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Category: Strategy

The Unfamiliar Stimulates Creativity

As years, decades and centuries go by, the one thing we always seem to increase in is our ability to choose. Because there’s always more available for us to choose from.

Yet we always default to the same. The same restaurants, the same genre of music or books. The same hair cut. The same daily routine.

And then we wonder why we get stumped in coming up with creative solutions on the fly.

The unfamiliar activates new neutron connections in our brain and stimulates right brain thinking, where our creativity originates from.

So the cure for creative block? Try something new. A new place to eat. New music. New literature. A different daily routine. Even a new haircut, but don’t go crazy with that one.

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What’s Your Favourite Chocolate Bar?

As I’m writing this I currently work for one of the world’s largest chocolate and pet food manufacturers. Mars Inc. has been around for over 100 years and I was fortunate enough to land a position with them in their commercial division last spring.

But that’s how it’s currently going, not how it started.

In 2015 I had applied for a different position with Mars and was invited in for an interview. Though I could have answered some of the questions better, overall I felt I had wrapped up the discussion on a high note. That’s until they asked me the final question:

Mars: “So what’s your favourite chocolate bar?”

Me: “Reese peanut butter cups.”

Mars: “Hmm, oh ok that’s not one of ours.”

Me: {Makes awkward smiley face}

In my preparation I overlooked one of the most basic fundamental principles in impressing during an interview: understanding the difference between a company’s products and their competitors.

Not saying that mishap was the reason I didn’t get the job, but I’m confident it didn’t help my cause.

My advice: over prepare for big opportunities. The devil will always be in the details.

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Inclusion & Diversity = Authenticity

My favourite part from the Disney/Pixar movie Soul is easily the barbershop scene. A few weeks after watching the movie I learned the barbershop scene wasn’t part of the original screenplay.

Yeah, that scene was my idea. It wasn’t even in the film. I said like, “This guy has to pass through authentically Black spaces and there’s no more authentically Black space than a barbershop.”

Kemp Powers, a co-director for Soul who happens to be black , felt the movie was lacking a scene showing an authentic black experience with the characters. Through his own personal experiences he thought adding a barbershop scene to the storyline would fill that void:

Hair falls gently down to the floor. That’s how the scene opens. You hear the clippers buzzing and the hair falls onto Dez’s (the barber) Timberland boots….I just knew that it would be incredible to see the process of a Black haircut up close, in a Pixar film.

The animators took trips to the barbershops, and they sat there, and barbers worked through all of their tools so that everything was done in order. The level of detail that goes into everything; nothing happens in an animated film by accident.(Quotes from interview on State.com)

Having a co-black director in place, Pixar provided opportunities for culturally relevant ideas like adding the barbershop to actually happen. But they didn’t stop there with Soul.

All the key elements of the film were run by the internal culture trust made of Pixar’s Black employees. Areas like character designs, set designs, and more, to ensure the film felt culturally authentic. Additionally Pixar brought in external consultants to assist with lighting black skin to bring an authentic, distinct look to the black characters.

Soul feels the way it does when you watch it because all of these elements were considered ahead of time by Pixar. It’s impossible to create an culturally authentic experience without providing room for equity, inclusion and diversity in the creative decision making process.

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A Real American Hero

When we hear the phrase “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero!”, most of us think about the original cartoon series from the 1980’s. Others might refer to the original 12-inch action figures that were first introduced by Hasbro in 1964 and the extensive toy line decades following. But the true story of G.I. Joe originated much earlier than both of those references.

G.I. Joe was hatched in 1943 and eventually was awarded the Dickin Medal for most outstanding flight made by a United States Army homing pigeon in World War II.

Yes you heard that right. G.I. Joe was a originally a pigeon. And not just any old pigeon. A homing pigeon that helped saved over 100 U.S. soldiers by carry vital information to the air base when radio systems were down.

‘G.I. Joe’ went from being a critically important communication tool in war to eventually a billion dollar toy and entertainment brand. It’s purpose switched from saving lives to entertaining them.

This isn’t a moral report against Hasbro using the name for profit. Someone from the U.S. Army signed off authority to use the name. It’s more about how some things we set out to do may end up having another purpose that could be equally as important.

Where some may just see a plastic action figure, others know how much joy Hasbro’s G.I. Joe brought to kids who in their particular situation (illness, family issues, etc.) needed something to smile about.

