Editorial Results (free)
1. Atkinson Joins Dermaflage Team
- Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Michael Graber asked that I write this week’s column to both announce my move to join the leadership team at our Ventures company, Silicone Arts Labs, and to reflect on the last seven years at Southern Growth Studio. We announce my departure from the Studio with a great sense of pride and accomplishment, as it is one of the ways we are meeting our mission and making a positive impact in Memphis.
2. Business Becomes Human
- Monday, June 30, 2014
After sifting through 20-plus in-depth consumer narratives of their condition, an R&D scientist said to me, “We need to always begin new product development projects this way.”
These people went into great details about their lives, their struggles, their rituals, their beliefs. As we unpacked their learnings, the scientist understood the complexities of having a rich, full contextual understanding of the people for whom he will design new, innovative solutions.
3. Necessary Disruptions
- Monday, June 23, 2014
Last week, the New Yorker published an article about how Disruptive Innovations have failed and how the theory is bogus. The long piece went into great depth about the emerging Disruption industry of consultants, the Disruption ethos prevalent in Silicon Valley and the many Disruption discussions in boardrooms across the globe. As a local practitioner of innovation methodologies, several people asked me my take on the piece.
4. Perfection vs. Petri Dish
- Monday, June 16, 2014
We live in the fastest-evolving marketplace in history, so why is it that so many companies still move so slowly bringing new products to market?
We believe it is because they are holding fast to an industrial revolution mindset where innovations are carefully devised, honed and perfected. The heft of extensive machines and expensive infrastructure mire down the collective mindset, locking in a collective fear of imperfection. There is much to learn from the nimble tech industry that focuses on speed to market over perfection.
5. Culture of Collaboration
- Monday, June 09, 2014
Despite tremendous advances in technology that yield nearly infinite access to information and the Internet’s connectivity of the world’s greatest experts, many companies continue to look inward for new product development and innovation.
6. Enroll the Skeptics Early
- Monday, June 02, 2014
After working on hundreds of innovation projects, one fact remains. If you cannot get executive sponsorship of the final concepts, they will never launch. We recommend a few steps to get leadership engaged in solving the problem with you as part of the process; therefore, they will feel invested in the outcome of the innovations in the marketplace.
7. Have Courage to Leap
- Monday, May 26, 2014
As Innovation and Growth Strategy consultants, we have methods, processes and exercises that we apply to client problems.
While tools from this vast toolbox work for any type of organization seeking to provide a better service or product (health care, nonprofit, hospitality, consumer goods, financial services, wholesalers and B2B) to generate insights and custom solutions that set them up as a category leader, what we sell is something else ultimately. This is perhaps the rarest asset in corporate America for an unknown reason, called courage.
8. How to Get Unstuck From a Rut
- Monday, May 19, 2014
Perspective is everything. In life and work life this adage proves true time and time again.
If you can see opportunity without preset lenses, you are more prone to make advantageous use of this gift. If you harness the skill to zoom out and zoom in, you see your business in many different settings, in different categories and segments, and serving different customers. We, at the Studio, cannot empathize the power of fresh thinking and a cached perspective.
9. Being Social Entrepreneurs
- Monday, May 12, 2014
There is a lot of talk these days about social entrepreneurs and social ventures but not a lot of clarity around what this really means.
It seems the term is just a new spin on not-for-profits, a new label for startup organizations that focus on social issues. However, there is a big difference – social ventures can be for-profit or nonprofit in their structure.
10. Running on Autopilot?
- Monday, May 05, 2014
With the first quarter behind us, it is time to evaluate your business performance and start assessing the effectiveness of the tactics in your growth strategy. At the end of each quarter it is imperative to run a series of diagnostics to attain a deeper understanding of why the results are what they are, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
11. Go Deep or Go Home
- Monday, April 28, 2014
We meet companies and nonprofits who have been marketing to the same lists for years. Often, these lists and the assumptions about the people on their lists are more than a decade old. These aged lists may have been scrubbed, but that is simply for those who have fallen off the grid, one way or another. This point should be obvious to any reader of this column: there are major problems with this scenario.
