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Archive for the ‘Fuel INjected IN-house’ Category

It’s not enough to have ideas. You have to sell them.

“Actually, it doesn’t matter one bit to me whether you’re any good at design,” says Seth Godin. “The odds are you probably are very good. It doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you can sell designs to your clients.”

In a recent editorial for Before & After design blog, Godin went on to say: “…For too long, people who are passionate about design have accepted their lot. It’s completely acceptable for designers to grumble about lousy clients. We apologize for our work, saying, ‘Well, it’s the best the client would let me do.’ You should be ashamed to say stuff like this. Great design is not a luxury, and a compliant (even enthusiastic) client should not be a rarity.”

Godin’s comments back the truth that good ideas simply do not sell themselves. In fact, the better and bolder the ideas, the more they need selling. Because we’re asking decision makers to let go of old and familiar ideas to grab fresh and different ideas. And, as Godin points out, that takes selling. Tons of selling.

In my book IdeaSelling (which Seth kindly endorsed)I quote him saying this: “There’s no correlation between how good your idea is and how likely your organization will be to embrace it. None. It’s not about good ideas. It’s about selling those ideas and making them happen. If you’re failing to get things done, it’s not because your ideas suck. It’s because you don’t know how to sell them.”

How about you and your team? Are you effectively presenting your designs? Here are three steps to boost idea-selling ratios.

1. Review five designs turned down by bosses or clients. Were the rejections justified because of faulty design? Or were problems with the pitches? If it’s the latter, decide ways you could have improved the presentations.

2. For your next project, try including decision makers in the creative process – right from the beginning. Involve them in exploration and discovery. Bring them in on brainstorms. Get their feedback on rough prototypes. You’ll better understand their objectives. They’ll better understand your creative decisions. And they’ll have a sense of ownership in the idea. Consequently, they’ll be less likely to blast your solutions at the final presentation.

3. For the remaining seven months in 2011, establish a specific action plan for polishing your presentation skills. Read a few books. Schedule in-house training for your team. Take a public-speaking class. Solicit tips from successful sales people in your family and circle of friends.

Thanks to Greg Waddell, Benchworks creative director, for passing along the Seth Godin editorial. To read in its entirety:http://www.mcwade.com/DesignTalk/

Sam Harrison will speak on “Selling Idea to Internal Clients and Bosses” at the inHOWse Managers Conference on June 26. Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was released by HOW Books last fall. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command. Find him at http://www.zingzone.com

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Is your creativity stuck on the OK Plateau?

by Sam Harrison

In a recent New York Times piece, writer Joshua Foer mentions the OK Plateau, that place where we feel we’re as good as we need to be for a particular task or skill – where we’re basically running on autopilot.

The OK Plateau is the enemy of soaring imagination and top performance. It tells us what we’re doing is sufficient, which, of course, heads straight down the road to sameness.

Have you or your team reached the OK Plateau when it comes to creativity? Do you find yourself operating on autopilot, relying on the same sources, techniques and processes?

If so, grab manual controls and rise above the OK Plateau.

Get off the beaten path. Reorganize teams. Switch around projects. Change workflow. Swap artwork. Rearrange furniture. Revamp creative networks. Introduce new brainstorming tools. Shake things up.

Open the doors. Take field trips to museums, galleries and retailers.  Screen documentaries on artists, architects and inventors. Order recent books. Visit unusual blogs. Listen to different music. Eat at unfamiliar restaurants. Bring in inspiring speakers. Get off the beaten path.

Beg for the feedback. Ask co-workers and clients how you’re doing. Solicit advice from trusted vendors. Tour other firms and agencies. Give past projects honest self-evaluations. Act on what you learn.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command. Find him at http://www.zingzone.com

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Keep Fishing

by Sam Harrison

I once heard author Ian Fraser tell of being on a fishing trip with fellow writers Mark Singer and John McPhee.

“It was a cold, rainy day, and we weren’t catching anything,” said Fraser. “After a few hours, Singer said, ‘You know, this is masochism.’ And McPhee laughed and said, ‘No, this is optimism.’”

I love Fraser’s story because it applies to the creative process.

Sometimes our luck seems to be running out when it comes to snagging a few fresh ideas. Or maybe we have ideas, but clients keep tossing them overboard.

In those sad times, it’s easy to feel a bit sorry for ourselves. To feel the world is against us. To feel we’re stuck in a masochistic business.

