Business and Generosity of Spirit

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with one of my heroes. It’s been said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but he did not disappoint.

He is a New York Times best-selling author and a confidant of many of the nations top CEOs. He took an hour out of his busy schedule and before a major speech to share a latte and conversation. 

I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies generosity of spirit as well as this man does.

In my presentations, I talk a lot about this idea.  As clinical psychologist Edward Dreyfus writes, “People who are generous of spirit are genuinely happy for other’s good fortune irrespective of their own circumstances.”

Two questions I ask audiences are “do you possess a generosity of spirit (GOS) and how do you manifest this quality?”

Easy questions. Challenging answers.

1.  GOS isn’t about being perpetually nice or naïve to business realities.  In fact, most of the people who possess this trait are savvy business professionals who have a deep awareness of their value and capabilities.  But they do share their talents and counsel willingly without a conscious need for reciprocation.

2.  GOS people do not have blame as a default. When problems arise, they don’t point fingers, they immediately look for a solution.  If you’re working with a blamer, chances are you are looking at a deeply insecure person. It's about finding a solution, not affixing blame.

3.  GOS is not about being all-star; it’s about focusing on a mindset of contribution.  They ask, “how can I contribute?” Not “how can I shine?”  

So, take a moment and think about these two questions:  “Do you possess a generosity of spirit (GOS) and how do you manifest this quality?”

The answers may change how you lead and just as valuable, how you feel.







Innovative Thinking and Corporate Antibodies  

What keeps innovation facilitators up at night?  Ideas, yes.  But it’s also something we call the “week after” syndrome. 

It’s how to sustain and inculcate the learnings and behaviors into the organization or group beyond the workshop.  We hope, but we can’t mandate.  So while some of the tools and techniques are used, the habit of innovative thinking fades as the organization returns to the day-to-day business of the business.

At Inotivity, we try to gain a commitment from the organization or group to follow up the next week and the next month and track how what behaviors have changed or whether it’s business as usual.   

Very often, the natural gravity of “other priorities” pulls the organization back to a kind of enlightened status quo.

So how do you fight the status quo?  There are many remedies and one of mine is a book I recommend to groups to review and discuss a week after a session.  It’s Phil McKinney’s Beyond the Obvious.  

Phil McKinney is President and CEO of CableLabs. In this capacity he heads the research and development organization responsible for charting the cable industry’s technology and innovation roadmap. Prior to joining CableLabs, Phil was the Vice President and chief technology officer of the $40 billion Personal Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard.

The true gold of McKinney’s book is a roadmap for thinking beyond the obvious by asking “Killer Questions.”  

But there are gems within the book that have less to do with “Killer Questions,” than idea killers – the  “Corporate Antibodies.”

“The antagonist of the innovator is the corporate antibody.  Much as antibodies in our immune system attack and destroy foreign objects that might harm the body, ‘antibodies’ in your organization identify and neutralize forces that threaten to destabilize a company.”

The key takeaway here is that if you don’t know how to deal with this habitual resistance, asking Killer Questions will be futile. 

Caveat!  Resistance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The job of a company is to return value to shareholders or achieve sustainable growth.  So, leaders in a company are the stewards of the company, the organization, and the brand.  They simply cannot chase creative rabbits down every hole.

The key isn’t to resist the resisters, but to find more innovative ways to get buy in of innovative ideas that are either 1) game changers or 2) can be funneled into a test and learn strategy.

McKinney has great insights and profiles the four types of corporate antibodies. 

1.  The Ego Response

“Oh, I already thought of that a long time ago.”

“Somebody else has already come up with that idea.”

“I have something better.”

 “These are classic ego-driven responses,” write McKinney. “You may think you are talking about business, but you are actually engaged in a very personal exchange about your respective places in the hierarchy of your organization.”

2.  The Fatigued Response

 “You will never get approval.”

“We tried that before.”

“Who’s going to do it?”

“It won’t fit our organization.”

This is case when leaders hear your idea their inner voice says “I’ve pitched a dozen ideas in the past five years and all of them got blown out of the water, none got approved.”  So, they have understandable battle fatigue or what we call a CLM (Career Limiting Move). 

3. The No-Risk Response

“We can’t afford that.”

“Not enough return on investment.”

In a few words: There’s no risk in saying no; there’s a risk in saying yes.

4. The Comfort Response

 “We’ve always done it this way.”

“Our customer likes it this way.”

“Don’t rock the boat.”

