July 2015

Childlike Creativity

By | 2017-03-01T11:55:13+00:00 15 July 2015|Categories: Destination, grow, SandBlog|Tags: , |

At Idea Sandbox we talk a lot about being childlike and using your imagination… how solving problems is about creativity and how creativity is driven by your ability to imagine new ideas…

I found this interesting bit about being more like a child in Rob Eastaway’s book, “Out of the Box: 101 Ideas for Thinking Creatively

Adults are often overly concerned about thinking and saying what they’re expected to think rather than what they really think. Young children have a refreshing honesty about them, and divert their energy to new things that excite them.

He continues to say that there are three stages of life:

From 0 to 4 years old is the “Why not?” stage.
From 5 to 11 years old is the “Why?” stage.
From 12 onward is the “Because” stage.

This because stage is where we start to conform to adulthood and lose the “curiosity and wonder about the world that leads us to ask those crucial questions, “Why?” and “Why Not?”

To be more creative, you need to recapture some of the behavior of your childhood.

August 2011

Remove Idea-Blocking Obstacles with Conducivity

By | 2011-08-01T20:37:03+00:00 2 August 2011|Categories: Destination, solve|Tags: |

Day in-and-out we spend a good amount of our time coming up with creative ideas, solving problems, and making decisions. With focus, concentration, and inspiration, we are better and faster at these applied thinking skills.

Your boss just let you know – due in 48 hours – is the “big idea” that will build awareness of the new ready-to-drink beverage that is flopping. My guess is that sitting at a melamine covered desk, with gray cube walls, florescent lamps, message light blinking, and e-mails pinging isn’t the most effective place to hatch this killer solution. You need CONDUCIVITY.

Yep… a conducive, stress-free space that’s comfortable, free of distraction, and full of inspiration.

Tim Gallway in his book “The Inner Game of Work: Overcoming Mental Obstacles for Maximum Performance” outlined this formula…

Performance = potential – interference

The ability to be innovative and create new ideas is governed by our POTENTIAL minus the INTERFERENCE… Interference may include… lack of confidence, lack of process, lack of support, or in this example, a lack of conducive space.

Sounds great! How do I avoid this interference and find conducivity?

As an Individual

We spend a lot of our time at our desks, perhaps in a cubicle. Surround yourself with stuff that inspires you. Listen to music that gets your creative juices flowing. (Wear headphones, your tunes may not be what works for a cube-mate). Put on your cube walls pictures of your family, your kids, people who inspire you. Post pictures of your Imaginary Board of Directors. Call on them for help.

Create a Library, Cabin, Sci-Fi, or any other themed cube inspired by Kelly Moore’s book Cube Chic. If you’re the boss, try office modification.

If your desk won’t work for you – find another space.

As a marketer with Starbucks Coffee, I found it less distracting to be in a Starbucks cafe than in the Starbucks offices. Even though the cafe was noisy and busy, I didn’t have my real distractions – a phone, e-mail, and friendly co-workers.

Discover what works best for you.

As a Group

Stay out of the bored room! If your conference rooms suck the life out of you – trust they won’t be the space that will inspire you.

Besides that, it may be the very room where they came up with the idea that isn’t working (re: RTD flopping). Einstein once said… Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created.

So, if your conference rooms are uninspiring, perhaps you need to build a space within your office – a CreativityLab – an in-building idea clubhouse.

If that is still too close to distraction, leave your building altogether.

There is no formula or prescription that works for everyone. Figure out what works for you and your team. You may find inspiration in a bowling alley, public library, or far-away resort lodge. Whatever you discover – go for it! Discover conducivity.

November 2009

Off-Site Meetings: Last Century Technology

By | 2012-05-07T22:30:51+00:00 16 November 2009|Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , |

The most up to date list of locations can be found on the Places page within Brainstorming Tools section.

Did use an abacus or slide rule to build your FY’10 budgets?

To prepare and distribute information about next year’s Marketing Plan did you use a typewriter and make a duplicate with a layer of ink paper?

Or did you hand crank copies on a Ditto (or Verifax) machine?


Of course you didn’t. That would be crazy and inefficient. We have invented better and more efficient tools.

With that said.. while we are in the 21st century… there is a tool that is stuck somewhere in the mid-1900s: The Off-Site Meeting.

It is interesting we don’t perceive meetings as a “tool” the same way we do a photocopier, computer, or even the coffee maker.

And, of all meetings, the “off-site” is critically important. So important, it warrants sending a hand-picked group away from the office, sleeping away from their families, huddled in a hotel conference room for three days, not allowed to return with out “the plan.”

Yet we put no thought to the meeting room. It is a “people container.”

Meeting Space = Commodity

Look up commodity in the dictionary, and there will be a picture of a hotel meeting room. Tan. Accordion folding walls. Wall to wall patterned carpeting. Sweaty pitchers of water dripping into black coasters. A small paper pad and hotel logo pen. Sums up 99.9% of the meetings and conferences you’ve attended, right?

