Problem Solving

/Problem Solving
Problem Solving 2017-03-09T10:39:30-04:00

Problem Solving

These articles help you with the overall task of solving problems.

The Imaginary Board of Directors

A best practice for creative problem solving is to form an Imaginary Board Of Directors. The Imaginary Board of Directors is a “…fantasy board of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your business challenges.” (from Thinkertoys) […]

Disney Lingo To Help Your Company

Imagineers at The Disney Company have their own language. Like most jargon, these words provide a shortcut… often communicating something elaborate in just a word or two. The book “The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom” offers an ‘Imagineer’s-Eye’ tour […]

Imagineer Jargon: “BGM”

The Imagineers at Disney have created their own terms that allow quick understanding. Last month I introduced you to the word “plussing” – here’s another in the Imagineer Jargon series… The Imagineer Term BGM (Back Ground Music) – The musical selections […]


As a companion site to their Holiday promotion this month Starbucks launched website. Each day there is a different tidbit of information about holiday traditions and the season… The Holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year […]

Starbucks, Christmastime, and the Red Cup

For a second year, Starbucks is promoting their Christmastime hero – the red cup. (As we marketers would put it… “Starbucks is leveraging the red cup to maximize its exposure.”) The arrival of the red cup in November signals the beginning […]


In Tom Kelley’s new book The Ten Faces of Innovation, the second ‘face’ he discusses in the book is called the “Experimenter.” These are folks who “strive for inspiration but never shy away from perspiration.” Walt Disney called this “sticktoitivity.” Kelley […]

Creative Thinking: Pretending Lesson

One of my favorite holiday movies is Miracle on 34th Street. Part of the plot revolves around a Doris Walker (a mom) who has raised her daughter Susan to be sensible and not believe in “myths” like Santa Clause. In one […]

TV Commercials – The Fine Print

While watching TV this evening I saw a Vicks DayQuil commercial stating that taking DayQuil will help you “feel better fast!” If you read the fine print at the bottom of the screen it says: “VS. TAKING NOTHING.” That’s a no […]

Best Times to Be Creative

The January 16th issue of TIME magazine has a major section on “How to Sharpen Your Mind.” One of the key articles explores the best times of day for both “Morning People” and “Night Owls” to create, problem solve, rejuvenate and […]

CreativityLab – The Space to Innovate

My original plans for an Idea Sandbox location included a place in Seattle for people to come to brainstorm… A Disneyland for creative thinking… a three-roomed brainstorming theme park. You could book themed rooms… a mad inventor’s lab (complete with bubbling […]


I’m not trying to coin a new term… It’s just a catchy headline for what I call “the nouns of innovation.” We were taught early that a noun is a person, place or thing. I use this model to describe the […]

Creative Space… Einstein’s Parents Approve

While reading “Discover Your Genius” by Michael J Gelb I came across this great passage about transforming a conference room into an Einstein Room. Einstein’s parents encouraged his natural talent for imagination by creating a stimulus-rich, brain-nourishing environment. Psychologists have known […]

Practical Tasks of Innovation

Take a look at this quote from the book “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service” by the Disney Institute. Think for a moment about a magic show. To the audience, the show elicits feelings of wonder and surprise. […]

Passion. Personality. Talent.

I’m working on making Idea Sandbox remarkable… Turning the Sandbox into an on-line destination. A place, once you visit, you’ll tell others about. My friend Jennifer at PRINCIPLE sent to the on-line portfolio site of Dave Werner. That’s Dave above, writing. […]

RE: Sand for Your Inbox

Each month I send out an e-mail with creative tips called Sand for Your Inbox… Customer feedback, both positive and negative, is one of the most important assets a company has – it’s gold. I’ve received some very warm feedback and […]

Dealing with Innovation

Geoffrey Moore author of the new book “Dealing with Darwin,” as part of his book tour, was in Seattle today and spoke at Starbucks HQ… Geoff introduced the book by explaining many companies (especially technology) focus on innovation during the start-up […]

Asset-Based Thinking

At first I thought Asset-Based Thinking had something to do with finance and inventory… but the title, “Change The Way You See Everything: Through Asset-Based Thinking” piqued my interest. This business/self-help book by Kathryn Cramer and Hank Wasiak offers a transformational […]

Deepak on Creativity

I bumped into a one minute video featuring inspirational guru Deepak Chopra speaking about creativity. I’ve transcribed what he said below. Like intuition, creativity is an aspect of your soul. When you create something it has to be something that never […]

Test Your Company’s IQ

This post is no longer up-to-date as the Think Smart site no longer exists. But the questions are still relevant You’re thinking Intelligence Quotient… I’m talkin’ Innovation Quotient. Joyce Wycoff at Innovation Network has had a simple on-line guide, which allows […]

Sesame Street “Imagination”

While browsing YouTube content on creativity and imagination, I stumbled upon this classic animated short from Sesame Street. I remember sitting on the floor with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and carrot sticks watching this… Perhaps I can trace my […]

Twenty Characteristics of Genius

Tony Buzan, considered the father of the mind map, offers a list of twenty characteristics based on research he conducted for his 1992 book “Buzan’s Book of Genius.” Vision Desire Faith Commitment Planning Persistence Learning from Mistakes Subject Knowledge Mental Literacy […]

Video Games that Enhance Your Brain?!

When I was a kid I tried to be late for the dinner table explaining to Mom that Atari’s Yar’s Revenge was making me “smarter and more alert…” She was much smarter and more alert than that. Kids (and adults) in […]

ILoveM yMom

I mentioned my mom in the previous post. She’s always looking out for me. A couple times a month she’ll send an envelope with interesting print clips and articles for me to check out. She’s my remote correspondent. Here’s one she […]

Human Resources, A Model for Innovation Resources

Every company I have worked with has had a staffing/human resources department. Finding, screening and hiring the right employee to do a great job in a role are very important. In fact, here some of the people and tools involved: human […]

Imaginary Board Helps Invent Time Travel

Historic photograph reveals that an Imaginary Board of Directors was consulted to invent time travel. Scientist Dr. Emmet “Doc” Brown (b. 1920) consulted his Imaginary Board for each of his key projects, including the invention of time travel. As seen in […]

Mazagran Toast

In a previous post about Coke BlaK and coffee soda, I mentioned that johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy) and I split a bottle of Starbucks Mazagran coffee soda in January of 2003. This was just before John left Starbucks to go work […]

Figure It Out: Creative Problem Solving

“Figure It Out” is the first stage of the Idea Sandbox Creative Problem Solving process. The key steps of figuring something out include… The links will take you more information on the Idea Sandbox Wiki Staying Informed – monitoring trends, benchmarking, […]

Find Your Laughing Place…Lesson from Brer Rabbit

Brer Rabbit is one of the main characters in Disney’s 1946 movie, “Song of the South.” And he always found himself getting into trouble… Brer Rabbit was one of the first asset-based thinkers.* He truly practiced “how can I turn this […]

Making Better Decisions Considering Time, Talent & Treasure

Being more innovative requires making better decisions. A friend uses a filter called “Time, Talent, Treasure” to help her make important decisions. She learned this from a co-worker years ago and passed it along to me. And, now I pass it […]

Delivering Customer Service at Hooters

On Saturday I had hot wings and a beer at a Hooters restaurant. For those of you not familiar with Hooters… They are a US-based restaurant chain best known for their hot buffalo wings and Hooter Girls – attractive waitresses dressed […]

How To Be Like Walt Disney

In How to Be Like Walt, Pat Williams cites what are considered the six qualities that made the work Walt Disney did so creative and innovative. In re-reading How To Be Like Walt, it was a great refresher on what contributed […]

Put Yer Customer Needs First

Let’s say ye be a shipbuilder fer swashbucklers an’ ye want t’ stay innovative. As ye watch th’ trends ye notice that yer competitor pirate shipbuilders be addin’ larger cannons t’ the’r ships t’ aid th’ swashbucklers. Swashbucklers seem t’ need […]

Masterpiece from Abandoned Stone

The statue of David is one of the most recognizable pieces of art and is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. It was carved by Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni), towers at 17-feet (5.17 meters) tall, took just over three […]

Brains on Fire: On Being Remarkable

A friend of mine, Virginia Miracle (great name, huh?) is the Director of Word of Mouth (great title, huh?) at Brains on Fire – a naming and identity company based in Greenville, SC. They “help companies build and sustain excitement about […]

How Easy Is Your Product To Use?

Dirty Laundry While I know how to wash a white towel, I took a look at the care tag, and these five “international” “standardized” symbols are supposed to ensure I wash and dry this item properly. Huh?! By scouring the Internet, […]


All this month Washington DC-based classical radio station WGMS has been celebrating “Bachtoberfest.” All during the month of October, when the station plays a Bach composition, listeners can call and win prizes. Maybe they’ll do this again next year. After all, […]


On Friday I posted a list of existing and potential Oktoberfest-like traditions (Bachtoberfest, Spocktoberfest…) A comment was left by a guest who needs to be called out… The father of Whack himself, Roger von Oech! Roger is recognized throughout the world […]

“It’s Red Again” – Starbucks Christmas Website

The holiday promotion has launched at Starbucks… marked with a coordinated effort… the ringing of the market bell on Wall St., in NYC, baristas handing out more than 8,000 “acts of cheer” from complimentary subway MetroCards, free New York Times, bags […]

MiniCards – “think small, share big” is a printing company that offers mini-sized personalized cards. They have a connection with Flickr which allows you to use Flickr images on your MiniCards. I excitedly opened the package of MiniCards I created a couple of weeks ago. Below […]

Jargon BINGO – When Talk Becomes Cheap

I found early in my career that being good at marketing wasn’t as important as being perceived as being good at marketing. Unfortunately, like most trades, being ‘good’ at it involves slinging around the industry jargon. Later in my career, when […]

Asset-Based Thinking Alphabet

How do you take a negative situation and see it for its value versus dwelling on the potential harm? That’s what asset-based thinking is all about… Shift your thinking to focus on the assets of a situation (what you have) versus […]

Create Awareness by Being Very Different

Many of us are charged with the job of building awareness of our brand, company, product, and/or ourselves. The best minds in business agree, to get noticed you need to be different. Not just slightly, but very different… Tom Peters writes […]

How to Be Different: Create “Wow!”

How do you break your company or product away from the pack of sameness? Welcome to the first in a series of guides highlighting techniques marketing experts suggest to be different and build awareness… Here are some thoughts by Tom Peters… […]

How to Be Different: Offer “Dramatic Difference”

Not just different, but dramatically different is what Doug Hall prescribes… Who: Doug Hall Inventor, author, consultant, and recent judge on the the ABC television network show “American Inventor.” What: “Dramatic Difference” What is it?: Your job is to create a […]

Oh Little Town of Amsterdam…

The Christmas traditions in Amsterdam, the Netherlands are much different than in the United States. Twas the night before… The Dutch celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) or Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas) in mid-November where the Saint arrives by ship […]

Starbucks Speaks on YouTube

Take a look at this two-minute video featuring Dub Hay – the head of Starbucks coffee team – talking briefly about Starbucks coffee purchasing practices… This is in response, among other things, to the recent trademark issues in Ethiopia. Long story […]

How to Be Different: “Create a Purple Cow”

Seth Godin points out in his book “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” that… “In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” What stands out more in a field of average cows than a […]

On Being VERY Different from Competition (continued)

Do you, your products, or your company need to stand out from your competition? Can being very different help create awareness? Well, before the holiday, I started to share best-practices from various marketing gurus on how to… not just gain awareness… […]

How to Be Different: “Dominant Selling Idea”

In their book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea” Bill Schley and Carl Nichols Jr. share their idea of the dominant selling idea (DSI) and how to create a #1 brand. While you may be […]

Points of Contact

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 […]

Success Tips for Work… Life…

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 […]

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

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? This month I offer a practical and stick-to-able New Year’s Resolution that you just may adopt […]

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

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 […]

How to Be Different: “Create A Contagion”

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 […]

Qualities of a Good Leader

How are you performing as a leader? 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 […]

Solve Anything – With Three Key Steps

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 […]

Elevator Pitch: YOUR TV Show Opening Narration

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 […]


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 […]

How to Be Different: “Zag!”

You probably know Marty from his book “The Brand Gap“. His most recent book “Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands” talks about and teaches us how to create and harness the power of differentiation in a cluttered marketplace. Who: […]

Experiential Marketing: 100 Years Ago

In the late 1800s, in a time when lack of clean water and sanitation was causing epidemics, a local chemical maker in Vienna, Austria needed a publicity stunt to let the public know how well his products worked. He purchased two […]

Stock Images = False Advertising?

Recently I needed technical support and acquired the phone number via the company’s website. The support page featured an image of the woman below… I’m pretty darn certain the scruffy sounding guy, with the thick Brooklyn accent wasn’t her. Helpful, but […]

Solving Starbucks Problems: One Post at a Time

Last week an e-mail, from Starbucks Coffee chairman Howard Schultz to his senior leadership team, was leaked and posted on the internet. In the note Howard outlines to his senior leadership team key issues leading to “commoditization of the brand.” Howard’s […]

Solving Starbucks Problems – 1. Loss of Theatre

On 23 February 2007 an e-mail, from Starbucks Coffee chairman Howard Schultz to his senior leadership team, was leaked and posted on the internet. In the note, Howard outlined key issues leading to possible “commoditization of the Starbucks brand.” This is […]

Solving Starbucks Problems – 2. Loss of Coffee Aroma

John Moore and I, two former Starbucks marketers, are offering recommendations to Starbucks in response to chairman Howard Schultz’s 2007 email. We are examining the second challenge to the team: Loss of Coffee Aroma “I believe we overlooked the cause and the […]

Solving Starbucks Problems – 3. Loss of Store Soul

John Moore and I, two former Starbucks marketers, are offering recommendations to Starbucks in response to chairman Howard Schultz’s email. from 2007. We are examining his third challenge to the team: Loss of Store Soul “Clearly we have had to streamline store […]

Solving Starbucks Problems – 4. Lack of Merchandise Focus

This is the 4th in a series of 5 posts where John Moore and I, two former Starbucks marketers, offer recommended changes based upon Howard Schultz’s email to his leadership team. “The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from […]

Solving Starbucks Problems – 5. Loss of Identity

This article is the 5th in a series of 5 where John Moore and I, two former Starbucks marketers, offer recommended changes based upon Howard Schultz’s email to the Starbucks leadership team. I have said for 20 years that our success is […]

Company Perception Measured –

Because of my recent chatter about Starbucks, I received a note from the folks running Do The Right It is a social media site about “people changing business.” People can share information about companies and others rate the relative social […]

Here vs. There: Amsterdam/Europe vs. America

I’ve been living in Amsterdam for 10 months and love it. It is a beautiful town full of nice people. Despite American stereotypes there is more to this town than the Red Light District and coffee shops selling marijuana! Among broader […]

Creativity: From Zero to Zing!

