Thursday, December 27, 2012

Focus for 2013

Human Eye
Who's In There by Stuart Dootson
We are on the verge of a new year. The world changes at an increasingly faster rate. Do you have plans to change accordingly?

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for setting goals and making resolutions. The difficulty with defining specific goals and resolutions is getting the world to cooperate. I find it more helpful to define areas of focus. Focusing attention on areas for growth and improvement help me be better prepared for the challenges of the upcoming year and beyond.

Here are things that I intend to focus on in 2013:
  • Personalized Stationery -While the decline of offset printing continues, the demand for personalized items is growing rapidly. Beautiful printing on thick, deeply textured paper is a hot growth market.
  • Additive Manufacturing - I believe additive manufacturing has reached an inflection point where the growth rate is going to exceed almost everyone's expectations and have an unimaginable impact on the future of manufacturing, distribution and marketing.
  • Functional Inks - The deposition of conductive inks and other functional materials using aerosol jetting and similar technology is a very promising method for revolutionizing the manufacturing of electronic components.
  • Twentieth Century History - Think of how different the world was in 2000 compared to 1900. I want to understand more about the thought processes of the people who caused those changes.
  • Film Scores - I have appreciated the music of John Williams since Star Wars, but this year I want to get more familiar with the music of Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and some of the other great composers who have contributed to the great films of the last 50 years.
Unless you have been doing nothing in 2012 or have discovered a way to add more hours to the day, your focus list is worthless without a matching not-to-do list.  The only way to make time for a new focus is to spend less time on something else. Are there fields where you have focused enough in the past that the law of diminishing returns has kicked in? There is always more to learn, but is the value of that knowledge worth the time to acquire it?

Time is our most valuable resource.  A little advanced planning can help make sure we use it in the most enjoyable and most productive way.

In what areas do you plan to focus in the upcoming year?

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The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Vino Veritas

Beringer Vineyards founded 1876
Early this month, after attempting to divine the future of electronics manufacturing at a conference in the Silicon Valley, Terri and I decided to spend a day in the Napa valley. The Beringer Vinyards turned out to be ideal for enjoying the luxury of a far older technology.

Brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer founded the vineyard in 1876, making it the oldest continuously operating vineyard in the United States. The tools of traditional wine making are preserved in the 19th century cellars.

Grape press at Beringer Vineyards
After the grape harvest, the grapes are pressed to squeeze the juice from the fruit.  The design of a grape press may have inspired the creation of the first printing press.

Fermentation barrels at Beringer Vineyards

 Sugars in the grapes convert to alcohol in these fermentation barrels. Today, the vineyard uses stainless steel fermentation vessels in a modern facility across the street.

Aging barrels in the cellar at Beringer Vineyards

Most red wines and some whites are aged in oak barrels. Over time, characteristics from the oak change the wine adding complexity in the flavor. For centuries, the aging took place in underground cellars to maintain a constant 58 degree temperature.

Dusty bottles in the cellar at Beringer Vineyards

The Beringer family's private wine collection is stored in these dusty bottles in the cellar.

Wine bottles lined up on a shelf in the gift shop

Before the wine bottles gather dust, they reflect and refract light in some very interesting ways.

The Rhine House at the Beringer Vineyards

The Rhine House is a beautiful 17 room mansion that was built by Frederick Beringer to recreate the family house on the Rhine River in Germany. Frederick and Jacob had emigrated from Germany in 1868.

Our day in the Napa valley was filled with wonderful sights and flavors.  Do you have a favorite valley?

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The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Changing the Odds

Ariel from Disney's Little Mermaid
Ariel wants to be where the people are!   © 1989 Walt Disney Studios
Many people believe that success is just a matter of luck. Some people just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

I believe there is validity in this point of view. It is good to be lucky. However, in a highly mobile society with compulsory education and an unlimited flow of information at our fingertips, all of us have tremendous opportunities to improve our probability of being in the right place at the right time and recognizing opportunity when it appears.

Knowledge and preparation are the first step in enhancing serendipity. It is important to spend time everyday learning and some of that time should focus on the following questions:
  • What industries and companies are going to be growing in the future? 
  • What skills are required to lead in one of those growing industry?  
  • What is your plan for acquiring those skills?

Ariel in Disney's Little Mermaid expressed the next step in these lyrics:

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin'!
I'm ready to know what the people know
Ask 'em my questions and get some answers

If you want to increase your chances for success, get out!  Get out of your office! Get out of your immediate circle of friends! Get out of your comfort zone!

Go find and meet the people who are creating the future.  Spend more time with customers, more time at trade shows, more time interacting with the thought leaders in your field.

What have you done lately to improve your odds of success?

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The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Closer to the Heart

Heart shaped stone at the Bay of Stoer
Heart shaped stone at the Bay of Stoer ©Ulrich Hartmann CCL

I have been listening to some classic Rush recordings recently and have found myself troubled by the opening line of the song Closer to the Heart. Overall, I like the sentiment expressed by the song and agree that each of us play a role in making the world a better place.

The phrase that bothers me is "And the men who hold high places, must be the ones who start." My concern is that the belief is naive and actually discourages action by ordinary people.

To me, "the men who hold high places" implies leadership in government. In a democratic society, those who get elected are those that embrace the beliefs of the majority of the population and offend the fewest members. This process makes it highly unlikely that any new initiative will begin at the top. Political leaders follow public opinion, they do not lead it.

Change begins at the bottom, usually with those neglected and reviled by the majority. Through hard work and time, justice is accepted by more and more people.  Eventually, support for change crosses a tipping point where those in governmental leadership positions are willing to risk lending their support.

If we wait for change to begin with government, we will never mold a new reality.  Change must begin with churches, businesses, non governmental agencies and individuals.

Change must begin with you and me!

I am not able to change the historic lyrics to classic rock songs, but if I could, I would rewrite the opening line of Closer to the Heart to:
And the ones who care most deeply
Must be the ones who start!
To mold a new reality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart

The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart

You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart
Rush Farewell to Kings

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The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.