12. Innovation Risk Brings Rewards
- Monday, April 21, 2014
Suppose I told you that you could spend $185,000 and turn it into $25 million or more in a few years. You would accuse me of phishing, an investment scam, or dismiss the proposition as foolhardy. Yet, these are the types of returns we see from clients and those in the world who invest in breakthrough innovation at their companies.
13. Backend of Innovation
- Monday, April 14, 2014
Many of the CEOs we talk to tell us that they have more growth ideas than they know what to do with. It seems like there is a universal love affair with generating ideas but less enthusiasm when it comes to figuring out which ideas are the most commercially viable and how to actually implement.
14. Trendcasting and Innovation
- Monday, April 07, 2014
Did you wake up this morning to realize that the world has changed and your business has not changed with it? If you are a regular reader of this column you know we discuss growth strategy and innovation and all of the challenges that accompany those pursuits. We see many companies of all sizes that are dying a slow death in a saturated market with outdated business models. They fail to get out ahead of what’s next.
15. The Right ROI of Innovation for Your Firm
- Monday, March 31, 2014
Innovation as investment is a simple three-step process. First, figure out the risk tolerance level at a firm. Then you can get real with your expectations, roles, resources, and metrics. Second, come up with a mix based on the risk-tolerance level of your culture. Third, formalize the assignment – and kick off all projects with visible executive leadership support. The executive support is critically important.
16. Slow Down to Innovate
- Monday, March 24, 2014
Somewhere in the Industrial Revolution a prejudice was created for speed.
Efficiency came to mean effectiveness. From this mindset emerged two paradigmatic biases: more is better (more work, more inventory, more money) and speed wins (time to market, time is money, etc.). This mindset was a boon in its era, but has outlived its usefulness.
17. Marketing Is About Strategy
- Monday, March 17, 2014
The word marketing has lost its true meaning in common business vernacular. Instead of a strategic activity that contemplates price, product, promotion and place, marketing has largely come to mean tactical execution of advertising or sales materials.
18. Nichols’ Rookie Award Comes With Accolades
- Friday, March 14, 2014
First, there was the debate. Would Briarcrest star Austin Nichols really stay home and play for the Memphis Tigers? Or would outside offers, including ones from Duke, Kansas and North Carolina, be too good to pass up?
19. Keep Your Finger On The Pulse
- Monday, March 10, 2014
Would you believe us if we told you that traditional market research is an antiquated practice that is heading toward obsolescence? Even the online survey, the modern successor of the traditional door-to-door and phone surveys doesn’t really cut it in today’s complex world.
20. Next Step: Innovate Open Young Minds
- Monday, March 03, 2014
Our last Let’s Grow column focused on an outgrowth of our efforts with some sharp peers, the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp.
One objective of the Bootcamp is to build a community of innovators. The more we socialize these methods and tools, the larger the social and business problems can be met with creativity, empathy and the widest range of possible solutions.
21. Innovation for the Rest of Us
- Monday, February 24, 2014
Innovation, as a discipline, tends to be special assignment work that is reserved for the creative hotshots, iconoclasts, those in hot spots like Palo Alto, or on an esteemed university campus, such as MIT.
22. Your Intellectual Property Strategy
- Monday, February 17, 2014
Entrepreneurs and businesses alike wrestle with the question of patents. Patents can be an accelerator or a hurdle as new products and technology travel through the pipeline and approach the market.
23. Prioritize Market Opportunities
- Monday, February 10, 2014
Too often companies rush to bring new products to market without first considering which verticals to sell into and which sales channels to utilize. This leads to a series of detrimental scenarios that end in lackluster market performance or white rabbit chasing that burns cash and never yields market traction.
24. Corporate Shamanism
- Monday, February 03, 2014
Everyday we advise clients to take risks, leap into unknown and unexplored areas, express themselves in new ways – all to locate, validate and capitalize on new areas of growth.
We have formal methods and processes for unlocking potential and manifesting new realities for them. We always tell them to be true to themselves, their organizations and be a positive force on the planet. We embolden and encourage. We connect them to the real lives that use their creations.
