Disruptive Creativity Drives Success

september 5, 2016arcadia football field6_00 pm

This past week I gave a talk on how creativity fuels innovation, which in turn generates departmental and business success. Several business owners were thrilled to hear more about the steps they need to take in order to compete in this new socially-driven marketplace. Many have heard about disruptive technologies, but the core ingredient to the marketplace disruption process is what I call disruptive creativity.

I’ll lay out how disruptive creativity drives success using the New-Different-Better-More (NDBM) principle below.

NEW

The introduction of new products and services only lasts 90 days in today’s society. Once day 91 hits, the item or service is no longer new. It’s therefore the goal of every marketer and salesperson to take advantage of their opportunity window. However, to be successful the product or service must be new.

The definition of “new” gets a little slippery when companies attempt to come out with something that already exists. If the offer is a first for a certain group of people or demographic, the product or service might be considered new regardless of preexisting competition. A safer release would be of a new product or service that can easily be differentiated from the competition based on it being unique, superior, or of greater value.

DIFFERENT

Offering the same thing as the competition will not drive business growth. By only shifting the color, model, or offering leaves little room to distinguish a company in the noisy marketplace. The product or service must be positioned using something that clearly differentiates it from the competition.

The best type of difference in products or services include an intuitive interface or process; additional or unique features; and, easily obtainable benefits from using the product or service. Clarity can also drive delineation from the competition by using mascots or the endorsements from celebrities and public figures.

BETTER

Building the better proverbial mousetrap is an age old scenario that has perplexed businesses for decades. The first company to market always gets a greater share of business, but so does the company who finds ways of improving on the product or service. The groundswell of early adopters drives more development monies into businesses, but it’s only the company who determines how to make things better that survives for the long haul.

In today’s society, better must also be disruptive. The goal of every new product or service must be to reinvent how the marketplace will embrace the offering, while displacing the competition. Survival today means changing the playing field to favor the company. In the same way, the company that convinces the client to let them help write the RFP going out for bid will be able to seed the document with requirements that match their strengths.

MORE

Buffets have been successful for decades because the hungry person sees them as being far more beneficial than ordering a simple meal. Discount restaurant coupon books also give a great perception of a two-for-one value since most people dine with a friend or loved one. The idea of getting something more from a package or offering grabs the potential customer’s attention.

The “more” can be an increase in value, quantity, or add-on benefits. Many online sellers offer bonus products within a certain ordering time constraint to increase the product’s worth. When the offering includes a how-to book, the “more” can be additional details that brings overt clarity to the reader’s next steps, compared to the competition’s short, high-level book that alludes to the right answers.

The NDBM principles are a direct extension of disruptive creativity in action. By creatively putting NDBM into practice, a business can position itself well within its market and drive away or absorb competitors. The key is making sure each step of the NDBM elements are built creatively and not copied from another business. The company’s style must shine through when presented.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

 

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Write, Read and Watch—Lessons from Marvel’s Jim Krueger

Jim_CJ_Art

I got together with a couple dozen creatives over the weekend for a workshop on story. It was a great time of networking with like-minded artists. Jim Krueger, a storyteller, comic book writer, novelist and filmmaker, was the keynote speaker. He’s most known for his works (including Earth X) at Marvel. He also won the prestigious Eisner Award for Justice (DC Comics).

Jim pointed out the three things that all writers need to do each day: write, read, and watch.

WRITE

Writers need to write everyday to strengthen and mature their “voice.” Jim, who tries to write four hours every day, believes that the writing process helps us to pour out the very thing that can fix our broken world. He also suggested that we have to know ourselves in order to find those internal nuggets of value that are worthy to be shared.

He gave us an exercise to write down our top 10 films that we love followed by the top 10 films we hate. The correlation was amazing and helped us to discover the passion that stirs within us. Within the stories we hated was an internal “No” wanting to be expressed. This pensive drive reveals the “Yes” that we want everyone to embrace—the very thing we must write about to be fulfilled.

READ

Screenwriters need to read the best scripts in the genre in which they write. Authors need to read the best books in the genre they write. Studying the best allows us to improve our techniques, while also learning what has already been done. Unique character reveals, rhythms, and pacing become second nature when we immerse ourselves in the writings of the best.

