June 2013

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.

May 2011

Tools To “Make Ideas Happen”

2017-08-19T15:44:55-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

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 it all…

Make Ideas Happen

Behance breaks it down into three bite-sized chunks:

  • Action Steps – the things to do, to get things done,
  • Backburner Items – future action steps, or non-urgent things to remember, and
  • Reference Items.

Here is how Behance explains the Action Method:

ACTION STEPS are tasks that need to be completed.

BACKBURNERS are the brilliant ideas that you want to come back to later but are not yet actionable.

The outcome of every idea or interaction must be captured and transformed into action steps, backburner items, and reference items.

1) Capture Action Steps, Relentlessly

During a brainstorm, meeting, or on the run, ideas arrive in a flurry of other activity and can be lost unless they are captured and transformed into action steps. Action Steps are tasks to be completed. Each action step should start with a verb (i.e.: follow up with x, review y, meet with z).

2) Tend to Your Backburner

Keep a “backburner” to catch ideas that may someday require actions, or just to clear your mind of the little and non-urgent things. Preserve your creative energy and focus on action steps!

3) File Reference Items, Sparingly

REFERENCES are notes, links, files, sketches – any information related to a project that gives context to your Action Steps. Keep only the notes, articles, and sketches that you need. Avoid clutter.
Behance has developed a line of tools to help you be more organized.

DISCUSSIONS enable you to manage ongoing conversations across all of your projects with anyone that works with you. All relevant communications (shared documents, solutions to problems, feedback, decisions) are in one place.

EVENTS are the key occasions/meetings/milestones/etc toward which you (and your team) are working. Events can be used to coordinate deadlines for Action Steps.

Supporting Tools

Action Notebook

Their Action Notebook and Pad has space to capture action steps, backburner notes, space for notes and sketches, and a space to jot preparation and focus items so you can plan for meetings beforehand and be sure to address your focus items.

Behance isn’t only the purveyor of the Action Method and supporting tools, they also foster a network where creative professionals – yes, that including us marketers too – may share creative work, collaborate, exchange tips, and post jobs.

The notebook is spiral bound and the pad has tear-off sheets. Each has 50 pages. (Both fit within a three-ring notebook).

Behance Notebook

Action Pad Mini

Their Action Pad Mini, in addition to being a clean tool for capturing action steps, is also brilliantly designed to fit the medium-sized Moleskine Notebook (5″x7″). A perfect pairing.

Back Burner

Action Cards

3″ x 5″ cards for capturing ideas anytime.

Back Burner

Action Stickers

Each removable sticky-back action step can be peeled from the card and placed on magazine covers, drafts of projects, or in traditional notebooks. Action Stickers help bring your action steps to the surface, ultimately catching your attention.

Back Burner


If you don’t have a process – make or get one. The time you’ll invest in learning a system far outweighs the cost of forgotten ideas, as well as the time and frustration spent trying to recall stuff left to memory alone. If you do have a process, and it works well for you, keep it. No need to cut into your productivity by fiddling with what’s working for you.

January 2011

September 2010

March 2010

Taking Action… It Is Worth Millions

2017-03-01T11:56:14-04:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog|Tags: |

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 would drive tens of millions of dollars of business for the people who thunk them up.
Post-It Pile
The team figured out what we need to do. They’ve identified the right ingredients for success. Not a bad outcome for a half-day of brainstorming and less than $20 in supplies.

With that said, however, coming up with the right, bright ideas was the easy part.

It will require discipline to figure out HOW we will do it.

The greatest ideas in the world are of little value unless action is taken to implement them. Without action, ideas are mere intention.

The team who created the ideas needs to convert them into programs. Members need to delegate goals, assign tasks to the appropriate departments, set expectations and timelines.

This HOW step isn’t that much more difficult than the WHAT step. The ROI for figuring out HOW is incredible. Nevertheless, HOW is where companies get distracted, bogged down and stalled.

It is exciting to understand the potential in this stack of papers. All the ingredients are in there. To materialize the millions of dollars, the chef needs to gather the cooks and follow or create a recipe. They need to follow or build their HOW.

  • What do you do to drive action in your business?
  • What process or steps do you use?
  • How does your chef pull together the cooks?
  • How do you HOW?

This article was originally published on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog.

January 2009

January 2008

Pave Your Life Roadmap

2019-02-08T19:25:26-04:00 Categories: create, grow, Sand for Your Inbox, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , |

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 these important questions. (No, really!)

Some years ago, I was trying to figure this out for myself. I did a bunch of reading, culled my self-help resources, and created a process to create a Life Roadmap. My Roadmap put me on course to launch Idea Sandbox and make key decisions in my personal and work life.

Outlined below is the very process I used from start-to-finish.

There is nothing more satisfying than getting in the driver’s seat of your own life and doing the things you are most passionate about.

