October was simply a blur: eight major projects in one month with trips to Minnesota, Colorado, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Austin. Oh, mix in a couple of Dallas projects as well. Now, however, let's talk about the variety found in these projects:

  • Education: I actually have three major education projects on the table that not only include course content design and teaching, but also involve a revolutionary distant learning platform. To keep things interesting, each is in a different industry.

  • Building "Story": I have the honor of being involved in the development and design of identity stories for two different clients. These are fascinating projects that includes the application of my simplicity platform as well as the use of rich media in the form of podcasts, possible video and electronic creative tools. Using a foundation of "what do we do, what value do we bring and how are we differentiated," we are developing unique positioning stories that are elegant, simple, powerful, and easy to tell.

  • Repeatable Successful Acts: I had the privilege of delivering ten RSA-related programs in October. 10! This strategic platform continues to build momentum based around its elegantly simple impact. The RSA platform now plays a strategic role in the world's largest financial company, the world's largest insurance company and one of the world's largest architectural firms just to name a few!

  • Elegant Simplicity: My strategic platform on the impact simple, powerful plans can have is forming the foundation for a complete redesign of a client experience for one of my largest clients. The design and planning will take us through 2011, and we have a planned launch in the first quarter of 2012.

  • Dazzling Blue: I have just made the first major addition to my latest platform and it makes its new version debut in Phoenix. My platforms are dynamic, shifting with key ideas and change based on research and observation.

  • Writing: I have a number of new articles in various stages of completion. The Magic of Garages is about the surprising number of successful companies that had their beginnings in a garage. The Half Life of Ideas is about the life of good and not-so-good ideas.

November will not only bring cooler weather, but the opportunity for me to reconnect with two clients with whom we have struggled to find workable calendar dates. I am excited to have the honor to work with them again! My travel will also be slowing down just enough for me to get some huge projects started.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am grateful to all of you who give me a forum for my ideas!

Sure you know, but can you DO?

It's about how much you get it.

-Steve Jobs

I was on my way to the airport when Laura called to tell me Steven Jobs had passed away. While I was at the airport my email, Facebook and text messages were full of people with kind things to say. I've had a long relationship with Apple and though I never really rubbed shoulders with Steve, I felt a huge sense of loss. In fact, I had tears running down my cheek as I read the impact Steve had had on so many people. One of my favorite quotes was from my son, Dylan, who said, "He was our Tony Stark." Comic fans will understand.

I am often asked; how companies can be like Apple, and my response is, forget it. Apple is an anomaly, a deviation from a common rule, structured around an organic and patriarchal culture. To build models on anomalies is not the best of strategies, BUT that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to learn or ideas to emulate. Anomalies cause us to think, wonder, and ponder. The Apple anomaly presents us with a couple of things that you CAN DO. They involve practices that are simple, powerful and elegant in their practice, but also demand a hardened discipline in their application to generate impact. Here are three concepts foundational to Apple that are ideas you should give serious thought to:

  • Know What's Going On: Jobs held WEEKLY meetings and they became the "metronome" that set the rhythm for the company. These meetings were to discuss strategy and the top projects currently in play. "Simplicity breeds clarity," Jobs said as he described these meetings. How often does your team get together? How often does the core strategy get reviewed? At Creative Ventures we have designed this concept for a number of clients and call it "The HUDDLE Strategy". This promotes simple gatherings where no more than three core items are discussed and, if well planned and structured, should not last more than five minutes. "Apple does not have a lot of processes, but this is one of the things we do to stay on the same page."

  • Organizations Behave, but PEOPLE DO: "At Apple there is never any confusion about who is responsible for what." At the core of the high pressure work at Apple is ACCOUNTABILITY. It is both a badge of honor and an anchor that can drag you down. For EVERY project there is, in Apple-speak, a DRI, a Directly Responsible Individual. At Creative Ventures this idea drives the outcome of our Elegant Simplicity Strategic Planning platform. We call it "The Accountable" and like Apple, we print that individual's name on the corresponding project. One of the great voids in organizations today is a lack of CORE FOCUS on accountability. Nothing in corporate America is more important to outcome than a passionate, committed person. The challenge in the accountability game is to involve the right people at the right time, and from that group find the ONE person who will step forward and commit to a leadership role. But without this strategic focus point, things simply do not get done. It's amazing as an initiative moves forward how little time is spent on who is really "getting it done." Organizations behave, PEOPLE DO... and Apple under Steve Jobs never forgot this dictum.

  • Simplicity Breeds Focus: One of Apples greatest strengths is its uncanny ability to focus on only a few things at a time. "At Apple, saying no is as important as saying yes." Jobs often spoke of picking the things you don't do as being an actual strategy. It's time to visit your filters. What do you use as your yardstick for measuring what to do? Every day you are faced with both the reality of the daily grind and the vision of big ideas that need not only to get developed, but also get done. You simply cannot do everything, and you know as well as I do that many of the idea projects sound good on paper, but their actual practicality and impact might not match the energy and resources they will require. At Creative Ventures we call this idea The Law of Abundance: "More is not better and better is not BEST." We try to filter out unproductive projects by asking a couple of simple questions: Can we define, in no more than three sentences, what the impact of the project will be? Is this our BEST idea to meet that impact? Define your filters to take advantage of doing only your BEST.

The world seldom stumbles upon people like Steven Jobs and people like Steven Jobs seldom stumble upon a world where perspective and courage create the perfect storm for impact.

I want to put a ding in the universe.

-Steven Jobs

Word of Mouth (WOM): Does what people say about you drive business? Are your actions measured by everyone who comes in contact with you? You bet! Here are a few stats to help you understand the enormity of WOM impact:
  • WOM is a driving force in purchase decisions. 59% of Americans believe that off-line (conversational) discussion on a company's products and service to be "highly credible," while 49% believe the same thing about internet discussions and ratings.

  • 55% recommend a company purely on service and will tell the world this through personal interactions and web sites like YELP.

  • 27% of Americans would pay 15% more for an extraordinary service and simultaneously tell everyone in their sphere of influence about it. Just ask Apple and Disney.

  • What people say is important, and you should build marketing strategies with WOM as a foundational piece.
Being Interested: Every once in a while you need a micro vacation. You know, a small break from the grind. In a recent survey it was discovered that a surprising number of people make a visit to The Daily What. This web site accumulates a lot of interesting stuff going on from the science of dreams to the latest X Factor news. Its fun, easy to get around in, timely, interesting, and a great bookmark.
Fighting Malaria: The infectious disease malaria, responsible for killing almost a million people a year, many of which are children, may have finally met its match. After years of scientific research, Glaxosmithkline has produced a new malaria vaccine that is showing incredible results. In early trials its use reduced infectious risk by half and lowered the contract of a fatal case of malaria by 47%. These results show the greatest impact on this killer disease since the mosquito net.

Interested in these ideas?


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

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