Entries in Marty Baker (27)


A modest proposal: A new definition of innovation.

Innovation is a one the great Rorschach words.  Nearly everyone defines it a bit differently.  It has been overused, (293,000,000 results on a single Google Search) over-hyped, and often misunderstood.

At Solution People in Chicago, leading innovation coach Gerald Haman defined it as simply as “ideas that create value.”  Behind that verbal tip of the iceberg was a lifetime of teaching the creation and implementation of ideas and an even deeper understanding of what value means the consumer and social marketplace.

Why is defining the word "innovation" so important to innovation teachers and purveyors of the gospel of innovation?

There are a handful of Fortune 500 companies who have elevated innovation to an art form (Apple) and other Fortune 500 companies who have been seriously burned by failed innovation efforts.  So imagine standing up in front of both groups and saying the word “innovation” and you’ve already divided your audience. 

It’s the Rorschach effect.

So innovation teachers try to define it precisely to get buy in to talk about process.

For example, Larry Keeley and his co-authors (Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn, and Helen Walters) have written an excellent book Ten Types of Innovation.  Their definition: “Innovation is the creation of a viable new offering.”  This seemingly simple definition has an additional four call outs to further explain what they mean behind each of these words.

It’s simple and if you do even a modest deep dive in the book, it’s an excellent working definition. In fact, it shineswhen discussing the first six of the innovations which are focused on the innermost workings of a business. (i.e. profit model, network, structure, process, product performance and product system.)  

Do we really need to add yet another definition to the lexicon?

In my seminars, I have used a definition of innovation that I have evolved over the years.   In 2007, I was inspired by Jim Kilts’ book, Doing What Matters:  How to Get Results That Make A Difference.

It’s easy to describe Kilts’ book (as articulated by Wally Bock) “what goes on in an experienced CEO's head when he takes over a company that needs to turn around."

Jim Kilts was a successful CEO at Kraft and led turnarounds at Nabisco and Gillette.

My innovation definition:  Creating what matters.

Like Keeley et al, it needs a deeper dive or context.  The difference?  “Innovation as a viable new offering” and “creating what matters.”

Keeley would argue that viability means “returning value to you or your enterprise.”  The definition is based on two criteria:  “the innovation must be able to sustain itself and return its weighted cost of capital.”

As good a definition as it is, I see it as company or entrepreneur centric.  My definition is customer centric.

The innovation must matter to the customer – somewhere along its evolution from idea to product or service. 

Take Pixar for instance.  They pioneered many advances in CGI animation. But would they be considered an innovation in 1979 when the original company was founded? Or when they released Toy Story in 1995?  In a span of over a decade it neither returned a value or cost of capital. Keeley, et al, did not put a time limit on when an innovation is sufficiently anointed, but it is easy to see how limiting that definition can be.

Creating what matters (audience centric) is also limiting, but I feel it offers a slightly more flexible approach to thinking about innovation. 

In the Keeley definition, Pixar would not technically be an innovation until Toy Story.  In my definition, the audience of advertisers (through commercials) and the audience of one (Investor Steve Jobs) was technically an innovation earlier in its evolution.

Another compelling case.  Eienstein's Theory's.  Most of his theories were published in 1905.  They did not meet any of the criteria of Keeley's definition. So these ideas were not innovations until nuclear power was advanced in the 1940s.  But I do believe that these innovations of thought were accepted much earlier by an audience of physicists.  

Both definitions are worthy of discussion and improvement. And Ten Types of Innovation is one of the best books on innovation you'll find today.

I welcome your feedback at inotivity@gmail.com

Happy innovating.




Creativity and Executive Coaching

Imagine for a moment that you are a newly-minted executive coach. Now suppose your first clients were the three most recent U.S. Presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Now imagine how you would approach each of them. They all possess distinctive and powerful positive strengths and equally compelling weaknesses.  There is no single template of executive coaching that would be effective for all three. This is where the consummate skills, experience, and yes, the creativity of a great coach like Marshall Goldsmith become the essential ingredient to successful behavioral change.