Are you still looking for easy-to-approach process for coming up with ideas and problem solving? Do you still not feel you are “good” at being creative? Sam Harrison’s book Zing!: Five Steps and 101 Tips for Creativity on Command offers simple, […]

Google Themed Home Page Changes Thru the Day

Google recently started to offer custom themes for your personalized Google Home page. That’s nothing new… and there are tons of sites that offer customization hoping you’ll make their page your home. Google currently offers six different design/color themes… and they […]

Inbox Sand – April ’07 – “Guaranteed Great” Reading List

Whelp, another month has flown by and it’s time for the April installment of the “Sand for Your Inbox” eNewsletter. Idea Sandbox Members* have already been alerted of the posting of the newsletter. This month the folks at the Idea Sandbox […]

Clever Package Labeling at UK Grocer

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets a 130-year-old British-based grocery store is promoting their new in-store nutritional label system. A brightly colored pie chart graphic – they call their “wheel of health traffic labeling” illustrates in green good nutrients and in red those which are […]

The Business of Complimenting

Yesterday, Monday the 30th of April, was Queen’s Day in the Netherlands… A national holiday and all-country celebration of the Queen’s birthday. The best description of Queen’s Day I can convey is to imagine… a 24-hour: home team victory celebration + […]

Netherlands Queen’s Day – Games of Skill

Monday was Queen’s Day here in the Netherlands… a national holiday… We all get the day off to party, drink, and celebrate. (if you’re into that kinda thing). I mentioned that you’re allow to sell things without paying taxes… So people […]

Performance = potential – interference (P=p-i)

Do you look for “Aha!” moments when you read? I do. I read mostly business related books – once in a while dive into the classics – but mostly business and creativity related books. I read especially for those Aha! moments… […]

Helicopter View, Customer Service Technique

One of the challenges for staff in a store or restaurant, in delivering great customer experiences, is to anticipate customer needs. Delivering this high level of service involves being so tuned-in to customers, you can answer questions before they even ask. […]

Basic Disciplines of a Good Pitch

New ideas often make people uncomfortable. Many new projects and ideas need a champion to gain acceptance from others. Being able to pitch ideas is an invaluable business (and life) tool. A terrific guide to effective building and successful pitching of […]

Return on Investment: Illustrated (Understood)

Ah, the beauty of a good diagram. Picture = 1000 words. We’re familiar with the term ‘return on investment’ or ROI. Have you ever thought through the relationships of the elements that make up ROI? Neither have I. Here is the […]

Thomas Jefferson & Monticello

Last week I had the privilege of visiting Monticello. The home, plantation, and community designed and built by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia in 1769. You’ve seen Monticello a million times, but may have never thought about it… It’s the image on […]

Inbox Sand – May ’07 – “A Mazing Strategy”

Whoosh… It’s nearly the end of May… I’m cutting it close sifting out the May scoop of “Sand for Your Inbox” the Idea Sandbox eNewsletter. You will enjoy this month’s installment… I offer a “cart before the horse” approach to project […]

Childlike Creativity

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 […]

Opening the Door on Inspiration

As problem solvers, we marketers should constantly scan for creative inspiration. Here is a Flash-based animation I bumped into today… It’s a cartoon by artist Pascal Campion called “Door.” It features a character trying, without luck, to enter a doorway. Pascal […]

DHL’s Creative Delivery

I was really impressed with the delivery company DHL when I saw that they had a moving office in Amsterdam in the form of a canal boat. What a great idea… Canals weave all over Amsterdam (actually more canals than Venice), […]

Strong Brand Awareness, Logo

Despite not being able to read the names of these products, I’ll bet you can identify both brands of beverages on this table. On a recent trip to Egypt, I was served products with packaging in the local language – Arabic. […]

“Greatest Promotion” Wouldn’t Scale

Washington DC-area California Tortilla restaurants offered a $1-off your purchase if you beat the cashier playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. A really cool idea. I just heard about this from John Moore (from Brand Autopsy), who saw it on the website of […]

Pop Stands Out In A Crowd

I just started reading a book by Sam Horn called “Pop! Stand Out In Any Crowd” it is about creating messages that are Purposeful, Original, and Pithy… but I’ll be talking about that at a later time…. I thought it was […]

Move over, Dilbert.

Artist and marketer… marketer and artist… Tom Fishburne has launched a new marketing blog. You may thinking, “another blog, big deal.” I say to you… “No, wait… check him out.” I found out about Tom a few years ago through Brand […]

Regain Lost Time In Your Day

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings… How often do you review your planner to see your week riddled with meetings and wonder when you’re going to get your own work done? What’s worse… So many end up a poor use of time and adjourn […]

Brainstorm In Your Kitchen… Whiteboard Fridge

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 […]

Don’t Like The Way Things Are At Work?

Sitting in a meeting wishing it didn’t “have to be this way” here? While it takes strength to manage through it, being a champion will help you change it. Rolf Smith in his book, The 7 Levels of Change: Different Thinking […]

Wanna Be A Simpson?

Are you as impressed as I am about the attention the Simpsons movie is getting? They’ve done a great job promoting it. The best tactic was the transformation of 7-Eleven locations into Kwik-E-Marts. These are the convenience stores in the cartoon […]

International Signage: Clarity of Message

To be respectful when visiting the historic churches in Europe, visitors are advised that they need to be dressed properly. That means wearing long pants, not shorts, and having your shoulders covered – no sleeveless tops. At the Basilica of Saint […]

In the Eye of the Beholder: Know Your Audience

In South Africa in the early 1970s, most of the men who worked in the mines were illiterate. The miners, therefore, were given instructions and warnings in the form of symbols rather than words. In an effort to enlist the miners’ […]

Three Faces of Innovation: Dreamer, Realist, Critic

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, […]

Disneyland-ified Idea Sandbox Logo

I love this logo. It is on a souvenir t-shirt purchased a few years ago at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The logo – cracked and worn from repeated washings – is based on the old Disneyland entrance marquee. For fun, I […]

Inbox Sand – August ’07 – Fail Intelligently

This month’s installment of the Idea Sandbox eNewsletter “Sand for Your Inbox” was inspired by James Dale’s book book: “The Obvious: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed“. He has a chapter where he talks about “failing intelligently.” My grandfather used […]

Cocktail Napkin 2.0

I find this ice breaker cocktail napkin to be a genius idea. It is pre-printed with the key information needed when trying to meet someone at a bar. They can be found at a site called and are called Lifestyle […]

Make Ideas Happen: Resources

Personal effectiveness. Time management. Productivity. We’re on the lookout for tools and methods that may grease our personal productivity gears and help us get more done, more efficiently. In that spirit, the folks at the Idea Sandbox Institute have compiled this […]

Life Cycles

As stated about three-quarters of the way into your Marketing 101 book… Products, like people, have been viewed as having a life cycle. The product life cycle concept describes the stages a product goes through in the marketplace. [click for larger […]

New Apple iPod Touch and Starbucks Partnership

For all those people that commented how “un-hip” it was of Starbucks to install music-CD burning stations in the age of mp3s, this announcement may make up for that… First… Apple has re-launched their line-up of iPod devices, including the new […]

La Ferme : Paris Cafe/Restaurant

Bumped into a really neat restaurant concept in Paris – La Ferme. (Translates from French to English as “The Farm”). [click for larger view]They specialize in healthy, organic* foods (*called “bio” in Europe). Their logo is a quirky uddered cow. Signage […]

Inbox Sand : September ’07 : Bricks. Walls. Cathedral.

I don’t know if you already receive it, but on Friday I sent out the September installment of our eNewsletter, “Sand for Your Inbox.” This month I provided a technique to help you be a better problem solver – specifically a […]

Tale of the Starbucks Lid

I have a quick story for you that involves my mom, dad, a latte, and creative problem solving. Mom and dad were out-of-town on a business trip. In the hotel room, minutes before they had to leave for a dinner event, […]

Participants versus Attendees

I don’t think I’ve shared this story with you. One of my great bosses at Starbucks marketing used the expression, “The price of admission is participation.” What she meant was, if you want the privilege of being in the meetings the […]

Love What You Do

I received an email from a friend who works at Starbucks. In the auto-signature of her e-mail was this “Love What You Do” graphic. It is just one element hiring teams use to communicate enthusiasm for working at Starbucks. Potential candidates […]

Osborn: Creative Problem-Solving Process

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 […]


Do what you do so well that people can’t resist telling others about you. – Walt Disney

Starbucks/Apple iTunes Music Free For All

While visiting Seattle last week, I was able to experience the Starbucks | Apple iTunes Song of the Day promotion. I mentioned this a few weeks ago when blogging about Apple’s announcement of the iPod Touch. To build awareness and trial […]

Be a Human Themepark

I’m reading “Love is the Killer App” by Tim Sanders. A great book… I wish I had read it years ago. While I’m not done with it yet, I have to share what I’ve learned so far and a great quote. […]

Inbox Sand – November ’07 – Grains of Wisdom

The November issue of our eNewsletter, Sand for Your Inbox, is now available for viewing. November Inbox Sand Background Last month I spoke to students finishing up their pubic relations program at my alma mater, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I […]

Book Scoop: “The Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam

In March of 2008 a new book, “The Back of the Napkin: Problem Solving and Selling Ideas,” by Dan Roam is due to hit book shelves. Here’s a whole book dedicated to (1) solving problems through pictures and (2) big ideas […]

Problem Solving with a Ghoti

When I was a kid, I had a book filled with facts and trivia about science, nature, humans, inventions and more. It was printed on rough newsprint paper and was as thick as a phonebook. One of the entries that I […]

Cocktail Napkin Notebooks

It seems I spend quite a bit of time talking about… and referring to… cocktail napkins. It is just that they are such a classic and unassuming vehicle for great ideas. I’ve been using them as the medium for great quotes. […]

Finding Missing Words

I found out recently the Dutch don’t have the word whimsical in their vocabulary. How do you define that for someone who has never heard it? The best way I was able to describe whimsical to a Dutch friend of mine […]

Business 2.0, You Dumped Me Bad

I didn’t see it coming. I hadn’t heard the rumors. When I saw the LAST ISSUE banner atop the October issue, I thought it was a joke. In fact, I had just responded to your request to continue our relationship… I […]

Eat Me Crunchy Cereal Bowl

It is always gratifying when – in your lifetime – someone solves one of the world’s problems. We’re still figuring out global warming, but someone has solved our soggy breakfast cereal problem. The Eat Me Crunchy Bowl For sale on the […]

Apple Animagic Ad

In the spirit of the Rankin/Bass “animagic” style… (that’s Hermie the Elf and Rudolph a Rankin/Bass classic)… Apple created this brilliant Christmas version of their “Hi, I’m a Mac. Hi, I’m a PC” commercials. Enjoy!

Steve Martin and Remarkability

I’ve always been a fan of Steve Martin’s brand of humor. He’s a part of my iBoard of Directors. John Moore at Brand Autopsy (who has been talking about Steve Martin’s memoir) Born Standing Up sent me the URL to the […]

Which Snowglobe Is More Fun?

This first one from the Hampton Hotels? [Click on image to open page to try it out] Hampton allows you to customize the background and contents of the snowglobe scene then send it as an e-card to someone. I added a […]

Happy 2008

In addition to wishes of health and happiness in the New Year, I wish you… great ideas better decisions innovative solutions Happy New Year! Paul

Great Happens, It’s Tough to Always Be Good

In Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up, Steve shares the challenge of trying to consistently provide a “good” performance. I see a direct relationship between what Steve comments about and the same concept in business… specifically customer service. The consistent work […]

Where have you been?

It is hard to believe how many nice, bored, girls with private photos want to chat with me.

Pave Your Life Roadmap

Are you trying to figure out what to do with your life? What to be when you grow up? This installment of “Sand for Your Inbox” is a special edition. I have handcrafted a proven technique that will help you answer […]

Jack of All Trades, Master of One

The dusty adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” is defined as… “A person who can do many different types of work but who is not necessarily very competent at any of them.” So we work to be a master. […]

A Flying Car, Ashes, Dick van Dyke, and Innovation

Have you ever seen the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Here’s a quick plot summary from Dick Van Dyke stars as eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, who creates an extraordinary car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It not only drives but […]

Starbucks and Invisible Branding

Starbucks is going to stop selling heated breakfast sandwiches because the smell of the food competes with the scent of the coffee. That’s a gutsy move. After all, it has taken Starbucks years and investment to figure out a strategy and […]

Starbucks and the “Aroma First” Rule

Starbucks announced it is going to stop selling heated sandwiches as the smell interferes with the scent of the coffee. Gutsy move. Killing a significant cash contributor in the name of experience takes moxie. But it is the right thing to […]

Super Bowl Ads, From Amsterdam

It’s listed in the official handbook of marketers, that for at least 36 hours after the Super Bowl, you must work as many references into your daily speaking and writing as possible. I didn’t have the benefit of being able to […]

My Genius, My Guinness.

What appears to be a coaster with printing gone wrong… Am I drunk already? Is actually an optical illusion/secret messages that uses a Guinness glass as a decoder. What a brilliant idea, BBDO! Thanks to Darrin at BrandingFire Blog for finding […]

Measure Twice, Cut Once

“Measure twice, cut once,” is one of my favorite proverbs. Obviously it is a great rule for a carpenter. Cut the wood improperly and the piece is ruined. It’s faster to double-check than to make a mistake. As a retail marketer […]

Uncover Solutions Using Idea Sandbox’s Big Dig

Suffering from idea block? Like writer’s block, you know your idea or solution is just below the surface… but you can’t quite dig it out. You need an idea shovel. Well, Idea Sandbox has help! We present to you, the Idea […]

What Do I Do?

