Monthly Archives: September 2007

“Build a team you shall, young Skywalker.”

Want a team-building activity for an afternoon that "only" costs $500?  Got a few geeks in your office?  Have I got an idea for you:  the LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon.  Check out this post, and make sure to watch the YouTube video of seven people putting one together in just over two hours. 

And if anyone wants to get me something cool for Christmas…

20 Slides. 20 Seconds Each. Pecha-Kucha

How would your next presentation go if you only had twenty slides and could show each one for “only” twenty seconds (for a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds?  A format embracing these very constraints is called Pecha Kucha, and was started by two architects in Tokyo as part of a designers’ show and tell.  It seems like a natural fit for an Idea Market, as a replacement for a panel presentation, or any time a lot of presenters have something to say.

I’m doing a very short speech (nine minutes) on innovation in two days, and am going to give this presentation format a try.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, check out several examples on You Tube, or this recent Wired magazine article.  If you are in the St. Louis area and want to have a Pecha Kucha night, let me know.

Idea Market in the News

I’ve written about my Idea Markets here before.  Here’s an article from the local Suburban Journal that talks about one I did for the International Association of Business Communicators.

The Mobile Lawyer 2.0

It has been a long while since I’ve been so WOW’d by a business model as I’ve been this morning.  Simply put, this is the BEST template I’ve seen for building a home-based practice from, of all people, a physician.  Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD is building a web-based medical practice.  From his website:

  • I strictly make house calls either at your home or work. 
  • Once you become my patient and I’ve personally met you, we can also e-visit by video chat, IM and email for certain problems and follow-ups.
  • I’m based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  My fees are very reasonable.
  • I’m extremely accessible.  Contact me by phone, email, IM, text, or video chat.  Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM.  24/7 for emergencies.
  • I specialize in young adults age 18 to 40 without traditional health insurance.
  • When you need more than I provide, I make sure you wisely spend your money and pay the lowest price for the highest quality.
  • I’ve gathered costs for NYC specialists, medications, x-rays, MRIs, ER visits, blood tests, etc…just like a Google price search.
  • I mix the service of an old-time, small town doctor with the latest technology to keep you and your bank account healthyl

How much for this service?  According to the "How it Works" on his site, his fee is "far less than your yearly coffee budget but a little more than your Netflix."  His web site also provides "Real Life Examples" that describe, in plain English, how you’d use his service.  Oh, and he’s blogging, too.

Lawyers, if you are looking for a real dose of inspiration (or a glimpse to the future of mobile practice) you HAVE to check this Parkinson’s site and business model.  Simply brilliant.  Great idea, great web site, amazing copy.  If I were still practicing, I’d steal it in a heartbeat.  Look at it now.

Via: Zoli’s Blog.

Travel Tip: Wakerupper

If you are on the road a lot and have grown tired of trusting your hotel’s wake up call, check out Wakerupper.  It is a free service that will call your phone at a pre-determined time and read you the message you asked it to.  Thanks, Lifehacker.

To Make More Money, Charge More Money

Reluctant to raise your fees, check out this article from on how to raise prices while keeping customers.  Worth a read.  Here’s a taste:

Many business owners assume that any price increase will drive customers away. But consultants who work with small companies say they often under-estimate their pricing power. Those owners know their costs are rising but sometimes forget that fuel prices are soaring worldwide and that workers are demanding higher wages even in China, India, and other developing countries. Many small U.S. manufacturers, in particular, become so focused on price competition with larger rivals or foreign ones that they don’t appreciate the value of the added quality they offer, their fast and reliable delivery, or other superior services they provide – or could provide – to justify higher bills.

Hat tip to Barry Moltz.

The Five Most Dangerous Words in Business

The five most dangerous words in business, according to Warren Buffett, are:

Everybody else is doing it.

Lose Your Receptionst’s Desk?

Via Brand Autopsy comes a pointer to the Building Better Restaurants Blog’s Top Ten Reasons to Take a Sledgehammer to Your Host Stand.  I think a lot of these are also good reasons to rethink/redesign/remove your receptionist’s desk:

  1. It accumulates clutter that is an eyesore.
  2. It does not have any functional utility for the guest.
  3. It allows staff to “hide” from the guest.
  4. It forces the guest to come to you, and not the other way around.
  5. It becomes a hub for business other than the business of the guest.
  6. It becomes a leaning tool and not a Hosting [verb] tool.
  7. It will force you to talk to your guests and actually “Host” [verb] the guest experience.
  8. It will force more physical contact with the guest and thereby a more meaningful greeting.
  9. It will allow the guest to take in the whole “show” as they enter and immediately be caught up in the experience more.
  10. Because you don’t have one at your house when you host people there!

