leadership dot #2069: applications

I would venture a guess that most people use their smartphone primarily for functions other than telephoning, and that listening to music and surfing the Internet are not nearly as used as other applications hosted on the device. Yet, the original iPhone did not have any app options, and, as late as the iPhone3 in 2009, there were no in-app purchases available (all had to be downloaded from the computer via CD.)

Today there are over 2.8 million apps available for the iPhone and another 2.2 million for Android, all accessible with a swipe of a finger. Over $70 billion has been earned from these purchases, and apps are a key reason people have smartphones in the first place.

At the 2007 Macworld Conference and Expo, Steve Jobs famously said: “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” The first iPhone was touted as a combination of three devices: iPod, mobile phone and an Internet communicator, and at the time, a phone that did more than just telephone was revolutionary.

Even Steve Jobs did not immediately foresee the explosion of supplemental products or the revolution he would create for how apps and software were installed, but this new line of apps and direct download have made the devices indispensable for many.

Maybe you don’t need to invent a new product, rather focus on creating an enhancement or service that complements what exists.


leadership dot #2052: commemorate

Cincinnati’s famous ice cream store, Graeter’s, marked the birth of the local zoo’s hippo by creating a new flavor, Chunky Chunky Hippo. Fiona the hippo was quickly a local celebrity, and Graeter’s was smart to jump on the bandwagon.

What is even more impressive than capitalizing on the arrival of the hippo was Graeter’s decision to leverage the event even further by re-releasing the flavor in celebration of Fiona’s first birthday. They have even sweetened the deal by commissioning a local artist to design the containers, drawing even more attention to the product.

What event can you re-commemorate? It’s easy to think of milestones in your organization’s history, but be more creative that than. The one-year anniversary of a large donation? One thousand days since a new service was offered? Your boss’s start date at the organization?

There is no need to save specialness for a one-time use.

Thanks, Lucy!

leadership dot #2051: sleep over

Businesses are always seeking ways to drive traffic and our local Chick-fil-A has hit upon an ingenious way to do so. Tonight is the Stuffed Animal Sleepover – a concocted event where children bring in their stuffed animals this evening (accompanied by their family, of course – and since we’re there, why not eat dinner) – and then come in the morning to pick up their stuffed friends (lo and behold, Chick-fil-A also serves breakfast!).

Children are encouraged to come in their pajamas, the Chick-fil-A Cow will be on hand and overall I expect it to be a madhouse. All for essentially no cost to the restaurant. I am sure that in the morning the staff will make up stories about the “adventures” the stuffed friends had and it will be a win-win for all involved.

Think about how you can model this promotion in your organization. Is there something that you can do to pique interest in visiting your business: providing a behind-the-scenes tour, a bank offering to put coins in the special vault for the night, having a scavenger hunt in a store or taking photos in a special place or with a mascot?

With the right idea, it doesn’t take much money to generate great interest.

leadership dot #2045: solutions

Airports seem like great places to get exercise: they have miles of corridors for walking and most people there have ample time on their hands with nothing else to do. But somehow the logistics of walking with a carry-on in tow or dragging a rollerboard suitcase behind you diminishes the appeal, so most people end up sitting idly or balancing a computer on their lap to accomplish business.

Minneapolis airport has found a way to make work compatible with exercise while waiting in their terminals by providing treadmill desks. These machines allow people to walk and have a stable desk space while leaving their luggage resting beside them. Stand up desks have become popular in the office; maybe treadmill desks will catch on as well.

Think about the problems that your customers have. Is there a way that you can solve them with innovative solutions? Maybe hospitals could provide the treadmill desks for visitors who spend long hours waiting. Perhaps you could provide bowls at movie theatres to make it easier to share (rather than spill) big buckets of popcorn. Or you could offer sunscreen in dispensers (like hand sanitizer) at your outdoor event.

Look at your customer’s frustrations as opportunities for you to shine.

Thanks, Tracy!

leadership dot #2041: silos

Many times when organizations are looking for new ideas, people’s minds center around expansion in the industry that they are currently in: colleges create additional majors, banks add new financial instruments, or retailers begin to carry a different product line. All of these are appropriate sources of new revenue but stay within known parameters (and thus limits to growth).

One farmer in Illinois thought about his resources in new ways. Instead of planting an additional crop or buying more acres, he moved beyond agriculture to venture into the recreation business by converting an old silo into a climbing wall. The existing height of the silo structure was perfect for climbing needs and with some retrofitting it has become a novel entertainment destination for people in the area.