One of the best way to capture great ideas is to carry a notebook with you at all times. For several years, I’ve tried always have something at hand to capture thoughts… In the past two years I’ve been exclusively using […]

Organizing Within Your Moleskine

Yesterday I wrote about my sketches and thoughts I create in my Moleskine notebooks. Idea Sandbox reader John, asked how I organize what’s in my Moleskine notebooks. I started to write and had more than a few comments… so I thought […]

Productive or Active?

This sticky note has been stuck to my computer monitor for a while. Now I have a smaller note that states “busy ≠ productive.” Often we’re merely active in what we’re doing. Activity feels busy. But it’s not necessarily productive. Are […]

Idea Sandbox Logo Nominated as Best Marketing & PR Blog Logo

It is with pride that I share with you Idea Sandbox has joined a short list of great looking logos on the Logo Design Love website nominated as one of the best logos! (Way cool!) I am proud of the Idea […]

Big Dig: Problem Solving

Thank you to Bob Nauneimer from Prism Strategic Services for this great quote. Bob is right… The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time solving the wrong problem! You’ll find Bob’s quote and unearth more thought […]

Idea Sandbox Featured In Audio CODcast About Creativity

That’s not a typo… it’s not a PodCast… but a CODcast… it stands for Creativity On Demand. Jeff Brainard from Catch Your Limit Consulting: Management, Marketing & Fish Cleaning Services recently hosted and posted an interview with me (Paul Williams) to […]

It is what it is.

Sometimes, despite your passion for problem solving, there are things that can’t be fixed. That’s when you need to accept it as a condition of the environment, learn from it and say “it is what it is.”

Two Goals for Today

What are my two goals for today? We try to cram so much into our day… but at some point, in trying to do too much, we end up diluting our effectiveness. I try to focus on two main goals at […]

Dive Slate: Shower Idea Catcher

Lately, while showering, I’ve had strings of brilliant ideas pop into my head… one after the other… However, they strike so quickly, by the time the third idea comes to me, I’ve forgotten the first! As a professional problem solver, I […]

Get Buttoned Up

While browsing the shelves at Target, I came across tools for organizing produced by a company called “Buttoned Up.” Good for them landing the Target account. Their assortment of products carried at Target include… specialized pads for organizing (shopping list, babysitter […]

Idea Sandbox Logo Judged Best of Marketing/PR Blogs on the Interweb

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Idea Sandbox Logo Judged Bestof Marketing/PR Blogs on the Interweb Contact: Paul Williams THE INTERWEB – April 18 2008: The Idea Sandbox logo has been chosen as best Marketing/PR blog logo in the Logo Design Love Awards. […]

Get Yourself In Order, Idea Sandbox Prioritizer :: Inbox Sand – April ’08

It’s one thing to list all the tasks, projects, and errands you need to accomplish… But it’s a whole ‘nother thing to try to organize that list, putting the most important things first… to prioritize. As a professional problem solver, I […]

Prioritizer Receives Rave Reviews

I’m pleased to share with you that Idea Sandbox Prioritizer, officially launched on Wednesday, April 23 has garnered its own fan mail. Take a look at these comments… Reader Reactions Robert “Prioritizer is a cool piece of work, congratulations! I’m one […]

Fire Near Idea Sandbox: Amsterdam

There was a fire today across the street from my office. I was sitting working… looked out the window and saw flames erupting from the top floor of the building across the street. I called 112 (the 911 of the Netherlands) […]

Italian Roulette

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Venice, Italy or Venezia as it’s called locally. Ah… Venice… The beautiful city built on water… [required establishing shot here] While I the entire trip was terrific, I was especially impressed with this […]

Creative Problem Solving: Invention of the Ice Cream Cone

The weather is warming up here in Amsterdam… We’ve had a week of sun and temperatures in the mid-70s. It’s ice cream weather, which brings to mind creative problem solving and the invention of the ice cream cone. In September 1904 […]

Throw Away Words, Marketing Claims, Steve Martin

We use words so repeatedly, in marketing, they lose their meaning. The word unique is worthless because it’s been overused. New and improved… what does that mean? It can mean the label was changed on the package, not that significant improvement […]

A Cup Of Joe (Williams): Discussions & Debating

Know your subject as well as your mind is capable of. Believe in what you say. Tell it in your own words, just as you see it. Paint a word picture. If you disagree with the issue, don’t insult the other […]

“How to Solve Problems” 1947-style

I recently discovered this 8th grade arithmetic book from 1947 on the bookshelves at my parents’ house. It’s got a great collection of images that match the mid-century art style of Idea Sandbox. In addition to the images, I found this […]

Customers Know The Difference

I’m a big fan of attention to detail. One of the masters of attention to detail was Walt Disney. In his animated features and themeparks, he always made sure never to sacrifice the Guest experience. This was especially important in creating […]

Evan Almighty, Life and Business Lesson in Opportunity

Have you seen last year’s movie Evan Almighty? (I’m on a movie kick this week…) Evan Almighty Briefly, the plot… Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) is a newscaster who was just elected to Congress. His slogan was “Change the World”. He moves […]

Proper Church Conduct or Disney Ride Warning?

The first thing that comes to *my* mind is the plot to the 1984 movie Footloose… “A city boy comes to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned.” In addition to being the “right” way to behave […]

A Cup Of Joe (Williams): Do The Right Thing The First Time

“It’s harder to do the right thing for the moment, but turns out to be easier after all.” My grandfather wrote this to me in 1985 when I was 16. I’m certain the context of his message had to do with […]

Strategic Sweet Spot

According to Harvard Business Review the strategic sweet spot of a company is “where it meets customer’s needs in a way that rivals can’t, given the context in which it competes. (Source: “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” by David […]

Create Universal Wonder

There’s a neat looking video game called SPORE due out this summer (7 Sept) by game designer Will Wright. It’s a simulation game – sort of like the Sims or SimCity… But the level of game play and user customization goes […]

Idea Sandbox Part of “Age of Conversation” Book Project for Charity

I’m proud to share with you that Idea Sandbox has contributed to the Age of Conversation ’08 book project. This is the second collaborative book spearheaded by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan. The first book featured over 100 writers talking about […]

Inform. Inspire. Entertain.

I’m a big Walt Disney fan and was recently watching a film featuring a preview of EPCOT Center before it opened in 1982. Backed with pulsing electronic “futuristic” music from the 80s, the film builds excitement and features images of EPCOT […]

What Is Burger King Thinking?

At the airport yesterday afternoon, after pulling our luggage off the arrival carousel, we decided we needed a bite to eat. What the heck… let’s get something at Burger King. Divvying up our food items revealed the “Veg City Airport” themed […]

Burger King: “Special Orders Don’t Upset Us”

As the jingle sings… “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…” I hope this rings true with the agency behind the Burger King Veg City tray artwork I wrote about yesterday. I’ve just sent an e-mail to […]

Learn Word of Mouth Marketing

You are cordially invited to attend… Word of Mouth Crash Course Learn Word of Mouth Marketing hosted by Andy Sernovitzat GasPedal Word of Mouth Marketing July 30, 2008 | September 4, 2008 Chicago, Illinois learn more and/or register Idea Sandbox friend, […]

Sandcastle Strategy

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The Brilliance of “brilliant”

Those who become a member of the Idea Sandbox “Sand for Your Inbox” eNewsletter are sent a custom, hand-crafted membership e-card… It literally offers creative license to think creatively and problem solve in remarkable ways. Each time someone becomes a member […]

Starbucks Hand-Crafted Sign In Athens, Greece

In the oldest part of Athens, Greece called The Plaka, the guidelines for commercial signage requires that signs be hand-crafted. So Starbucks had a wooden, hand-painted sign created locally. The slight (and I mean slight) imperfections make it cooler. [click for […]

odranoeL ekiL etirW

I’m studying one of my heroes and a newer member of the Idea Sandbox Board of Directors. Leonardo. No. Not DiCaprio. da Vinci Leonardo was a master at everything he did… One of the things I find interesting about him is […]

Ideas from Employees

You may have worked for a company where the suggestion box may have well been a shredder. However, smart companies know, the best ideas may come from employees – the people who know your product literally inside-and-out. It is a smart […]

Innovative Index

While I expect a book about creative problem solving to inspire me with innovative ideas, I don’t expect the book itself to necessarily be innovative in its approach. “The Creative Problem Solver’s Toolbox” by Richard Fobes offers something I’d never seen […]

Greek Week At Idea Sandbox

I’m not looking for college freshmen “pledge” students – I’m actually in Athens, Greece this week. This is my second visit to Athens. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world – filled with incredible history, knowledge, and tradition. I […]

A Few Greek Symbols: Greek Week

When you visit another town – whether local or far away – tourist gift shops offer a nice table of contents to what you may expect within the destination. In Athens, gift shops are loaded with items featuring the Parthenon, ancient […]

History of the Olympic Marathon: Greek Week

With just eight days before the Olympic Games launch in Beijing… And it being Greek Week at Idea Sandbox, I thought you’d be interested in some interesting Olympic history. Do you know the history of the marathon? The marathon race wasn’t […]

Reconstructing The Parthenon: Greek Week

The Parthenon is the famous monument that sits atop a large rock hill called the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It was build over 2,500 years ago, dedicated to the goddess Athena. And it is amazing. Over the centuries the structure was […]

And The Award for Best Picture Goes To…: Greek Week

Today it is quite an achievement be recognized with an Academy Award for Best Picture, Tony Award for the Best Play, or Grammy for Best Song of the Year. However, rewind 2500 years ago in Athens, and the prize was even […]

Reducing Litter at Bank ATMs… and Brand Litter at Your Company

Automated Teller Receipts (ATM) litter is a nuisance. More times than not, the area around an ATM looks like what’s pictured below… a carpet of discarded transaction receipts. Do you even notice this anymore because it has become the standard appearance […]

Three Legs Are Better Than Four

We’ve all experienced the frustration of sitting at a wobbly restaurant table. Perhaps the maître d’ noticed too, and swiftly slid a makeshift shim under the offending leg. ‘Ah, all better.’ I’ve especially noticed uneven tables at cafes and coffee shops. […]

Great Date: 08-08-08

Today’s date is pretty cool. A nice date for a product launch, store opening, or Olympic games to begin. Today is a special day in Chinese culture where the number eight is a lucky number. (The sound of the word “eight” […]

Do You Suffer From Marketing A.D.D.?

Yesterday Some time ago, Seth Godin posted a great article on his blog declaring patience as the secret to success on the internet. Basically stating that success equals the ability to stick it out longer than those looking for instant success. […]

A Turkey-Filled Sandbox

This week Idea Sandbox is reporting from Istanbul, Turkey. Source: Oberazzi’s Flickr Images]As I explore this seaport city, full of sky scraping mosques, the beautiful Bosphorus Strait waterway, and a people rich in culture and history… I’ll report back to you […]

Beverage Sampling Tools: Elaborate & Simple

Below is a picture of me, back in my Starbucks days, donning the “Mercury Man” out-of-store sampling tank (Version 2.0) The backpack contraption contains a pressurized, thermal container used to sample fresh brewed coffee in crowds and at special events. Version […]

It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Istanbul was Constantinople Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople Been a long time gone, Constantinople Now it’s Turkish Delight on a moonlit night Every gal in Constantinople Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople So if you’ve a date in Constantinople She’ll be waiting […]

Standing Out In The Grand Bazaar

What do you see when you look at this image? [click if you’d like a larger image]I shot this photo recently while visiting the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. At first glance, there is too much to take in at once. […]

Idea Sandbox Closing. Receiving $7 Million USD!

I’m sorry to disappoint any of my future clients or fans, but Idea Sandbox is closing. I just received word (via Yahoo Calendar) that I will be receiving $7-million in U.S dollars. It seems General Philip Fadaya has selected ME as […]

Dancing With The Stars, “Love Boat” of the 21 Century

Have you ever watched Dancing With The Stars? According to the ratings, chances are you have. This week, the celebrity line-up for the 7th season of the show has been announced. According to the official release, the “Lucky 13” include: Susan […]

“Unclogging Thinker’s Block” Inbox Sand, August 08

At times, coming up new ideas can be as frustrating as staring at a blank piece of paper… Waiting for the words to come to you. You’re experiencing the innovator’s version of writer’s block – thinker’s block. In the August edition […]

Cunning Colonel Consigning Cash

The email below from Colonel Benjamin F. Davis was in my inbox this morning. He contacted me from his Gmail, account offering me a cut of some $20 million in gold and cash he says he found in a cave in […]

How To Use Bookmark Tags For Brand Insights

Ever wonder what people associate with your company or brand? I do. One measure is to examine the “key words” people use when they bookmark your website/blog. Delicious is an online bookmarking service that allows users to label a site with […]

The Challenge Of Doing Something New, And Remarkable

Being remarkable isn’t easy. Often remarkability means doing something new that’s never been done before. It often requires doing something that others don’t or won’t “get.” Walt Disney faced challenges in getting people to understand his vision of Disneyland before it […]

Sandbox Prioritizer Now For iPhone!

In response to popular demand, the free tool to help you get yourself in order – the Idea Sandbox Prioritizer – is now available for the iPhone! Yay! It’s a wicked-simple tool to use, and will help you prioritize ANY list […]

Idea Sandbox: Supporting Mid-Sized, Fast Growing Businesses

Grow Your Business (1) of (2) Announcements It’s been sorta quite in the Sandbox lately. I’ve been working behind-the-scenes to make what I do more targeted, and more meaningful for you. Just as I recommend to clients, it is important to […]

Create What You Need vs. Grow What You Have

Originally featured as post on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix site. When times are bad the future is uncertain. But, quite honestly, when times are good the future is *just* as uncertain. The only way to predict the future is to create […]

Dunkin’ Hits Starbucks With ‘Pepsi Challenge’-Style Campaign

Have you seen Dunkin’ Donut’s latest advertising campaign and website? They’ve asked “hard-working Americans” which coffee they prefer – and they evidently picked Dunkin’ Donuts. Just like the way Pepsi challenged the taste of Coca-Cola… Dunkin’ is taking on Starbucks. […]

What “Weenie” Draws Your Customers Closer?