Comfort zones are there for a reason, they don’t invoke anxiety or threaten careers (in general.)

McKinney sums up his Corporate Antibody chapter with some sage advice, “Nearly all great ideas require nerve, vision and guts to get in motion.  The corporate antibody is the first of many hurdles that you’ll need to push your idea past.”

For most of you, this may seem a blinding flash of the obvious. 

But that’s where innovating how you strategize, develop, and sell your ideas becomes even more vital to a success strategy.   What if the lens for evaluating ideas includes the 4 types of antibodies?

1. Ego.

2. Fatigue

3. No Risk

4. Comfort


This is on the wall and/or part of the evaluation process.  Ask the killer question, is your résistance based on any of these four mind-sets?


Check out McKinney’s book:






Dave Grey's Connected Company Manifesto Flip Book

I created a flip book version of Dave Grey's Change This Manifesto on the Connected Company. Met Dave at Business Innovation Factory.


The Clear Agreements Worksheet 

A copy of The Clear Agreements Worksheet has hung over my desk for so long, I am not sure of its provenance. Like Atul Gawande's Checklist Manifesto, it is a simple, yet powerful reminder of what we do to achieve better results.

We get so acclimated to the kinds of questions we typically ask about a project or collaboration, we often miss the kinds of questions that might bring a higher degree of clarity to the endeavor.  When you reference the worksheet, you can get a sense of the type of questions you could be asking.


What are we trying to accomplish?

What is the scope?

What is the budget?

What does finished mean?

What are the significant milestones?

What will it cover?

What is left out?

What are we not doing?

What does success look/feel like?


Who will it serve?

What is the fundamental purpose?

Whom will it affect most if we succeed? If we fail?

Why are we doing this?  What are the consequences of not doing it?


When do we start?

What is the final deadline?

What are the milestone deadlines?

What are the consequences of a missed deadline?


Exactly what physical location or locations will be used?

What time zone will be the standard?

Where do expenses get assigned?


Who will be responsible for what?

Whom do we report to?

Who needs to be consulted?

Who needs to be informed?

Who will meet with whom and how often?

Who will follow up with whom?


What will our processes be?

How do decisions get made?

How do we express disagreement?

How will we know we are on track?

What common behaviors do we agree on?

What do we expect in terms of quality?

How will we know we are successful?

What constitutes failure?


Baker’s Blackbelt Course in Marketing Creativity 1.2

Welcome back.

Some of the most emotional and tasteful advertising is done after the death of an icon.

After Roy Disney’s death, Disney simply showed Mickey with a teardrop. The image captured the idea without words. 

A great concept trumps words or pictures.  

In your creative toolkit, a very good process for both art directors and writers is to ask, “Can I convey the idea without words?”

Here are some great examples:

Here is one from TBWA Shanghai for Mcdonalds.  Yes, they could have said "Made from natural potatoes." But this image says it all in a memorable way.  And chances are you engaged with it longer because it was unique and memorable. 

This ad from Amarok for Volkswagen is also a wonderful way to show adventure without showing the car on safari.  Honda did something similiar years before.  

Typically, a car company will ask "where is the sheet metal?"

Where is my car or truck?

The answer is sometimes the sheet metal takes a back seat. (It is there at the bottom).



Here is one by Giuliano Lo Re and Matteo Gallinelli for Pantone colors.

No rainbows.

No color swatches.  

Just a representation of how far you can take a color in the natural world.

Here's an old one from Pepsi. Wonderful.










Finally, one from Ford.  Now a good creative director will ask the expected question, "Are we selling Ford or are we just selling a 'category' benefit?

Or more often said, could I put someone else's logo on it?

The answer is "Yes."  But could someone else have use the logo Just Do It? Yes.  Could Visa have done the Priceless campaigng? Yes.

A great creative would ask, are we doing this first?   Is it campaignable? Does it convey our leadership in the category? 

Next Assignment: 

Find an ad or campaign where repeptition or accumulation conveys an idea.  Send yours to


Book to Read/Own:

This is from a great colleague and inspiring ad guy and teacher, Luke Sullivan.

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This:  The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads.

 If you want to read the entire series of Black Belt posts:



Baker’s Blackbelt Course in Marketing Creativity 1.1


Welcome back to Baker’s Black Belt Creativity.

Your first assignment was to find three ads or three (fill in the blank) that resonated with you. That created a wow moment.  That made you so envious that you were ready to quit the business or even more willing to be better.

The first misdirection is this. 

