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 […]