Survival of the Fittest?

Yellow Orchid

Not in my backyard

There is an ancient vine growing on a trellis in my backyard. Each spring, some runners reach up for the stream of water that runs along the gutter and each summer, I prune the vines off the roof. It occurred to me that for the sake of order, I was cutting the longest, strongest, and most adaptive stems, and although the plant survives, I’m discouraging the plants full potential and may be missing the best flowers.

Forbes asks: Are people too smart to be creative?
Companies can’t have too many captains and can’t have too many stray vines. Employees are encouraged to keep the status quo and stay aligned with company goals. How do you remain professional without sacrificing creativity? Understanding the mission, adhering to culture, dress, using proper language, grammar, being on time, and keeping to schedules all help your ideas to be accepted without sacrificing your creativity. Bounce ideas off trusted friends before making them public. Look for the formal or informal paths for innovation that allow for review and selection of new ideas worth implementing.

Understanding culture and paths for innovation allows you to climb the trellis and flower without being clipped. How do you create within an organization?


Best of the Best – Your Second Chance

Lion Dance Sheko

Lion Dance: King of the Jungle?

新年快乐! Kung hei fat choi! As China welcomes the year of the rabbit, westerners have a second chance to make a New Year’s resolution and may I suggest something of global proportions.

There is talk of countries using creativity to increase competitiveness through innovation. That’s fine for whole countries but what about us? Individuals are also starting to look around and realize they are not the only ones running the race.  What steps can we take to become personally more competitive?

Although globalization has fans and opponents, it’s nothing new and has been around since before the Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean or caravans traveled the Silk Road.  Today’s phenomenal growth in the East is partially the result of centrally planned capitalism, for example, China has thrived by looking at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) and using this to target industries to put their resources.

Year of the Rabbit (SWOT Analysis)



Cute, Fast, Soft



Poor Language Skills

Four Lucky Feet

Damages Gardens

Excellent Hearing

Owns Easter

Bugs Bunny Franchise



Silent Spokes-model



Wile E. Coyote


Competition from:


Dogs and Cats


Fur Coats

It’s no longer good enough to be the best rabbit on your block or your neighborhood, today; we must be the best in the world. What steps do you need to take to get in the top 1 percent of people within your skill set. We can start by asking what do like to do? What am I especially good at? Where do I add the most value?

List a few things by asking: What do I need to do to get on next year’s top ten list? How do I win the gold medal in cost accounting? What do I need to do to win the Oscar for most efficient software coding, or the daytime Emmy for most positive influence on children, or the people’s choice award for most caring of my patients, or the best supporting customer service rep? Think about what business you are really in – Apple is not in the computer business but information sharing.

Find the best teachers and first-class partners. Find the intersection between your chief skills and your collaborators unique abilities. If we happen to be the best auto mechanics and team up with a great farmer, maybe our competitive advantage comes from improving tractors.

Being the best in no longer about vanity or bragging rights, it’s about survival.  If you take steps to identity and refine your skills now: “You’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest,” as Dr. Seuss said.


Your Space and Time

Not yet sunset.

Not yet sunset.

Where do some of your best photographs come from? When traveling, after we arrive at our destination, everything is new and we capture our first impressions. After staying for a while, our perceptions deepen and we notice things we never would have on first glance.

After spending a week in Krabi, I learned the terrain and how to take advantage of local weather and lighting conditions. Even after a short time, our perception develops.

We prize child prodigies for their gift and honor young artists or writers for seeing things in a new way, but you can almost hear Rod Stewart singing: “I wish that I knew what I know now. When I was younger.” What if we approached subjects armed with a lifetime of experiences and a deep understanding of the world and human nature? Wouldn’t this give us more tools to be creative?

“The normal adult never bothers his head about spacetime problems. Everything that there is to be thought about, in his opinion, has already been done in early childhood. I, on the contrary, developed so slowly that I only began to wonder about space and time when I was already grown up. In consequence, I probed deeper into the problem than an ordinary child would have done” explained Albert Einstein.

