Think outside the box has come to symbolize the point in the conversation when people are going to think creatively. As if prior to that point everyone has been thinking inside the box.
Who brought the box to the meeting? Whose box is it? Do we each have our own box? Is my box different than yours?
What if we threw the box away? What if we never had the box in the first place?
Let's quit placing parameters on ourselves and embrace the concept that if you can think, then you can think creatively.
Open your mind to the possibilities and understand that you don't have to come up with a great idea, just come up with any idea. Ideas tend to breed other ideas. Once they start growing then you have the potential to develop one, or two, or three, that can be great.
Don't look for a "Eureka!" moment. Be on the lookout for the "Wow, that's interesting." moment.
As for the box, let it serve as a container of supplies, not ideas.
It's a conundrum for virtual schools. They know the word "free" will attract interest and bring in more leads. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you believe any lead is a good lead.
However, when virtual schools are losing 30-40% of their students each year, one has to wonder if the problem begins with the students being attracted to the school?
"Tuition-free" is a lead-capture phrase, and last time I checked all online public schools are "tuition-free" so I am not sure how that sets one apart from the others. It would be similar to the colas touting themselves as liquids.
However, virtual schools are stuck on features and benefits -- and "tuition-free" is one they just can't get away from because the word free supposedly drives leads.
The question then becomes, is it driving the right kind of lead? Do you want a student to enroll in your virtual school primarily because you are free?
It was four years ago and we had just landed as a family in Orlando, caught the Disney Magic Express, and headed straight to one of our favorite restaurants after checking in at our resort -- Whispering Canyon Cafe. If you have never been to this restaurant, I encourage you to try it out next time you are in Lake Buena Vista -- just be ready if you ask for ketchup.
All was going well, our kids were excited (it was the first trip for our youngest), and we were hungry. One item on the menu had caught my eye: Quinoa Cakes.
Now, keep in mind this was four years ago and quinoa had yet to be "discovered" as the superfood that it is today -- meaning, I had never seen the word before.
The server, dressed in his themed attire, took our orders, and when it was my turn, I proceeded to ask him, "Can you tell me more about the Quinoa Cakes?" -- the only problem, I pronounced it as "kwi noah" cakes.
Without missing a beat and sliding in the correct pronunciation (it is pronounced "keen-wa"), he simply replied, "The quinoa cakes are new to our menu but one of the best we have offered in a long time. They are especially great if you are going into the parks later this afternoon because you will not have a drop off in energy after eating them. So, I highly recommend them to you."
In other words, he corrected my pronunciation and at the same time made me "feel" ok about it.
As marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners, spend time thinking about how you make your customer feel each time you interact with them. Every time you have a "touch point" with your customer, do they come away feeling better about it? If not, you may be focused on the wrong thing.
It was fascinating to watch. No, not the fireworks display though that was our primary reason for being there among the thousands.
What was really fascinating to witness was the number of people who came up and asked my kids what they were hanging out in. You see, when we arrived for the holiday festivities, we did not bring lawn chairs, instead my kids brought their Eagle’s Nest Outfitters -- otherwise known as ENOs for those already in the tribe.
ENOs are basically hammocks on steroids, and the younger generation has claimed them as their own.
So, instead of sitting on the beach, our kids found trees to hang their ENOs, climbed up in them, and enjoyed the evening while several feet in the air.
What was fun though was to see the line of people stop, look, and ask our kids what they were. Clearly they looked like hammocks but everyone knew there was something different about these.
And, as each person asked, the story of the ENO spread. One-by-one they each asked them where they could get one like that. Kids wanted to swing in them, and each went away asking their parents if they could have one.
No marketing dollars were spent yet something remarkable was happening -- an experience was being shared. It was a reminder to me that in order for a story to be shared, it first must be worth sharing.
Spend your time building a product, a service, a school, a business that is worth talking about, worth sharing. Then, build a marketing plan that shares the story already being told to those who want to hear it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mexico, Chile, and many other countries have found themselves in unfamiliar territory during this World Cup. They took leads on teams they were not supposed to beat. Then, they each forgot what it took to get that lead, and they began to play "not to lose." The aggressiveness went away. The daring went away. The calculated risk taking went away. Instead, they focused on running out the clock.
The end result: the very outcome they tried to avoid became a reality and they have all gone home after losing their games.
It's funny how businesses tend to follow a similar pattern. Start-ups are aggressive, edgy, willing to risk, and willing to try something different. Then, they find a measure of success and fear of loss sets in, and they begin playing not to lose.
The problem? They miss out on the opportunities in front of them -- the ones they were willing to take on, the ones that brought them the first measure of success.
Success can be paralyzing. Take time to determine if you are playing to win, or playing not to lose. Your next opportunity may be passing you by right now.
If you had told me just a few weeks ago that Spain, Italy, Portugal and England would be out of the World Cup while Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States would advance to the knockout round, I would have simply smiled and wondered to myself if the elevator went to the top floor for you.
And yet here we are with that scenario in place. Again, the prognosticators will look back and tell us the reason why this all happened but you will not be able to find any "expert" that predicted this ahead of time.
I am sure there are lessons here for us entrepreneurs, marketers, and others. However, for today, just celebrate what is.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of all today is that sometimes a loss can be a win.