Not only is this a funny cartoon by Tom Fishburne (I’m a huge fan of his), but his commentary is spot on as well. His last line sums it up rather simply: ”Rather than try to lower the failure rate, lower the cost of failure.”
By following the link, you can also sign up for his weekly cartoons.
History of the Toyota Jump & The Power of Objective-Based Communication
This is a picture I took of my father, Steve Vengrove. He wrote the old “Oh, What a Feeling” campaign for Toyota back in the 1980’s. The story of the campaign and the famous “Toyota Jump” is an inspiring one and involves me and my late dog, Kelley. To this day, I share this story with colleagues to teach the importance of “objective-based communication.”
Here’s the story:
My father was a creative director at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in NYC. Along with his partner, art director Ray Krivacy, they flew out to California to present a new campaign to Toyota’s U.S. leadership. (It should be noted that the original concept did not include the “jump” at the end of the spot.) The presentation went great. Everyone was on-board with the campaign and wanted to proceed. However, one of the senior executives made one closing request.
As my father tells it, the client said, “I love the campaign. However, the closing shot is very flat. You’re ending the spot on a static shot of the car and a super that reads ‘Oh, what a feeling.’ It would be great if there was some visual way to convey what ‘Oh, what a feeling’ actually feels like or looks like.”
My father replied, “That’s a great OBJECTIVE! I understand what you’re asking for. I don’t have a solution. But let us think about it and we’ll get back to you.”
Fast forward to a weekend shortly thereafter at our home in Connecticut. Our family just took in a stray dog. She was a puppy and while we tried to find her owners, we eventually adopted her and named her Kelley. She appeared to be a mix of Whippet and Lab. She was fast! I was driven to train her to become a champion Frisbee dog.
On Saturday afternoon after lunch, I took Kelley outside to start the training. Long story short — I failed miserably. The training quickly turned to teasing. I held the Frisbee high up in the air — amused as Kelley enthusiastically jumped up to grab it (of course, I held it just out of her reach!). Jump, jump, jump…
Meanwhile, my father was at the kitchen sink washing the dishes from lunch. He looked out the window and saw Kelley jumping up for the Frisbee. Aha! Connection made! He decided that a jump at the end of the Toyota commercial would be the best way to convey “Oh, what a feeling.” The rest is history.
Lessons for objective-based communication:
It’s always best to ask for solutions in the form of objectives rather than simply requesting a specific solution. Objective-based requests empower the broader team to continue thinking of innovative solutions. Quite often, the team will exceed the requester’s initial idea of what the solution should be.
Creativity often entails making connections from unexpected or unrelated concepts, thoughts or experiences. Creating diverse experiences both in and out of the office helps trigger imagination and provides opportunities to connect back to problems you’re trying to solve in the office.
It’s OK to admit you don’t have a brilliant, immediate solution to one’s request or challenge. Ask for some time to think it over.
Providing clear objectives is a great way to lead teams and direct reports. It empowers people to think on their own, develop solutions to problems, and grow. It may be tempting to take the easy approach and simply ask for what you want. But, I’ve found life gets a lot easier as a leader if your team becomes adept at generating creative solutions that exceed your expectations.
I encourage you to think of ways to apply these insights to your job. If you do, you may find yourself jumping for joy at the level of ideas your team brings to the table.
If you’ve ever debated whether or not you should have gotten an MBA. Or, if you feel not having an MBA is a disadvantage, then check out this link. The article provides an interesting point-of-view and might help change your perspective. At the very least, it will arm you with some colorful answers to the question, “Why didn’t you get an MBA?”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about cultural and process factors associated with fostering a creative team environment. When thinking specifically about the pros and cons of ideation sessions, my thoughts led to the creation of the following equation:
Idea Climate = (Creativity)Belief - (Logic)Doubt TM
Idea Climate represents a measure of productivity that’s driven by the interpersonal dynamics and general climate present when a group of people get together to ideate. When the Idea Climate is high there is a positive environment that inspires ideas and sharing. When the Idea Climate is low the environment is likely to discourage participation and engagement.
