Not all wild ideas are winners. But, wild ideas are the ones that make a dent.

The lesson we can all learn from Maurice Sendik — expell the Devil’s Advocate.

Where the Wild Ideas Are.

 BY: Tom Fishburne, marketoonist™

The world needs wild ideas. But every wild idea faces a road of obstacles to bring it to life. The hard work comes after the brainstorming rumpus when you have to bring others along.

Few of these obstacles are as rough as the devil’s advocate. IDEO founder Tom Kelley once called the devil’s advocate the single greatest threat to innovation:

“Devil’s advocates remove themselves from the equation and sidestep individual responsibility for the verbal attack. But before they’re done, they’ve torched your fledgling concept…

“What’s truly astonishing is how much punch is packed into that simple phrase. In fact, the devil’s advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today. What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat…

“Because a devil’s advocate encourages idea wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the disasters-in-waiting. Once those floodgates open, they can drown a new initiative in negativity.”

This is exactly the uphill battle that Maurice Sendak faced with “Where the Wild Things Are”. When it was published in 1963, the book was hated by critics and banned in libraries. Wild ideas always attract naysayers. But wild ideas are the ones that make a dent. “Where the Wild Things Are” is one of the most awarded and influential children’s books in history.

Not all wild ideas are winners. And critical thought is essential to make ideas stronger. But too often wild ideas are smothered or diluted before they’ve really had a chance.

Research finds that 90% of word-of-mouth conversations about brands take place offline, primarily face-to-face, in people’s homes and offices, in restaurants and stores, really anywhere people congregate.

Brands that want to be social and generate conversation need to look to the “real world” for results.

Why Successful Branding Still Happens Offline

BY: Ed Keller and Brad Fay

It has been said that online social media is “word of mouth on steroids.” Key to that argument is a belief that online conversations will spread to hundreds or thousands of people (and maybe more) with the click of a mouse. But while that is theoretically possible, it is not the way online sharing usually works. Most links that are shared reach only 5-10 people. And the huge legions of Facebook fans, it turns out, are not so actively engaged with the brands they once “liked.” Fewer than 1% of brand fans on Facebook have any type of active involvement, bringing those huge numbers back down to earth.

Meanwhile, our research finds that 90% of word-of-mouth conversations about brands take place offline, primarily face-to-face, in people’s homes and offices, in restaurants and stores, really anywhere people congregate. These conversations bring with them greater credibility, a greater desire to share with others, and a great likelihood to purchase the products being discussed than conversations that take place online.

So if not via Facebook and other social networking sites, what can brands do to get conversations started? It is important to fight the urge to start your marketing strategy with a particular tool or approach. Instead, start a story that consumers will want to talk about. What are the messages about your brand and category that make you talkworthy?

Next, it’s important to tap the right talkers. Who are the consumer influencers in your category, and your brand advocates? When and where do they talk, about what, and why? Often the people who have credibility when they talk are not the target customer. And the places to reach these influencers will not flow naturally from your media optimization plan unless you’re clearly focused on word of mouth as a primary goal. Media with the largest concentrations of influencers will surprise you.

Once you have your message and target in mind, only then does it make sense to choose the channels through which to reach people and to encourage sharing. And it turns out, the biggest and most productive channel to spark conversation is not online social media, but paid advertising. Fully one-quarter of conversations about brands include an explicit reference to ads. In fact, television advertising is far and away the single biggest driver of consumer conversation. Far from being a dinosaur, as some pundits say, television and other traditional media play a key role in today’s social marketplace.

Today’s consumer marketplace is highly social, but not because of particular platforms or technologies. The businesses that will be the most successful in the future are the ones that embrace a model that puts people– rather than technology – at the center of products, campaigns and market strategies. Those who achieve the greatest success will recognize that there are many ways to tap the power of today’s social consumer.

The great social wave is an opportunity that no business can afford to ignore or look at myopically. It’s happening all around us – and to the continuing surprise of many, it’s mostly happening face-to-face.

Infographic Confirms Ad People are NOT normal.