Did you have to search ad books or the Internet to find your wows? 

Too bad. 

The truly great creatives I know have it engraved in their minds; on their office wall, a file called “I’m not worthy" or simply in folder called “inspiration.”

If we were together in an actual class, I would have to write from memory the 10 ads that wowed you.  Then, we would discuss why.  It doesn’t have to be ads; it could be commercials, web sites, or a brochure. (Remember the Peterman Catalog?)

Here are my three.  Starting with the 1960’s.

1.  Volkswagen Lemon.

The sibling of Think Small, I love Lemon more.  Created by Julian Koenig and Helmet Krone over 50 years ago, it still hits me because; I don’t know how they DDB sold it. 

You essentially are saying in a word picture that the Volkswagen is lemon – a car that is bad.  Really bad.

But what makes this ad so special is that it gave permission, as Bob Garfield of Ad Age once wrote, “to surprise, to defy, and to engage in the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body.”

The ad acknowledged that consumers weren’t blathering idiots. But rather, they understood that Volkswagen was remarkably fastidious about the cars they made. 




2. Rolling Stone: Perception Reality

Two decades later.

If you were at an ad agency in the 80’s, you simply couldn’t avoid this campaign. 

Fallon McElligott Rice (as it was known at the beginning of the campaign) had a monster of a brief. “Change the perception most advertisers and media decision makers had about the readers of Rolling Stone.”

Launched in June 1985, the campaign included a total of 55 ads and ran for seven years. It became one of the best-known trade campaigns of all time, and New York's One Club for Art & Copy ranked it number 3 of the 12 best advertising campaigns of the 1980s. 

If your core audience is anti-mainstream and your job is to create the “reality” that the readers aren’t so anti-mainstream with the magazine’s street cred at risk, and you pull it off with such memorable creativity, that’s a wow.

 3.  Volvo Safety Pin

I am still wowed by this marriage of simplicity and truth.

Created in 1996 by the creative team of Masakazu Saka and Minoru Kawase at Dentsu Young and Rubicam, the ad needed no headline, no copy – just a logo. Volvo was synonymous with safety.  The safety pin was iconic.  Together, they inspired a wow ad.

Old ads? Yes.  Old ideas? No.  That's the secret. The big idea is that good ideas come from good thinking.

There are tremendous new ads being created everyday.

But unlike the 60's or even 80's , chances are you won't find them in mainstream magazines or TV.   

For example, look through an issue of Time or People or even Rolling Stone and try to find an ad that wows you.  It will be a challenge.  But they are out there and you'll be creating them.

 Assignment #2.

Find at least three ads that have no headlines and preferably no words whatsoever.  Find them and send your favorites to

Book Recommendation:

Copywriting:  Successful writing for design, advertising, and marketing.  Mark Shaw.  Hint, it's for art directors and designers too. 

If you misesed Blackbest 1.0: click:









Baker’s Blackbelt Course in Marketing Creativity 1.0

Nature grants no monopolies on creativity.

It is dispersed in such a wonderfully haphazard manner that the random bounty seems to echo the very essence of creativity itself.

There is no dearth of books of creativity, and yet, it appears that no amount of books and resources will be sufficient to quench the thirst of people who want to find that magic elixir called creativity.

I think Twyla Tharp nailed it when she titled her inspired book, The Creative Habit: Learn and use it for life.

Creativity is more about habit than the occasional bolts of inspiration. The secret to the Baker’s Blackbelt is internalizing the habit of thinking creatively often with myriad constraints. Soon you will bless constraints for giving you focus.

So why the modifier “Marketing?”

Creativity is a universe and I wanted a narrower lens to focus ideas – ideas that are generally applicable to other fields. And I needed the perspective of involvement. I have been a creative in advertising and marketing for over 25 years.

The approach? 

Non-linear. (Or should I say linear non).Linear thinking is great for accountants and bricklayers, but not so great for creative professions. 

The other approach is what I call the Mr. Miyagi.  Miyagi taught by misdirection.  It is the art of developing a habit without making the connection between the habit and the underlying purpose.

Assignment #1.  

Find three ads that astound you with their creativity. This is the kind of ad or (fill in the blank) that truly surprised you. Engaged you. Transformed the eway you think. That made you slightly green with envy.

If you want to share it, send it to

Next module, thinking without words.

Recommended resource/book to peruse, read, or buy:

The Work: 25 Years of Fallon.  Edited by Pat Fallon and Bob Barrie.