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Cary, North Carolina
Highlights from “Generating Ideas That Stick” Creative professionals are acutely aware of the ongoing need to develop good ideas and communicate these ideas in compelling ways. However, it takes more than good ideas to achieve maximum business success. Creative teams must do their best to generate “ideas that stick,” which means ideas that “are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact” to change the thoughts and behavior of the people who are the focus of one’s attention. “Good ideas outnumber ideas that stick,” according to Dan Heath, co-author of a book published in 2007 entitled Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others DieMade to Stick and a consultant at Duke Corporate Education Duke based in Raleigh, North Carolina. His expertise includes helping corporate clients address real-life challenges by providing customized executive education. Dan Heath was the featured speaker for a half-day InSource event held on Thursday, June 21, 2007, at SAS Worldwide Corporate Headquarters in Cary, North Carolina. His lively presentation explored some of the reasons (including fear, greed and lack of empathy) why people have good ideas that don’t stick, described the 6 principles of “sticky ideas” (namely, “simple unexpected concrete credible emotional stories”) and offered practical insights that in-house creative managers and their teams can use to generate and champion well-constructed ideas in the corporate environment. Describing himself as an “idea researcher,” Dan started his remarks by sharing some of his observations in analyzing how individuals looking for their soul mates (“a high stakes pursuit”) describe their very essence with one-line “teasers” posted on an online catalog for singles. More effective than the blatantly ambiguous “Hey…” or “Looking for love!” are the more detailed descriptions, such as “Hand model turned doctor new to New York City” or “Athletic math nerd looking for someone to hum the Seinfeld introduction with.” In other words, when individuals narrow their focus and reveal more about themselves, the more they are able to distinguish themselves. Applying the principle of concreteness (defined as allowing one to create a mental picture) is often missing in the way some businesses describe themselves. Consider this advertisement for a local construction firm: “Building is a series of communications, interactions and collaborations with a focus on creating the kind of synergy that produces extraordinary results.” Is this an idea that sticks? No. It’s pictureless and ambiguous enough to describe almost any business…in a way that will not “be understood, remembered, and have a lasting impact.” “Fear keeps us from being concrete…because we don’t want to take the risk that people may refute or reject our message. That’s why we often resort to buzzwords,” Dan said. To illustrate how creative managers can inspire their teams to move beyond the temptation of “greed” to overload target audiences with too much information, Dan led a group exercise to practice making a high concept pitch, as done in Hollywood circles. For example, the movie, Alien, can be described as “Jaws on a spaceship,” and the movie, Speed, can be described as “Die Hard on a bus.” Merging two concepts can help people quickly absorb an idea and make it stick. For this exercise, one person named a movie and another person named a form of transportation. Based on these two suggestions, individuals were able to generate interesting plot lines on the spot. Examples: “Hitch on a bicycle” was imagined as a bicycle delivery person having personal interactions with people and solving their problems, and “Moby Dick walking” was imagined as a global warming story starring a beached whale, as a sort of cross between An Inconvenient Truth and Free Willy. The strategy: Put an anchor down (based on what others already know) and then pivot to another idea. This approach allows for easy visualization of a new concept. A classic example: the phrase, “horseless carriage,” was used in 1910 to describe the new invention of motorized cars; “carriage” was the anchor and then pivot to “horseless.” A word of caution was given to beware of the dangers relating to The Curse of Knowledge. “The more we learn, two things happen,” said Dan. “The first is that we become more valuable; that’s a good thing. But the second thing is that the mental distance widens with those with whom we need to communicate. This leads to assumptions and jargon, making it impossible to imagine what others think as beginners who have not acquired the knowledge we have. The way to avoid this villain is to translate ideas in terms that others can understand and remember.” This presentation by Dan Heath stimulated candid discussions among creative professionals attending this event. People were seeking advice on how to deal with others who do not embrace an idea as a great idea (“you can only control the communication of the idea; let them assess what you have in your brain and leave aside what you can’t control”); how to influence people to choose the sticky idea versus the inferior idea (“set up an experiment with 10 people to test the impact of idea A versus idea B; 1 week later, the sticky idea will be the one that is remembered”); and how to build consensus when the first reaction is “we can never use this idea” (“take a step back and articulate the definition of success; when agreement is reached on defining success, suggest a test of the ideas and move beyond the ‘my opinion versus your opinion’ approach”). It was noted that all 6 attributes of “stickiness” are not required to be characterized as a sticky idea, but “the more, the merrier,” recognizing that a natural tension exists between “unexpected” and “credible” when overdone. Special attention