January 2007


2007-01-31T18:43:08+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful entertainers of our time. He had a stand up comedy career in the ’80s that led him to be the highest paid entertainer and to the most popular television program of the ’90s “Seinfeld.” The show ran for nine seasons and won an Emmy.

After Jerry finished Seinfeld, he scrapped all of his previous comedy material he had and started from scratch. He refused to use any old jokes… In about 12-months, he re-started with a blank piece of paper and built to a full 60-minute act.

There is a great film about Jerry’s process called “Comedian.” It shows how hard even Mr. Jerry Seinfeld had to work – what it took to get there – to create a comedy act.

Whether or not you find Jerry funny (or even like him) it’s fascinating to see HIM struggle and concentrate. Despite great success he was just as naked and as vulnerable as someone going on stage for the first time…

When we’re bogged down… stumped… have writers block… can’t come up with that great idea… It’s grounding and reassuring that even the greats have their challenges!

Elevator Pitch: YOUR TV Show Opening Narration

2011-04-13T23:17:38+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: |

It’s important to have an “elevator speech.” A 30-second summary of what you’re working on to tell the boss… When meeting new people, a quick way to summarize the value of your company and what you do.

It can be challenging to boil down what you do into a short blurb… For inspiration, I suggest paying attention to the 30-second narrations at the beginning of TV shows.

At the start of each episode producers deliver the swift backstory and premise of the show. If this was our first viewing, we would understand what makes the show worth attention.

This is EXACTLY what you need for YOUR elevator pitch… What’s your 30-second blurb? Your backstory that builds awareness of the premise of you (or your project, company, etc…) and lets me know why you’re worth my attention?

For inspiration, here is the text… and some clips from some classic TV show “elevator pitches.” I’ve put mine at the bottom of this page…

Read and listen to these as if they were your own backstory. Ask yourself… Is mine as engaging? Would it make your customers want to tune in week after week?

Update: I’m sorry so many of these clips are no longer valid. Looks like the networks have asked YouTube to take them down. You can still read the intro if you can’t see the clip. I’m going to try to find new clips!

My Name Is Earl

(:30 seconds)

You know the kinda guy who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his life sucks?

Well, that was me. Every time something good happened to me something bad was always waiting around the corner.


That’s when I realized I had to change.

So I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done and, one by one I’m gonna make up for all my mistakes.

I’m just trying to be a better person.

My name is Earl.

The A-Team

(20 seconds)

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit.

These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune.

If you have a problem. If no one else can help. And if you can find them. Maybe you can hire…

The A-Team.

The Incredible Hulk

(1 minute :08 seconds)

Doctor David Banner. Physician. Scientist. Searching for a way to tap into the hidden strength that all humans have.

Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry.

And now when David Banner grows angry or outraged a startling metamorphosis occurs.

The creative is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter*.

“Mr. McGee… don’t make me angry… You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

The creature is wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.

David Banner is believed to be dead, and he must let the world think that he is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.

Star Trek

(:30 seconds)

Space, the final frontier.

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.

Its five year mission: to explore strange new worlds… to seek out new life… and new civilizations…

To boldly go where no man has gone before!

Bosom Buddies

Henry: When we first moved to New York we had a great apartment that was dirt cheap.

Kip: And we found out why it was so cheap (wrecking ball breaks through walls of apartment building).

Henry: Our friend Amy said there was a great apartment in her building. Dirt Cheap.

Kip: But it’s a hotel for women. OK! We made one adjustment. (Henry and Kip are dressed as women).

Henry: Now these other ladies know us as Buffy and Hildegarde.

Kip: But they also know us as Kip and Henry, Buffy and Hildy’s brothers. I’m crazy about the blonde.

Henry: This experience is going to make a great book.

Kip: See it’s all perfectly normal.

(Theme Music: “My Life” by Billy Joel)

Six Million Dollar Man

1 minute, 20 seconds

Opens with video of Steve Austin crashing while test piloting an aircraft.

Steve Austin. Astronaut. A man barely alive.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.

WE have the technology.

We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.

Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

Even more…

As typical… the Internet is a storehouse of information you never knew existed.

Here is a link to a site called TV Acres that has a comprehensive listing of TV show narrations

Idea Sandbox Elevator Pitch

(:20 seconds)

Problem Solver Paul Williams. Creative. Clever. Searching for a way to tap into the hidden strength that all humans have. (Imagination)

To boldly go where no brand has gone before!

WE have the technology.

We have the capability to make the world’s best iconic brand.

Yours can be that brand. Better than it was before.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

If you have a problem. If no one else can help. And if you can find me. Maybe you can hire…

My name is Idea Sandbox.

Paul: This experience is going to make a great book.

I made that faux elevator pitch using lines from many of the TV shows…

*I never understood why David Banner was so afraid of the investigative reporter. I’ve worked with many reporters over the years. While they ask some tough questions – none of them have inspired me to flee from town to town…

Solve Anything – With Three Key Steps

2017-03-01T11:57:18+00:00 Categories: Destination, grow, SandBlog, solve|Tags: |

I love cheat sheets… pages, charts, process flow, lists that chop complex ideas into small chunks.

