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Zane Caplansky’s tips for getting the media to love you

December 23, 2015
As the owner of a small chain of Jewish deli restaurants, I’ve somehow managed to get an awful lot of media attention. It wasn’t all part of a conscious strategy, but I have learned a lot about what catches the media’s interest. Here are some tips if you want to get your company noticed.

Do something interesting, different or new. My adventure with food and media began in 2008 in the upstairs room of a dank saloon in Toronto’s Little Italy. Back then, media attention was never a consideration. Being unable to afford a conventional restaurant, I just needed an affordable place to sell my homemade smoked-meat sandwiches. Media? Who was ever going to find me up there on the second floor inside an old “dive bar?”

That “deli-in-a-dive-bar” is considered by many to be Toronto’s first pop-up restaurant. Before I opened, Save the Deli author David Sax wrote about it for this newspaper. “Jewish food comes back downtown,” the headline read. Thanks to him, I ran out of food.

Before long, New York Times writer Adam Sachs wrote about me being part of the new wave of artisanal meat purveyors in Toronto. The penultimate issue of Gourmet included a profile of my efforts to bring smoked meat to downtown Toronto. As a former subscriber I never imagined I’d see my name, let alone my photograph, in those pages. USA Today, Details and many others wrote about the deli. It became almost obnoxious.

Reporters need stuff to write about. If you’re doing something interesting, don’t be shy: Tell people. And if it really is interesting, word will get around. Storytelling is a bit of a skill but look for examples of what other people do and tell stories about. Take food trucks, for example.

Not every food-truck owner got the kind of press attention that mine got. But by being the first modern food truck in Toronto, I got lots of media interest. Since launching “Thunderin’ Thelma’s” in 2011 I’ve had four years of news stories about fighting city hall, battling the restaurant lobby and starting a food-truck revolution. Clearly, being the first modern food truck in the city provided an opportunity to tell a great story. It also gave me a reason to go on CBC’s Dragons’ Den.

Be controversial. The event that stirred the most media controversy was, despite what many people suspect, not a cheap attempt to gain media attention. But sponsoring the Toronto Palestine Film Festival gained global attention.

Social media certainly played a role. After seeing all the anger between the warring sides of the Middle East conflict posting on Facebook I decided to post a simple status update. “Caplansky’s Deli is sponsoring the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival.” A reporter friend on Facebook saw that, notified his editor and the following day I was interviewed on the phone. I truly never expected the reaction that story got.

Media outlets sought interviews as far away as London and Jerusalem. Yet the sponsorship offer was made in February, long before violence erupted in Israel. It really just seemed like a nice thing to do.

Click here to read the full article.
Makes U Think

These 10 marketing truths will flip your brand

December 21, 2015
Traditionally, companies created brands and then attracted customers, who, if they came in sufficient numbers and remained loyal, sustained the company. But smart companies these days flip that approach, according to bestselling marketing author Marty Neumeier. They create customers, not brands. Those customers, in turn, build brands that sustain the company.

He calls it The Brand Flip in his latest book, and says while it’s a new approach that is increasingly going to dominate marketing, it’s actually a very old concept. In 1954, management thinker Peter Drucker declared the first purpose of a business is to create a customer. “But how do you do it? That’s the trick,” Mr. Neumeier said in an interview.

You don’t start by reaching out to a large group of people who seem like a possible target, segment out the best slices to attract and then send a flurry of messages. Instead, you need to design a world they will wish to inhabit. After they try it out, they will invite friends to join them.

In this process, Mr. Neumeier says you need to pay attention to 10 truths that require changes to your thinking:

1. Power has shifted

Stop focusing on the product and your corporate needs. Understanding the customer identity – who they are, what they want – is now all important.

2. Customers crave meaning

People want to know if they buy a product, what will that say about them – and, even deeper, what does it make them? In most of the developed world, Mr. Neumeier argues we have satisfied our lower-level or basic requirements on Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” and are now knocking on the door to the pyramid’s top level, where meaning and self-actualization are dominant.

Marketers used to sell features, and then benefits, and more recently experiences. These days, flip to meaning and belonging. Also, flip from thinking of tangibles to the intangibles people desire.

3. Brands build identities

Everything people buy helps nurture their identity. Customers should see themselves and what they want to be in the brand. The flip here is from authority to authenticity – the fact your company may be large and powerful isn’t as important to people as whether it’s authentic, which starts with purpose.

And if your purpose is to maximize profit, you’re heading in the wrong direction. Your purpose should be aimed squarely at helping your customers. He notes Intel may make computer chips, but its purpose is to change the world.

4. People hate being ‘sold’

“If you try to sell, you’re doomed,” Mr. Neumeier says flatly. You must make the flip from transactions to relationships. Aim for not just a single sale, but for a much deeper bond with your customers.

5. People buy in ‘tribes’

Mr. Neumeier introduced the notion of “tribes” – a widely used catchphrase these days – in his first book, The Brand Gap, back in 2003. A tribe is a group of people who share interests and information, in this case tied to your brand. Traditionally, in segmenting markets, brands have been working with quite different people. “You can trip yourself up if you try adding more than one tribe, particularly if they are contradictory,” he cautions. “The standard rule is one brand for one tribe. If you are supporting a second tribe, then you have to think of creating a second brand.”

