July 2015

How To Be The Champion

2015-06-30T16:28:33-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

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 have GUMP…shun! You gotta want it!

In re-telling, he sounds mean. But, it was actually good, tough love.

Wheaties Box

Moto taught history class the same way he coached his winning baseball teams at Edwardsville High School… With energy, moxie, and pushing students further than they knew they could. Moto knew some of us had it in us.

These were some of my early lessons about being a champion. Not just a “winner” kind of champion, but someone who champions projects, ideas, and their own lives.

I’m then reminded of the more recent lessons shared with us by Seth Godin in his book “Free Prize Inside.”

Seth says the same stuff. “It is up to you!” he writes as he introduces the section of the book on becoming a champion. On the cover of the book Seth wrote, “Make Something Happen.”

If you read between the lines, what Moto and Seth are saying is that we can be the 1% who does care and who can make a difference.

Many find twisted satisfaction in griping. Having something to bellyache about is a pastime… It’s what helps to fill a 40-hour workweek.

We love to rail… “They don’t know what they’re doing. How they’re mucking it up again. How this meeting is another waste of time.”

WE are the THEY.

No, it is not easy. Perhaps the task is “out of your pay grade.” And, yes, it would be simpler to just do your job and hope to a) quit, b) get fired, or c) transfer to a place where you don’t have to deal with what’s broken.

The beauty is, not everyone has the moxie to be a champion. To suck it up and have the gumption to make a change.

Seizing opportunities like these are the training camps for leaders.

Once you’ve set your sights on a project to champion, Seth recommends leveraging three key aspects… a fulcrum ensuring it is doable, worth doing, and can be done by me.

Is it going to be successful? While it may be nearly impossible to predict, Seth writes… “Proceeding with confidence and as more than a wild notion, you’re far more likely to get the support you need.”

Worth Doing?
Being a champion means “figuring out who wants what – and then playing it back to them.” And look for those small pockets of power within your organization.

By Me?
Am I able to champion the project? Perhaps you know you can… But sometimes others may not perceive you as such. Seth suggests building your reputation as a champion with small, easy-win tasks. Gradually increase the size and importance as others gain confidence.

While I can’t recall what Moto taught me about the details of the Civil War battle of Chancellorville… I do remember what it means to be a champion.

So… I ask you… do YOU have what it takes? Do you have MOX…ie?!

May 2015

The Five Stages Of Idea Acceptance

2015-05-26T18:11:59-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

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.” These phrases reflect the lack of acceptance of something new or different.

We’re all aware of these killer phrases, the killjoy of innovation. People, armed with phrases, jab with…

  • It’ll never work…
  • The only problem with that is…
  • In this economy?
  • Oh yeah, we tried that in ’98… didn’t work.
  • You’re kidding, right?
  • ______________________ ← your favorite here!

Chic points out that killer phrases “are as inevitable in the innovation process as ideas themselves.”

He adds, “psychologists have said that the human reaction to a new idea unfolds something like this, which we could call the Five Stages Of Idea Acceptance.” I’ve turned this list into a handy graphic suitable for framing.

The door-lock analogy is pretty accurate… You can have four of the five locks open, but the door is still closed until all five are unlatched.


By knowing the stages you can either:
(a) have already figured out how to…

  • make it relevant
  • prove it
  • make it safe, and
  • show it is saleable

…when you present it. Or at least:
(b) be aware each of these need to be unlocked as you champion the idea.

Happy locksmithing!

December 2014

Getting Innovation Done, Being The Champion

2014-12-12T13:54:54-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

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 you’re looking for.

Below is what Seth shared:

Goals, Strategy and Tactics for Change

The Goal: Who are you trying to change? What observable actions will let you know you’ve succeeded?

The Strategy: What are the emotions you can amplify, the connections you can make that will cause someone to do something they’ve hesitated to do in the past (change)? The strategy isn’t the point, it’s the lever that helps you cause the change you seek.

The Tactics: What are the actions you take that cause the strategy to work? What are the events and interactions that, when taken together, comprise your strategy?

An example:

Our goal is to change good donors to our cause into really generous donors. Our strategy is to establish a standard for big gifts, to make it something that our good donors aspire to because it feels normal for someone like them. And today’s tactic is hosting an industry dinner that will pair some of our best donors with those that might be open to moving up.

If you merely ask someone to help you with a tactic in isolation, it’s likely you won’t get the support you need. But if you can find out if you share a goal with someone, then can explain how your strategy can make it likely that you’ll achieve that goal, working together on a tactic that supports that strategy is an obvious thing to do.

And it certainly opens the door to a useful conversation about whether your goal is useful, your strategy is appropriate and your tactic is coherent and likely to cause the change you seek.

A tactic might feel fun, or the next thing to do, or a lot like what your competition is doing. But a tactic by itself is nothing much worth doing. If it supports a strategy, a longer-term plan that builds on itself and generates leverage, that’s far more powerful. But a strategy without a goal is wasted.

Great advice, as always, Seth!