Please share your comments in the reactions section at the end of the article.

Happy Driving,
Paul's First Name

Pave Your Life Roadmap

This process will (1) assists you in identifying what you’re most passionate about and (2) help you incorporate those passions into your daily life. By living your passions, you’ll be a happier and more fulfilled person!

The key steps to crafting your Roadmap are…

  1. List Your Passions – Make a list of all the things you are passionate about.
  2. Identify Values – Group your passions into themes.
  3. Set the Situation – Determine what conditions should exist for you to feel you’re fulfilling your Values.
  4. Reveal Action Steps – Identify what daily activities you should be doing to fulfill your Values.
  5. Visual Report Card – Draw a graph to visualize and assess your current status. (Don’t worry, no drafting tools required).
  6. Take Action / Follow Your Roadmap – Now that you have the keys. Get behind the wheel and follow this plan to drive your life.

Tips as you start…

  • Get yourself a stack of small sized note cards, or a notebook, or a journal… Whatever works for you to have something can come back to.
  • Take your time with this project, but give yourself a deadline. You should give yourself time to reflect, but not so much time you forget and don’t follow-up and complete your plan.
  • Don’t try to do this in one sitting. Plan on starting and coming back to each step. Letting each stage incubate in the back of your brain will provide you with better results.

Find a comfortable chair… here we go!

Step 1. List Your Passions

Objective: Create a list of things you are passionate about.

Make a list the things you are passionate about. If you’re using index cards, put one passion per card. Keep going until you’ve reached 100 passions.

Ask yourself…

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What excites me?
  • What would I love to spend more time doing if I only had the time?
  • If I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, what would that be?

Forget your responsibilities at work, home, or with family. This isn’t a ‘have to do’ list, this is a ‘wish I could do’ and ‘love to do’ list. There are no right or wrong answers – these are all you.

If you know how and like to ideamap, they are very helpful for this step.

Step 2. Identify Values

Objective: Discover commonalities and group passions into recurring themes.

Next, review your passions and group them into common themes. Look for recurring topics and lump these together. (This is where index cards come in handy).

The book To Do, Doing Done by Snead & Wycoff has a great list of values, including:

Achievement Adventure Beauty
Career Growth Community Family
Financial Security Freedom Friends
Frugality Fun Generosity
Growth Health & Fitness Honesty
Inner Peace Joy Leadership
Learning Love Music
Nature Organization Personal Development
Productivity Spirituality Travel

While you may have loads of interests and passions, combining into value groups helps you narrow your focus on what truly matters most.

Don’t worry if it seems you have too many themes for your VALUES. After you’ve created the first round, you can pare down and combine. I had 19 different themes and finally ended up with 10.

My key values are Security, Relationships, Organization, Personal Growth, Fun & Entertainment, Contribution, Entrepreneur, Passion, Creativity, and Health.

Here is an ideamap I created to view and group my own Values.


Handwritten Map


Using Template

Identifying values is key. They represent activities that you care about most. If you do things that match your values, you will feel more fulfilled.

Step 3. Set the Situation

Objective: Determine what circumstances (new and existing) will allow you to fulfill your Values.

Now we’ll figure out what situation or circumstances you should find yourself that will make you feel like you’re fulfilling your Values. These are performance indicators. Their existence indicates you’re performing in your Values.

Answer this question:
If I had a life filled with [your theme here], I would: _____________.

The last part of the sentence will reveal these performance indicators.

For example, for my theme “CREATIVITY” my five performance indicators are:

If I had a life filled with CREATIVITY, I would:

  1. Think up new ideas
  2. Solve problems
  3. Create neat ideas that work
  4. Create new ways of doing things
  5. Express myself with art, music, and/or writing.

I recommend coming up with at least five (5) answers. It is okay if these match up with your original list of passions… But push yourself. There may be a big difference between what you are doing and what you should be doing.

Step 4. Visual Report Card

Objective: Gauge how we’ll you’re currently satisfying your Values. Determine which values you should focus on first.

Now we want to compare your values and see which you’re fulfilling and which need focus.

For each value, you’re going to ask yourself…
“Self, on a scale from 1 to 5, (5 being the best, 1 being the least), how am I currently doing in fulfilling these performance indicators?”

Repeat for each value and mark your scores on a radar diagram. A radar diagram is a round graph with spokes that measure each piece of information. (It looks like a radar screen). It is helpful to see how consistent or balanced your information is.

The values marked with lower scores need focus. A score of “5” represent values you are fulfilling. Theoretically, when you mark scores of all 5’s you’re at the height of following your passions.

You can download a blank template here (PDF), or create your own.

Here’s my completed radar diagram. My personal assessment is shaded in orange. The green area represents all 5s. So you can see I feel pretty good about my Entrepreneur, Relationships, Personal Growth, and Fun Values, but want to work on my Contribution and Organization Values.