6. Tribes do battle

The battle is no longer between companies, but between tribes. So think carefully about the tribe you are attracting and which ones you won’t go after, because they have different interests. If nobody hates you, you’re not a tribe.

7. Get the strongest tribe

Some tribes won’t lead you to success. So look for a tribe that people look up to and want to join – and can help you grow successfully. Apple, for example, went after people who were technologically sophisticated, with whom other people want to associate. The flip here is from a concern about creating better products to attracting better customers. The nature of your customers determines the future of your company. “Pick your tribe well,” he says.

Click here to read the full article. 
Makes U Think

Executives, Protect Your Alone Time

December 17, 2015
In our contemporary offices and always-busy lives, alone time can be difficult to come by. But successful creative thinkers share a need for solitude. They make a practice of turning away from the distractions of daily life to give their minds space to reflect, make new connections, and find meaning.

Great thinkers and leaders throughout history — from Virginia Woolf to Marcel Proust to Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak — have lauded the importance of having a metaphorical room of one’s own. But today’s culture overemphasizes the importance of constant social interaction, due in part to social media. We tend to view time spent alone as time wasted or as an indication of an antisocial or melancholy personality. Instead, we should see it as a sign of emotional maturity and healthy psychological development.

Of course, positive social interactions and collaboration are a critical part of a healthy workplace. But while some people may be inspired by experience and interacting with others, it is often in solitary reflection that ideas are crystallized and insights formed. As author and biochemist Isaac Asimov wrote in his famous essay on the nature of creativity, “Creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”

Now science has reinforced what countless artists and innovators have known: solitary reflection feeds the creative mind. In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that we tend to get our best ideas when our attention is not fully engaged in our immediate environment or the task at hand. When we’re not focusing on anything in particular — instead letting the mind wander or dip into our deep storehouse of memories, ideas, and emotions — the brain’s default mode network is activated. Many of our most original insights arise from the activity of this network, or as we like to call it, the “imagination network.”

Its three main components — personal meaning making, mental simulation, and perspective taking — often work together when we’re reflecting. Using many regions across the brain, the imagination network enables us to remember the past, think about the future, see other perspectives and scenarios, comprehend stories, understand ourselves, and create meaning from our experiences.

As mentioned above, activating this network requires deep internal reflection — the state that many artists and philosophers refer to when describing how they arrive at their most original ideas. This type of reflection is facilitated by solitude, which is why we often get creative insights when we’re relaxing or doing mundane, habitual tasks like showering or washing the dishes.

Click here to read the full article.

Makes U Think

3 Things the Most Creative Leaders Do

December 11, 2015
Over the past three decades at IDEO, I’ve worked with some of the most innovative companies in the world and seen a lot of creative leaders in action. I’ve paid attention to how the best of them operate — how they nurture creativity all around them — and I’ve noticed three things:

They build core enthusiast communities inside and outside of their organizations. Chris Anderson, CEO of drone-maker 3D Robotics, started seeking knowledge and insight from drone aficionados with his website DIYDrones long before he ever hired his first employee, and has continued to practice open-source innovation in the years since. The company nurtures its creative community and recognizes participation at every level. When a contributor offers even the simplest input, the company sends him or her a T-shirt, signifying inclusion in 3D Robotics’ tribe of “insiders.” As bright people from around the world ratchet up their participation, they might instead get plane tickets so they can travel to the company’s headquarters and meet its leaders in person. Some eventually cross over to become full-time employees. The free-flowing exchange, in which employees, partners, and collaborators gain social capital through their creative input, has helped propel growth. 3D Robotics currently makes more consumer and commercial drones than any other company in America.

They achieve big change through a series of small experiments. Many years ago, Jim Hackett, then CEO of Steelcase — a long-time IDEO strategic partner — wanted to get his top executives to move to open workspaces. Then, as now in many organizations, the private office was a privilege of rank, but because Steelcase was a global leader in system furniture, Hackett thought it was important for its managers to walk the talk and demonstrate the value of working in non-traditional office formats. He had a hunch that if he simply announced a sweeping change — out with the old way and in with the new — many of his execs would have resisted and asked to be exempted.

So Jim instead proposed a small experiment. He asked his management team to join him in a six-month prototype of the company’s open “Leadership Community.” All he wanted was for them to give it an honest try for a limited time, using the best of Steelcase’s own products, and he promised that whatever was not working at the end of six months would be addressed. When a respected leader asks you to join a short experiment, it’s very hard to say no, or even complain. And no one did. Though it has evolved over time, Steelcase’s six-month experiment turned into 20 years. The executives never went back to their private offices.

They jump-start their innovation journey with storytelling. Marketers have always understood how great messaging contributes to the success of new products, services, and brands. And the best creative leaders are now screening ideas from the very beginning for the potential to both delight customers and also tell an engaging story. Jane Park, CEO of the beauty-products start-up Julep, worked with IDEO to find a breakthrough in nail polish that would spark new conversations among core users, known as “mavens.” The design research highlighted an issue long understood but never fully addressed: the difficulty that women have applying nail polish when holding the brush in their non-dominant hand. Park and her team realized that all tools requiring precision — like a pencil or a paintbrush, or even a surgeon’s scalpel — have length. So they developed a long, articulated handle — dubbed Plié — which allows users to get a smoother, more precise finish and also docks magnetically to the nail polish cap.

