How Amazing is That?

Greetings. On a recent visit to a veterinarian’s office a bright red brochure caught my eye. A brochure that promised to solve one of the most important challenges of dog ownership…keeping Fido’s, or in our case Vincent’s, teeth as clean and healthy as possible. For while we have taught Vincent to sit, stay, lie down, be gentle, pick up the Wall Street Journal from curb, stay off of the furniture, watch English Premier League soccer games with focus and passion, and remain calm when the mailman or UPS driver knock on the door, we have somehow failed to teach him how to brush his own teeth. And, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure that this skill was within his grasp.

How to Teach Your Dog

So when the folks at Milk Bone promised to solve this problem for us, my ears jumped straight up as though someone had just offered me a peanut butter-coated biscuit or the world’s largest squirrel had just appeared outside the back door. And I quickly imagined placing a new soft bristle brush in his furry little paw and then demonstrating the proper technique for keeping his adorable canines all pearly white. (Yes dogs and humans have “canine” teeth!…but I digress.) I also imagined taking Vincent to CVS where he could pick out his favorite brand of salmon-flavored toothpaste along with a spool of rabbit-flavored floss. That is until I actually opened the brochure and discovered that the innovative folks at Milk Bone were simply being clever marketers of a clever new dog treat designed to remove tartar, plaque, and halitosis (a.k.a., dog breath). Simply by chewing on. And that these benefits had somewhat miraculously been “proven in clinical trials.”

Not quite as impressive as teaching a world of dogs to actually brush their teeth. But it got my attention.

And it struck me that all of us, and all of the companies and organizations we work for, have the same ability to make remarkable promises that we could keep in slightly less remarkable but “clinically proven” ways.

So why not spend a few moments thinking about a new and bold promise that would really matter to the customers you have the privilege to serve. Then follow it up with a very creative and engaging way to solve it that gets their attention and inspires them to want to know more. After all, a big part of marketing and business success is the act of starting a conversation.

We win in business and in life when we get the attention of others. And when we use that attention to deliver on a promise that really matters.

Cheers!

A Surprising Lesson From Apple

Greetings. Apple is in the news again with two new iPhones and the long-awaited Apple Watch. In today’s world, “long-awaited” seems to mean something that has been imagined about for a year or two. Talk about resetting our notion of time and the speed at which all of us need to bring new ideas to market. In any event, the early buzz for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch seems pretty positive, though it is hard to sort out whether these new products…and the watch in particular…will be the next game changers for this remarkable company.

Apple Watch

But there is an important lesson to learn from innovative companies like Apple that flies in the face of conventional wisdom about how the most successful companies innovate. The notion that they are filled with exceedingly clever people who, in the confines of their exceedingly well-designed workplaces, figure everything out by themselves. In fact, Apple owes much of its success to the ideas and insights of total strangers.

Think about what makes the iPod media player, with its dominant market share, so ubiquitous and successful. Certainly cool design, ease of use, and simple and elegant functionality have a lot to do with it. But Apple didn’t invent the concept of personalized music…that was Sony way back in 1979 with its then-revolutionary Walkman. And Apple didn’t invent the technology platform the iPod relies on…that was audio engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg and a German company named Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft, which developed the MP3 standard and received a patent for it in 1989. Ten years later, the first portable MP3 players hit the market, two years before the first iPod. And Apple, with its wildly successful iTunes store, certainly didn’t invent the notion of creating the greatest single source of content in the world: that was the Egyptians, who roughly 2,300 years ago built the Great Library of Alexandria…a library that contained more than four hundred thousand documents long before there were printing presses. Though its music and video collections left a lot to be desired.

Sony Walkman

What Apple did was combine its own brilliance with these inputs from strangers, along with the skills of a number of equally clever outside partners, to create the most compelling offering and product ecosystem available.

And the story is the same with the latest iPhones and iWatch.

Which suggests that all of us, and all of our companies and organizations, would benefit greatly from creating stronger connections with a network of very creative strangers who might provide a powerful foundation for our newest and best ideas.

We win in business and in life when we come to appreciate the brilliance of those who have come before us and those around us today whose ideas provide an essential piece to the puzzle of our success.

Cheers!

Getting “Out of the Box”

Greetings. While I am keen on the importance of strangers in our work and lives, I have a bit of an aversion to the popular notion of thinking “out-of-the-box” as the key to greater creativity and innovation. Yet it is still a widely-used phrase in companies and organizations that are trying to figure out how to think and act in new ways. My biggest concern is that too many businesses believe that simply calling for “out-of-the-box” ideas, often accompanied by a “suggestion box,” will create a veritable landslide of brilliance as employees suddenly feel liberated to suggest amazing possibilities for new products, services, solutions, customer experiences, and new ways of doing the things that matter most.

If only it were that simple.

