it’s alive!! the “frank-en-idea”

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it’s alive!! the “frank-en-idea”

It’s amazing the things you remember… and that sometimes pop up in the brain at the weirdest times. I was just sitting here, thinking about what to write with all the necessary preparations in place: Laptop? Check. Music? Check. Adult Beverage? Check.

…then nothing.

What to write about? I’m sure I had a bunch of good ideas flowing in my head literally minutes ago, when I first said to myself “OK DK, time to write.”

Now….. ziltch.

But then, everything started snapping into place. iTunes started off my “ah-ha” moment with a little Warren Zevon and “Werewolves of London“… that (of course) brought me to thinking when I was a kid, WAAAAAY back in the day in Scranton, PA when I used to look forward to a crazy local TV show on WNEP called Uncle Ted’s Ghoul School (a shiny quarter to anyone who remembers that show! Man, it was so low-fi but as a little one it was fantastic!) Uncle Ted introduced a double feature of classic horror movies and also performed funny little magic tricks (all in a signature red Fez hat… I know, TV gold. TV. Gold.).. but I remembered, that is where I first saw movies like “American Werewolf in London”.. and that got me thinking about Frankenstein.

And that brings me here. (Did you arrive okay? I know that was a bit squirrelly. Take a second and rest………….)  To that amazing moment when you see how disparate, unconnected ideas sometimes lead to wonderful, connected concepts and ideas.

I call them “Frank-en-ideas.” (or Franken-dea’s.. don’t know yet… patent pending.)

Some of the best ideas don’t come from a single sit-down where you say “Create an idea.” At least for me, some of those cool thoughts are built over time… and space (no not Star Trek space “the final frontier” stuff.. space, like a place to be).  I think there is a definite connection that often happens between “idea parts” cobbled together from different spaces and places. A tune. A conversation topic. An image. Someone saying a buzz word. A sound. A smell.

These component alone, might be good.. but combined with others.. and boom. Nice work Doctor.. It’s Alive!

But to have this happen, I think you need to give yourself the opportunity to get these juices flowin’ and then a way to connect these dots. So, here are some suggestions to build that “Frank-en-Idea” you might realize:

1. An Idea Spot. — Be sure you have a notebook, a bar napkin from one of your favorite places to “invest in refreshment management”, a note app on your iPhone/Blackberry/Android, whatever… just have at the ready a place to collect those pop-up ideas to come throughout the day.

2. Remember “Risk-The Game” — Whenever you played Risk, the idea was simple: build your armies and take over the world. But to accomplish this, you needed to see the whole board. Who’s coming from where. Who is massing their forces in the corner that is “Australia” or who is capturing that crazy land bridge between Irkutsk and Alaska. You needed to see the big board.  Periodically step back from an initial one-shot idea and check how it looks when viewed from the world-view (aka, broaden it out to see what comes into focus, if anything.)

3. Mad Men, baby. Mad Men. — Like the drunks in that ad agency, be sure to “pitch” yourself periodically. Test the value of these ideas by giving yourself a chance to put it together in a presentation to yourself. Take 3 minutes and say “Ok you… sell this idea to me.” See where’s the gaps are, what are the holes. Then….

4. Be a Swiss Cheese Hater. — Fill those holes! What’s missing? Is it another idea? Or is it more a logistically thing (“Yeah you. That’s a great concept, but I have no idea if Transporters like on the USS Enterprise will be online and ready by the time “Tyler’s Teleportation Pizza Delivery” franchises would be up and running.”) .. challenge yourself to be the best critic and nay-sayer… plus it’s good practice to get ready for when…

5. Convene Your Focus Group. — This is easy. Tell a couple of friends “Hey, I have extra food and beer. Wanna come by?” When they get there, voila! Instant Focus Group! Give them your idea or concept and take a temperature in the room… then swear them to secrecy or patent pending legal forms so that beer glass/digital camera combo prototype does fall into the wrong hands (I’m looking at you, Canadian spies embedded in the US).

