Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

almost home

After being away from the Internet for a week, I've got to say ... wow. The last week's posts / comments have been great. I can't write long, as I'm in a public library in Vancouver, and my time allotment is almost up. But I wanted to post a few things.

One: Sean, if you could call my home number and give me the lowdown on evolution, I'd really appreciate it. I won't be back in River City until late Monday, and I don't want to miss any of the big day.

Two: Some of you know about the warnings on cigarette packages (they look like this):

They're really graphic, and they've cut down on cigarette smoking in Canada dramatically. I found one on the street and I've got it in my pocket. Wow. It's gross. Of course, I don't know if the folks around Hastings (the drug center of Vancouver) care, but it's still pretty effective.

Three: The Long Island Power Authority is exploring the use of wind farms to generate electricity.

Four: Check it: Two lawsuits have been filed against Fax.com for $4,400,000,000,000 (that's $4.4 Trillion). "The federal law allows damages of $500 for each unwanted fax, plus triple damages. Assuming 3 million faxes a day -- the capacity cited on Fax.com's Web site -- that works out to $2.2 trillion a year. "I'd be very happy if we just got $100 billion," Kirsch said."

Five: An interesting conversation over at Signal vs. Noise (re: ads on the Internet).

Six. Sean ... come through for me. Thanks.


Driving Innovation to the Top Line
Several months ago while I was practicing MBWA (Management By Walking Around), I happened to pass by the office of one of our Business Unit Managers. He was fuming about how his expenses had risen as a result of some salary increases recently given to the sales force. His effort at "managing the bottom line by managing costs" was being sabotaged and as far as he was concerned his "Total System Productivity" was going to pot. And, it was hitting him right in his own pocketbook - and I mean literally in his trousers. His bonus is based on his Unit's profitability and the more he can drive costs down the more...........................well you get the idea. Now think about this for a minute, if he can create more profit for his unit he will make more money for himself, right? (don't get me going on this) NOTTTTT.......... Look, everybody realizes that profit is important for the survival of any company but it is nothing more than a residual benefit of doing things right by the customer. To think that a company can "create" a profit internally is asinine - (that is unless they are printing counterfeit money on a press in the back room).

As output value increases, so does revenue. No customer will pay more than they feel a product or service is worth and it is in this way that they are the determiners of value. Want to make more profit?...........increase your value to customers. I agree with Frank Patrick, who in the previous post "Lack of Innovation and Total System Productivity" says "......that the failure to manage the top line effectively -- the failure to create and communicate the value of the output -- the failure to innovate in both the product and its marketing has seemingly forced companies into this cost world focus".

The solution seems explicit - stop focusing on costs and get with the program, increase your output value by driving innovation to the top line.


Lack of Innovation and Total System Productivity

I've been mulling over a recent NY Times article (free registration required to access link that might not be there due to the Times' practice of archiving stories for paid access after a period of time). Here's a few quotes from it...

"By cutting back the hours of workers without reducing the workload, employers pushed up the nation's annual growth rate of productivity by 1.1 percent in the second quarter..."

"Rather than keep idle employees on the payroll, companies now lay them off and cut overtime so quickly that output per hour in the second quarter continued to rise despite almost no increase in production."

"It is easy in the United States," said Robert J. Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, "to get sharp and sudden declines in hours by laying off workers..., and this contributes to healthy productivity growth in hard times."

What it got me thinking about was that this "productivity growth" number, which is usually interpreted as the productivity of the nation is really only the productivity of the working part of the nation. Taking a bigger picture, whole system view would require factoring in the layoffs of the thousands of creative, potentially productive people. I wonder what the real change in the nation's productivity is? Total output versus total resouce can look a lot different than total output versus utilized resource.

Being New Jersey based, near the home of AT&T, Lucent, Avaya, Telcordia, and as a former employee of that industry, I've watched local business headlines full of layoffs. The lost opportunities associated with the idling of 10's of thousands of creative, potentially productive is staggering. (I almost said "criminal.")