Imagineer Jargon: “Weenie” The Imagineer Term Weenie – Walt Disney’s playful term for a visual element that could be used to draw people into and around a space. According to Disney Imagineers, a weenie is big enough to be seen from […]

Remove Idea-Blocking Obstacles with Conducivity

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 […]

Get In On The “Conversation”

The Age of Conversation, that is… I’m excited to share with you that The Age of Conversation: Why Don’t They Get It – the new marketing book written by 237 writers, marketers, and business people (including me) from 15 countries – […]

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Don’t Lose Ideas In The Tub

Great ideas can strike at the most inopportune times. For me, many ideas hit me when I’m in the shower. Back in April I shared that I purchased a dive slate to capture ideas while lathering. A dive slate is a […]

Be Part Of The Solution: Vote

I often write in this space about problem solving techniques. I plan to do so today as well, but with a different spin. When organizing a brainstorm or problem solving session, I always recommend taking great care when selecting the team […]

Don’t Make Your Customers Think

When was the last time you walked through your business, store, location, or website with the perspective of a customer? I’m not talking about looking for dirty spots on the floor or burned-out lightbulbs. I’m talking about walking thru with the […]

Starbucks Red Cup – Create Customer Excitement With Traditions

Yesterday was the launch of the International Starbucks Christmas promotion. Tuesday the stores looked like… well… a typical Starbucks location. Wednesday, the stores were refreshed and re-merchandised… dressed for Christmas. And the traditional Christmas Red Cups are back. In Paris this […]

Serious Play: The Link Between Creativity & Play

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 […]

Starbucks Has Nothing To Lose – Freakin’ Go For It!

As of this moment, Starbucks stock is trading at $8.65. That’s pretty low considering they were over $40 around 18-months ago. One of the challenges Starbucks has faced in recent years has been growth pressure from Wall Street. There were times […]

Happy 80th Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

It was 80 years ago today – November 19th – according to the story, Walt was on a train doodling on the back on an envelope and sketched the mouse called Mickey. Walt was originally was going to call him Mortimer, […]

U.S. Restaurants Realize Reductions In Costs

The Wall Street Journal published a piece, by writer Raymund Flandez, highlighting methods restaurants are taking to cut costs to offset reduced customer traffic and record-high cost of goods. Restaurants are having to find creative ways to cover costs without increasing […]

Black Friday: How Black Will It Get?

Today is “Black Friday,” the beginning of the American Christmas shopping season, and one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year. Some shoppers think it is called Black Friday because – to take advantage of the deals – you […]

Teacher Problem-Solves Budget Cuts

Did you see the article last week in USA Today about the teacher who is selling ads on tests to make money to afford to make copies? Tom Farber, a calculus teacher at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California […]

Happy New Year – 2009!

Thank you for visiting Idea Sandbox, for your comments, and conversation. I wish you and your family a healthy and happy New Year! Paul

Idea Sandbox: New Year, New Look!

Welcome to the newly re-designed Idea Sandbox website and blog! Through months of work the site has been refreshed for your reading enjoyment! I worked with a few talented people to make this change happen… and will share with you the […]

Library of Imagination: Jay Walker’s Inspirational Space

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 […]

President Barack Obama Inaugural Address

(I’m sure you’ll find the words of President Obama in other places… but I plan to refer to them in future posts. Enjoy.) President Barack Obama Inaugural Address Tuesday, January 20, 2009 – Washington, D.C. My fellow citizens: I stand here […]

Apple’s Clever “Show The Love” Ad

This ad just arrived in my inbox. Very clever. This is to promote Valentine’s giving… The tagline reads: “The ultimate love note. Give an engraved iPod nano this Valentine’s Day.” The ad is clean. Clever. Features the product. It’s fresh and […]

The Problems With Factory Thinking

This panel is part of marketer/author/artist Tom Fishburne’s Brand Camp cartoon series. The “Idea Factory” is Tom’s evaluation of “factory-thinking” a thought inspired by Seth Godin’s most recent book, Tribes. Tom’s illustration points out how many organizations have constructed an efficient […]

Superbowl: Great Game, Ads Lame

I’m in a timezone where watching the Super Bowl requires an all-niter. So, first thing post-game Monday morning, I Googled “Super Bowl XLIII ads” and watched the TV commercials back-to-back. My overall reaction was… very little reaction. Marketers anticipate Super Bowl […]

How To Grow Your Business In Our Down Economy

How would you like some free advice that may help to grow your business? This “Friday the 13th” is your lucky day! A couple of weeks ago, I crafted a post for the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog… I asked for help […]

L.L.Bean Understands “Perceived Value” Versus Discounts

I snapped this a couple of weeks ago while shopping in Washington DC… L.L.Bean has it right. They’re not offering unusual discounts, slashing prices, cutting quality or any non-sense. As Chris McCormick the CEO says… they’ve never played games with their […]

L.L.Bean Cares. Buy Their Products.

I don’t currently live near an L.L.Bean. I don’t currently own L.L. Bean product. But from this moment forward, I will stop in an L.L. Bean any chance I get. I will visit their website to see if there is anything […]

MindNode Pro: Effective Way To Gather And Organize Thoughts

Software Review: MindNode Pro If you’re like me, you’re always looking for better ways, tools, and applications to get things done. I’ve recently discovered a mind mapping application for the Mac that you must check out: MindNode Pro. “On paper” mind […]

Seth Godin Fires Up Ideas for Amazon’s Kindle

Kindle is an electronic book reader created by Amazon. There’s been some hubbub lately as the new, upgraded version is now available. Seth Godin reviews it on his site today offering a slew of great ideas for Amazon to consider. Why […]

Twitter, CB Radio of the 21st Century

“Breaker 1-9, Breaker 1-9!Anyone got their ears on out there?” Growing up in the 1970’s, my family took many road-trip vacations across the United States. Spending so much time in the car, my dad thought it would be a good idea […]

History of Big Ideas, At BusinessWeek

Check out Jena McGregor’s piece at BusinessWeek. Jena highlights great ideas that came about as a result of/during tough times. Very interesting. Makes you wonder what will come of our tough times. A History Of Big Ideas Enjoy.

“Request Upon Arrival” Hotel Program Makes Me *Yawn*

Hilton Group Hotels (Hilton Hotels, Doubletree Hotels, Embassy Suites Hotels) have recently launched a new, concierge-style program called Requests Upon Arrival. When booking online, hotel guests can pre-order items delivered to their room for arrival. They include no-charge items such as […]

Demetri: On Staying Relevant

New York based comedian Demetri Martin has a new show called “Important Things With Demetri Martin.” It airs on Comedy Central at 10:30 pm. (I’ve included Demetri’s flyer here to the right.) In each half-hour episode, Demetri explores a single topic… […]

148* Hand-Selected, Excellent Blogs For You To Check Out

It’s one thing for me to tell you what a great resource Idea Sandbox is. I sure think so, and my mom does as well. However, when a third party makes an unsolicited recommendation, the advice is more credible. In the […]

Not So Foolish Products

I receive periodic emails from Think Geek. They bill their products as “stuff for smart masses.” For the past several years, they’ve sent a product update on April 1st – and typically trick many of their subscribers. The reason they are […]

Chris Gash, Talented Illustrator Of Idea Sandbox Site – Part 1 of 2

This is Part 1 of a 2-Part article about illustrator, Chris Gash ( He is one of the talented people who helped me re-design the Idea Sandbox websites. Chris created the cool images that appear in the “starbursts” in the headers […]

Chris Gash, Talented Illustrator Of Idea Sandbox Site – Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of a 2-Part article about illustrator, Chris Gash. ( Part 1 posted yesterday. Chris is one of the talented people who helped me re-design the Idea Sandbox website. Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about […]

Bunny Meat And Rabbit Cheese

I know the Easter Bunny has hopped along his bunny trail for this year… but I haven’t had the chance to post this image… Our grocery store in Amsterdam, Albert Heijn, does a great job offering seasonal and holiday-related foods. Special […]

World Creativity and Innovation Week

We’re in the midst of World Creativity and Innovation Week. It takes place each year, beginning on April 15th (Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday) and runs through April 21st. The purpose? To encourage and inspire people to use their creativity to make […]

Starbucks FINALLY To Start Telling Its Story

Starbucks Coffee Company’s CMO, Terry Davenport, provided a preview of their new long-term brand campaign on their Ideas In Action blog. Terry declares that Starbucks is finally going to start telling its story. (1) I hope so. (2) I hope it […]

How To Create The Perfect (Brain) Storm

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… […]

Top 10 Blogs To Stimulate Your Creativity

Roger von Oech – author, inventor, consultant, and creativity guru – posted his It is an honor that Idea Sandbox was on that list. With hundreds (thousands?) of sites to choose from, narrowing it down to 10 had to be a […]

Hand-Drawn “Fold-In” Puzzle, Circa 1979

As a kid I was always fascinated by the Mad Magazine “Fold-In” puzzles that would appear on the inside back cover. A fold-in featured a full drawing with a caption that – when folded properly – revealed a hidden picture and […]

Johnnie Walker: Keep Walking “Fold-In” Ad

Whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, has been running their “Keep Walking” brand campaign for quite a while now. It’s designed to “inspire personal progress.” The ads feature the yellow, dapper, top hat-wearing silhouette from their bottles… the striding man. The most recent […]

In The Box Thinking With Dan Heath

The internet is like a multi-story department store… You could spend all day exploring different levels, come back the next day and find more stuff you hadn’t seen the day before. I originally missed finding this talk, but happy to share […]

Nescafe Jabs Their Coffee Sticks At Starbucks

Feeling the need to defend yourself is a sign you feel threatened. Spending money on advertising to dissuade or change people’s minds about your competition is a sign you are afraid. My buddy, John Moore from Brand Autopsy, sent me these […]

Take Charge Of Your Life With Problem-Solving

One of my favorite books about problem-solving is Ken Watanabe’s best-selling book, Problem-Solving 101. In this article, I outline Watanabe’s lesson for finding the root cause of a problem – a key concept. But,  before I get into the details, let’s […]

Tips For Creativity & Problem Solving: “Live In PLAY” Interview

It’s always an honor when someone cares to hear your advice. It is my pleasure to share with you a BlogRadio interview I was part of on Saturday evening that featured… well… me and Idea Sandbox! Jenny Ward, the Chief Play […]

The Five Stages Of Idea Acceptance

The book What A Great Idea! 2.0 by Chic Thompson is chock full o’ bits of wisdom that help with creativity and creating new ideas. One bit Chic writes about, is how new ideas are often struck down with “killer phrases.” […]

Gather A Dunkin’ Donut Order With “Dunkin’ Run”

Very clever. Dunkin’ Donuts has launched a site, mobile site, and iPhone app – Dunkin’ Run ( – that allows you invite friends/co-workers to go in on an order at Dunkin’ Donuts. You invite friends – via email or mobile text […]

Idea Sandbox Membership Cards And Creative License

Did you know when you sign up for the free monthly Idea Sandbox Sand for Your Inbox eNewsletter your membership includes a one-of-a-kind personalized membership card? It is true! As it states on the membership card…. The person indicated on this […]

“Little Red Riding Hood” Contemporary Re-Telling

The story of Little Red Riding Hood was told to Italian and French kids way back in the 1600’s. In the 1800’s, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm popularized this tale along with their other “Grimm Fairytales.” With 400 years, nearly 9,000 versions […]

Thwart The “Idea Killers” with BINGO

We're all familiar with the game BINGO. Fill out the game card, get five in a row to win. Yell, "BINGO!" Nearly as many of us are familiar with business jargon-based BINGO cards. These cards feature overused phrases and jargon we [...]

Performance Chart: Your Company, Product, Life

I love tools that are simple to use, easy to learn, but offer profound impact. The performance chart is one of those tools. They consists of a group of continua (left-to-right axis) where you plot “where you are” versus “where you […]

M-I-C… K-E-Y… T-H-O-N-G: A Brief About Being Brand Appropriate

This past weekend I visited Disneyland Paris.   [Fig. 1 – Sleeping Beauty Castle]In addition to themepark attractions and constant entertainment while browsing the merchandise/souvenir stores… among the mugs, hats, and shirts I came across the display pictured below…   [Fig. […]

Keeping The “No” In Innovation: “Progress Is Overrated”

The “Palace of Light” is the original Shredded Wheat factory and the boss, Frank Druffel, is keeping the ‘no’ in Innovation. Post Cereals has a created a series of videos celebrating the fact they haven’t messed with their product since 1892… […]

Friendly Falafel

For lunch today, I popped into Maoz Vegetarian restaurant for falafel. It’s really good. (Seth Godin raves about the place – calls it the best falafel in the world!) They serve fresh hot falafel, on warm pita bread, with delicious hummus, […]

Put A Smile In Your Voice

The image below is a relic from my first out-of-college job with the Disney Company. A page from a “While You Were Out” message pad. (I re-discovered this as a bookmark in my copy of George Orwell’s 1984).     I […]

Upgrade Your Brain’s RAM With An Idea Journal

The first and best tip I can offer to anyone wanting to be more creative and innovative is to start carrying and Idea Journal… Something to write your ideas on 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. This could take any […]

You May Be Wrecking Your Own Innovation

Innovative ideas – the kind that can transform your company – are inadvertently being demolished. When first presented, many ideas meet wrecking-ball comments such as… “How’s that going to work?” “Good luck getting that done!” “We don’t have time for something […]

Two-By-Two Diagram: Simplifying the Complex

Some call it a matrix, others a two-by-two diagram. I call ’em awesome. Two-by-twos allow you to plot complex information in a matter that allows you not only to see the relationship between two things, but also to make better judgments […]

Swim Lane Diagram:
Dive Into Complex Decision-Making

Some weeks ago, I shared a decision making method that utilized a Two-By-Two Diagram to rank/filter ideas using two key parameters. While I received positive feedback, I was asked what to use when you need to rank/filter ideas that involve more […]

Be THE, not A

So you are… …A marketer. …A sales person. …A blogger. …A [_ _ _ _ _ _ _]. But is that settling? Why be A, when you could be… …THE marketer? …THE sales person? …THE blogger? …THE [_ _ _ _ […]

Farming Lesson to Save Your Brand

There is an agricultural practice farmers use called “fallow field farming.” It is the method of planting nothing at all to allow fields time to replenish, rejuvenate, and regain fertility. I got to thinking… this practice of waiting a season to […]

Exit the Wheel, Take the Escalator

You know that swift glide-y feeling you get when you walk on an escalator. You’re moving faster than you normally would with the same effort. That’s the feeling we all want when we work. Instead, it often feels more like running […]

Marketing Lessons from School Lunch

“If you can successfully promote sloppy joe sandwiches, you can perform marketing for anything!” That was my motto, early in my career, as marketing director for a food service company. We were hired to manage the school district’s food program. The […]

Reanimate Your Brand, Frankenstein-Style

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a build-a-brand kit that provided all the pieces necessary to construct the perfect business? You could have it delivered to the office just like a cabinet from IKEA. The flat carton would contain the […]

Better Power Strip Design – Powerbridge

Look under your desk at the clutter of power cords… from your CPU, monitor, speakers, perhaps a printer… I’ll bet, just like under my desk, it is a mess. A tangle of cords. But that’s just how it is, right? Well, […]

Balancing Unity And Variety:
Branding Lesson From Classical Music

Unity promotes cohesiveness. Variety creates interest. A business lesson taken from classical music. Ultimately, all composition comes down to a balance between unity and variety. Too much unity, too much of the same thing, leads to boredom. But, too much variety […]

10-Point Presidential Formula For Success

I didn’t know a lot about President Lyndon Johnson, but I’ve enjoyed learning about him via Wikipedia. While reading the terrific book, The Magic Of Thinking Big, by Dr. Joseph Schwartz. In a section about “Thinking Right Toward People,” Dr. Schwartz […]

How To Think Big At Work (And Life)

“Where success is concerned, people are not measured in feet and inches, or pounds, or college degrees, or family background; they are measured by the size of their thinking. How big we think, determines the size of our accomplishments.”   Great […]

Process + People + Place =
Perfect (Brain) Storm

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 […]

For The Love Of Fluff

H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower purchased the recipe for Marshmallow Fluff for $500* in 1917… and I’m glad they did. Durkee-Mower Inc has making Fluff in Lynn, Massachusetts ever since. What? You don’t know what Fluff is? It is […]

Need A Web Designer?
Check Out Max Design.

