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Time to Think

24 Feb

It’s hard to do when competing in a truly 24/7 world that depends on constant motion to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition. However, there is an essential element to growth and success that requires leaders to make a conscious, and seemingly backward, choice. Stop. Think.

Instead of pushing for faster and more efficient there are times when you need to look for slower and more thoughtful. In just the PR world, if you search on Google for PR Consultant List you’ll get over 3.2 million results on how to be a good consultant, who are the best consultants and much more. The point of all this? There are thousands of other professionals in any field that are tactically able to execute to some level in the same general way.

Finding creative solutions is not a new problem, every great advance in human history is brought on by the need to solve a challenge that required a different type of thought. The industrial revolution for example was a shift focused on economic development that increased the growth of major cities and moved countries away from a predominantly agricultural model. In 2011, as we collectively look at a landscape of economic challenges, significant global turmoil, and rapidly changing technological advances; it’s time to think again. People in every industry are seeking and desperately wanting to find creative ideas. That desire for truly smart thinking is why TED Talks are so engaging and popular. Smart thinking is not a commodity business, churning out tactics is.

Find ways that work for you to think and evaluate what’s next. A few ideas to consider might include:

Blocking time on your calendar – Literally carve out time on the Outlook or Google calendar that pushes you from meeting to meeting. Close the door for an hour to read, think about a challenge in front of you from a different perspective, or write out a few free-flowing ideas (maybe crazy ones) to spark your thinking.

Talk with others – Go out, get away from your typical environment. If you’re a social thinker you’ll be well-served by gaining energy from the process of gathering input and feedback.

Shut it down – If your goal is to push a 2,000 pound boulder up a hill, just pushing harder isn’t going to cut it. Same thing happens when we try to solve problems by just pushing. Go entirely away from the situation, find a place where you’re relaxed and can find new perspective. Maybe you’ll find that there’s actually a good boulder on the other side of the hill and you don’t need to push the first one at all.

The communications profession is not just a collection of tactics. It relies on smart thinking, problem solving, and understanding human dynamics which cannot simply be found on a checklist.

There is no right answer and everyone will find their place and style but having a place to think and create is critical. It’s what separates you from the 3.2 million other options out there for your clients and employers. What do you do to think and find focus? What has worked for you?

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Where Are You Going? Three Benefits of Setting Goals.

6 Nov

As fall begins to settle in here in the great state of Minnesota, it gets cooler and the leaves fall. We collectively drag out some warmer clothes and bitterly put away those summer shorts and wonder why we do live here year after year. Fall also reminds me of looking forward and sorting out what’s next. You see, despite Outlook for both the office and my phone, Google calendars, a calendar on the fridge, a calendar in my office (you’re getting the idea) I still keep a planner too. It’s nice for me to make notes or change appointments on the go and it’s always with me. As I get ready to order the 2011 planner, I looked back and flipped through the pages of the last year. It’s amazing to see the journey you take in a year. There are reminders of successes, failures, and moments to remember both personally and professionally.

I also set goals in the back of said planner. Some are for the next year and some are significantly longer-term. I recently hit one that I’d set out more than 10 years ago when speaking with the president of the first company I worked for out of school. He’d asked “how will you know if you’re successful in your career? My response was, when my peers and those I respect come to me for thoughts, assistance, or to chat when they hit challenges in their careers. It was an answer rooted in what I saw in my dad growing up as he worked hard but gave freely of his time to try to help others and his profession. It was a surprising moment for me and one that probably wouldn’t have meant much if I hadn’t set out some goals about what I want to achieve and how to do so.

So, as we enter 2011, consider the benefits of goal setting in your career.

1) They provide focus: The process of goal setting is one where you need to stop and think. These goals aren’t just the tactical elements that need to be covered for you team/boss next year but think about where you really want to be in three years. What are the steps you need to take to make that possible? It’s difficult to take time to stop and slow down but it provides clarity to what you truly want to achieve.

2) You have accountability: The simple act of writing out goals provides you with a measurable timeline. You’ve laid out your goal, perhaps some building block goals along the way, and you have a path to guide you. You’re far more likely to meet your goals when they are written out than just saying “someday I want to…”

3) Goals serve as a reminder: When times get tough, which they will, looking at your written goals can provide you inspiration to keep moving forward. The challenges remain but when aiming for a larger goal, you can ride out the ups and downs along the way.

That Sucks…Kidding, Haha. No, Actually That Idea Does Suck.

19 Aug

You’ve probably been there too.  Maybe in a meeting, maybe at an awkward social gathering where an idea is raised then gets rolling and all you can think is “how did this catch on?” “Am I crazy? Is this brilliance that I just can’t see?”

You may not want to be the naysayer in the bunch and be perceived as negative but you really don’t want to get stuck with a lousy idea either. We in Minnesota especially struggle with this issue as we’re taught to be Minnesota Nice. Ok, now I’m obviously just having a little fun here as no matter where you’re from it can be a sensitive subject in shooting down someone but in an attempt to help, here are a few ways to actually try to get at the age-old issue of delivering feedback in a work setting.

Blunt Honesty Approach

Pros: Should be clearly understood, To the point with minimal wasted time filled with less than sincere positioning.

Cons: Can leave bad feelings on part of recipient, You can wind up looking like quite a jerk.