But if we let ourselves go there, we get bitter. And if we get bitter, we don’t get better. Instead, we become victims. And victims, by definition, are powerless.

“You have to believe in what you’re doing and not get bitter,” says Jakob Trollback, founder and creative director of Trollback + Company. “If you let it harden you, you’re going to just get old and dull.”

So the next time you find yourself planning a pity party, seek out some optimism. Take a break. Go for a walk. Visit an upbeat blog. Talk to a positive friend. Launch a new project. Start your day over.

You’ve done it before and you can do it again. Ideas are swimming around in your mind and in the world around you. You can catch them. And you can sell them.

Keep fishing.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was released in May by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.

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If inspiration isn’t moving you, maybe you’re not moving around.

By Sam Harrison

Rodney Smith is famous for his captivating black-and-white images. The New York City photographer says that before shooting any assignment, he slowly moves around his subject, searching for an emotional connection. He wants to see the model or still life in a unique, visceral way.

The practice of moving around – searching for emotional connections – fuels everyday creativity. As an in-house creative, are you moving about your organization, searching for insights and emotional connections? Are you seeking to see employees, customers and managers in fresh ways and look at life through their eyes?

Here are three ways to wander and watch for creativity’s sake:

1. Look beyond usual frames of reference. Step outside boundaries imposed by your circle of friends, co-workers and suppliers. Visit other departments. Have lunch with different crowds. Spend time with new vendors.

2.  Travel the highways. In my workshops and books, I urge people to see more creatively by traveling down blue highways and lonesome highways.

Blue highways are the smaller, less-traveled roads traditionally shown in blue ink on printed maps. Travel blue highways in your world to shake up scenery. Take new roads to work, enter at a building’s loading dock, detour down different hallways. Set yourself up to see unusual things.

Lonesome highways are those room-for-one routes we need to travel from time to time. Because we tend to notice small details when traveling without the distraction of others, whether it’s a business trip, weekend getaway or hour at the neighborhood coffee shop. In those moments of solitude, follow Staislavski’a acting method of “looking with penetration” and record observations in your notebook.

3. See through other eyes. When people-watching, pay attention to facial expressions. Ponder what the owners of those faces are seeing and thinking. Show your work to people outside your team and ask for honest reporting on what they see before them. Imagine working in other departments and think about how you would view the organization and its products if you saw things through their lens. Pretend you are a manager, c-suite executive, customer – and view their challenges, values and day-to-day roles.  Look from different angles to find emotional connections.

If we are awake, says Natalie Goldberg, the whole world is shimmering and giving us insights. Wake up your eyes and watch the world around you provide idea-sparking resources.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.

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To be a lot happier at work, be a little deaf.

by Sam Harrison

At the recent Women’s Conference in California, Ruth Bader Ginsburg recalled a piece of advice she received on her wedding day.

“Sometimes in a marriage you need to be a little deaf,” Ginsburg’s mother-in-law told her.

Sage words. Because healthy relationships rely on acceptance and tolerance, including the ability to sometimes ignore curt, careless and confounding remarks.

This advice also applies to in-house situations. Most firms have a cacophony of negative, meaningless messages forever bouncing off walls. And if you absorb everything said, you’ll soon be gnawing on tires in the parking lot.

So be a little deaf at work.

Be a little deaf to gossip. Does your organization have a cast of finger-pointers, rubber-neckers and pity-partiers? If so, shield your ears when in their presence or creative energy will be sucked right out of you.

Be a little deaf to bureaucratic blather. Procedures. Rules. Regulations. Bureaucracy’s triple threat. As Gordon Mackenzie famously advised, in-house creatives need to orbit bureaucracy’s giant hairball. Use its resources, but don’t dare get trapped inside. Politely tune out all those color-inside-the-lines fanatics. Instead, hunt for people who calmly and efficiently work the system. Listen and learn from them.

Be a little deaf to criticism. Know who not to listen to when presenting your ideas. The devil advocates. The nit-pickers. The we-don’t-do-it-that-way-here crowd. Turn deaf ears to naysayers and turf-protectors. Tune in to words that can better your work.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.  Reach him at http://www.zingzone.com

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To win more pitches, help clients deal with risks.

by Sam Harrison

“No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

That was once the mantra of IT departments everywhere. Purchasing agents knew they could reduce their risks by going with IBM’s steady, proven products.

