1: What's the Difference?
I was reading in Fast Company magazine that Jim Collins (author of "Good to Great" back in 2001) applied his methods of analysis to finding out what makes some schools great and some not so good.
What's interesting is that this analytical approach boils down to one simple question: what's different about the schools getting good results?
In fact, the question is so simple that we often overlook its power. One way to use it is to compare someone or something that's effective with someone or something that's less effective. Another is to look at our own performance and figure out what's different about the times when we do something better than usual, compared to when we don't do it as well as usual. In other words, we can either copy someone else, or we can copy ourselves in our more effective moments.
ACTION: Consider one arena in which you'd like to be more effective. If you can find someone who does this better than you, can you figure out what they're doing differently and start to do that yourself? Alternatively, can you figure out what you do differently when you're better at it than when you are worse, and begin to do more of the that?
2: Try Looking Back
In his book, "Idea Spotting," Sam Harrison suggests that one of the strategies for coming up with new ideas is to look to the past for inspiration. He cites the example of a group of architects that used themes and patterns from New York's old garment district when designing an award-winning restaurant.
For another restaurant, they drew on the look of 1930's municipal buildings, featuring restroom doors with mail slots and menus made from government forms. As the song goes, "Everything old is new again," and sometimes it's more useful to harvest the past than to try to stay ahead of the latest trend.
ACTION: In your arena of interest, what are some now-forgotten products, designs, or ideas that you might be able to revive in a new form?
3: Napping vs. Meditation: Which One Wins?
You may have seen the results of a recent study from the University of Kentucky that found that meditation is more effective at boosting daytime alertness than having a nap. The problem is that the period of time they used was 40 minutes, and it's well known that if you nap for more than 15 or 20 minutes, you go into the deep part of a sleep cycle that lasts 90 minutes. If you wake up halfway through the sleep cycle, you'll feel groggy.
Meditation is great, but based on this study, the napping vs. meditation contest is still up in the air.
ACTION: If your energy is flagging, try a nap but keep it to 15 to 20 minutes.
4: Go On, You Know You Want To!
Columbia University researchers have found that the older people get, the more they regret not having yielded to temptation in order to have more fun earlier in life. The researcher, Ran Kivetz, said, "Although in the short run, vice is regretted more than virtue, in the long run virtue is regretted more." His advice: live for today!
ACTION: What temptation are you avoiding at the moment? Think ahead to when you're old. Do you think you might regret passing this up? (Disclaimer: The Brainstorm e-bulletin is not legally responsible for encouraging actions that may lead to obesity, divorce, or loss of limb or life.)
5: Can You Make Your Mark?
As described in a recent issue of Entrepreneur magazine, Brad Oberwager found one of the few things that had not yet been turned into a brand: watermelons.
He doesn't grow them (he leaves that up to the over 1,000 people who do) but he is offering them discounts on the stickers retailers require on produce. The stickers have the brand name "Sandia" on them - which is the name of his juice company, which makes a line of watermelon-based juices. The growers get cheap stickers, Oberwager gets name recognition for his products.
The principle: can you put your name on things that others are already distributing or willing to distribute for you for no cost?
My version of putting this principle into action was to print up 10,000 "Writer's First-Aid Cards" which offer useful suggestions for ten things to do when you're stuck. They also happen to have my web site address on them. So far, 5,000 have been distributed at writing conferences in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.
ACTION: If there is something you'd like to publicize, can you think of a way to apply this principle? Who is already reaching the people you'd like to reach? What can you offer them?
6: And a Quote to Think About
"The only question in life is whether or not you are going to answer a hearty 'YES!' to your adventure." Joseph Campbell