a crowd. The lights and noises and the rocketry that enabled the shells to soar into the sky was once totally foreign, novel, magical and entertaining. But not anymore.

What’s The Story Morning Glory?

The greatest downside to fireworks is that there is no story to follow. Sure, you can argue that there is a beginning, middle and grand finale. You can argue that the story is the re-creation of the rockets red glaring and bombs bursting in air-ing of the Revolutionary War. The war that got this party started in the first place. But it doesn’t feel like a story to me.

Today we have so many options at our disposal to help entertain and engage an audience that fireworks, or fireworks alone, feel underwhelming. A standard fireworks show, even with a backdrop of music now feels as if the host didn’t put much thought into the celebration. They just defaulted to fireworks. Which is like giving a neck tie on Father’s Day.

Many cities try to make up for the lack of an innovative idea by adding to the sheer quantity of fireworks detonated. But I argue that a 45 minute, $350,000 display, like the city of Milwaukee put on last night, is too long and too much. There is a law of diminishing returns at work here. At some point it feels overdone. Like operation Shock And Awe. And you just want to fast forward to the end.

Exploring Other Modern Options

It’s time to put more innovation and creativity into our Independence Day celebrations. Let’s consider all the entertainment options we can now use to create memorable, interesting and exciting 4th of July shows. Let’s share stories. Because we have really great stories to share.

4 New Ways Communities Could Celebrate the 4th of July

 

1. Video

Communities could show an amazing video each year on the 4th of July that represents what Independence and America is all about. It could be set to music and updated for our communities every year. This could be like your town’s version of One Shining Moment that is played at the end of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This emotional, storytelling highlight reel is a perfect ending to March Madness, and could serve as a template for how we celebrate and recognize our Americanism once a year.

one_shining_moment.jpg

2. Projection Mapping

Let’s get creative and project interesting images, video, graphics, and animation onto our city landmarks or rural barns. Projection mapping enables us to create a new Wow that fascinates the brain as it entertains. It does what fireworks were intended to do in a thoroughly modern way. My high school classmate David Title at Bravo Media in New York City can hook you up with some jaw dropping badassery if you and your community are ready to take this step.

maxresdefault

Holograms

A hologram is a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source. #onlinedictionary  We can now create amazingly real and wowing hologram images that make you feel as if you are looking at something very real, that isn’t really there.

Whitney Houston_Hologram.jpg

The possibilities with this technology are thrilling. With a hologram we could have one of the founders of our great nation deliver the keynote address of our Independence Day celebration. Imagine one of our founding fathers, like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Yankee Doodle, or one of our founding mothers, like Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross or the Statue of Liberty showing up in your town on the 4th to address your community. It would be like having Santa preach the sermon on Christmas Eve.

Broadway Style Musical 

The musical Hamilton is one of the greatest creative innovations of all time. With his broadway show, Lin-Manuel Miranda combined history with music and entertainment in a thoroughly modern, energizing, surprising and captivating way. A show using this formula could create the centerpiece of our Independence Day Celebrations. Add me to the wait list for this show right now.

Hamilton Scene.jpg

Key Takeaway

Nothing is more American than innovation. In fact, America itself is an innovation. So let’s get more innovative with the way we celebrate America’s birthday. Let’s get more creative. Let’s utilize our modern technology. And infuse the whole celebration with powerful storytelling. America’s Independence is one of the greatest stories every told. Yet we don’t often actually tell the tale when we celebrate it. Let’s change that. And start telling this amazing American story the way a modern day Lee Greenwood would do. #GodBlessTheUSA

 

Your mistakes are your most important milestones.

I read as much as I can. I am always searching for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, perspective and a good laugh. Because I am always searching, I often find what I am looking for.

DaVinci

This morning I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo DaVinci. On page 59, Isaacson describes the flaws in DaVinci’s painting, The Annunciation. The painting depicts the moment when the angel Gabriel breaks the news to the Virgin Mary that she is going to become the mother of Christ. And Mary is all like ‘WTF!?!’

1200px-Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Annunciazione_-_Google_Art_Project
‘Hey Mary! How’s it going? Um, God wanted me to tell you that he wants you to have his son. Oh, and you get to ride a Donkey!’

Flawed Genius

The painting isn’t perfect. Because Leo was trying out some interesting new moves. The magic of this painting is revealed when you look at it from the angle he wanted you to see it from. But I think the real magic comes from Isaacson’s commentary:

‘In the process, he made some mistakes. But even the mistakes, which came from innovating and experimenting, heralded his genius.’ – Walter Isaacson from Leonardo DaVinci

Way To Grow!

I love that. I like to think that my mistakes are evidence that I am trying. That I am pushing beyond what I know how to do well, into areas of growth, improvement and innovation. I am more afraid of not growing that I am of messing things up.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You, your skills, and your abilities are iterative. Don’t stop at You 1.0. Try more. Learn more. Innovate and experiment more. Push yourself as far as you can. Discover what You 100.0 is capable of. And if you do, someone may write a book about you too.

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.