Step 5. Reveal Action Steps

Objective: Determine what you should be doing on a daily basis – enabling activities – to satisfy your values.

If this life plan were a business plan, your values would be your objectives and performance indicators your strategies. Now we need to figure out the tactics, the enabling activities. Tasks to do on a daily basis.

Using your radar diagram as your guide, start with the value you indicated most needs improvement and the corresponding performance indicators.

Figure out what tasks you need to do to bring to life the performance indicator.

Take a look at my value of CREATIVITY as the example.

As I listed earlier, the performance indicators I have identified for this value are:

  1. Think up new ideas
  2. Solve problems
  3. Create neat ideas that work
  4. Create new ways of doing things
  5. Express myself with art, music, and/or writing.

The last one is the one I want to work on: “Express myself with art, music, and/or writing.”

I’ve narrowed the focus of this one to art and writing. I’m able to exercise my passion for writing through this newsletter, in my blog posts, and other writings. But, I want to be a better writer. So enabling activities could include one or all of the following:

  • Sign up for a writing class,
  • Get feedback from my English teacher friend,
  • Buy a book on how to improve my grammar.

The art part? I majored in art in college and love drawing and painting. However, I haven’t painted in years. For Christmas, I asked Santa for art supplies. I received an art easel and new supplies to do pen & ink drawings and watercolor. I’ve already started to enjoy using them and feel better.

When I brainstorm with clients, I often draw images instead of simply using words. Also known as graphic facilitation. This helps make topics easier to understand AND feeds my passion for drawing… This also influenced how I built Idea Sandbox, and is part of what makes my job so much fun. See how this all comes together?

To help work this step out, I created a document. In fact, the below document along with your radar diagram constitutes your entire Life Roadmap.

This document along with the radar diagram serves as my daily guide.

This link, Life Roadmap Plan, will allow you to download this as a Word template. Enjoy.

Step 6. Take Action / Follow Your Roadmap.

Objective: Perform enabling activities. Use your LifeMap as a guide.

Incorporate these enabling activities into your daily life. Put them on your calendar, to-do lists, whatever. (If you don’t have a system, start one now!)

Use your LifeMap as a guide for making life decisions and see how your choices affect the ability for you to engage in your performance indicators. When you’re faced with life choices that give you angst, it is because they affect your passion areas, your values.

Radar Diagram

Be Your Own Career Counselor

What I’ve provided so far will help you do the “things” that will fulfill you… But what if you’re trying to figure out what a fulfilling job or career could be?

That list of passions you built-in Step 1 contains all the specifications you need in finding a job you’ll find rewarding.

The hard part is to ignore whom you “think” you are today and dig into what you’ve written. Your passions outline your job description, you just need to translate

For example, my list of passions includes that I enjoy…

  • helping people, serving as a leader, passing knowledge onto others, finding inventive ways to simplify complex ideas…

What types of jobs would allow me to do these activities? I can come up with…

  • Teacher, Politics, Counselor, Sports Coach, Life Coach, Corporate Trainer…

If I take a look at my other passions and other factors… I don’t think I’d like to deal with bureaucracy, so politics may not be the role for me… I’m not a huge sports fan so sports coach probably won’t suit me. But, I’d have a blast teaching kids or helping them make better choices, and life coach and corporate trainer are worth looking into.

While working on this piece there are two other resources you should consider checking out…

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – You may find Myers-Briggs helpful, the MBTI tool is online. For a $60 investment in yourself take the assessment. The feedback will also help you gauge what you may enjoy.
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Clifton & Buckingham – This book focuses on maximizing your strengths rather than trying to “fix” your weaknesses. When you buy the book, a code printed on the front cover gives you access to their Strength Finder website. (They have a new, updated book called Strengths Finder 2.0)


That’s the program! It is intense, but your return on investment is colossal. Follow these steps, be honest with yourself, and I can guarantee you will have results.

Send me an e-mail if you have questions.

I wish you the best!

Your Life Roadmap is paved with a series of VALUES formed by groups of PASSIONS that manifest themselves through PERFORMANCE INDICATORS and are brought to life through your ENABLING ACTIVITIES.

Here are resources I originally used to build this process…

  • The Franklin-Covey method of defining Values, Roles, and Goals.
  • To Do, Doing, Done by G. Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff
  • First Things First by Stephen Covey
  • Franklin-Covey Mission Statement Builder
  • Ben Franklin 13 Virtues – Ben Franklin was one of the first self-improvement gurus (although he didn’t know it yet). In 1726 Ben Franklin created a list of thirteen virtues to guide his life. He used to keep a daily journal to note how he performed in keeping to virtues. (He openly admitted challenges with keeping to them).