Sometimes you watch something that just inspires you. It makes you feel good about the world that we live in. It just makes you happy. This video does that:
It was originally the brainchild of a slacker traveler named Matt. In 2003, he was traveling and did silly dance in Asia that his friends caught on tape and posted on YouTube. A couple hundred thousand hits later, he was a quasi-internet celebrity.
Then something even cooler happened. The people at Stride Gum found out about this and gave him enough to money to go around and do it all over again. You know what I love best about that? They didn’t make him wear a Stride Gum t-shirt or dance with packs of gum. They gave him a little bit of money so that he could bring this video to the world. And discovering that Stride was the enabler to that makes me like them even more.
Stride gave this guy what he needed to inspire millions. Inspire people to travel. To see the world. To experience new things. I love it!
First of all, I apologize to you, my faithful readers, for the reduced frequency of posting. I am currently trying to achieve a balance between my professional and non-professional life and a little thing called ultimate frisbee has skewed things a bit.
I have written before about how a visual representation of a situation can make it so much clearer. It’s useful whether you’re using it to describe a problem, illustrate a competitive environment or even map out an idea. I recently stumbled upon work done by a woman named Jessica Hagy. She runs a site that posts daily situations describes as graphs on index cards.
There are two things that I love about this concept:
1. She restricts herself to one index card per idea
2. She draws everything by hand
Boundaries can be a good thing, especially in ideation. They allow you to focus your efforts and imagination into a specific set. By restricting the space available to express your idea to an index card or a Post-It, you force yourself to simplify it. You have to cut out all of the fat. You get down to the core of the idea. After the next brainstorm, instead of typing up the notes, try to distill each idea down such that it can fit onto a single Post-It. This will illustrate which ideas are worthy, and which are undefined.
The Old Fashioned Pen
I love hand drawings … and I don’t even draw well. Drawing things by hand provides a mental flexibility that is lost when using computers. And using a pen provides a certain finality to it. When you make a mistake with a pen, you either have to live with it as part of the piece or start all over again. There’s no “Undo” button. Thus, you have to be sure of your ideas before you pen them to paper.
You should be able to express a good idea on an index card with pretty pictures. Happy drawing!
Here’s a quick update on the how we faired in the “Green Competition” (that was the topic for the inaugural Idea Session 1.0). The judges were looking for “a big idea” that could “transform the industry”. Based on the nature of advertising industry and the company that I work for, I thought we could go outside of the box. Improved recycling sorters, a “tax” on energy usage and stickers to remind people to turn off the lights seemed a little provincial. Not enough of a “big” idea.
So we came up with something big. Something a little crazy. Something that people would never have thought of before. We wanted to start a religion. We wanted to harness all of the good intentions and momentum behind the green movement and focus it on a farcical religion. Now how did we do? We lost.
You can’t win them all.
The winning idea? A carbon counter. A simple and engaging idea that will allow us to begin to track and monitor the affects of our daily activities on the environment. Seriously? Maybe I’m misread something, but I’m pretty sure that this already exists. Just Google “Carbon Footprint Calculator”.
The lesson to be learned is that sometimes we go too far out of the box. We push outside of a client’s comfort zone. Sometimes when people ask for that “next big idea” they mean a “revamp what the competitors are doing.” But I still think it’s important to push boundaries. Next time, we’re going to pitch three ideas, instead of putting our eggs in one basket. One idea will be crazy, one will be moderately innovative and one will be normal.
Eric Clough isn’t your typical architectural designer. Sure, he’ll design you a fine den or kitchen, but he’s clearly got a creative streak that goes much deeper than that. That’s why, when given the opportunity, he secretly built an incredible scavenger hunt into a $8.5-million, 4,200-square-foot Park Avenue apartment that included ciphers, riddles, poems and a lot of hidden doors and compartments.
In any case, the finale involved, in part, removing decorative door knockers from two hallway panels, which fit together to make a crank, which in turn opened hidden panels in a credenza in the dining room, which displayed multiple keys and keyholes, which, when the correct ones were used, yielded drawers containing acrylic letters and a table-size cloth imprinted with the beginnings of a crossword puzzle, the answers to which led to one of the rectangular panels lining the tiny den, which concealed a chamfered magnetic cube, which could be used to open the 24 remaining panels, revealing, in large type, the poem written by Mr. Klinsky.
A normal living room … or is it?
A book with a narrative about a mystery, hidden behind paneling in the front hall, offered clues.
A rectangular panel in the den and guest room opens to reveal acrylic slices, far left, that fit together to form a cube. When the chamfered magnetic cube lodged above the slices is dragged over the 24 panels on a nearby wall, they open.
Decorative leather molding stamped with letters in a hallway can be popped out and wrapped around a rod removed from the foot of Ms. Sherry and Mr. Klinsky’s bed so that the letters on the coiled leather spell out a clue.
Behind a drawing of a plane that hangs in a hallway is a little niche containing a scale model of the kitchen, a clue that leads to a musical score written for the apartment, which is hidden in a drawer above the stove.
