What’s a hack? It’s a simpler way of doing things. It’s a shortcut. It’s being creative with the tools that you have in order to give them a new function. Basically, it’s what Maguyver did.
The thing that I like best about a good hack is that it requires you to look at the tools you are given in a creative way. You don’t see them for what they are supposed to do, but what their potential is. It’s the ultimate creative problem solving.
For example, geeks the world over agreed that the Wii was indeed very cool. But then they started to look at the technology in parts and not as a whole gaming device. Johnny Lee noticed that the Wii remost has a sophisticated infrared camera inside. So he took the Wii remote and wrote some software, mixed in a homemade IR pen and for about $40 bucks created an interactive white board.
A typical interactive white board can cost upwards of $3,000. In fact, one of my best friends is part of a pilot project trying to use them in teaching elementary schools. Now dropping a couple thousand dollars on each classroom across the entire educational system is ridiculous. But at $40 a pop, that makes it much more realistic.
Creativity loves a problem, but it hates a lousy audience.
If everyone is sure the economy is tanking, that the end is near, that time is up and the company is headed for the tubes, it almost impossible to find a creative solution.
Creativity changes the game, whatever game is being played. “We’re going to run out of cash by the end of the year,” is accurate unless you count creativity into the equation. Then the accurate statement is, “Under the current rules and assumptions, we’re going to run out of cash …” Big difference.
Advertising and marketing is supposed to be THE creative industry, yet so many agencies remain bound by their own rules. We can only do advertising. We only charge clients for our time, not our production. We can’t make products … because our product is ideas. Bullshit.
At this point in time, people are looking at the revenues shrinking and are cutting costs to “remain efficient”. Instead, we should be looking to use those “inefficient” resources to grow our revenues. The best time to invest in market (whether it be for real estate, stocks or talent) is in a downturn. It’s when it’s cheap.
Instead the vast majority of marketing departments and agencies are getting rid of their resources and tightening their belts. They’re cutting spending. They’re creating a culture of fear. Is it right? No. Will it provides the best long term return? No. But it’s what everybody else is doing. The problem with doing what everyone else is doing is that you don’t give yourself a chance to break from the pack and be spectacular.
The companies and individuals who are going to win are those with positive outlooks. People that see opportunities instead of fear. That breed positive momentum. That recognize the shit you can’t control and the the shit that you can. People that break the rules. People that change the game.
Sometimes brands take on the challenge of shifting an industry. Of rallying people behind a cause bigger than their individual company. Some examples are Howies and Innocent Smoothies. Both of these companies found a simple cause and stand behind it. They planted a stake in the ground and told everyone what they stand for. They’re causing ripples but are well on their way to making waves.
Kaplan is attempting to do the same thing by shifting the way that we think about education. I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Kaplan the company that made those SAT prep books? Yup. But they’re growing to new directions. They’ve started a university. Check it out:
And yes … it is Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince in the ad. He’s still dropping knowledge bombs 13 years after the show went off the air. But it makes you think. It takes confidence to plant a stake in the ground and clearly define what you stand for. Because it will piss some people off. And too many brands today need to be loved by everyone. To break through and change something, you have to ruffle a few feathers.
Soon enough, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will make more than just tasty beer – it will also manufacture high-grade ethanol fuel from leftover beer yeast. The company announced today that it is partnering with E-Fuel (the inventor of the world’s first home ethanol machine) to test portable ethanol refineries at its Chico, California brewery.
Sierra Nevada generates an average of 1.6 million gallons of unusable beer yeast waste each year, which it currently sells to farmers as dairy feed. The brewer’s beer dregs contain only 5 to 7% alcohol, but E-Fuel’s MicroFueler can raise the alcohol content to 15%, resulting in a higher ethanol yield. The MicroFueler also removes water from the mix for increased quality.
Testing of Sierra Nevada’s waste-to-ethanol system will begin in the second quarter of this year, with full-scale production expected soon after. The company plans on using the ethanol in its own vehicles initially, but may eventually supply employees with fuel and distribute extra fuel through E-Fuel’s network.
A very cool reuse of a “waste” byproduct of manufacturing. Kind of how plastics are made from “waste” of oil refineries.
On Saturday, I was out at a bar for a friend’s birthday party. The Canucks were sucking, so I decided to go and make some new friends (of the female persuasion). After each excursion, I would return to my friends and they proceeded to discuss what had just happened.
It was during one of these discussions that I started to think how picking up girls requires a similar skill set to selling ideas. Selling ideas isn’t always about the ideas, but it is always about selling yourself. Here’s the seven that came to me at the bar:
1. Confidence. Women like confident men. It signals success and stability. The same applies to the people that to whom you are pitching your ideas. They don’t want to throw their money behind someone who doesn’t believe in himself. And confidence is contagious. It reassures people that they are choosing the right person.
2. Smile. This ladders up to the previous point. Smiles show that you’re relaxed, happy and confident. And they make you likeable. Nobody like a brooding individual. To have a strangers invest in you, you have to get them to like you. And it’s human nature to like someone who smiles.
3. Practice. On Saturday, it was safe to say that I was out of practice. There were definitely some errors in conversation and judgment. But that’s why we practice. To get better. To become more comfortable. To be so familiar with your material that you simply execute and tweak the details while your pitching. To know your ideas so well that they could ask you any question, and you would know the answer.
4. Stand Out. Dating is competitive. Women have so many options and can meet a ton of new people in a night. The key is to be memorable and stand out from the crowd. How do you do that? Be different. Look different. Act differently. Don’t ask them what they do for a living. Get in to an argument about obese people should be charged for two airplane tickets. The same applies to pitching your ideas. Don’t try to appease the person that you’re pitching to. Have an opinion that’s different from everyone else’s. Make them notice you and give them something to talk about when you leave the room.
5. Demonstrate Value. Why would someone talk to you? Are you interesting? Are you making the people around you laugh? Are you a good storyteller? When approaching a new lady friend, you have 1 minute to demonstrate value. And then the politeness ends. You have to prove that you can add value to their night within that 60 seconds, or you are out. The same applies for pitching your ideas. The people important enough to jump start the execution of a great idea are usually busy. Demonstrate value in the first 5 minutes, or don’t bother. Value can be enthusiasm, knowledge of a category or even interpersonal skills whatever! Just demonstrate your value quickly.
6. Timing. If you wait until a girl is leaving the bar to approach her, she’s not going to give you much of a conversation. Why? Timing. She’s already decided what to do with the rest of her night. You’re working against momentum. The same thing happens if you are pitching ideas. If your boss is too busy with work to be properly receptive to you ideas, it’s not going to sell-in. Take them out to lunch or coffee. Get them away from the distractions of the office. Then pitch your ideas uninterrupted.
7. Avoid The Drunk Girl. She looked pretty cute from across the room. She smiled at you, so you went over to talk. And then you find out that you’re talking to the token drunk girl. Unless you are a complete dirt bag, nothing good ever comes of the crazy drunk girl at the party. She’s loud and obnoxious. She scares off other prospects. But most of all, she wastes your time. In pitching your ideas, the same thing applies. A prospect can look very optimistic until you get involved with them. And then you find out that they just like talking about making decisions, but don’t actually have the power to execute them. If things aren’t moving forward, don’t waste your time. Cut your losses and move on.
I always find it interesting how lessons from the real world can apply to the business world. Until I realize that they really are one and the same. So, whether you’re using this to sell yourself or sell your ideas … good luck!