25. The Role of Play in Innovation
- Monday, January 27, 2014
In the Creative Economy, inspiring a sense of play in culture, marketing and innovation is critical to success. You have to engage your people so that they can engage prospects and customers with a lively sense of mission and purpose. Too often the roles we assign diminish this sense of play.
26. If It Can Be Imagined, It Can Be Made
- Monday, January 20, 2014
The industrial revolution brought efficiency but led to the decline of human creation by hand. We stopped tinkering and started operating machines, becoming inherently less ingenious.
Over the past century, new product developed hinged on access to expensive machines out of reach for the individual. Thus, new production development and innovation became the domain of companies with the cutting edge equipment.
27. Time for Biz Housekeeping
- Monday, January 13, 2014
The new year is a time of growth planning, renewed focus and basic housekeeping. We encourage you to take this time to evaluate your business for pruning opportunities. Just like nature’s cycle, the old must die to make room for the new in the business realm as well.
28. Will a Leader Take a Stand?
- Monday, January 06, 2014
Despite its history of entrepreneurialism, Memphis is a ghost town when it comes to birthing and growing businesses.
We keep beating this drum, hoping people will hear and that a leader will answer the call. Memphis needs an entrepreneurial champion.
29. Shooting for the Moon
- Monday, December 23, 2013
The Commerical Appeal ran a story last week about the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and its “Moon Missions.” While the details remain nebulous, the Chairman’s Circle consists of private sector leaders that contribute funding and business perspective to identify, analyze and define solutions for some of Memphis’ greatest challenges.
30. Since When is Failure Good?
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Failure is the new business and innovation buzzword. Magazine articles, consultants and even professors are encouraging everyone to “learn to fail.”
Their intent is to break the hardwiring in our culture that trains us to strive for success and perfection because they believe this limits our appetite for taking risk. They hold up poor Thomas Edison as a famous failure and use Winston Churchill’s quote “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” as support for their mantra. The failure zealots celebrate failure and encourage everyone to not just fail, but fail a lot.
31. Revenue Model Innovation Exercise
- Monday, December 09, 2013
One generative exercise for any CPG company to explore growing market share is hold a session where a team role-plays a wide array of alternative revenue models for a particular brand.
As far as the ground rules for this ideation session, any ideas should be welcomed – and the cultural antibodies of “how we have always done things” need to be silenced. This session will not only challenge your existing model and inspire new, profitable thinking, but will also unlock new avenues of growth the existing paradigm of doing business usually will not allow considering.
32. Listening: The Hardest Part
- Monday, December 02, 2013
For many in the innovation field, the hardest task is listening – real listening, deep listening. To listen without building a mental model or rushing to a conclusion is a cultivated skill.
To listen to a person’s summary of your product or service and honor their experience as the only experience that matters is not only a great courtesy, but it can be a competitive advantage; that is, if you are willing to collect feedback from a lot of customers and apply adaptive intelligence.
33. Define Your Core Business
- Monday, November 25, 2013
Most successful new businesses begin by taking advantage of a new, untapped opportunity that develops in the marketplace. These businesses can grow organically for many years by continuing to take advantage of their formula for success.
34. End User Holds the Keys
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Last week we had Shekhar Mitra, the former head of global research and development for Procter & Gamble in Memphis for a strategy working session with our Southern Growth Ventures portfolio company, Dermaflage. We are very fortunate to have Mr. Mitra on the board, and we asked him to share his innovation model with the team over lunch.
35. Parts or Whole?
- Monday, November 11, 2013
What do you call a single cell in a huge body acting counter to the general flow of a body? A rebel cell.
The theory of cancer is happening at the corpuses of businesses everywhere. When parts are running in different directions than the whole, there is a schism a hand.
36. Be Open To Surprises
- Monday, November 04, 2013
The commercial world of research and development, product development and innovation can learn from the insights of poetry by applying the deep wisdom to its process and pipeline. A single line from a Robert Frost essay has the gravity to change the growth trajectory of a business: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
37. You Should Play to Win in Business
- Monday, October 28, 2013
A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, the keynote speaker at the FedEx Institute of Technology’s Innovation Expo, shared a wealth of insights on leadership and strategy from his experience and his collaboration with Peter Drucker. However, his most impactful message was so simple, many in the audience may have missed it – strategy is about making choices. That’s all there is to it. Make decisions about what business you are in, how you win in this business and then stick to them.