6. Yikes! And AWAY!!!! — Jump out. Do it. Get it going and start sketching out the Five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) and see where it takes you. There will be impasses… maybe a few blocking your way… but get out there and swing it!

Frank-en-Ideas can allow your creativity, interests, passions, and pure fun to co-mingle and build out.  Whether your looking to start a new business, solve a project question, plan an event… or even develop plan to take over the world…. don’t be afraid to stitch together some little guys to form a monster bad mama-jama one!

Now if you would excuse me, I have some cheese to fill in… with idea-goodness. ~DK

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time for a S-T-R-E-T-C-H.


Feel the Burn. I call this “Stuck in Place And Need A Hand”

“Measure Twice, Cut Once.”  I use this phrase more often than an NSA official uses the phrase “Can you hear me now, Verizon?” (sorry Mr. President, but really…oh, and for those of you monitoring me, I was just kidding about the whole NSA/Verizon tapping thing I just mentioned).

I have been known to be “that guy” who ramps into cool, innovative ideas.. but then asks to hit the brakes and slow down.  Prep work before busy work. Getting it right, to be sure you get it right.

But there’s my other side… the side that wants to just GO GO GO… especially when, as Tin Cup told us, a feeling of when a “tuning fork goes off in your heart.”

You KNOW it’s good to go. You’re READY. But your calmer half hits pause for the cause. “Wait,” he says. “Be patient.”

Screw patience.

Sometimes the sense for a need for calm and a calculated decision sounds right.. but isn’t. You need to stretch, damn the torpedoes, and get a-rollin’! The sense of immediacy, the sense of vitality that washes over you on one of these power decisions (Let’s do this!) is pretty remarkable, positive, and daring.

Now, Mr. Risk Management Guy/Girl reading this, easy does it. I’m not suggesting strategic planning and monster decisions should be based on a “YEEE-HAAA” and a hop on the nearest missile to launch. What I am suggesting it that the idea of “paralysis by analysis” is real. And too often, it is certain moments like this that slide our trajectory  ever so slightly… and change a great idea into a kind-of-good one. Still a victory… but not one of those “tuning forks goes off in your heart” ones.

It is in the nature of many of us to be either one or the other. You know these friends. The one who is so impulsive you wonder how she ever finds her way home because you are convinced that between you seeing her and her walking away, she will decide to fly to Cuba. Or that buddy of yours that is so painstakingly slow that you need to tell him about the weekend plans on Monday, just so he can decide if he’s in or out… the mix of these friends and personality types gives us our amazing friendship circles, and makes events and everyday hanging out so much fun.

But for YOU. For you and your direction in life, in business, in so many other decisions… allow for times of impulse.  I see the need for these moments especially in those idea sessions and brainstorming (dare I say, an “Idea Break?”)… turn your ideas loose and see what happens.

For example, I was pitching a client idea for a campaign. Almost immediately into the initial tick-tock of the basics, a lone voice popped up announcing “that’s too big and too expensive for what we have here.”  He was probably right, and truthfully, the idea of a tad too big for the immediate moment of the organization… that is until I continued and positioned how a campaign like this can be done in stages, where it isn’t a “hit the home run” kind of approach; but rather a plan for “singles and doubles” to reach the eventual endpoint… and that it could be done, with a little boldness and passion toward the end vision. Guard dropped, everyone allowed for their personal passion and belief in what a campaign like that could be, to be thrown over any analytical choke-point.. and a plan emerged. Stretched with passion and drive… not with worry or doubt.steal2_keep1st

Impulsiveness isn’t the greatest of qualities all the time, but confidence in one’s abilities to launch a project with passion and drive is something else. There will forever be fear of the unknown, a fear of failure. But I feel a greater fear: when I notice that an idea of mine never moved past the initial thought; and then I see it pop up somewhere else.. and that drives my batty.  It’s time to let your skills and passion run wild every so often.  Project feels too daunting? Stretch out and get into it.  Feel like you want to start a hobby but don’t feel like you have the time? Dare yourself to budget your hours more wisely.  Worried that a pitch for business is far beyond your reach? Double down, build that kick-ass presentation, and knock the socks off the big boys in the room.

