For a variety of reasons, I miss having a World Book encyclopedia. Mind you, I love doing research online, and most of the time, for most efforts, it’s more than satisfying. So much so, I generally have to be careful not to go off on too many tangents of tangents.
I haven’t found, though, a reasonable replacement for the way the WB would convey the size of, say, countries: a simple dark France overlaid onto a lighter U.S., for instance. It was a perfect way of explaining the new in terms of the known.
So, why not an app that does that? And much, much more? You may think that Google maps does it, but knowing that it takes longer to get from the Riviera to Paris than it does from San Diego to San Francisco only gives you a partial sense of the size of France — or of California.
I want an app that overlays anything on top of anything else. Or anyone on top of anyone else, for that matter. I would like to type in White House and see how it compares with Versailles. Or how does Tom Cruise stack up against Dustin Hoffman? Or even his ex, Nicole Kidman? What if the Great Wall of China were in the U.S.? How far would it extend?
While we’re at it, the app could explain anything in terms of how many times it would stretch around the world, or how close it would get to the moon.
Maybe we could call it “Relatively Speaking.” By the way, France is twice the size of Germany, but smaller than Texas. The Great Wall is supposedly twice the distance from LA to NYC, though no one is quite sure. Cruise and Hoffman? Well, we’ll just have to wait for the app.
From the country that brought us dynamite (which actually was a safety improvement) and the three-pointed car safety belt, Sweden, comes another hallmark of safety — the invisible bike helmet.
No, it’s not the Emperor’s New Hat. This IDEA works! Not to spoil too much of the surprise, it works like a car air bag, but only when it’s called on to save the day. The rest of the time, in the tradition of Swedish spa wear, it’s just not there.
I generally think that explaining creativity isn’t that difficult, that is until I read about someone trying to do it. One of the latest attempts is David Burkus, assistant professor of business at Oral Roberts University, in “The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.”
Burkus maintains that there is no truth to myths such as a “eureka moment,” or that creatives need solitary. He argues that sometimes cohesion in a group thwarts creativity, and that creatives don’t need freedom. Most creatives would acknowledge that Burkus is absolutely right. And absolutely wrong.
Of course, “eureka moments” occur. And, of course, they are usually the result of hours of contemplation. Often, they come when the creative has stopped pushing for them. This series of paradoxes wouldn’t ‘t be surprising at all to creatives.
You can’t take sides in a paradox, though. Burkus does, and that’s what leaves him ultimately far short of understanding or explaining creativity — unless you prefer the perspectives of the blind men explaining an elephant.
The last big IDEA that Enterprise Car Rentals had, at least that I know about, is letting their employees think for themselves in order to solve problems, even when it may entail stretching the rules. In some corporate eyes, that is equivalent to anarchy; the move, though, which Enterprise also cleverly advertised, was a smart service-oriented marketing move.
The latest IDEA from the anarchists at Enterprise is spelled HOG. That’s right. Enterprise is going to start renting Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They are “testing” the IDEA in Las Vegas, perhaps more for logistics than marketing, as there are few demographic truths to come out of Sin City — the marketing version of “what happens in Vegas….”
The appeal is, according to Enterprise, that folks would be able to ride out to the desert or to see Hoover Dam. The day rate is way above $100, so it’s more of a novelty for those who already have their motorcycle licenses.
Maybe a better IDEA, especially for the multitude of foreign tourists (who wouldn’t have a license anyway), is to have an affiliated company that provides beautiful girl chauffeurs to drive the Harleys, and the tourist gets to hang on — all the way to Hoover Dam and back. It could give new meaning to Enterprise’s slogan, “We’ll Pick You Up.”
One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is (and I may be paraphrasing). “Be careful to get out of an experience the lesson that is in it… and stop there. Consider the cat who sits on a hot stove. It will not sit on a hot stove again. But neither will it sit on a cold one.”
The quote came to mind as I was reading a fascinating piece in the recent Adweek entitled, “What Creatives Can Learn from Great Ideas that Go Terribly Wrong,” in which several leading advertising creatives reveal their “best bad IDEAS.” What the headline reveals, and the clever oxymoron of “best bad IDEAS” forgets, is something that non-creatives don’t realize: bad execution of a good IDEA doesn’t make the IDEA bad. This is also something to remember to give one perspective on the results of creative pursuits.
The article reveals the lessons the ad execs say they learned from their IDEAS gone wrong. The notable exception to the learned lessons was George Lois, a veritable icon of iconoclasts, who claims he refuses to learn the lessons of failed attempts because that makes one cautious, and “there’s no such thing as a cautious creative.”
There is no question that the octogenarian Lois is one cool cat who, given the chance, will likely sit on a hot stove again. If the rumors are true, though, the lesson he may want to learn regarding IDEAS is to be happy with the many that he actually thought up and not to take credit for those he didn’t. Still, though, there is some truth to his “blunderbust” remarks; that cold stove can be a fearsome presence.
