March 20, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom is an interview between me and Theo Androus where he asked me about the business model of my speaking business. We discussed the concepts of gamification and leverage and how they are important for creating a successful business (of any kind).
This recording was part of the “Voices of Experience” CD that is included with Speaker magazine – a magazine given to all members of the National Speakers Association (NSA). If you are a professional speaker (or want to be one), I strongly encourage you to check out NSA.
You have two ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
March 10, 2011
[This article originally appeared on the American Express Open Forum]
A large portion of my business is public speaking. And I know many others who make their living the same way. But to be perfectly frank, companies are often wasting their money when they hire a speaker. I say this not because there aren’t many gifted men and women who can deliver an engaging presentation. The problem is with the customers, not the speakers.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “a cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” Using this definition, most buyers are cynics.
The truth of the matter is that your customers do not know what they truly need. And they certainly do not know how to define value.
This creates an opportunity for you to engage your buyers in new ways, generating more value for them… and greater wealth for you.
To test the hypothesis that my customers could not articulate what was valuable to them, several years ago I tried an experiment. I called it “PW3 – Pay What We’re Worth.”
As background, in determining the fees paid to a professional speaker, traditionally the speaker sets the rate before the work is done. With the PW3 experiment, I turned this model upside down. Instead of quoting a standard rate, the client would determine my fee after the work was done.
The plan was to send the client a blank invoice after I gave a speech, and they would pay “what I was worth.”
The only stipulation was that we would have a conversation about value up front. I wanted to learn the value they got from previous speakers. How were the concepts reinforced after the presentation? How were ideas implemented? How was value measured?
What I discovered was that Oscar Wilde was indeed right. Companies were unable to define value, at least in terms of tangible results. In fact, in nearly every situation, when I asked them how they would determine what to pay me after an event, they said, “Um, I guess we’ll pay you what we paid the last speaker.” In fact, with 90 percent of my speeches, the client asked me for my standard fee and just paid that.
How can you create exponential value for your customers? How can you in turn create greater wealth for your organization? Let’s first look at the way organizations tend to operate.
In my work, I have defined three levels of innovation:
Level 1: Innovation as an event
Level 2: Innovation as a process
Level 3: Innovation as a system
December 16, 2009
For those of you who asked, here is the video of my six minute speech at the TEDx NASA conference. Click the bottom right button on the video player to watch in full screen. Enjoy.
November 22, 2009
This past Friday I had 6 minutes to share a message about innovation with the world at TEDx NASA. It was a fantastic event with 29 speakers, authors, musicians, aerospace engineers, a neuroscientist and more. 1,700 people were in attendance and it is reported that nearly 100,000 people watched via video streaming on the internet.
Given that my typical speech is 45 minutes long, preparing a 6 minute presentation was a bit of a challenge and required me to script it out to make sure I did not go over my allotted time. Below is what I prepared. Within the next two weeks, I will be able to share the actual video footage – where I am sure I said something completely different.
TITLE: SOMETIMES EVEN ROCKET SCIENCE ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE
It’s not rocket science.
We hear people use that expression to describe something that’s not that complex. And although I would never suggest that aerospace challenges are simple, sometimes, even rocket science isn’t rocket science. What I mean by that is sometimes the most creative solutions to aerospace challenges can be found outside the realm of rocket science.
The issue is, you are experts. And your expertise might be the very thing that is preventing you from finding the most creative solutions.
Let me explain why with a simple example.
Think about a time when you lost your keys. After searching everywhere, upon finding them, what did you inevitably say to yourself? “Can you believe it? They were in the last place I looked!” Well of course, who finds something and continues to look for it?
The same thing is true when looking for a solution to a problem. Once your brain finds a solution, it stops looking. And the greater the level of your expertise, the quicker you find a solution. Unfortunately, your idea may not be new, innovative, or the best solution.
The key is to look outside your domain of expertise and to assume that someone else has already solved your problem. Because the odds are, someone HAS solved your problem. So, if you are working on an aerospace challenge, the solution may in fact not be rocket science.
Let me give you a few simple examples.
A high margin item for office supply companies is selling refilled toner cartridges. The challenge is however, very few customers return the used cartridge. During a brainstorming session designed to find creative solutions to this dilemma, I asked the question, “Who else has solved this problem? Who sends you something and is guaranteed that you will send it back?” The first response was the IRS. But the next response was NetFlix. They send you a DVD. You can keep it as long as you want. When you are done you return it and get another one. We investigated and implemented a NetFlix style subscription model for toner cartridges. This worked out great for the company, because they had a 100% return rate on empty cartridges. And customers love it because they never run out of toner and they get great discounts.
