leadership dot #2822: subpar

One of the best things I’ve seen lately is a series of graphic designs depicting an actual 1-star review for each of the National Parks. The art itself is appealing but what really impressed me is the idea of taking this approach in the first place.

Artist Amber Share wanted to take a “unique twist” to depict the parks and when she learned about the reviews created her “Subpar Parks” series of designs. Some examples: Grand Canyon: “A Hole. A Very Large Hole” or Yellowstone: “Save Yourself Some Money and Boil Some Water at Home.”

There are thousands of pictures and paintings of each of these national treasures, but it took a real artist to see the opposite perspective that Share took.

Think about how you can follow her lead and approach a project from a totally different view. Target your marketing plan to those who haven’t purchased from you instead of those who have. Take photos, as my friend Tracy does, of the backside of famous statues/places instead of the same view everyone else captures. Start a meal with dessert and finish with the appetizer. Take your own 1-star reviews and turn them into something positive.

Einstein said: “Being creative is seeing the same thing as everyone else but thinking of something different.” With that as the measure, Amber Share earns a 5-star review.


leadership dot #2820: it’s art

If I asked most readers if they were an artist, my guess is that the vast majority would say no. But why does “art” carry with it such a stigma that it has to be lofty or created by a professional in order to qualify as art?

When I was at the shoreline, I encountered several pieces of art that were made by those passing through. These sculptures were made out of natural materials discarded by the tides and will soon be returned to the Lake, but in the interim, they brought joy and appreciation to those who saw them.

I doubt that any of the pieces were created by professional artists but they were “art” nonetheless. Art comes from rocks, sticks, words, fabric, clay, paint, pencils, ink, paper, metal, music, wood, trash, wires, beads, string, lyrics, film, crayons – and it comes from you. What art will you contribute to the world today?

leadership dot #2772: paint

A friend once said that “paint was the coolest invention.” That thought always stuck with me because when you think about it, it really is an amazing tool. Paint has the ability to transform a space – and with relative ease and reasonable cost.

Paint is that elusive item that can create a big impact but requires little effort to implement. Think about what the equivalent of paint is for your organization. What can you do to realize results in the short term without a significant investment? Perhaps it is allowing employees a day to work from home. Maybe it is rearranging your reception area. Or maybe it’s making that call to a partner and finally agreeing to work together on a project. Or it could be literally painting a wall – in your home or office – to make a statement with color.

Another benefit of paint is that it’s not permanent. It can last a long time if you want it to, or you can repaint tomorrow. And so it goes with change. Try something. Experiment. Start. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always apply another coat and try again.

leadership dot #2760: 3D

Not that long ago, it was a luxury to have the ability to print something in color. Now, most printers offer that option and copiers that print in color are plentiful in office settings. It won’t be too far into the future when having ready access to a 3D printer is commonplace as well.

Once seen as a specialty or commercial product, 3D printers are getting closer and closer to the mainstream. JoAnn’s sells a home version for $600 and as demand increases, the price is certain to fall.

Right now, you may not imagine a use for such a machine but I’ll bet that if you had one easily available you would put it to good use. Need to make a replacement part for that piece you just broke – presto! Want to make a branded gift tag for your holiday presents – no problem. Need some new jewelry to go with your new outfit – moments away. Want to amuse the kids with new toys – let them create their own.

There is no doubt that accessible 3D is coming – both to your home and to your office. Jump ahead of the curve and think of how you can add a new dimension to your marketing efforts.


leadership dot #2757: reimagine

Lee Mendelson passed away this week, and while you may not know his name, most likely you have been the beneficiary of some of his work. Mendelson was the producer of A Charlie Brown Christmas and the lyricist for the theme Christmas Time is Here. I’ll bet you can hear the song in your head now: “Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all that children call, their favorite time of year…”

In addition to Charlie Brown, Mendelson also produced a dozen Garfield specials for television and turned other comics into television shows. I admire the ability to see something that everyone else sees and envision a new form for it.

We often think that creativity involves conceiving something entirely new but that is not the case. Jean Luc-Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.” Start the new year with a fresh perspective about what already exists and consider what you can expand, repurpose or reimagine this year.

leadership dot #2728: nest

While out walking, I found a bird’s nest that was inexplicably laying in the middle of a parking lot. Since there was no nearby tree from which it may have fallen, I carried it home.

As I marveled at the sturdy construction, it occurred to me that this nest was made with no equipment or tools; nothing was purchased or new; there was no prefabrication or blueprint – and yet, I walked with the nest for a mile and never once did a piece of it fall off.

The nest can be a model for organizations. It’s the essence of creativity: taking what already exists and making something new out of it. It’s a lesson in ingenuity – utilizing mud and sticks and straw that by themselves have little value but pasted together form a functional container to safely warm eggs and ultimately house baby birds. And it’s an environmental wonder, doing all this through 100% repurposing of materials.

How can you emulate nest-making? Before you make your next purchase, act as if you don’t have the option to buy new. Apply some bird-like ingenuity and fashion what you already into your solution.

leadership dot #2719: irregular

For most people, this is an irregular work week. Many have Thursday and/or Friday off – unless, of course, you’re in retail or travel and then you have Friday and/or Thursday most definitely on. Schools don’t have a full week and many businesses have different hours. In other words, we’re forced out of our routine.

Think of how you can take advantage of this disruption. Can you use the slower pace to dedicate some time to deeper thinking or work on a project you have on the back burner? Maybe the time can become productive by getting out of the office and visiting a customer who also has a slower pace? If you’re expecting increased activity, can you boost morale with an office guessing pool (how many customers will we have by 9am?) or a catered meal in the midst of the chaos?

Your mind may be on the holiday but don’t waste these days leading up to it. Give thanks for the change in routine and the opportunity to think and do differently because of it.