The creative solution had value all its own, but the origin story linking Plié to other tools gave it the buzz it needed to catch on. It helped win the hearts and minds of both Julep’s internal team and external stakeholders out in the marketplace. Noting the combination of great stories and an invested community, Forbes recently suggested that Julep might be “the next billion-dollar beauty brand.”

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Makes U Think

The Making Of An Icon: How The Peace For Paris Sign Spread Around The World

November 27, 2015
In the wake of the horrific acts of terrorism that ripped through France on Friday, November 13, killing at least 129 people and injuring hundreds, an image with a message of peace has emerged amid the darkness and gone viral. It's simple, haunting, and has served as a tool for people across the globe to express solidarity. It has been shared across social media, displayed at vigils, and even scrawled on concrete in public spaces.

Jean Jullien, a 32-year-old French graphic designer and illustrator who created the image, says in a Skype interview that he was on the first day of vacation on Friday (at a location he declined to share), when he turned on the radio to a French station and learned of the tragic events. "I was deeply shocked, saddened, and confused," he says. "Because I’m an illustrator, drawing is my first natural reaction to communicate things in general."

Jullien took to ink and brush on paper and the resulting image is what he drew without any initial sketching. "I wanted to create a symbol of peace," Jullien says of the hand-drawn illustration that combines the Eiffel tower and the universal symbol of peace. "It was a raw reaction. It was the only thing I could think of doing and my way of expressing to all of my loved ones in Paris ... I was thinking about them," he says.

After posting the image to his social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Friday evening under the caption "Peace for Paris," Jullien says it "instantaneously got out of hand and out of my reach." By Saturday morning, the artist realized just how widespread and symbolic the illustration had become. Rumors emerged early on that the work was by Banksy, which social media pundits quickly dismissed. Approximately four hours after it had gone live on Twitter, it had accumulated 16,000 retweets from Jullien’s personal Twitter account; after 24 hours that number had climbed up to 53,000 retweets. His followers on Twitter also sky-rocketed, going from around 8,000 prior to November 13, to more than 21,000. A few hours after Jullien posted the image to his Instagram account, Instagram shared the image to its 113 million followers with credit to the artist. After 24 hours, the post by Instagram had accumulated more than 1.3 million likes. Countless media outlets and celebrities around the world also have shared the image.

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Data Mining Reveals How Smiling Evolved During a Century of Yearbook Photos

November 27, 2015
Data mining has changed the way we think about information. Machine-learning algorithms now routinely chomp their way through data sets of Twitter conversations, travel patterns, phone calls, and health records, to name just a few. And the insights this brings is dramatically improving our understanding of communication, travel, health, and so on.

But there is another historical data set that has been largely ignored by the data-mining community—photographs. This presents a more complex challenge.

For a start, the data set is vast, spanning 150 years since the dawn of photography. What’s more, the information it contains can be hard to distill, often because it is too complex or too mundane to describe in words.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Shiry Ginosar at the University of California, Berkeley, and a few pals, who have pioneered a machine-vision approach to mining the data in ordinary photographs.

These guys start with a relatively simple database—American high-school yearbook photographs dating back to 1905. These yearbook photos have been digitized on large scale by local libraries all over the U.S. and show full frontal photos of individuals in a standard pose.

Ginosar and co downloaded over 150,000 of these portraits. After removing those that were not full frontal portraits, they were left with some 37,000 images from more than 800 yearbooks from 26 U.S. states.

They then grouped the portraits by decade and superimposed the images to produce an “average” face for each period. This process revealed other “average” features for each period such as hairstyle, clothing, style of glasses, and even average facial expressions. The image above shows these averages for each decade for men and women.

The results make for interesting reading. A particularly striking feature is the evolution of smiling in yearbook photographs. Ginosar and co say that in the years after the invention of photography, most people adopted the same pose they would have used for a painted portrait—a neutral expression that would be easy to hold for a long period.

“Etiquette and beauty standards dictated that the mouth be kept small—resulting in an instruction to “say prunes” (rather than cheese) when a photograph was being taken,” say Ginosar and co.

But that changed during the 20th century, when photography became more popular. In particular, the photography company Kodak used advertising to popularize the idea of smiling in photos so that the images recorded happy memories.

Whatever the reason, smiling has become much more prominent. “These days we take for granted that we should smile when our picture is being taken,” say Ginosar and pals.

And the data backs that up. The team developed an algorithm for determining the degree of lip curvature in the photographs and this showed a clear trend in increasing smile intensity over time.

The data also reveals another trend. “Women significantly and consistently smile more than men,” they say. This is not a new discovery—indeed it has been discussed for decades.

Click here to read the full article. 
Makes U Think

What to Do with All the Business Cards from Your Last Conference

November 17, 2015
Business travel should be about relationship building, but so often the stress of dealing with logistics and the anxiety of meeting a whole whack of new people keep it from being an effective way to connect, especially at conferences. Using social tools can focus your on-the-road time on the people you really want to get to know.