Justify that Messy Desk

From an 2002 New Yorker Essay from Edward Tufte

Paper enables a certain kind of thinking. Picture, for instance, the top of your desk. Chances are that you have a keyboard and a computer screen off to one side, and a clear space roughly eighteen inches square in front of your chair. What covers the rest of the desktop is probably piles—piles of papers, journals, magazines, binders, postcards, videotapes, and all the other artifacts of the knowledge economy. The piles look like a mess, but they aren’t. When a group at Apple Computer studied piling behavior several years ago, they found that even the most disorderly piles usually make perfect sense to the piler, and that office workers could hold forth in great detail about the precise history and meaning of their piles. The pile closest to the cleared, eighteen-inch-square working area, for example, generally represents the most urgent business, and within that pile the most important document of all is likely to be at the top. Piles are living, breathing archives. Over time, they get broken down and resorted, sometimes chronologically and sometimes thematically and sometimes chronologically and thematically; clues about certain documents may be physically embedded in the file by, say, stacking a certain piece of paper at an angle or inserting dividers into the stack.

But why do we pile documents instead of filing them? Because piles represent the process of active, ongoing thinking. The psychologist Alison Kidd, whose research Sellen and Harper refer to extensively, argues that “knowledge workers” use the physical space of the desktop to hold “ideas which they cannot yet categorize or even decide how they might use.” The messy desk is not necessarily a sign of disorganization. It may be a sign of complexity: those who deal with many unresolved ideas simultaneously cannot sort and file the papers on their desks, because they haven’t yet sorted and filed the ideas in their head. Kidd writes that many of the people she talked to use the papers on their desks as contextual cues to “recover a complex set of threads without difficulty and delay” when they come in on a Monday morning, or after their work has been interrupted by a phone call. What we see when we look at the piles on our desks is, in a sense, the contents of our brains.

Ah, now I know the piles are there for a perfectly good reason.  Thanks to Stephen O’Flynn for the tip.

Personal Technology Challenge: 10 Things

I really liked this post in Zen Habits titled The 100 Things Challenge.  The essence is that you cut your personal possessions down to 100 things.  Things that are shared, non-personal stuff, books, and tools don’t count.  It got me wondering about our personal technology burden.  How many different programs, web applications, tools, toys and gadgets do we accumulate?  How many of those do we use everyday? 

I’m going to cut my tech burden down to ten items for the next 30 days.  This includes hardware, software and web apps.  Here’s my initial list:

  1. MacBook Pro
  2. iPod
  3. Treo
  4. Google Reader
  5. GMail
  6. Google Notebook
  7. Entourage
  8. MindManager
  9. Keynote/Pages
  10. ScanR

What’s on yours?

Dis[is the]place to be Creative

My friend Scott Ginsberg has another great post on building your own creative environment.  The best tip:

Make a list of five alternate environments for your creative success. Perhaps your art is more conducive to the park, the bus station or sitting in a public square. If so, great! Experiment by displacing yourself regularly.

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a few options, visit them regularly. Learn to incorporate various components of creative stimulation into your “portable creative environment.”

That way you can thrive anywhere!

As someone who has been on the road a lot lately, I’m going to give it a try.

Youth Plus Inexperience Equal Success

I ran across a paper published by my friend Betha L. Whitlow, the director of the Visual Resources Collection at Washington University, titled "The Shock of the New: Using Youth and Inexperience as Tools for Success."  In the paper (link to Word document), Betha argues that newcomers to her field of Visual Resources should view their youth and inexperience as distinct advantages to be leveraged, not handicaps to be overcome: 

[Because] there are still many people at your institution who are unable to let go of the previous culture, thus limiting their ability to move forward and offer your institution a new and highly productive perspective … [i]t is my belief that by the very nature of being a [young] Visual Resources professional, you are uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of changes in the culture of your institution. With just a little bit of a brave and diplomatic push forward, [you] can embody the new role of the resource provider, promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning, be the model of the flexible professional, and tread the fine line between providing access to solid yet technologically innovative resources.

Young professionals, take this advice to heart.  There are plenty of things you don’t know, and even more things you’ll never know.  Get used to it.  Use your ignorance to your benefit.  The most significant advantage you possess over those who’ve come before you is that you don’t believe what they do.  Because you’ve never "always done it that way," you’re free to do it differently.  Question the business model.  Deliver products (yes, products) and services your elders would never consider.  Embrace technology.  Innovate.  Revel in your inexperience.  You have but one opportunity to start from scratch.  Don’t waste it.

Back Home and Blogging (for now)

In the last six weeks, I’ve been to Minneapolis, Portland, Boston, Seattle and Anchorage.  Regular readers of this blog have noticed that I’m no longer a regular writer of it.  That’s going to change.  Though I’ve not been blogging a bunch, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation, community and group collaboration.  While I get my thoughts together, you might enjoy this profile of me in Law Practice Magazine.  Check it out.

Idea Market X

The tenth Idea Market takes place Monday.  We are going to be doing some cool things, including working on personal mission statements and learning how to give better presentations by using children’s books.  If you’d like to come, sign up here.