Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

The 5 Minute Business Plan

04/06/2011

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Shark Tank or witnessed a desperate business owner trying to pitch his product to a potential customer you may have observed something interesting: the guy or gal on the other side of the desk often knows within the first 15 seconds how the meeting’s going to end. It’s very much like a first date: It’s either an immediate  and absolute “No” or a gradual almost seductive narrative to a possible “Yes!”

The goal then is not to totally bore your audience in the first few minutes. Now although the dating example will have to wait for another time, in entrepreneurship its a dual-play between the entrepreneur and the actual business.

So let’s get started.

There are 10 things that every potential investor, buyer or associate wants to know. Everything else is commentary.

Follow the Rule of 10 / 20/ 30

  • 10 Slides – That’s all you need to get them hooked. All the rest is follow-up.
  • 20 Minutes – Ideally, the presentation should take 5-10 minutes, followed by Q&A.
  • 30 Point Font – If it doesn’t fit on the page, it doesn’t belong in your plan.

Forget special graphics (besides for a logo on your cover page), forget special background, and for heaven’s sake – leave out anything that moves.

The 5 Minute Business Plan

  1. The Team – Who are you (tell them) and why bother with it all? (Some VCs suggest putting this at the end. I say introduce yourself).
  2. The Story – How did you get to where you are and who did you drag with you? (Concise, to the point).
  3. The Problem – What’s so wrong with the market that you’re losing sleep over it?
  4. The Magic – Why you’re better than everything and everyone else out there?
  5. The Demand – How you can prove people actually want what your offering?
  6. The Money – How can you prove that people will actually pay for what you sell?
  7. The Attraction – How do you intend to let your ideal clients know you exist?
  8. The Exit – How long you plan on staying in before you get out?
  9. The Vision – What are the long-term growth options of your company?
  10. The Call to Action – What’s your next move and what do you need to make your millions?

Focus on each of these as if you had ONE chance to present them in front of the President of the United States, the Chairman of Microsoft, and the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

And remember, while great ideas come to us in our sleep, creating world-class businesses is something of another nature – focus, creativity and  persistence.

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Brainstorm #4: Child Education

01/13/2011

Each Monday we explore an edge on a new issue or existing problem. The spade question acts as a catalyst for creative ideas and objectives. This Monday we asked:

How can we improve the communication between parent, teacher and student to better educate our children?

Research from across the board overwhelmingly demonstrates the positive effect of parent-teacher communication and involvement on their children’s academic achievement and does wonder to the long-term accomplishments and competence of their child – including advancement for higher education and better career choices.

Study after study (Clark 1983; Comer 1980, 1988; Eccles, Arbreton, et al., 1993; Eccles-Parsons, Adler and Kaczala 1982; Epstein 1983, 1984; Majoribanks 1979 as cited in Eccles and Harold 1996) made the evidence indisputable that whenever students with similar initial background and aptitude were rated by their performance those with more parental involvement did better. Increased Communication Equals Better Education.

It’s no doubt then why the “No Child Left Behind” Act supports parent involvement and reinforces heavily the administrative responsibility towards every student – regardless of race, ethnicity or background.

We live in eventful times. Everything around us has suddenly become so interesting that we forget to take quality time from our busy day and think about the future of our children. In many cases it’s a phone call, or a an email, just to follow-up or receive feedback on a particular issue.

“Great teachers teach the Three R’s; great principals make great schools. And great parent groups make the difference between a big pile of bricks with teachers inside, or a real community” – Tim Sullivan, founder and president of PTO Today

And indeed it is so. Only a parent can choose to reinforce or compromise the quality of education and effort a teacher invests. Every child needs the support and self-esteem to lead them through the most challenging but also most quintessential part of their life.

So how can we  improve the communication between parent, teacher and student to better educate our children?

Here are some ideas that our readers and team came up with:

1. Listen! 75% of communication is listening to what the other person is actually saying. – C.D.

2. Be more humble and responsible: Simply get the parent/teacher to practice some modesty and practice on being humble – that will be a good start. The student should be willing and open to accepting their authority. – Y.K.

– Piggy-back comment: Create programs and events that encourage children to talk and express themselves their thoughts, feelings, and talents – in a judgement-free zone. Why does “Show & Tell” stop in 1st Grade?

– Piggy-back comment: We could also make kids in charge – offering children the opportunity to practice authority. A “Topsy-Turvy Day” where students play teacher and vice versa may shed light to each on how it feels to be in the other person’s moccasins.

