August 2012

Tips To Be More Creative And Better At Problem Solving

2012-08-27T14:18:11+00:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , , |

I hope your week is off to a great start. I thought you might like to read two recent interviews featuring Idea Sandbox and our approach to creativity and problem solving. They were conducted just a few weeks ago. I hope you’ll be able to take a few tips from these articles to put them to use yourself.

Creative Practice Logo

The first was hosted by Kira Campo from The Creative Practice. Her calling is to help activate creating thinking skills in others.

Kira hosts a series where she highlights some of the ways creative practice can impact professional practices.

Since Idea Sandbox is all about being more creative, this was an easy interview!

Check it out here:
Practice Profile: Paul Williams

Among other things, I share tips on remembering ideas, and how farming methods helped an ad agency fix a problem.

While you’re visiting Creative Practice, poke around and explore Kira’s site. She’s got some great content. Kira’s handle on Twitter is @T_C_P

The second interview was conducted by Emily Wenstrom at Creative Juicer as part of her Creative Careerist series.

Creative Juicer Logo

Emily explores the creative process in art and career. She interviews successful creatives about what their work looks like, and their own creative process.

Here’s the article:
Creative Careerist: Paul Williams

Among other tips, I shared with Emily the “board of directors” I’ve assembled to help think-up ideas, as well as thoughts on how I get myself unstuck, creatively.

Emily’s site is full of great reads specializing in creativity and writing. Find her on Twitter: @EmilyWenstrom

Big thanks to Kira and Emily for being interested enough in Idea Sandbox to warrant conducting an interview. It is an honor.

Want Better Meetings? Try Taking Them OFFSITE

2012-08-22T17:38:48+00:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , |

The three secrets to being more innovative and hosting better meetings are to…

  • involve the right PEOPLE,
  • choose and use the right PROCESS, and
  • hold your meeting in the right PLACE.

99% of the time, hosting your meeting at your offices is not the right place. You need to host it offsite.

Let me introduce you to… OFFSITE

OFFSITE Main Floor

OFFSITE is midtown Manhattan’s newest and most evocative venue for corporate meetings and private events. Designed and wired to inspire creativity and optimize productivity, OFFSITE was literally built from the ground up with the perfect gathering in mind.

From the state-of-the-art A/V system to the comfortable yet versatile decor, this sprawling, 3-story enclave offers the ideal backdrop for your next board meeting, brainstorming session, focus group, product launch or social event.

The Main Floor

Step off the streets of New York City onto OFFSITE’s Main Floor, which boasts a professionally designed living room space with comfortable seating for up to 60 guests.

OFFSITE Main Floor

Stylish furniture easily lends itself to custom configuration to ensure your meeting or event is arranged exactly how you envision it. Curtained room dividers allow for impromptu brainstorming and break-out sessions. With three huge LED TVs that can be seamlessly integrated, The Main Floor is as conducive to open conversation as it is for a celebration.

The Mezzanine

OFFSITE Mezzanine

Overlooking The Main Floor, OFFSITE’s Mezzanine features the conference room – reimagined. Designed to generate thought and discussion, white board walls engulf you on all sides to keep track of your team’s free-flowing ideas.
An ultra modern, ultra high-tech 30-person conference table lets you seamlessly connect your personal computer to big screen monitor and digital smart board – or any other TV throughout the space – to add visual panache to any presentation.

The Underground

OFFSITE Mezzanine

OFFSITE’s inspirational lower level, set along an urban Rio de Janeiro backdrop, offers adaptable classroom-style seating for 25 people and an 80” LED TV. This sophisticated think tank is a cooler, more casual place to hash out important ideas, hold a training session, participate in team building exercises, or simply celebrate.

Centrally located in the heart of midtown Manhattan at 52 West 39th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue), OFFSITE is right around the corner – or just a few subway stops away from anywhere in the city. OFFSITE is primed to host your next corporate meeting or private event.

Inspire. Brainstorm. Innovate. Celebrate. Go OFFSITE.

You may check out their website visit their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter @goOFFSITE

Looking for a better meeting space, but not in NYC. Check out the Idea Sandbox list of meeting destinations from around the world!

Seth Godin Says: How To Run A Problem-Solving Meeting

2012-08-18T18:10:16+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , , |

Here’s a complete rip-off of today’s post from Seth Godin. Great to have Seth playing in my sandbox.

This is a special sort of get together, similar to the meeting where you organize people to figure out the best way to take advantage of an opportunity. In both cases, amateurs usually run the meetings, and the group often fails to do their best work.

