Mindshare Now a Finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards

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Mindshare continues its success in the awards circuit, having been announced as a Finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards in the Social Sciences category. The finalists were selected from 1300 entries covering 62 categories of books from independent and academic presses. These books represent some of the best books produced by small publishing houses in 2012. For a full list of the finalists, searchable by genre, visit: botya.forewordreviews.com/finalists/2012/.

Over the next two months, a panel of sixty judges, librarians and booksellers only, will determine the winners. Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards, as well as Editor’s Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction, will be announced at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago, Friday, June 28th, 6pm at The Pop Top Stage. Winners will also be announced on Foreword Magazine’s website; on TwitterFacebook, and Google+; and in weekly email newsletters, ForeWord This Week. The winners of the two Editor’s Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each. ForeWord’s Independent Publisher of the Year will also be announced.

Mindshare is now in competition for all General Non-fiction and Editor’s Choice Prizes! Stay tuned! June is right around the corner! Mindshare is also the winner of the 2012 USA Best Book Award in Psychology.

Mindshare Picks Up the 2012 USA Best Book Award in Psychology

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LOS ANGELES – USABookNews.com, the premier online magazine and review website for mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of THE 2012 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS on November 16, 2012. Mindshare: Igniting Creativity and Innovation through Design Intelligence, by Nikos Acuna, has received the award in the Psychology category.

Select winners and finalists were announced in categories covering print, e-books and audio books. Awards were presented for titles published in 2011 and 2012. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s contest yielded over 1500 entries from mainstream and independent publishers.

USA BOOK NEWS ANNOUNCES WINNERS AND FINALISTS OF THE 2012 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS

Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors in the 9th Annual USA Best Book Awards

St. Martin’s Press, Harper Collins, Crown, John Wiley & Sons, Hyperion, McGraw-Hill, Sterling, Llewellyn Worldwide, Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Sounds True, Chicago Review Press, NASA, American Cancer Society, and hundreds of Independent Houses contribute to this year’s Outstanding Competition!

Idea Hustlers: Creative Commerce and the Rise of Big Idea Journalism

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Ever since science writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker for fabricating Bob Dylan quotes in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, there has been plenty of conversation on the web about his demise, the pressures of being a literary slash pop science rock star, and the psychology of his ethics as a journalist.

Even though what he did was unquestionably out of line, this post neither defends nor demeans Jonah Lehrer, but rather attempts to examine a deeper question—what does it mean to live in a world in which big ideas have become mass commodities? In a conversation on blogs.plos.org, Seth Mnookin says something interesting about authors like Jonah Lehrer, Malcolm Gladwell and the notion of “idea journalism”:

They’re not selling readers on their ability to unearth fresh information that the world would never have known had it not been for their shoe-leather reporting; they’re selling readers on their ability to elucidate new/novel ways of understanding the world.

An idealist would posit that the explosion of idea commoditization is the result of our inherent need for knowledge and understanding. So let’s explore what it means to be an “idea journalist.”

What lies beneath this discussion are a series of other profound issues, such as the price authors pay for being prolific on-demand. Our hyper-connected world has placed an extraordinary amount of pressure on creative individuals. Why would a high-profile author be tempted to recycle or manipulate content? To what degree can truth be modified for the purpose of creating a compelling narrative? What does this tell us about the nature and essence of how ideas behave?

Andrew Price, in a post in Good.is writes that Jonah Lehrer isn’t the only one capitalizing on this demand for Wow! stories. “There’s a whole industry. Malcolm Gladwell, the Freakonomics guys, certain TED Talks, Slate—they all trade, to some extent, on the snappy, mind-blowing idea you didn’t see coming but totally seems kind of true.”

Price believes that the problem is that it’s unreasonable to expect that every new piece of media should upend conventional wisdom or deliver a profound new insight. “To think that Jonah Lehrer could expose an amazing new facet of human psychology every week, in 1,000-odd words no less, is ludicrous. There are only so many compelling, counterintuitive, true ideas out there.”

There’s certainly value in being able to create fresh perspectives, but to be brilliant in a moment’s notice is extremely elusive, which may lead writers to double dip in their creative arsenal. Something can also be said about the dizzying levels of consumption a meme-hustler must go through in order to shape a new paradigm or to produce a fresh perspective. This often requires writers to sift through thousands of pages and posts, taking an obscene amount of notes, then culling together the best ideas into something that makes sense, and if all goes well—something remarkable. Jonah Lehrer was known for reading more than 100 science journals a month.

In a post by Megan Daum of the LA Times, she writes: “New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer’s downfall is not his alone. What has also collapsed is our collective tolerance for complexity.” Being able to distill complex ideas for the masses is not an easy task. Audiences seem to have a low tolerance for big complex ideas, so our culture has created an ecosystem that places more value on the art of distilling heady material into digestible nuggets. This is unfortunate, yet stays true to the essence of innovation—which strives to do more with less.