3. Constant dialogue: Constant communication and interest both ways. – C.R.

4. Social Networking: A site where teacher, parent, student and class can all interact in friendly and safe environment. – N.K.

5. Let them out: Encourage kids to talk and express their thoughts, feelings and talents in a judgement-free zone. Why “Show & Tell” stop in 1st Grade?

6. More exciting PTA (parent teacher association): Make it fun, funny, interactive and focus more on accomplishments than the cons or where the child is falling behind.

7. Make education more fun! Adding more interactive, musical or multimedia presentations may enhance both the general attention level and the stickiness of the material (think Sesame Street).

– Other ways may be to have – in addition to the “Pledge of Allegiance” – a morning psyche-up where everybody gets excited about the coming day with a hokey-pokey, class cheers, games and positive affirmations.

– Have everyone (teachers included) say one nice thing to the person next to them.

– Another method for making lessons “stick” would be to add more sensory involvement – touch, taste, sight, smell and sound.

8. Play! Instead of bombarding students with homework, have them make a play demonstrating what they’ve learned on the subject matter. There would be a list of general items or questions that the students would have to answer or research and incorporate them into their act.

– Tools (music tracks, props, material resources) would be provided by the administration. Creativity and would be provided solely by the students.

9. Rewards and Incentives: One thing that parents could do to incentivize their little champs would be to celebrate certain milestones or goals. Throw a party or make a banquet “Perfect Attendance” Breakfast featuring their child’s favorite food! There isn’t a child in the world who doesn’t love getting woken up for a surprise party!

– This can also work as part of a general rewards program that is the result of effort between school and home, with input by both parent and teacher. – N.K.

– This can also work in more extravagant fashion as a national program where each child is issued actual mini-credit-cards (kids love ’em) which rack up points or miles which are redeemable for cash, prizes and trips.

Which suggestions do YOU like best?

What are YOUR ideas?

Let us know!

Brainstorm Follow-up – Fashion

01/09/2011

Each Monday we explore an edge on a new issue or existing problem. The spade question acts as a catalyst for creative ideas and functional improvement. This Monday we asked:

What’s missing in the fashion industry that caters to the ever-growing need for design differentiation, customization and consumer preference?

Note that this was not designed as a genuine spade question, but as a general opener for ideas within the fashion industry at large.

Here are some of the ideas that our team and our readers came up with.


1. Focus on Children: A line that was all-the-rave for children. Top-notch high-end quality yet affordable durable and comfortable for kids, with outfits aimed specifically at making kids look great! – A.L.

2. Custom Shoes: Another custom market that can be tapped into is for high-quality stylish shoes in the sub-$140 range – Y.K.

3. An online builder app used to design affordable customizable made-to-fit clothing. – A.S.

– Designers can put up designs and potential buyers could vote on the ones they like. – M.L.

– Another section could enable fashionistas to design their own outfits from scratch with step by step instructions and tips.

– Yet another feature could permit people to upload pictures of themselves or their favorite celebrity (with approximate body measurements and “try-on” various assortments of outfits, accessories, hair-do’s, etc.

Synopsis:

Design today may give an edge to up-and-coming designers in the same way that YouTube made Justin Bieber into a celebrity. It wasn’t JUST that people were looking for something unique and different, but that they found it in a unique and different place that no one had looked before.
In marketing we call this phenomenon “perceived value”. This means that we submit more value to that which receives more attention. (video – Joshua Bell on his $3.5 million stradivarius). We can’t help it. We’re human! And as such, we can only consciously process a fraction of the information that floods our busy minds (video – selective attention).

I a world of fragmentation, the more places we look, the more overall results we’ll have. And if we filter through ALL those results – either through voting or “Likes” – and share our preference with all our friends it has the ability to act as a tipping point for viral success. If you can get 3 million hits, you can well assume that the equivalent of 1% of the American population has seen or heard about it. A week later it sells for .99 cents on iTunes.

Fashion may begin to work similarly. Anyone and everyone should be able to design their own outfits and feature them. Of course, unlike music video (which is solely an audio-visual experience), fashion has many subtle features – such as texture, material, comfort and fit. Yet for the most part these can be adjusted. Creativity and originality reside by and large in the field of visual appeal. Manufacturers could then line up to produce the highest rated outfits – just as record labels line up for final contestants of American Idol).

Which suggestions do YOU like best? What are YOUR ideas?

Spade Question #3: What’s Missing In Fashion?