And we don’t care… when we book it. We ask the office admin to call around and find a cheap place that can hold the number of people we’re bringing. If there was a preference, it would be something like: “Oh, let’s stay at that place we were last timelikes their Caesar salad.”

Yet, as marketers and business people we intimately understand the importance of environment and ambiance and the affect it has on behavior and action. We create it for our customers everyday. Especially right now, the holiday season is when we pull out the stops! Christmas lights, holiday music, decorations, special programs and themes… All this to create a more pleasant environment mood and environment conducive for purchasing.

Pay Per Stomach

And the hotel doesn’t care… what you do in the room. They just want to know how many stomachs will be present.

Catering Manager:

    “How many?”

Your Assistant:

    “18 maybe 20.”

Catering Manager:

    “Okay, that’ll be $45 per person for breakfast, buffet-style lunch, and an afternoon snack.”

We literally pay “per stomach.”

And, because the rooms are where hotels make their money – book enough rooms and there is no additional charge for use of the room – just the food costs. But, of course that does NOT include all the tools for the meeting itself. Add on fees for renting the projector, a mic, access to the internet, easels, flipcharts…

The room is tan to be generic. To accommodate yesterday’s Bar Mitzvah, your meeting today, and the wedding reception this weekend.

That is the venue that we think will inspire the multi-million dollar strategy and “killer idea?”

Today’s meeting spaces are the equivalent of using the Ditto machine. With hard work you can crank stuff out… But your results will be inconsistent, sloppy, and slightly blurry.

The Solution?

Hire A Better Space – If you’re going to have an off-site where creative thinking, problem solving, and new ideas are involved – get yourself into a space that will inspire you – yet not be distracting for your work.

Below I’ve listed a few places throughout the United States and Europe built to be a creative space for creating thinking. But it doesn’t have to be a ‘meeting space’ either. You could get inspiration from your local art museum, science museum, or zoo. Find a place that works for your particular group.

Hire A Better Lead – If you don’t have someone on your team skilled at leading groups or drawing ideas out of people – hire someone. (This will also allow you to relax and focus on coming up with the “killer idea” instead of running the meeting).

What spaces have you found inspiration for you and your team?

This article originally posted on the Marketing Prof’s Daily Fix Blog.
Image Source: OfficeMuseum.com

September 2009

Process + People + Place =
Perfect (Brain) Storm

By | 2010-09-22T20:27:49+00:00 28 September 2009|Categories: Destination|Tags: , , |

In June, I posted an article called How To Create The Perfect (Brain) Storm.

I shared the perspective that a great brainstorm or strategy session… heck ANY great meeting… is a combination of the right people, the right process, at the right place.

Upon exploring this thought further, I realized there is a priority to these elements… Not only are all three important, but they’re important in the right order.

When I turn the diagram sideways, you can see how they build on each other.

The PLACE is important… the space where people feel safe, free from distraction, and can be inspired.

However, the place is useless without PEOPLE to populate it. Yes, people are the ultimate source of brilliant ideas that lead to innovation, however, just sitting around winging-it (even in an inspirational space) won’t efficiently lead to the solutions you are after.

However, you gather these people in a place led by someone with the right PROCESS (includes tools), and you’ve got yourself a winner. The process forms the base, the strength of the entire process.

If you don’t have a good process figured out (or hired out) don’t bother meeting. All the great minds in even the most inspirational spot won’t make good use of your time.


I offer these thoughts as I’m crafting the Idea Sandbox Brainstorming Destination. I will provide the PROCESS and the PLACE, you provide the PEOPLE and the PROBLEM to be solved.

June 2009

How To Create The Perfect (Brain) Storm

By | 2017-03-01T11:56:29+00:00 2 June 2009|Categories: Destination, grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , |

Have you ever been in a brainstorming or strategy meeting where all the elements seemed just right and ideas just kept flowing and flowing? You and your team were able to hit ideas “out of the park?”

Chances are you had…

  1. the right people assembled,
  2. the right process and tools, and were,
  3. in the right place… where people felt safe to think big ideas and were free from distraction.

I call these conditions the Perfect (Brain) Storm… When all the elements come together just so, and ideas just seem to flow.

What a great situation! However, the climate for this type of brainstorm and creating wicked good ideas doesn’t have to be left to chance. You can craft this by gathering the right people, with the right process, at the right place.


You need a skilled facilitator. Someone who can keep the team on track. Push when people aren’t opening up, and know – when the conversation is stalled or getting tangental – how to re-direct to the topic at hand.

This person leads the right group of people, who are in the right mind frame, and feel safe to think and suggest the big thoughts.


The problem you are trying to solve needs to be clearly defined. I strongly recommend structured sessions with an ice breaker, scheduled breaks, and short bursts of brainstorming activity. Each of these bursts should be designed to address a key aspect of the problem.