God bless advertising. Stay weird my friends.


Ad people love advertising and social media. And, Behaving Poorly at Office Parties.

 BY: Christine Champagne

Those who work in advertising often wonder if they live in a sort of bubble. You wonder, are civilians as active on social media and as inclined to pay attention to what brands are doing on Twitter, and is the rest of the world as preoccupied with that award-winning ad campaign that industry types can’t stop talking about?

The unsurprising answer is no, according to a study commissioned by San Francisco-based advertising agency Heat and conducted this past March by iThink, which found that people who work in advertising and marketing are worlds apart from the “normal” people when it comes to how they use social media and how they view social media marketing.

By the way, the survey also revealed that ad professionals tend to engage in more bad behavior at office holiday parties. More on that later.

First, mull these findings on how advertising/marketing professionals use Facebook as compared to the general public:

• 71% of advertising/marketing professionals say they pay attention to brand posts in their Facebook news feed “all of the time” versus 23% of the general population.
As for Twitter: 92% of advertising/marketing professionals use Twitter to follow brands they like. 33% of the general population does so.

Should brands put more effort into interacting with consumers via social media?

• 63% of advertising/marketing professionals “strongly agree” that they should; 23% of the general population “strongly agree”

Meanwhile, digital marketing campaigns that are endlessly discussed in the advertising industry aren’t so well known in the wider world. Chew on this:

• 70% of advertising/marketing professionals were aware of Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” digital marketing campaign vs. 8% of the general population; as for the mega-award-winning Jay-Z “Decoded”: 63% of advertising/marketing professionals aware of campaign vs. 9% of the general population.

And the study also seems to suggest that the Mad Men stereotypes aren’t off the mark: Subjects were also asked about how they act at office holiday parties, and it appears that people who work in advertising are more likely to puke from drinking too much (37% vs. 9% of the general public); do drugs (26% vs. 3% of the general public); and hook up with a coworker (26% vs. 8% of the general public). If you work in advertising, these results likely aren’t surprising to you.




Becoming more creative requires acting more creative — on a daily basis — to conquer the most vexing problems you face, personally or professionally.

Take a fast 5 question quiz to unlock your Innovator DNA.

Crush the “I’m Not Creative” Barrier

BY: Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregerson, and Clayton M. Christenson, authors of The Innovator’s DNA

Did you know that if you think you are creative, you’re more likely to actually be creative? This surprising fact pops up again and again in our research. In our database of over 6,000 professionals who have taken the Innovator’s DNA self & 360 assessments, people (entrepreneurs and managers alike) who “agree” with the survey statement “I am creative” consistently deliver disruptive solutions — by creating new businesses, products, services, and processes that no one has done before. They see themselves as creative and act that way.

But what if you don’t see yourself as creative? Are you actually less creative?

This is an important question to ask because many — probably half — of you don’t think that you’re creative. Around the world we regularly ask groups of 100 to 1,000 managers and executives, “Are you creative?” With clockwork consistency, at best half the hands in an audience slowly rise. This is not exactly a scientific sample and methodology, but it’s direct enough data to see that most managers don’t define themselves as creative (and for what it’s worth, asking the more socially acceptable “Are you innovative?” question delivers an equally anemic response).

The bad news is that if you don’t think you’re creative, our survey data say that you probably are not. But there is good news: You can actually become more creative by changing your mind-set. Anyone can innovate, if they choose to. Disruptive innovators do it by choice, not chance. Their everyday actions swap out an “I’m not creative” mind-set for an “I am creative” one. And then magical (not mystical) things unfold.

The magic materializes as people engage unique innovation skills (what we call their innovator’s DNA) on an everyday basis. For example, by asking provocative questions, observing like anthropologists, networking with people who see the world in 180-degree opposites, and experimenting with intensity, innovators obliterate the “I’m not creative” brain barrier and, more often than not, break out from the pack.

If you think your innovation efforts might be blocked by an “I’m not creative” brain barrier, take this fast, five-question diagnostic test (pulled from our 60-item assessment, which captures the innovator’s DNA skills in far more depth), or pass it along to someone who seems stuck in a creative rut. Do you agree with the following statements? A simple yes or no works fine for each one.