Whether or not they started as tots, many creative people made their greatest contributions latter in life using  seasoned approach to produce profound innovations. Every time you look at the same painting or watch the same performance, you see it differently base on your accumulation of experiences. What long settled assumptions will you revisit with the eyes of experience?


New Fruit on an Old Tree



I read the news today oh boy; with much fanfare, the Beatles released the digital versions of their music on iTunes. This is big release for 40 years ago albums. While most music made it to the web a digital lifetime ago, the holdup was related to a long trademark dispute over the ownership of the apple with both the Beatles’ Apple Corp and Apple Computer each wanting a bite. The questions for us to consider are what makes: She Loves you, Yellow Submarine, and Help! endure? And are there  common elements that we can incorporate into what we make?

They were hot in the 60s and their upbeat and enjoyable harmonies, catchy lyrics with timeless messages are some of the reason why the Beatles remain relevant today. Some songs hold up because they remind us of yesterday, but most of these songs hold up because they still remind us of today.

Now that we’re comparing oranges to oranges, what factors have allowed Apple Computers to not only endure but to be getting so much better all the time. People fondly remember the old Macintosh but left unchanged, few would use an antique computer today. While some computer makers concentrated only on increasing processor speed, Apple stayed relevant and ahead of the competition by continuously innovating their products in ways that improve the user’s experiences. Constantly improving their own products, if something works, they don’t just let it be.

– how do you like those apples?


Too Much Pizza


Expanding pie

Do you remember hearing your teacher say “Eyes on your own paper” while taking a test?  Did your coach tell you “Don’t look” at your competitor during a sprint since it would slow you down?

Not looking around results in what I call the pizza parlor problem. It’s something you probably see all the time and goes like this: you look around town and realize that there is no place to get pizza. You calculate that the population can support this kind of restaurant, so you lay out some dough, develop a business plan, get the proper permits, lease a store, design a menu, and hire a staff all within a year. Then when you are ready to open, you notice that four others people had the same idea. The area has too much pizza and cannot support five restaurants so you are all in trouble.

In art class, your teacher said to walk around the room to see what everyone else is doing. Looking over your shoulder prevents replicating and is a way that good ideas are transferred. Painters, musicians and writers, are wise to seek out the best in their field who came and succeeded before them.  Looking can be a passive form of collaboration with some of the greatest minds and most talented people who ever lived where the best ideas can be borrowed and the best practices of others can be  incorporate with your own.  To be creative, start by  looking over the shoulders of giants.


RED: No longer banished

Much more important than red states or who controls congress. Cadmium reds and yellow are some of the most vibrant colors and can be mixed together to make a perfect Halloween pumpkins orange, but that’s not the scary part, they have a dark side too and along with many other careful artists, I have taken the step of banning them from my palette since they are highly toxic. Light fast colors keep the paintings from fading over time but I don’t want to fade either.

Recently, I found them on the recommended list for a painting class I was taking and decided I would not conform with the rest of the class. An artist who is non-conforming? yeah I guess that’s OK, but how else to capture the rosie flesh tones of the models?

I was ordering some supplies from Daniel Smith and noticed an innovation. They formulated a new series of Cadmium “Hues” and say they provide “the richness of classic cadmium colors without the toxicity of heavy metal pigments”. Well I ordered some and can’t wait to try them, but I probably still won’t fit in at class.


Not Just Cheese

According to The Economist World in Figures 2011, which country is in the top three for the following categories?

  1. Innovation Index (adoption of new tech, cooperation between business/Science)
  2. Technological Readiness (adoption of Communications and information tech)
  3. Lowest Brain Drain (talented people who leave home country)
  4. Business Environment (market/tax/labor, etc.)

The answer is Switzerland, what are they doing right besides cheese, banks, watches and new tunnels?