38. Bite Yourself Before You Get Bitten
- Monday, October 21, 2013
A few weeks ago we attended the FedEx Institute of Technology’s Innovation Expo to hear Philip Mudd, formally of the CIA and FBI, speak about risk, and A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, discuss product development and market strategy. We will share with you their messages in our next two columns, as both had unique insight on strategy.
39. Private Labels Winning Brand Wars
- Friday, October 11, 2013
Almost everyday the Studio faces challenges that private label competitors impose upon our branded products clients. More and more private label brands are taking lessons out of the innovation and brand strategy playbooks and getting ahead of the once category-leading brand product.
40. Go Beyond Insight to Foresight
- Friday, October 04, 2013
Foresight is better than insight.
Given advances in market research, innovation methods and data analysis, insights should aim for being less descriptive and more predictive.
The highest and best value of business is to find new opportunities and plug into emerging trends, rather than make deeper sense of what already exists. These envisioning roles and departments should be renamed the Foresight department rather than Insights.
41. Avoid Competitive Blind Spots
- Friday, September 27, 2013
Pop quiz: do you complete a formal competitive analysis at your company a few times a year? Do you have a systematic way to monitor and capture competitive information real-time?
Be honest. It’s too bad we even have to ask this question, but the vast majority of the companies we meet with do not have a formal process nor do they analyze competitors regularly as a matter of course. They make excuses, telling us that their sales guys know exactly what’s going on in the marketplace. They tell us they rely on the “Magic Quadrant” put out by their industry’s presiding research firm. But the truth is they operate on hearsay and gut feelings. This is true for large and small companies alike, all myopically focused on the tasks at hand and the daily fires.
42. Don’t Let People Halt Progress
- Friday, September 20, 2013
Many times it is the people on the team that limit their own company’s growth. Infighting, politics and a lack of conviction at the top are the most common inhibitors to growth that we see in our work as consultants. Sure, breakthrough ideas backed by a strong business case are needed to fuel continued growth, but many times those are easier to come by than team collaboration and consensus. People stand in the way of progress.
43. Ideation Different Than Brainstorming
- Friday, September 06, 2013
As a critical phase of any innovation project, ideation brings the generative possibilities to life. While there are similarities with traditional brainstorming, there are also some key differences. Let’s explore both in this column.
44. The [Fill in the Blank] Way
- Friday, August 30, 2013
Each professional entity has a way of handling business. This way is encoded with spoken and codified rules and unspoken and non-verbal clues on how to perform. What gets done, how decisions are made and how money gets allocated can be defined as “culture.” This way, then, is an explicit and implicit set of rituals that reward or punish based on its own complicated, internal logic.
45. Drowning in Big Data
- Friday, August 23, 2013
“We have so much data but no answers.” This phrase echoes down the halls of all of the larger clients with whom we meet. In a quantitative world, where there is every dimension of research and analysis available, unreality multiples. The business world is drowning in data and, by the level of panic and anxiety, has lost its rudder.
46. Turning Good Ideas Into Great Products
- Friday, August 16, 2013
One innovation method is to invite customers (in a B-2-B situation) or consumers (in a B-2-C scenario) into the creative process with you. Here, they will ideate, workshop concepts that arise in the session, augment concepts provided for them, and create some new product or service ideas that do not yet exist.
47. Execs: Feed Yourself First
- Friday, August 09, 2013
So many new business ventures die on the vine. Statistics vary, and we’ll keep the details of the debate to a minimum here. Let’s say that 1 in 20 make it. Let’s define the “Making It” as either having a profitable company after five years of existence or selling to a larger firm for a wealth-creating sum.
48. Your Company Must Play to Win
- Friday, August 02, 2013
Are you rewarding your team for outrageous thinking about your product or service mix? Do you give them ample room to experiment and defy expectations about such things as new customer experiences, new business models, new strategies, growth ideas, and new lines of revenue? Can they play and not be punished for generating new thinking about old problems? Can they learn by doing?