When does the generally positive quality of “authoritative” become “dictatorial?” Or when does “collaborative” descend into “indecisive?”

I have written before about Marshall’s excellent book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, but like all great books, it is a continuous fountain of insight as I have moved along my career path. (See link at bottom of post).

Goldsmith has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from UCLA and over 35 years of experience measuring and analyzing behavior in organizations.  He writes: “My job is not to make them  smarter or richer. My job is to help them—to identify a personal habit that’s annoying their coworkers and to help them eliminate it—so that they retain their value to the organization. My job is to make them see that the skills and habits that have taken them this far might not be the right skills and habits to take them further. What got them here won’t get them there." “

He trains executives to behave more effectively in the workplace enrolling them in a rigorous regimen.  In the discovery phase, he solicits “360-degree feedback” from their colleagues…”as many as I can talk to up, down, and sideways in the chain of command, often including family members—for a comprehensive assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Then I confront them with what everybody really thinks about them. Assuming that they accept this information, agree that they have room to improve, and commit to changing that behavior, and then I show them how to do it. I help them apologize to everyone affected by their flawed behavior (because it’s the only way to erase the negative baggage associated with our prior actions) and ask the same people for help in getting better. I help them advertise their efforts to get better because you have to tell people that you’re trying to change; they won’t notice it on their own."

 Goldsmith continues: “I help them follow up religiously every month or so with their colleagues because it’s the only honest way to find out how you’re doing and it also reminds people that you’re still trying. As an integral part of this follow-up process, I teach people to listen without prejudice to what their colleagues, family members, and friends are saying—that is, listen without interrupting or arguing. Finally, I teach them the miracle of feed forward, which is my “special sauce” methodology for eliciting advice from people on what they can do to get better in the future. “

What has always impressed me with “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” is his carefully honed observations about those personality traits that hinder success – like overestimating your contribution to a project, taking credit, partial or complete, for successes that truly belong to others, having an elevated opinion of our professional skills and our standing among our peers and conveniently ignoring the costly failures and time-consuming dead-ends we have created.

So what about creativity?  To me, it is the essential catalyst to enhance skills of a coach to adapt to the unique behavioral DNA of an individual.  Years ago, I talked with an executive coach who told me, “I know what you do well, tell me about what you don’t do well?”

It may be template question, but it was timed creatively to achieve maximum effect.

Goldsmith’s powerful insight is that a certain level of leadership, it isn’t your skill set that will hinder you, but your personality traits.   This book doesn’t belong on a shelf, it belongs in your hands, in your Kindle or ereader, or ultimately in your mind.

My earlier post on What Got You Here, Won't Get You There.


A link to the book on Amazon:





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A business lesson from a Supreme Court Justice

Copyright Time, Inc.Recently, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talked with Charlie Rose to discuss her new memoir, "My Beloved World."

There was  moment in the interview about 12 minutes into the interview that resonated with me.  It was an answer to Rose's question "Have you had great mentors?"  

She answered simply and confidently:

"Tremendous mentors. And each one of them taught me something very important. Every one of them has hired people who they thought were smarter than they.  I understand you do the same thing. I have been told that…I’m told by the President that he does that. … to have the confidence not to be challenged by people who are smarter in a negative way…not to be afraid of them but to grow yourself from them is wonderful, wonderful characteristic."

Rose added:  Also, you have to be careful you don’t intimidate people.  One who has power has to make sure that the power doesn’t intimate someone so they don’t tell you what you need to know to do your job best."

She replied, “I actually have a beginning conversation with my law clerks each year. And I sit them down and tell them “I don't hire yes people. You will have failed me if you think I am wrong and don’t challenge me to think different.”

It's common wisdom that is generally uncommon in the real workplace.

Whether conscious or unconscious, some manger's hire people who they feel won't eclipse them.  Many years ago, an executive consultant told me, "... she would like to hire you but is worried you will outshine her."  I replied that, an insecure manager may be the scariest of all the leadership types."

If you read enough Marshall Goldsmith and other leadership coaches, it's obvious that what keeps managers from reaching higher levels of leadership are personality traits that undermine your ability to motivate and garner respect.  

