Putting Creativity on the Whiteboard

Tuesday, 26 May 2009 07:37 by kpotvin

I'm a big fan of Jim Collins and his books, "Built to Last" and "Good to Great" so was happy to read an interview with him in Sunday’s  The New York Times.  Part of the story discusses where he spends his time.  On a whiteboard in his office, Collins posts these targets:

Creative - 53%

Teaching - 28%

Other - 19%

Reporter Adam Bryant writes:  “That, he [Collins] explains, is a running tally of how he’s spending his time, and whether he’s sticking to a big goal he set for himself years ago: to spend 50 percent of his workdays on creative pursuits like research and writing books, 30 percent on teaching-related activities, and 20 percent on all the other things he has to do.”

Collins actually tracks his time with a stopwatch and spreadsheet.  Do you like this model for tracking creativity?  How committed are you to creativity?

  

Photo:  Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

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Sweat the Details

Monday, 18 May 2009 18:43 by kpotvin

This weekend, we visited Patriot Place, the new shopping and entertainment center next to Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots) in Foxborough, Mass.  Our friend, Graham Silliman, just opened a new restaurant there called Tavolino Pizza Gourmet.  We love his first restaurant, Siena, on the Cape and were anxious to try this one.   

To start, let me say this isn’t a restaurant review (although the food and service were impeccable); this is a post about the importance of paying attention to detail.  Every single element of the room was well thought out and beautiful: the layered window treatments, the distinctive chandeliers, the flat screen TVs (unobtrusive yet everywhere) and even the chartreuse tile work in the bathrooms. 

I asked Graham about this and he said, “I sweated the details.  We wanted it to feel like a finished space, not a stage set.”  He added that a comfortable place needs to have dimension provided by color and texture.  “While no one may articulate it that way,” he said, “dimension is what drives people to say, ‘I feel good coming here.’” 

Branding is all about detail – packaging, web site, stationery, retail displays, customer service and so much more.  Whether you are opening a restaurant or selling a product, “sweating the details” will help your brand stand out and attract your target audience.

If you want some first-hand inspiration, don’t miss Tavolino’s Grand Opening party and ribbon cutting ceremony on Wed., May 20, 4pm-6pm.  You can sample menu items and all proceeds from the bar will be donated to The Foxborough Touchdown Club.

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News Splash Interview: Tim McKee

Wednesday, 13 May 2009 13:32 by kpotvin

Thanks to the connecting power of Facebook, I recently came back in touch with a theater buddy from high school – Tim McKee.  It’s fascinating hearing Tim talk about his adventures in the entertainment business.  He has trained and worked in New York, Los Angeles and London, and now lives in the greater Washington, DC area.  Tim has an astounding tenor voice (listen to this) and was invited to sing at the White House this past December.  He also works as a Master of Ceremonies, actor and voice-over artist, theatrical and vocal coach and has behind the scenes production experience.  As part of the News Splash interview series, we spoke about the dual approaches to the craft:  the creative side and the “job” side.  As Tim says, “That’s why they call it ‘show business.’”

News Splash (NS):  When you talk about how you learn your lines or warm up, I realize it is not so different than preparing for a presentation or a speech.  Tell us your process.

Tim:  To get the process going, sometimes you have to get away from your desk.  If I’m learning lines, I take the process home.  Say I’m vacuuming, I do it in character.  When I went to school in Boston, I lived across the river from Harvard.  I’d walk along the Charles [River] practicing my monologues and get some pretty strange reactions. 

NS:  That was before the days of Bluetooth.  How do you warm up if you have a performance?

Tim:  If I’m doing solo work, I warm up on the way or at home.  I also like being on an empty stage with no one around.  Then I can sing -- can I hit the back of the house? -- and listen in a relaxed way.  Later when the audience is there, I can bring that relaxation with me.  Being in an empty auditorium also helps you dream and think about goals.

NS:  A performer has the same challenge as a business…how to get noticed.  You did that at a recent audition.

Tim:  I got an audition for America’s Got Talent here in the DC area.  From seeing the show, I know they go for a certain type so the question was how to stand out.  I decided to dress as an Irish Minstrel.  After my first song, the producers asked me to sing in front of the camera which I thought was a pretty good sign.  I didn’t make it on the show but you’ll see me in one of the promos and, somewhere in the NBC archives, you’ll find me singing Danny Boy.

NS:  How did you come to sing at the White House?

Tim:  The DC community is very supportive and great for networking.  You never know who you’ll meet.  A friend who works at the White House sent me the application to sing at the Holiday Open House.  It’s a fascinating process with all the security measures post 9/11 – you send in the application and a demo, then call to provide the UPS tracking number of your package.  I sent it in and didn’t give it much thought.  Then several months later, I got a message on my cell phone saying the White House would love to have me sing.  It was quite an experience.  My wife and I got a parking pass for the White House, were personally greeted by the White House social committee, and, after the performance, we received a private tour of the White House decorated for the holidays.  It was a surreal day. 

NS: What’s your next project?

Tim: I’ve put together workshops for seniors, inspired by my 81-year-old mom who, after many years of sitting in the audience watching her husband and sons perform, has taken an “improvisational” class at her assisted living house in Bethel, Connecticut.  She is having a blast!  I’ve done a lot of research on the subject and it helps stimulate the brain and body, etc. There are a few communities near where I live that are extremely interested and I’m working out details with them now.

 

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Julie & Julia

Thursday, 7 May 2009 08:05 by kpotvin
Thanks to Washington Post blogger Kim O’Donnel who I met at a recent conference, I watched the trailer for the new movie, Julie & Julia.  Opening in August, the movie stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, who decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and blog about it (leading to a book and now a movie).  It’s the co-mingling of two true stories and I can't wait to see it. Years ago, when I was part of the Bertolli Olive Oil PR team at NYC-based Vorhaus & Company, I had the opportunity to share a meal with Julia, the Bertolli marketing team and our Vorhaus PR team.  We were all in town for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.  It was a lovely dinner and Julia, sharing stories in her signature voice, couldn’t have been nicer. The thing about Julia Child was that she was more than a chef, author and TV personality – she was an entrepreneur.  She had an idea (teach people to cook differently) and she pursued it with passion.  She once said, The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.”  What's your passion? 


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What's In A Name?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:52 by kpotvin

This is the tale of a cracker and a new name.  I am a Triscuit® fan.  This simple whole wheat cracker has gotten me through early morning flights, afternoon hunger pangs and two pregnancies.  My favorite variety is low sodium – not because of any health mandate but because a hint of salt seems just right.  But alas!  My crackers disappeared from the supermarket shelf.  I looked and I asked, but all I heard from my grocer was that they were discontinued.  I tried other flavors but they were too salty or flavorful for a quick snack.  I gave up hope (well, not really, I still checked the shelf every week).  Then a few weeks ago I spotted a new Triscuit box in the lineup:  Hint of Salt. 

Brilliant!  Instead of a clinical moniker – low sodium – that smacks of reductionism, my favorite cracker relaunched with a name that enticingly offers something extra.  Instead of losing something (salt), I am receiving (a hint of salt).  Time will tell if this tweak bolsters sales but Nabisco has one happy customer right here.

The right name can transform a product…or focus a marketing campaign…or help raise the odds on a horse (but that’s another story).  

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