Megan Daum would also caution this discussion by positing that, “It’s worth noting that Lehrer’s impulse to come up with tidy quotations that seamlessly fit into his theme happened in the context of a culture in which the concepts of ‘documenting’ and ‘manipulating’ are no longer always at odds.” Daum believes that audiences are inclined to not only prefer cleaned-up quotes, they’re likely to favor a more staged version of events over the more banal, factual version. Sounds like every narrative arc of every season of every reality television show.

We’re a content-driven society with countless media products available for consumption—every one of them packaged up, crafted with sizzle and marketing savvy. These products are smart and catchy: Blink, The Long Tail, The Purple Cow, and Freakonomics are just a few examples of meaningful memes that have spurred on a new generation of sexy concepts, all aiming to create mindshare movements. Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson, Steven Johnson, and Seth Godin each have their own brand of meme-slanging. But what does it mean to live in a world in which new perspectives and sexy ideologies have become lucrative commodities?

Ideas move the world and shape the future—we’re a culture addicted to lush imaginary landscapes, narrative arcs, and happy endings. We inherently seek knowledge and perspectives that will enrich us and help us shape meaningful perspectives about the world. In a post in the Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates, he writes:

[But] we now live in a world where counter-intuitive bullshitting is valorized, where the pose of argument is more important than the actual pursuit of truth, where clever answers take precedence over profound questions. We have no patience for mystery. We want the deciphering of gods. We want oracles. And we want them right now.”

 

MEME-SLANGING: IDEA CULTURE AND CREATIVE COMMERCE

Meme-slanging is big business. Big ideas that are valuable and original are hard to come by. This business is lucrative, and people today seem hungrier for insight and enlightenment than ever before. We have access to the never-ending “long tail” of content—more than any other time in history, which is why, as creators and consumers of content, it is our responsibility to be purveyors of truth, and not just seekers of the next big idea.

Perhaps we’ve arrived at a time in history in which we need extremely bold and audacious ideas that are conveyed to us through simple means—this is a result of the explosion of user-generated content. More content means more clutter. More clutter means more demand for remarkable content that cuts through the noise.

But most of all, big ideas give us meaning. We seek meaning, change, and purpose, and perhaps these flashy, big ideas transform us, giving our lives significance. Ideas are about engagement and transformation. But with this culture of mass-intelligentsia also comes the demand to constantly fill that void—which is even more challenging.

Most people live their whole lives without coming up with a single brilliant idea that can capture the imagination of the masses. This is dangerous because this demand has also created a need for churning out enlightenment as if it were created in a Twinkie factory.

As a consuming culture, we crave the next big idea, the next wunderkind writer. Big ideas inspire us, because big ideas create more ideas. Something can be said about the new idea culture that has emerged with the explosion of crowd-accelerated innovation and the advent of organizations like TED—the world-renowned conference for spreading ideas about technology, entertainment, and design.

In a post by Felix Salmon, he writes: “TED isn’t going away: indeed, it’s so successful that it is spawning dozens of competitors, even as many publications, including the New Yorker as well as Wired, the NYT Magazine, the Atlantic, and many others, move aggressively into the “ideas” space.

Salmon writes that TED-think isn’t merely vapid, it’s downright dangerous in the way that it devalues intellectual rigor at the expense of tricky emotional and narrative devices. TED certainly has a brand promise to fulfill and part of that is the art of making talks remarkable. Something can be said about a culture consumed by creative commerce and intrinsic value created by marketers. But when big ideas are cultivated strictly for the purpose of financial means, they become counter-intuitive to the poet and critic, Lewis Hyde’s notion of pure creative commerce, as he writes in his book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World:

As is the case with any other circulation of gifts, the commerce of art draws each of its participants into a wider self. The creative spirit moves in a body or ego larger than that of any single person. Works of art are drawn from, and their bestowal nourishes those parts of our being that are not entirely personal, parts that derive from nature, from the group and the race, from history and tradition, and from the spiritual world. In the realized gifts of the gifted, we may taste that zoe-life that shall not perish even though each of us, and each generation, shall perish.

Art deserves participation by both creator and recipient, but commoditization forces creative professionals to produce work that often doesn’t meet their own artistic standards. After all, Daemons cannot be summoned at will. Carl Zimmer, the author of A Planet of Viruses and a contributor to The New York Times, also chimes in with a comment about Jonah Lehrer’s sins by saying, “Frankly, I don’t see how anyone could be so blindingly original that there wouldn’t be some overlap between what ends up in these different formats. It’s an unrealistic expectation.”

One could assume that Jonah Lehrer had immersed himself in a complex personal egosystem with increasingly unrealistic (perhaps self-imposed) expectations to be prolific on demand. The rigors of the creative process are not easily understood. Take for instance the arduous task of fact gathering and having to curate thousands of ideas into a succinct communication—let alone an inventive new combination of ideas that can be packaged into one sexy meme.

Being a merchant of culture is certainly a tough job—especially as a science writer. Distilling thousands of ideas into digestible bits is not easy and it’s only fun half the time. I know because I’m also an idea hustler. I love big ideas and I’m constantly chasing moments of catharsis—these flashes of insight in which new consciousness is created. I’m fascinated by the notion of ideas themselves—how they are born, how they transform us, and how they connect us with one another.