Being able to spot in others’ works what makes us feel good, and why, helps us understand how to craft our own stories that inspire. This is an important base element in writing that will attract followers and build a fan base. It’s the fulfillment of a natural need, according to Jim, who said, “People need to feel good about themselves after watching your story.”

WATCH

Since our world was transformed from a literary to a visual culture, Jim recommended that writers watch feature films and long form television to study what’s being created for the market and what is well received. While he didn’t intend to do a commercial for Movie Pass (now $6.95 for a monthly subscription program), he did recommend going to the movies often for study purposes.

James Patterson, who writes first thing every morning, shared in a class that I took a couple years ago, how he heads to a theater and watches a feature film after his morning writing session. Since he goes daily, he doesn’t always stay for the entire picture, but learns what he can about the market, what’s been done in the realm of stories, and any story techniques that he can observe and capture.

After convincing us that we all needed to be writing, reading and watching, Jim shared that the rules of story must also be followed with no exception. “Rules as a storyteller are never to be broken, only worked around with loopholes,” he said. When rules are broken, the audience can’t easily follow the story and loses interest, so it’s important to make sure the core elements or the logic and reasons behind the rules are never altered.

Jim pointed out that the limitations put on the storyteller are actually valuable creative tools. “Limitations allow us to put surprise and wonder into place,” he said. Understanding how wonder plays a role in the development of entertainment gives us the fuel to explore an idea until it rises to its best version before releasing it to the audience. Jim suggested that it could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks for an idea to mature to its highest value.

At the end of the day, Jim autographed three panel original art from his next published work due out in a few months. Keep your eyes out for his work.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

The Highs of Combinatory Play

Dream_Play

Being creative never ends. Nor is it something that is easily turned off. Some have suggested that once it gets into your blood or bones, you’re hooked for life. Maybe it’s the innovation that drives inspiration to do it again or possibly it’s just the thrill from the last project that gives you a boost for the next one.

There is a euphoric feeling that comes at the end of each creation that catapults a person to try something imaginative one more time. I’ve heard it described as the same result runners get from endorphins popping within their blood. They’re driven to do another run within the next 2-3 days, because their biological systems respond as if they were coming down from a drug high. Everything within them screams for another fix that only a run can bring.

But creativity is not a drug. Nor does it create drug like responses. The built in thrill comes from triumphs of moving from concept to completion. And I’m not speaking of just any type of accomplishment, but the ones that naturally cause a person to play. Being creative is all about being flexible, a good troubleshooter, and most of all a person who loves to play.

If the project isn’t fun, then it’s not a creative project.

Even Einstein took time to play with ideas. He used a concept called combinatory play to develop a good number of his theories and inventions. He started with two columns of lists. Then he drew a line between an item on the first list and another item on the second list. The result was something completely new to consider.

Computer Slicer
Coffee Maker Ticket
Sun Glasses Soda Can
Toast Window
Bagel Small Container

If a person draws a line between the bagel and slicer, he would start to come up with the invention of the bagel slicer, which of course was invented. Connecting Coffee Maker with Small Container may have led to the single cup coffee makers of today. There are many other combinations that will spark creative thinking that leads to innovation.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”  —Steve Jobs

I’ve been told many times that I’m the most creative person any given he or she had ever known. They’re also amazed at the wide and diverse range of activities I’ve experienced in life. The wealth of experiences within my memory gives me numerous things to ponder every day. And, with all of those experiences I’ll never find myself bored. After all, the beginning of any creation can pop up in my head just by considering a possible combination as I play mental gymnastics.

I’ll never forget inventing an illusion in middle school and then seeing it used in a television magic special that Friday night. I realized that the combination of experiences I used to create the illusion wasn’t unique. Someone had already dreamt up the same idea. But I felt great knowing that my idea worked and looked amazing. It gave me a high and I dove in to create again.

The afterglow of creativity always energizes additional inspiration with new perspectives and ideas. The playfulness around the conceptual makes it fun to bring the ideas into reality and the word failure never shows up, simply because there’s not enough time to be critical when exploring various possibilities. It’s all about play and feeling great.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

 

Creativity without a Box

Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.I just finished reading a short article in Forbes about a creative specialist who consults with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I laughed at the absurdity of his latest book that tries to convince executives that successful businesses once started inside of the box, and then started to think outside of the box, and now must find a new box. The irony is especially rich as the latest surveys clarify the company of the future is one that operates without a box.

