• The Logic of Inspiration

    Inspiration seems like a magical endowment, bestowed upon special people at mysterious times. We sit in awe of geniuses, inventors, and artists; the truly "inspired."

    Sometimes inspiration condescends to impart it's graces to average folk—folk like us. Oh, if we could somehow control or bottle it. 

    Would it shatter anyone's reality if we stated that inspiration can actually be defined by a simple equation?

    Allow us to posit this:

    [ Where e = exposure, a = association, and i=inpiration]

    Let's see how this holds up in a couple of examples:

    1. An accountant (Walter Diemer) works for a chewing gum company (Fleer), but accidentally makes a discovery while playing around with new chewing gum recipes (which clearly the accountant has no business doing). One random concoction was less sticky, and stretchier than traditional chewing gum. It also had bubbles in it. His exposure to chewing gum materials, and his association with a chewing gum company allowed him to see possibilities others simply wouldn't. Bubble gum was born. Why is it pink? Well, the only food coloring in the factory was pink. Was it inspired? A stroke of genius? It all seems both logical, and circumstantial. That's very different than magical and elusive. One thing is certain, it was clear case of inspiration.
    2. A young, mid-western boy (another Walt D.) liked to draw cartoons. As a high school dropout he began creating advertisements for newspapers, magazines, and films. His exposure to animation techniques and his background, or association with cartooning collided. Soon, a Hollywood film studio was born. After getting a raw deal from a distributor, Walt lost most of his staff and the rights to his cartoons. He was forced to come up with his own character, which was based on a mouse he once adopted as a pet. There's little doubt Disney was a genius, but does his path of inspiration fit the equation?

    Maybe inspiration favors those named Walt D, as in the examples above. More likely, The Walt's seemed to be apt practitioners of:

    1. Iconoclastic Initiatives
    2. Relevant Resourcefulness

    It's critical to inspiration that we regularly put ourselves in a position to see the world in new ways or experience new things. It's also critical that we learn to leverage what we have and know; being relevant and resourceful.

    Defining and inviting the process of inspiration is one thing, while predicting or controlling it is most certainly another. However, if you plan according to this equation, inspiration just became a lot more accessible.

  • Understanding Persuasion

    Persuasion is an interesting topic. It's a critical part of all successful relationships, especially in business. We are currently studying an interesting book entitled The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century, by Richard Perloff. We'll post cool stuff as we come by it.

  • Dumb is the New Smart

    No one wants to do something stupid, which is essentially doing something that lacks common sense. However, it's time to turn dumb on it's head. Consider this statement:

    By dumbing it down you smarten it up.

    In the world of communication, this is an immutable truth. Always communicate as simply as possible.

    What makes communication ineffective? Could be:
    • ignorance regarding the audience
    • acting without thinking or reason
    • egos
    • brainwashing by syntax
    Let’s explore those ideas a little more. 
    1. Ignorance Regarding Your Audience: The more you know about someone, the better you can predict and manage their expectations. The risk of failure increases in proportion to the degree your understanding is purely assumption. Said another way, the more you're guessing about how someone thinks and feels, the more likely you are to be wrong.
    2. Acting Without Thinking or Reason: When you communicate without purpose or planning, you can't expect specific results. Communication and relationships are hard work and they go hand-in-hand. Intention is a pathway to predictable success. It may be a long path, but at least you're moving towards something instead of wandering aimlessly.
    3. Ego: Ego is inherently selfish. Successful relationships must be inherently selfless. Sometimes we focus more on bravado then on clarity. Sometimes we think we have all the answers. Sometimes we assume we’re worth more than we really are. Frankly, anytime we act as if our personal assumptions are facts, we’re employing a certain level of arrogance that is likely to hurt a relationship.
    4. Brainwashing By Syntax: Syntax is basically a word that describes rules for how various elements should be ordered together. Sometime these rules become critical, such as with grammar or computer coding. Other times we just think they are. Have you noticed that all car ads are basically alike? What about junk mail, infomercials, or checking account promotions? Every industry has it’s schtick. At some point, people decided that there was one way of telling a certain story and anything else is wrong. That’s just not true. Every relationship, general or specific, is unique and your communication should be designed appropriately.

    Let’s say Nike wanted to talk to people about buying their shoes. Which of the two options below do you think is “smarter” and why? 

  • The Relay or the Waterfall?

