leadership dot #2620: hiding

Ever since I waterproofed my boots on the patio I have been left with an intermittent reminder of the task – every time it rains, the silhouette reappears only to disappear when it dries. I have always thought that this concept was an untapped marketing opportunity – why not do art or graffiti or advertising in waterproof spray – leaving a seemingly pristine surface in dry weather and an unexpected message when it is wet.

This could be used to point people into stores: “Umbrellas sold here” or “Come in out of the rain and check out our clothes” or “Hot coffee to take away the damp chill”. Art could be ducks enjoying the puddles or other weather-appropriate designs, etc.

I just learned that I wasn’t the only one with this idea. The Rainworks organization has been doing street art using Superhydrophobic coatings and have achieved the same effect – providing hopscotch grids and messages on sidewalks and leaving a bit of joy during otherwise dreariness.

What message could you hide until it rains? Surprise someone by putting a can of waterproofing spray to a new use.

When wet
Same space when dry

leadership dot #2607: semantics

I went to a restaurant that appears to have a Ferris Wheel on its premises. It looks like a Ferris wheel, acts like a Ferris wheel and I’m sure that most everyone believes it is a Ferris wheel – but as I learned upon boarding, it is not a Ferris wheel as permanent Ferris wheels are prohibited within the city limits.

To get around this rule, the owners added a rudimentary plywood table and drink holders in each basket and christened it as a “Vertical Revolving Patio” – and obviously received approval by the zoning board. Genius.

Think of the equivalent of your “Ferris wheel” – a program or change that you are trying to make but is prohibited. You may not need to alter the essence of what you are trying to do, rather just make a slight modification to fit within the restrictive parameters. How can you create your own “vertical revolving patio” so you’re able to achieve great heights with your plans?

This is NOT a Ferris wheel!
This simple modification turned it into a Vertical Revolving Patio!

leadership dot #2585: black hairy tongue

In a recent Zits comic strip, Jeremy was caught looking through his dad’s old dental school yearbooks. Dad got all excited and said: “Doing some career shopping?” Jeremy replied: “No, looking for band names. ‘Black Hairy Tongue’ – that’s a definite maybe.”

While it seems absurd out of context, band names tend to skew toward the crazy: Smashing Pumpkins, Bare Naked Ladies, Lonely Goats, Hootie & the Blowfish, Matchbox 20, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Echo & the Bunnymen, and, appallingly, the Child Molesters. Even bands that have become iconic – so we have become accustomed to their name – don’t really make sense when taken in isolation: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, the Who, and the Grateful Dead just to name a few.

When assembling a group together in a workshop or for a team project, instead of encouraging them to provide a team name – which tends to conjure sports teams or common nouns – require your group to name themselves as a band. (You can also use it as an individual icebreaker: “If you were going to start a band, what would you name it?”) The exercise automatically gives them license to be crazy and stimulates thinking outside of the box – music to the ears of a facilitator.

leadership dot #2581: cow-like

If you want to see an example of a company that does branding right, look no further than ChickFilA. Yesterday was Cow Appreciation Day at our local restaurant – a gimmick to give a free entrée to anyone who “wore anything cow-like.”

The entire dining area was full of people who got into the spirit. People wore white garbage bags with pieces of black garbage bags cut into cow spots; black t-shirts with cut-up paper plates as spots; printed cow pictures made into headbands or necklaces, cowbells, and my personal favorite, a piece of paper made into a cow tag for the ear.

ChickFilA did their part with the mascot cow outside taking photos, giveaways for the kids, a red carpet greeting guests, cow balloon arches and cow-patterned material covering the counter. It was festive from the moment you walked in but what really made it special were the costumes.

The restaurant could have easily generated an audience by giving away free sandwiches but by requiring people to dress up it added to everyone’s engagement and fun. “Anything cow-like” was liberally interpreted making it an incentive rather than a barrier and it allowed whole families to come in wearing handmade bovine attire.

The next time you host a promotion find a way to get your audience involved in creating the festivities. Instead of just a sale, make it an event to be remembered.

leadership dot #2577: power up

It is becoming an expectation that everywhere we go we’ll be able to access power and the internet. More and more places are offering wi-fi and power outlets have been installed in planes, waiting rooms and most public spaces.

But how to get power outdoors? Illinois State University utilized a clever solution that incorporates solar panels on patio tables to provide power to those using the seating. The sun can deliver power where the students want it while avoiding costly wiring and permanent fixtures.

The next time you’re faced with a dilemma there’s probably more than the usual way to address it. Maybe you can shed some (sun)light on the issue and find a novel solution to meet your needs.

 

leadership dot #2566: osmosis

I didn’t learn my states or capitals or countries through formal education, rather I absorbed them by osmosis through play. When I was a kid, we spent hours with a wooden puzzle of the United States: each state was a different piece and printed underneath was the state capital. We learned to recite all the answers just by repeated exposure. The spare bathroom was wallpapered in National Geographic maps, providing a subliminal education as we used the facilities. It didn’t seem like learning at all, but the absorbed geography is still engrained decades later.

A similar opportunity is being realized with Legos, that now align Braille with special Lego pieces. The bumps on the plastic toys correspond to actual Braille symbols and the toys also contain the corresponding English letter. Just by playing with the bricks, children will similarly absorb the knowledge that they may not even realize they are learning.

Chemistry Crayon Labels are subtly teaching children about chemical properties by labeling crayons according to the color of the flame of that element. We learned the color of Burnt Sienna and Aquamarine through Binney and Smith’s labeling; now children can learn about Florine gas and Mercuric Iodide the same way.

There are many apps, games and toys where children learn all the nuances through repetition; why not take the same principle to teach something more useful? Guitar Hero could use the actual chords and teach children how to read or play music. Angry Birds icons could be real birds and expose players to different species. What possibilities do you see to subtly infuse learning into play?

Thanks, Tracy!

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!