Archive for the ‘Innovation / Creativity’ Category

Biggest and Smallest Ads

I thought it was interesting to read about Arby’s setting two new Guinness World Records to promote switch to Coke:

I hadn’t seen the ads (since I don’t live in New York or Nebraska) but now I’ve read an article and watched a video all about it and I’m sharing it no my blog and through social media.  So, I guess I’m helping give Arby’s and Coca-Cola free advertising.  Yet I’m okay with that because I think it’s clever.


Innovation as a job

As you may (or may not) know, I’ve been one of the Innovation (Design Thinking) coaches for McClatchy the past couple of years. I’m stepping away from that although still on call if they need me. In particular, I told them to let me know if they need me to sit in on a Design Review, have research needs or have a project in the Kansas City area.  Also, I’ve told them I’m available to help out at this fall’s Innovation Academy in Boise, Idaho.

Meanwhile, they’ve added a couple full-time members to the team, a couple new coaches (that are doing this on top of their day jobs, like I did the last couple years) and now, they’re looking for an intern.  So, if you know any college students looking for internships in Raleigh, these links are both about an internship with McClatchy’s innovation team:

Plus, they’re going to actually be looking for research assistance (possibly hiring a Research Analyst for their team next year) so let me know if you have good leads for them, especially in the Raleigh market.

Highlight of D.C. was in a classroom

I’ve been attending the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) mediaXchange this week in Washington, D.C.

It’s been a great conference and I always enjoy seeing colleagues from throughout the industry.   I’ve been fortunate to hear lots of great speakers including Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron (whom many will now associate with the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight“) as well as several interesting companies such as Blendle, American Press Institute, Stringr, and this little startup named Google that you might have heard about.

However, the highlight of the week was not actually at the conference but instead it was in a classroom a few blocks away.  On Monday evening, I met my friend & McClatchy co-worker Julie Moos for dinner.  Julie and I met in early 2015 when we were being trained by the Stanford on Design Thinking.

After dinner, I joined Julie as she taught her graduate class at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.  Once there, I got to share some about the sessions at NAA mediaXchange, hear from the students about their background and interests, and be interviewed by Julie about my career. Then, after Julie gave them a refresher on Design Thinking, it was time for them to enter the Testing Phase and I got to provide them with feedback.

It was nice to see these student journalists at work and to hopefully help guide them to continue to seek feedback, fail fast and come up with the next big thing. For an early look at what they’ve been up to, please visit their projects:

Thanks and enjoy Washington D.C. through the work of these journalists!

Make your partner look good

Recently, I was in Fort Worth for a Design Thinking project and as part of a warm-up exercise for the 2-day project, we visited 4-Day Weekend Improv Comedy.  One of the lessons we learned was that an essential key to success in Improv is to always focus on making your partner look good.  In Improv comedy, you don’t know where the routine’s going to go but you need to build off of your partner.  Another important part of this is using “Yes and …” rather than “No” or “Yes but …” which both shut sound momentum; this is also true in brainstorming, and was the basis for what we’d be doing the next couple days. So, given all of this, you want to make sure you give your partner material with which they can easily get creative.

About a week ago, my wife and I joined my daughter and her boyfriend in going to Knuckleheads in the West Bottoms.  On a Sunday afternoon, the bar had an interesting mix of people (from Bikers in leather jackets to a Hispanic grandma to … well, me who probably looked out of place in my Star Trek shirt) but everyone got along really well and it was Open Mike Night / Jam Session.  The Master of Ceremonies would call 3-4 people up at a time (always a singer and a guitar player but then throw in drums, keyboard, bass, harmonica, …) and the group would start jamming and would sound great together for 3 songs before the M.C. called up a new set of musicians.  I was amazed by how well these musicians sounded together when they’d never done so before.  However, it comes back to the theme of “Make your partner look good” because they didn’t just focus on being the star of the show but giving a lead-in with which the other musicians could have a chance in the spotlight.

So, improv and jam sessions are both a lot of fun but they also taught an important life lesson.  In work and play and really in all relationships, it’s important to make your partner look good.

On Friday, The Kansas City Star said farewell to Randy Lane who retired after 38 years.  In his remarks at the ceremony where we said goodbye and thanked him for his service, he thanked everyone for making him look good for nearly 4 decades and that’s sense of gratitude and putting others first is an important part of why we’re going to miss him so much.

Tomorrow is September 1st which means today is my final day as Youth Director at Avondale United Methodist, a role in which I’ve served since January 2001.  I’d urge those that take the lead to remember that their role is to help the youth to create relationships with each other, the members of the church and most important Jesus Christ.  In order to do this, the leaders need to work to make others look good.  I know that my volunteers always made me look good and I tried to thank them for it but, more important, was to give the glory to God to help the youth form the most important relationship.

At home, it’s essential to remember the lesson of making your partner look good but I really like the way my Dad has phrased it to me before.  If a relationship is 50/50, you’re going to have problems because that’s when people keep score.  Both members of a couple need to aim to give 100% and if they each succeed, then everyone wins.  I adore my wife and appreciate how she has given me so much through the years and realize that I need to step up my game and truly relish the opportunity to spend more time with her.  And I have it easy if my role is to make her look good because she’s already awesome … but that doesn’t remove the challenge to do my best all of the time to help her.