This is my seven-step strategy for using social media to turn conference introductions into ongoing connections:

Step 1: Before the conference, install a business-card-processing app on your smartphone. If you’re an Evernote user, your best bet is to use Evernote on your phone; when you use Evernote to snap a “camera” note, you’ll have the option to select “business card,” which means Evernote can create a contact note from the card and offer you the option of connecting via LinkedIn. Other options include WorldCard (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile) or FullContact Card Reader (iOS and Android). What you want is an app that can scan business cards with a camera, convert the card to contact information, and offer you social network connection options.

Step 2: If you meet someone and hit it off, connect right away. If you’ve made a new pal and your pal is on Twitter, send your pal a tweet from your smartphone right then and there, before you lose one another’s business cards or Twitter handles. I like to take a snapshot of me and my new pal and tweet it to him or her along with the hashtag #nicetomeetyou. That way I can see all my new pals in one place. This is a great way to keep track of and in touch with new contacts without feeling as if you need to add them all to LinkedIn.

Step 3: At the end of each day (or failing that, the end of the conference), take the stack of business cards you’ve accumulated and lay them out on a table. Take a photograph of the entire collection. Then pull out all the cards for people with whom you hope to have further contact. Make this your “keeper” pile. Throw out the rest of the cards. If you’re an Evernote user, add the snapshot of that business card pile to Evernote with the title “met at Conference X.” Now if you’re ever wondering where you met someone, an Evernote search will bring up a snapshot of his or her business card in context. (Depending on how many cards you collect, you may need to take several photos so the resolution is good enough to make the card text readable.)

Step 4: Use your smartphone’s business card scanning app to capture all the cards in your keeper pile. Open the app and view the contact card for each person in your keeper pile.

Step 5: Use your business card app’s social networking function to send each person a LinkedIn connection invitation. If anyone is also a Twitter user, click the Twitter handle on that person’s profile so that you can view and follow him on Twitter. If you want to establish a LinkedIn connection with someone senior or well known, consider writing a personal connection request reminding him or her that you enjoyed meeting at Conference X and would like to stay in touch. You can’t do that from within Evernote’s card scanner, so you’ll need to log into LinkedIn to send that personal request.

Step 6: If there are people in your keeper pile that you’d like to follow up with within the next month or so, send a personal note to their email address saying how much you enjoyed meeting with them and (if appropriate) suggesting when or how you’ll follow up. You may even want to suggest setting up a next meeting or call. These messages are a good use of your time on the flight home: just queue them up and hit send when you land.

Click here to read the full article.
Makes U Think

A Better Way to Calculate the ROI of Your Marketing Investment

November 13, 2015
Traditionally, marketers calculate the ROI of a marketing investment by measuring how much sales increased in its aftermath. This is a blunt metric: maybe the consumer had a different interaction with the brand that influenced them. Or maybe they had an intrinsic preference for the brand and would have made a purchase anyway.

Today the situation has changed. Marketers have access to data that allows them to track individuals’ various interactions with a brand before their purchase, and better understand what role each interaction — and individual preferences — played in the eventual sale.

This approach, called “attribution modeling,” allows companies to attribute appropriate credit to each online and offline contact and touch point in a customer’s purchase cycle, and understand its role in the revenues that ultimately result. A good attribution model should show, for example, precisely which ads or search keywords are most associated with actual purchases.

Developing an attribution model is a gradual process. You can’t get there all at once. There are four key stages in the journey:

Stage 1: Prepare your data

You can’t have any kind of attribution model without data around touch points and outcomes. Many companies collect this data but often store it in different databases and in ways that make comparison difficult. Once companies can access and analyze data around touch points and purchases, they can detect patterns and are ready to apply simple attribution models. These involve applying rules of thumb, such as “give all credit to the last point of interaction” or “give equal credit to all points of interaction with the customer before a purchase is made.”

They may sound simplistic, but even simple rules-based models can deliver immediate results. This was the case at one company we recently advised. Only after considerable efforts to get data for each touch point aligned in one repository could the company begin to figure out sensible rules of thumb to guide marketing investments. It began by simply allocating resources to each touch point as a direct function of its marginal ROI. Even this rather rough and ready approach sharply improved the company’s overall marketing ROI.

Click here to read the full article.
Makes U Think

Why SImple Brands Win

November 12, 2015
The greatest brands make life simple. Think Google, Amazon, or even Dunkin’ Donuts. They cut through the clutter by delivering what consumers want, when they want it, without hassle. By simplifying customer experience in a complex world, these brands win customer loyalty, which drives business results and creates value for shareholders.

For the past six years, Siegel+Gale has published its Global Brand Simplicity Index — a study based on a survey of thousands of consumers from around the globe — that ranks brands according to their perceived simplicity or complexity, and the overall simplicity rating of a brand’s industry. This year’s index, derived from the responses of more than 12,000 consumers in eight countries, provides a definitive measure of which brands excel at providing simple experiences – and reveals rising brands that could threaten these incumbents.

It also confirms how simplicity can drive performance: a portfolio of the publicly traded companies in the global top 10 brands has beaten the average global stock index by 214% since we first started conducting the study in 2009, and this year’s top 10 continues the trend.

Let’s look closely at the 2015 top 10 brands in the U.S. Each fulfills a consumer need quickly – sometimes instantaneously — and with minimal friction.

Click here to read the full article.