Yes, there will be ambitious people nipping at your heels, but if your focus is on creating great work and great teams, then hire up. 

Here's a link to the interview:





The Personalization Conundrum: The Murky Side of the Web.

“In the effort to create a personalized web experience, data is the driver.  And companies who mine that data are in the driver’s seat.”

                               Marty Baker

Image by SillySilOn July 30 2010, Julia Angwin -- the award-winning investigative journalist at The Wall Street Journal – pried open window on the invisible side of the web.  In an article called, “The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets,” she wrote:

“The file consists of a single code— 4c812db292272995e5416a323e79bd37—that secretly identifies her as a 26-year-old female in Nashville, Tenn.

The code knows that her favorite movies include "The Princess Bride," "50 First Dates" and "10 Things I Hate About You." It knows she enjoys the "Sex and the City" series. It knows she browses entertainment news and likes to take quizzes. "Well, I like to think I have some mystery left to me, but apparently not!" Ms. Hayes-Beaty said when told what that snippet of code reveals about her. "The profile is eerily correct."

Angwin’s article reveals that Ms. Hayes-Beaty was being monitored by Lotame Solutions Inc., a New York company that uses sophisticated software called a "beacon" to capture what people are typing on a website. The company packages that data into profiles about individuals, without mentioning the person's name, and sells the profiles to companies seeking customers.

In the quest for deeper, more relevant personalization, the tracking of consumers “has grown more pervasive and intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry.”            

The Wall Street Investigation found that the nation's 50 top websites on average installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning. A dozen sites each installed more than a hundred. The nonprofit Wikipedia installed none.

Enter Eli Pariser, former executive director of MoveOn.org and author of The Filter Bubble. 

In his book, Pariser writes, “Search for a word like ‘depression”’ on Dictionary.com, and the site installs up to 223 tracking cookies and beacons on your computer so other web sites can target you with antidepressants.  Share an article about cooking on ABC News, and you may be chased around the web by ads for Teflon-coated pots.”

The invisible side of the web is a market for information about virtually everything you do online – “driven by low-profile, but highly profitable personal data companies.” One company, Acxiom has accumulated an average of 1500 pieces of data on each person in its database – “which includes 96% of Americans – along with data about everything from credit scores to whether they’ve bought medication for incontinence.”

Angwin and Pariser both illuminate the great data dilemma.  In the effort to create a personalized web experience, data is the driver.  And companies who mine that data are in the driver’s seat.

Pariser adds, “In the view of the ‘behavior market’ vendors, every ‘click signal’ you create is a commodity, and every move of your mouse can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

Stanford law professor Ryan Calo told Pariser “every technology has an interface – a place where you end and the technology begins.  And when the technology’s job is to show you the world, it ends up sitting between you and reality, like a camera lens…there’s lots of ways for it to skew your perception of the world.”

So the conundrum is a murky trade off.  The consumer gets access to “free” services like Dictionary.com, Kayak, or Google and in return these companies get a MRI of your life.

The ethical challenge is that much of that trade off is invisible to the consumer. 

When it isn’t invisible, it is shrouded in impenetrable legalese and a gauntlet of privacy-setting controls.

Let there be light.

For more insight, check out Angwin’s WSJ article at:


And Pariser’s book, The Filter Bubble at:


Here is Pariser's TED talk:


















Dan Pink's To Sell Is Human: A review.

Arthur Miller created the archetype of the insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman in his Pulitzer-Prize winning play, Death of a Salesman. I have my own Willy Loman story.

When I was in high school, I earned extra money by lugging around a sample case of candles and selling door to door. There were, of course, the easy marks; my parents and the next-door neighbors.  Beyond the comfortable confines of my immediate neighborhood, it was a teenager’s view of hell – doors slammed, fingers wagging no from behind lace curtains, and the one-hour pitch that led to “I’ll have to think about it.” 

Like most Americans, I have a rather dim view of salespeople.  In fact, it is usually ranked among the most distrusted professions along with stock traders, politicians, dentists, and lawyers.