01/04/2011
  • Last Week’s Brainstorm: No more prisons.
  • This week’s brainstorm: What’s missing in fashion?

Each week (on Monday) we feature our weekly brainstorm. This week we focus on the fashion industry at large.

What’s missing in the fashion industry that caters to the ever growing need for design differentiation, customization and consumer preference?

About The Fashion Industry

Ask any fashionista and they’ll tell you that fashion definitely ain’t what it used to be. Here’s why:

We got some insights from an article entitled “What’s Wrong With Fashion?” from fashion blogger Tricia Royal.

The economy: If you’ve been following the news over the past few months you’ll know that its no longer the roaring 90s and the American consumer (read: world consumer) is just about tapped out. As credit lines get tightened and families start to cut-back their budgets to within their means, people will be less willing to shell out their dollars each fashion season. This may begin a phase of second-hand shopping for bargain wear.

Not to mention the exorbant prices now demanded for high-end designer wear. Conversely, this may actually help to differentiate the Saks Fifth Avenues from the Stein Marts.

What is interesting is that some people would still rather spend good money of the latest gadgets (think: iPhone) something that ensures long-lasting, practical use, than buy lots of (inevitably) trendy, disposable clothes. It’s not just that the American consumer is tapped out, but that there’s nothing to tap them back in.

Lack of color: Many critics are beside themselves with regard to the schemes and design palates in recent lines. Black seems to be dominant. “People want and connect with color, but designers aren’t offering it” says Royal. “These dark colors for clothing seem almost funereal, and are, interestingly enough, an apt metaphor for the malaise and fear in the air culturally, politically and economically”.

The overhyped fashion industry machine: “Stuff is churned out so fast and slammed into our face so much – via magazines, blogs, websites and the like – we lose sense of what season we’re in and what’s really significant at any given moment stylistically”. Fashion seems to have sped up to the speed of churning out bulk runs of an identical item. As retailers push new, relevant designs out to their floors constantly, pleasing the customer, big designers have a hard time keeping up.

To make up for this glut, the industry “off-kilter delivery cycle puts clothing on the racks and shelves of stores months before a season actually starts. But people want to wear what they buy RIGHT NOW. Why stash it away for later?? Think putting out spring threads in the dead of winter, fall clothes in the heat of summer.”

In the fashion industry people like to see new and upcoming designs or design a selection of their own. What’s missing from the sales-end is the hit-single, the “must-have” item in the market.

So what’s the consumers biggest complaint and what can we expect in the future?

“Clothes are just blah in terms of style (non-comittal, non-novel, bland details). They are made cheaply of cheap materials. People want to feel their buying an item of value” Tricia tells us.

People want to look good and they want to look different and special. The one-model-fits-all-then-outsource-to-China model concept isn’t working anymore. People want diversity, options and fuction. Gucci and Donna Karen are so last century.

In an age where globalization and niche markets are all the rage, a one-off beats the fashion line any day of the month. The problem is that this model requires intense focus on the niche, and dedication to their marketing “NEADS“, as well as the funding necessary to attend to those neads.

In century 21 the consumer rocks, not the fashion artist. Today, you can create an entire line and be celebrated for one unique feature. Once upon a time an item was just an item – all flash, no fire. Today comfort matters (check these out!). Today affordability matters. Today function (durable, wrinkle-free, machine-washable) takes precedence over form. One could add a pocket here, or a flower there but when you put out a line for athletes that absorbs moisture better, or jeans for teenagers who like a tighter fit (if you have Facebook) – that’s a killer!

It seems that people want to design their own clothes more and more. And those who don’t at least want someone who “gets” them. The fashion market – like the music industry and the publishing industry – is customizing, moving gradually away from the industrialized model, and into the new-age phenomenon of long tails.

Today, thanks to the internet, niches can find niches, and anyone can become their local version of Vercace or Aramani. When this happens, while its true that the power-laws still stand strong (yes, Armani will still outsell most generic brands), small time designers (yourself included) may find their niche.

Lastly, the recent phenomenon of earth-friendly greener ways of living will make a deep impact on fashion (see fact #10). In the same vein, the need to express ourselves will have to go in a very different direction than simply believing that “less is more”. Our ethical and moral standard have been shot to hell, along with what the fashion industry has stood for up until the late of last century.

In the near future the attentive designer will outperform the insensitive ones. Everything will be custom to YOU. Glasses that suit YOU. Suits that fit YOU. Fit and preference that matches YOU. Styles and patterns that cater to your personality. Wear that compliments not compromises your convictions.