This is what Lewis Hyde refers to as commerce of creative spirit in his book The Gift. It refers to anything beyond financial transactions and focuses on creative interactions. It describes the value you receive beyond a ticket price at a museum, or how a book has changed your life. Hyde illustrates the gift that comes from a producer’s inspiration, the gift that is her art and craft and talent, and the gift that is passed on to her audience. Ideas are at the center of creative commerce, as Hyde writes, “Gifts—given or received—stand witness to meaning beyond the known, and gift exchange is therefore a transcendent commerce, the economy of re-creation, conversion, or renaissance. It brings us worlds we have not seen before.

We live in a world of media content clutter, which is why we crave big ideas. Maybe we should start viewing these nuggets of truth more preciously – as gifts – rather than mere commodities. By placing more value on these ideas and understanding how difficult it is to garner meaningful insights, maybe we can begin to understand the pressure placed on an idea journalist like Jonah Lehrer.

Audiences will continue to be more critical of idea journalists. And the pressure will remain. This is certain. But we—as both consumers and creators also need to place more value on ideas themselves and treat them as gifts, because lyrical insights are not produced in factories and assembly lines. They come from our unconscious imagination. They are not just displays on shelves that make us look smarter. They teach us who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. These ideas have the potential to help us design a better world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get a Free Early Review Copy of Mindshare by Being Part of the Launch Mob

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As we’re approaching the launch of my new book, I’ve decided to try something different. I am giving away 100 early review print copies of mindshare and another 100 e-book downloads!

THE BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE THIS MONTH, BUT MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS WILL HAPPEN ON THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 12.

My goal is to get as many amazon reviews as possible before the first news release goes out to major press.

I will select 100 people to be part of the the “Mindshare Launch Mob.”

It’s a peer group of people who are willing to help me get the word out about the book.

Sign up by filling out the contact form with your e-mail, social media links, and mailing address

 

MINDSHARE MOB MEMBER BENEFITS

As a Mindshare Launch Mob Team member you will get:

  1. A free, early review PRINT copy of the book in advance of the publication date (a $24 value). The e-book versions will be ready next week ($9.99 value).
  2. Exclusive access to me and the other team members in a Private Facebook Group
  3. A special THANK YOU with a link to your page or blog on my site
  4. Your name in the second edition of Mindshare.
  5. A free download of my “Secrets of Everyday Genius” e-book, plus more exclusive multimedia Mindshare content.

MINDSHARE MOB MEMBER REQUIREMENTS

As a member of the Launch Team all you need to do is:

  • Write a brief book review on Amazon.com
  • Help spread the word about the book in any way you can, to your existing platform and beyond, mostly during the week of October 12th.
  • Share Mindshare content and posts, including this page and anything on this site–especially the homepage, trailer, and blogposts leading up to October 12th, by retweeting, liking, and sharing any content on your social media platforms.
  • Share ideas and brainstorm additional ways we might further expose the message to an even greater audience. All ideas are welcome.

That’s it!

VETTING MEMBERS

I wish I had a free copy of Mindshare to give everyone but each one costs me $$ unfortunately so there will be a vetting process in place. If you have a strong social media following, a popular blog, a Klout score of 60+, a combination of all three, you will most likely get an early review copy. Media folks, journalists, thought leaders, and key influencers are set. If you feel that you do not meet the criteria but can still be a valuable member of the Mindshare Launch Mob, then e-mail me and tell me why at: nikos [at] nioverse.com.

APPLY NOW!

Just leave your name, e-mail address, link to your blog or Twitter profile.

Don’t forget to leave your mailing address if you want a print copy.

To request a Kindle or e-book version, just say so!

Question: What do you think of this idea? You can leave a comment below.

What is Design Intelligence?

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The art of the process is to balance emotional excitement with professional discipline, and leaders in both design and business are wise to master this art.”   -Harmut Esslinger

Design Intelligence is what moves everything toward a state of perfection. It’s what the creative process aims to achieve. When a design is optimal, it means that it’s better than the last, but not as good as the next. Designs can never be perfect, but you can always remove imperfections.

In Harmut Esslinger’s book, a fine line, he articulates the need for a focused creative and innovation strategy. “New ideas are mandatory to innovation, but they’re only as effective as the objectives used to filter to them and the processes used to develop them.” Thinking like a designer amplifies the creative process and taps into the humanistic elements of experience. This is executed, again, through an integrated approach. IDEO calls this approach design thinking. Frog calls it design strategy. Both provide businesses that are not trained as designers to utilize creativity to solve a vast range of challenges. It approaches the problem from the human experience, asks what is possible through all variables, explores technology and available resources, and integrates various models to conceive a more innovative solution that may not have revealed itself through traditional analytic processes.