Ignore these rules at your peril:

  1. Only the minimum number of people should participate. Don’t invite anyone for political reasons. Don’t invite anyone to socialize them on the solution because they were part of inventing it–people don’t need to be in the kitchen to enjoy the meal at the restaurant.
  2. No one participating by conference call… it changes the tone of the proceedings.
  3. A very structured agenda to prevent conversation creep. You are only here to do one thing.
  4. All the needed data provided to all attendees, in advance, in writing.
    At least one person, perhaps the host, should have a point of view about what the best course is, but anyone who comes should only be invited if they are willing to change their position.
  5. Agree on the structure of a deliverable solution before you start.
  6. Deliver on that structure when you finish.

I agree with Seth when running a problem-solving meeting, save for a few additions:
No. 5 – “Having a point-of-view about the best course” – The best course should be based on goals and constraints identified prior to the beginning of the meeting.

Goals such as: “In today’s meeting we want to conclude with five new potential names for the company.”
Constraints such as: “Names need to be real words. Need to align with our brand. Need to be easy to pronounce, etc…”

When it comes toward the end of the meeting, refer back to these goals and constraints as filters.

The One Question You Need To Solve Business Challenges

2017-08-21T16:27:53+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , |

When business isn’t running as we’d like, it is easy to become fixated on end results. “If we could just drive sales….” “If we could just get more traffic…”

While these results are important, what we really need is the how. The strategies, tactics, and action steps that will get us to the end results. Team members repeating “I need more sales” is not going to do the trick.

Working this out doesn’t require rocket science, but applying these ideas may sky-rocket your business.

A simple method to get to those solutions is to spend time asking:

“How can might we…?”
How might we drive sales? How might we drive traffic? Determine at least four “how might we” answers. Then, for each of those answers ask again “How might we” identifying at least four responses for each.

The best tool for this exercise is a simple outline. Indent for each round of answers.

Let’s use the “How might we drive sales?” as an example.

Round 1:

How might we… drive more sales?

Here are four ideas…

  1. By building more awareness.
  2. By charging more to those already coming in. (Raise Prices)
  3. By getting existing customers to visit/buy more frequently. (Increase Frequency)
  4. Get people who come in to buy more than what they normally do. (Add-on Sales)

Round 2:

How might we… drive more sales?

Let’s take those first four answers and ask “how might we?” about each.

1) How might we… build awareness?

  • Do advertising.
  • Do PR.
  • Do community events.
  • Word of mouth: get current customers to tell others.

2) How might we… raise prices?

  • Increase prices across the board.
  • Increase price of most popular products.
  • Add perceived higher-tier items – that command a higher price point.
  • Remove lower-priced / smaller sized options from the menu.

3) How might we… increase frequency?

  • Add items for a different time of the day/daypart (e.g., add breakfast).
  • Offer special in-store events to encourage non-traditional visits (e.g., art events, live music).
  • Run frequency-building consumer promotion(s).
  • Create/suggest additional uses for your product (e.g., baking soda for cleaning, cranberry sauce – not just for Thanksgiving).

4) How might we… get add-on sales?

  • Put impulse items near the cash register.
  • Offer add-on extended warranty/product insurance.
  • Show customers products that pair with and enhance what they typically buy.
  • Offer specials to encourage families and group sales.

You should keep asking “how might we…?” as many times as you can. I’ll stop here. As you can see, with only two rounds, there are some great ideas in the works.

We now have sixteen different options to help drive sales. Some will make a big difference, others not as significant. But, now we’re armed with strategies and tactics that will get us to our desired results.

So, when you find yourself or your teams dwelling on that end result, try a few rounds of “How might we…” to get to the actions steps you need.

Marketing Offers Can’t Feel Selfish

2017-03-01T11:56:07+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , |

When creating a marketing offer, you’ve got to make sure they are as meaningful to your customer as they are for your business. Today, my old* dentist sent the following automated email.

As we near the end of 2011, I wanted to remind you about your unused dental benefits. Every year you receive an amount from your dental insurance company – make sure to use your available benefits to complete any outstanding treatment. Most dental plans do not let you rollover unused dollars to the next benefit year. …Now is the time to schedule treatment so your copayment amounts can be claimed this year.

For starters, they forgot to change the template from 2011 to 2012. They lose a few points for “attention to detail” but, that’s not the problem.

From a business owner perspective…
It sounds like a win-win. We alert patients they may have access to treatment funds. We increase sales by collecting otherwise wasted insurance money. This idea probably came from a “Folks, we’re leaving money on the table” discussion.

From a customer perspective…
It sounds overly opportunistic and self-serving. If it were Disneyland letting me know my tickets were expiring or my gym informing me I had free classes left on my membership – that would feel okay. But, an extra trip to the dentist? Not the kind of marketing offer that appeals to me. And, I *love* getting my teeth cleaned!

I would classify this tactic under “can ≠ should.” Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A great idea, just maybe not for a dental practice.

*They are my old dentist because of practices like this.