January 2013

Ideas Are As Fragile As The Backbones Behind Them

2013-01-28T10:11:53-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , |

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 arrived at the meeting space bright and early with doubt and challenges.
After a long – at times stressful – day of working the brain, our meeting comes to a close… Our results look like the illustration. Loads of ideas…and good ones too! There are at least 10 solutions on the board that will literally transform the company they were thought up for. (And we only needed one!)

The day concludes with confidence and solutions!

But then… this odd thing happens… sometime between wrapping up the meeting and showing up for work the next day. Just as Tom has depicted, ideas get trash talked when we’re back at our desks. Innovative ideas get quashed.

But why?

Do doubts set in? Was it groupthink that caused the strategy team to be so excited? Were people pretending they liked the ideas just to make the day go smoother? Are they afraid to be the ones to suggest change and “rock the boat?”

New ideas can be scary. New ideas – especially innovative ones – mean you’ll be doing somethings differently at your company. This makes people nervous. Especially those who were not in the strategy session to see how all this proposed fancy change came about!

Is my role changing? I’m good at what I currently do? If we do it that way, does that mean my job goes away? This new idea is much better than the way I’m doing it now? Will this make me redundant?

Employee concern for job security and the status quo (driven by poor leadership support) is what kills 98% of potential innovation at our organizations. This is where the quote/headline comes into play…

Champions Needed

Idea are indeed only as fragile as the backbones behind them.

When we strategize with clients we enforce a “Be The Champion” stage in the process. We acknowledge the fear and how others may perceive risk. Change can be scary. Change is a big deal. Some companies have entire change management divisions. Other companies embrace change as part of their culture and success formula.

Champions are idea advocates, ambassadors, promoters supporters, defenders, backers and crusaders!

Be the backbone for ideas! Supporting them until they have the strength to stand on their own.

Sign-up to receive Marketoonist each week, Tom’s brilliant marketing cartoons delivered right to your inbox.

December 2012

Innovation Is A Phenomenon, Not A Strategy

2017-08-21T16:16:17-04:00 Categories: create, Innovation, Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , |

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 than a director can guarantee their movie will be Oscar Award-winning or an ad agency can get their video to go viral. But, we can do the things that typically lead to winning an Oscar or going viral. A great script, a great cast, great directing, great cinematography, an amazing score, great effects, clever editing, remarkability, etc.

So is it with innovation. If we stop focusing on the result, we can focus on the things that go into “being” innovative and make sure we get them right.

So, what are these things? They are what I call the practical steps to innovation. A flow and process that will make sure you’re doing the things that lead to developing innovations.

Monitor → Notice → Define → Generate → Decide →
Plan → Champion → Implement → Monitor (again)
This process is a chain. An assembly line, where the output of one process is sent to the next… The reason many companies fail at being innovative is because they’re either skipping a step or doing a poor job one of the process stages. And we know any chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The Steps


Keeping an eye on your business horizon. Continually monitor your company, the competition, your industry, and related industries. Consumer insights, trend reports, industry overseas. All this is your raw data.

Notice Situation

You don’t monitor only for the sake of monitoring. Try to spot changes, shifts, indicators, and emerging trends. News of relevant upcoming technology or report of a change in consumer preferences should get you excited and alert. This is making meaning of all the data.

Define Objectives

When you notice a change, problem or opportunity, you should put it in perspective of what it means to you.

Generate Ideas

Using the objectives defined above, pick existing solutions or generate new ideas to meet the goals.

Decide On Solution

Hopefully, you’ve got at least three options generated above. Choose which best satisfies the objective.

Craft Your Plan

Write down the milestones, actions, and tasks as well as the leads and budgets needed to successfully carry out the solution.

Be the Champion

“Ideas are only as fragile the backbone behind them.” You’ve got to create a culture where different and novel isn’t considered scary or too risky. (Else your big ideas get whittled down to wimpy improvements). You’ve got to guide these innovative ideas through to funding, support, and implementation.


I know it sounds obvious… but this is doing it. And, doing it properly. Implementing is also about sticking with a project or program and seeing it through. Don’t let the lack of patience be misinterpreted as lack of success. Too often, we don’t see an overnight result and declare it a failure.

Monitor (again)

Now that you’ve got a program going, you need to add it to the things you’re tracking. Sometimes you’ll notice you need to course correct. That’s great – monitoring will allow you to make those minor adjustments versus sitting back and finding out that you’re not successful, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

To Put Too Fine A Point On It

These ideas need to go beyond creating an improvement – that is simply making something better. They need to be different. They also need to be more than invention – simply creating something. Innovation is better and novel. Innovation is remarkable – literally worth being remarked about.

By following each step you: see changes as they come proactively move to action; build and implement a plan around an idea that is different, better, novel and remarkable.

While declaring something an innovation is ultimately up to the audience, in using this flow, you will have performed all the right steps to generate the right conditions to create an innovation.

May 2012

Innovation Requires Both Ideas And Action

2014-08-24T15:46:35-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, think|Tags: , , , , , |

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 to implement them. Just the same way seeds need farmers.