Associational thinking: I creatively solve challenging problems by drawing on diverse ideas or knowledge.

Questioning: I often ask questions that challenge others’ fundamental assumptions.

Observing: I get innovative ideas by directly observing how people interact with products and services.

Idea Networking: I regularly talk with a diverse set of people (e.g., from different functions, industries, geographies) to find and refine new business ideas.

Experimenting: I frequently experiment to create new ways of doing things.

If you answered no to three or more questions, then you’re probably bumping into the “I’m not creative” barrier.

Becoming more creative requires acting more creative — on a daily basis — to conquer the most vexing problems you face, personally or professionally. It sounds deceptively simple, but acting and thinking differently actually makes us different. You must hunt for things to change. You must spend time at it — a lot more time. The problem is if you don’t think you can, you won’t. Remember that old saying: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re probably right.” As we come to define ourselves as creative, we change our behaviors and we can actually become more creative. Doing this is key to keeping a creative edge, or for getting it back.

These six factors can erode the grandest of plans and the noblest of intentions. They can turn visionaries into paper-pushers and wide-eyed dreamers into shivering, weeping balls of regret. Beware!

Take a minute to read these six simple truths that might be zapping your greatness.

The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness)

BY: Jessica Hagy, Forbes contributor

1) Availability

We often settle for what’s available, and what’s available isn’t always great. “Because it was there,” is an okay reason to climb a mountain, but not a very good reason to take a job or a free sample at the supermarket.

2) Ignorance

If we don’t know how to make something great, we simply won’t. If we don’t know that greatness is possible, we won’t bother attempting it. All too often, we literally do not know any better than good enough.

3) Committees

Nothing destroys a good idea faster than a mandatory consensus. The lowest common denominator is never a high standard.

4) Comfort

Why pursue greatness when you’ve already got 324 channels and a recliner? Pass the dip and forget about your grand designs.

5) Momentum

If you’ve been doing what you’re doing for years and it’s not-so-great, you are in a rut. Many people refer to these ruts as careers.

6) Passivity

There’s a difference between being agreeable and agreeing to everything. Trust the little internal voice that tells you, “this is a bad idea.”

Five Leadership Tips From Bruce Springsteen


The Boss on planning, experience, and an understanding of the delicate balance between what the audience wants and what it needs.

 What Businesses Can Learn From the Boss

 BY: Allen St. John, Forbes, contributor

Last night, I was at the Prudential Center in Newark NJ for the last show of the first leg of Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball Tour.  I’ve been to dozens of Springsteen shows over the years, stretching back to The River tour, and I’m shocked to find myself saying this: Last night might have been my best Bruce show ever.

But I also know that the greatness of  this show wasn’t an accident.  It was the result of  planning, experience, and an understanding of the delicate balance between what the audience wants and what it needs.

I don’t think there’s a business in the U.S. that couldn’t learn a thing or two from what Springsteen did last night. Here are a few important lessons.

Give Them the Unexpected: A few songs into his first ever concert at the Prudential Center,  Springsteen sauntered to the mic:  ”This is a good building,” he said. “Real noisy. So in honor of [our] first time here, we’re going to do something for the first time! Never been played outside this building except one other time when I was a baby child.”

He then left the audience speechless by  launching into the most obscure of Springsteen obscurities, a 1972 demo called “Bishop Danced” that he hadn’t performed live since March 2, 1973, one of only three known live performances.

The thing to remember is that Springsteen fans routinely go to multiple shows, with the most ardent fans having been to hundreds, even thousands of performances. A tour premiere for a rarity like the B-side  ”Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” makes big news,  made even bigger by the fact that Springsteen setlists are posted on hours after the show and archived setlists from 30-year old shows are available in seconds on the internet. A full-blown obscurity like Bishop Danced, is a full-fledged event. A lot of us could have gone home happy after that song. We’re glad we didn’t.