Design intelligence focuses on one’s intuition and experiential perceptions to understand challenges and achieve goals. This approach can also be applied to business processes. Meaning in derived from all possible communications, even beyond words and symbols. Design thinking integrates organized analytical thinking with creative and emotional drivers. An approach with both elements can provide new ways to solve problems. Design focuses on aesthetic, structure, and elegance. I provide strategies in which businesses can operate in more cohesive ways, through more elegant and efficient operational processes.

Design intelligence, for the most part, uses prototyping as the process that provides a deep understanding of the challenges involved in the way a brand packages, markets, sells, and supports its products. This comes back to achieve an optimal brand experience for customers. Design intelligence allows ideas to be organized in a cohesive way, even though the approach is seemingly ‘artsy’ or unconventional. Businesses must learn how to establish highly collaborative environments in which shared vision can be executed meaningfully. This is an aspect of proactive realization, in which a platform of innovation constantly drives generates ideas and continues to drive business strategies.

The culture established, then, is itself an innovation platform—an environment in which ideal solutions are often derived from trial and error. The difference is that projects are ultimately never complete, this approach allows you, your brand, and your business to remain nimble by evolving your brand experience just as your market or industry keeps changing. Design intelligence then, is a proponent and integral aspect of evolution. By leveraging this idea, your brand will always remain relevant, innovative, and competitive. By incorporating these processes deep within your company culture, you will also enable your team to anticipate problems and new business challenges before they emerge.

Incubation: How Simmering Ideas Lead to Breakthrough Innovation

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In Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, he illustrates seven distinct dynamics of innovation, and one key principle that propels innovation across vast areas of study. Breakthrough innovation is less likely to occur when a scientist is alone in his lab but through vast idea networks that connect and collide with one another. Innovation is more likely to occur in a coffee house among conversations, interdisciplinarccccy methods, and by conducting aggressive aggregated research. According to Johnson:

Like any other thought, a hunch is simply a network of cells firing inside your brain in an organized pattern. But for that hunch to blossom into something more substantial, it has to connect with other ideas. The hunch requires an environment where surprising new connections can be forged: the neurons and synapses of the brain itself, and the larger cultural environment that the brain occupies.

The metropolitan city defines this context in the same way that a coral reef nurtures a vast biodiversity compared to the same area of empty sea. Urban environments that are tightly networked through which countless interactions take place nurture and propel innovation in these contexts. It’s also evident that when one discipline comes into contact with ideas from another, more innovation takes place. Collaboration nurtures innovation but what if you were to turn this back on its head, and go the opposite? Could an individual come up with a breakthrough by herself? Of course she could. All she needs to do is create an intelligently designed platform in which her questions could be explored in depth. But she has to allow these ideas to coincide. What if you could consolidate all of your ideas into one unified platform? What could you actually do on a level independent of a coffee house? Sure, you can probably bring your ideas to an actual innovation factory but what would happen if you let your slow hunch burn into your own innovation platform? You ideas are simply the result of the convergence of other ideas.

The slow hunch suggests that ideas simmer over time. Again groundbreaking innovations are not like flashes of insight but slowly evolving liquid networks within your stream of consciousness. This process is psychological. Perhaps the idea for this book started to burn when I was a junior in college and I first discovered the idea of the postmodern while reading Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy and James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I was fascinated by the idea of self-reflexivity, a dynamic in which a work becomes aware of itself and its form, taking winks at the reader (or viewer if you’re watching a film), indicating that the work has become conscious of itself as a work or art or literature. This draws attention to the producer’s creative process. Frederico Fellini’s prolific film, 8 ½ is a great example of this idea at work, in which the film that the protagonist is struggling to make in the story is actually the film that we are watching. Films likeAdaptation and Being John Malkovich are also good examples of this dynamic. It creates a unique paradox in which we can see versions of reality that exist within certain “frames”. It’s a movie in a movie. Hold this thought, as I go back to it frequently—and this gets particularly fascinating when explored through the lens of metacognition. Metacognition is having astute awareness about the way you think. Neuro-linguistic programming utilizes meta-states and reframing to achieve better results.

To this day I’m fascinated by modernism and idea of the postmodern. I often visit San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to incubate my ideas and to get inspired. It works every time. This is because art drives the human spirit. Steve Jobs had an astute artistic sensibility which was in direct proportion to his obsessive perfectionism. But he made breathtaking products because he was inspired to change the world through his art. When I visit MOMA I’m often intrigued at how the art draws attention to itself, questioning its own form. A lot of people simply don’t get abstract expressionism or surrealism and merely call these works ‘weird.’ But what’s interesting to me is the process itself. Abstract expressionism is more subjective in form—allowing those who experience the art to draw their own conclusions, feelings, and assertions about exactly what that piece expresses. This is the gift of art. Modernism is brilliant because the art questions and explores its own form. Much of the art seems to express the irony between chaos and order. This draws attention to the creative innovation process itself—because creativity is nurtured through chaos. It is nurtured through the unconscious mind, which is not only abstract, but unknown. Therefore design intelligence refines the process, refining the product of that which is created through initially chaotic and unknown circumstances. Often, these creative hunches and innovations happen over time.