A popular recommendation is: Stop generating ideas and start taking action. Stop the brainstorming and get to work. To return to my farm comparison, that would be like declaring:

Since crop production (innovation) is down
we need more farmers (execution)
and fewer seeds (ideas).

But that doesn’t work. We’d end up with a bunch of hungry farmers standing in cropless fields.

Fact is, we need both.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the pair. One can’t get along without the other.

We ‘get’ that a seed isn’t a plant. We should understand an idea isn’t a plan. Seed (and ideas) take time, patience, pruning, and weeding to bear fruit.

And, brainstorming is for more than idea generation; it is also a solution-finding process. We meet for more than creating ideas; brainstorming and strategy sessions help us choose the right idea to properly solve the problem or grow the business. Which seed is right for the soil you have? For the amount of water you have access to? What is right for the crop you want to produce?

Next time you run into someone bashing ideas and strictly touting action… Remember, it isn’t one or the other. To be innovative, we need to be good at both idea generation and idea execution.

This article was originally published on the MarketingProf’s DailyFix blog.

April 2012

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

2012-04-24T22:23:14-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , , , |

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 move forward.

While implementation of these ideas may give your company a competitive advantage – position you as the first or the only – they also may be perceived as too scary and risky for leadership. They may end up whittled down to something boring—or perhaps not implemented at all.

A method to reduce perceived fear and risk is to demonstrate how ideas are safe and how they fit in.

Literary Genius

Very often, when you read the description of a new book, the lead-in will start with the following phrases:

  • “Not since …”
  • “In the tradition of …”

These lead-ins are crafted to help us quickly “get” what a new, different book is about by comparing it to something we already know.

“Not since Good To Great by Jim Collins has a book …” lets buyers know this will be like the best selling Good To Great. If you like Jim Collins, you’ll probably like this new book.

“In the tradition of Tom Peters…” lets you know this book will offer a bold Tom Peters-like leadership message.

If this works to help us quickly understand how this new book is like a old book I like or respect… Why can’t we apply this concept to risky ideas? Let people know this new idea is like the old idea we like or respect.

Here are two examples…

(1) “The first time…” becomes “Not since…” – Instead of focusing on the fact that this is the first time your company is trying something, indicate how the idea is similar to some other well-known successful idea. “Not since we over-hauled the training system three years ago have we had an idea that adds so much efficiency and user-interaction.”

(2) If leadership is afraid to be “the only” company trying something, reframe it as “In the tradition of… – This allow focus on how the idea is similar to something you’re already doing, or a successful idea from outside your company. “In the tradition of high-service hotels, we are going to increase our level of service in all sectors…”

As you champion great ideas, emphasize how and where they fit into what you’re already doing. While it seems counter-intuitive, demonstrating how your ideas actually fit in may be the secret to getting you to stand out.

The book description practice is was pointed out by literary agent Raif Sagalyn and described to me by Todd Sattersten, author of 100 Best Business Books. This article was originally published on the MarketingProfs DailyFix blog.

March 2012

Lead Jade-Less Brainstorming Sessions

2014-08-24T15:47:25-04:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: |

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 you conclude a session plays a huge part in how people feel about the overall effectiveness of the meeting.

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years…

1) Manage expectations.

Let people know ahead of time how much you’ll achieve during the meeting. Let ’em know you won’t probably end with the plan. (Unless your session is about building a plan, of course). 99% of the time I’ve found even the best ideas often need to be budgeted and/or researched before they can be implemented.

With that said…

2) Get as close as possible to a plan.

Drive momentum. Assign tasks. Make sure your session output is delegated. So many great ideas go to waste when “next steps” are not determined and assigned.

3) Provide an Audio Tour.

End with a verbal recap of the day. At the end of a long strategy session people will be exhausted. They’ll have highs and lows. It will feel like there are loose ends. Play tour guide… In two minutes… recap where you started, what challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and the great results the team created. This is a great way to let everyone know all parts of the day had purpose.

4) Great ideas need champions.

New ideas are delicate and vulnerable. What feels tall and strong during a brainstorming session may look scary and risky back at the office. As a sapling needs nurturing to grow into a mighty tree, so too your ideas need a champion to support them until they’re well rooted.

5) Write a recap.

You can’t count on the team to automatically “get” what you accomplished in your brainstorm session. Brainstorming is like making sausage… While the end product may be tasty, the making is quite messy and not pretty to look at.

You may need to remind people how much was accomplished. Share the big ideas. As with the Audio Tour above, this time in writing provide an account of the original objective, the steps you took to create solutions, what those brilliant solutions are, and how they address the original objective.

6) Congratulate success!

In such a hurry to move on to the next meeting, sometimes we forget to pause and celebrate when we do great work.

You may need to cajole the group into pausing and get them to pat themselves on the back and celebrate the great work.

Hope you find these inside tips helpful. Do let me know how they work for you… and what other ideas you have.

January 2011

May 2010