By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine
Do you want to shake things up, build a powerful brand, and attract more clients? Drop the “business-as-usual” mentality and find inspiration in Andy Stefanovich. Let’s face it, with a title like Chief Curator and Provocateur at Prophet, a branding and marketing consulting agency, Stefanovich commands creativity. His mantra is LAMSTAIH (pronounced lamb’s tie) – Look At More Stuff; Think About It Harder.
Stefanovich explains LAMSTAIH in his new book, “LOOK AT MORE: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change,” (Jossy-Bass/Wiley, 2011) though a framework called the 5 M’s: Mood, Mindset, Mechanisms, Measurement, and Momentum. Each section is brought to life with stories of business innovation in action.
The following is an excerpt of Chapter 3 – “Mechanisms” – where he shares a number of examples regarding his work with the chamber of commerce in Richmond, Va., to revitalize the downtown area.
There are a variety of methods for exploring opportunities, but an essential first step is to create lists of the characteristics that define the issue or objective. This isn’t a counting-things-up kind of inventory. What we’re doing here is assessing three types of characteristics to find the components with the most opportunities for delivering growth and change:
• Physical characteristics are pretty straightforward — obvious descriptive attributes, such as heavy, square, hard, blue, and so on.
• Functional characteristics describe less tangible qualities — how something is used and whether people use it the way it was intended or come up with something completely different on their own.
• Emotional characteristics are the feelings and emotions people have about whatever it is that they’re using (and how they feel if they can’t have it).
Be sure to put time into creating these lists. The richer and more detailed they are, the greater the chance that you’ll come up with breakthrough ideas as you move through the later steps in the mechanism. And don’t give in to the temptation to do this in your head. There’s something about putting things down on paper that helps get those creative juices flowing. Let me give you a real-life example of lists in action.
Richmond, Virginia, where I live and work, is a city like many others in the United States. Its downtown was once a thriving center of commerce and culture —emphasis on ‘‘once’’ — but a mass exodus to the suburbs in the middle of the twentieth century left downtown with beautiful but decaying buildings, boarded-up storefronts, and very little traffic — pedestrian or otherwise. Richmond is slowly reviving its urban core, but the work is challenging.
The city’s chamber of commerce asked me for advice on how to revitalize the downtown area — a huge task that no one had been able to figure out how to accomplish. I met with some members of the chamber, and we began generating ideas.
Because ‘‘revitalize downtown’’ was so overwhelming, the first thing we did was narrow the focus, in the hope of finding something more achievable. We started by making lists, essentially an inventory of Richmond’s assets and attributes. Here’s what we came up with.
Physical – Office buildings, apartments, buses, parks, the public library, theaters, empty storefronts, hot dog vendors, workers, city employees, police, homeless people, traffic lights, and crosswalks
Functional – Working, begging for change, eating, walking, riding, having lunch, commuting, crossing the street, conversing, buying, and selling
Emotional – Stress, safety, camaraderie, laughter, achievement, respect, sense of history, potential, frustration, and excitement
Creating this multilayered inventory of Richmond’s downtown revealed all sorts of interesting opportunities. In fact, there were too many of them. One of the most common comments I hear from people who are dissatisfied with the results from a creative process is that the ideas simply aren’t practical. For this reason, it’s important to resist the urge to take on a problem that’s too large. Creating high-impact, implementable ideas can motivate a group of people to create again, to go back and tackle issues on a grander scale. In situations where engagement and credibility are low, narrowly focusing on one objective can get people’s minds (and arms and legs) moving.
So we homed in on a single, workable objective where we could make a short-term impact and build momentum toward our larger goal. The one characteristic of the city that most people seemed drawn to was the public library on Franklin Street. It’s an existing public resource that could be the community’s cultural center and serve as a focal point for driving more people downtown. By driving traffic to the library downtown, we thought we would be able to attract more shops and vendors who would go where the crowds were.
Once we’d narrowed our focus, we created a similar inventory of the library’s assets and attributes.
Physical – Books, librarians, shelves, floor, walls, computers, desks, periodicals, patrons, library cards, drop box
Functional – Reading, checking out books, searching for information, learning, whispering, community posting, membership
Emotional – Introspection, frustration, wonder, loneliness, quiet, excitement, intrigue
There are two main reasons why we spent so much time putting these lists together. First, doing so forced us to find hidden elements that we might otherwise overlook. For example, taking ‘‘membership’’ from the library’s functional inventory got us thinking about the various facets of membership: library cards, key tags, overdue notices, ‘‘friends of the library’’ bumper stickers, and so on.
The second purpose of the inventory is to reveal gaps in knowledge among the people who will be creating. In other words, you’ll be able to see how literate people are around the topic at hand. If all they see in a library is buildings and books, they don’t really know much about libraries. But if they can come up with a list like the one above, they’re the kind of people you want on your team.
If you want to dig a little deeper into the list concept, here’s a more advanced technique: Remember how we talked about the three broad sources of inspiration? Well, here’s what happened when we combined the three sources — direct, tangential, and abstract — with one item from each of the three parts of the inventory —physical, functional, and emotional.
Physical: Where are there other places that have books?
Direct: other libraries
Abstract: yard sales
Functional: What are other places that include searching for information?
Direct: Internet search engines.
Tangential: information kiosks at an airport.
Abstract: the detective unit at the police station
Emotional: Where else do you find membership, belonging, or community?
Direct: A chain like Blockbuster.
Tangential: your $39.99/month local independent gym.
Abstract: the National Hockey League Hall of Fame
As a member of Richmond’s chamber of commerce, I can tell you that conversations like the ones I’m describing in this section have helped revitalize the city’s downtown. Getting city leaders together to create a new future for the city hasn’t always been easy. But making it a priority to think about things differently has helped Richmond become one of the best places to live and work in the United States. (Next time you’re in town, be sure to stop in at Lulu’s on 18th Street and ask for Steve. His meatloaf is to die for. Be sure to tell him Andy sent you.)
**Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. , from Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth and Change by Andy Stefanovich. Copyright (c) 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andy Stefanovich, who is Chief Curator and Provocateur at Prophet, has spent the past twenty years helping the world’s leading companies drive innovation from the inside out, earning a reputation as one of the most disruptive and effective advisors in business. Andy’s true passion lies in guiding clients through the powerful evolution from inspiration to creativity to innovation. He teaches practical skills, leadership behaviors, and specific processes for developing and implementing ideas at work. A popular and dynamic speaker, Stefanovich frequently delivers keynote addresses to leading international organizations and has been featured on CNBC and MSNBC. He lives in Richmond, Va. Follow Andy Stefanovich on Twitter: @AndyStefanovich