49. Purposeful Innovations
- Friday, July 26, 2013
Many of the Let’s Grow columns discuss practical and theoretical strategies and tactics to help companies better innovate.
While these tips and tools can serve as a guide to creating breakthrough and incremental innovations at your firm, they tend to have a higher rate of success in corporate cultures that provide the process, rewards, metrics, training and resources to innovate. More important, perhaps, is a mindset that fine tunes the organization. This mindset can galvanize a culture. This mindset is based in an overarching purpose.
50. Labor of Love
- Tuesday, July 23, 2013
One morning a few days ago, Jeff Hulett woke up earlier than usual.
His days frequently are a blur of activity – given that he’s a PR and communications coordinator for the Church Health Center, as well as a husband and father – and on this particular morning he wanted to squeeze in some time to himself playing guitar.
51. Perfect Harmony: MBA and MFA Mindsets
- Friday, July 12, 2013
Business needs to bridge two universes together: the scientific process taught in schools that offer a Master of Business Administration degree and the creative process taught in Master of Fine Arts degree programs.
52. Three Critical Ingredients for Innovation
- Friday, June 21, 2013
Our firm, the Southern Growth Studio, helps many companies with innovation. We help with projects labeled as innovation and we also consult on how companies set up the processes, framework, and governance for successful innovation.
53. Doing Right is Good Marketing
- Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Here is a short list of rapid cultural changes: Consumer and business databases. Cable. TIVO and DVR. The Internet. Search engines. Satellite radio. Podcasts. Social networks. Blogs. Mobile. The iPhone. Thousands more innovations in beta today.
54. Financial Speed Bumps for Innovations
- Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The creative process of birthing breakthrough innovations can provide a substantial top-line boon but too often suffers a fatal flaw felt in failed product launch after failed product launch.
Welcome to the Innovation Graveyard. Hundreds of millions of dollars get lost here.
55. PURE GOLD: Use Effective Taglines
- Wednesday, May 29, 2013
While many tools and technologies of marketing change at the speed of innovation, some fundamental elements retain their value. A few essential elements increase in value as more clutter finds new ways to compete for our increasingly valuable attention. Nothing has as much perennial value as an effective tagline.
56. Measuring Innovation With Money
- Wednesday, May 22, 2013
But will it make real money? Innovation is such a heady, ill-defined concept. Innovation is one of those words – like strategy or creativity – that means either nothing or something different to anyone who hears it. But when handled correctly, genuine innovations are the lifeblood of any company’s continued health and success.
57. Forming the Second Wave
- Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Most businesses start with vigor and willpower. Truly breakthrough businesses launch and fly with such an impassioned sense of mission that it changes the market and the communities where their offices are located.
58. Both Sides Win in ‘Battle of the Brains’
- Wednesday, May 08, 2013
If you have ever engaged someone in a discussion about left- and right-brain thinking they almost always take a side. Sometimes it seems that the two sides are incompatible and unbending in their view of how one should see the world. The right-brain people are typically labeled “creative” and “artistic” with a unique ability to see things intuitively and as a whole. The left-brain people are “analytical” and “detail oriented” utilizing linear process and logic to solve problems.
59. Nobody Wins the Low Price War
- Wednesday, May 01, 2013
We get asked about pricing all of the time. Usually, the inquisitor is looking for a simple answer but the topic is vastly complex due to the many variables involved.
Pricing is a key element of market strategy and a powerful lever in your arsenal. It is intrinsically tied to your position in the market and is only as effective as your strategy as a whole.
60. If You Can’t Win, Change the Game
- Wednesday, April 24, 2013
In today’s dynamic world it is imperative for companies to continually realize growth through a sustainable competitive advantage. The trouble is that every innovation is just one new innovation away from becoming obsolete. How do proactive companies stay one step ahead?
61. Sometimes You Need to Shift Things Around
- Wednesday, April 17, 2013
When leading a series of innovation workshops for Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s Innovation Delivery Team with division leaders at City Hall, our task was steep: change long-standing behavior patterns. Turn doers into innovators. Have proven professionals who are deeply embedded in their roles get out of their current paradigm and empathize with the community and citizens they serve. Break the cognitive lock created by doing the same thing every day and see the city with fresh eyes.