5 Reasons Why Web Design is Important to Content Marketing

November 11, 2015
When visiting websites, one of the first things we do is to appreciate (or judge) their look. A website’s lay-out and design greatly influences the interest of the visitors, as well as their initial engagement with the brand. A visually-appealing design is irresistible and hard to leave. The longer people are on your website, the better your chances are at converting them into buying customers. It is also equally important that your website is easy to navigate so that it will be convenient for your visitors to browse through the pages.

If you’re looking into giving your site a facelift, you need familiarize yourself first with the value behind a good web design. This way, you’ll be able to strike a balance with design elements you’re going to use. Listed below are five reasons why it’s crucial that your website has an appealing and navigable layout.

Visuals are processed faster by the brain.
A good web design tends to be more effective in catching people’s attention and engaging them. This is because the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. As such, if you want to make an impression, your best bet would be dressing up your website in a design that doesn’t just resonates with your brand but also appealing to your target audience’s sensibilities.

If, for instance, you’re selling on your site products that promote health and wellbeing, you can consider painting your website shades of green as this color symbolizes life. You can also use quality photos of people that represent health and energy. Using appropriate images, along with evergreen copy, will help you communicate your brand message effectively.

Visuals aid in your clients’ learning.
It is said that 65% of readers are visual learners, a significant statistic that you can take advantage of. Visual learners are those who learn best with the help of visual aids such pictures, charts, and diagrams, and that they have the capacity to recall what they have observed and can follow drawn or written instructions.

While it is still important that you cater to your all of your readers’ learning styles as much as possible, having a visually-appealing website will give you a good head start. Apart from your web design, your site’s pages are optimized for visual content such as hi-res images, videos, and other materials that you may make available for download. By offering content in different formats, you get to serve a variety of readers and appeal to their learning styles.

Click here to read the full article. 


How many people make a good team?

September 09, 2015
Add one more person to your team and you are adding far more complexity than you realize. That person has to communicate with every person on the existing team, and communication lines mushroom with each additional body.

So adding one individual to a group of four means there are now 10 lines of communications, as everyone communicates with each other, compared to six beforehand. Add one extra employee to an eight-person team and communication lines jump from 28 to 36. Adding a newcomer to a 12-person team takes you from 66 to 78 lines of communication.

That's a lot of chances for things to go wrong. So it's where Jason Evanish, founder of Lighthouse, a software tool for managers, believes you need to stop. No manager should be directly supervising more than 12 people.

Indeed, it's best to keep it down to eight to 10 people.

"Because you are a good manager for three or four people, doesn't mean you can handle seven or eight. I saw people who were crashing under the pressure of 12," Mr. Evanish said in an interview. "It doesn't matter the size of the company - it can be a startup or a larger company. That 12-team size crushes you."

As you add people, you gain more diversity and creativity. But it's extra bodies for a manager to keep track of when delegating tasks. It's additional personalities to handle. It's further people to coach and offer feedback. Like the frog in cold water that is put to boil, it can be difficult to sense when the balance tips from acceptable to unacceptable.

"Even good managers get stressed at nine or 10," Mr. Evanish said.

In a blog post, he noted other people had come to a similar conclusions.

Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Inc., has a rule of keeping meetings and teams to the number of people who can share two pizzas. If each person has two slices and the pizza has 8 slices, that means holding it at eight people so nobody goes hungry and the team doesn't choke on its own size.

Click here to read the full article.
Makes U Think

Games Can Make You a Better Strategist

September 08, 2015
Play has long infused the language of business: we talk of players, moves, end games, play books and so on. And now we hear often about the “gamification” of work—using elements of competition, feedback and point scoring to better engage employees and even track performance. Even so, actual games are still taboo in most organizations—the stereotype of the work-avoiding employee cracking new high scores in Minesweeper has given gaming a bad name. And the corporate executive playing games to improve his or her strategy-making skills is still rare. This is unfortunate. We think that games have an important place in cultivating good strategists, and that now more than ever games can give executives an edge over their competition.

First, there has never been a greater need for companies to learn new ways of doing things in response to a complex and dynamic business environment. And second, the sophistication and effectiveness of strategy games at our disposal has risen tremendously. In the past two decades, strategy games have evolved from dull monochrome dialogs to well-designed AI-based apps.

We think that the next generation strategy apps will finally be able to prove a real business case. Just consider some the advantages games have over more traditional approaches in strategy education. Books are great to foster intellectual understanding but are not interactive and do not reflect the reality of busy schedules and declining attention spans. Live pilots are highly realistic but costly, time consuming and risky. And coaching or mentoring approaches have great merits for personal development, but are hard to scale.

Games on the other hand can create an experiential, interactive and tailored understanding of strategy at low cost and in a scalable manner. They allow managers to suspend normal rules in an acceptable way and they provide an effective audiovisual medium for absorbing ideas.

Click here to read the full article.
Makes U Think

Green surprise: Why the world's forests are growing back

August 30, 2015
If the air feels just a bit fresher, it may be because the trees are making a comeback. Despite a lot of bad news on climate, our planet has become measurably greener, as seen from space. And that points to a way out of the climate crisis.

A group of scholars at Australian, Chinese, Dutch and Saudi Arabian universities recently published, in the journal Nature Climate Change, a 20-year study measuring the precise quantity of the Earth’s “terrestrial biomass” – that is, the total mass of living organisms, most of which are plants. They used two decades of microwave satellite readings (which are an accurate way to measure biological material) to determine how the world’s stock of living things has changed over time.