Creativity is the driving variable of the equation. You want lots of it and want to encourage any and all ideas. Its competition is logic which is the source of most negative, idea-killing comments.
Belief and Doubt are exponential factors as they command immense power over the environment of the room.
Belief is an extremely positive factor that is a catalyst for creativity and stretching. It also generates a strong sense of purpose.
Doubt is equally powerful, yet dangerous, as it can shut down thinking and deplete motivation.
Belief is oxygen for creativity. It opens the door to curiosity. Once curious, the mind will be open to scan the brain for relevant connections and solutions to problems.
Doubt is a black hole for creativity. It sucks all energy, mass and oxygen into it. Ideas are living breathing things — they need oxygen to live.
Key Laws of Ideation Dynamics:
When belief predominates, ideas are built up.
When doubt reigns, ideas are torn down.
When people sense optimism, sharing ideas will make them feel smart and productive.
When people sense doubt, raising challenges or reasons why something won’t work will make them feel smart and productive.
The acronym of Idea Climate Equation is ICE. Initially, I wasn’t sure if that was the best imagery. That said, I suppose if the Idea Climate is high the “ice” will remain intact, solid, cool and clear. When the Idea Climate is low, the ice eventually melts away…
“If an organization wishes to benefit from its own creative potential, it must be prepared to value the vagaries of the unmeasurable as well as the certainties of the measurable.”—
Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball
Why I love this quote:
I’ve been noticing a lot of chatter on the topic of creativity vs. process. I hold that there is critical need for both. It appears, however, that many are recognizing the former is easily crushed by the latter. Process isn’t the only culprit, of course. A good dose of logic can kill an early idea faster than a sweeping hawk diving down to crush the neck of its prey.
Being creative requires courage to articulate what others might view as absurd. Most who work in a corporate environment quickly recognize it’s much easier (and less risky) to play the voice of “reason.” So, before an idea can be fully embraced and incubated, all the reasons why it’s not a good idea start flowing out the mouths of those around the table. All it takes is one person to open the flood gate, then more join in the brainstorm searching for other reasons to kill it.
An idea represents a SIMPLE solution to a complex array of information and insights. In my experience, it doesn’t take long for a simple idea to look insurmountable. Someone shares an idea. In an effort to look smart, others start raising “strategic” questions. Then come the challenges. All of a sudden, the fragile idea looks like a highly COMPLEX concept — and it is killed.
As Mr. MacKenzie’s quote suggests, one solution lies in placing more value on “the vagaries of the unmeasurable.” (To be clear, I’m talking about the front-end of the innovation process here). Dream a little bit. Listen to others. Attempt to build upon ideas — let them grow. Don’t be so quick to judge. Unfortunately, creating moments when someone makes the right connections, has the big “aha” and says, “What if we did this?” aren’t so predictable or replicable. In fact, you never really know when they are going to happen. Or where, for that matter.
"Belief has to be the foundation long before the spreadsheets arrive" says author John Hunt in The Art of the Idea. No doubt, indeed!
If you think logic and process are more important than fostering a creative culture, then please answer me this: how many musicians get an MBA before becoming successful song writers? Would an MBA help a musician manage their musical careers more effectively? Of course. And that’s the point. First, comes the creative magic. Then comes the business acumen.
“…if you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.”—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
This is a wonderful article worth parking in the garage as it succinctly articulates several ‘watch-outs’ that can impact innovation culture — particularly the tension between process and creativity. A good reference to revisit and judge how your organization measures up. Source: Fastcodesign
“Great success breeds resentment. Consistent failure breeds contempt. Mediocrity breeds indifference. The truth is that most people are neither for us or against us, because they are thinking about themselves.”—Granville N. Toogood — The Creative Executive