Some can pull off blunt honesty and be just fine with the approach.  Heck, some are actually praised for their “straight shooter” nature.  Doesn’t work in practicality for many people though.  If you need practice in this method, perhaps turn to where most of life’s answers are found, Office Space.

The “Help me Understand” Method

Pros: Allows you to be “nice” but still hoping to poke a hole in the idea, Can provide actual constructive feedback in some cases.

Cons: Still may put you in a position to just need to go with blunt honesty if your hinting doesn’t get it done.

This one is a regional favorite here in the Midwest. You can ask questions to make it seem like you’re confused and asking because you care….however, most that use this method are actually going with this as a defense to avoid the direct route. Ask relevant questions to help you understand where they are coming from and maybe see if there is some good thinking going on that you’re missing. It can also help them start to see some possible failings if they haven’t thought of some of the pitfalls you’re seeing.  You know you’re losing the positive vibe and need to switch approaches when you hit phrases like “huh, that’s one way to look at it” or “that’s a different idea” and maybe even the granddaddy of them all “well, that’s unique” (accompanied by slightly rolled eyes for style points).

Idea Building and Constructive Feedback

Pros: Can really lead to better ideas moving forward, Doesn’t shoot down a person that really does feel good about an idea.

Cons: Still may not wind up with an idea you entirely believe in but you can collaboratively determine that based on this style.

Idea building is a way to begin with sucky idea number one and help add some thinking to it in order to help move it to a more palatable concept.  In finding a piece of the idea that has merit, you may be able to support a concept if not the exact model that someone brought forward for execution initially. You’re actually working to engage in a good discussion and brainstorm at this point which can keep you in a positive mode and helping someone improve their own thinking. This really is the best option in giving feedback though it can be challenging and while it can be hard to tell anyone that their ideas just don’t work for you, it’s going to be the best option most of the time.

Or just try to distract them so you can run out the back door….kidding, haha….mostly.



The Building Blocks of Success- Entrepreneurship as Growth

17 Aug

I’ve always been interested in a variety of industries and just generally in how businesses are built successfully.  So, after hearing some positive things about a local company here in Minneapolis and its team, I set out to sit down with Mike Rynchek and get to know him a bit better.  In chatting with him, it became extremely apparent to me that he’s one of those people that was really predisposed from birth to create and seek to build.

When I sat down with the July/August edition of Inc. Magazine I couldn’t help but catch the cover featuring a bold headline of “Bring on the Entrepreneurs” and it got me thinking again of the need to create and build successful, creative business models in the communications and marketing industries.  The traditional agency model, if not broken, is certainly in need of some good maintenance work as fewer companies are seeking single agencies to handle all their needs.  There is so much specialization needed that selling a one-size fits all model doesn’t make sense.   I again thought of my conversations with Mike and asked him to share a little more about his background and thoughts on building a business that is conducive to ongoing growth.

Q: What attracted you to the concept of starting and running your own business?

A: Two words, flexibility and opportunity. Since childhood, I’ve always wanted to be a CEO and I truly enjoy the power of marketing. Put them together and I found my passion.

Q: What can marketers/communicators learn from entrepreneurs in other industries that should be applied to this industry?

A: Marketers, much like entrepreneurs in other industries, should always be looking for inspiration. Now, with the advancement of technology, both entrepreneurs and marketers have the freedom to be creative and innovative in ways never thought possible.

Q: When you think about the creative process, what stands out you and what do you try to do at Spyder Trap to create an environment that is unique for your clients?

A: Consistency is key in any creative process, while forward thinking is crucial in defining our objectives. In combination, these elements help to capture the core needs of our clients. Additionally, our clients provide an external viewpoint for inspiration.

Q: How would you describe the business community in the Twin Cities? What have you found helpful, and what has been challenging?

A: The business community is lively in the Twin Cities offering an abundance of social engagements and community events to engage in. From simple coffee shops to extravagant galas, there is always something social happening in the Twin Cities business community. Social networking helps to establish, to connect, and to build upon professional relationships. One challenge I encounter is time; there is never enough time in a day. I often find myself needing to be in two places at once, if only I had a clone!

Q: A lot of entrepreneurs mention a constant nagging feeling of wondering what’s next. Do you experience that and how do you channel those thoughts into a productive model or path for new experiences?

A: “What’s next?” is a common question among entrepreneurs. This is a question I ask myself everyday! I have found that the best entrepreneurs are perpetually striving to find the pulse for what’s next in all areas of their business and environment. In my experience, the question of, “what’s next” has had a positive impact in aiding my growth as an entrepreneur. I am confident this question drives the growth and innovation necessary to remain successful in marketing. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had to be thinking, “what’s next?” before they launched Google in 1998.

Q: Who has served as an inspiration/mentor for you as you looked to build a successful business?

A: I am fortunate to have numerous mentors in my life who inspire me daily. As long as I can remember, I have found it important to gain insight from people in all areas of my life ranging from high-level executives to family and friends.

Recently, I have been incredibly inspired by philanthropic events that I am involved with, as I have learned that giving back is truly humbling.

I appreciate Mike’s help on this post and sharing some of his thoughts. I’d also like to hear more from the community on taking on an entrepreneurial mindset and what you believe is critical in creating companies that raise the level of quality in a creative manner. How do we collectively break into a new level of achievement that benefits clients and the organizations we serve?