Give Them the Expected: Through the rest of the set, Bruce  trotted out selections from his greatest hits, lean-mean, fuel-injected versions songs like Born to Run, Rosalita, The Rising, and Dancing in the Dark. He resurrected a few forgotten favorites like She’s The One and Candy’s Room.  If this was your first Springsteen concert and your familiarity with his music went as far as an iTunes collection, you’d still leave with a smile on your face.

Trust Your Customers: During the so-called Apollo Medley of soul favorites, Springsteen trekked out to an auxiliary stage in the middle of the crowd. And then he crowd surfed back to the stage. Talk about a team-building trust exercise. Springsteen put himself into the middle of  a mob of thousands of fans of varying sizes, strengths, sobrieties, and intentions, completely beyond the help of his many burly security guards. He showed more than a little faith, and it was repaid a thousand times over as he was deposited gently back onto the stage five minutes later. Later in the show, a couple of die hards popped up onto the stage half-invited. Springsteen just laughed, put his arm around them, let them sing into the mic for a second, and then trusted that they’d do the right thing and climb back off the stage. The security guards just watched with their arms folded.

Be Open to Opportunities: A poor guy in the audience held up a sign for two solid hours “Play one for Levon Helm: Atlantic City, Cripple Creek, The Weight. At the end of the set when it seemed like he was done with requests, Springsteen finally acknowledged the sign, and the death of the great drummer from The Band. Bruce mispronounced Helm’s first name, but he completely nailed the song: his solo version of The Weight, a song about community and loss, revealed one simple truth: of all the colors in Springsteen’s musical palette, there are few as powerful as 18,000 people singing harmony.

Respect Your Colleagues:  A night like this is a team effort, from John Cooper’s stellar sound to the welcome addition of the E-Street Horns. Midway through the set, Bruce shouted for Kevin Buell, his long-time guitar tech to come to the stage. It wasn’t because he broke a string or found that a pickup was broken.  He called the unsung Buell out to the mic simply for a shout out, and to acknowledge that this was show number 1,002 for his long-time guitar tech. Buell counted in a song, and responded with a touchdown catch when Springsteen tossed his Telecaster across the stage.

But the biggest moment of E-Street Band unity came during the show’s very last song, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Again wading out into the middle of the crowd, Springsteen sang the line “The change was made uptown when the Big Man joined the band.” Then Bruce and the band stopped dead.  The video screens showed silent, reverent  images of The Big Man, the late Clarence Clemons, while the crowd cheered, and more than a few tears were shed.

For almost two solid minutes, Bruce and The Band stepped aside, acknowledging the void that Clemons’ death left in their music and in all of our hearts, (Although his nephew Jake Clemons was an ideal replacement to the degree to which such a thing is possible)  It was a pitch-perfect moment of catharsis and communion. And when the band started up again, we all knew where this song and this night had to go: up and out. At the end of even the longest and best Bruce shows, there was always a little part of me that hoped for one more encore, maybe the Detroit Medley or Quarter to Three. Not tonight. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out left me sad and happy and perfectly satisfied.

It’s been said often, but it bears repeating: People don’t buy brands. They join them. So modern brands must function like political parties, identifying issues, expressing a coherent world view, staging debates and structuring dialogues.


It’s not about being “wowed”, it is about being “wooed”.  Your brand’s story holds the power to persuade, provoke and penetrate.


It’s Time for Advertising to Take a Lesson (Gasp!) from Public Relations

Instead of Focusing on a Strategic Statement, Try Writing a Narrative for Your Brand

BY: Timothy Kane


Advertising learn something from public relations? Are you kidding?

Why, that’s like Don Draper, the suave CD of “Mad Men,” taking sartorial tips from Sydney Falco, the oleaginous press agent of “The Sweet Smell of Success.”

After all, the whole idea of branding was dreamed up by you ad guys. You speak the language. You created the metrics. You control the lion’s share of the marketing budget.

At least, you used to . . .

Nike’s marketing communications budget is at an all-time high, but its advertising spend is at an all-time low (less than 13% of the total). Eschewing the big television efforts it was once famous for, the brand is focusing on relationships with online communities.