It’s not rocket science. Someone else solved this problem.
Or consider engineers who have been searching for better ways to locate and seal cracks in gas pipelines. This is a pressing issue for the industry. Then, one day, while a Scottish engineer was working on this issue, he got a paper cut. Unlike most people who would be annoyed, he was thrilled. What he realized is that his finger is like a cracked gas pipeline. By making a connection between capillaries and a pipeline, he was able to quickly develop an inert coagulation ingredient that would seals these cracks.
The solution wasn’t rocket science. Someone else, in this case the human body, had already solved this problem.
Or consider a snack food manufacturer that wanted to find a way of reducing the amount of fat in their potato chips. The best solution wasn’t found in their laboratory. In fact, the solution wasn’t found in any laboratory. The person who discovered the best solution had no experience with food production. He was a musician. He knew that sound vibrations travel through solid objects and that if an object is light enough it, too, will vibrate. The solution was to place speakers above the conveyor belt and use loud music to literally shake the fat out of chips.
Clearly, this was not rocket science.
Quite often the most creative solutions arise when you assume that someone else has already found a solution. When you look outside your domain of expertise.
Or, as Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc, once said, “Creativity is just having enough dots to connect… connect experiences and synthesize new things. The reason creative people are able to do that is that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
When you become masterful at connecting dots you find new and creative solutions.
That’s the wonderful thing about this conference. They could have put 20 aerospace engineers on the stage. But instead they brought in artists, musicians, authors and neuroscientists. This is a chance for you to connect the dots. To learn from unrelated disciplines. If you have 100 aerospace engineers working on a challenge, the value of adding the 101st would be incremental. But adding a biologist, a neurologist, a nano-technologist, or a musician, may lead to a breakthrough.
[at this point I show a picture and tell a funny story…but you’ll have to wait for the video for that]
It is about making connections. It is about connecting the dots. It is about looking outside of your domain of expertise.
You are all experts. And you are admired for your deep understanding of complex technical issues. Having said that, sometimes, the key to creative thinking is to recognize the best solutions aren’t always rocket science.
May 14, 2009
How do you create products that sell themselves? That is what I will be speaking about at the National Speakers Association (NSA) national convention in Phoenix, AZ this summer.
As a way of promoting that event, I was interviewed by professional MC, Camille Valvo, for the “Voices of Experience.” This audio CD is sent to all members of the National Speakers Association.
Although this 8 minute interview (which you can listen to below) is targeted at professional speakers, the concepts apply to anyone in any industry. After discussing the innovation bell curve and its relevance to the speaking business, I talk about how to create…
- interactive products that can be used during a speech (mine is Personality Poker®) (link).
- books that help your clients quickly understand the breadth of your expertise (mine is “The Little Book of BIG Innovation Ideas”).
What is interesting is that these two products were created “by accident.”
Personality Poker® was originally developed as an innovation tool for me to use with my corporate clients and in my keynote speeches. Inevitably, participants at my events would ask where they could buy the poker cards and the accompanying instruction manual. Instruction manual? I never planned to write one because I never planned to sell the cards. However, I decided to give my customers what they wanted. The first version of the instruction manual was pretty rough but was available within a month. The current version took quite a bit longer. The next version will be available September 2010, but more on that another time.
“The Little Book of BIG Innovation Ideas” was originally conceived as pamphlet. It was going to be 25 tips condensed into a booklet small enough to fit in a jacket’s breast pocket. Each tip would be 3 sentences long. What I discovered was that I had a difficult time choosing only 25 tips. And I had a more difficult time limiting each tip to just a paragraph. The result would have been trite sound bites. But I liked the idea of cataloging my 20+ years of experience into a series of tips. So during my spare time, I continued to write my thoughts in a Word document. I eventually pulled together 75 tips, each between one and two pages in length. I never expected to turn the Word document into a salable product. But my clients loved the content and wanted to buy copies for the attendees of their events. So, once again, I decided to listen to my customers and to give them what they wanted. Interestingly, the current book cover was designed by one of my clients.
In just 9 months I have gone through 1,500 decks of poker cards (enough for 12,000 people), and over the past 18 months I have sold thousands of copies of the “Little Book.” Not bad for two accidental products.
The interview is not a sales pitch. We do not focus on the products, but rather the thought process I went through in developing them. The purpose is to help people think differently about their products…and to help promote the NSA convention.
Stream the interview…
Download the mp3 (right click and “save target as” to download to your computer)