As we all know, coming up with (and implementing) the right new ideas takes strategic focus, real discipline and commitment, curiosity, humility, a willingness to take calculated risks and make some mistakes, a sense of urgency, and a culture that is truly open to learning, fresh thinking, new perspectives, and the insights of people and places that are very different.

Having said this, and in the spirit of trying to be as open-minded as possible given that some things are just plain weird, I must admit that a recent feature in the New York Times challenged me to be a bit less critical of “out-of-the-box” thinking…or at least one particular example. The article in question was about a remarkable innovation in the world of funerals in which the star of the show (a.k.a., the “deceased”) is able to attend their own service in a favorite setting or pose. Settings that include sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by favorite possessions or important life symbols like a bottle of Jack Daniels, being dressed like Che Guevara with a cigar hand, sitting behind the steering wheel of an ambulance, sitting atop a favorite motorcycle, or standing up dressed as a boxer in the corner of a boxing ring.

Yes, even I must admit that this seems to represent a new and graphic way of getting “out of the box” (or out of a specific type of box).

According to the Times, this new approach to funerals first appeared in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has now become increasingly popular in places like New Orleans…which doesn’t seem like a big surprise. And its growing popularity might even suggest a world of untapped creativity aimed at making us look as fantastic as possible until closing time. It even brought back memories of the passing of my favorite great uncle who had just returned to Boston after spending the winter in Florida. Upon seeing his tan self, one of his closest friends remarked: “The winter by the beach did him a world of good!” Not exactly. But as Billy Crystal use to say on Saturday Night Live, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

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Which begs the question of how all of us might conspire to reinvent our industries in ways that get us out of the traditional context in which we offer value to our customers. And how we might do an even better job of customizing our offerings to the unique needs, desires, and personalities of those we have the privilege to serve so they can look as good as possible.

We win in business and in life when we seek to create greater meaning in our most important moments. And when we always try to look our very best.

Cheers!

The Truth About Creativity

Greetings. As many of you know, I spend a lot of time giving presentations and leading seminars on innovation, creativity, and unlocking the real genius in people at all levels of companies and organizations. And I have a strong belief that all of us have the innate ability to be way more innovative simply by being a bit more curious and open-minded about a world around us filled with remarkable people and awesome ideas and possibilities. In fact, this notion is at the heart of my newest book “The Necessity of Strangers.” So I was delighted when David Burkus invited me to be one of 30 guest “experts” in the upcoming “Truth About Creativity” virtual conference that begins on June 2nd at a computer or mobile device near you.

In the conference you will have the chance to discover insights for enhancing your own creative ability and driving even greater innovation in your company or organization through a series of fun and engaging 30-minute video interviews.  It promises to be a great learning experience that you can enjoy at your own pace and schedule.

You and your colleagues can sign up for this FREE (yes, FREE) event by simply following this link:

https://www.entheos.com/The-Truth-About-Creativity/Alan-Gregerman

I hope to see you there! Virtually, that is. And then I’ll look forward to having the chance to follow up and compare notes afterwards.

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And please feel free to share this link with any and all of your closest friends, colleagues, family members, neighbors, the folks on your softball team, the other parents on your childrens’ soccer and swimming teams, and even some total and partial strangers who might benefit from some of the latest thinking about innovation.

Cheers!

The Power of Technology

Greetings. We all know that technology has the power to change everything…which makes it important for all of us, no matter what business we are in, to be continually paying attention to a range of “technologies” that are reshaping the world we live in. Here are five “technologies” that should be on all of our radar screens. And it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about how you and your colleagues (i.e., the geniuses you work with everyday) might capitalize on them in creating more valuable products, services, and solutions, and delivering more remarkable customer experiences.

Mobile. Think smart phones and tablets, but more importantly think about how central they have become to all of our lives and how you and your organization can leverage mobility and create mobile applications to better engage all of your employees and inspire and empower all of your customers.

The Cloud. Think about new and more remarkable IT capabilities without costly investments in infrastructure, people, training, or even licensing new software. No matter how large your company or organization is, you now have the ability to redefine your business model and deliver and support almost any solution you can imagine.

The Internet of Things. Okay, so more and more everyday objects are being connected to the internet. Objects like cars, homes, security systems, and a growing variety of household appliances. And while your business might not have anything to do with “objects,” it does have everything to do with enabling employees and customers to control and make better use of their most important information.

Wearable Tech. A lot of people think that the next stage of mobility is wearable technology. From Google Glass to Nike Fuelbands to the rumored Apple Watch to diagnostic clothing. In the future many of us will be “wearing” a lot more technology and it is worth thinking about the real power of driving greater knowledge and diagnostic ability to our team members and those we have the privilege to serve.

Social Media. How well do you and your organization use social media to connect with, deliver value to, and gain insight from your employees, customers, and partners? Even the most traditional businesses understand the growing influence of social media as an essential tool in their success.

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We win in business and in life when we are open to new ideas and new technologies. And when we try our best to continually get with the program.

Cheers!