My friend Vince’s personal brand statement is “Helping the best of the best get better” so I’m going to work at the same.

Incubator 1.0

Congratulations to all of those that participated in this month’s McClatchy Incubator 1.0. I was honored to be one of the coaches and look forward to seeing what’s next.

Here’s a video of David Kelley speaking about Creative Confidence, which is also the title of a book that we recommended to those participating in the Incubator.  Furthermore, I’m sharing a couple quotations from Solving Problems with Design Thinking, a book that Pat had recommended (back in January) to those of us on the Leadership team:

  • “we are often truly our worst enemies when it comes to implementing design thinking. The approach summons a host of demons: our impatience for ‘results,’ our discomfort with ambiguity and messiness, and our fear of stepping into the unknown.” (page 140)
  • “where you start is not where you should expect to end up. And that’s good news. You didn’t get it wrong – you learned. So many of our flawed solutions can be traced to having stuck with a limiting question. One of the most significant contributions of design is to help us live longer in the question. It is our willingness to revisit the question we asked at the outset that allows us to reframe the way we see the world and discover new possibilities.” (Solving Problems with Design Thinking, page 157)

This photo looks back at our gathering in January when we were first planning the Incubator:

Incubator Planning in 2015-01

And here we are last week, celebrating as we concluded McClatchy Incubator 1.0:

Celebrating as we conclude McClatchy Incubator 1.0

Finally, here are a couple photos of the team I coached this week:

OMO with Coach Mark Things are looking up for OMO

It was a great (but exhausting) experience.




Travelin’ Man

In most years, I might have one business trip in my Marketing Research role at The Kansas City Star.

However, last summer, we created the McClatchy Consumer Data Center (MCDC) which resulted in trips to Wichita and Lexington. The concept of MCDC came out of epathetic interviews with advertisers last summer as part of Design Thinking with the Stanford Design School.

Well, earlier this year, I learned that I’d been selected to participate in the next round of Design Thinking training and, furthermore, I would be one of 11 people serving as Smokejumpers, which essentially means that I’m coaching others on Design Thinking and figuring out how to fan the flames of creativity. I had the pleasure of working with a team of 4 in January and at the end of the week, they went on their way and I was given 2 new teams to work with. A note of clarification though … these were new only in my participation as a Smokejumper as both groups already existed. MEND University was spreading great ideas throughout McClatchy and I’m simply encouraging them to test those ideas with customers. The other team is MCDC and, as mentioned previously, I’m actually a member of the team. For MCDC, we’ve been striving to “Nail It Before We Scale It” as we are currently providing MCDC and Database Analysis projects in 8 markets.

This past week, I returned to Sacramento for another round of training as a Smokejumper.

Before I went to Sacramento, I made a stop in Nashville for the NAA mediaXchange and got to see several friends and colleagues, including fellow researchers Pauline (Tampa / St. Pete, Florida) and Nikhil (Columbus, Ohio … go Buckeyes!) as well as vendors from Scarborough, Second Street, AdMall, Nielsen, Media Monitors, Mather Economics and RAM. Sunday featured the Audience Symposium while the highlights for Monday were sessions about Millennials and a session on how to Market to People Not Like Me, which includes but is not limited to Millennials. Then, I raced to the airport to jump on my next flight (to Sacramento) meeting with colleagues from McClatchy and the d School.

One of the surprises of the time in Sacramento was getting to present to McClatchy’s board of directors. Oddly, presenting to them really didn’t faze me … yet I struggled with the introductions/small talk beforehand as I couldn’t manage to say much more than providing them with my name and newspaper. In addition to our training as Smokejumpers, we also got to learn about teaching others by immersion as we had 3 unique experiences and then debriefed on the skills of the teachers: Tai Cooking & Making Mixed Drinks, Rockclimbing, and finally Yoga. Those that know me would probably be shocked to hear about me doing ANY of those, let alone all in one week.

Now that I’ve completed my week in Sacramento, I will be preparing to hand MEND & MCDC back to the teams so I can work with other teams as a Smokejumper. Of course, I’m still a member of MCDC and will return to Lexington for another round of training in early April. Plus, it remains to be seen what other business trips will be in my future. Somewhere in there will be McClatchy’s Incubator (probably in Raleigh) and perhaps some trips to jump into another team or 2 or 3 or …

Of course, I’m also going to squeeze in a few trips unrelated to my job with The Kansas City Star and McClatchy. This weekend, I’m taking my church youth group to Young Christians Weekend at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Then, in July I’ll be taking them to Arkansas to visit Heifer International’s headquarters and Clinton Presidential Museum next door. But before that, I’ll be spending 4th of July in Georgia as I’m taking my parents to the Whitaker family reunion and a belated celebration of my Aunt Sara’s 80th birthday.

Happy Trails!
Mark Whitaker

P.S. After a week of traveling, I’ve spent the weekend in my recliner watching NCAA Basketball tournament; as I publish this, Wichita State leads Kansas by 3 (29-26) at halftime.