Entries in Marty Baker (27)


Hacking Innovation: A Starter Kit.

I’ve been fortunate to know and work with many successful innovators and innovation facilitators. I make this distinction not because they are mutually exclusive, but because each focus plays a critical role in understanding, codifying and teaching innovation.

Over the years, I collaborated with one of many creators of the SIM card, helped bring to market the first free trial of web service in the U.S. for Citibank, and worked on projects evolving the semantic and synaptic web.

I have also collaborated with leading innovation facilitators including Gerald Haman of Solution People, Larry Keeley of Doblin, Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory, Tom Monahan of Before & After, and Dana Montenegro of Red Bull and Seriously Creative.

Collectively, these thought leaders have had to grapple with conveying a definition of innovation – a word that is so overused as to be rendered meaningless.

In his provocative book, The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun writes “I need to say one last thing about innovation. It is not a word I am fond of.  It’s used too often today, and it has lost any significance. More useful to you, perhaps, is that of its many meanings you’ll find in the dictionary, the potent is significant positive change.”

Contrast this with Larry Keeley’s (with Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn, and Helen Walters) definition in the seminal Ten Types of Innovation, “ Innovation is the creation of viable new offering.”  The subtitle is equally instructive, “the discipline of building breakthroughs.”

There is always a challenge in the commercialization of innovation thought leadership and practice because of the varying sophistication of the audience. 

For example, experienced product innovators are very familiar with methodologies like TRIZ – a Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving developed by G.S. Altshuller and his colleagues. (It was the result of an analysis of three million patents looking for patterns that predict breakthrough solutions.)

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are asked to participate in ideation without any prior experience or exposure to any of the hundreds of techniques in the innovator's toolbox.

Can you really hack innovation and distill it into bite-sized gems of knowledge?


 One of my favorite business writers, Mike Myatt, has offered up a great definition of what I call ethical hacking.  “Hacking – the present participle of hack (verb) to discover an alternate path, clever and skillful tricks, shortcuts and workarounds, breaking the code, deciphering complexity, influencing outcomes, acquiring access, creating innovative customizations to existing or outdated methodologies.

So in the next few weeks I will offer some hacks that will help you gain perspective on innovation and ways to integrate innovative thinking into your life and business.



If you want to get a head start, get your hands and your mind on:

Ten Types of Innovation

The Myths of Innovation      

The Art of Innovation



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 Inotivity@gmail.com

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: 










The Myths of Ideas Part 2

One of the more frequent questions in my seminars is “can you have too many ideas?”

The simple answer is yes.  The more complex and provocative answer is yes and no.

The classic story behind my answer comes from Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.  Sutton related a story about Steve Jobs in the Harvard Business Review.

“Yahoo.. had Steve Jobs in to address their top 100 or so bosses. Jobs advised them that killing bad ideas isn’t that hard — lots of companies, even bad companies, are good at that. He insisted that what is really hard — and a hallmark of great companies — is killing good ideas. For any single good idea to succeed, it needs a lot of resources, time, and attention, and so only a few ideas can be developed fully. The challenge is to be tough enough to do the pruning so that the survivors have a chance of being implemented properly and reaching their full potential.”

If you are an idea-driven company like IDEO or Pixar having 1,000+ plus ideas on a problem challenge or project is not only typical, it’s expected. In every seminar I do, I get participants to create 500 ideas in less than 20 minutes.

But for a typical company, this may seem overwhelming and unnecessary because evaluating or bucketing those ideas isn’t a core or developed skill. 

Sutton has a great take on this:  “…when a lot of ideas are whittled down to a precious few — (there) should (be) two major filtering stages: one where you get rid of the bad ideas and then another where you toss the good ideas that aren’t quite good enough to justify a thinner spread of resources, a greater diffusion of focus, and possibly a more complex customer experience.

Here are two good Sutton questions:

So, getting back to the original question.  “Can you have too many ideas?” 

The answer is “it depends.”

It depends on whether your team or company is trained to create, evaluate, ctivate or park multiple ideas.  It depends on a management team or leader that has the ability to kill good ideas because you’ve created a Frankenstein project where ideas compete for attention and actually hinder.  And it depends on whether or not individuals are trained to come up with more than usual quota of ideas.

Do you know how to cluster ideas? Are you familiar with affinity mapping?

Look for Idea Myths, Part 3 coming soon.




