leadership dot #2556: bag it

I always think of the Red Cross being there in times of need – providing essentials to families whose home was destroyed by fire or assisting victims of natural disasters – but rarely do I consider where their supplies come from. In St. Louis, the local Red Cross made a concerted effort to gather items in an unusual way by placing donation bags on homes throughout neighborhoods.

Rather than utilizing a brown paper bag or a normal-sized plastic bag, the Red Cross ensured their donation bags would not be missed by making them bright pink and oversized. In addition, they were placed in unusual locations: on garage door openers, mailboxes, garage door handles, etc. Even if you did not contribute, you couldn’t miss the fact that the Red Cross was collecting and learn what items they found desirable.

In one effort, the Red Cross communicated their message, got noticed and gathered donations. The next time you’re tempted to do an appeal by sending a letter or posting on social media think about the giant pink bags of the Red Cross. How can you follow their example and take a unique approach to encourage donations?

Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #2555: break it down

How do you solve the problem of plastic pollution? While some may look to scientists, National Geographic is looking to anyone and everyone to develop innovative solutions through a competition with substantial cash prizes. The organization hopes to “tap the entire world’s creativity and expertise” to address the growing concern.

What is most appealing to me is how they structured the contest: rather than asking for a team to tackle the entire issue, the contest seeks entries in three distinct categories: 1) a way to design better packaging; 2) development of a zero-waste business model (eg: how can companies get beverages to consumers bypassing individual containers) and 3) a way to show the scale and breadth of the plastics problem in a creative and intuitive way.

By narrowing a massive challenge, it automatically focuses the brain on solutions instead of feeling overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. Think about how your organization can adopt this concept to address the major issues that you face. Is there a way to break your problem into manageable sub-sets? A way to engage others outside your organization through a contest? A way to incentivize those inside your organization with prizes?

The big issues are the ones that require out-of-the-box thinking or they would have already been resolved. Start your innovation process by innovating the way that you approach the challenge.

Thanks, Tricia!

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 NOTE: The content for the dots from yesterday, today and tomorrow came from readers who had experienced the world through “dot eyes” and shared their observations with me. It is the highest compliment that I can receive from writing this blog – that others have internalized the principles driving it and see the connections in life for themselves.

I hope that many more of you have cultivated your own “dot eyes” but just haven’t shared examples with me – YET! Know that examples are always welcome – via email, Facebook, website comment form or carrier pigeon! What do your “dot eyes” see?

 

 

leadership dot #2549: combine

At the grocery store, they were sampling a new product: Mayochup. It’s the cousin to Kranch, both products from Heinz that pre-package ketchup in popular combinations — mayonnaise + ketchup and ranch + ketchup – made for easy dipping.

It got me thinking about other combinations that would benefit from being sold in the way that consumers could use them. Some examples:

  • pizza delivered to the movies (especially if the theater has recliners) so it’s just as good as a night at home
  • insurance agents could team up with jewelry or home appraisers or videographers – in one stop you could have a home inventory and insure it at the proper level
  • a dog sitter combined with a house cleaner – go on vacation and come home to a clean house and happy pooch
  • delivery of food – and beer – a possible way to keep a few drunk drivers off the road.

Think of what you’re offering and how people use similar products or services on their own. Maybe there a way for you to combine something old to make something new.

 

leadership dot #2532: reimagined

Even if you’re not an athlete, I’ll bet you have seen Nike shoes and Nike shoeboxes hundreds of times in your life. You’ll never look at them the same way again after seeing some of the art that Stephen Signa-Aviles created using just those items.

Signa-Aviles sculpted shoes and boxes into elaborate chickens and birds (and many other items seen here) thus turning an ordinary object into beautiful art – or at least that is how it appears to me. For him, it’s a deeper statement about hip-hop, consumerism and masculinity.

Think about the message that you’re trying to convey. Instead of traditional methods, is there a way to reimagine something that is around you every day? An art exhibit with creative sneakers is much more powerful than another tweet about consumerism. What is a novel way to share your story?

 

leadership dot #2503: not yet

When implementing something new or creating any kind of change there is a tension between wanting to be more ready and wanting to begin. It’s scary to launch when things are still imperfect but waiting too long can be a curse as well.

Researchers Amy Collier and Jen Ross have coined the term “not-yetness” to describe this not yet fully evolved or developed condition. “Not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not checklisting everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve.”

They write of not-yetness in the context of technology in distance education, but I believe the concept can apply to all manner of projects. We should embrace the beginning and doing as a method for discovery, without any expectation that what we undertake will have been totally understood by just thinking and not doing. If we become more comfortable with the idea of “not yet”, it opens a window to the perspective that we expect to learn more, that we acknowledge that things aren’t fully figured out and that we are prepared to have a few things wrong at the initial stage.

Not-yetness lets us off the hook of perfection and gives us permission to publicly begin.

What are you working on that is not-yet-developed but could be shared today?

 

leadership dot #2475: find a partner

In workshops or classes, it is often desirable to mix people up into small groups apart from those in their immediate proximity. Too many times the presenter says: “find someone” or does the dreadful counting off by 1, 2, 3, etc. With just a bit of forethought, you can infuse much more creativity.

One of my favorite ways to mix groups is by handing participants a playing card as they enter. This opens up a host of mixing options: by color, by suit, matching number, odds/evens, opposite color, face card and number, etc. You can hand out cards in the beginning and use a variety of sorting strategies throughout the session.

It’s also easy to get people to pair by similarities: the (approximate) number of letters in their name, birthday season, number of “feet” in their family (allowing them to decide whether to count just humans or to include animal feet), number of siblings, astrological sign, etc.

You can also have people line up in order and then pair with the person who ends up next to them. Order could include: number of years with the organization, by height, by the last 4 digits of their phone number or by house number. Having people line up alphabetically also works: alpha by first or middle name, by their boss’ name, by hometown, favorite cartoon character or last television show they watched.

If you know the approximate number of participants in advance you can write names on strips of paper to distribute as people arrive – later having them find the other members of their set to form a group. Examples include: Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty (the Flintstones); George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry (Seinfeld); or Amy, Beto, Kamala and Bernie (presidential hopefuls). The same principle applies for categories instead of names: Pacers, Bulls, Lakers, Spurs (NBA teams) or Aquaman, Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Thor (superhero movies).

And, as a last resort, if you find yourself in a pinch to do a quick count-off, please at least do it in another language (uno, dos, tres…) or with some aspect of creativity (Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My…). You’ll achieve the same end result, but your participants will pair off with a smile.

leadership dot #2470: unconventional

Our arts council sponsored a musical ensemble from Norway for a residency in the local elementary schools. The students’ favorite musician: the percussionist — but not just because of his prowess on the drums. What endeared him to the audience was the wide range of “instruments” that he used to create music: goats’ hooves, butterfly cocoons, sea shells, a peeled cymbal tower and a wide array of bells.

Kenneth Ekornes is a traditional Norwegian folk artist but collects all manner of items that make sounds and incorporates them into his music. He replicated eagles, thunder, frogs, snowstorms and birds by pulling items out of his box of treasures. He crafts some of his own sound-makers, has been given instruments as gifts from native musicians, and picks up some when traveling to other cultures. So, what is his favorite souvenir from America? A washboard tie that you can play while wearing it!

Ekornes has defined music broadly and, as a result, has created an instrumental feast that entranced all who heard it. Think about how you can re-define your specialty area and expand its scope in ways that are nontraditional. It’s much easier to replicate or even to master what has been done before but you can create real magic by inventing unconventional ways to express your talents.