62. Market Power Versus Brute Force
- Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Pushing too hard? Often a rush to hit short-term numbers or an over-caffeinated executive can force some costly mistakes. Failed product launches. A weak but bloated product pipeline. A service in desperate need of reinvention but too entrenched and in love with its own methods too change. A company that charges ahead blindly, carrying dead weight and a dying value proposition to the market. A feature set that doesn’t meet users real needs. Add a bomb from your professional experience here ___.
63. Zero Budget – What a Boon
- Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Entrepreneurs come alive when all odds are stacked against them. Think of the famous stories. Walt Disney and Frank Lloyd Wright going bankrupt several times until their visions pay off. Edison brokering the GE deal that meant the West would use the type of electricity the wizard of Menlo Park created. Steve Jobs kicked out of Apple, starting Next. The old saying holds true: the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
64. Companies Need to Think Like Venture Capitalists
- Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Last week we discussed the concept of the intrapreneur and our conviction that companies must add the pressures of failure and constrained resources to get ingenuity. Real entrepreneurs have vision, resilience and fortitude. Their natural drive, focus on survival and ability to pivot with the market is what generates market winners. It is the natural selection process at work. This is why VCs think the team is most critical, and companies looking to innovate should too.
65. Put Your Internal Team on Bootstrap to Drive Innovation
- Wednesday, March 20, 2013
In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary acknowledged the popular use of a new word, “intrapreneur,” meaning “a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.” This term and concept is enjoying a revival as current companies struggle to realize growth and innovation. Companies seeking growth typically design programs that are based in strategy-driven or intrapreneur-driven innovation.
66. 3-D Printing Revolution Will Drive Innovation
- Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Technology like that imagined by Star Trek and the futuristic cartoon The Jetsons is becoming reality with 3-D printing. Also known as additive manufacturing, it creates customized solid three-dimensional objects from digital schematics. It has arrived – and it is disruptive.
67. Southern Growth Studio Helps Companies Think Differently
- Monday, March 11, 2013
Memphis-based Southern Growth Studio is getting ready to bring some of the spirit of innovation, sunny optimism and can-do attitude to Memphis that its principals found on a recent trip to Las Vegas.
68. Good Manners and Innovation
- Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Brainstorming sessions can easily devolve into a contest of strong egos or a parade of old, tired ideas and their accompanying resentments. Worse, meetings around ideation or innovation sour when there is lack of good manners.
69. Alas, Poor Henry and the Problem
- Wednesday, February 27, 2013
According to legend, Henry Ford scoffed at market research and what we now call Consumer Insights, proclaiming, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” While there is a certain degree of wisdom in this statement, it has been misquoted to justify bad, hubris-inspired product failures by too many corporate egos.
70. Why Limit Yourself?
- Wednesday, February 20, 2013
When consulting with clients here in the Memphis area, we often have to deliver the bad news first. This bitter pill usually comes in the form of a Sunset Analysis that details when the client’s once market-leading products will be costing more to keep in production than generating revenue.
71. Can Big Data Pay Off Big?
- Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Perhaps one of the most exciting advances in this decade is the emergence of big data, a collection of data sets so large they cannot be processed with standard database management programs. The analytics that companies glean from this data yield quantitative insight into business strategy that was previously unavailable. The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s.
72. Economic Development Through Entrepreneurism
- Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Last week we visited downtown Las Vegas to tour and learn more about what Zappos founder Tony Hsieh is doing to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and urban revitalization through his Downtown Project initiative. Hsieh is personally investing $350 million to transform downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world in less than five years.
73. Growth Capital Wasteland
- Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Capital makes the world go round – or at least it used to before the recession and our new economic reality took hold. Enacting growth strategies is difficult without capital to invest. This is certainly true for early stage companies that need enough runway to get the business off the ground and then gain momentum to cash flow the business.
74. Flex Your Company’s Brand Muscle
- Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When you break it down to the simplest definition, a brand can be defined by how others see your product, service, and organization. Branding is a sum of perceptions. How well your organization manages the perceptions defines the brand.
