Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.


Bouncing off of Marc Pearson’s “intuition driving the success of the company” post, I read an article about Google.com in the April 1st issue of Fast Company. After stating that Google is one of the best-run technology companies in the world that generates over 150 million searches a day, Keith Hammonds goes on to credit their remarkable innovative ways of doing business as being the cause of their tremendous success.

Even while knowing that searches will never be 100% perfect and exactly what the searcher is looking for, Google is constantly trying to find ways to improve their service (they are never satisfied with their product). Also, they recognize that their highest priority is pleasing the customer, which is why the Google site is never plastered with ads. In fact, they try to keep their home page containing 37 words. This is to allow for faster page-loading times, which is undoubtedly received well by the people who use Google. Another thing that demonstrates their dedication to “understanding its users” is the fact that Google has ten people employed full-time just to read e-mails from users.

One of the most innovative aspects of Google is that they like and embrace failure; they see it as an opportunity, rather than something negative. This is good because it makes it easier for them to jump into risks, with the possibility of being extremely successful. Their employees are also smart enough to be able to tell if a risk is a mistake quickly, before it affects Google’s business negatively too much.

The final thing that impressed me was the striking similarity Google has to Play with regards to its eclectic mix of employees. They are quoted with saying “We look for smart. Smart as in, do they do something weird outside of work, something off the beaten path?”.

- Johanna Beyenbach (future summer intern?)



For anyone who receives the Playshare e-mails every couple of weeks, I want to apologize for something. Our e-mail server is acting up, and it seems to have mailed out several copies of the most recent e-mail. I'm not sure why it did that ... we only sent it once. If you want to unsubscribe, just let me know. charlie@lookatmorestuff.com. Again, sorry about that.


Intuition drives business. Analyzing research and systematic problem-solving can be useful, but the most successful and innovative businesses are the ones that rely on good gut instincts. "How to Think With Your Gut" from Business 2.0's Nov 2002 issue begins with Howard Schultz, Starbucks' CEO, recalling how he "just knew" that America would embrace quality coffee, despite the fact that research showed that no one would pay $3 for a cup. As of this past month, Starbucks made the Fortune 500 list.

Everyone is born with a certain level of intuition, but this level is only the beginning for success. The truly exceptional leaders of business possess gut feelings that are the culmination of years of experience in a constantly changing industry. And, these feelings are more valuable than any systematic decision-making tool. Traders from the New York exchange floor were even able to beat Marines in combat simulations because the traders ignored rational analyses of the sitution. They acted decisively based on their intuition concerning the rapidly changing conditions. When time and situation are uncertain, creativity will determine the best approach.

In today's turbulent business market, intuition will guide the success of a company. A creative solution will always outperform a stagnant one dictated by the market because people want something new and exciting. In an atmosphere where all members involved are following their instincts, thinking creatively, and building on everyone's creative ideas, success is bound to happen.

-Marc Pearson (summer intern... maybe?)

on the other hand... "I've been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old and, frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains." ~Rob, High Fidelity


Edward DeBono: We enter school as question marks and end as periods.

When we begin to learn we are given a box of 64 crayons...when we graduate we have one blue pen.

What other "64's" can you think of?


Challenge Statements
What's the difference between a "." and a "?"? When faced with a problem or a concern we often use language to phrase them as statements instead of questions. For example: "It will be too expensive.", "Great idea...but it just isn't practical." The period at the end of a statement "stops" the mind from attempting to find solutions. When phrased differently such as: " How might we lessen the expenses? or How might we do it without any money? or How might we cover costs? or How might we create a market for this? or In what way(s) might we identify a new use for this? etc...." our minds are invited to generate answers. In fact, "brainstorming" is often thought to be valuable only when generating new ideas. When was the last time you "brainstormed" for questions? In what ways might you brainstorm for problems? What do you think...is generating problem statements valuable practice?
Garth Aldrich


Combining motion sensing technology and parent's health concerns has resulted in the invention of a product which turns televisions off if anyone sits too close for more than 15 seconds. Arthur Koestler (author of "The Act of Creation") coined the term bisociation to describe the overlapping of two thoughts resulting in the "ha-ha" of a joke. Other's have used the term in their effort to describe the "ah-ha" of great ideas. Bisociation. In what way(s) might you combine two or more concepts to create something new?


"A New Banking Model," an article by Kimberly Allers in this month's issue of Fortune, tells the story of Seattle thrift bank Washington Mutual. The bank has expanded tremendously in the past few years thanks to its unique business approach (and, of course, lots of acquisitions).

Washington Mutual (or WaMu) does not treat its customers the way other banks do. Rather than encourage customers to use ATMs and internet banking, WaMu's branches invite people inside with their creative interior design and customer service. Adding kids' play areas, holding outdoor barbecues, and making tellers more accessible -- instead of behind glass -- are a few of the changes the bank has made to add personality and attract customers.

I was surprised to learn about WaMu's unconventional practices. Their decision to target younger and lower-income customers is obviously working well. It just goes to show that a lot of people are looking for "experience banking." Washington Mutual doesn't claim to be in the "American Dream business," but maybe Fannie Mae's claim applies to WaMu too. I think WaMu's strategy can be summed up as an approach that works in any industry: making the customers feel like they matter.

-Ryan McGibony, wannabe Play summer intern


what business are you in?