Pepsi, now in the second year of its Refresh Project, promotes and provides grants for hundreds of grassroots community projects. It’s classic PR. And it’s funded by millions of redirected advertising dollars.

In the same way that the mass-market culture of the 1950s created the need for brands, today’s social-technical culture is forcing brands to employ a new model for interacting with the public. A model based not in the slow-drip Chinese water torture of traditional advertising, but in the kind of focused dialogue that public relations specializes in.

It’s clear that the future of advertising is public relations. And it’s time for agencies to get past their preconceptions, and learn how the disciplines of PR can improve their creative thinking.

It’s not your strategy; it’s your story. The dirty little secret of advertising is that agencies burn most of their creative time developing the creative strategy, trying to get buy-in on a single, seven-word silver bullet. But as Peter Guber, former CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, “Critical details, data, and analytics are more effectively emotionalized and metabolized by the listener when they’re embedded in a story.”

Instead of trying to encapsulate your brand in a strategic statement, try writing a narrative for your brand. That’s what public relations does. Gatorade did this in the award-winning Gatorade Replay. The program brought together former high school athletes to replay a critical game from their past. Filled with stories of dashed hopes and dreams delayed, Replay is a primer in modern digital public relations: viral videos, public appearances, press conferences, media tours, online communities — and yes, even a few ads to promote the web series that grew out of it.

It’s not a campaign; it’s a conversation. The World War II veterans who invented modern advertising can be excused for their preference for military metaphors. But in this world of never-ending engagement, the idea of a single-minded thrust into the market’s mindset is not only quaint, it’s counterproductive.

Consider Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like and  AllState’s Mayhem. Both had a big initial broadcast presence, but their true strength lies in the enduring online communities and the endless stream of content that they’ve provoked. A prediction: The conversation about The Man and Mayhem will continue long after Old Spice and Allstate stop funding this advertising.

Most ad agencies don’t have the resources to develop and manage the content flow these online properties require. But your public relations partner does.

They’re not your customers; they’re your constituents. It’s been said often, but it bears repeating: People don’t buy brands. They join them. So modern brands must function like political parties, identifying issues, expressing a coherent world view, staging debates and structuring dialogues.


Example: A recent Cannes winner from Romania, the ROM American Takeover. ROM is the candy bar that all Romanians grew up with, an aging, nostalgic brand that was losing ground to cooler, more modern American brands. In a single day, every ROM was removed and replaced with an American stars-and-stripes version. The resulting public outrage was carefully fanned, then countered with televised apologies, mock demonstrations, and a return to the original packaging. Of course, the public caught on to the joke. But ROM sales still skyrocketed.

It’s not advertising; it’s public relations. What do you see when you pass an Apple store on the day a new version of the iPhone or iPad goes on sale? A line of people, stretching down the block and around the corner. People wait all night for the doors to open. They can’t wait another day to get their hands on the newest Apple product.

Why? Because these products are the first of their kind? Not usually. Because they’re the most advanced? Maybe. Sometimes. The main reason they’re standing there is because they’re staunch members of Apple’s brand, joining in the 30-year conversation between Steve Jobs, his designers and us.

Apple’s climb to its position as the world’s most valuable brand began when its last brand-advertising campaign ended. For the last 10 years, the Apple brand has been primarily expressed through product unveilings, public appearances, media coverage, online communities and evangelist marketing.

So the next time you see that line snaking out the door of your local Apple store, remember: That ain’t advertising. That’s PR.

In business, storytelling is all the rage. Without a compelling story, we are told, our product, idea, or personal brand, is dead on arrival.

Science backs up the long-held belief that story is the most powerful means of communicating a message.