75. Status Quo: The Big Lie
- Thursday, January 17, 2013
In a recent Let’s Grow column, we tackled the hard subject of cognitive biases. Yet, we did not touch upon the most prevalent and insidious bias in business. This big lie is that the status quo exists. Nothing stays the same. Companies who strive to keep things the way the presently are – one definition of status quo – live a lie that is not sustainable. They get fixed and rigid, locked into a certain way of counting on the world, and then they crumble and fall.
76. The Happy Virus
- Wednesday, January 09, 2013
To celebrate the New Year, we’ll begin this week’s column with an unconventional source of wisdom for business, the great Persian poet Hafiz:
The Happy Virus
I caught the happy virus last night
When I was out singing beneath the stars.
It is remarkably contagious - So kiss me.
77. Corporate Vision: Are Your Sights Too Low?
- Thursday, January 03, 2013
CEOs are responsible for setting the strategic vision and driving long-term growth. However, many are compensated based on quarterly and annual goals, which can make keeping the long view in sharp focus challenging. Incremental moves to cut costs, improve efficiency and extend product lines may yield positive metrics. But is this short-term focus on financial results ultimately harming shareholder value by limiting long-term potential?
78. Get More Out of Your Corporate Retreat
- Thursday, December 27, 2012
Have you ever asked yourself why you are taking a corporate retreat? Is it because the company has always had one and it is just an event on autopilot? Is it intended to reinforce the company line? What do you as a leader really get out of it? What does everyone else get out of it? If it is designed to be a “morale builder” and a session to “build consensus” you may be wasting your time and money. There is nothing worse for morale than having a lockdown then hotboxing people who work over 50 hour weeks. These people likely feel that they are getting behind on their work treadmill and worse, they resent the time away from home and family.
79. Grow in Spite of Flat, Saturated Market
- Wednesday, December 19, 2012
As an industry matures it becomes saturated and players in the market struggle to maintain the robust growth they saw in the early days. Back then, the formula for growth was simple: invent a product or service, get distribution, expand internationally, then acquire and consolidate to dominate the market. What’s left?
80. Cognitive Biases Affect Strategic Decision Making
- Wednesday, December 12, 2012
You are biased. Chances are very good that your team is also biased, no matter how talented or experienced they are in your industry. Human bias can blind you to real market demand and open opportunity.
81. The Innovation Process: What’s the Secret Sauce?
- Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Business banter talks a lot about “the process for innovation,” which is usually referenced in the singular and stated definitively, leaving most business leaders scratching their heads. It makes us think that there is one correct process, the secret sauce that top companies have and follow. There are actually thousands of innovation processes, none of which have been quantified or proven to be the most effective. There is no one size fits all.
82. Use Your Senses When Innovating
- Wednesday, November 28, 2012
If you’ve read some of our columns, you know that we use one method of idea and value generation called Design Thinking often. See the May 30 edition of The Daily News (Try ‘Design Thinking’ for Innovation) to read a primer on the method.
83. Creativity Redefined for Innovation
- Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The words “creative” and “creativity” have been hi-jacked by the world of advertising. The word means something specific to those familiar to Mad Men or Thirtysomething advertising stereotypes. In these cases – and the cases of classic advertising – creativity was visual, copy or positioning cleverness applied at the end of the new product process, when it was time to market downstream.
84. Entrepreneurs, Create Your Own Maps
- Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Entrepreneurialism is the last frontier – an uncharted region with unprecedented, unforeseen, unknown dangers, challenges and rewards.
All adventures begin with a new map, just like the territory you charted in your business plans. You drafted this plan in the ardor of a visionary impulse, tempered with a will to thrive as you grow.
85. Danger: The Early Warning Sign of Opportunity
- Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Without relying on the predictable places to hide – spread sheets, business buzzwords, risk mitigation plans, past glories – look me in the eyes. Now, point out the potential dangers for your business. When you stutter or express worry about your employees, I will know you’re being real, vulnerable, human.
86. Think Like Nature to Innovate
- Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Nature stores many business success lessons for those smart enough to see them. Companies that prove able to interpret and transfer creation’s learnings to its own culture prosper on an ongoing basis.