Which is surprising, because Dan Pink, the author of the new book, To Sell is Human; the Surprising Truth About Moving Others was a lawyer.  Pink, the author of such best sellers as A Whole New Mind and Drive takes a fresh and engaging look at the art and social science of selling.  In fact, his thesis is that in one way or another, we are all salespeople.

Pink begins with some provocative statistics – the result of his study with Qualtrics, a research and data analytics company.  The study, What Do You Do At Work?, revealed “that people are now spending 40 percent of their time at work engaging in non-sales: selling – persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a wide range of professions, we are devoting roughly twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others.”

The book makes a compelling argument that “we are all in sales now” because while the existing data show that 1 in 9 Americans work in sales, the new data reveal so do the other 8 in 9.

In all of his books, Pink (Like Malcolm Gladwell) uses behavioral economics and science to illuminate a subject – in many ways, counterintuitive to what many of us believe.

For example, he cites a 2008 experiment where researchers simulated a negotiation over the sale of a gas station.  (I assume this was before the great financial meltdown.)

“Like many real-life negotiations, this one presented what looked like an obstacle: The highest price the buyer would pay was less than the lowest price the seller would accept.  However, the parties had other mutual interests that, if surfaced, could lead to a deal both would accept.”

Pink continues, “One-third of the negotiators were instructed to imagine what the other side was feeling, while one-third was instructed to imagine what the other side was thinking.   (The remaining third, given bland and generic instructions, was the control group.)”

The result?  The empathizers (feeling) struck many more deals than the control group, But the perspective takers (thinking) did even better: 75% of them managed to fashion a deal that satisfied both sides.

The authors of the study, Adam Galinsky, Joe Magee, M. Inesi and Deborah Gruenfeld and another study by William Maddux showed that “Empathy…was effective but less so, and was, at times a detriment to both discovering creative solutions and self-interest.”

Pink also dispels the myth that extroverts make the best salespeople in today’s economy and that the “Ambivert” – someone who is somewhere between an extrovert and an introvert is the rising star in moving people.

If you’re familiar with the classic Alec Baldwin uber-salesman scene in David Mamet’s Glengarry, Glen Ross you’ll know that the ABC scribbled on the chalkboard means, “Always be closing.”  (For movie fans, Mamet wrote that scene for Baldwin and is not in the original play).

Pink has rewired and rethought the ABC of the new world of selling and it’s Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.  Like his other books, he complements each idea with relevant case studies, strategies and a number of insight exercises. 

He offers six successors to the standard elevator pitch.  Shows you why problem finding may be a smarter strategy than problem solving, and how skills in improvisation can dramatically improve how to move people.

All of which makes To Sell Is Human – a delightfully useful read.  Essentially, Pink is reframing what “selling” is all about.  We are all salespeople because everyday we are selling ideas, positions, and strategies to other people.  I highly recommend it.

I know Dan personally and marvel how there are very few pictures of him without a purple shirt and he doesn’t disappoint in To Sell Is Human.   So, I requested a preview copy and bought my own Kindle version as well.

I first met him at a book signing at BIF (Business Innovation Factory) and what impressed me is that he didn’t simply sign books; he had short, meaningful conversations with everyone.   I think he’s a reluctant salesperson.  Dan is more interested in sharing information and ideas than selling you a product or service.

And ultimately, that’s the foundation of the new age of sales – how to move others, by moving yourself.

Finally, for anyone wishing to sell candles door to door, the Praying Hands cylinder candle was a big hit.

Click below to find book at Amazon.  


Or check out Dan's website:












Creativity lessons from Bert, Barz & Kirby Part 3

Here is a continuation of Part 1 with a radio spot called Birds starring the great Alan Barzman written and produced by Marty Baker.



Creativity lessons from Bert, Barz & Kirby Part 1

If there is a media food chain, radio has probably plummeted just slightly above carrier pigeon and skywriting.  But there was a golden age of radio and a golden age of radio commercials. 

Surprisingly, there is a very small family tree for some of the funniest radio commercials ever created.  It began with the incomparable Stan Freberg.  “Who put those eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can.”  