was given to the pitfalls of implementing business-to-business marketing materials without adequate attention to emotions and “tapping into things that make people care.” For example, the Case Study can be a useful tool for articulation of the facts, but “a real Case Study has pain (for example, internal inertia and resistance) in it.” Make the Case Study more real by using the approach of “Despite all these obstacles, it worked…” Following the remarks by Dan Heath, Dennis Massengill, Executive Director of Corporate Creative at SAS, provided an overview of the work of SAS, including a description of some of its best practices and lessons learned in managing the corporate creative process. Applying the principles described in Made to Stick in his presentation style, Dennis began by telling a memorable story rich in details, making an analogy between elements of the popular PBS television program called “Antiques Roadshow” and the work of SAS. “Our software company is a highly creative process,” said Dennis, who notes that SAS now has $1.9 billion in revenue and employs 10,115 employees around the world. “We put the call out and offer an appraisal of the value in your information structures and data. We find value hidden in your data, which people may have no idea about what it’s worth. Our heavy-duty analytics gives value to your data.” Guided by extensive research on companies that use data to make decisions about their business and how to compete with others, SAS has been successful in reaching out to businesses via Hospitality Suites at relevant tradeshows and e-mail blasts, offering relevant information tools, articles, an award-winning e-mail blast and driving people to their quarterly online magazine SAS News. Dennis discussed the challenges of creating a global marketing program that will work for numerous separate business entities within SAS, including the need for consistent messaging, assets, translations and a Global Advertising Plan. He described the development of 4 Communications Briefs for marketing. Each was painstakingly crafted to fit onto a single 2-sided piece of paper, yet still provide clearly stated guidelines for customer management, information management, performance management and risk management. “Consistency, consistency, consistency” is the mantra for Corporate Creative at SAS, according to Dennis. He offers 4 maxims that have been useful in his work within SAS to help keep people focused: “1. Simple = good; 2. Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant; 3. Do what works – and what works in one setting could be very different from what works in another; and 4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Of special note to creative professionals is the creation of the “You Can” advertising campaign. This newly launched campaign is designed to grab attention and drive target audiences to the SAS Website, as well as generate brand awareness in the marketplace using a fun, edgy format (through brief copy in ads, images that have global appeal, and simplistic design/copy that allows SAS to make a ‘splash’). The results: visit SAS for a sampling of this creative approach. Everyone who attended this InSource event was invited to be part of an optional SAS campus tour, which included a behind-the-scenes look of the SAS Video and New Media offices and studios, the SAS Print Center, the SAS in-house artists’ studios and Scenic Operations workshop and the SAS art collection, one of the largest corporate collections in the United States. Special thanks to SAS SAS, Aquent Aquent, Jupiterimages Jupiter Images, and Xerox Xerox, for providing sponsorship support for this InSource event.

April 2007 Driving Innovation Through Design

Madison, NJ
Question: What is the number one challenge of in-house creative professionals in the corporate setting, according to a recent survey of peers? Answer: “Staying fresh and innovative.”   Innovation was the focus of an in-depth discussion for the InSource community by panelists James Barrood, Gordon Kaye, and Bob Wagner. Sheree Clark served as facilitator throughout the half-day event held at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, on Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Highlights from “Driving Innovation Through Design”Innovation is the driving force for business success among creative managers in the corporate setting, according to a panel of speakers who were the catalysts for lively discussions among participants at an InSource event for in-house creative professionals. This event was held on Tuesday, April 3, 2007, at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s College at Florham Campus in Madison, New Jersey. James Barrood (Executive Director of the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies at FDU’s Silberman College of Business), Gordon Kaye (Publisher/Editor of Graphic Design USA, a monthly news magazine for creative professionals) and Bob Wagner (Vice President of Creative Services Business and Premier Partners at the Xerox Corporation) offered their insights on what creative professionals can do in promoting innovative thinking in the workplace and how to position design teams as part of the process of innovation within an organization. Sheree Clark (Creative Consultant and Managing Partner of Sayles Graphic Design) served as facilitator throughout the half-day event to help keep everyone focused on the practical implications for in-house creative managers and their teams. Insights from an Academic PerspectiveThomas Edison was described as “a great businessman, collaborator, and inventor” during the prepared remarks by James Barrood. Identified as the inventor of the light bulb, his better invention was that of the power station and the metering system. Edison did not actually invent the light bulb, rather he competed with over 20 other inventors in