87. Proposals: Make Them Sing
- Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Congratulations on getting to the proposal stage. You’ll have good odds now. As a general proposal outline, try the following:
Opening Letter: this letter sets the tone of the professional relationship. Demonstrate that you understand the client’s pain points and points of stress. Tell exactly how you plan to remedy this ailment, but answer on a high strategic level, alluding to your process and approach. Add how your experience makes you a natural to solve this vexing issue. Paint an emotional and concrete picture of what the client’s work life will be after your consultation – such as “a focused, inspired sense of priority, purpose, and organizational readiness that flows at the speed of business.” Then, thank them for seriously considering the proposal. Sign your name.
88. Growing Together: Synthetic Teamwork
- Wednesday, October 17, 2012
In Henry Mintzberg’s 1994 landmark book, “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning,” the author calls for a new method to create effective strategies. He notes that “Strategic planning isn’t strategic thinking. One is analysis, the other is synthesis.”
89. Measure Twice, Cut Once
- Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Ideas are a dime a dozen, indeed; the old cliché holds true. When following a formal Innovation process, it pays to measure the size of the market potential and validating the concept before investing in a build.
90. Measure Twice, Cut Once
- Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Ideas are a dime a dozen, indeed; the old cliché holds true. When following a formal innovation process, it pays to measure the size of the market potential and validating the concept before investing in a build.
91. Look for Lightning When Hiring
- Wednesday, September 26, 2012
We’ve been interviewing a lot lately, trying to fill key positions at the Southern Growth Studio. We have been inundated with well-qualified people seeking exile from soul-crushing corporate cultures and large, global consultancies where they feel like a machine part.
92. Business Anthropology Unlocks Opportunities
- Friday, September 21, 2012
Many consumer product, retail, and software companies are reinventing themselves and growing market share by better empathizing with the people who use their products or services. Increasingly, other businesses – from B2B companies to doctor clinics – are learning the potent power of empathy.
93. Naming the Baby: Product Naming 101
- Wednesday, August 29, 2012
If you ask business experts what is the most fundamental ingredient in a successful product launch, you may hear three things: distribution, quality or pricing. All three are merely givens in this era – mandatory.
94. No Time for Chicken Littles
- Wednesday, August 22, 2012
This is no time to get chicken … As we meet with more and more of the mid-market companies in America, we are astounded at how many of them are hiding under their desk “riding the recession out.” The old “Story of Chicken Little” comes to mind:
95. Corporations Are Crushing Spirits Of Best And Brightest
- Wednesday, August 08, 2012
As the resumes roll in for open positions here at the Studio, we are facing a trend we have suspected for a while: There are legions of burned-out corporate drones looking for liberation.
Study after study shows that Gen X and Gen Y will have more than six jobs in their lifetime, viewing each as a brief stint before their next move.
96. Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team Actually Innovates
- Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Innovation techniques influence how companies launch new products and new lines of business; however, innovation can also have a transformative, positive impact when applied to the social sector.
We have asked Memphis’ Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team a series of questions about their innovation efforts. (See related story on Page 1.)
97. Finding a Better Word for ‘Innovation’
- Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Remember when the word “paradigm” was killed in the dot-com era? How about “synergy” “edgy” or the prefix “e-” – these three expressions died from the same disease: overuse.
98. No Risk, No Reward
- Friday, June 15, 2012
A good CEO should make the CFO a little nervous. When the CFO is sleeping soundly, the CEO is not reaching high enough and lacks vision.
If the CEO does not provoke people with an aggressive vision of organic growth, someone at the firm needs to be appointed as the official risk-taker. Without risks, there is no reward.
99. Special Effect
- Friday, June 01, 2012
Earlier in Matt Singer’s career, he used the special effects wizardry of Hollywood to entertain.
Today, he’s part of a commercial enterprise with a lab and workspace in Downtown Memphis that draws on that same body of knowledge to try and improve lives.
100. Try ‘Design Thinking’ for Innovation
- Wednesday, May 30, 2012
While the word innovation thunders from the boardroom, few companies actually build a sustainable process for generating real solutions that create value. Instead, they hastily focus on an un-validated and over-caffeinated pet idea of the CEO. Or worse, they spend a lot of time and resources recreating a slightly different version of their same core offering.