Via evhead, I stumbled upon tins, the weblog of Rick Klau. Klau went to the University of Richmond's law school in the mid-90's, and now works with a software company called Interface Software. But I digress. On Wednesday, he wrote a brief post {click here and scroll down to the post titled "Starbucks Innovates Payment System (again)} about, well, Starbucks reinventing its payment system. He makes the great point: "Starbucks continues to impress me as a company that is answering the question 'What business are you in?' in ways that the average customer wouldn't necessarily anticipate. Starbucks isn't a coffee store - it's an 'experience retailer'."

He's right on there. Because in asking "what business are you in," Starbucks responds with an emotional appeal. Klau then misses the boat a little bit, noting that Amazon.com is "not a bookstore. It's an e-commerce fulfillment engine." And that Cisco is "not a router company. Its business is the acquisition and integration of technology companies." Neither of those really captures the raw emotion of what those companies can provide. Maybe Cisco isn't an emotional company. But the power of "what business are you in?" is released precisely when the emotional elements of the company are highlighted. Take, for example, Fannie Mae, who doesn't claim to be in the financial services industry, or in the banking or "home lending" business. They proudly proclaim that they are in "the American Dream business." That makes their entire brand, service, and promise of value much more attractive than a run-of-the-mill mortgage company.

So what is Amazon? I'm not sure. The wish fulfillment business? Possibly. Feel free to offer suggestions, if you're so inclined.

Regardless, I'm glad to have found Klau's site. He's got some good stuff. I'll be back.


one more definition

From Creative Generalist: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
— Scott Adams


another definition:

C=fa(i,k,e) Creativity is a function of an attitude which values the beneficial use of imagination, knowledge and evaluation.
- Ruth B. Noller

Most interesting to me in this definition is "evaluation". It seems as though most of the focus on creativity ignores or eliminates evaluation...isn't evaluation what makes or breaks a new idea? In what ways might we engage in positive evaluation and deliberately focus on keeping creative ideas alive?
Garth Aldrich


Sleeping giant or breakfast of a champion?...I came across this article from the Wharton School which makes me take pause and wonder how can a company with a dominate market share like Legend "out market" a juggernaut like Dell? Hmmm....makes me want to look at more stuff and think about it harder.--R. Schaffer, P.C.S.T.



For some reason, Blogger's been acting up, and "publishing is temporarily unavailable." Of course, this will be posted as soon as it is available, so by the time you read this, the problem will have been solved.

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Thanks for your patience.


When I saw the title “Vancouverite Jimmy Pattison built himself a fortune-in part by turning around an oddball company called Ripley’s.” in the March 17, 2003 issue of Forbes magazine it jumped out at me because there is nothing more respectable than a innovative self made man.
Jimmy Pattison is a college dropout who took many risks to achieve his fortune that he has won, lost and won again. Mr. Pattison made his mark when he bought the struggling Ripley’s company that is now known for it’s oddities, and turned it into a successful franchise. He achieved this by strategically placing exhibits in high traffic areas where there is a large turnover of people, and by using the “Ripley’s believe it or not” television show to gain notoriety throughout the world.
This innovative use of a TV show that is devoted solely to his franchise, combined with his business savvy makes Mr. Pattison stand out from the crowd. I think we can all respect the tenacity that Mr. Pattison has from making his own fortune turning around a struggling company using his creative skills. Mr. Pattison also shows us that hard work, persistence, and faith in your company pays off in a big way.

John Majeski, Intern applicant


Can anyone think of an example of a creative product which is neither new, unique, novel and different nor useful, valuable, provides a sense of satisfaction, worthwhile to the person who created it?

Creativity = useful novelty

What do you think?


Just as flowers depend on an appropriate environment to bloom so does creative behavior. THink of this environment as the attitudes and behaviors of those around you and the rules or guidelines you follow. Specifically, what is the cognitive environment in which you work? The psychological climate in which you work and live in affects your willingness to communicate, your ability to engage in problem-slving, decision-making, learning, as well as your overall degree of self-motivation. Research conducted in Sweden by Goran Ekvall of the Swedish Employment Security Council identified 10 major elements of an environment which encourages creativity.
*Challenge and Involvement: To what extent are you involved in daily tasks and feel challenged?
*Freedom: To what extent are you involved in setting goals and self-motivated/inspired activities?
*Idea Support: To what extent are your ideas encouraged and embraced with respect and sincerity?
*Trust and Openness: To what extent do you have emotional safety in your relationships? (acceptance, confidence, support)
*Playfulness and Humor: To what extent do you experience a general sense of enjoyment, laughter, and enthusisam?
*Debates: To what extent are viewpoints, ideas, processes, routines, etc. appropriately questioned and examined?
*Low Conflict: To what extent is there little or no presence of personal or interpersonal conflict?
*Idea Time: To what extent do you have, and use, time for exploring new thouhgts and ideas in depth?
*Risk-Taking: To what extent are you willing to take a chance on projects, tasks, lessons, et.?

According to Ekvall "Sixty-seven percent of the statistical variance accounted on the climate for creativity in organizations is directly attributed to the behavior of the leader." According to my friend Bob Eckert of New and Improved we are all the leader. As leaders what are you doing deliberately to encourage growth in each of the ten elements above? In what way(s) might you encourage them? In what way(s) might you be discouraging them? What rules/guidelines for behavior might you implement in your workplace to nurture creative behavior?

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