Because biological matter absorbs and stores carbon, it is crucial to protecting the Earth from climate change: If we diminish the amount of plant matter, then more carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, ends up in the atmosphere.

What the study found was, in the initial years, predictably depressing: Between 1993 and 2002, the world’s stock of plants declined – in large part because of large-scale deforestation in the tropical rain forests of Brazil and Indonesia.

But then, between 2003 and 2012 (the last year they analyzed), something surprising happened: The trees started growing back. Their results showed that deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia slowed sharply, while better growing conditions in the savannahs of northern Australia and southern Africa added mass, and – most dramatically – the vast forests of China and Russia grew back at a considerable pace. The last point is especially significant: The boreal forest, which stretches across Northern Canada and Russia, stores almost 60 per cent of the world’s carbon (tropical rain forests store about half that much).

Click here to read the full article.

Design for Action

August 18, 2015
Throughout most of history, design was a process applied to physical objects. Raymond Loewy designed trains. Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses. Charles Eames designed furniture. Coco Chanel designed haute couture. Paul Rand designed logos. David Kelley designed products, including (most famously) the mouse for the Apple computer.

But as it became clear that smart, effective design was behind the success of many commercial goods, companies began employing it in more and more contexts. High-tech firms that hired designers to work on hardware (to, say, come up with the shape and layout of a smartphone) began asking them to create the look and feel of user-interface software. Then designers were asked to help improve user experiences. Soon firms were treating corporate strategy making as an exercise in design. Today design is even applied to helping multiple stakeholders and organizations work better as a system.

This is the classic path of intellectual progress. Each design process is more complicated and sophisticated than the one before it. Each was enabled by learning from the preceding stage. Designers could easily turn their minds to graphical user interfaces for software because they had experience designing the hardware on which the applications would run. Having crafted better experiences for computer users, designers could readily take on nondigital experiences, like patients’ hospital visits. And once they learned how to redesign the user experience in a single organization, they were more prepared to tackle the holistic experience in a system of organizations. The San Francisco Unified School District, for example, recently worked with IDEO to help redesign the cafeteria experience across all its schools.

As design has moved further from the world of products, its tools have been adapted and extended into a distinct new discipline: design thinking. Arguably, Nobel laureate Herbert Simon got the ball rolling with the 1969 classic The Sciences of the Artificial, which characterized design not so much as a physical process as a way of thinking. And Richard Buchanan made a seminal advance in his 1992 article “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking,” in which he proposed using design to solve extraordinarily persistent and difficult challenges.

But as the complexity of the design process increases, a new hurdle arises: the acceptance of what we might call “the designed artifact”—whether product, user experience, strategy, or complex system— by stakeholders. In the following pages we’ll explain this new challenge and demonstrate how design thinking can help strategic and system innovators make the new worlds they’ve imagined come to pass. In fact, we’d argue that with very complex artifacts, the design of their “intervention”—their introduction and integration into the status quo—is even more critical to success than the design of the artifacts themselves.

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Music-loving friends dig deep to raise money for water wells

July 07, 2015
The donor: Stephen Mallory

The gift: Raising $25,500

The cause: The Water for Life Initiative

The reason: To bring fresh water to millions of people in need

Stephen Mallory was in church one Sunday morning when he heard a presentation by a woman who was raising money to build water wells in the developing world.

The need for fresh water struck him: “$8,500 can buy 1,000 people clean water for 25 years,” said Mr. Mallory, who is chief executive and founder of Directors Global Insurance Brokers Ltd., a Toronto-based risk management advisory firm.

The presentation prompted him to consider launching his own fundraising campaign, with a twist.

Mr. Mallory, who once played in a band, contacted more than a dozen friends in business and music, ranging from musicians to graphic artists and web designers.

The group put together a rock album with 10 original songs, calling themselves the Cherry Trees Band.

Their album – Change the World – is up for sale on iTunes, Amazon and other sites, at a price of $10. All the money raised will go to the Water for Life Initiative run by the Global Aid Network, a Canadian charity that funds development projects around the world. The group is hoping to raise $25,500, enough for three wells.

“In Canada, we are fortunate people,” Mr. Mallory said. “And we take water for granted … This project has been very inspiring.”

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Makes U Think

You’ve only got 60 seconds to make your pitch

June 30, 2015
If you’re making a 10-minute presentation and worry that’s not enough time to get your ideas across, forget about it. Presentation coach Sam Horn says you actually only have 60 seconds to intrigue the decision maker and gain attention for your ideas. So don’t cram everything into a tedious 10-minute, breathlessly delivered talk. Follow her approach to cut the ideas to a 60-second pitch. You might also want to acknowledge the person you’re pitching is busy and announce you’ll only take seven minutes of their time. Relieved and intrigued, they will pay attention.

The Washington, D.C.-based Ms. Horn, author of recently published Got Your Attention?, calls herself the intrigue expert. She was involved for many years with the Maui Writers Conference in Hawaii, which gave writers of books and screenplays the chance to meet with the industry top echelon and pitch their ideas. But mostly, they flopped. “I saw people who worked months and years not getting approval as they couldn’t make a compelling message,” she said in an interview.