Are you looking for a web designer? There are a million of them out there… How do you choose? While Max Design didn’t design my site,* I can vouch for their passion for design. Russ Weakley of Max Design helped me […]

Describe Solutions Rather Than Ask For Tasks

Below is a word-for-word cut-and-paste from today’s Seth Godin’s blog post: “What do you need me to do?” “What do you need me to do?” This is a question that defines the person asking it. It is very different from, “here’s […]

Solve Problems By Being A Copycat

What other industry has already solved your problem? When faced with a challenge, instead of trying to solve the problem from scratch – find an analog. That is, a comparison model you can copy. Ask yourself who (or what) may have […]

50 Eye-Opening Lectures for the Marketing Mind: By Online Colleges

Online Colleges, a site promoting web-based colleges, fished the interwebs and compiled a page of 50 Eye-Opening Lectures for the Marketing Mind – lectures and presentations for marketers with topics ranging from Economics, Business, Marketing, Advertising, Technology, and Psychology and Sociology. […]

How To Peel A Tomato: Using The Right Tool

Last week I prepared a recipe for an Italian dish that calls for fresh-peeled tomatoes. I have a vegetable peeler… nice and sharp with a rubber grip. I’ve used it for carrots, potatoes, zucchini, squash… However, have you ever tried to […]

Rules Of The Garage

[The garage where Hewlett and Packard started HP, 1939 photo] Founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard had the right idea when they first built their company. They believed if you had passion for what you did – and did it with […]

Catch More Fish With The Right Lure,
In The Right Waters

A couple of fishermen are hanging out in their local bait shop. One has a new product idea for out-of-town visitors. Sell a lake map and fishing lure combo. Take specific fishing lures and tape them to the different lakes on […]

Off-Site Meetings: Last Century Technology

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 […]

Land Boat Ride, EPCOT Center – 1992

Yep, that’s me – Paul Williams – in 1992 when I was a Cast Member at the “Listen to the Land” boat ride at the Land Pavilion in Epcot Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Here, I led […]

Out Of The Box (Literally) Mini Cooper Ads

I invite you to visit the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog today, where I posted an article about a brilliant Amsterdam-based ad campaign for Mini Cooper cars. The ad was created locally by UbachsWisbrun/JWT. In the article, I also share what […]

Get More Done With An Un-ToDo List

Sand for Your Inbox January 2010 How is your resolution season going? Mine is okay so far. As I started to put together my “ToDo” list for 2010 – carrying over things from 2009 – I realized I’m trying to “pack […]

Have More, Better Ideas: Start An Idea Journal

  If you want to be more creative and develop better ideas, one of the first steps should be to start an idea journal… your place to jot down ideas, questions, and observations… anything that comes to mind. Your journal could […]

Making Better Decisions

Sand for Your Inbox November 2009 It is great to have so many choices in life… from what to be when you grow up to what cereal to buy for breakfast… lots of choices. The drawback is that so many options […]

How To Use Big Thinking In Critical Situations

Sand for Your Inbox October 2009 The Magic Of Thinking Big by Dr. David Schwartz, inspired me so much… I have to share parts of it with you. The slides below include lessons found throughout the book. In short, the book […]

Debunking Word Of Mouth, (and Social Media) Bunk

John Moore (from Brand Autopsy) and I were invited to talk with Jay Ehret of The Marketing Spot. As part of his work to help small businesses, Jay asked John and I questions surrounding all the hubbub regarding Word of Mouth […]

Environmental Integration: Satellite Dish Disguise

Over the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able travel around Europe. I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures. I love this shot below. Terra cotta roof tiles, and lush, greens hills a patchwork alternating vineyards and […]

Disney Imagineer Jargon: “Berm” & “Contradictions”

The Imagineers at The Disney Company, the folks who dream-up theme parks and make them a reality, have created their own terms that allow quick understanding. The Imagineer TermsBerm – A raised earthen barrier, typically heavily landscaped, which serves to prevent […]

Five Better Ways To Remember Lists

Be sure to stop by the MarketingProf’s Daily Fix blog today (Friday) to read my post offering “better” ideas to remember short lists… That is, better than writing them on your hand. (It should post by 10 am EST). MarketingProf’s Daily […]

How To Drive Sales – The Basics

Ah… “Drive Sales.” Is there a company that doesn’t have “sales driving” as a key strategy? It can’t be much simpler than a choice of three levers. (1)Find New Customers Create a New Market with a new product or service, or […]

Out With The New, In With The Old

Today in Amsterdam, in a park near my home, I saw city workers replacing the new, contemporary lights [pictured, left] with this old-school style [right]. While this small image is a big grainy, you can see that these “new” lights are […]

Cool Is Still Cool

I’m literally tearing through my old magazines – harvesting the stories that interest me. Going from paper to digital. I thought this Brief History of “Cool” was wicked cool. This is from four years ago… It would be interesting to know […]

Driving Trial To Drive Sales

Mocha Valencia Frappuccino, was the one of the new beverages in the summer of 2002 at Starbucks Coffee. I was the marketing manager in charge of the summer promotion. The beverage team described the taste profile like eating pieces of “chocolate […]

A Cup Of Joe (Williams): On Aging…

“Oh, if I were only 20 years younger. I’d even settle out-of-court for 10.” The lesson here? It goes by fast – too fast. My grandfather was 70 when he included this in a note to me in 1985. He was […]

“The Basics” May Be Enough To Make You Great

Taking your business from good → to great → to remarkable can seem a daunting task. But, it may be easier than you think. The bad news from a customer perspective is that companies aren’t doing the basics properly, let alone […]

Taking Action… It Is Worth Millions

This short stack of used sticky notes contains, without exaggeration, tens of millions of dollars in good ideas. I wouldn’t classify them as “great” or “revolutionary” ideas. Not rocket science. Most, fairly basic. Yet, if these ideas were acted upon, they […]

American Marketing, An “Outsider’s” Perspective

Within the next 30 days, I will be returning to the United States after spending nearly four years in the Netherlands – moving from Amsterdam to Washington DC. While I have kept on top of the major headlines (I understand there […]

Sistine Chapel – From Your Computer

I had to stop and share this with you. Something truly inspiring! While I have had the opportunity to view the Sistine Chapel in person – I dare say this Vatican website is almost better than the real thing! The detail […]

Be Remarkable Via Pricing Strategy

Being the first, the best, or the only one doing something (and in a way meaningful and relevant to your customers) is a strategy your company can use to stand out from your competition. Something that is relevant to all your […]

Don’t Hog Glory, Invest It Instead

Sand for Your Inbox April 2010 There are many versions of the advice, “Surround yourself with great people – and you’ll get great things.” However, it isn’t enough just to surround yourself, you must also take care and nurture the people […]

Seattle’s Best Coffee Announces Cart, But Where’s The Horse?

On Wednesday May 12th, Seattle’s Best Coffee, announced the beginning of their “brand transformation” with a new logo that (as they put it) matches their “optimist outlook and simplified approach to great coffee experiences.” Over the next months and years, they […]

Forget The Shark, Starbucks Jumps The Whale

Starbucks Coffee Company on Monday the 17th of May in the year 2010 has “jumped the whale.”* Starbucks announced today they will start offering Starbucks Natural Fusions, flavored coffee beans in grocery stores. For those of you who remember when Starbucks […]

Shiny New Thing

Each week Tom Fishburne publishes a comic panel as part of his Brand Camp series. And each week I simply want to republish what he’s written; he is always spot-on with his observations. This week’s strip, titled “Shiny New Thing”, highlights […]

Seth Godin’s Five Step Plan For Everyone And Everything

Seth Godin posted these five steps on his blog today. As always with Seth, you can’t get any cleaner or to the point than the way he puts it. Go, make something happen. Do work you’re proud of. Treat people with […]

Imitation Isn’t Always Flattering

While they say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – a poor imitation isn’t much of a compliment. Pictured below is a StarBox Coffe shop in Tirana, Albania, sent to me by my friend Jasper. Here is a shot I […]

Starbucks Continues Pursuit For Quality Coffee Products

Starbucks is trying to repeat what brought them initial success as a company – taking a low quality product and offering a higher quality alternative. They started with brewing rich, bold coffee and introduced North America to European latte and cappuccino […]

Why Newspaper Ads Beat Social Media

I need to get the word out about my business. I want to effectively reach my target audience and drive sales. Yesterday I was challenged by Todd Sattersten to justify why print ads beat social media for getting the word out. […]

Project Stuck? Try Using A “Black Box.”

When a scientist or engineer designs a new process, they run into many unknowns. You can expect that when creating something from scratch. However, they could have so many unknowns, if they tried to solve each as they occurred, they’d get […]

Gain Out-Of-This-World Marketing Advice From Galaxy Coffee

John Moore, the marketing medic at Brand Autopsy, has written another book that offers succinct marketing and branding advice inspired by working at Starbucks Coffee Company. It is called: Tough Love: Scripting the Drive, Drama, and Decline Of Galaxy Coffee.” Although… […]

Build Sales Faster With The Networking Follow-Up Guide

Do you regularly attend networking events? Do you have a system for processing the names and business cards you gather to quickly follow-up with new contacts? New to my market, I’ve made it a goal to get out of the office […]

Hop Aboard The Brainstorming Roller Coaster

Thought you’d like to see this sketch I found in my picture folder. It’s a simple (if not silly) way to plot how, during the brainstorming process, there is shift up and down between gathering many ideas to narrowing to fewer […]

How To Manage Problems You Can’t Fix

Problems. Challenges. Opportunities. Whatever you call them at your company, we want them fixed. Our gut reaction is – come hell or high water – to find a solution. However, there are times when there is no fix… You’re stuck with […]

Do You Flemish?

Huh? Am I asking you are from Belgium? Or have a cold… phlegmish? No. No. Do you flemish? To “flemish” is to coil the loose end of the lines* (ropes) used when boating. It is an attractive and safe way (reduces […]

Is Your Service Language Calibrated?

“How do we define service at this company?” If you were to send that question in an e-mail to the person responsible for operations, the person responsible for hiring, the person responsible for marketing, the person responsible for sales, the head […]

Mind Your OWN Business

You should be in business for yourself. We all should. I don’t mean quit your job and form a new company. I mean right now – at the job you are in – you should be in business for yourself. You […]

Seeding Clouds To Produce Brain Storms

For the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China wanted to ensure rain storms took place where and when they want them to… That did NOT include the opening ceremony. So, the Weather Modification Department in China seeded approaching clouds with activators to […]

Toxophilite Guide to Innovation

Successfully doing something that has never been done before (innovating) is sort of like shooting an arrow at a target while blindfolded. You know where you want to go but until you draw back on the bow string and launch, you […]

SCAMPERing For Innovation

A great quote found Roger von Oech’s book, ““A Whack on the Side of the Head” reads as follows… “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone elseand thinking something different. The quote is attributed to the Nobel prize […]

Solve Your Problem, Not The Symptom

Remember as a child – or perhaps you have a child at home – when asking one question, it often leads to a string of additional questions? How come? Why? Why is that? This is simply a way of of trying […]

Nothing Worse Than The Wrong Problem Solved Properly

“There’s nothing worse than bad coffee brewed properly.” That’s a quote by Tim Kern. He was a coffee guru at Starbucks Coffee. A long-time employee who was caught a the lay-off sweep a couple of years ago. The artwork is from […]

Decision Making

Three Simple Decision-Making Tools

We make decisions all the time. Big ones, small ones, easy and challenging. Making the right choice can be obvious, and sometimes it requires time invested in thought. Luckily we have simple tools to help. (1) Pro & Con First, the […]

Begin At The End, For Better Strategy

One of the best starting points for a strategy session is at the end of it. Starting by clearly expressing what the end results should be, serves as a clear target for participants to aim for. I’m talking about more than […]

New Ideas: Pause Before You Pounce

New ideas can lead to innovations. Often the speed in which we conduct business causes us to make rapid decisions. As a result, we may be robbing ourselves of good ideas. New ideas can be fragile things. We’ve all experienced it… […]

World’s Greatest Brainstorming Destination

How would you like to be a part of creating the best meeting space in the world for brainstorming? The place built from the ground up for the sole purpose of helping people create remarkable ideas. The Disneyland for the mind. […]

Fast Food Sandwiches: What You See Is -not- What You Get

Within the ads in this morning’s paper was a glossy ad for a national sub sandwich chain. It is a given that the food presented in TV commercials and in print ads rarely if ever matches the true presentation you get […]

More Tips For Remarkable Ideas: Sandbox Innovation

The lead at your last brainstorm session probably preambled with something like this: “Remember team, there is no such things as a bad idea in brainstorming. And there are no boundaries. Let the sky be the limit!” They were correct. Yet, […]

Free Guide To Great Reading: Innovation, Remarkability, Brand Building

Sand For Your Inbox October 2010 I’m excited to share with you a free Guide To Great Reading which includes fifteen books we recommend in the categories of: Creative Thinking & Innovation, Be Remarkable, and Brand Building. I know you’ll love […]

National Trademark Expo: Oct 15/16 Washington DC

One of the benefits of living near the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is you get to bump into celebrities. For example, today – just outside our neighborhood Starbucks – we saw T. Markey! I wonder if he has a […]

Age Of Conversation III: Great Writers. Great Book. Great Cause.