BY: Johnathan Gottschall

In his book, Tell To Win, Peter Guber joins writers like Annette Simmons and Stephen Denning in evangelizing for the power of story in human affairs generally, and business in particular. Guber argues that humans simply aren’t moved to action by “data dumps,” dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures. People are moved by emotion. The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with “Once upon a time…”

Plausible enough. But claims for the power of business storytelling are usually supported only with more story. Guber, for example, backs up his bold claims with accounts of how he, or one of his famous friends, told a good story and achieved a triumph of persuasion. But anecdotes don’t make a science. Is “telling to win” just the latest fashion in a business world that is continually swept with new fads and new gurus pitching the newest can’t-miss secret to success? Or does it represent a real and deep insight into communications strategy?

I think it’s a real insight. I’m a literary scholar who uses science to try to understand the vast, witchy power of story in human life. Guber and his allies have arrived through experience at the same conclusions science has reached through experiment.

Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about story’s persuasive effects. But over the last several decades psychology has begun a serious study of how story affects the human mind. Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.

What is going on here? Why are we putty in a storyteller’s hands? The psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” Green and Brock’s studies shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories–inaccuracies, missteps–than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film). They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place.


And, in this, there is an important lesson about the molding power of story. When we read dry, factual arguments, we read with our dukes up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this seems to leave us defenseless.

This is exactly Guber’s point. The central metaphor of Tell to Win is the Trojan Horse. You know the back story: After a decade of gory stalemate at Troy, the ancient Greeks decided they would never take Troy by force, so they would take it by guile. They pretended to sail home, leaving behind a massive wooden horse, ostensibly as an offering to the gods. The happy Trojans dragged the gift inside the city walls. But the horse was full of Greek warriors, who emerged in the night to kill, burn, and rape.

Guber tells us that stories can also function as Trojan Horses. The audience accepts the story because, for a human, a good story always seems like a gift. But the story is actually just a delivery system for the teller’s agenda. A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.

Guber’s book is relentlessly optimistic about the power of story to persuade. But as the bloody metaphor of the Trojan Horse suggests, story is a tool that can be used for good or ill. Like fire, it can be used to warm a city or to burn it down. Guber understands this, but he emphasizes story’s ability to bring on change for the better. His book is about people who tell good stories to overcome resistance, usually for laudable reasons. But, approached from a slightly different angle, Tell to Win is a book is about highly capable, experienced professionals suckering for story over and over (and over) again.

So there are two big lessons to take from Guber’s book and from the new science of storytelling. First, storytelling is a uniquely powerful form of persuasive jujitsu. Second, in a world full of black belt storytellers, we had all better start training our defenses. Master storytellers want us drunk on emotion so we will lose track of rational considerations, relax our skepticism, and yield to their agenda. Yes, we need to tell to win, but it’s just as important to learn to see the tell coming–and to steel ourselves against it.

The new gospel of business storytelling offers a challenge to common views of human nature. When we call ourselves Homo sapiens, we are arguing that it is human sapience–wisdom, intelligence–that really sets our species apart. And when we think we can best persuade with dispassionate presentation of costs and benefits, we are implicitly endorsing this view. But we are beasts of emotion more than logic. We are creatures of story, and the process of changing one mind or the whole world must begin with “Once upon a time.”

Put down that smartphone; pick up that pencil. Employees are being encouraged by their companies to try visual note-taking to explain complicated concepts to colleagues and clients.

Look up from the computer screen. Get your head out of the notebook. It’s time to get visual and express your ideas by hand and release your creative genius.

Doodling For Dollars

BY: Rachel Emma Silverman, contributor to Wall Street Journal

While whiteboards long have been staples in conference rooms, companies such as Facebook Inc. are incorporating whiteboards, chalkboards and writable glass on all sorts of surfaces to spark creativity.

Firms are holding training sessions to teach employees the basics of what’s known as visual note taking. Others, like vacation-rental company HomeAway Inc. and retailer Zappos, are hiring graphic recorders, consultants who sketch what is discussed at meetings and conferences, cartoon-style, to keep employees engaged.

Doodling proponents say it can help generate ideas, fuel collaboration and simplify communication. It can be especially helpful among global colleagues who don’t share a common first language. Putting pen to paper also is seen as an antidote to the pervasiveness of digital culture, getting workers to look up from their devices. And studies show it can help workers retain more information.

