Tag Archives: ideas

Give an “A”

There has only ever been one conductor for the Boston Philharmonic.

Benjamin Zander.

We can all learn a lot from Mr. Zander, author (along with Roz Zander) of The Art of Possibility.

In this video from Teachers.tv, he shares three key insights:
1) It’s all invented
2) Standing in possibility
3) Rule #6 – Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously (that’s the only rule)

In his TED talk below, he tells the story of two salesmen sent to Africa in the 1900’s to determine if there was any opportunity for selling shoes. Two very different telegrams came back to Manchester, England.

Salesman #1: “Situation hopeless! Stop. They don’t wear shoes.”
Salesman #2: “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet!”

(Which salesman would you rather hire?)

He also converts an entire room of people who thought they didn’t like classical music.

Ben Zander has changed thousands of students who pass through his class and millions of others who have seen him present, either live or through videos like these.

Ben was also very generous in contributing a story to our upcoming fear.less e-book, coming in July 2009.

Ben Zander

Your idea isn’t special


I hate to tell you this, but someone else has already thought of it.

You know, that million-dollar gem that you thought of last year but haven’t told anyone about for fear they would steal it?

Go ahead. Tell them. Tell anyone. Tell everyone.

Brian Scudamore of 1-800-GOT-JUNK wasn’t the first guy to think about making money by hauling people’s trash away. He just executed better than anyone.

Ev Williams and Biz Stone weren’t the first people to have the idea that microblogging would take off. But they were the first ones to build Twitter. They executed. They won.

The value isn’t in the idea. (Here are 999 ideas you can have for free.) The value is in the execution.

If you can out execute the competition, you’ll win. It doesn’t matter how many people know about your idea.

If you can’t out execute, be honest with yourself. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so share the idea with someone who can. Write a blog post. Send a letter to an expert. Start a Facebook page. Partner with somebody who can execute and maybe they’ll bring you the next idea.

Either execute on your idea or share it liberally.

Gaining approval


Do you have a great idea for overhauling the company intranet but know that you could never get approval from the IT managers?

Did you just think of a great new product but are afraid that the R&D execs will squash the idea?

The good news:
I know the formula to help you get your idea implemented.

The bad news:

It will take time and runs counterintuitive to human nature.

Here is the magic formula.

1) Start small. Implement an idea that is of low enough risk to get the initial buy in from someone who trusts you. If it’s small enough and low risk enough, don’t even ask permission. Just do it.

2) Promise them all the credit. If it succeeds, you make sure it comes across as their idea. They get all the plaques, ribbons and accolades.

3) You take all the blame. If it fails, make sure they know it will be on your shoulders, not theirs.

4) Execute. Deliver early and under budget. Implement wow.

5) Rinse and repeat with something bigger. If you keep making other people look good and get quality projects executed, you’ll gain a reputation. And more autonomy.

Do this a few times and your biggest problem will be choosing who gets to take credit for your next great idea.

Do it a few more times and you won’t be able to escape the credit.

Capture inspiration everywhere


Moments of genius are rarely scheduled ahead of time.

Detained during a battle in 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner on the back of a letter that he had in his pocket.

James Taylor came up with his signature song, Sweet Baby James, as he was driving to meet his infant nephew for the first time.

R&B singer Richard Berry jotted down the lyrics to Louie, Louie on (clean) toilet paper from the bathroom in a nightclub.

In 1940, W.C. Fields scribbled down a plot idea on some paper he found in his pocket, and sold it to Universal Studios for $25,000. It became his last film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Fields received screenplay credit as Otis Criblecoblis.

Stories of Abraham Lincoln drafting the Gettysburgh Address on the back of an envelope and the initial plan for Southwest Airlines being drawn on a bar napkin make great stories but have been proven to be false.

Still, the examples above are the reason I’m never far from my Moleskine. Or a bar napkin.

The 99 Percent Conference

I wanted to personally thank Scott Belsky and his team at Behance and Josh Rubin and his team at Cool Hunting for hosting the 99% Conference at the Times Center in New York City this week.

This was the first ever 99 Percent conference. Many inaugural conferences hit multiple snags in either planning or execution. Behance and Cool Hunting pulled this off like they’ve been doing it for years, and much more flawlessly than the amazing TED conference on it’s 25th anniversary. Maybe Scott and Josh will allow their conference committees to help out in Long Beach in 2010.

Unlike many conferences that focus simply on new ideas, this one was about making ideas happen. The name of the conference came from Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” More than 350 creative thinkers gathered to hear nine 20-minute presentations focused on productivity and the process of executing ideas.

The speakers were simply amazing. Instead of rewriting my own synopsis, I’ll link to those who have already eloquently summarized the main points.

Fast Company


Design Arts Daily

Swiss Miss on Ji Lee

Swiss Miss on Seth Godin

Alex’s excellent Squidoo lens

The conference was amazing. I’ll definitely be back next year.