If a marketing book with one writer’s opinion is helpful – imagine a book by over 150 writers from around the world! Age of Conversation: It’s To Get Busy is that book. As the official description states… …This collaborative work investigates […]

Five Expert Twitter Tips For Better Connections

Five secrets to make even stronger, meaningful connections with your Twitter followers. For each and every person who has chosen to follow you on Twitter: Read their profile. Follow and explore the link they provided in their bio. Send a personal […]

Expand Your Brain Storage Yard

To help you keep a record of your thoughts and ideas, I previously suggested using an idea journal. Many readers let me know they started journals – nice work. Keep it up! With the tip in this article, I will help you […]

How Would *They* Solve It?

When you’ve got a problem to solve if often helps to get advice from various friends, family members, mentors, and colleagues. But there are other resources you can call on as well. You may use what you know about famous people […]

Idea Generation: Let Mother Nature Provide Solutions

A time-tested technique for problem-solving is to take your challenge out of context and look at it from a different perspective. One context we all can relate to is nature. Mother Nature offers much for us to learn. To generate solutions with the help […]

Take A Step Back, Then Look For More

Often what we identify as a problem or opportunity isn’t the true problem. At times our focus may be too narrow preventing us from solving the larger issue causing the problem. Let’s imagine we operate a specialty wine, cheese, and bread […]

Idea Generation: Be An Explorist, Let Your Get-Away Inspire You

Traveling offers a perfect opportunity for creative inspiration. Experiencing out-of-the-ordinary sites, sounds, tastes, people, and culture helps stimulate out of the ordinary thinking and ideas. Get the Inside Scoop Before you leave for your destination, consult insider/underground guides for the places […]

Take Your Inner Child To Work Day

When it comes to curiosity and creative problem solving, kids have the process down pat. They are expert problem solvers. (Only a kid can transform an oversized box into a lunar lander!) Having this imagination around the office can be pretty […]

Today’s Technology Retro Ads

Print ads from July/August 2010, designed to build awareness of a media seminar hosted by MaxiMidia in Brazil. The tagline was: “Everything ages fast. Update.” Designed by São Paulo ad agency Moma. I had to share this with you… They go […]

The Way We Book Meetings Is Broken

There is something seriously wrong with the way we rent meeting space. Does anyone else notice it? Problem No. 1 We don’t care where we meet. Standard practice for an off-site meeting is to pick a city then ask the admin […]

275 Most Common Marketing And Communication Venues And Vehicles

When building your communications strategy – in trying to reach your customers and potential customers – it is critical to consider “where” these people are, and the best venue and vehicle with which to reach them. The following list includes over […]

The Person With The Best Imagination Wins

Einstein once said, “imagination is better than knowledge.” It is more important to see possibilities than to know the facts. Dan Roam, in his book Unfolding the Napkin, wrote: “Problems don’t get solved by the smartest or the fastest or the […]

Grains of Sandbox Wisdom

When speaking with students, or someone asking for career advice here are some grains of wisdome from the sandbox. Keep an Idea Journal Always have something with you to write down thoughts and ideas. Getting them out of your brain and […]

40 Slices of Wisdom

Sand for Your Inbox – April 2009 Today – April 23rd – is my birthday. I turn 40. I’m not telling you this because I’m fishing for “happy birthday” wishes, but to let you know the background for this Sand for […]

Managing To The Wrong Audience

“Wow, the store looks great!” I told the barista. “Yeah, they spent all day yesterday cleaning,” she said. “I hear the district manager and regional director are visiting. I wish we always kept it this clean! The order even came in […]

“TEN STEPS to Successful Brainstorming,” Circa 1957

I found these great brainstorming tips in the June 1957 issue of The Rotarian Magazine via Google Books. The original article was entitled: “Got A Problem? Brainstorm It!” by Lyman Judson. It is no surprise that what we read about in […]

Pay Attention To Re-Branding Details

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of thinking through the details of company projects and programs. As a leader, maybe you won’t won’t be the one getting your hands dirty in the details, but you have to at […]

New Year’s Resolution: ‘Comp Yourself’

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… […]

Making Meetings More Expensive, Might Make Them Cost Less

While I wouldn’t brand myself a meeting fairie, per se… Seth does a great job wrote today… What would happen if your organization hired a meeting fairie? The fairie’s job would be to ensure that meetings were short, efficient and effective. […]

Two Sides To A Story

I thought you’d find this interesting, maybe fascinating. Yesterday, I visited the Newseum – museum of news – in Washington DC (a great museum). In front, they feature the front page of a newspaper from each of the 50 states. You […]

Great Leaders Think Dirty Thoughts

As we climb the corporate ladder, we catch on that people on the lower rungs do the tactical, heavy work. Further up the ladder, they get to sit at desks and focus on strategy. So, we set our sights on the […]

A Day To Remark About

For those of you who were able to make it to today’s What’s Next DC Conference… Thank you for coming! I’m glad I was able to meet some of you, and wished I had the chance to meet more of you. […]

Pick Your Place, On Purpose

The most up to date list of locations can be found on the Places page within Brainstorming Tools section. You have to love when someone “makes your case” – that is – says or supports something you believe in as well. […]

Idea Sandbox: Think Tank – 20,000 Leagues Under DC

Happy Birthday Jules Verne! Thank goodness Jules pursued his passion for writing instead of law (for which he attended university). And, had a good publisher friend in Pierre-Jules Hetzel – who helped improve Verne’s writing. My impressions of Jules Verne have […]

Guaranteed ROI (Return On Ideas)

Why haven’t you hired Idea Sandbox to work with you yet? I’m assuming either… (a)You have a crack team of brainstormers and strategists in-house, and therefore don’t need to hire me. (b)You desperately want to hire me, but your office currently […]

Brainstorm Brief For Better Meetings

How would you like your brainstorm and strategy meetings to be more productive and efficient? I got to thinking… we use a Creative Brief to provide background and clearly outline deliverables surrounding design projects… There should be a Brainstorm Brief to […]

Brainstorming Studios: Redefining Meeting Space (Literally)

Our current options for great places to hold meetings are minute compared to the number of important out-of-office meetings we conduct. While there are a handful of creatively crafted locations in the United States, our overwhelming options are hotel meeting rooms […]

Innovation: The Seven People Who Need To Be Involved In Your Meetings

Meetings. We have too many of them. Many Most aren’t productive. They are a necessary evil. But they don’t necessarily have to be evil… There are all sorts of strategies when hosting meetings. If you keep them small, you’ll encounter less […]

Next Presentation, Take Your Audience On A Hero’s Journey

A worker ventures forth from their common cube, into the conference room and your wonderful presentation. They are in wonder as you share how they can defeat the challenges the company faces. A decisive victory is won. Now a hero, they […]

Powerful Sentence Starter: “So That…”

Do you describe the value your products and services provide for your customers? Some of your customers may be interested in features. They want to compare yours to the competitor. Your camera has patented image-stabilization technology. Some may be interested in […]

Keeping Your Battery Charged

If you’re like me… being tired = becoming cranky (or is it ‘hangry?’) and low energy = low ideas. Avoid being tired and low energy with the collection of practical and realistic ways to help restore and maintain your energy level. […]

Idea Generation: Great Ideas Are Looking Up

Ever wonder why great ideas seem to pop into your head at the strangest (and sometimes inopportune) times? Like when you’re… falling asleep, in the shower, or exercising? It’s not a coincidence. These are times when your body is switched to […]

Creating Ideas: Think The Way You Think

Do you sometimes wish you had an easier way to organize or gather your thoughts? Ever been working on a presentation, proposal, or to-do list and didn’t know where to start or where you were going to go? A map would […]

New Year’s Resolution: Comp Yourself

The beginning of a new year is 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 […]

Your Elevator Pitch

Sand for Your Inbox February 2007 Ever sat next to a potential client or employer on an airplane flight and wished you had a quick pitch prepared? Ever been at a loss for the right words while riding the company elevator? […]

A Mazing Strategy

The challenge of a maze is to connect the START with the END without running into dead ends… having to retrace your path. The risk is low, making a maze an amusement. The challenge of managing projects is similar. You must […]

Regain Lost Time In Your Day: Result-Based Agenda

Sand for Your Inbox June 2007 Meetings, Meetings, Meetings… How often do you review your planner to see your week riddled with meetings and wonder when you’re going to get your own work done? What’s worse… So many end up a […]

Fail Intelligently

Sand for Your Inbox August 2007 Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. Instead of allowing these let-downs get you down, you can learn from them. Let me elaborate… It’s happened to us before, and it’ll […]

Bricks, Walls, Cathedral

Sand for Your Inbox September 2007 One method is to examine your problem from both narrower and broader perspectives… Is your problem a wall? Or is this problem really about smaller, contributing factors – the bricks. Or is it actually a […]

Be the Wrong Thing, In the Wrong Place

Sand for Your Inbox March 2007 Life often requires that we stand out from the crowd and get noticed… Perhaps by the boss, by someone you’re attracted to, by a new employer, or by potential clients… These are times when you […]

Guaranteed Great Reading List

Sand for Your Inbox April 2007 So…you wish you were more creative or a better problem solver? But aren’t sure where to get the information you need to improve? Today is your lucky day! The folks at the Idea Sandbox Institute […]

Idea Sandbox: Big Dig

Sand for Your Inbox March 2008 Suffering from idea block? Like writer’s block, you know your idea or solution is just below the surface… but you can’t quite dig it out. You need an idea shovel. Well, Idea Sandbox has help! […]

Get Yourself In Order with PRIORITIZER

Sand for Your Inbox April 2008 So, you’ve finally made a list of the projects, tasks and errands you need to accomplish… (nice work) However, your challenge now is knowing which items to accomplish first… your priorities! You’re not alone… Many […]

Five Tips to Beat Procrastination

Sand for Your Inbox July 2008 Ah, procrastination. I would have sent this e-newsletter sooner, but I did not get around to it. You see, I’ve been procrastinating. Do you have projects that seem to linger? Tasks that nomadically drift from […]

Unblocking Thinker’s Block

Sand for Your Inbox August 2008 Have you ever had “thinkers block?” It’s a problem similar to writer’s block, but instead of words, you’re stumped for ideas. In this scoop of Sand for Your Inbox, I offer you a technique to […]

Eleven Tips To Deserve That Promotion

Sand for Your Inbox September 2008 Receiving a job promotion is exciting, but adjusting your work-style for the new role and responsibilities can be a challenge. I provided an email with tips to a friend recently promoted from a manager to […]

How To Deal With Change

It is vexing, despite the fact that change constantly takes place in our lives, at times it can still throw us off-kilter? So what can we do to not let change get the best of us? The Facts NEVER: Change is […]

Making Decisions With A Coin Toss

While it may be a nice way to choose who gets the last cupcake or which side of the field your team starts on, the coin flip can seem like a pretty flimsy way to make important decisions. But, what do […]

Ideas Are Parasites

What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood… that sticks! […]

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson was a very remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped. At 5, began studying under his cousin’s tutor. At 9, studied Latin, Greek and French. At 14, studied classical literature and additional languages. At […]

Good Presentation Should Only Be Susceptible To Only One Interpretation

You may have already heard this story in a project management or team-building session. It is told today as several people blindfolded… each standing at a different part of (but not knowing it is) an elephant. From their micro perspective each […]

What Makes A Creative Director A Great Leader?