    Yes. That's a real mission statement for a real company—a big one too. Can you guess who? Of course not. You don't even have a clue. In fact, we'd bet that if someone from that company read it they wouldn't recognize it either.

    Mine Academy recently attended a meeting with another very large company. One purpose of the meeting was to introduce the auditorium of employees to a shiny new triumvirate of corporate leadership: Mission. Vision. Values. The unveiling was preceded by "best-in-class" examples from another very large company, after which these were modeled.

    It was clear that many a man-hour had been spent in the pursuit of what they certainly hoped would be a "needle-moving" burst of leaders inspiring the masses. Based on what we heard, we left with serious doubts of that. Each example demonstrated the same shortcoming; they communicated to their people like a waterfall instead of like a relay team.

    We could debate what these statements should be, how you should create them, or if you need them at all, but the point is, until leaders stop raining down crushing amounts of vague jargon mingled with a storm of misty nonsense, i.e. a waterfall, nobody is going to follow anything.

    Surely the solution is never easy, but try this on for starters:

    Eliminate the hierarchal tendency of top-down communication and approach the people within an organization as members of a relay team. Everyone on the team is in a different position on the track, but each runner has a unique and critical role to play. If the runners before them aren't successful in their roles or hand-offs, the following legs are being set up to fail.

    If the communication had been successful, everyone in that auditorium would have known:

    1. What success would look like in the end, e.g. they would win a gold medal
    2. What their specific role was, e.g. first leg in a 4x200. Get that critical, early lead
    3. How to do what they needed to do, e.g. full sprint to 40m, float to 85m, hips tall, chin up, and slingshot to final straightaway. Yell "Stick!" and lift your baton for the hand off. Oh, and train hard, don't cheat, and don't quit

    Also notice how the example above would essentially hit the Mission, Vision, and Values for the relay team, and it would actually be useful. Clearly we're not saying that the holy MVV aren't important, rather we're suggesting that most people don't really know how to articulate and share them very effectively. 

    There you go. Now that we're clear on that we're at least half-way there.

  • Feedback Loops and Changing Behavior

    (Nabbed from Wired magazine. Read the whole, wonderful article HERE)

    "The ideal feedback loop gives us an emotional connection to a rational goal"

    A feedback loop involves four distinct stages:

    1. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage.
    2. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a
    3. Third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the
    4. Fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.

  • The Magical Sweet Spot

    Here's a philosophical statement for you...buckle up.

    Every relationship has a level of success directly proportionate to the effectiveness of the communication between the two parties. Mouthful—did you catch that?

    Basically, the more effectively you communicate with another person, the more successful the relationship. The trick is, there is always a risk, or gap, between what you want to communicate and what will ultimately be communicated.

    Good news—for those especially prone to fear, anxiety, or seriously limited resources, there is a way to mitigate that risk. Consider the following diagram: 

    This illustrates how one might better predict successful communication. Each of the circles above represents a bucket, or category of information you should master, relative to your tolerance for risk. The more informed and harmonious the circles, or the more the circles overlap, the less the risk. Basically:

    1. What is the context, situation or experience in which you're trying to communicate something?
    2. Who is the stakeholder, or what is the relationship you're trying to promote and what do you know about that stakeholder?
    3. What knowledge, skills, or experience do you have to help ensure that your effort hits the sweet spot?

    Here's an example:
    Prudence is about to celebrate her 30th birthday. Felix needs to deliver something extraordinary to make sure she knows of his love and devotion. Let's peek in on Felix as he follows the above model:

    • First, he knows that big milestones are hugely important to Prudence and therefore must be hugely important to him.
    • Second, he also knows that Prudence is sensitive about turning 30 and that acknowledging her age is treading on dangerous ground.
    • Third, he knows that Prudence loves koala bears and original artwork.
    • The birthday is less than a week away so Felix knows that he has limited time and resources to pull off something truly creative and wonderful.
    • Finally, as a professional ice sculptor, Felix determines that he can create a magnificent koala sculpture to serve as the centerpiece of a romantic dinner for two. Best of all, he can do it in the time and budget available to him.
    • Felix knows from past experience that her participation in the meal will mean success, while failure, well, will be immediately evident. 