developing a better light bulb. He also filed over 1000 patents, of which only 1% were successful. Learning from failure was his methodology. His impetus was to make money; creating demand for his vision for electricity was a driving force. He became a millionaire before the age of 40. “Innovation is more than a buzzword,” declared James, who prefers the 1971 textbook definition of innovation as useful invention. “Innovation is critical for success.”James provided a diagram of the innovation process, highlighting the need for creating a learning environment in the workplace. He elaborated on the concepts of “sustaining as well as disruptive innovation” (which leads to creating new markets or reshaping existing markets) developed by Clayton Christensen and “open innovation” (which embraces external ideas as well as internal ideas) brought forward by Henry Chesbrough. These kinds of innovation can be regarded as useful paradigms to better understand this important topic. “Partnerships are the key,” added James, who described various types of innovation in terms of finance, process, offerings, and delivery according to the work of Jay Doblin. He maintained, “We need to work with smart people inside and outside of the company, leveraging design expertise as an important part of innovation.”James offered the following suggestions to help creative professionals add more value and increase the relevancy of design in the workplace:• Take the initiative to understand innovation efforts in your company, differentiating spin from substance and identifying who are the movers in this area.• Educate yourself and your team on innovation.• Network with others and become an opportunity seeker/idea screener.• Become part of any innovation teams/new ventures in your company.• Offer to research new ideas and markets.• Develop an understanding of the marketplace, including changing dynamics/paradigms in your industry.• Bring new ideas to the table, including ones that imitate and modify the good ideas of others. James pointed out that Edison had more than 100 partnerships in his day. Collaboration remains a powerful tool today. A modern-day example of this is Steve Jobs, who has a reputation for bringing ideas together. Visit FDU for online innovation lectures by Christensen and Chesbrough and more information about the work of the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies.Insights from Peers in the Design Industry“Staying fresh, innovative and informed of cutting-edge developments is considered a major challenge among creative professionals,” said Gordon Kaye, who shared some of his candid perceptions working as a lawyer at NBC (including serving as an attorney for Saturday Night Live!). “The current practices to deal with this challenge are somewhat predictable, heavily constrained by time, budget and imagination, and rarely systematic.”Now working in a leadership role with GD:USA , Gordon makes it his business to find out what creative professionals in the design industry are thinking and feeling these days. He reported on the results of recent GD:USA surveys, noting that “Staying Fresh and Innovative emerged as the number one challenge, once all our reader surveys were tabulated,” said Gordon. “Staying on the Cutting Edge of Technology finished high as well.” Other survey findings include the following: • The biggest challenges unique to working in a corporate setting are justification of existence and value; marketing capabilities to management; staying fresh and innovative in creativity and design trends; hiring, rewarding, training, and retaining quality-driven people; and staying informed about cutting-edge products, services, and technologies. • Although in-house designers confess that they are often discouraged by the limitations of time and resources for innovation in the corporate setting, they have identified the following ways to remain fresh, innovative and informed: > Read design media and surf the Web to see what others are doing.> Talk to vendors (especially printers and paper people). > Attend conferences whenever resources allow.> Break out of the routine with personal field trips (visits to museums or other places of art inspiration) or take the day off for fun.> Build systematic mechanisms to gain different perspectives (including interactions with designers at other affiliated business units and studying what other companies do with a similar project).> Enter design competitions (both internal and external).> Create two or three versions of each solution, with at least one that reflects “out-of-the-box” thinking that pushes the envelope.> Seek divine inspiration (prayer/meditation was named specifically).“The consensus among creative professionals is that staying fresh and innovative is an uphill battle,” added Gordon. “It’s about attitude,” he said, noting that the language used by designers includes such words as “patience,” “persistence,” “self-sufficiency” and “commitment to excellence,” with “sad,” “resigned” and “disheartened” also part of the mix. Gordon observes the need for designers to better connect with others. He acknowledges various interpersonal dynamics at work in the corporate setting, including the emergence of such factors as “familiarity breeds contempt” and “everyone thinks they can do design themselves or find others to do it cheaper and faster” as juxtaposed with various success stories where design earns its seat at the table. Insights from a Technology PerspectiveA self-described evangelist for digital printing, Bob Wagner made a presentation – using such tools of effective design as colorful illustrations and entertaining images – about this technological innovation developed in the marketplace. In addition to dispelling a wide range of urban legends in today’s world, Bob exposed some of the myths of digital printing (including “the image