Drawing Inspiration


Zappos.comGraphic recorder Sunni Brown, shown here, sketched a live meeting.

Even with advanced gadgets such as smartphones and tablets, “the hand is the easiest way to get something down,” says Everett Katigbak, a communication designer at Facebook. Most of the walls at the company’s offices around the country have been coated with dry-erase or chalkboard paint or a treatment for glass to allow employees to sketch ideas whenever they arise. The company’s offices are filled with jottings, from mathematical equations to doodles of cats and dollar signs.

IdeaPaint Inc., which makes a paint that turns a surface into a whiteboard, says its sales have doubled annually since the product was introduced in 2008. The Ashland, Mass., company says more than half of its business is in the workplace.

Taking notes and drawing may help workers stay more focused, too.

A 2009 study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers retained more than nondoodlers when remembering information that had been presented in a boring context, such as a meeting or conference call. The logic, according to Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in England, is that doodling takes up just enough cognitive energy to prevent the mind from daydreaming.

Last summer, software maker Citrix Systems Inc. CTXS +10.69% opened a “design collaboration” workspace at its Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters. The facility was designed to encourage the company’s gadget-obsessed engineers and other employees to let loose and sketch ideas, says Catherine Courage, the company’s vice president of product design.

Whiteboards cover almost every wall and table. Markers, sticky notes and construction paper are readily available. There are also pipe cleaners and foam balls for 3-D models, and employees make props like hats and glasses to help them act out concepts. Employees use the materials mainly at project kickoffs or when trying to define a project or new process.


Citrix SystemsAt Citrix Systems, Santa Clara, Calif., meetings sometimes begin by having participants quickly draw a self portrait, like those shown above.

To loosen up employees, meetings sometimes begin with participants sketching self-portraits. Although some engineers are skeptical and say they can’t draw, “it gets them in the mood,” Ms. Courage says.

Audra Kalfass, a Citrix software-development engineer, says when she meets with her team and there is a technical issue, “it’s natural to start drawing stuff.” Since nearly every surface in design meeting rooms can be written on—even the tables are made of whiteboards—”you just grab a marker and you start drawing,” she says.

Ms. Kalfass says she is a “horrible” artist. Nevertheless, “it doesn’t take much artistic ability to communicate visually. You don’t have to be amazing artists… It’s mostly boxes and lines and stuff like that to get your point across.”

At Spectrum Health System, a Grand Rapids, Mich., health-care provider and insurer, technology managers took a workshop with Dan Roam, a San Francisco “visual problem solving” consultant, on using images like stick figures and arrows to explain the complexities of the health-care industry to Spectrum employees.

After the workshop, Chief Information Officer Patrick O’Hare helped create a presentation featuring cartoonlike sketches for the chief executive. In one, the company’s three business branches—health insurance, hospitals and physician clinics—were depicted as a body, representing the consumer, divided into three parts. Mr. O’Hare’s presentation was a hit, he says, much better than the PowerPoint presentation he had delivered a few weeks earlier.

Mr. O’Hare says he isn’t a good artist but the workshop taught him it was “OK to stand up in front of a group and draw stick figures. It doesn’t have to be so pristine.”

HomeAway, an Austin, Texas, vacation-rental company, hired a graphic facilitator to help train a dozen employees—including senior managers and training and human-resources staff—to use visual shorthand and sketching to help guide meetings, says Lori Knowlton, the company’s vice president of human resources. The aim was to better “capture ideas using images,” she says. Plus, it is more fun than “being surrounded by spreadsheets and emails.”

The company also brought in graphic recorder Sunni Brown to help sketch, in real time, what was discussed at a large company meeting on HomeAway’s strategy. The resulting cartoonlike image, which serves as the meeting’s minutes, hangs framed at the company’s headquarters.

At Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in Atlanta, a strategy-development team recently drew tree branches and placed sticky notes on the branches to explore ways to extend the Turner Classic Movies brand, says Jennifer Dorian, a senior vice president.

The exercise yielded more than 200 promising ideas, some of which are in development, says Amy Zehfuss, vice president of network strategy for the Time Warner Inc. TWX +1.24% unit. “Seeing all the stickies on the tree is a really powerful visual,” she says.