“What would YOU like to say” will become an industry-wide trademark.

So today our spade question (is it still?) takes on a different nature. Instead of focusing on a specific problem we are brainstorming ideas for future ideas. The question opens the floor to an array of new ideas and we want to hear them!

What’s missing in the fashion industry that caters to the ever growing need for design differentiation, customization and consumer preference?

We want your ideas! And after that, send the link to some friends. Let’s hear what they have to say!

Brainstorm #2 – No More Prisons

12/29/2010
  • Last Week’s Brainstorm – Being More Productive
  • Interesting Fact – Prisons Today.
  • This week’s brainstorm – No More Prisons Tomorrow.

Just in case you missed it, we featured our first weekly brainstorm on our Facebook Page last week. Our Spade Question was:

What can I do to get more important work done in less time and with less effort?

Here are some of the answers we came up with. (Note how the general ideas begin radical and are then tempered to produce practical, reasonable solutions).

  1. Get excited! Make work something to look forward to. Make it fun and reward yourself.
  2. Slow down time! Get the pre-liminary stuff done during off-hours, then execute powerfully in your most energetic time slots.
  3. Beat bureaucracy! Get people to respond quickly to rapidly developing projects (phone and meetings, over text and email.
  4. Let the work do itself! Make repetitive tasks turn-key by using frameworks and templates. Delegate what you can.
  5. Batch! Pool similar tasks with each other and execute in 50 minute spurts of complete focus and attention.

Prison

This week we based our Spade Question on an interesting fact I came across this week:

The United States puts 0.7 % of its population in Prison – a vastly higher percentage than any other nation. This means that at any given moment there are over 2 million people incarcerated. One can imagine that this does very little to fix an ever growing problem. Is the United States truly safer than ANY other country? Is there no better way to spend the $22,000 – the cost, per inmate, per year?


Think about this one: An individual sentenced to five years for a $300 theft costs the public more than $100,000. Only in America.

Most prisoners come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most have not completed high school. Many can barely read. Roughly one-third were been unemployed before imprisonment. Another third had annual incomes of less than $5,000. How can months or even years in prison correct this?

It’s no wonder that 52% – half – of prisoners who are released from prison are convicted and sent back within 3 years.

This all begs to question: Are all these “correctional facilities” really correctional?

How can we eliminate Prisons and Incarceration within 10 years?

Here are some ideas we came up with:

  1. Death Penalty! How could we use the death penalty for petty crimes while still being civil? We can fine them “to death” by charging exorbitant fees for crimes – just like we now do for speeding. Everyone hates tickets, why? Because they work!
  2. Tell on them! What if we told everyone who they know what they’ve done. We know that embarrassment isoften the greatest restructuring of a con. A great change occurs when unsympathetic arrestees gain a deeper understanding as to the effects of their crime. This requires education, not imprisonment.
  3. Nuke the lower class. What if we “nuked” the lower class with education that helped them understand the severity of their crimes or that explained how their talents could be put to better, less risky, more profitable use. What if we explained in simple English (or any other language) that selling TV’s can make more money than stealing them (and then selling them).
  4. “ConStraints”. A new device that would act as an “ankle weight” with properties that a) alert law enforcement of the constant whereabouts and up-to-date information on the “prisoner” b) is able to shock the con (similar to taser) – in the event they compromise the safety of their environment. Different features could be added for various levels of the crime committed.

A case for lesser stringency for second convictions: State prisoners with the highest re-arrest rates were those jailed for stealing cars (70%), possessing stolen property (77%), larceny (75%), burglary (74%), robbery (70%), or those possessing illegal weapons (70%). Within 3 years, only 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide. These are the lowest rates of re-arrest for the same category of crime.


Sources:

http://www.heartsandminds.org/prisons/facts.htm

http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=14835

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/rpr94.htm

“The Causes of Recidivism in the Criminal Justice System and Why It Is Worth the Cost to Address Them.” Nashville Bar Journal. Dec 06/Jan 07. (April 21, 2009).

What is a Spade Question?

12/29/2010

One of the techniques of brainstorming – of gathering a pool of possible ideas for any given issue or project – is to lead with a “spade question”. This opens the floor to an array of ideas and possibilities albeit in a focused and concentrated area.

So what is a Spade Question?

The problem with most brainstorming sessions is that people get side-tracked. They begin discussing one subject but quickly find themselves going down a whole different path. It’s not that anyone is right or left, but that the focus in the beginning wasn’t narrow enough. The best answers often evolve from the best question.