The following is adapted from a design process presented in the endnotes of Seth Godin’s book “Free Prize Inside.”

This works extremely well for problem solving, product development, and strategy planning.

Define the Problem

  • Define the problem
  • Envision the end state (know what victory looks like)
  • Define the approach by which victory can be achieved
  • Incite support and then action


  • Seek insight to inform the prototyping of the solution
  • Prototype potential solutions
  • Delineate the tough choices
  • Enable the team to work as a team

Generating Value

  • Choose the best solution, then activate it
  • Make sure people know about your solution
  • Sell the solution
  • Rapidly learn and “tack” (make adjustments) based on your success and failures

Use this as a guide to solving your next business challenge…

Many of us experience less than expected results because we forget the important influencing/champion steps. These make all the difference:

  • Enable the team to work as a team,
  • Make sure people know about your solution, and
  • Sell the solution.

New Year’s Resolution: ‘Comp Yourself’

2010-12-22T14:27:48+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

Happy New Year!

It’s resolution season.

How do you avoid the let-down, after you have enthusiastically created resolutions for a new year, starting with a clean slate, and by February you’ve stopped working at them?

Here is a New Year’s Resolution… nay… a life philosophy… that you may adopt that I can nearly guarantee you’ll be able to stick to.

Comp Yourself: Do better this year than you did last year.

That’s it. That’s the entire philosophy. YOU determining which areas you wish to focus on.


What does ‘comp’ yourself mean?

Some of us at Starbucks used the term “comp,” a measure of business performance, to gauge our personal job performance.

Many retail companies measure the sales performance of their locations by comparing last year sales with this year sales. They measure comparable (or comp) performance.

If a store did better than last year, we’d say it comp’d itself. It beat its own performance.

To measure our professional growth we would compare how we performed in our jobs this year versus last year.

We asked ourselves questions such as: Did I… contribute more? …do a better job? …take on more projects? …learn more? …get a promotion? …get a pay increase? …receive more praise? …get better feedback from peers? …feel better about my skills?

The measures are up to you… This isn’t the official company performance appraisal, it is your own gauge. There were times in my career when I received praise from my boss, but felt stagnant in my own comp performance. If you feel you haven’t grown enough, put a personal plan together that will get you where you want to be.

You may apply this concept to any aspect of your life. Work. Fun. Home. Personal. Whatever.

Think about where you’d like improvement in your life and work at them. After some time, review and see if you’ve made progress.

Author/blogger John Moore, documents how we practiced this philosophy at Starbucks in a chapter of his book Tribal Knowledge: Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture In fact, he and I must be on the same wavelength… John provides the entire chapter on his blog for free: Always Measure Your Comparable Job Performance.

Same Idea, Alternate Approach

Alan Weiss, in his book Million Dollar Consulting, suggests The 1% Solution – “Improve by 1% a day, and in just 70 days, you’re twice as good.” An interesting and manageable approach.

Have a great new year!,


Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox

Qualities of a Good Leader

2012-06-18T09:49:32+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

How are you performing as a leader?

HBR January Cover

The January issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) magazine is chock full of great leadership advice.

One article that especially stands out is “The Tests of a Leader: What to Ask the Person in the Mirror” by Robert S. Kaplan. On page 90, there is a test yourself section which ask questions within seven categories. Here are the categories, my paraphrasing, and the assessment questions the article offers.

Visit the HBR website to get purchase the full article.

Vision and Priorities

Leaders need to communicate their vision to the organization in a way that helps their subordinates know how to prioritize.

Q: How often do I communicate a vision for my business?
Q: Have I identified and communicated three to five key priorities to achieve that vision?
Q: If asked, would my employees be able to articulate the vision and priorities?

Managing Time

Leaders need to know how their time. They also need to make sure their time and the time allocation of their subordinates matches key priorities.

Q: How am I spending my time? Does it match my key priorities?
Q: How are my subordinates spending their time? Does that match the key priorities of the business?


Leaders often fail to direct employees in a direct and timely fashion, saving feedback for a year-end review. This leads to surprises and undermines development. Just as important, managers need to cultivate subordinates who can “manage up” and provide advice and feedback during the year.

Q: Do I give timely and direct feedback that they can act on?
Q: Do I have junior subordinates who will tell me things I may not want to hear but need to hear?

Succession Planning

When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate sufficiently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Key employees may leave if they are not actively groomed and challenges.

Q: Have I, at least in my own mind, picked one or more potential successors?
Q: Am I coaching them and giving them challenging assignments?
Q: Am I delegating sufficiently? Have I become a decision-making bottleneck?

Evaluation & Alignment

Leaders need to adapt their business to the constantly changing world.

Q: Is the design of my company still aligned with the key success factors for the business?
Q: If I had to design my business with a clean sheet of paper, how would I design it? How would it differ from the current design?
Q: Should I create a task force of subordinates to answer these questions and make recommendations to me?