Millwork panels in a hallway were designed to look like Le Corbusier’s Modular Man and da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Puzzle pieces hidden in one fit together to make a key that opens the other.
Door knockers on opposite walls of a hallway initially seemed pointless. They can be removed and joined to create a crank that opens hidden panels in the dining room sideboard.
The custom-made sideboard has hidden panels on either side that can be cranked open to display keys and keyholes.
When the correct keys are used, hidden drawers are revealed.
The final treasure: behind the panels, large white letters laser-cut into teal blue acrylic spell out the words of a poem written years ago by Steven B. Klinsky, the apartment’s owner.
Apparently, it took the family months to discover the scavenger hunt and weeks after that to figure it all out. It’s like living in a children’s book of some kind.
Over the past two days, I have been pondering how to make Microsoft cool. Sure, I could have generated ideas that have been born out of insights. I could have constructed full strategies drawing from the “cool equity” of the Xbox 360.
But I didn’t. I just wrote down a list of ideas that popped into my head. Sometimes you just have to spew ideas on the page, unaware of the logic behind them. Let me know what you think.
Microsoft soda … so good that people would pay money for it. NOT!
1. The Start of “Logical Thinking”
Okay, people hate Microsoft because it’s a monopoly. But not all monopolies are hated. Think about Google. People love that company. It makes my life easier, which make it easy to love. And you have to be really smart to work at Google. Working there would be like a badge. I’d probably brag about it. Do you think that working at Microsoft would be the same thing? Or would people just hate me.
Anyways, back to making Microsoft cool. Let’s throw in some celebrities. Like HP computers. A little Jay-Z never hurt a brand. Wait … new idea. Have Microsoft sponsor some cool concerts and give away tickets or VIP access when people buy their shit. Don’t even tell people that they’re going to get free stuff. Surprise and delight. Give people unexpected gifts from Microsoft.
2. The Big Ideas
Make a Microsoft reality TV show. It would be like The Ultimate Fighter. Give the public a glimpse into the world of “Microsoft” and the REALLY smart people who work there. Showcase the people in an authentic manner. Maybe have it as a challenge of two Microsoft teams trying to build some sort of world-changing water purification device for African countries. Put those big brains to good use.
Have a developer prize. Give away a million dollar cash prize to the first team who can invent “x”. Give open source code. Track the progress of the teams. Have a nerd-fest. Because nerds with coin aren’t nerds. They’re owners of the Dallas Mavericks.
Give every employee a “cool” makeover, starting with Bill. Seriously though. Go buy a bunch of Levi’s. Get some of those makeover people into the office to make everyone look cool. Get people acting confident, proud and edgy. Get them psyched to work at Microsoft. Make them look so cool that kids are like, “Holy crap. What does that guy do? I want to be like him when I grow up”.
As a caveat, most of these ideas will sound ridiculous. Or scary. Or both. They wouldn’t have the potential to be big ideas if they didn’t. Thoughts?
This afternoon I was reading an interesting article in Fast Company about trying to make Microsoft “cool”. Here’s the crux of the issue. Everyone says that you can’t make yourself cool. You either are cool, or you’re not.
I don’t believe that. I believe that people (and brands) can change. I know plenty of people who, with a change in attitude and a new wardrobe, became cool. It’s all about self-confidence and being authentic. Be someone that people want to talk to. Be interesting. Tell good stories.
The challenge for Microsoft is that they already have an established brand image. They are a massive monopoly. They are the bastions of uncool. They don’t know how to communicate with people.
The proof is in the pudding. Microsoft spent $500 million to tell people about Vista. Nobody cared. In fact, Apple succeeded in defining Microsoft’s brand for them with the PC vs Mac ads. They made them look like Dwight from “The Office”.
The metamorphosis to becoming cool will require more than a new haircut, some ripped jeans and a vintage rock t-shirt. Microsoft will have to build its foundation of cool on the shit that’s actually cool. And then fix what makes it lame.
What Makes Microsoft Cool:
1. Xbox 360
2. Guitar Hero
3. Bill Gates dropping millions in coin for African aid
What Makes Microsoft Lame:
2. Looking like a tool in Mac ads
3. Trying to be cool by buying into Facebook
PS. Sometimes being a dork is cool in itself:
A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with one of my friends and we started to talk about life goals. One of her goals was to write a movie script. Of course, when you have lofty creative goals and no plan of attack, they tend to get lost. I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I can’t commit to a writing schedule. I lack motivation.
That’s when I volunteered to be her creative partner. What’s a creative partner? It’s the same as an athletic training partner, except it’s applied to a creative project. I’m not going to help her write the script. I’m going to write my own script at the same time. That way, we can work together to keep each other motivated and on track.
A good creative partner will:
- Keep you motivated
- Keep you consistent in meeting deadlines/writing goals
- Give you a little competition to work up against
- Give psychological support, when you think you can’t go further
- Help you through writer’s block On the topic of writing a script myself, I’m not going to lie. I have no idea what I am doing. Except that my dream of creating a movie about Frisbee Ninjas may moving closer to reality.