The Myths of Ideas

In 1900, Mark Twain gave a speech called “The Disappearance of Literature” and told the rapt audience:

“I don’t believe any of you have ever read PARADISE LOST, and you don't want to. That's something that you just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just as Professor Winchester says, and it meets his definition of a classic -- something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”

Ideas often follow in the same territory.

Everyone wants good ideas, but most don’t want to do the heavy lifting and difficult decision making to bring those ideas to life. Like life, ideas can be messy.  They interfer with the anticipated order of things.

I believe that one of the biggest myths about ideas is that you have to act on them. *

In seminars, I’ve coined a phrase: “Ideas aren’t mandates.”

Ideas, especially provocative or disruptive ones, are often perceived as threats.  And smaller, more incremental ideas are sometimes seen as a nuisance – an extra note on an already well-written song.

What I am talking about is mental plasticity or agility.  It is being truly open to ideas. It’s about listening, entertaining, discussing, deliberating, or tabling ideas -- no matter how seemingly disruptive.

To put this in context, many of my seminars begin with quick experiment with Ned Herrmann’s brain dominance theory. So participants fall into one of four thinking styles. 

Of the four thinking styles, there is a one that has a bias for action.  In a group, this trait is highly valued.  But participants in this group literally “wince” when a new idea is put on the table. 

The idea here is not to let new ideas derail you – but allow them to speak – sometimes softly and sometimes loudly.   

* By acting on ideas – I mean the need to put them into action not the more embracive term of act as any mental effort or consideration.






The four key questions you should ask yourself everyday.

In 2007, the late Arthur B. (Andy) VanGundy wrote one of the seminal books of his career, Getting to Innovation: How Asking the Right Questions Generates the Great Ideas Your Company Needs.

In my career as an innovation and creativity coach, questions have always been the sine qua non of innovation and equally as important in leadership effectiveness.  My guiding principle at Inotivity is that innovation isn’t simply what you know, but how you think.

One of my favorite stories comes my friend and colleague Kevin Murnane, adjunct instructor at Kellogg Graduate School of Management and founder of Behtrics.], Inc.  At Kellogg, he helped design the first Leadership Coaching Class for MBAs and Executive Coaching.

We were talking about decision-making and smart questions. He told me about an executive who wanted to change careers.  She wanted to leave a career in corporate America and become a professional comedian.

Together, Kevin and his client dived deep into the pros and cons of making such a dramatic change.   Ultimately, the client was on the fence.  Kevin looked at her and said, “I know what you are willing to give up to make this happen, tell me what you aren’t willing to give up?”

This single question cut through to the heart of how smarter decisions are made.

Recently, I read Susan Scott’s terrific book, Fierce Leadership. (By “Fierce” she doesn’t mean menacing, cruel, and threatening but rather robust, intense, and strong.) 

She advises executives and managers to ask themselves four basic questions:

1.  What’s the most important thing I should be talking about today?

2.  What do I believe is impossible for me to do, that if were possible, would change everything?

3.  If nothing changes, what are the implications?

4.  What’s the conversation that has my name on it? The one I’ve been avoiding for days, weeks, months, and years?  Who is it with and what is the topic?  When will I have it?

Imagine what you could accomplish if you asked these questions everyday?


Link to Susan's book:


Link to Andy's book:


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The Seven Deadly Sins of Content Marketing Part 1

Let’s begin on the analytical side.  According to my favorite statistician and writer, Craig Smith, there are (as of August) 1.5 billion Facebook users.  That’s equivalent to one in six humans on the planet.

More specifically there are 699 million Facebook users visiting over 50 million Facebook pages.

If we add Twitter to the mix, we have a total of 500 million users sending 400 million tweets per day.

To quote Chris Brogan and Julian Smith about these staggering statistics, “So just being there isn’t enough.  If you build it, they won’t come.”

Like  Mamet's GlenGarry leads, the fans and followers are coveted by all, but all most companies are getting are the steak knives.  How do we reach them? How do we engage with them?

That brings us to the human side.

They come (most willingly) to social media for many of the same reasons they consume other media – for information, for entertainment, for community, and because like Everest, it’s there.

Like most human endeavors, the sins (real or imagined) come with territory and we can apply them to virtually any industry.  Here is the first of what I believe to be the seven sins of social content marketing.

 #1.  Antisocial

One of the most remarkable modern revolutions was the fact that social media platforms were created from the bottom up, not from the top down. 

Microsoft and Apple did not develop Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. 

They came from independent thinkers and doers who just happened to be relatively young.  Companies and brands have always been about command and control.  The revolution meant that they had to give up some control to participate.