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Just Start Your Own Holiday

December 26th is Boxing Day. The day after Christmas when we decide it’s time to do something for ourselves by waiting in line for hours for the door crasher deals we’ve been eyeing.

Like so many other events, COVID-19 lockdown precautions took away our Boxing Day experience forcing the closure of most retail businesses.

Where many other businesses prepared for lost sales, LEGO saw an opportunity to fill the void by officially declaring December 26th as LEGO Build Day – a celebration of creativity, imagination, and togetherness.

If families weren’t out shopping, they could be home doing something together. Like building LEGO sets. More likely ones that were unwrapped on Christmas. Which, we’re probably the sets bought in anticipation for LEGO Build Day in the first place.

The biggest times of crisis can bring out the genius we never knew we had. Whenever you get stuck always remember LEGO actually created their own holiday for the win.

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The Right Way to Build Intrigue

KFC, formally Kentucky Fried Chicken, is planning to release a gaming console.

No, really. This isn’t fake news.

The KFConsole is a real console with real specs. KFC partnered with tech company Cooler Master to deliver gaming power in the form of 240fps on select titles at 4K resolution and 2TB SSD based storage solution with Seagate BarraCuda SSDs.

Oh, and it also has a built in warmer to keep your chicken hot for those late night weekend gaming sessions.

Whether or not the KFConsole will compete with market leaders Microsoft and Sony remains to be seen. For now KFC’s risky investment into the gaming industry has put their brand back on the pop culture radar. A place KFC hasn’t been since the launch of Toonie Tuesday back in the 90’s

All this from the fast food giant who arguably doesn’t currently offer the best fried chicken in the market today. But the idea is too intriguing to not pay attention. And that’s exactly the point.

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Who’s Your Successor?

When you take a bite out of a Snickers chocolate bar do you realize you’re eating a product manufactured by a brand that launched over 100 years ago?

In 1911 Frank C. Mars started selling butter cream candy from his kitchen in Tacoma WA. From there he eventually grew that small start up in to what we know today as Mars Inc. Home of iconic confection brands like Twix, Snickers, M&Ms and of course the Mars bar.

But Frank C. Mars wasn’t there to see the entire journey. Sadly Frank passed away in 1934. But as we can see from the success of the Mars company today his vision didn’t go with him.

To this very day his descendants, the Mars family, oversees the privately owned global organization that employs 80,000 plus associates in over 180 countries.

In the process of building we can’t forget that succession planning may be the only way our dreams and visions actually come to fruition. Not naming a successor will consequently lead to our blueprints being buried with us.

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Follow-Through

In sports following-through is the range of motion from the beginning of a movement all the way to the complete end of the action.

Any slight change or tweak during the motion can disproportionately affect how on target an athlete is.

In an article for GolfDigest.com Tiger Woods briefly explains the follow-through in his swing:

“I like to think that my follow-through determines how high the ball is going to launch. In reality, my follow-through is a result of my angle of attack.”

We get excited about ideas, plans and the initial concepts we draft. But only having the right ‘angle of attack’ in planning our follow-through will determine how far those plans will come to be when all the excitement passes.

Zig Ziglar sums this up nicely:

“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” – Zig Ziglar

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What’s in Your Playbook?

Maps. Navigational systems. Playbooks.

Getting to our destination requires using one of these tools to make it happen. So what’s in your playbook?

What books do you have listed to read next year that will get you to the next level in your career, or help you expand you business? Or how about books for being a better spouse, parent or friend?

What courses are you planning on taking to learn a new skill or sharpen an old one? Maybe a course on health and wellness?

Do you have a mentor or coach that can help you see the blind spots in your life or push you become a high performer in your life and career?

What tools have you invested in to track your progress? (Note: investing could mean just downloading an app)

You rarely get to your desired destination by chance. Setting up your playbook in advance is the prerequisite for ensuring you get there.

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There’s Room For Your Idea

There’s a reason why a wide selection of red wines are available in the market. You can pretty much find a wine in any price point, multiple flavours, textures, and imported from regions around the world.

Whatever fits your budget and personal taste, you can be sure you’ll find what you want, even if you have to pay a high price for it (like rare aged imports).

That’s the way market share works. Companies find opportunities to steal a piece of that market by expanding on an existing idea.

Our ideas don’t always need to be revolutionary in order to be successful. We just need to ensure there’s a low cost yet full body bottle of Australian Cabernet available on the market for those specific customers looking for it.

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