Your ideas brew over time in a slow pace and you should keep good records of all of them. When an idea gets stuck in your head your subconscious tends to gather evidence that supports this idea. Hunches work when they’re connected to other bits of information and experience. We see what our mind wants us to see but sometimes the work happens subconsciously, or in the background. This is why you have to constantly nurture your ideas. Keep your commonplace notebook handy. Write notes and revise them often. You will start to form new ideas based on what you explore within this platform.

How Ideas Come to Life

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David Kord Murray, author of Borrowing Brilliance: Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others, wanted to “take the creative process out of the shadows of the subconscious mind and bring it into the conscious world.” According to Murray, in order to create, first you have to copy. He emphasizes on taking ideas from others that are relevant to how you would like to approach a business challenge.

In a way, Murray is a proponent of strategic exaptation—solving business challenges by utilizing solutions that have worked in other industries to solve similar problems.  “You build your idea on a foundation of well-defined problems. Once defined, you borrow ideas from places with a comparable problem. You start close to home by borrowing from your competitors, then you venture farther by borrowing from other industries, and finally you travel outside of business and look for ideas with that problem in the scientific, entertainment, or artistic worlds,” Murray says. Thus, all ideas have evolved from the integration of other ideas.

The innovation industry is growing at a rapid pace and will soon transform every other industry that exists today. This is because innovation is more than a way to solve business problems. Innovation is a way to live. Isaac Newton said that in order to see farther he had to stand on the shoulder of giants. He built his ideas on the ones of others. Ideas also evolve over time, based on the theory of the slow hunch. Murray describes how the rock incepted an evolution that resulted in creating the modern automobile. A Neanderthal dislodged a rock and watched as it rolled down the slope. Then another Neanderthal chiseled a smaller one made out of wood. Then another one copied a rock wheel by creating a wheel barrow. Then another used it to make a cart to haul the carcass of a tiger. This then evolved into a chariot, then a carriage. The horse carriage evolved into a steam engine which then of course evolved into the automobile. Each idea one built on the other one. Borrowing ideas, then, can be a lucrative process in creating your innovation platform. Just think of your ideas like a protean cloud or a liquid network that continues to grow and transforms into what you need in order to overcome your challenges.

We are in a critical evolutionary step in human history. We have more tools are our disposal than ever before. There is more information available to one person today than there has been in a lifetime to someone that was living in the 1950s. Information has become a commodity. Creative workers will shape not only the future of business but the future of the world. Product lifecycles are becoming shorter and shorter. Consumers are getting smarter and smarter. This is why you must continue to grow your cloud and leverage you experience while focusing on how you wish to apply your talents to change the world in a meaningful way. Innovation can no longer be outsourced. Innovation needs to be embedded in every facet of your organization and within your identity. As Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation remarks:

Tricks from the designer’s toolkit—user observations, brainstorming, prototyping, storytelling, and scenario building—are invaluable in building an innovation capability, but taken by themselves they are rarely sufficient. Over time, and after countless experiences with organizations throughout the world, we have learned that innovation has to be coded into the DNA of a company if there is to be large-scale, long-term impact.

Innovation is the new the organizational priority. Gaining consensus on this must be every firm’s job priority. Innovation is the new business department. These positions didn’t exist a few years ago—this is because of the rise of the conceptual age. We are pattern recognizers and you’ve got to surf this wave and not drown. Bring creativity into the conscious world. Embrace the fact that brilliance is borrowed. In order to create you still have to copy but you’ll learn how to take control instead of just waiting for ideas—it’s about repurposing your content in a way that helps you achieve your goals. This process, in itself, has been evolved from various models of innovation. But no matter what process intrigues you, the principles tend to remain the same. This process is something that anyone can use to build business innovation:

1)   Defining – Define the problem that you’re trying to solve.

2)   Identify and Analyze Needs

3)   Examine current solutions (if any) Borrowing – Borrow ideas from places with a similar problem—this also pivots into the next step, which is idea integration.

4)   Integration (combine and optimize current solutions)

5)   Brainstorm Improvement: Efficiency, Durability, Strength, Intelligence

6)   Research

7)   Incubate—the combinations to incubate into a solution.

8)   Produce – Identify the strength and weakness of the solution, then produce it.

9)   Collaboration and Market Research

10) Amplification and Optimization Eliminate the weak points while enhancing the strong ones.  (Refine Blueprint)

11) Launch

Mindshare is Complete! Let the Fun Begin!

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As of today, I have completed my book. I have submitted my last revisions, after going back and forth with my editor about a dozen times. I honestly thought that I was done, or at least close to the finish line, back in November of last year. But after an independent publishing company, Motion Publishing, selected my project and partnered with me, the book got a fresh set of legs (think Lebron James after a long summer), and Mindshare was elevated to a whole new level, with the help of Motion’s lead editor, Karen Gill.