    So here's the ultimate question: What are the odds that Felix's plan will result in communicating the requisite level of thoughtfulness and affection? Odds look pretty darn good. The circles overlap quite a bit. The risk, or gap, is probably very small. In fact, it might just be fail-proof. How often can you say that about a marketing tactic? Your challenge is to master the three circles of information when your stakeholder becomes hundreds, thousands, or millions of relationships, but the principle is the same.

    Put another way, you're trying to make your sweet spot look like this:

    Rather than this:

    There you go. That should help your marketing, management, or love life be more than just a crapshoot. Go gett'em tiger!

  • Brief?

    To most people that work with us, I'm not sure "brief" is a word they would use to describe an experience with Mine Academy. But that's sort of the challenge and the triumph of it. A great working/strategic/creative brief is the springboard to great communication. Not just funny or cool or touching work, but communication that talks the right way to the right people. The brief is like watching a great master of art or athletics: it looks deceptively simple.

    We've got process behind this process. Well, someone has to.

    A friend recently shared an article from Ad Age on creative briefs. Check it out. Here are a couple of our favorite exerpts:

    Any thoughts? 

  • The Two Sides of a Relationship

    The Two Sides of a Relationship

    When we first meet someone initial impressions really count. We immediately begin to set expectations around what a relationship might do for us. The right presentation or story is going to go a long way to determining whether or not the thing gets off the ground in the first place.

    The pre-relationship phase is fleeting. The next and maybe bigger factor is that if we don’t live up to or exceed the expectations we set up, the relationship will die on the vine. We have to ensure that our actions accord with our promises, spoken or unspoken. Put another way, we have to make sure that we continue to bring relevant value to the relationship. That is only possible when mutually beneficial expectations are constantly articulated, understood and delivered on.

    That sounds like it could apply to everything from dating to business. In fact it does and it all has to do with some form of communication, which is why we're talking about it. We all need to be communication experts if we want to succeed at anything, and that's much easier said than done.

  • Our Soul

    Our Soul

    As with other companies, Mine Academy needs a soul to live and be vibrant. Part of that comes out in what we do. Part of that comes out in how we present ourselves. Adam, for example, needs to update his profile photo to better reflect the soul of Mine Academy. I took a stab. What do you think? 

    Here's the original. Feel free to take a stab at it yourself if you think you have a better idea.

  • Mine!Mine!Mine! 2011

    Mine!Mine!Mine! 2011

    The tank is full. We want to extend our gratitude to all those who participated in our first annual Mine!Mine!Mine! Whether you attended in person, online, in pre-work calls, or helped out with meeting spaces, etc., it was a big little initiative that came off even better than we hoped.

    We plan to keep this going. Keep in mind some of our major rules of engagement:

    1. The platform is yours. Design your own success
    2. No pressure to do anything, save to fulfill commitments you willingly make
    3. Relationships thrive on shared values, not attributes
    4. Be aggressive about showing up, but open-minded about what happens next
    5. Baby steps, quick wins, and slow burns. 
    6. Plant, nurture, and harvest—hopefully all at once 

    Here are some highlights:

    Day 1:

    • Ray Kroc's Boardroom 
    • Peanut butter M&M's
    • Extreme brain throbbing
    • Several insightful presentations
    • Seis de Mayo at Lime
    • Post dinner gut bust with Morgan Spurlock
    • The best articulation yet for our philosophical stake in the ground: "Every business is a communication business." Was that you Bryan that actually boiled our talk into that gem?

     Day 2:

    • God's Boardroom
    • One pound of gummi bears
    • MineFields
    • Patio chairs
    • Ruebens
    • Wilderness meditation
    • Lots of Kool-Aid drinking

    What are we missing?

  • FUEL Success

    Success is something we all want, personally and professionally. The real question for each of us is "how?"

    We feel that one key ingredient to success is spelled out in Seth Godin's Poke the Box. That ingredient is one we really embrace and hope to find an ever-growing group of smart, talented people who also embrace it.

    Did you get a copy? Did you read it? We'd like to share some of our thoughts on it and we'd like to hear each of yours.

    Here are some of our favorite quotes:

    If no one says "go," the project languishes. If no one insists, pushes, creates, cajoles, and launches, then there's nothing; it's all wasted.

    Ownership doesn't have to be equity or even control. Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen. Only by poking, testing, modifying, and understanding can we truly own anything, truly exert our influence.

    I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.

    In short: show up.

    What did you get?