Of course, this practice resulted in years of boring computers and stale designs. Nevertheless, it provides a lesson for today’s in-house creatives when pitching fresh, exciting ideas.

Each time you present an idea, your internal clients sit across from you weighing risks. If rewards are higher than risks, chances are good for acceptance. If dangers exceed dividends, it’s likely a lost cause.

I’m not suggesting you offer safe, predictable concepts in order to assuage the fears of skittish decision makers. No way. Light up the room with bold, unique concepts.

But when planning your pitch, place yourself in the position of nervous decision makers. Step back and stare at your idea through their eyes. What makes it risky? How can those risks be reduced without watering-down the idea?

By anticipating the fears, uncertainties and doubts of decision makers, you can mold your pitch to shift risk-reward ratios. For example:

You anticipate the decision maker thinking:

“My boss is going to go ballistic over the cost of this idea these designers are showing me…”

So add this risk-reducing statement to your pitch:

“I know the numbers might be a hard sell when you give Brian the anticipated budget for this idea. So we’ve calculated the return on investment the company can expect…”

You anticipate the decision maker thinking:

“I’ll never be able to explain all the details of this idea to the board…”

So add this risk-reducing statement to your pitch:

“By the way, Elizabeth, we’ve create an eight-minute presentation – complete with video overview – for you to take to the board meeting…”

You anticipate the decision maker thinking:

“This idea is going to suck up weeks of my team’s time…”

So add this risk-reducing statement to your pitch:

“I know this looks like an overwhelming project,” William, but we’ll implement in stages and cheaply outsource much of the production work…”

Focus on risk-rewards ratios when preparing pitches, and you’ll better your win-lose ratio. Don’t weaken great ideas to reduce risks for decision makers. Instead, strengthen your presentations.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.  Reach him at http://www.zingzone.com

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Are you involved in a cover-up?

by Sam Harrison

Maybe you’re mixed up in an internal cover-up and not even aware of it. And this diabolical situation may be strangling creativity. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I covering-up the creative process?

Are you fed up with how managers and clients just don’t understand your work? How they expect instant turnaround? How they take you and your team for granted?  If so, maybe you need to pull back the curtains on your creative process and give the world a peek.

Hold a bagels-and-coffee briefing for clients. Select a few of your top-hit ideas and walk clients through the process– the exploring, researching and brainstorming, the editing, prototyping and refining. And don’t forget to point out hours and manpower required for each step. Help clients see exactly what it takes to turn out winning ideas.

2. Do you cover up collaboration?

Are you brainstorming behind closed doors? Are managers and clients clueless about collaboration? If so, you’re depriving yourself of divergent views. And you’re making final pitches more difficult than they need to be. If decision makers aren’t involved, they’ll feel no ownership during approval stages.

You don’t have to include clients in every step, but spend time collaborating with them. As my friend David Schimmel says, “If they feel they birthed it, they can’t kill it.”

3. Do you cover-up research?

Have you explored and researched the project, then failed to show decision makers the significance of that research? If so, you’re not letting research help build the case for your solutions. And you’re not getting credit for your many hours of due diligence.

I’m not saying you should overwhelm decision makers with mountains of boring data and raw statistics. That’s worse than showing no research at all. Instead, sift through findings for illuminating insights and vivid examples.

4. Do you cover-up achievements?

Nobody likes a showoff, but, on the other hand, nobody gives credit to someone who hides accomplishments.

Be a booster for yourself and your team. Show off work. Share success stories. Announce awards and recognition. Promote yourself the same ways you would promote clients. Do it with style. Do it with humility. Do it with creativity. But do it.

5. Do you cover-up creative flair?

Earlier this year, I conducted creative workshops at a major food corporation. After these sessions, the design director showed me his in-house department –and it looked totally different than the rest of the handsome but conservative headquarters. His space was colorful, playful and packed with creative energy.

“We got tons of pushback when we first began deviating from headquarters’ traditional design scheme,” he said, “but we kept making small changes. Little by little we got approvals to pump up the look. And now the CEO and other key executives can’t wait to show off our department when touring visitors.”

Does your department display its flair? Is it a showplace for your creative work? If not, start making incremental, imaginative changes that tell people they’re standing in a space where ideas take place.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was recently released by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.

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