The spade represents both a conclusion and something at a distance far away.

This is what we try to focus on during the brainstorm; to produce a question that naturally narrows not our perspective but our focus. This enables us to pin-point a particular issue and address it head-on. We then broaden our creative minds to expand on all the possibilities within this range.

The best spade questions are those which address the who, what, when and where we wish to get answered.

Example:

Instead of asking:

“How to become a morning person?”

I might ask:

“How could I better arrange my day so that I get a great night’s rest and wake-up early and energized in the mornings?”


Boost Your Creative Ability With “Mind Maps”

03/29/2010

I recently came across a concept called “Mind Mapping”.

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

Maximize the Power of Your Brain – Tony Buzan

How to Create a Mind Map

  1. Use a blank sheet of paper, letter size or larger; turn to landscape orientation. (More room, unrestricted)
    Start in the center of your mental world.
  2. Create a central image that represents the topic about which you are writing or thinking. a) Use at least three colors. b) Keep the height and width of the central image to approx. 2’’ or 5 cm (proportionately larger for bigger paper). c)  Allow the image to create its own shape (do not use a frame).
  3. Draw the main branches of the Mind map from the central image; these are your main ideas, like the chapter headings in a book. a) Print this word in CAPITALS or draw an image. b) Place on a line of the same length. c) The central lines are thick, curved, and organic—like your arm joining your body or the branch of a tree to the trunk.
  4. Start to add a second level of thought. These words or images are linked to the main branch that triggered them. a) Lines connect are thinner. b) Words are still printed but may be lower case.
  5. Add a third or fourth level of data as thoughts come to you. a) Use images as much as you can, instead of, or in addition to the words. b)  Allow your thoughts to come freely, meaning you ‘jump about’ the Mind Map as the links and associations occur to you.
  6. Add a new dimension to your Mind Map. Boxes add depth around the word or image
  7. Outline branches of a Mind Map with color, if desired. a) Enclose the shape of the branch. Hug the shape tightly. b) Use different colors and styles.
  8. Make each Mind Map a little more: beautiful, artistic, colorful,  imaginative, dimensional.

Examples

Some examples are perfect, though this one isn’t. It’s an impromptu mind map (designed as an Organization Chart) based on the “7 Disciplines of the Entrepreneur”, as explained by E-Myth founder, Michael E. Gerber.

As you could see its very detailed, as well as very colorful.

There are a few things missing/wrong with this particular map:

  • Lined ruled paper, instead of plain white
  • Straight lines, instead of curved lines
  • Only ONE level of data (not much room for more)
  • No images – Didn’t have the time 🙂

Here are some other examples I found (click to enlarge):

So get out a blank sheet of paper, some colored pens/markers and try it yourself! It’s amazing how involved you’ll get once you begin!

Creativity: The Organization of Randomness (plus a prize!)

03/05/2010

Imagination is greater than Knowledge Albert Einstein

Creativity is a funny thing. It isn’t thinking, yet its highly intuitive. And it isn’t always rational, yet it solves the toughest problems. When we think of someone as “brilliant,” we rarely refer to IQ points (after 120 it really doesn’t seem to matter).  We are referring to someone who toys with ideas, plays with their assumptions, and can see beyond the obvious.

While it is possible to induce the “creative flow” (as done in brainstorming sessions), there are moments when the most wild and random thoughts just come to you. This often happens when the mind is in a total state of relaxation.

This explains why many great ideas come to us in the shower, or at a time when we are away from our work. Many a genius has been known to have their greatest ideas while on vacation.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up Pablo Picasso

Regardless of how the “messages” come, the key to successful conserving your ideas is to immediately jot down your notes on paper, however random and muddled they may seem, (so long as they are legible).

Later on, you can sort it all out, “think” them over and organize them appropriately.

After The Storm

The best way is to sort these ideas into categories:

a) The Bank: These are the hot ideas. The ones that get you excited and are able to be out into action immediately.

b) The Library: These ideas require further research. They are long-range thoughts that may be applicable, but just not at the present time.

c) The Museum: No idea should ever be thrown away. Even seemingly random, irrelevant thoughts are good to archive in order to look over when you’re in need of inducing the creative flow.

Of course, the master brainstormer will be constantly reviewing and reorganizing his or her notes to seek a new edge, a new point of view, so that everything is in order when the next innovative wave arrives!

Big ideas… are little ideas that no one killed too soon Seth Godin

The Prize!

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