Business Innovation

Whitewashing fences today...

Whitewashing fences today...

Quick, how many words can you come up with to describe this photo? If you said pool, child, kid, water, goggles or blue you and I would have just made 100 points at one of Googles latest projects.

Remember how Tom Sawyer made whitewashin' the fence so tempting to those passing by?

It seems Google might be doing something similar to label images they have indexed.

Here is how it works. You push a button and get paired up with a partner. A 90 second timer starts and you each are shown the same picture. You type in as many descriptions as you can. As soon as you have a description that matches you are shown another image. Each image you match is worth 100 points. At the end you can even hover your mouse over the images and see what your partner guessed.

I think it is brilliant. Not only are they getting free work from people, but they are discovering what people really think when they see an image. Oh yea, it is also fun.

Think of your business, is there a fun way you could get feedback from your customers helping you whitewash your fence?

(By the way my current record is 900 points in 90 seconds)

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

Have You Tried Turning it Upside Down?

Have You Tried Turning it Upside Down?

Do a search on innovation over at Amazon.com. 11,859 results! Innovation is good. Unfortunately in that search you won't find (at least not in the first 100 results) what I think is one of the best "how to" books on innovation. It's called "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. Betty does a great job of explaining how the brain works with regards to creativity and includes exercises that can help anyone tap the right side of the brain to come up with creative solutions to business problems.

Here is a quick one to try. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil and draw the upside down picture above. Now print out the picture, turn it right side up and try drawing again. Which of your efforts look more like the original?

If you are like most people, the upside down version will look the best. Why is that?

It is because the left side of our brain is very good at what it does and is in charge most of the time. One of the things the left side is good at is assigning symbols to common objects which makes them quick and easy to reference. For example, a wheel is always round, an eye is almond shaped, etc. The left side is also very good at being abstract--taking a small bit of information and using it to represent the whole. Both are very powerful and useful skills for quickly dealing with most obstacles we face. Here is an example. The following letters in the following paragraph are all mixed up but I doubt you have any problem understanding it:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and youcan sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed erveylteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Let's hear it for the left side of the brain! It quickly solves thousands of puzzles a day without us even thinking about it. So why do we need the right side?

The very things that make the left side of the brain such a powerful problem solver, limit our ability to see creative solutions. Because it is quick to make assumptions and jump to conclusions, we are not even aware of the assumptions that are limiting us. In addition, symbols and names that it assigns have meanings attached that we don’t question.

Back to the upside down drawing exercise. When most of us draw, the left side of our brain uses its common symbols to help speed the process. If we're drawing an eye, it is almond shaped with a little circle in the middle. If we're drawing a wheel it is always round. Two arms are always the same length etc. Trouble is, once perspective gets involved (which it always does), rarely is a wheel in a picture round nor are eyes almond shaped. I know, I know--your left brain is telling you that is a lie. But it's not. Look at these pictures.

The men are all the same height, the tables both have the same size tops. Go ahead, get out your ruler and measure. In fact, measuring is one great way to shift from your left brain over to your right when you are looking for creative solutions. If you can invalidate assumptions that your left brain is operating on, new possibilities open up. That is one of the reasons real customer feedback is so important--leave nothing to assumption when it comes to the happiness of your customers.

Other ways to shift over to the right side? When you are trying to describe or solve a problem avoid using name references. Instead of saying draw a fingernail, say draw the hard thing on the end of your finger. Or instead of saying, "we need a new advertising campaign" say "how can we attract more new customers?" Anything you can do to avoid using terms that your left brain has assigned symbols to will help you avoid making assumptions and missing possible opportunities.

Turning things upside down is another way to get the right side of your brain involved. For some reason, the left side of the brain doesn't do upside down symbols. That is why most people are able to draw better when looking at an upside down picture--no left brain symbols involved.

Here is a final business example. When you hear the word restaurant what do you think of? Chances are you think of a building or facility where they serve food and you pay money. True enough. But what if you turn it upside down, or least take a different perspective. The symbol or definition that most of us have for restaurant includes a physical facility, but does it have to be that way? Historically it had to be because that was the only way people would know how to find you, but with today's communication devices that is no longer a requirement. What if the restaurant wasn't food in one specific place but great food in any number of many great places? Join their email list and you would be notified when and where they are serving food this week. The local zoo, middle of a football field, top of building--the possibilities are limitless. Talk about delivering unique dining experiences! At least a few entrepreneurs are already doing it.