I guess the gist of the article is that we've gotten real good at managing the bottom line by "managing" costs. My feeling is that the failure to manage the top line effectively -- the failure to create and communicate the value of the output -- the failure to innovate in both the product and its marketing has seemingly forced companies into this cost world focus. I said "seemingly" because I think that the acceptance and relative ease of layoffs and downsizings and restructuring has drained limited management attention and time from driving innovation for the top line.

-- Frank Patrick


Inside-out or Outside-in?
Innovation can be acquired as an input to the organization (outside-in) or it can originate as an output from the organization (inside-out). It would be a question of culture and debate as to which is most appropriate for any enterprise. On the extremes, organizations promoting innovation exclusively from within (inside-out) are at best shading themselves from the possibility that somebody might have a better idea and the "not-invented-here" syndrome will perpetually poison their efforts. And, those who exclusively acquire innovation from sources without (outside-in) run the risk of loosing their cultural identity and would lack the self-reliance needed in order to succeed. Innovation is a two-way street; organizations that can capture innovation from within while remaining open to sources from without will triumph in the end.


Smiles, 0 yen

in his August 5, New Yorker article, "The Naked Face," Malcom Gladwell talks about the truths our involuntary facial expressions betray and those individuals who have the ability to catch them.

it reminds me of a Melissa Master article from the April 2000 issue of Across the Board magazine. It features a photo of Japanese attendees at a smile seminar. the smiles are being forced, practiced as the participants use their flat palms to extende the cheeks and narrow their eyes. The people are attending a seminar under the direction of Yoshihiko Kadokawa, president of the Smile Amenity Institute and author of The Power of a Laughing Face. The article points to the fact that expressions are traditionaly frowned upon in Japan, since it is a firm cultural belief that group harmony, is more important than the feelings of any individual. Kadokawa claims that smiling faces improve employee morale, decrease absenteeism and boost sales.

The 3,000 Japanese McDonald's are riding the smile wave. Each restaurant has a sign reading, "Smiles, 0 yen."


keeping it real

there have been some great comments to the previous blog post on innovation. arturo kept it real by posting some excellent excerpts from an article on innovation, so i wanted to share his stuff with the universe:

Hi all, here's a part of an interview I recall from strategy+business mag with W. Chan Kim and Reneé Maubourgne.

S+B: Your work suggests that companies often lack insight into the basis of their competitiveness. They don’t have all that many answers to your questions.

Mauborgne: That’s true. Companies are often unclear on which factors they compete on. They rarely think about alternative industries — the broad range of industries that provide similar products or services. Give companies 20 factors they compete on, and they will agree on 10, but dispute the remainder.

That is a large part of the reason organizations are overtired and lacking in creative momentum. Because companies often lack a clear, compelling strategy that everyone understands and that sets the company apart, projects are often undertaken that pull the organization in different directions. Individually, a case can be made to justify each project, but collectively, because they are not guided by a unified strategy, the actions do not add up to significant gains.

Chan and Mabourgne are very well for a series of articles on FinancialTimes "How to discover the unknown market"

Innovation can lead to value but you need champions capable to sell and visionaries who can buy an innovative idea and in the end again people to execute so.. yes innovation needs ideas but also needs lot of execution and implementing.

Wow this is more a post than a comment :) -arturo Aug 20 2002, 01:31 pm

yes it is, so we posted it and salute you


Innovation, first things first.
It is not my intent to explore the meaning of the word innovation. Suffice it to say, I believe that most will recognize that innovation means "bringing something new to the table". Prior to considering the question of innovation an organization will need to overcome it's primary barrier. This primary barrier takes on many forms but it is easy to recognize. When you start to hear, "we've always done it this way before........ why should we change now?" you will know that any attempt to foster innovation within the organization is destined to fail. The need for change is the penultimate trigger an organization must recognize as the starting point of fostering innovation within its culture.

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)


go go gadget google:

stuck in an airport

A Pattern Language

Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

The Little Prince

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

The Tipping Point

new to you

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see our neighbors
Comments by: YACCS