Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brilliant Copy Writing

Last week I received this email from Elaine Montoya, Chief Imagination Office of Motion, inviting me to attend the Motion 2011 Conference.  I thought that the copy writing was so brilliant that I had to share it here!

What does it mean to feed your brain?

Some believe it's a combination of eating the right food, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Seems simple enough.

But what if you're a creative? As creatives, we have to feed both our left brain AND our right brain. It's twice as hard. That's not fair.

Whoever said life was fair? It's not. We have two brains to feed. Get over it. But we also have twice as much fun as non-creatives! Come on...admit it. We're more playful, we look at the world differently, and we have a passion for what we do. 

What? You don't have the same passion that you used to?

You're not alone. It's common in the industry. Tight deadlines, long hours, difficult clients – it all takes a toll. Bit by bit it squeezes your passion dry, making you stop and ask – Why am I doing this?

Because it's who you are. It's in your heart. It's in your DNA. It's in your soul. You are a creative.

So what's the answer if you feel like you're stuck in some deep dark pressure cooker, with no safety valve, just waiting to explode?

Stop. You need to stop. Seriously. If you don't stop and take the time to feed your brain, you will explode, never to return to the wonderful world of creativity.

Dinner is served. We'll feed your right brain and your left brain. And we'll even give you heaping seconds. You'll stop. You'll meet new friends and party with old ones. Then we'll feed you again. You'll go home remembering why you got into this business to begin with. Refreshed. Rejuvenated. Full. Life is goodmotion.

// feed your brain //

with respect,
elaine montoya

I spend most of my time in still image photography and book publishing, so I can't really justify attending the Motion 2011 conference, but after reading this email, I wish I could.  If it sounds interesting to you, here is the link: .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It Is Who You Know!

Discussing book binding at Graph Expo
The old adage states “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters.”

This saying has always troubled me because it implies that you can be a total fool and still be successful if you just have the right connections. In the world that I have observed, connections may help a person get started, but it requires talent, skill and a lot of hard work to succeed.

Recently, I have realized that your connections determine your ability to succeed in a more indirect way. What you know does matter, but who you know determines what you know.

Most human knowledge is acquired second hand from other human beings. The information can be transferred through face-to-face meetings, books, magazines, blogs or tweets. The people you meet in the hallway or follow on Twitter determine the quality of ongoing education you receive every day.

Last week, I attended Graph Expo which is the largest gathering of digital and offset printers each year in the United States. It was a great reminder that face-to-face interaction at trade shows is critically important even in the Internet age. Nothing can replace the exchange of ideas that takes place when a group of skilled professionals with common interests and challenges come together.

When you attend a show like Graph Expo, seek out the people who are investing in new technologies and implementing new processes to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the business. These are most interesting people and the ones that can teach you the most.  As you hear new ideas, think about how you could implement them in your company.

The most important impact of a trade show takes place after you get back home. Don’t just file the ideas away.  Do something!

What have you learned at a trade show recently?

How did you use your new knowledge?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Collision of Ideas

It is not a coincidence that artistic and scientific creativity of the Renaissance took place in the most urbanized region of Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. Creation happens from the combination of ideas and the cities of Northern Italy brought people together where they could exchange ideas and combine them in new and unique ways.

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson calls these types of situations “liquid networks” and describes how they widened the pool of minds that could come up with and share good ideas. “This is not the wisdom of the crowd,” he explains, “but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.”

Creative groups have clustered together into geographically based networks for centuries, but the Internet has enabled people to exchange ideas unbounded by geographic limits.  Now people can connect with people who share their interests anywhere in the world. The result has been a tremendous acceleration of the pace of innovation.

Twitter is enabling the exchange of ideas at a face that is almost frentic. We learned during the east coast earthquake that news on Twitter moves faster than seismic waves. But the ideas that intermix on Twitter may shake things up more than an earthquake. Twitter is the fastest, most democratic idea distribution system that has ever existed. It also has a natural crowd based filtering system because people only retweet their favorite content.

Twitter has already been credited with bring down governments.  I believe we have only just begun to see the impact that it will have on the pace of innovation.

What networks do you use to exchange ideas?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Diverse Experience Drives Creativity

The mother of Johannes Gutenberg had an estate in Eltville am Rhein and it is probable that he spent time as a youth at that estate. This is a region that is famous for the quality of it’s wine even today, so it is highly likely that the young Gutenberg was exposed the screw press technology that was used to extract the juice from the grapes. Later, he became a goldsmith and mastered the molding and casting techniques that would be required to create movable type.  

Around 1439, he brought the two technologies together along with an oil based ink to invent the printing technology which changed the world. Would this have been possible if he hadn’t been exposed to both wine making and metal working?

In 1972, Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Afterwards he became interested in computer design and in 1984, he enthusiastically announced the Apple Macintosh computer system. The graphics and typography capability of the Macintosh launched desktop publishing which impacted the printing industry more than any other invention since Gutenberg’s press.

Would the Mac have included those typographical tools if Jobs hadn’t taken that calligraphy class?  Not according to Jobs.

In his famous Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish address at Stanford in 2005, Jobs explained “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Innovation often involves combining elements from diverse experiences.  Expanding your range of experience is one of the best ways to improve your creativity.

How broad are your interests?  What new area are you going to explore this year?

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Steven Johnson links Gutenberg's experiences with the invention of the printing press.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Paradox of Excellence

Six color offset press image from Maisa Gonzalez's Portfolio
The printing industry, like many other industries is in the midst of a major technological change.  Book publishing is shifting from print to tablets, large catalogs have been replaced by smaller catalogs intended to drive buyers online, and mass mailings have been replaced by mailings that are smaller, targeted and personalized.  Last week, Printing Impressions Magazine forecast that by 2015 paper usage for publication will fall 12 to 21 percent from 2010 levels and could fall another 40 to 50 percent over the next 15 years.

People who work in printing companies and related industries have an urgent need to change their business models and sales approaches. Ironically, those with the highest levels of performance in the current models may have the most difficulty adapting to the new reality. High performers have developed a set of skills that have worked well for them and successful images to preserve. Instead of embracing change, they focus on the familiar routine and miss the opportunity for personal growth.

In the June 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Thomas and Sara Delong identify this phenomenon as the Paradox of Excellence. They explain that “many high performers would rather do the wrong thing well than the right thing poorly. And when they do find themselves in over their head, they’re often unwilling to admit it, even to themselves, and refuse to ask for the help they need.”

In the printing industry, this paradox manifests in focusing on the high volume, offset segments which still generate the highest volume of revenue. However, these segments are shrinking, commoditized and a long-term dead end. The future belongs to high value printing, targeted short runs, variable data projects and personalized book publishing. Print is now one element of multichannel marketing campaigns and print professionals need to master new sales, marketing and manufacturing tools.

High performers need to set aside their performance anxiety and be willing to accept some mistakes as they learn new approaches. They need to admit that they need help at times and seek out colleagues who can help them grow and learn. Most of all, they need to focus on the long term and invest the time and effort to learn new skills.

Do you consider yourself to be a high performance professional?  Are your fears of making a mistake holding you back?