A decade ago, an angry letter, to let’s say a big bank, typically got buried somewhere in a file in consumer relations. Today, it is instantly broadcast on social media. 

Companies can’t always control the message. That’s the outcome of the revolution. Period.

To think about social media as merely a forum for talking about your company and not listening is one of the great sins.  It is, in essence, antisocial behavior.  Social gives the company bully pulpit to the public and that's unknown territory.  A few years ago McDonald's invited fans to tell stories.  But the stories weren't all about growing up and the memories that the Golden Arches helped create. But the stories of "problems."

And even the term content “marketing” is problematic, not because marketing is bad, but because it doesn’t fully embrace the true social ethos.  It’s not part of the covenant.  I say content marketing but the sin applies to social media in general.  Ultimately, whatever is pushed or pulled into a digitial conversation is content.

In most cases it doesn’t cost a company a great deal to push social content, but it does cost money to actively listen to fans. You have to invest in listening.  And for many (especially smaller) companies it’s a tremendous budget and time challenge.

I serve up the sin of “antisocial” because it is about mindset.  For some companies, social media is another straw on the camel's back.  They don’t want to participate, but feel compelled to.  They have to stay in the game, even if they don’t like the rules of the game.

Being social is the price of participation and kudos to those companies and individuals who understand and embrace the good, the bad and the terrifying of social media.










Marissa Mayer, Creativity, and Productivity. The Yahoo Paradox.

Last May, Clive Thompson wrote a wonderfully provocative article in Wired about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the infamous work at work what hitting the long tail stage.

“When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned her employees from working at home earlier this year, she sparked a culture war over How We Work Today. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” the head of Yahoo HR wrote in a memo. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Pundits and executives said Mayer was nuts: Telecommuting offers family-friendly flexibility, and research shows that people who work remotely are far more productive, right? Others shot back in her defense, citing the “water-cooler effect”: You only get innovative, breakthrough ideas when staff work face-to-face and exchange ideas serendipitously…”

Thompson summed up the problem in simple four words: "…both sides are right. Telework makes you more productive, and working together makes you more creative. And therein lies a paradox. The real challenge for people who run modern organizations is understanding what type of thinking they want to do, not where to do it.

He sites a study Isaac Kohane, a professor at Harvard Medical School, who looked at 35,000 biomedical papers published from 1999 to 2003, each with at least one Harvard author. Then he measured how influential the papers were, based the frequency of citations by other academics.

“Geography trumped: The physically closer that the first author listed on the paper was to the last, the more influential their paper became. “It’s whether we can chat and have extemporaneous talks,” Kohane says. “It’s serendipity.”

He also writes about an Arizona State team studied three tech firms using “sociometric badges” that monitored location and proximity to track employee interaction. “Again, face-to-face won out. On days the teams were most creative, they were also closest to each other and most physically active. “

Thompson makes the case that organizations also need productivity—six hours of mental peace to finish a single complex piece of work. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom took employees at a huge Chinese travel agency and randomly assigned some to work from home while others worked in the office. The result? The stay-at-homes did 13 percent more overall.

Productivity and creativity aren’t always found in the cube farm.

Thompson continues: “The trick here is for groups to employ a new skill: metacognition. That’s thinking about thinking. Rather than obsessing over the apparent dichotomy between productivity and creativity, managers and employees need to assess what type of mental work they’re doing on any given day and gravitate to where it’s best suited. Doing Mad Men–style “aha” groupthink? Stay in the office. Need to crush that 90-page memo on paper-clip appropriations? Seems like the kind of thing best handled at home, possibly in your underwear. One-size-fits-all policies—like the one at Yahoo—are too crude for today’s white-collar toil.”

My experience in working at home was in Los Angeles working on financial clients for a direct marketing firm.  Because my daily commute was over an hour,  (The company moved to the hinterlands after I started working there) working at home was a privilege and a blessing. I worked longer hours to ensure I wouldn’t lose the privilege.

I was also a freelance creative for advertising agencies.  I worked on deadline and got the work done. Typically, the less time I spent at the agency, the more productive I was.

I don’t think Mayer’s initiative is wrong. Yahoo needed a dose of adrenaline and sense of purpose.  And I do think that creativity can thrive at the individual level.  It is matching the talents, strengths and working styles of individuals and allowing the opportunity to put them where they add the most value. 

It’s a question of trust and human nature. 

Thompson sums up the dilemma of either/or with and.

“The smartest organizations will be the ones that understand these subtleties and flow with them. The only way to win this culture war is not to play.”