In speaking with a friend about the Creative Director role at their agency, we exchanged ideas about what makes a Creative Director. I made some notes for her and thought you’d like to see them… The ideas go beyond that of […]

Creativity Is More Practice Than Magic

As problem solvers our role is to support companies, clients, and customers by solving their business problems. We’re asked to help drive sales, increase traffic, and build community. These challenges, and others, are solved through our ability to combine ideas in […]

Tools To “Make Ideas Happen”

Return with renewed energy and to be more productive than ever. THE key to productivity is an organized approach* to getting things done. I have recently discovered one of the simplest systems: The Action Method developed by Behance. Their tagline says […]

Faux Goodness And EcoSploitation

“What a scam!” I thought, while drying off with the hotel towel. I reached over and read the card the hotel left in the basket among the soaps and mini-shampoo bottles. It explained how they care about our world and that […]

Circle Of Time Planner

Time management optimization… I’m always looking for different and effective ways to enhance time management. I’ve learned, better managing what you have to do frees you up for what you want to do. I’ve bumped into a novel approach to day […]

Now Is When You’re Waiting For

Many of us have been waiting for the right moment. The right moment to… ask the boss for a raise; find a job that’s more satisfying; pitch your new product idea; propose; start writing your book; launch your own blog; suggest […]

Food For Thought

You’re nearly ready for next week’s problem solving session… × Problem clearly defined and the objectives of the day outlined? Check. × Silly-Puddy, Play-Doh, and Slinkys? Check. × Flip charts, colored markers, Post-It notes? Check. But what about snacks, drinks, and […]

Better Brainstorming Mad Lib

Leonard Stern, the inventor of the “World’s Greatest Word Game” Mad Libs, passed away today at the age of 88. In his honor, I’ve created an “Better Brainstorming” Mad Lib. Mad Libs – as a creativity tool – always provided immediate […]

Brainstorming Isn’t Broken, Our Approach Is

I recently read a blog article that all but declared brainstorming broken and worthless. And, in the comments that followed, a few people disagreed… a few people agreed. One of the comments even explained ‘fifty years of research shows brainstorming kills […]

How To Be The Champion

As my high school history teacher Tom “Moto” Pile used to challenge we students: He used to goad… Do you have what it takes? Do you have MOX….ie?! Are you gonna suck it up, or are you too LA…zy!? You gotta […]

Champion Ideas: Built-In Beats Bought-In

You and your team – after a few meetings and many hours – have the plan all figured out. Excellent! Now, you just need to share it and get buy in from the other departments who will help carry it out. […]

Solving Problems: First Get Your Brand Bearings

At times, has your company or team ever felt lost at sea? I recently built an exercise for a company that was ready to grow… and while they had goals in mind – a destination – they weren’t sure where they […]

Get Your Brand Bearings

At times, has your company or team ever felt lost at sea? I recently built an exercise for a company that was ready to grow… and while they had goals in mind – a destination – they weren’t sure where they […]

11 Ways To Restate Problems to Get Better Solutions

When faced with a challenge or problem, one of the best first steps in solving – even before you start thinking up possible solutions – is to examine and restate the problem. As Morgan D. Jones writes in his book, The […]

Now Is The Time For All Good Brainstormers To Come To The Aid Of Their Country

Mom sent me this text message this morning… Paulie! The entire country needs your services! Our President called for a ‘brainstorming session’ regarding the budget crisis. Can you give him a call? Mom By ignoring Mom’s request, wouldn’t I be breaking […]

Brainstorming: Sponge Versus Sieve

One of the reasons we find brainstorming intimidating is that some people are better than others in squeezing ideas out of their heads. These people – while amazing because they seem to have magical powers and some conduit to divine inspiration […]

Innovation Report By Google

Google has just published “Think Quarterly” and the Q3’11 is their Innovation Issue. As the cover welcome note states… …We’ve curated big ideas from heads of industry, leading experts and our homegrown visionaries — all to help guide your own thinking. […]

QR Code = Quick Remarks In Secret Code

Instead of trying to sell you something with a QR code… I thought I’d use one to offer value. So, this QR offers tips for being more creative. We’re seeing QR Codes everywhere. While I try to test new technology when […]

10 Steps To Take Brainstorming From Good To Wicked Good

Sand for Your Inbox How many brainstorming sessions, filled with potentially brilliant ideas, have ended up as rolled up flip charts under someone’s desk? Taking ideas to the next step post-brainstorming can be a challenge. When I get near the end […]

Four Stages In The Vintage Creative Thought Process

When the German physiologist and physicist Hermann Helmholtz was seventy years old [in 1898], he was asked at his birthday party to analyze his thought processes. Later, Graham Wallas, in his [1926] book The Art of Thought, formulated Helmholtz’s ideas into […]

Curiosity Creates New Paths

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Creating Marketing Plans that Get Buy-In from Bosses and Create Buyers from Consumers

CrackerJack Marketers, John Moore and I, will be sharing secrets, tips, and techniques we’ve learned as retail marketers in creating the most effective marketing plans. Crafting a CrackerJack marketing plan isn’t easy. Your boss wants a plan that’s going to meet […]

Decision Making, Like A Fighter Pilot

When operating a company, to stay innovative requires constant observation of your industry, competition, and your own company. When you’re a fighter pilot, to stay alive requires constant observation of what is happening around you as well as with your own […]

Better Problem Solving With Framing

When you're looking to innovate, take advantage of an opportunity, or solve a problem... one of your first steps should be to define precisely or "frame" that opportunity or problem. Your frame is how you narrow and pinpoint what you choose [...]

NYC: It’s Different There

Seth Godin always has a great way of putting things. He says a lot in few words… I think that’s why so many people enjoy reading his stuff. As someone who lived in NYC for several years, I’ve found NYC is […]

11/11/11 11:11:11

What a great date and time for a launch event: 11/11/11. To be even fancier, and precise… schedule it at 11:11 am (and 11 seconds). You could launch at night at 11 pm, however, 11 pm is technically 23:00 not 11:00. […]

Difference Between Artistic & Creative Ability

Sometimes we confuse artistic ability with creativity. If I can’t paint or draw, I’m not creative. Artistic ability includes skills and talent to create fine works of art: painting, drawing, sculpting, musical composition, etc. Creativity ability is the skill and talent […]

Social Media Snake Oil

Social media tactics can be a valuable part of your word-of-mouth marketing strategy. But, they are not the cure-all! Leave it to Marketoonist genius Tom Fishburne to capture the problem in word and image. As Tom writes about his illustration this […]

Vindhek (Find Fence) Public Park Lost & Found

If you drop your gloves at a restaurant or the mall, they probably have a lost-and-found spot at the customer service or security desk. But, what do you do when you lose something in a public park? An innovative solution is […]

What Is A Problem?

A simple way to define the word ‘problem’ is: a situation that needs attention. Wikipedia authors describe one as “…any situation that invites resolution.” That’s a nice way to put it – ‘invites resolution.’ A lot of folks are afraid of […]

NORAD Tracking Santa – Live!

It is very exciting to be able to track Santa’s progress around the globe. As of this writing, he is making his rounds in Italy! The NORAD website ( allows you to watch Santa as he flies over different cities and […]

Achieve Goals + Resolutions With Bite-Sized Chunks

Have you ever tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle with 500 or 1,000 pieces? It takes a while… And, needs to be done in more than one sitting. One of the reasons we miss achieving goals, New Year’s resolutions, and business […]

Brainstorming = Finding Better Options

Your spouse asks you to stop by the grocery store and pick up a nice, ripe tomato for this evening’s dinner. You make your way to the produce department, to the bin of tomatoes. To your disappointment, there’s only one tomato […]

Magic Of Thinking Big

A few months ago a friend had asked for some tips about creativity. I put together the diagram you see below. [click image for much larger view] It includes bits-and-pieces I’ve picked up over the years… Including stuff from the book […]

Leap Year: How Are You Using Your Extra Day?

How often do we say “Geez, if I only had an extra day?” or “I wish I had a little more time.” This year we do! These 24 extra hours give us just over 27 more minutes each week than we […]

Illustrator Job Available

Shannon (my wife) and I are looking for an illustrator to create the drawings for a series of children’s books we’re writing. The series is called KeeKee’s Big Adventures. It is about our cat, KeeKee, who travels the world – seeking […]

3 People x 5 Ideas = 125 Ideas

Grade school arithmetic would lead you to believe when you have three (3) people in a room, each with five (5) ideas, you’ll have a total of 15 ideas. Luckily, brainstorming isn’t grade school arithmetic! There’s a bit of mathmatical magic that happens […]

Disney Brainstorming Method: Dreamer, Realist, and Spoiler

It is said, that film producer and innovator, Walt Disney used to think-up and refine ideas by breaking the process into three distinct chunks. The dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler (or critic). The Dreamer This stage was for fantasizing. Creating […]

The Sandbox Is Seven

In March 2005, Idea Sandbox launched as a company. Originally, the site and blog were geared toward building awareness and support for a brainstorming space I was looking to build in Seattle. The ideas for that space have transformed and matured […]

Lead Jade-Less Brainstorming Sessions

It is no surprise, there is more bad brainstorming than good. As someone who leads brainstorm sessions, you’re going to face jaded audiences. Folks with rock bottom expectations. In addition to the ideas and solutions generated during the meeting, the way […]

Innovation: Get Stand Out Ideas Approved By Showing How They Fit In

You have just completed two days of brainstorming. You have narrowed your ideas to the fewer, bigger, and better, and are eager to put them into action. Your next step is to share these ideas within your organization for approval to […]

Get Quality Ideas From a Quantity Of Options

You’re in your neighborhood bookstore looking for a title about “social media.” Do you immediately buy the first book you see, on the first shelf of the business section? Probably not. You visit a new restaurant for a tasty dinner, do […]

Taking Action: 8 Ways to Classify Ideas

A fair amount of writing about brainstorming emphasizes not judging ideas too soon. A plethora of criticism about brainstorming argues it isn’t critical enough. No matter how you think-up ideas, eventually they must prove themselves worthy of helping you meet your […]

Why (And How) to Develop Great Ideas

To help make an idea great, it has got to have a “why” attached to it (the justification) and a “how” to make it possible (the logistics). Sometimes, when brainstorming, people become attached to certain ideas. Or maybe there is an […]

Hitting Your Innovation Target With A Diagram

Compromise gets a bad rap in the United States. Departing with anything less than the biggest, the best, and the most reflects weakness. Yet, since most of us work in an environment where different people come from different backgrounds with differing […]

Drive Innovation: Suggest Ideas, Don’t Propose Them

How something is presented has an effect on how it is received. Rocket science!? No, it is common sense. Yet, we sometimes neglect the subtleties of presentation and persuasion… especially when we are excited about an idea or innovation. So many […]

Innovation Requires Both Ideas And Action

Ideas have been getting a bad rap lately. Some say the lack of innovation within organizations isn’t because of a lack of ideas, rather a lack of action. There are too many ideas and not enough implementors. But, ideas need champions […]

Delight Your Customers: Be a Sock-Knocker-Offer

Have you ever wished someone… Or perhaps someone has offered you the words of encouragement… “Knock their socks off!” It means to wow or amaze someone. To go beyond what is expected. The saying originates from boxing – when you bop […]

Three Ps For Better Leading: Pace, Process, Pulse

One of the characteristics of a great leader–no matter whether that leader is a person, a brand, or a company–is the ability to stay “tuned-in” to the needs of their audience. Is your audience still with you? Do they get where […]

Compartmentalize: Brainstorm Like a School Lunch Tray

Most brainstorm sessions start with the meeting lead proclaiming, “Okay guys… think out of the box and remember, there are no bad ideas!” We say “there are no bad ideas” before we brainstorm the same way we say “bless you” after someone […]

Keep Moving Forward: Five Tips To Turn Defeat Into Victory

Lewis, the child inventor, waited while his invention warmed up. It was a peanut butter and jelly dispenser, designed to portion evenly onto bread. The switch clicked ON, followed by a hiss of compressed air. At first it didn’t seem like […]

Cupful of QR Genius From Guinness

Some years ago, I enthusiastically reported on the optical illusion coasters created by BBDO New York for Guinness brand beer. They were a low-tech way to create conversation and engagement with the product. Here we are again with a product-activated higher-tech […]

Marketing Offers Can’t Feel Selfish

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 […]

The One Question You Need To Solve Business Challenges

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. […]

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

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 […]

Want Better Meetings? Try Taking Them OFFSITE

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 […]

Tips To Be More Creative And Better At Problem Solving

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 […]

The Marketing Power of a Simple T-Shirt

by Shannon Jones This weekend I was reminded of the power of a simple, inexpensive and easy marketing tool … the t-shirt. At last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon, we visited Willamette Valley Vineyards. Willamette is the name of Oregon’s […]

Yoga Unites: lululemon Defining Local Relevance

This Election Day, the Washington, DC area yoga community is offering complimentary yoga classes all day long…50 studios across DC, Virginia and Maryland all with free classes. The headline on local signage reads…”on a day of great divide, yoga unites. Election […]

Get Your Video To Go Viral, With Buyral

John St., an advertising agency out of Canada, has a new service: Buyral. The tool that guarantees your video to go viral. With Buyral you don’t have to hope for thousands of views, it can guarantee millions. When it comes to […]

Your Words Matter 

Flowers are one of the most important elements in a wedding. With less than five months until my big day, I’ve been scrambling to book the last remaining vendors on my list. After receiving recommendations from friends and review sites online, I […]

Innovation Is A Phenomenon, Not A Strategy

Innovation isn’t something you do; it is something that happens – a result. To be “innovative”, you have to focus on the things that create that result, not the result itself. We can’t directly control what is considered innovative no more […]

Jeep "Sandbox" Have Fun Out There TV Spot

I couldn’t resist posting this TV ad from Jeep… Part of their “Have fun out there” campaign. And you can see… what’s more fun than playing in a sandbox? (I can tell you, nothing is better than that!) Their vehicles are […]

A "Complete Sentence" Creates A Complete Strategy

To obtain the best results from our marketing plans, we need to make sure our approach is well-thought and complete. This is especially true of trending marketing tactics, (i.e., social media and discount coupon sites).

 We feel pressure to use these […]

Global Virtual Tasting Creates Chilean Wine Brand Ambassadors

Last Wednesday I participated in the Wines of Chile Blogger Tasting: A Chilean Terroir Master Class, a virtual tasting sponsored by Wines of Chile and organized by their agency, the thomas collective. This genius marketing event was a two hour virtual event […]

Are Logos Important?

POINT: Paul Williams A logo serves as a visual shortcut for your company and brand. In the olden days – before common people could read – shop keepers hung icons outside their storefronts. A shoe was a cobbler. The butcher had […]

Top 12 from 12: Most Popular Idea Sandbox Posts from 2012

Interesting to see which posts you found most helpful in 2012. While lots of old posts are being viewed – these are the articles most viewed in 2012. Happy New Year! 1) Tips To Be More Creative and a Better at […]

Can a Brand be Built without a Large Budget?

POINT: Paul Williams Yes. And brands with big budgets can fail. But what’s considered large, anyhow? Dunkin’ Donuts will spend more to launch a single product than what Starbucks allocates for their total annual marketing budget. Large is in the eye […]

Why is a Brand Style Guide Important?

POINT: John Moore A Brand Style Guide is important for businesses of all sizes. It’s a must have when working with outside vendors and with departments inside a company to ensure everyone is using the company’s logo in a consistent and […]

What are Key Components to Include in a Brand Style Guide?

POINT: Paul Williams There are two types of information that may be included in a Brand Style Guide. I’m going to refer to the entire package of tools as Brand Identity & Standards Guide. The first type of information has to […]

Starbucks Blonde Coffee

Starbucks: Trying To Be All Things, To All People

I saw this ad today on Facebook, for Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee. *sigh* In addition to being awkward to order: “I’d like a tall blonde with whip, please.” It isn’t helping Starbucks be remarkable, or stand out… It is causing them […]

Brainstorm Ideas

Ideas Are As Fragile As The Backbones Behind Them

This cartoon by amazing marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne and my headline – a quote from Jason Fox @LeeClowsBeard sums up why many companies are failing at innovation. It is amazing to see the solutions teams think-up in brainstorming/strategy sessions. The team […]

Get Sales-Driving Super Powers At

What do you do when you need the advice a professional marketer offers, but can’t afford professional marketer prices? We know how you feel… Your sales floor could be busier. Your dining room isn’t full. You know you need marketing activities to […]

How Rigid Should A Brand Style Guide Be?