Leading Under Pressure

A leader’s actions in times of stress are especially visible to subordinates and has a strong effect on culture and on how others react. Successful leaders pay attention to their own ‘stress triggers’ and make sure they monitor their behavior and act in alignment with their beliefs and core values.

Q: What types of events create pressure for me?
Q: How do I behave under pressure?
Q: What signals am I sending my subordinates? Are these signals helpful, or are they undermining the success of my business?

Staying True to Yourself

Successful executives develop a leadership style that fits the need of the business but also fits their own beliefs and personality.

Q: Is my leadership style comfortable? Does it reflect who I truly am?
Q: Do I assert myself sufficiently, or have I become tentative?
Q: Am I too politically correct?
Q: Does worry about my next promotion or bonus cause me to pull punches or hesitate to express my views?

I hope you’ve found these questions to be as insightful as I have. How do you feel about your own responses?

How to Be Different: “Create A Contagion”

2017-03-01T11:57:19+00:00 Categories: grow|Tags: , , , , |

The crux of Guy Kawasaki’s book “The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything” is about turning ideas into action! In chapter 9, “The Art of Branding,” Guy offers advice on how to create a remarkable product or brand.

Who: Guy Kawasaki

What: “Create A Contagion”*

What is it?

Create “something contagious that infects people with enthusiasm.”

How is it done?

Contagion is…
Cool – Cool is beautiful. Cool is hip. Cool is idiosyncratic. And cool is contagious…

Effective – You can’t brand crap. You can’t brand something that doesn’t work.

Distinctive – It is easy to notice and advertises itself. It leaves no doubt that it is different from the competition.

Disruptive – Contagious products are disruptive. They either upset competitive status quo (“Oh, hell, this is better. We’re in trouble.”) or make them go into denial (“Why would anyone want a graphical user interface?”). But they do not leave people unaffected.

Emotive – It exceeds expectations, and by exceeding expectations, it makes you joyful.

Deep – The more you use it, the more you discover what it is capable of.

Indulgent – Purchasing it makes as feel as if you’ve indulged yourself. This may be because it costs more than alternatives, it’s cooler, or it’s more than you really need. Thus, it enables you to escape the mundane.

Supported – Provide exemplary service.

Guy continues the chapter with great advice on brand building… but we’ll stop here… with focus on remarkability.

Check Out



Previous Posts in this Series:

Upcoming Post:

  • Marty Neumeier and Zag!

*This post was originally referred to as Guy’s advice for creating “Secret Sauce.” He recommends when you are pitching your product/service/company that you explain the underlying magic of your company. What is the “technology, secret sauce, or magic behind your product or service?” By sharing your contagion, you’ll accomplish this task.

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

2009-03-06T12:25:42+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Ever have information you need to present but just don’t know how to organize it? Knowing a picture is worth a thousand words – something visual would be just the trick.

Get inspired by the Periodic Table of Visual Methods on the Visual Literacy website.

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

(Click images for a larger view).

Visit the website and roll your mouse over any ‘element’ and it presents you with a sample image of that visualization method.

Parameter Ruler Detail

I can’t wait to use some of these… A well-presented tool and an awesome resource.


New Year’s Resolution That’ll Stick – Inbox Sand, Jan. ’07

2010-05-24T13:45:45+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , |

Happy New Year!

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution you may be able to sustain for the year… or for at least a few months?

upward graphThis month I offer a practical and stick-to-able New Year’s Resolution that you just may adopt as a life philosophy.

Read this year’s first installment of Sand for Your Inbox titled “Comp Yourself.”

If you’d like to receive monthly Sand for Your Inbox directly to your inbox, join the exclusive Idea Sandbox mailing list by -> clicking here.

Thanks for your comments and discussion this past year… Here is to another year of great ideas and problem solving techniques.

I hope you’ve got a good start on a happy and healthy new year!

p.s. Author/blogger John Moore, documents how we practiced this philosophy at Starbucks in a chapter of his book “Tribal Knowledge:.” In fact, he and I must be on the same wavelength… John recently provided the entire chapter Always Measure Your Comparable Job Performance on his blog for free.

Success Tips for Work… Life…

2007-01-04T17:00:51+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|

Looking for some – or more – words to live by?

The cartoonist and author Scott McCloud, in his recent book, “Making Comics” offers great advice in his book’s closing.

While Scott’s advice is targeted toward cartoonists… It is great work and life advice for everyone.

  1. Learn from everyone.
  2. Follow no one.
  3. Watch for patterns.
  4. Work like hell.

Scott offers valuable advice… if you ‘learn from everyone‘ you’ll be able to apply these guidelines with marketing or managing a product or running a company.

Points of Contact

2017-03-01T11:57:21+00:00 Categories: grow|Tags: |

It’s important to pay attention to the points of contact you have with your customers. These are known as customer touchpoints.

These are all the times/places when you or your business comes in contact with customers or potential customers.

A simple way Idea Sandbox may connect is illustrated below.


I’ve divided these points into four phases…

  1. Unaware – unaware of Idea Sandbox
  2. Potential – potential client
  3. Client – client
  4. and back to Potential…

    Each of these phases a (potential) client