They had packed in far too much material. They had rehearsed that stuff to death. And as she watched the decision makers’ eyebrows, she could plot the chances of success in the first 60 seconds – that tell-tale body part would usually signal lack of interest or confusion, rather than intrigue. If the presenters didn’t surprise the decision maker with something intriguing in that critical opening minute, the deal would be lost.

So learn from Kathleen Callender, founder of PharmaJet, a needle free injection technology, who moaned that she had only 10 minutes to pitch a roomful of investors. “Kathleen, you don’t have 10 minutes,” Ms. Horn retorted. “Those investors will have heard 16 other pitches. You have 60 seconds to break through the afternoon blahs and earn their attention.”

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NRStor puts hopes in compressed air energy storage project

June 25, 2015
Toronto-based NRStor Inc. is pursuing the “holy grail” of the power industry, looking to solve the critical challenge of electricity storage with technology that would compress air and store it in salt caverns for use when the wind isn’t blowing or for the province’s nuclear reactors when they are pumping more energy than is needed.

NRStor is one of more than a dozen companies vying for contracts to supply a total of 16.4 megawatts of storage to demonstrate the commercial viability and test how to integrate the services into the complex workings of the grid.

Chief executive officer Annette Verschuren said the two-megawatt project that NRStor is proposing would serve a much grander ambition: to construct as much as 1,000 megawatts of capacity for compressed air storage over the next 20 years in order to build a “flexible, green, 21st-century electric system” in Ontario.

The company commissioned a study – to be released Tuesday – that calculates the province could save as much as $8-billion in power costs over 20 years through compressed air storage, assuming it meets its current target of 10,700 megawatts of wind power by 2021.

“Our focus is to make [the storage] competitive with the cost of generating electricity from gas turbines” which is currently used to back up intermittent wind power, Ms. Verschuren said in an interview. “We think it’s there now.”

NRStor is partnering with Massachusetts-based General Compression Inc., which has developed a compressed-air technology that uses no fuel but instead employs heat exchangers in what is known as a near-isothermal process. Two large compressed-air storage plants now in operation – one in the United States and one in Germany – use natural gas to compress the air, reducing the cost-effectiveness.

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Survey says Canadians trust homegrown brands the most

June 25, 2015
Canadians trust homegrown brands most, according to a new survey.

Tim Hortons, President's Choice and Shoppers Drug Mart topped the list in the new ranking released Tuesday by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. The school plans to release its Gustavson Brand Trust Index annually.

A sample of 3,125 Canadian consumers ranked a total of 249 brands in 22 industries. The brands were scored on 40 attributes, including quality, innovation, value, leadership and social responsibility - the most pertinent factors influencing consumer trust.

A recent survey by global PR firm Edelman found that Canadians are losing trust in institutions - particularly companies.

The Gustavson Brand Trust Index was created in part as a response to this finding, said Saul Klein, dean of the business school.

"That's a key part of what we were looking at - why overall trust is going down, why some brands are performing poorly but others are doing well," Dr.

Klein said. The idea is "to focus on the ones doing well to understand why."

The study found that consumers trust on two different levels: functional and emotional.

Functional trust comes from traditional metrics such as quality, reliability and consistency.

"Functional trust is a minimum for consumers - if you're not delivering, we are not interested in you anyway," Dr. Klein said.

What's more interesting is emotional trust, he said.

"It's the emotional trust that differentiates brands, and it comes from a deeper alignment between what the brand is doing and what our own interests are."

Emotional trust rests on metrics such as workplace practices, environmental policies and community responsibility.

"Canadians want to use our consumer dollars to make choices that reinforce behaviours we agree with, and if we trust a company to do that, we are a lot more likely to recommend it."

Along with the national ranking, the survey also produced results by industry, region and demographic indicators. It found that women tend to trust brands more than men do (except when it comes to cars, beer and spirits); that older consumers trust the top brands more than younger consumers do; and that people trust brands in the financial, travel and utility industries least.

Age-based preferences were evident in awarding trust as well.

While Tim Hortons was most highly trusted for all ages, consumers 18-35 ranked Google and Amazon second and third respectively, while those 35 and older picked Dairyland and President's Choice, and those 55 and older picked Canadian Tire.

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The Long Pointy History Behind Hillary's Brilliant Logo

May 14, 2015

Since the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was no secret, it was her campaign design that was the big reveal of the week. The giant blue H marched its way to the forefront of the breaking news, but at the center of Clinton’s logo is another, far more critical graphic element: The arrow.

The logo itself is bold and contemporary, and pretty enough that it won’t annoy us when we’ve been looking at it for 18 months straight. It’s lacking all traces of flag-like elements, which is great, and it’s also flat, which is nice. It’s not Obama “O” good (actually, I always found Obama’s logo packing a little too much heartland/waves-of-grain for my taste), but an H is awkward letter—it isn’t nearly as iconic or cool. It needed something else.

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Edmonton office building pushes energy use to net zero

May 04, 2015
Few developers talk about doing the right thing.

They talk specifically about sustainability and lower energy use, or healthier interiors and more human work environments, with more sunlight and designs to help casual interaction.