I’d been working on the book in small stints since about 2007. But it really started to kick into gear in December of 2010, when I decided to focus my efforts on building a platform with a collection of all of my ideas, all of my favorite quotes and musings, and pretty much all of my insights about creativity through the years. The experiment was to see if an overarching idea would manifest through the process of curating hundreds of great ideas about design, the creative process, and the psychology of branding and innovation. This was a slow hunch that had been simmering in me as far back as in college, when I first read James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

There was something about this archetype of how ideas travel from the unconscious, into the imagination, and get expressed onto the world. Strip away the form, and you still have its essence. This process is metaphysical in nature, and it fascinated me–how ideas jump from physical to psychological to digital planes, and beyond. I needed to understand this invisible essence, how the process works, and how it shapes business, industries, the world, and ourselves. Mindshare evolved from brand awareness–which is merely the result of four other essential elements: creative commerce, collective intelligence, consciousness, and optimal experience.

To say the least, the experiment was a success. It’s really amazing to experience a creative project coming to fruition, after so much pain–endless bouts of self-doubt and lizard brain battles, barreling through each iteration so awkwardly, constantly removing imperfections until blood spilled out of my ears. Not to say that this work is perfect–far from it, but it’s alive–a living, breathing, animal of its own, and it has a lot to say about the essence of creativity.

Mindshare: Igniting Creativity and Innovation Through Design Intelligenceis about how organizations and individuals can use design strategies to be more innovative, distinctive, and successful. But it’s also about our essential nature, how to use our creative instinct to live a more fulfilling life, and how creativity shapes the modern world. The awareness of this process achieves mindshare—an intrinsic collective power that has the potential to help us design a better world. 

I didn’t just want to write a book about creativity and innovation. There are plenty of books like this–Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine, Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds, and Keith Sawyer’s Explaining Creativity–are my favorites. Instead, I wanted to write a book that was both about creativity and also a conscious embodiment of its essential elements. In order to do this, the book needs to be creative. It needs to be innovative by consciously participating in that which it explores and illustrates. I’m very proud to have–at the very least for myself, created something that met these objectives.

I’m also blessed to have a nimble publisher that is on the cutting edge of the business–a publisher that is more innovative than any traditional shop in the space right now, one who knows the significance of putting creative power back in the hands of authors and knows how to make a remarkable product–especially when the book is about how to make remarkable creations come to life. This automatically sets a standard for itself–so the bar was pretty high, and I believe that we absolutely crushed it. There is no bar. Only a skyline.

Now that the easy part is done (ha!), it’s time to kick marketing into gear. I’m so utterly late on this. Good thing my PR agency is stellar. The fun is about to begin. I apologize to readers for being MIA the past few months, as I’ve been really heads down and working late at night to make sure this beast is beautiful. Not to mention I’m still SVP of operations and marketing at digitaladtech–which means there isn’t really a whole lot of room for thumb-twiddling. I managed to stay disciplined throughout the process, writing from 5 AM-7AM, then again at 8PM-11PM after the gym. And pretty much all throughout my weekends. Which is why you haven’t seen me at Ruby, the Grand, or Vessel lately, party people! Which is also why my wife was ready to kill me. Plenty of party time coming this way for sure. There will be much to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong, I burned out about five times in the last six months. But I managed to find another gear every time.

Oh well. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Stay tuned, as I’ll be blogging much more frequently now, as I gear up for launch–which is still slated for late July. A select group will be receiving early press review copies–this includes my family and friends, and avid supporters, but the book will be available nationwide, wherever books are sold come August. I will also be planning various events surrounding launch, and will be posting my media segments here as well, so I hope you could join me as I kick this bad boy off. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Fierce Execution: Choosing the Strategic Guiding Path

chess glass

 

After a healthy diversion through incubation, you have stoked your creative bonfire. So now you must use this energy and get back to work. At this juncture the problem needs to be already well defined, and general ideation has already taken place. You and your creative team may already have an instinctual path you want to take with your ideas. There’s been assurance that you have deconstructed your challenge in detail to ensure success. You’ve also explored all available resources—financial, human, and technological. By going through the first four steps, you may have already achieved great results. Now it’s time to refine your ideas. Keep shooting holes. Call bullshit on one another. Play your toughest customers. The most intelligent way to understand which is the best strategy to implement, is by identifying the series of actions that are most closely aligned to the initial objectives defined. Prototypes are created. Testing becomes more analytical, critical, and intense.

At this stage, there may be more questions that come up, but you need to keep your team focused on the goals. Businesses may challenge how to fully leverage this process, and some may even think that it is counter-productive. In one scenario I’ve had to stop software product development because it was clear that the product and end-user goals were not clearly defined. My client had been in development for more than five years.

The CEO was not the type to sweat the details. Unfortunately, the business requirements of his platform demanded that a very detailed data management process be implemented in order for the product to work correctly. He just kept pressing his development team forward even though many of his developers had many questions about what they were building. This resulted in misalignment throughout the organization. My proposed goal was to align the entire product development process with their business operations. He finally agreed. After doing a full-immersive discovery, I uncovered countless issues and unresolved problems—many of which had to do with employees simply not being heard—their ideas under-valued.

