February was a really weird month of weather and travel. I did my usual monthly bouncing around the country but was waylaid by the true once in a lifetime weather events in my home city of Dallas. Everyone was aware of what I'm talking about because old man winter decided to blow our way when the whole world was watching, thanks to Dallas' hosting the Super Bowl. We had sub-zero temps, ice storms, snow, and a steady stream of nightmare travel stories. My trip to Chicago was cancelled when they had so much snow that cars were simply abandoned on Lake Shore Drive in a scene that rivaled any sci fi movie you can name.

But with all of that, I still was able to hit most of my project targets. I was honored to play multiple roles in one of my favorite client's annual production meeting. I had the honor of delivering a keynote address, leading two breakout sessions, and teaching a two hour course in presentation skills. Then I jumped on a plane to Minneapolis where I had the extreme privilege of bringing one of my key curriculum courses, THINKING, and integrate it into a meeting on creating opportunity in a value add strategy. Next I was off to Florida to share the idea of FRAMING, or looking beyond your industry for ideas that can impact what you do. Often we find ourselves so immersed in our own industry we miss what is going on in the world and how something completely out of our field can be adapted to provide us a huge opportunity.

I had the honor of facilitating my meeting model around a core strategy meeting centered on innovation. These were very smart people charged with a long and hard look at what a new direction might yield. By beginning the journey in current reality and ending it with an "imagine if" session, the output was fantastic!

March has me continuing the push of Repeatable Successful Acts to two new clients. The RSA platform is still gaining momentum.

In March I'll be visiting my home away from home, Minneapolis, a couple of times for different clients as well as hitting Phoenix, Grand Rapids, Oklahoma and a couple of good old Dallas-based projects!

Thank you all for taking the time to read my stuff and engage my ideas!

All the little ants are marching, red and black antennae waving – they all do it the same, they all do it the same way. - Dave Matthews

It seems we live in a vanilla world, a stale place where everything resembles everything else. When something original bursts its face on the market place we are stunned, fascinated, we flock to it like bees to honey. Technology continues to lead the way in trying to wow the world, but why is wowing the world not part of everyone's strategic tool kit? Why would any business from a mattress store to a golf course not want people to think, "Wow, that experience was fantastic!"? What stops us dead in our tracks from thinking this way and producing this type response?

It's difficult. It is the difficulty factor in blazing new, unique and exciting pathways in your industry. Gymnasts and divers are intimately familiar with the concept of a difficulty factor. It plays an integral part in the judges' scoring of their performance. The higher the difficulty factor, the higher the potential score…the bigger the risk, and the closer you might be to winning. But difficulty factors carry with them risks. It makes no difference if the factor is high or low, there is always risk.

The athlete who chooses a low difficulty routine must hit everything they do perfectly. Even the simplest move must be exquisite, pristine to gain an advantage. The basics must be errorless. On the other hand, high difficulty factors allow a slight margin for error. You gain an advantage for the higher risk, but the tough routines require a level of courage that pushes the athlete to new levels of performance. Sometimes they are ground breaking and mind-blowing. When tiny replacement gymnast Olga Korbut of the Russian gymnastics team did a backflip off the top bar of the uneven parallel bars at the 1972 Olympics, the crowd gasped and the judges had to search for new ways to score it. They had never seen anything like it before. No one had.

I am in the midst of great forward-thinking projects for two of my clients. One is about the idea of innovation, and the other is about transforming a company's entire value add process for their elite clients. Each is following a similar path of engaging in a high difficulty factor that they hope will elicit a gasp and help them create a leading edge in their value proposition.
Here is a simple but powerful process to use in approaching a big difficulty factor issue.


MORE IS ACTUALLY BETTER: This idea is counter-intuitive to my "less is better" concept but it is important in this context. Select a group of people to involve in a Big Step process. Make the issues simple to understand and powerful in their potential impact. Prior to a meeting of any kind, send out the discussion issue to the participants and ask them each to bring their three best ideas. This allows the process to "hit the ground running." It's a simple homework assignment that will allow the chosen ones to start thinking ahead of the meeting.

SMALL GROUP WORK: At the first meeting break the group (if it is larger than five) into smaller groups. Allow everyone in each group to share their ideas, to discuss the pros and cons of each. It's a great idea to provide flip charts for every table. This allows them to SEE their ideas in a large scale. Then each table is forced to choose only three ideas that will move forward. So a table with five people will start with a potential 15 ideas but only three will make the final cut.


THE FILTER: What type of filter should each group use to decide on the three they must choose? Try this simple process. Pass each idea through these three questions: Does it create a defined value? Does it create a defined impact? Does it create a separation and differentiation in our market? If you can answers those with a positive response, than it's a good idea. The filtering should find the "gems".

Now for the missing piece, the part often not included in these brainstorming type sessions:

IMAGINE IF: Now, ask each group to ignore their three final choices. Ask them to ignore the other groups' choices. Have them play with this question: Imagine you are unencumbered by history, by past performance. If you could throw out all traditional approaches to the issue, if budget was not a concern, if industry norms had no impact, what would you create? What new approaches would you try? How would you change not just the play, but the entire game? Think BIG. The IMAGINE process is about possibilities not probabilities. Each group can choose one IMAGINE issue to impact the project.

We are all looking for the "Ta-Da!" moment…something for which we would be proud to take a bow, a moment in which the audience leaps to their feet cheering the sheer audacity of the project.

This big leap is most often found when combining two things: a well thought-out strategic approach based on current reality and a newly-imagined direction.

Moving forward with something new has a high difficulty factor, it is full of risk, but the same can be said of standing still. There are never any guarantees in tomorrow, but if you need one, here you go. Do nothing and nothing will change.


Gray Hairs at the Movies: Baby Boomers are hitting the movie theaters in greater numbers, which is causing Hollywood to take a harder look at the type movies it is making. The King's Speech and True Grit are great examples of films that are tapping this underserved market segment. As the first of the 78 million Boomers hit retirement, they will have more time to hit the cinema. 50 + year old movie goers make up (a rapidly growing) 32% of the population and purchased over 21% of all movie tickets. Make way for the gray!


It's Mardi Gras Time: Over 1.2 million people will be making their way to New Orleans for the annual pre-Lent party. Mardi Gras is big money time for New Orleans, as the city spends about $3.33 million in producing a return of $4.43 for every dollar spent. As you might guess, alcohol sales get a $2.6 million spike. This 12-day party includes 87 parades put on by 57 different organizations. So make yourself a Hurricane (4 oz. light & dark rum, 2 oz. passion fruit juice, 1 oz. orange juice, ½ oz. lime juice and ½ oz. grenadine) and get your Mardi Gras on!


The Kyoto Prize: This is an international prize that many consider equal to the Nobel Prize. It annually honors men and women who make significant contributions to humanity in the fields of technology, science and the arts. The winners receive a gold medal and an endowment of $600,000 to support their work. This year's winners were Dr. Shinya Yamanaka who won for new technology to generate stem cells without the use of human embryos, Dr. Laszla Lovasz for his work on new algorithms, and William Kentridge for work in visual arts. Science is not a dying field. Congratulations to these fantastic thinkers!


Interested in these ideas?


You can contact Steve at steve@creativeventures.com or give him a call at 972-490-7717.
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