Hpapy Iianonvntg !

Get customer feedback, generate referrals, and increase repeat sales for as little as $150 a month. Learn more

True Blue Fans Create!

True Blue Fans Create!

I've written some in the past about the benefits of inviting your customers to participate in the creative process. Two benefits: 1) the content produced and 2) the fact that the more they do for your business, the more likely they are to mention it to others. Just came upon another example of that process taking place online.

CougarBlue.com is a discussion board for BYU Cougar fans (yes, I am one). Anyway, a new thread got started that suggested fans bring a white or blue towel to the football games this fall. The thread quickly became an online brainstorming session including assignments and reports on assignments etc. You can check it out here. Several pages of posts you'll need to scan through to see its progression.

Not sure if the vending or marketing folks at BYU are plugged in to or are aware of it, but it is a great example of fans (customers) getting involved and creating something that they love and will pay for. How can you turn your customers into fans, creating something they will love and pay for?

Go Cougars!

Find your happy customers and put a megaphone in their hand. Learn more

The Power of the Talking Bubble

The Power of the Talking Bubble

Remember the talking bubble from the cartoons? It occurs to me that there is a lot of power in that bubble. In fact, the whole intent of word-of-mouth efforts is to get your business in your customer's bubble.

How much money do we as business owners spend getting our ads up in lights, in a magazine, on TV, or online? Fact is, consumers are more jaded than ever and better at ignoring all that expensive advertising.

The real power is not up on the billboards or on the airwaves. The real power is in the bubble.

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

Carnival of Business - #14

Carnival of Business - #14

Welcome to the July 24, 2006 edition of carnival of business. Come on in! This edition has got something for everybody! Before we jump into the submissions, we're going to drop by the games booth and announce the winner of 12 free months of PromoterZ. Drum roll please!

And the winner is James Chandler, owner of Data Doctors in Salt Lake City. Congratulations James! For the rest of you, don't give up hope. We'll be hosting the Carnival of Marketing on August 6th and 13th and giving away more prizes. Enter here. Now on to the submissions.

Like any Carnival or State Fair worth it's peanuts, we've got a little something for everybody. From baseball, to employee fraud, to why it is important to have fun, we've got it all.

Benjamin Yoskovitz starts us off with some good reminders for keeping our ever-present to-do lists focused. Get Organized and More Productive! No More Bloated To-Do Lists.

Amy Rogers follows that up with the first item to put on our to-do list: when is the right time to hire? New Hire Gut Check.

David Lorenzo then presents Common Workplace Woes and Their Solutions. Which is sure to put a few more items on that to-do list.

Though we'd all like to believe it would never happen to us, Tracy L. Coenen, reminds us that employee theft happens and provides some good counsel for detecting it (don't worry, the fun stuff is coming!) How to catch employees stealing.

Jeannie Bauer then restores our hope with some great pointers on being better leaders: The Magic of a Great Business Leader.

Tim King follows Jeannie with some great questions to ask yourself about your market. Before Your Idea Can Take Off.

David Maister then lays out the role technology and IT should play in your drive to improvement with The High Priest's Catechism.

Can't talk about technology without 2.0 coming up. Daniel Scocco cuts through some of the 2.0 buzz and lays out in clear terms what it means for your marketing. Marketing Under the Information Age - Top 5 Trends .

Greg Swann sticks with the 2.0 theme but focuses specifically on what that means for realtors. Great stuff here for any professional. Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent... .

Baseball, finally! David Daniels uses the New York Yankees as a great example of an organization that has created an upward spiral. Creating an Upward Spiral .

Marcus Markou then reminds that Happy People Are The Key .

And last, but not least Kathy Sierra gives us a solid business case for having fun with Usability through fun. Need more proof? Check out Playing For Water.

Well that's it folks! Thanks for joining us for this edition of the carnival of business. Don't forget to enter to win at the Carnival of Marketing--here on Seeds on August 6th.


 You can submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Business using the carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

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