They needed someone to basically listen to them. So I listened intently and created a comprehensive strategic alignment proposal that thoroughly identified all major challenges within the organization. I then helped them do a lot of “housecleaning” in terms of building the appropriate business processes in place between each department. I then created a custom innovation platform for them—one in which fearless iteration and prototyping could be achieved. The progress they made within a two week period was phenomenal, because they had a much better understanding of the company’s shared vision, and their goals in building the product.

Design legend Charles Eames once famously said: “design depends largely on constraints”. Dieter Rams would agree: “My aim is to omit everything superfluous so that the essential is shown to the best possible advantage.” From the chaos of diverse perspectives comes the order of integrated thinking and design intelligence. But you have to have a clear understanding of your challenges, diagnose the problem correctly, and then implement the appropriate process. Design intelligence delivers results that drive innovation throughout the organization. But this culture must be established and new ideas must be embraced. This “fail fast” approach is well known in the entrepreneurial hotbed of Silicon Valley, but it can also be adopted within any industry—as industries transform with time, so must the businesses within them in order to remain competitive. Creativity, at the end, may start with hundreds of seemingly useless ideas, but this is why you need to shape them in a meaningful way. This is the nature of intelligent design. Aesthetics and structure enhance an organization’s ability to achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.

Richard Rumelt, one of the world’s most renowned thought leaders on the subject of strategy, posits that a great deal of modern writing about strategy deals with the detailed economic logic of “competitive advantage.” His book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy argues that a coherent strategy can be, by itself, a significant source of competitive advantage. The advantage flows from coordination and focus as well as from resolving the impossible ambiguity of reality into a problem that fits the organization’s resources and abilities, a problem on which the organization can actually go to work.  This way of looking at things extends beyond business situations to non-for-profit and military contexts.

One of a leader’s most powerful tools is the creation of a proximate objective—one that is close enough at hand to be feasible. According to Rumelt, a proximate objective names an accomplishment that organization can reasonably be expected to achieve. Good strategy has a basic underlying logic: coherent action backed up by an argument, an effective mixture of thought and action. Rumelt calls this basic underlying structure the kernel. A good strategy may consist of more than the kernel, but if the kernel is absent or misshapen, then there is a serious problem. The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: (1) a diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge, (2) a guiding-policy for dealing with the challenge, and (3) a set of coherent-actions that are designed to carry out the guiding-policy.

Many people and companies want to emulate Apple and study what the company has done. I believe that in trying to learn from Steve Jobs and Apple it is very useful to pay attention to what he did not do. In compiling this short list, I have used ideas and phrases in common use by managers and business consultants:

  • He did not “drive business success by a relentless focus on performance metrics.” Success came to Apple by having successful products and strategies, not by chasing metrics.
  • He did not “motivate high performance by tying incentives to key strategic success factors.” Apple did not run a decentralized system based on pressuring individuals to deliver targeted business results.
  • He did not have a strategy “built through participation by all levels to achieve a consensus which resolves key differences in perspectives and values.” Strategy at Apple is essentially driven from the top.
  • He did not waste time on the delicate distinctions among “missions,” “visions,” and “strategies.”
  • He did not use acquisitions to hit “strategic growth goals.” Growth was the outcome of successful product development and accompanying business strategies.
  • He did not seek to engineer higher margins by chasing rust-belt concepts of “economies of scale.” He left such antics to HP.

Creative constraints are symbiotic to design. This also proves true for intelligently designed business models. This is why it is important to understand that sometimes, it is more important to choose what not to do—to eliminate the ideas that do not drive the business forward as much as other initiatives. This needs to be clearly prioritized. These are the constraints that need to be applied to product development. This can be extremely valuable especially to companies in an early stage.

I’ve come across visionary CEOs that have great ideas, but lack the ability to execute on them because they have not clearly defined what Richard Rumelt calls, a proximate objective—a realistic goal that the company can achieve. An important lesson to learn early on is that you simply can’t be everything to everyone—at least not yet. By understanding the constraints that need to be developed, this will help your organization create meaningful products, incubating others, and will establish a highly innovative culture and process that can be repeated to deliver results and often exceed your initial objectives.

Screw the Lizard Brain: Destroying Creative Roadblocks

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So the villain in this story and the antagonist to any creative professional is the Lizard Brain. The Lizard Brain represents your fears, your doubts, your excuses, your sloth, and your self-imposed limitations—anything that prevents you from shipping and doing the work. Seth Godin also calls it “The Resistance”. Here’s an all too familiar situation. It’s the over-dramatized scene of the potentially prolific author staring at the aged Underwood typewriter in agony. Takes another sip of scotch. This only empowers the desperation and loneliness of that empty page and the passion that used to come with craft seems to be gone. All of it.

