leadership dot #2173: corny

Memorial Day is often the first cookout weekend, and for many, that means sweet corn along with the grilling. Most corn is served boiled or grilled but a restaurant in California puts those traditional methods to shame.

Why stop at butter when you can have an ear rolled in Flaming Hot Cheetos or lemon juice and chili powder? My favorite was the Uni-Corn featuring rainbow-colored cotija cheese. From Mexican to Doritos to Cheetos to queso fresca, this sweet corn was definitely not served straight from the farm.

All around you, there are items that have been cooked or done in a traditional way for years. Think about the crazy flavors of corn when you are serving up your picnic or even when you are heading into the office tomorrow. Pledge to step out of the box to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

leadership dot #2171: celestial

Another stop on my California visit was the Griffith Observatory, an imposing architectural structure that towers above Los Angeles. The Observatory contains exhibits that you would expect – a planetarium, telescopes, moon rocks, and solar system exhibits – but the most eye-catching display was that of jewelry.

Kudos to the curator who expanded his/her view of what could or should be featured in an observatory. Because of their openness and vision, one very long hallway is enhanced with 2200 pieces of jewelry representing variations of celestial objects and astronomy. The collection was amassed over 25 years and donated by a long-time board member – who obviously had an affinity for the stars. It provided a beautiful diversion from the geodes and rugged items on display and illustrated the expansiveness of both the universe and interpretation of it.

The next time you need to communicate a message or emotion, think beyond the usual ways of doing so. The sky’s the limit for ways you can effectively tell your story!

leadership dot #2157: art

Public art has become a popular component of urban renewal and in cities who wish to increase their creative vibrancy. Our town recently commissioned art for the sides of about a dozen buildings downtown and infused tired brick with murals that are several stories high. It transformed the landscape with color and thought-provoking images and made many people a fan of big art that adorns public spaces.

I am also a fan of little art that enhances personal spaces. I think that color and artistic expression in small ways can add a flourish to an otherwise plain platform and bring some positive energy into our lives. There are many ways to infuse your world with art beyond the obvious photos or paintings on your wall.

Think about the personal expression you can add to your checks, wardrobe, outgoing mail, table settings or gift giving.

As sandal-wearing weather approaches in much of the country, another way to add original art to your life is to find yourself a pedicure artist. The right talent can create mini-masterpieces out of nail polish to make art a part of your daily presence.

Art doesn’t have to be expensive, lofty or formal. Whether it be on a multi-story canvas or a big toe, find ways to incorporate color and original expression in your day.

leadership dot #2152: decouple

So many new products and services come about because of an additional feature or enhanced component but think about the success stories that are because of what they subtracted.

Acute care centers created a whole new level of medical treatment when they did without the extensive services that an emergency room can provide. Southwest captured the vacation traveler niche when it did without in-flight amenities and complex booking procedures. A whole category of budget hotels became popular by foregoing room service, restaurants and concierges. Planet Fitness focused on the average person who wanted to stay in shape and left the serious bodybuilders to go elsewhere.

Dry shampoo is a whole new market that left the water behind. Pepper focused on whole peppercorns and fresh grinders without worrying about the salt component to the spice set. Salt created its own niche with a push for sea salt as a premium product. Our local movie theatre made a name for itself for its popcorn as much as for its movies.

Opportunities abound when you decouple items that are traditionally paired and focus on creating a uniqueness with one component. The next time you’re looking to provide something new ask yourself what you should leave out to achieve it.

leadership dot #2151: coloring book

Treat bags are standard fare at birthday parties for young children, but what do you give as a favor when the party is for an octogenarian? And what do you give the birthday girl herself?

One family solved both problems by custom-designing a coloring book featuring friends, family and memories of the guest of honor. She loved it, of course, but it also made for a fun memento for those in attendance.

Sometimes, the perfect present or favor isn’t out there and you have to create your own. Whether it be for a special birthday, company anniversary, team milestone or any other date you wish to commemorate, consider coloring your way into a nontraditional gift solution.

Thanks, Lucy!

leadership dot #2123: extended

Most people know the origin of the Post-it Note: a failed attempt at making a super-strong adhesive led inventor Art Fry to repurpose the substance to make bookmarks for his choir hymnal. The ability to reposition tabs without tearing the paper was appealing to him – and eventually to millions of others. 3M’s accidental product is now available in 27 sizes, 57 colors and 20 fragrances (!) and generates $1 billion in annual revenue.*

The newest incarnation of the sticky note is the Extreme version – designed to transverse from the office environment to the construction realm. Extreme notes are made to stick on irregular surfaces such as brick or wood and to be compatible in the outdoors. They are water-resistant and function in hot and cold weather. If they really work and catch on, the revenue figures could see a substantial boost.

Post-its are a classic office product. It seems natural to extend this line into shapes, colors, sizes and other variations for office or educational use, but it took some imagination (and engineering) to make a product that extends the same product into an entirely new field. The creative legacy of the brand’s formation must still be alive!

Think of the products or services that you offer. Is there a way to extend their use into a completely new arena? Is there a modification you could make that would enhance its appeal to a different audience or market? Try to run your new business development like Post-its and don’t permanently stick to one spot.

*Source: worldwatch.org

leadership dot #2021: matrix

Brainstorming is a productive activity for generating new ideas, but it does not always lead to action. Often there are so many ideas at the conclusion of a session that it becomes overwhelming and hard to know where to begin. Adding a second step in the process can facilitate action by loosely prioritizing ideas before participants depart.

Define your topic/problem as a question: “How might we attract more youth to our business?” or “What incentives could we offer next year?”.

Begin by giving each member a small pad of sticky notes and a pen. Have them stand by a wall or piece of flip chart paper and brainstorm ideas for a set period of time – writing one idea per sticky note and saying it aloud as they write it. (This will help trigger other ideas from others in the group.)

When all the ideas have been generated, on a second sheet of flip chart paper draw a grid with Implementation across the horizontal axis and Impact along the vertical axis. Create a quadrant with Hard/Easy Implementation and High/Low Impact. Then have participants place their brainstormed ideas into the appropriate quadrant.

  • Ideas that are Hard to Implement and have Low Impact (Red) can be forgotten without any discussion.
  • Ideas that are Easy to Implement and have Low Impact (Orange) can likely be set aside too. Even if they are easy, they still require some resources, and why bother if there is little to be gained.
  • Ideas that are Hard to Implement and have High Impact (Yellow) can be considered later or incorporated into more strategic planning.
  • Ideas that are Easy to Implement and have High Impact (Green) are where you should begin.

The entire brainstorming and prioritization process can happen in less than an hour but engages all the participants in both aspects of the discussion. Try it and see if it doesn’t move your ideas to action more quickly than brainstorming alone.

Download handout here.

Source: The Abel Group, Diamond Leadership Workshop, June 26, 2007