Which came first? Tim Cook, the iPhone 5C, Ashton Kutcher or the movie “Jobs”? The answer is none of them.
They are all magnificent seconds. They are all stand-ins, stunt doubles for something else, something that may have been true, or even first, but is now no more.
The most interesting thing about Tim Cook is that he looks like Steve Jobs. Or, rather, he looks like they hired him because he looks and sounds enough like Steve Jobs to be a reasonable cheaper alternative until Jobs reincarnates (or, if you believe the persona in the movie, rises from the ashes of hell). He’s an Apple knock-off. Would that make him the first walking Samsung Galaxy? He even expresses himself poorly, with geeky adjectives, a collection of self-conscious California cliches that would embarrass a skateboarder.
It’s the same exact phenomenon that is Ashton Kutcher, except that Ashton pulls it off. It is the movie that is the poor imitation, full of self-conscious cliches and, even though it barged its way through to the front of the Jobs line-up of biopics, is destined to be the cheap imitation.
Which brings us to the 5C, possibly more substantive than the commercial of “colorful people” that is a stand-in for an IDEA. It is a good IDEA not to be a typical Apple spot, at least, but did it have to be a typical ’70s “reach out and touch someone” spot?
So, it is clear for those wondering what the C stands for (No, it’s not China). It’s not 5C, but 5 C’s. This is Cook’s Cheap Colorful Cute Cliche… phone. Brought to you by Cook’s Colorful Cute Cliche… Commercial.
A particularly fascinating video — or, actually, audio — that’s making the rounds, via Huffington Post, is the vocal track from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. Those famous harmonies seem especially delicious when not competing with those equally famous and delicious instrumentations (though a piano keeps sneaking in).
Part of the reason this works so well is that we know the songs intimately, and now we are allowed to hear them again for the first time. It’s the very definition of deconstruction. It’s far more entertaining, too, than the studio sessions, in which we were entertained to versions of the classics that just didn’t make it.
It would be nice to hear an “Anthology” of all the Beatles’ vocal tracks. I would pay to hear that, and would rather pay, actually, than dig through YouTube for various versions.
It would be a great IDEA to have collections of some of the great vocal tracks, either by band or by the most popular songs. It fits with our more acoustic age, and will maybe give the boomers something to listen to as they continue to commute on that long and winding road — far past the exit to retirement they thought they would be taking.
I thought I could stand the thirty days of thirty Yahoo! logos without commenting. I think I came close. But, like the “30 Days” promotion, I fell a bit short.
Brands are precious things, wrought with the combined skills of artists, psychologists, semioticians and just plain marketing folks. To pretend to put up thirty different logos is to prove to the world you have no idea what a brand means — no matter what the final version looks like.
What Yahoo! has done is basically run through their font file, scrolling down every day, clicking and entering. Not a bad IDEA — if you are Adobe. What is sad is that it comes off as an unimaginative also-ran of Google’s triumphant plays on its logo. What is perfectly symbiotic for a search engine is perfect nonsense for, for, well, for whatever Yahoo is.
Let’s point out the obvious. Yahoo! has the elements of a brand that actually transcends their name. They have the color purple, the Y and the exclamation mark. Unfortunately, Google stole the possibility of their continued ooooooo’s. But these three elements are, if not to the level of the Nike swoosh, certainly a start.
Who needs a word when you have a color, a letter and an exclamation mark?! Now, Y!, do something with that! Go ahead. Take thirty days. Y? Y not?
I am saving most of my ideas on being creative for my book. In the meantime, TO-FU Design has tapped into the stuff that light is made of to bring you 29 ways to stay creative. Even if some you thought you knew, this is a nice reminder; 29, too, as a prime number, is a significant choice. Creatives don’t need for things to be even, or multiples of ten. In fact, though “appreciating chaos” is not on the list, it could be. Uh Oh! That brings us to 30!
How about, “Lick a battery.” That sweet metallic jolt when your tongue lithely connects the poles of a small battery will not only make your cup of coffee go further, it will realign your synaptic byways to get you to the back door of an idea just in time to let the dog out.
Whenever I struggle with the paradoxical notion of “defining an IDEA,” I delve into the origin of the words that express that IDEA. So, for instance, trying to explain the difference in “imagination” and “creativity,” I rely on the root differences: imaging is making a mental image; creating is actually making something.
Then, I cringe. Making something? In essence, that’s lovely, but as a motivation… it’s so functional. So purpose-driven. So down to earth. So practical.
Creativity may start as blue-sky self-expression, but, unless you’re really Mr. Ars Gratia Artis, it must eventually be something. Be made into something.
That “something” may be what stops most people from their own creativity. The great leap from IDEA to creation is even more than a great leap. It’s often thousands of tiny steps, too.
If that’s not enough, Forbes magazine has ten other “reasons why we struggle with creativity.”
Of course, reason rarely has anything to do with it.