quality isn’t good enough”; “digital printing is too expensive”; “the available papers for digital printing are way too limited”; and “we don’t have the sophisticated data for variable information printing”). He also provided case studies that demonstrate his key points. “Digital printing is now ready for prime time,” declared Bob, who used such adjectives as “portfolio-grade,” “award-winning,” “client-pleasing,” “Madison Avenue-approved,” “totally relevant (not gratuitous),” “mainstream” and “response-generating” to describe this technological innovation. “Our numbers show that 72% of creatives are now buying digital printing,” added Bob.Insights from ParticipantsWith facilitation from Sheree Clark (Sayles Design), many insights were generated during the interactive portion of this InSource event, including the following key points:> Develop a learning culture in your workplace. “To gain the freedom to fail, it’s about showing you have value, you are an asset, and you fit in.”> Creative professionals stay viable when they share knowledge, serve the role of creative differentiator (“as creatives, we’re trained differently for aesthetics, but we also can judge creative in terms of whether it meets clearly stated business objectives”), and are viewed as people who “can lead the parade, rather than sweep up after the parade.” > Branch out beyond design competitions and submit your work for business awards. Such awards can help the design function become viewed as innovators.> Make your senior management look good and know it makes your creative team look good. > Adopt the language of the corporate mindset and learn how to talk about design work as a business person. Learn how to sell the work in such a way that others talk about how great your creative team is. > Measure results. Build metrics into creative briefs with specific outcomes. Partner with marketing people and others to add credibility. Be an advocate to show and measure value. > Resist the temptation for inwardly focused conversations (“creatives often are introverted”) and break out beyond your comfort zone, with a clear understanding that innovation needs to have a customer focus. > To be a leader be a reader. Find out what others are doing, as well as their goals and objectives. Develop an idea tank. Share information and resources relevant to your industry.> Develop strong and effective people skills. Build trusting and strong relationships with others. Help others understand how creative fits into the business picture. > Face any fears you have (such as fear of the blank page, fear of the worst scenario, fear of conflict, fear of displeasing others, fear of not meeting a deadline, fear of change and others), understand the root of these fears and overcome such fears.> Celebrate successes. Special thanks to Hatteras Press for providing lead sponsorship support for this InSource event, with additional sponsorship support from Mohawk Fine Papers   “_blank”>Jupiter Images and Aquent.


Madison, New Jersey
Jeni Herberger was the featured speaker for a half-day InSource event held on Thursday, November 16, 2006, at Wyeth headquarters in Madison, New Jersey. Her lively presentation offered practical advice on a wide range of business strategies for in-house creative professionals, including how to build an effective structure for success as a creative team, tactics for becoming a profit center and the logistics of developing useful tools such as profit-loss statements and efficiency measures  to increase the perceived value of in-house design services in the corporate environment. Highlights from “The Business of In-House Design” with Jeni Herberger It’s time to take charge and develop an action plan to “command respect” by “acting like a business worthy of respect,” according to Jeni Herberger, who is the head of Design Matters, a business consulting firm based in Kirkland, Washington, and the founder of Big Fish, a West Coast multi-million dollar staffing firm specializing in creative and marketing industries. Jeni Herberger was the featured speaker for a half-day InSource event held on Thursday, November 16, 2006, at Wyeth headquarters in Madison, New Jersey. Her lively presentation offered practical advice on a wide range of business strategies for in-house creative professionals, including how to build an effective structure for success as a creative team, tactics for becoming a profit center and the logistics of developing useful tools  such as profit-loss statements and efficiency measures  to increase the perceived value of in-house design services in the corporate environment. A good place to begin is to jot down “three things that you just can’t stand” about your work and “three things that you love” about your work. After listing these items, write the word “Liabilities” at the top of the first list and write the word “Assets” at the top of the second list. For managers of creative services, this simple exercise can start the process of “doing business better.” “As creatives, we should be better at business because we are taught to solve problems,” said Jeni, who reminds creative professionals that they have the capacity to be fabulous at thinking about the business side of design. “We live and breathe the words of Aristole: ?The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’ ” Communicating this “inward significance” and the value of in-house design requires adopting a certain vocabulary that resonates with others in the corporate environment. Such words as change (meaning “to alter”), growth (meaning “a gradual increase in strength”) and profit (meaning “to gain advantage; to make improvement”) are key terms for doing business better. “Change leads to growth, and growth leads to profit,” explained Jeni. Doing business better also requires a clear understanding of the basic building blocks of an effective design