Creative experts pushed corporations out of their offices and placed them into large rooms where everyone’s paths would cross. The idea was more networking and a broader understanding of what everyone else manages. Unfortunately the amount of actual work being accomplished dropped significantly. Today’s surveys reveal that creatives need private areas to innovate.

The makers of Red Bull, one of the most creative out of the box thinkers in the food industry, conducted a survey that showed 60% of respondents needed a private space in order to explore their creativity. This does not diminish their ability to collaborate, as 30% of the respondents stated they collaborate in these private spaces.

The creative expert’s book went on to say that true ingenuity needs structure, analysis and brainstorming. This is in stark contrast to Ed Catmull’s book, “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” Catmull, co-founder with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar Animation Studios, clarified the importance of the company’s communication structure not mirroring its organizational structure.

During his tenure as president of Pixar and Disney Animation, Catmull learned that the more structure and analysis you put on creatives, the more mediocre their work. But, “give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.” In other words, you can’t use logic to control creatives without killing their creativity.

Creatives must take risks to innovate and corporate executives must focus on risk mitigation. These contrary ideas must remain separate in order for innovation to catapult the company into the next decade and beyond.

This can be done by allowing creatives to talk to anyone they need to talk to within the company regardless of hierarchy. And, their managers must make it safe for creatives to take risks by fending off the executives that are risk adverse.

There is no longer a new box to find. There are no logical points of control that can manage people to be more creative. There is only the fun and freedom it takes to create within a team—never saying no, only saying yes, until the next best idea rises above the previous one.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Breaking the Deterrents of Creativity

StripAll too often I hear someone say that they’re not creative, but I know it’s far from the truth when I see the cool ideas they generate. What they might mean is that they are too muddled down in their own habits to see life from a new perspective. Or, they are so regimented in their schooling, which was originally designed to train students for factory work, that they find it hard to break free of their rhythm in the name of progress.

The greatest deterrent to creativity is the discipline and habits that individuals form to fit into a logical society. However, our culture is now changing and requires creativity to survive, so its time to change gears and learn how to create and innovate. Here are three steps that a person can take to increase their creativity.

1. Break Habits. People talk about how ideas pop into their head while showering or doing anything mundane like eating breakfast. Those things do tend to happen when we first get up, but soon dissipate with the rigors of a work filled day. To counter the effects of habits we need to purposely change our life patterns.

By parking in a new space, sitting in a different place during a meeting, or walking a new way back to your office can fill your senses with new observations. The fresh experience will generate unfelt reactions, altered thinking, and a form of circumstantial genius that allows you to take in data that you’ve never considered before—all of which will fuel your creativity.

The above cartoon demonstrates the breaking of a habit. The ant that said, “A,” broke the habit of repetition. The ant that joined in, albeit skeptically, by saying, “B,” supported the change. Unfortunately, the next ant was confused because he didn’t focus on the unexpected.

2. Focus on the Unexpected. Boredom sets in when we find ourselves trapped in a reoccurring scenario day after day. When we focus on the unique or unexpected circumstance, we open our minds to consider new perspectives and ideas.

The person that focuses on the newfangled experience reenergizes their faculties of observation and creativity. This also opens the door to developing new patterns that can lead to success, especially when focused on the possibilities that come from the change.

Had the 7th ant focused on the change and said, “A,” the 8th ant would have most likely said, “B”—affecting permanent change. Unfortunately the focus on the change was missing, which encouraged the 8th ant to go back to the same boring, yet comfortable pattern as usual. Creativity lost its opportunity because the last ant wasn’t willing to live in the moment.

3. Live in the Moment. The person that drives to work at the exact same time and takes the same route rarely lives in the moment. The person who lives in the moment creates fresh opportunities and experiences a heightened sense of reality that feeds his or her creative soul. The new stimulus can help us capture information in a new and exciting manner.

The freshness from living in the moment is invigorating for positive people and fear ridden for those who see the cup as almost empty. Perspective plays a major role in the fear factor, which can paralyze those who seldom see the world through the eyes of hope.

The 5th ant above was living in the moment and made an exciting change. The 6th ant was also living in the moment, but was so uncomfortable with change that he questioned the new direction by dragging his proverbial feet. The 7th ant was perplexed and didn’t want to return to the old boring life, nor did he want to support the unknown. His ability to live in the moment wasn’t based on wonder, but instead based on fear.