POINT: John Moore A Brand Style Guide is essentially a internal communication compass. It provides guidance on how a business should communicate the Identity, Personality, and Authenticity of a brand. The rigidness to which a business should follow its communication compass […]

Your Brand Style Guide is Built, Now What?

POINT: Paul Williams Nice work, you’ve put together all of your core identity and branding information in one spot! Now what? Think of your Brand Style Guide tools as you would any on-going core program of your company. These are the […]

What Matters Most to Consumers: Brand, Price, Convenience, or Something Else?

POINT: John Moore How someone feels about a business is important. The price someone pays for what they receive is also important. And how “easy” a business is to do business is important. Brand, price, and convenience are all important to […]

5 Great WordPress Theme Sites For Your Website

Gone are the days where you have to pay a designer each time you wish to update your website. And, WordPress (the free content management system) is so easy to use with easy to install themes… you may not need a […]

Why Does Big Mean Bad? And Can It Be Avoided?

It’s a phenomenon and seems inevitable. The story plays over and over. A small business is built, grows with wild success, and then loses its tarnish. Every big business we consider bad was once a Mom and Pop. When I mean […]

Beef Up Your Brand To Drive Sales

"How do we increase traffic and drive sales?" A client of ours is a burger joint with locations across the US. They make outrageously delicious burgers. Not just tasty beef burgers, but also an amazing turkey burger and one of the […]

5 Clever Business Lessons From The Sport Of Orienteering

Ever heard of Orienteering? Orienteering is an outdoor sport where you have to figure out where to go based on figuring out where you are. Running a business in today is a lot like Orienteering. I figure there are Orienteering lessons […]

Does the Personality of a Brand Need to Be Reflective in All Marketing Activities?

POINT: Paul Williams A brand, doing its job well, shows personality in all it does, not just marketing. The way they greet customers. The wording on their packaging. The way they answer the phone. All should show that personality. Problems arise […]

Does a Company’s Mission Statement Play a Role in Marketing the Brand?

POINT: John Moore The true purpose of a mission statement is to help a company make appropriate business decisions. It’s a decision-making compass for a business and not a marketing blueprint.

How Can Business Operations Support the Brand Promise?

POINT: John Moore To me, a “brand promise” is what customers expect to experience with a business. Anytime a business delivers something different, it breaks its “brand promise” with customers.

Do all Marketing Activities need a Strong Call to Action?

POINT: Paul Williams Call now! Click now to sign-up! Subscribe today! Each of these is a call to action. We marketers put ’em everywhere. The call to action is the punctuation at the end of our advertising message sentence. Dear Customer, […]

Do Brands Need to Be Marketed Differently Depending on Its Life Stage?

POINT: Paul Williams As we were taught in our marketing and business classes, there are four basic stages of life for products, services, and companies. I love the graph below – redrawn from the book Universal Principles of Design by Rockport […]

The Path To Amazing Runs Through Not-Yet-Amazing

“If you set your bar at “amazing,” it’s awfully difficult to start…” today writes Seth Godin. He continues… Confronted with the gap between your vision of perfect and the reality of what you’ve created, the easiest path is no path. Shrug. […]

What Role Do Promotions Play in Effective Marketing?

POINT: John Moore Absolutely everything. For marketing to be effective, that is making the cash register ring, a business must promote its products and services.

Action Speaks Louder Than Meetings

Thanks, Lee Clow’s Beard – @LeeClowsBeard

How Should a Retail Brand Best Use Social Media?

POINT: Paul Williams First, it is most important to remember that social media tools are tactics that support a word of mouth marketing strategy. So much excitement lately, how easily companies and customers can directly connect to each other, we forget […]

Understanding Your Participants – Kid’s Special Entry

The Imaginarium is a children’s retail store located around the world. The Toys-R-Us for the rest of the world. The photo below is from their location in Barcelona, Spain. [fancy_images width=”581″ height=”401″][image title=”Imaginarium Entry” alt=””][/image][/fancy_images] [click for larger view] This entrance […]

How Connected Should Your PR Activities Be To Marketing Activities?

POINT: John Moore Public Relations plays a role in marketing efforts as it relates to awareness, influence, and credibility. Let’s be clear, for the most part, retail brands view Public Relations as Media Relations. Brands seek to use traditional media (print, […]

What Do Effective In-Store Marketing Campaigns Look Like?

POINT: John Moore Wow! That’s a meaty question. Let’s simplify this and focus on the importance of communicating to two audiences to make a retail marketing promotion successful. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my retail marketing days at […]

Don’t Manage Like a Stooge, Look Before You Leap

We are all in a hurry with our businesses. We all want results immediately. Because of this, we often act immediately without taking the time to think-up alternate ideas or think thru the implications of what are about to do. Something […]

How Can a Marketer Design and Implement a Great In-Store Marketing Program when Operations Demand a Clutter-Free Store?

POINT: Paul Williams The secret to clutter-free in-store programs is discipline. The discipline to say No. As a marketer at Starbucks we were responsible for building in-store programs. Our first step was to take a look at the inventory of products […]

How Valuable are Loyalty Programs? What’s Needed to Make them Successful?

POINT: Paul Williams “It’s not about customers being loyal to you. It’s about you being loyal to customers. You earn loyalty by giving it.”

I love that quote from from “Managing the Customer Experience”

“Converge” Virtual Book Tour Concludes Today!

Today’s the final day of the virtual book tour for Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology by Bob Lord and Ray Velez. On Monday… Ray Velez expanded upon the major themes from the book over at Scott […]

What Is Your Competition Doing?

Do you know how well your business compares to your competition? More specifically, when it comes to how well you deliver Customer Service and Product & Service Offerings; how comparatively innovative you are? Also, beyond your competition, how do you compare […]

New Seasons Market, The Best Fine Print… Ever!

Once in a while you come across a business that “gets it.” They just get how to make their customers happy. They cut through the red tape and bullroar because it just makes sense to put people first. A remarkable example […]

7 Steps To Build Your Annual Plan Like A Pro

It is the time of year again when we start thinking about next year… The plans, programs, and activities that will allow us to meet and exceed our 2016 goals. We at Idea Sandbox like to approach nearly any type of […]

Barilla Brand Blunder?

The chairman of Barilla Italian food company, Guido Barilla, was interviewed on Italian radio this week. He is being criticized for making anti-gay comments during the interview. The quote zipping around the internet is that he said his company: “would never […]

How To Be Cooler Than Your Competition

Alexander Calderwood, co-foudner of the Ace Hotel, was interviewed in the ’10 issue of Entrepreneur magazine. In addition to an interesting article, reporter Jennifer Wang summarized Calderwood’s philosophy on how to be cooler than the competition. Three years later the Ace is just […]

Is Sampling (or Demonstrations) the Best Way to Drive Trial of a New Product?

POINT: John Moore “Give, and you shall receive.” It’s an old and overused proverb. And for good reason… it works. The more kindness we give others, the more kindness we receive. The more knowledge we share with others, the more knowledge […]

How Marketing Affects Pricing

POINT: Paul Williams In many organizations, we marketers don’t play a role in setting pricing. That is determined by the product, sales, or finance teams.

“The Passion Conversation” Podcast “with” John Moore

Today is the day John Moore, author of The Passion Conversation, was supposed to record an audio podcast for Idea Sandbox. After going back and forth on timing we finally booked an hour to talk. But, John couldn’t “make the call.” […]

Forget The Extra Mile, Just Go The Extra Steps

Sand for Your Inbox July 2013 We want great experiences from those with whom we do business. Our customers want the same from us. However, sometimes our focus on “going the extra mile” for our customers causes us to neglect the […]

We Miss Local Store Marketing, Starbucks

Dear Starbucks, You know I love you. We’ve had loads of great times together. We’ve learned a lot and helped each other out in good and bad times. As a friend, I have to be honest with you. I know you […]

50 Ways To Differentiate Your Brand

The following article is so good… I had to copy/paste it to share with you. In fact, it was shared with us by John Moore from Brand Autopsy. It is by Derrick Day and co-authored by The Blake Project’s Mark Di […]

Looking for a Present for a Five Year Old?

This article is a shameless plug for the picture book series KeeKee’s Big Adventures. Hot off the printing press – just this month – KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Rome, Italy the children’s picture book featuring KeeKee, who travels the world in […]

Go Beyond Customer Rewards, Create Loyalty

Sand for Your Inbox December 2013 We all want our customers to return to us. In a moment of choice, we hope they would choose us again over a competitor. That they’ll be loyal to us. Google will provide you with […]

Top Posts of 2013

Happy New Year! As we look forward to creating new content in 2014, it’s fun and helpful to look back and see which posts from 2013 you found most interesting. Check out the top 8 most-read posts below! 1. Branding vs. […]

How does the Price of a Product Affect the Marketing Plan for the Product?

POINT: John Moore The price of a product doesn’t necessarily affect its marketing plan. Objectives still need to be set. Strategies must be identified. Tactics need to be developed. Constraints (budget & timing) must be listed. None of that changes with […]

“What Great Brands Do” Virtual Book Tour

Today is Day 2 of the virtual book tour featuring What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Lee Yohn. Author and Customer Loyalty expert Jackie Huba kicked the tour off on […]


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They’re Your Words, Choose Them

You’ve seen the signs: ABSOLUTELY NO CREDIT CARDS. NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR STOLEN ITEMS. BATHROOMS FOR PATRONS ONLY. Guess what? There’s no legal requirement that signs have to make you sound like a harsh jerk in order to carry weight […]

12 Tips For Successful In-Store Events

No matter what you call them… your customers, clients, consumers or participants – they are all Guests when they visit your location. Being a great host to those visiting your location is no different from entertaining friends and neighbors at your […]

Creative Problem Solving To Be Innovative

Whenever we have a challenge – a client problem, trying to generate a new idea, developing strategy – we rely on the key steps below to solve our problem, creatively. We use this creative problem-solving process to create ideas that we […]

business growth ideas

More Scoops of Business Growth Ideas on Tidbitts

We are proud to be contributing to the new “direct to fan” platform, Tidbitts. They’ve pulled together a wide variety of expert contributors who provide a weekly bite-sized chunk of interesting content. Idea Sandbox is providing innovative business growth ideas exclusive […]

Getting Innovation Done, Being The Champion

Bringing to life programs and ideas that create innovation often requires persuasion. New ideas can be perceived as risky, dangerous, and create the “unknown.” Seth Godin, offers a recommendation to help get the lever pulled that helps to create the change […]

“Comp Yourself” in 2015

Happy New Year! It’s resolution season. How do you avoid the let-down of resolutions earnestly created in January that may not last until February? Instead of setting resolutions, I recommend a simple life philosophy that will stick. Comp Yourself. That’s it. […]

Push Ideas For Better Creative Thinking

A sponsored link from Starbucks Frappuccino appeared in my Facebook feed this morning. It announces a new Frappuccino flavor, S’mores. I won’t debate the choice of flavor. I understand the challenge the Starbucks beverage team has, trying to comp their numbers year over […]

It Pays To Be Different

Differentiation. *Bleck* Differentiation has become one of those marketing buzz words we hear too often. So frequently, the term seems to have lost its meaning. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental concept. I prefer the term “remarkability.” Doing the things that cause people to […]

Creative, Elegant Temporary Solutions To Problems

There is construction taking place at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and a small leak has developed in the roof. They’ve put a plant in place to catch the leak. Not a mop bucket or 50-gallon trash can. You almost wouldn’t notice […]

Starbucks App Is Slick, But Reduces Customers To Transactions

It is an ultimate convenience that you can pre-order Starbucks from your phone. Tap your order into your phone, walk in and pick up your beverage. It is paid for and you skip the line. To some operators, I’ll bet this […]

Meetings Don’t Bore People…

We blame our meetings for lack of innovation and progress in our companies. It has been declared “brainstorming doesn’t work!” We spend our days sitting, wasting time, energy, and money in boring… tan… artifically-lit conference rooms. Accomplishing? Nothing. But, here’s the […]

Do First Things First

Where to start, huh? No matter what system you use to plan your activities – paper or digital – sometimes it can be difficult to determine what to do first. Especially since *all* of it is important, right? I’ve tried lots […]

Attention To Detail

You’re looking at an interior detail from the pop-up (i.e. temporary) Museum of Ice Cream located in the Meatpacking District in New York City. Not only is their lighting made to look like upside-down ice cream cones… But, the walls are […]

Arrive With A Solution

While you may feel like a smarty-pants worker to be the first to discover and inform your boss of a problem, don’t alert them without also being able to offer a potential solution. Anyone can point out problems. Finding something broken […]

Make Your Plans Bulletproof

This week at work, bulletproof your ideas. If you’ve got a new idea, a plan, a program; find people you trust who can poke holes in it for you. Not someone who is going to agree with you, nor someone who […]

Avoid Problems By Preventing Them

An excellent way to solve problems is by not letting them happen in the first place, through prevention. Prevention is why we bring our cars in for maintenance, visit our doctor for an annual exam, and have a mid-year check-in with […]

Making Better Decisions: The Better Of Many Greats

When it comes to the big choices we make – which house to live in, which job to take, which baby name to pick – you never want to be forced to choose “the lesser two evils.” To be forced to […]

Don’t Blame The Boomerang When It Doesn’t Return

When I was six or seven years old, my grandfather took a trip to Australia and brought me back a boomerang. While I thought it was the coolest thing, no matter how much I practiced throwing it, it would never come […]

To Be Creative, Keep Feeding Your Mind

To be and stay creative, keep feeding your mind new ideas and information. Try new things. Visit new places; different parts of the world. Take a different route home from work. Learn a new language. Read Wikipedia entries about topics you […]

Creativity & Magic Secrets Revealed

We view those blessed with the gift of creativity with awe. Their imaginative ideas and creative problem solving skills surprise us – the way a good magician works. How did he do that? We’re left amazed and ooo-ing and ahh-ing. Creative? […]

How To Use: “The Magic of Thinking Big”

The Magic Of Thinking Big by Dr. David Schwartz inspired me so much… I have to share parts of it with you. The slides below include lessons found throughout the book. In short, the book teaches: The size of your success […]