department. Visualizing these components as a pyramid, the foundation is based on a clearly articulated purpose (including a mission statement that describes what you do for your company and a strategic statement that describes how you use design to achieve your company’s business goals). Other components include taking inventory of specific capacities, establishing an organization where roles are clearly defined, specifying a process for workflow (including the development of advertised methods of working with the in-house design team) and developing a client list (to enable proactive, rather than reactionary, approaches). The top of the pyramid is determining goals of growth. “All of these building blocks must be in place before you set a goal,” declared Jeni. “Change is what actually needs to be altered, and growth is where you want to take each of these components. Determine what growth means to your department. Growth may be defined in terms of addressing staffing needs, managing projects, efficiency (eg, less employees doing more), expanded responsibilities, changing external perceptions of your team or developing a more creative environment. Select 1 goal at a time, not more than 1, and stay focused.” The following suggestions were made to help in-house creative professionals achieve their goals. Take an inward look at how your creative team is structured. Ask yourself if you have someone serving the role as creative director (leading, concepting), production manager (handling accounting, administration, and various “firewall/bulldog” functions), writer (creating content), artist (designing, producing) and technician (handling production details). Lack of a writer and a production technician are often signs of an in-house creative team that is not well-run. Take specific actions that enable your creative team to act more like a business. Examples include setting up a business space that demands respect, developing a financial plan, managing a self-defined business process for the work of your creative team and developing a business marketing plan for your design department. “Your design department needs to be a great place for clients as well as your creative team,” said Jeni. “Re-do your space” in such a way that it instantly commands respect, inspires creativity, and exudes confidence. One approach is to list your objectives for your business space, state a philosophy, get everyone involved, use colors that compliment the company’s brand and develop an action plan to make this happen. Developing a financial plan that includes a profit-loss statement and making a few simple calculations to determine specific efficiency measures for the in-house design function can help a creative team strive for profitability. This work involves assigning an hourly rate for billable hours; tracking billable hours to each project; recording and reporting earnings and costs; and working under a budget. [One tip: “Strive for 70% efficiency as a baseline for your calculations.”] Managing the business process includes internal documents for job requests (specifying the scope of the project, timeline, and the need to make change orders) and service policies (outlining methods of working). This information should be readily accessible to everyone in the company; posting it on an internal website is a good idea. “It’s about setting expectations, not education,” said Jeni. A marketing plan for in-house design can help creative teams “get the projects they want within the timeline they require.” Salesmanship and client relations are critical components. “Present your team as EXPERTS on the company, the products/services, the audience and the competitors,” Jeni advised. One approach is to adopt the following 8-step plan for achieving buy-in for growth as in-house creative teams: #1  Analyze your department. #2  Identify the key issues. #3  Categorize issues in terms of what needs to be changed and where the team can grow. #4  Determine 3 things you want to change. #5  Create a compelling case for change. #6  Offer a solution. #7  Determine 3 things you want to grow. #8  Create a plan for growth that includes measures and rewards. Remember these words of wisdom from Jeni Herberger: Respect is gained by doing, not by telling. Quit thinking they owe you work. Earn the work. Quit thinking they know what you can do. Show them. Quit thinking they know what you want to do. Spell it out for them. This presentation by Jeni Herberger stimulated candid discussions among creative professionals attending this event. People expressed their concerns about balancing workload and staffing needs (“it’s the age-old problem of knowing that cutbacks can result in losing good people” and “trying to understand efficiency will enable predictability”), how to convert from a budget system to a chargeback system (“simply start a separate internal system by asking your staff to record their work hours as billable, not billable or not in the workplace”) and the need for establishing promotional paths for in-house staff (“we as managers must mentor individuals to grow”). Group consensus was reached that honest assessments of the skills and growth potential of employees can save heartache and lead to realistic expectations (“we need to create an environment to thrive, not breed complacency”). More attention needs to be focused on changing perceptions about the value of in-house creative teams versus external agencies. The bottom line: Companies with fabulous brands are desirable environments for talented creative professionals. “When we stop being apologetic about in-house design and market our strengths (not our limitations), we will exude confidence and command respect.” Special thanks to Mohawk Fine Papers and Aquent for providing sponsorship support for this InSource event.
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