These three steps allow our mind to meander and draw information from various memories in a new fresh way. Being purposeful in breaking old habits like the ones that no longer serve our vision, can open us up to an unforgettable adventure. By focusing on this change and paying attention to how it unfolds empowers us to turn the unexpected into a vision-boosting rocket. And, living in the moment helps us to steer change into a positive result.

While these three steps drive creativity, it’s our participation that determines success or fear formed failure. Embrace a positive mindset and start breaking habits today.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Creativity—No More Corporate Box

Failures within the Fortune 1,000 world have become critical over the past ten years. To learn how to protect corporations from bad decisions, IBM polled 1,500 CEOs to learn the #1 leadership competency required to survive the future. The answer was “Creativity.”

Two years ago a dozen corporate futurists also stated that creativity was moved to the number one slot of the top ten skills list needed for advancement. Business analysts stated that the only growth companies were those that thrived in creative environments with innovators on staff.

The flurry of activity surrounding creativity in the corporate sector suggested that HR departments needed to set up creative training sessions, adjust hiring scripts and find ways to compensate those who created beneficial solutions. But hundreds of HR departments did nothing.

Over the years HR has become a science, while creativity remains an art form. It’s hard to scientifically measure the value of a creative to determine which one should be hired. It’s also difficult for a director, who was taught that people are supposed to work in the figurative box that the company made, to design a program that trains logical people to play in a box-less environment.

BOXsm

Corporations needed to build the box lifestyle for employees during the days of industry in America. By the time the personal computer was invented, corporations needed people who thought outside of the box. For our future, corporations need to hire people who don’t work, but play, not in or out of a box, but in a box-less environment.

And they don’t get it.

Who doesn’t get it?

Well, let’s start with SEARS or any other relator that is headed toward bankruptcy. The list is getting longer every year. Just think about SEARS having survived for 124 years both inside the box and outside of it, but now that a box no longer exists, the company has no clue how to survive. Some are guessing its doors will close during its 125-year anniversary.

I was once taught that business is always moving. If its not moving forward with growth, then it’s moving backwards with decline. A business is incapable of standing still. I was also taught that innovation (creativity) was the only thing that could grow a company exponentially. Creativity is movement.

The companies throughout history that disrupted their business market with new innovative solutions always captured 40-90% of the market and forced all other competitors to share the leftovers.

The fact that progress is impossible without change stumps numerous leaders. But a creative knows that change is inevitable and chooses to create the change rather than worrying about what may or may not take place by the hand of others.

Creatives are the leaders of our cultural future.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Creating a Polished Presentation

I was thinking about what it would take to create a polished presentation that would “WOW” the socks off of people. The work would require a new creative approach to take people on an emotional and educational ride that they’ve never been on before. The new method in and of itself would be refreshing.

My mind jumped to a chapter from “The Imagineering Workout” by the Disney Imagineers. Susan Dain, an Imagineer Show Designer, shared some of her notes about how to produce the perfect finishing touches to make a magical product. I took sketchnotes as I reread her four paragraphs, but I used my perspective of creating a polished presentation as a filter.

Here are my sketchnotes followed by an example:

 

2017_04_20_sketchnote_v2

After reviewing my notes, instead of giving a polished presentation example, I’ve decided to share a creative example from my son and his family’s recent move. When I walked into my granddaughter’s new bedroom I was elated with the uniqueness of its layout. It made the room special, which in my mind requires an extraordinary design.

Using everything stored in my brain and heart, I started to dream up several ideas. More specifically, I wondered how the room could be designed to cause my granddaughter to smile from ear to ear like she does every time I visit her.

Creating a design that would make someone smile in that special way takes a tremendous amount of energy to apply all the information it would take, plus the use of skills and whatever talents can be tapped into for the project. And then, it’s time to figure out a fresh new way of combining everything into the purpose of making her smile every time she wakes up and every evening before closing her eyes at bedtime.

It would take brainstorming and mock ups galore. Until that moment when I’d realize that the best idea has been captured and figured out. Then, and only then, would it be time to approach her room with paint, thing-a-ma-bobs and do-hickeys.

But alas, I wouldn’t be able to do it, as her parents would want to help her design the room as a family activity.

It’s a good thing the creative process is fun and rewarding.

I can’t wait to see what she does with her room.

© 2017 by CJ Powers