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.

This is what people really remember about you.

I don’t have any tattoos. But each time we get a meaningful image or quote added to the walls of our new offices at The Weaponry, I feel as if an important statement has been tattooed on me. Of course our wall art is much larger and much less painful than a real tattoo. And I don’t have to hide the wall art from my Mom.

I’ve written about our wall statements before. But last week we had another quote tattooed to our office. Not only do I find this quote inspiring, it states a critical tenant of brand-building.

Our Latest Wall Quote:

 “You are remembered for the rules you break.”

-General Douglas MacArthur

MacArthur hit the nail on the head, and sent it into concussion protocol with this line. In Nike Founder, Phil Knight’s book Shoe Dog, he references this quote several times. I find myself referencing it often too.

There are multiple ways to interpret this quote. But I see it in the most positive light possible. You are remembered for the norms the standards and the expectations you don’t follow. You are remembered for the parts of you that stick out. Not the ones that fit in. You are remembered like Frank Sinatra, for doing it your way.

IMG_0260
Me and my cousin Brooks Albrecht and some 504 point type.

This is true of people, businesses, brands, products, services, plants, minerals and animals. Speaking of animals, consider mammals for a moment. They are warm-blooded and fur-bearing creatures. But the dolphins doesn’t seem like a mammal because it lives in the ocean. The bat doesn’t seem like a mammal because it frickin flies! And the platypus, well, it breaks so many rules I don’t even know what it was to start with.

Conformity

Conformity is the opposite of creativity. Conforming to every rule means you disappear. If you want to be remembered by your peers, in job interviews, or in customers’ minds, you have to break some rules.

Key Takeaway

Look for ways to be different. Break stupid rules. Break smart rules when you have an even smarter reason to do so. Rules were made to be broken. You were made to be remembered. You are not a sheep, or a cow. Don’t follow the flocking herd. Give them something to remember you by.  Your Mom and Dad will eventually get over it. Trust me, I know.

How to learn exciting new skills like Wilbur Wright.

We experience life in three modes.

  1. Growth Mode.
  2. Maintenance Mode.
  3. Atrophy Mode.

These modes are not sequential. You can shift from one mode to another in any order you choose. Read a book and you are in Growth Mode. Do some drugs and you are in atrophy mode. Brush your teeth and you are in Maintenance Mode. (Listen to some 80s English electronic music and you are in Depeche Mode.)

Right now I am spending as much time as I can in Growth Mode. I am reading for learning. I’m working out regularly. And I have started my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which pushes me to grow every day.

Growing By Learning From Others.

To push myself for more growth, I am soaking up as much as I can about inventors and pioneers. Recently I’ve studied Walt Disney, Lewis and Clark, the team at Pixar, and Ernest Shackleton. Right now I am studying Orville and Wilbur Wright. Notice I say that I am studying them. Not reading about them. You can read simply to be entertained. Or to kill time. I’m studying because I am trying to learn and grow.

The Wright Brothers

For those of you who aren’t up to date on your turn-of-the-last-century trivia, Orville and Wilbur Wright, from Dayton, Ohio, invented the airplane. Which changed the world forever. In fact, if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t be able to complain about the lack of leg room or that spotty in-flight wi-fi as you cross the entire country in just 6 hours.

One of the things that stood out to me about the Wrights was their highly pragmatic approach to their own growth and learning. Today, you and I can use their approach to develop our own breakthroughs, both personally and professionally.

The Wright Stuff

To learn and grow like the Wright Brothers read the following excerpt from a talk Double Dubs (my nickname for Wilbur Wright) gave to a group of engineers in Chicago:

Now, there are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: One is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks.

The latter system is the safest, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.   -Wilbur Wright  1901

4495439099001_5325821989001_5305199910001-vs
Orville and Wilbur Wright were no couch potatoes. They were the worlds first airplane potatoes.

Applying Wilbur’s Approach

The same holds true for you my friend. You can study that challenge in front of you from the comfort of your couch. You can read about it, talk about it and watch other people do it. But if you really want to learn how to do it yourself, you have to climb aboard your own flying machine and learn the tricks yourself, through trial and error.

That’s how I started The Weaponry. I read and studied and tried to prepare ahead of time. But eventually I had to jump in the cockpit, pull back on the wheel and start messing with the controls. I’m learning by doing. And I’m learning faster than I ever could from a book or a class.

Your Growth

The same approach holds true for learning anything. You learn how to kayak, juggle, write code, start a non-profit, lead, cook, invest and speed-eat hot dogs by doing.  Experience is the greatest teacher. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes help you course-correct and keep you moving forward.

 Conclusion

Don’t settle for Maintenance Mode. Avoid Atrophy Mode at all costs. And keep growing. Not by watching or reading. But by doing. Get off the fence and climb aboard your own horse, bicycle or flying machine today. Then just keep at it until you get it Wright.

*If you got anything out of this post consider subscribing to receive future posts via email. I’ll try to write something smart or funny to make it worth your while. Heck, I’ll even spring for the email postage.