Organizations often talk about “breaking down silos”, but maybe your quest should be to leave them standing – literally – and repurpose the use of your organization’s resources instead.

leadership dot #2018: trigger

A great way to get gift-giving ideas is to walk the scrapbooking aisle at a craft store. There, amongst the paper themes and sticker collections, you will find a visual gallery of niches to inspire you. You’ll be able to glean ideas of many hobbies/interests/demographics/backgrounds and hopefully connect one to a similar interest your recipient has. While the stickers won’t be your actual gift, a quick search on Etsy or Google will provide you with a host of gift-giving options to fit that niche.

It’s hard to come up with ideas from scratch so you can use the scrapbooking options as a trigger for other things. And believe me, stickers come in every niche: high school band, Germany, wine lovers, dancers, hunters, firefighters and beyond.

Take advantage of the idea gallery just waiting at your local craft store and see if a gift-giving idea doesn’t stick.

Thanks, Tracy!

leadership dot #2010: resourceful

If you lived on a remote island in the North Atlantic, chances are that you would need to be resourceful and to develop some hearty problem-solving skills. Such was the case with the people in the Faroe Islands, a rugged country located between Norway and Island. This small country involved their sheep (which outnumber the people!) in order to get their beautiful landscapes on Google Maps in order to draw the attention of tourists.

 Frustrated by their attempts to be included in Google’s Street View option, Faroe tourist board members strapped 360-degree cameras to the backs of sheep to record the views. And it worked – Google now includes them and the number of visitors has increased since the project’s successful end.

Now the tourist bureau has moved on to addressing language barriers of these visitors – pushing to be included in Google Translate, but creating their own “Faroe Islands Translate” until that happens.

Many people would throw up their hands and claim that it was impossible for a tiny entity to influence a giant like Google, but these islanders proved otherwise. They sought alternative solutions and did much of the work themselves. If you really want something badly enough, there Is probably a way to make some version of it happen.

Read the full story here.

Thanks, Meg!


leadership dot #2004: rock it

For the last year or two, adult coloring books have been all the rage. I guess people have figured out that it takes time – and a lot of it — to complete any of the intricate designs that typify the standard selections. So this year a new form of art is making its appearance: rock painting.

Rocks offer a similar outlet for creativity, but in a much smaller space and time commitment. You can still release your inner child, but do so in a period that allows you to complete your creation before you are old!

There are many benefits to relaxation and art; if you’re still looking for something for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list, maybe a bag of stones and some paint could rock your holiday.

leadership dot #1991: red flower

There is a new (to me) philosophy for teaching art to elementary students that involves focusing on self-expression rather than technique. Students are encouraged to pick their own topic to explore, then taught how to use tools and technique to create that art. Instead of being about projects, class is about artistic expression.

When I heard about this concept, I immediately thought of the story about the red flower that was memorialized in an old Harry Chapin song and which is in story form here. In short, a teacher gives explicit instructions so many times that students become reliant upon them and are unable to create on their own, even when given permission to do so.

I think the red flower story has relevance to today’s structured activities for kids – because they grow up always having something on the calendar it becomes difficult for them to create their own fun, even when time permits. And after completing 12+ years of structured schooling, new employees are often challenged in taking initiative at work, instead wait for their supervisor to tell them what to do.

I applaud all efforts that help people – of all ages – truly think about things instead of memorizing them, and bravo to teaching that helps people learn how to conceptualize and understand the rationale of the fundamentals behind what they are studying.

Here’s to creating a gallery of snakes and snowmen and elephants and mice!

leadership dot #1989: selfie

One innovator combined two concepts together for their new business idea: a) people don’t like the stilted nature of having a professional photo taken and b) people are very willing to take selfies, and in fact, the younger generation is actually pretty good at doing so.

As a result, we now have the Iris Booth, a kiosk where you can take a professional headshot on your own. The booth is an automated photo studio, with LED lighting, retouching/editing options and a high- end camera. What is even better is that you receive six options and one high-resolution download for $20!

As someone who just had new professional shots taken, I can tell you that the price is a bargain, and I think they are on to something by allowing people to take their own shots. I always feel stilted when someone else is taking my photo, so, while I like how my pro photos turned out, I wonder what they would have looked like if it were just me in the booth.

If you travel through the right airport that has an Iris booth, you no longer have to have amateur-looking pictures as your profile photo or professional headshot. Iris allows you to go far beyond “just a selfie”; you can whiten teeth, remove blemishes and soften skin – editing one pose in the booth, or for a mere $5, to do all six later.

The world is becoming much more visual, and quality always matters. Iris Booth saw a need and met it in an innovative way, and did so at a very affordable price. How can you capitalize on access to professional-quality photography for yourself, your team or your organization? It’s time to say “Cheese!”

Thanks, Tracy!