Even PowerPoint software developers do their share of doodling.

Jeffrey Murray, principal test manager for the Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.67% unit, says his team often starts with whiteboard sketches and cartoonlike storyboards when considering new product features.

Sketches help “get everyone on the same page and can convey the emotion and experience of the user,” he says. Eventually, the images are transferred to PowerPoint decks, he says. Inevitably, developers sketch and scribble over the deck’s whiteboard projections.


The only way to bring the world out of the recession and onto a better track is for everyone to tap into a collective sense of responsibility toward each other.

“The Age of Reason is being eclipsed by the Age of Empathy.” Jeremy Rifkin, author of “The Empathetic Civilization”, makes the case that as technology is increasingly connecting us to one another, we need to understand what the goal of all this connectivity is, and allow humanity to see itself as an extended family living in an interconnected world. Brands that tap into this global connection, and leverage its power for the “good of all”, will be the winners in the new empathetic economy.

The Rise Of Empathy In America

BY: Arianna Huffington

Last month, I spent a fascinating couple of days at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England. It was exhilarating–and deeply moving–to hear example after example of social entrepreneurs making quantifiable improvements in lives all around the world. As Stephan Chambers, chairman of the Skoll Centre, put it: “I have cried every day this week. Remember as I tell you this, that I’m male. And British. And from Oxford.” I actually cried every hour. But, remember, I’m female. And Greek. And from Cambridge.

It was a reminder that the innovation, passion, and empathy on display at Skoll transcend gender, politics, geography and education. Service is in the zeitgeist. Now,zeitgeist is a German word almost untranslatable in English, but it does exist as a concept. And when individuals and businesses tap into it, they have the wind at their back.

This trend for giving back provides a stark relief for the uninspiring spirit of the 2012 election. On a national level, we’re paralyzed and polarized. Politicians are trying to use our ongoing financial crisis to roll back society to the days before safety net programs provided the essential services that helped grow the American middle class. Our leaders are engaged in misguided debates about budget cuts instead of how to spur growth. And there is a widespread refusal, especially in the media, to acknowledge that the crises we are facing go beyond the obsolete dichotomy of left versus right.

Pushing back against the failures of our leaders and institutions–and the resulting lack of trust–is a growing movement of people and organizations taking the initiative to share, engage, connect, solve problems, and demand some control over their future. While we wait for our leaders to act, thousands are looking at the leader in the mirror and taking action.

We see this in Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, which connects young tech professionals with the needs of city governments. And Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose, which connects donors to underprivileged schools. There’s Ben Berkowitz, who launched SeeClickFix, the site that connects people with non-emergency problems in their neighborhoods–such as a broken street lamp or potholed road–to others who can chime in with solutions. And Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of Acumen Fund, which combines financial expertise with empathy, investing in startups around the world that help improve the lives of people unable to do so on their own.

With unemployment still over 8%, we have more ingenuity, energy, spirit, and expertise than we have jobs–and definitely more time on our hands. We’ve seen individuals using that time to tap into the all-American barn-raising spirit to “widen the circle of our concern,” as President Obama said in his speech responding to the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

“We are on the cusp of an epic shift,” wrote Jeremy Rifkin in his 2010 book The Empathic Civilization. “The Age of Reason is being eclipsed by the Age of Empathy.” He makes the case that as technology is increasingly connecting us to one another, we need to understand what the goal of all this connectivity is, and allow humanity to see itself as an extended family living in an interconnected world. The innovators I’ve listed, along with countless others, are the drivers of that worldview.

So, if you’ve forgotten Physics 101, here’s a quick refresher. To a physicist, a critical mass is the amount of radioactive material that must be present for a nuclear reaction to become self-sustaining. For the service movement a critical mass is when the service habit hits enough people so that it can begin to spread spontaneously around the country. Think of it as an outbreak of a positive infection. And everyone is a carrier. What we need to do is go out and carry this positive infection, so that together we can reach that critical mass.