How will you know when you are able to do this? Easy. Grab a mirror and ask yourself this…. “Am I ready to stretch?”

Then get to it, Plastic Man.


join the .movement

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time to create some altitude with some attitude

Fly the Friendly Skies” – remember that slogan by United Airlines?

Yeah… sometimes those skies aren’t as friendly as you might think.

For nonprofiteers and social enterprisers, the skies are filled with challenge upon challenge. Building capital, recruiting a board, finding funding, making payroll… those skies sometimes feel more like a scene out of Hitchcock’s  “The Birds” than the image of a bright sunny n’ clear spring ‘morn.  But I promise you – the sky is clear, calm, and sunny up higher. You just need to gain a little altitude…and that takes attitude.

Climb! Climb! Climb!

Climb! Climb! Climb!

Systems are in place to move you through a process of “leveled success” at best…or “terminal failure” at worst.  These systems are built into our corporate culture with such terms as ROI (Return on Investment) or Differentiated Customer Value Proposition (which sounds more like a sports injury, doesn’t it?) or so many more. The challenge, of course, is that these systems all qualify out one major component: attitude. Systems want to be emotionally neutral – “let the number speak for themselves,” they’ll say. We are told to fill out this form, apply for this permit, ask for only this specific amount and only to do these specific things.. the system as it design, is to maintain the status quo of the system itself.

Screw that.

You didn’t get into the nonprofiteer game or the entrepreneurial arena to be King of the “TPS Report“… you joined to game because of your passion and values. It’s time to bring that back into our operations.

Did you "see" the memo about this?

Did you “see” the memo about this?

Now to be fair, this isn’t a call to go crazy and rage against the machine. In fact it is more along the lines of appreciating that machine, understanding how it works, and then challenging the machine. Don’t “rage” against the machine; “rewire it.”  But to get to that stage, you need to get actively involved in your community and learn the ropes.

Then, begin to challenge them.

Ask questions of funders, of supporters, and of corporate partners. Ask what they see as “the ways things are” in terms of their processes – and then suggest alternatives. A foundation tells you in a face to face meeting that the process only allows for one-year commitments at a maximum of $10,000 grant award.  Suggest the strength is sustainability and propose a three-year commitment front loaded with a  $10,000 first-yer award, but a automatic award increase in the 2nd and 3rd years based on mutually agreement to metrics (it would be the same as writing three separate years of one-year committed grant asks, but in the alternative approach, the focus shift to “performance and outcomes” and not just good wordsmith-ing and a slick proposal each yer to the foundation’s program officers).  Ask away! Why not? Do you believe in your programming? Do you love, respect, trust and back your staff team? Then it’s time to show that in the moments that matter the most. You are presenting your impact, so be impactful! The worst that can happen is a flat “no;” however the best could be a dialogue that looks to better way to collaborate on financial (and sweat) equity.

It is too easy to follow the formula and chalk it up to things “always being this way.” It is time to question the status quo and ask ourselves a fundamentally new question – “can we do better for our donors, our organizations, and our community?”

We are stuck in low altitude because we often feel it is the only level our ships can hold us and sustain our flight – because we have also been reminded of the dangers of being too far out there and questions methods and processes. But ironically, we are in the business of being badass and bold. We strive to solve challenging and difficult social problems, and we are asked to do this while maintain efficiencies and scales that literally tie one hand behind our backs, resting on the battle cry of “do more with less.”

Let’s grab the stick and soar higher. The skies could get a little choppy during the climb, but our attitude filled with value and passion can send us through the storm clouds… and into the higher altitude with calmer winds.

Thank you for flying Connect the Dots Airlines. And welcome to Connected Community, USA.