The resistance has depleted all substance or style that you once thought was beautiful, anything that once glimmered with significance gone, along with the ephemeral inspiration the moment once brought. Utter emptiness. The infamous creative block. Sometimes this is all you are left with along with the revolting thought and your pathetic inclinations and delusions of grandeur. Why is it that we go through these bouts, these creative ups and downs?  What a farce you are! The resistance would say. You have no talent! Why are you even bothering? I would only consider this fact: that if this unyielding drama king of a shadow figure in my psyche has the power to throw me off track and restrain me from exploring my art then the opposite must be true. My Daemon must be within me too. Daemons are good or benevolent supernatural beings between mortals and gods that can be attributed to a greater force within you that empowers you to do great things.

Visionaries are known to be aligned with their inner Daemon. This is because visionaries have acute insight and clarity. Visionaries that can create new paradigms lead the way toward innovation. This is why Steve Jobs has transformed the world through his products. He reinvented six different industries and shifted paradigms in business and personal entertainment. New ideas form into paradigms that will shift and shape the world we live in. If we can climb mountains and travel endless miles across vast plains and sail across oceans to discover new lands and send spaceships to distant planets then I truly believe that there’s a way for anyone to pioneer new innovations with their thoughts, passion, and a yearning for knowledge and words. Words transform lives.

Putting your pen to the grindstone is what will make this happen. From the internal recesses of your psyche to the external place where your dreams become a reality—your platform is a literary narrative about your unique creative process and how you can take original, breathtaking ideas and turn them into works of significance. Just kill those damn phantoms—the lizard brain and the resistance. They suck the life right out of you like a mammoth inspiration slug stuck to your creative instinct. They are the parasites of emptiness, the black plague of a blank page that cares nothing more than to suck the blood from your work, the pulse from your brilliant paradigms.

You’ve heard these negative thoughts before. These phantoms call you “loser.” They tell you that there’s no way that you can make it, no way in hell you can shine despite the fact that you have all the talent in the world and maybe even something of substance to say, something meaningful to provide, something of value. You learn that this is more than just a phantom. It’s the creative antichrist, the innovation cipher, an idea sucker with fangs that feed on anything innovative and anything creative. They lurk in the night and make your dreams unpleasant. They are everywhere. They are negative thoughts conceived by fear. So here are some ways to hurdle past creative blocks and those damn phantoms that keep you from cranking out remarkable work:

Get in tune with your creative rhythm.

When you feel drained of all your creativity, it means that your energy has been zapped. It’s time to rest and focus on getting the right creative stimuli back in you. If you feel completely enervated, get energized. Rest, sleep, eat, or go out with your friends. But you have to tune into your creative rhythm. When you’re on, you can feel it. When you’re not, you don’t know why. Being aware of this will help you stoke your creative bonfire when you need it.

Plow through it.

Sometimes you just have to push forward at all costs—to make your deadlines, you need to sit in front of your task and project until your head bleeds.

Freestyle.     

Sometimes it’s helpful to work on a completely different creative project. The more abstract, the better. Paint, take an improv workshop, write a short story—even journal in stream of consciousness style by letting your thoughts just flow no matter how scattered they are.  This helps getting your creative juices flowing again and pretty soon you’ll be able to leverage that energy and feed it back to your project with the highest priority.

Watch a rom com.

You’d be surprised how something as seemingly superficial as a romantic comedy can help get you going again. There’s something about the consistent plotlines and the superficial trials and tribulations of two star-crossed lovers, and the absurdity of it all. Pay attention to the way each character has changed at the end of the film and think about that arc. I have had dozens of cathartic creative aha moments while watching romantic comedies. If you can’t stand them—watch some stand-up comedy. Laughter and stirring up emotions always enhances creativity.

Go to a party or social gathering.

Going to a social gathering will allow you to get your mind off of your project. I would go to a social gathering with a specific purpose—to learn something new about a friend or even a stranger. Have some wine, but don’t drink too much. Socializing forces you to be in the present moment. If you’d like, you can even discuss your creative challenge—feel free to complain about your mental roadblock but do it in a fun and casual way. But   remember, it’s not about you. Make a point to make others feel good about themselves. This is your gift. Socializing itself is an art and can be leveraged to enhance your creativity. This is because the art of conversation is not scripted. You are literally improvising conversations. Just go with the flow. So get out there and be engaging. Intrigue someone. Make them laugh and be authentic.

Write about your challenges.

Writing about your challenges allows you to vent. It allows you to articulate exactly what you are going through. You have to write your challenges then pose questions as to how you can go about solving them. If you identify your challenge as: Having trouble pinning down a minimum viable product for go to market because there are so many features that seem to be priority to team members, your question can be: what are some ways I  can identify a minimum viable product that all my team members can agree on?

Ideate

You can also ideate a new project. This also falls into the category of creative brainstorming. Again, you don’t have to focus on your creative project. You can ideate something new, and often, you’ll find that the new ideas that come to mind will have interesting connections to your creative challenge.

Study a model of something close to what you are trying to accomplish

Is there anyone out there that has already solved your problem? It doesn’t necessarily have to be within your business segment or even your same industry. In fact it’s better if you can identify your challenge in a different industry altogether. This forces you to look at your creative challenge in a different way. This allows you to integrate new ideas that could immediately solve your problem, or solve a future problem that emerges.