While great ideas can happen when you’re in the shower or driving to work… If you’re working with a group of two or more people, being in a space conducive for discussion, free of work distraction and “noise” ensure the ideas will come much, much easier.

Keep these in mind when you want to schedule your next Perfect (Brain) Storm!

January 2009

Library of Imagination: Jay Walker’s Inspirational Space

By | 2010-09-22T22:05:32+00:00 13 January 2009|Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: , |

In my quest to find inspirational spaces… I’ve come across this TED video of Jay Walker sharing the insides of his “Library Of Imagination.” Not only does he have an amazing collection of one-of-a-kind relics, but he presents them in a space that looks like it’s been cooked up by the Disney Imagineers and Willy Wonka. He has objects that span 5000 years of imagination!

The beginning of the video, Jay talks about some of his artifacts… Just past the 3 minute mark, you’ll see images from the Library of Imagination.

RSS Readers Link Here

Wired magazine did a write-up on this space in their October ’08 edition. Here are some of those photos featuring the Library:

You may read the full article, here!

(Images copyright Wired magazine)

November 2008

Serious Play: The Link Between Creativity & Play

By | 2010-09-22T22:15:43+00:00 12 November 2008|Categories: Destination, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , |

I think you’ll enjoy the below video.

It’s a presentation by Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo (the innovation and design firm) talking about the importance of play leading to creativity. He spoke in May ’08 at the Art Center Design Conference in Pasadena, California. The theme was “Serious Play”.

One of the secrets to Ideo’s success is creating an environment where people feel safe to play and be creative. From this fearless approach to creativity have come some of the most innovative products and ideas.

Many of the activities we performed naturally as children – playful exploration of ideas (seeing a shipping box as a space ship), building with our hands , and role playing (playing house, shop keeper, or doctor) – are the same activities that help create wicked-good ideas as adults.

By the way, Idea Sandbox is based on these concepts. The sandbox is the classic space where nearly anything is possible. And if you don’t like it, smoosh it and start again. What I call ‘creativity without consequence.’

Enjoy the clip.

(This piece is 27:58 long, and is very work appropriate.)

If you can’t see the film, click here to open the original page. Source: TED.com

October 2007

Osborn: Creative Problem-Solving Process

By | 2013-01-04T15:00:30+00:00 9 October 2007|Categories: Destination, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

Alex Osborn is the “O” in the agency BBDO. In 1953, he wrote a book titled “Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving.” He was one of the first – if not the first – to write about the practical application of brainstorming and creative problem-solving (CPS). Here is how he outlines the CPS process…

(begin quote)

The creative problem-solving process ideally comprises these procedures: (1) Fact-finding. (2) Idea-finding. (3) Solution-finding.

Fact-finding calls for problem-definition and preparation. Problem-definition calls for picking out and pointing up the problem. Preparation calls for gathering and analyzing the pertinent data.

Idea-finding calls for idea-production and idea-development. Idea production calls for thinking up tentative ideas as possible leads. Idea-development calls for selecting the most likely of the resultant ideas, adding others, and reprocessing all of these by such means as modification and combination.

Solution-finding calls for evaluation and adoption. Evaluation calls for verifying the tentative solutions, by tests and otherwise. Adoption calls for deciding on, and implementing, the final solution.

Regardless of sequence, every one of those steps calls for deliberate effort and creative imagination.

(end quote)

August 2007

Three Faces of Innovation: Dreamer, Realist, Critic

By | 2011-06-09T19:14:14+00:00 16 August 2007|Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: , , |

Michael Michalko (author of “Thinkertoys” and “Cracking Creativity“) was interviewed recently by Dan Keldsen BizTechTalk. They discussed Michael’s perspective on various techniques for creative thinking.

During the discussion Michael mentions a technique Walt Disney would use for drumming up ideas…

Dreamer, Realist, Critic

Walt would approach ideas in three phases…

Day one, he would spend all day fantasizing, coming up with the most fantastic, absurd ideas he could.

The next day, he would play the realist and try to imagineer these ideas back to earth.

The third day he would become the critic, and try to punch holes in all the ideas he had come up with.

The ideas that survived this process were the ones Walt would work on.

Click to listen to Michael’s interview

July 2007

Brainstorm In Your Kitchen… Whiteboard Fridge

By | 2010-09-22T22:10:55+00:00 9 July 2007|Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: |

First we had kids drawings, then magnetic poetry… Now you can conduct your next brainstorming session right on your own fridge.

The trend spotters at Springwise recently discovered two refrigerator manufacturers – GE and Whirlpool – promoting a line of refrigerators in Brazil, with a whiteboard-type surface allowing the entire appliance to be drawn on.

Here’s what I would do with one of these sketchable fridges…

This makes the perfect gift for the brainstormer on your list who has everything!