Engineer-businessman Dennis Cuku talks about these features, too, when discussing his new net-zero energy-consuming office building in Edmonton, which roughly creates as much energy as it uses. “On a day like today,” he said on a recent sunny day, “when there’s no way we can possibly use all the electricity that the roof is generating, the neighbouring community uses it.”

But he also steers the discussion back to ethics and obligation: “It’s the right thing to do. If it’s possible, and you don’t do it, then that’s ignorance.”

He takes his eco-goals personally, as co-owner, with business partner and former spouse Christy Benoit, of the 30,000-square-foot Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce, on the far south side of the city.

Commercial real-estate developers have been steadily going greener for years, with cleaner ventilation, better water and energy efficiency and better use of recyclable materials.

But the movement often seems propelled by larger projects: major developers answering the demands of major tenants, such as banks and large corporate tenants.

LEED Gold is the environmental certification standard most large office developers in Canada now aim for, said Thomas Mueller, president and chief executive of the Canada Green Building Council, an industry-led organization promoting pro-environmental certification and building practices.

What’s less common are small, privately constructed offices, trying for top-level LEED Platinum designation and net-zero energy consumption. Yet, as with the Mosaic Centre, this is where much of the innovation and risks are taking place.

“Net-zero buildings are still unusual. It’s because of the cost to get to a net-zero performance, whereas you can go for a LEED Gold performance, where the business case for those buildings is proven,” Mr. Mueller said. “With a net-zero building, it’s advanced technology, and there’s a cost associated with it. These buildings are still rare.”

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Don’t sell a brand. Tell a story

March 16, 2015
In 1999, consultants B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore told us we had entered a new economy shaped by experiences. More recently, we keep hearing about the need for executives and the brands they oversee to become adept at storytelling.

Frank Rose, a journalist and senior fellow at the Columbia University school of the arts brings those two streams together in a call for us to learn the art of immersion, as his book two years ago was titled, and tap into the thirst for experiences and stories among the consuming public.

Think in terms of stories and deepening them in ways that can be helpful to your customers, making your company feel part of their lives,” he said in an interview.

Managers, engineers and consultants like facts. And facts, he concedes, are useful. But he insists they are not as powerful as stories, which fit the way neuroscientists are finding that we think.

Becoming storytellers may seem foreign to executives – not the way they were taught to lead. But he says it’s actually how we experience life. We watch TV and read books. We watch sports, which are stories unfolding during the action on the field. At dinner parties, we swap stories.

But storytelling is only the first step in his immersion approach. Storytelling opens the door for individuals to connect with your brand. People want to merge their identity with something larger – to enter the world the story lives in, sharing and being defined by the story. And you must provide that.

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Is solar having its ‘shale’ moment

March 13, 2015
Call it what you will: a watershed moment, a tipping or inflexion point. However you care to describe it, solar energy may be on the verge of achieving enough momentum to carry us into a new energy era. Solar technology is developing at a frantic pace, the political momentum appears to be unstoppable and most importantly, the cost per unit of energy for roof-top solar is approaching parity with coal-generated power.

Evidence that the tipping point is on the horizon comes from two pieces of research: one from Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy with long established roots in the oil industry which reckons that solar power is approaching its “shale” moment. In other words, saturation of electricity grids at periods of peak demand with solar power will have a disruptive influence – lowering prices and forcing the retirement of older, base-load coal power generation.

Solar is now a serious investment opportunity, reckons Deutsche Bank in a report to its fund clients, asserting that in 14 U.S. states, solar is now competitive without government subsidy. With increasing investment and falling costs, the levelized cost of solar energy (the price at which it breaks even over a project lifetime including cost of capital) will be at grid parity in 47 U.S. states, says the bank. In coal-dominated power regions across the world, the cost ratio between coal and solar has fallen over the past four years from 7:1 to 2:1 and the bank predicts it will fall to parity within 12 to 18 months.

If Deutsche Bank is right and the falling cost of photovoltaic panels seems to support its arguments, the consequences for the coal, oil and gas sectors could be dramatic. There is already talk in the insurance industry of “stranded carbon assets”, and last week, the Bank of England warned the impact on fossil fuel investments could be huge.

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The Difference between V and W

March 09, 2015
The letters V and W are often confused because of related lip movements. But they are very different for two reasons: when making a W, the air moves freely and the teeth are not involved, whereas when we make a V, the air is blown between the teeth and lip, creating friction.

V is formed in the same way as F. The difference is that V is voiced whereas F is voiceless. When we make a V or an F, we do not round the lips. In contrast, we make the W with the lips, forming a small opening and releasing the lips into the W sound.

Depending on your linguistic background, you may combine W and V into one movement, starting with the lip shape of W and lifting the lower lip towards the upper teeth to make a V sound. Some languages combine a B and V by briefly closing the lips before making the V.

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Makes U Think

Can’t focus? Maybe you’re a creative genius.

March 04, 2015
No bolt of lightning, no voice from the heavens, not even a lightbulb dangling overhead -- for years scientists have been searching for the source of creativity, having discarded the myths and memes of the past.

Now scientists at Northwestern have announced they've found the first physiological evidence of a connection between creative thinking and sensory distractions, or what they call "leaky attention."

In sound tests given to 97 subjects, the researchers found that poor sensory gating, the ability to filter unnecessary stimuli from the brain, correlated with a higher number of lifetime creative achievements.

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Makes U Think