Jim KirbyFreberg was a big inspiration to Alan Barzman.  (The talent voice over for the first series of Energizer bunny commercials).  Alan Barzman got together with Jim Kirby and won radio awards by the ton.

Bert Bertis, the Bert of Dick and Bert radio fame, left Dick to create Bert, Barz and Kirby.  Dick Orkin soared on his own and created “Chicken Man” and the great Radio Ranch production company.

I had the incredibly good fortune of working with Bert, Jim and Alan.  And I wrote and directed spots featuring Jim and Alan as talents for my old company Dog Eat Dog Radio.

Having these guys laugh at one of your spots was like winning the Clio.  Actually, it was better.  The late Jim Kirby was an inspiration and a mentor to me.  His distinctive voice, impeccable timing and a well-honed sense of the absurd, elevated his work beyond the ordinary.

What great radio writers and performers know is that the true creativity is in the seemingly tiniest details.  Here is a portion of conversation that Jim and I had about a radio spot for Toyota that I wrote.

“Jim, I heard back from legal and we can’t use the name Clement Spackle for our main character – apparently Spackle is a trademarked.”

 “Too bad, it’s a funny name.”

 “Well Jim, I’ll come up with something…”

 “How’s this?  D. David Drywall”


It’s hard to explain but David Drywall isn’t funny, but D. David is funny. It opens the question, what in heck does D stand for and why make it an initial?  

The spots created by Bert Barz and Kirby are stylistically linked to the 80's and 90's -- broad comedy, character voices and an almost vaudeville sensibility.  But I have always thought that the creativity behind them is timeless.  People are still writing great radio spots today, but we don't see as many craftsmen -- people who eat, breath and live radio.

The big lesson I learned from Jim, Alan, Bert and Dick are that when it comes to creativity in radio, you need to work all tiny moments and effects to build a great spot. 

1.  Make it visual.

 “I heard it on the radio” was one of the great radio promotion campaigns ever created.  Radio has always been a theater of imagination.  You don’t need a passport or a Sherpa to start a radio spot on the top of Mount Everest.”  Just wind and chattering teeth.

2.  Story matters.

One of the techniques that Radio Ranch uses is to begin generating ideas by telling stories.  Let’s say, the assignment is selling baloney.  You might begin by sharing your experience with baloney – no matter how mundane.   For example, I was never a fan of baloney because I hated the hot dog.  For me, it was a flattened hot dog. 

 Another person may tell a story of trying to trade a baloney sandwich for a PP&J.

 Here is an example of a story progression. Nobody wants to trade baloney for a PP&J until they discover its Oscar Myer baloney.   Now, you add a dose of the unexpected, it’s not children but executives who are trading lunches at a board meeting.  Or maybe it’s the President’s cabinet. 

 If the story is rooting in common experience you can move it to the edge as long the as the essential story is the foundation.

3.  Avoid the speed bump.

This is term that comedians use about pacing.  Sometimes you have to cut a good bit or joke because it steps on another joke. In production, I will often add a few frames (micro bits of time) in between lines or jokes to give room for the line to breath and linger in the listener's ear.

4.  Talent. Talent. Talent. (And, yes, Talent)

If you listen to the spots created by Bert, Barz and Kirby and Radio Ranch, you’ll find the same voices appearing over and over again.  Edie McClurg, (Ferris Buellers Day Off) Tom Poston, Miriam Flynn, Gary Owens, Phil Hartman – and, of course, Orkin, Barz and Kirby.

I spent hours and hours listening to talent tapes – and getting to know the nuances that each talent could bring to a spot.  Julie Basham Smith, my producer at The Martin Agency would often wince when I brought up using Danny Mann again.  Danny could do virtually any voice – an elf, a sarcastic man on the street, a Ninja Turtle. He played Ferdy the duck in Babe, Pig in the City.

Another reason why radio writers/producers often go with the same talent is that you know what you’re getting before you enter the studio.  You often only have a half hour with these talents (or less) and if a talent is working, you’ve blown a radio budget for the client.

 5.   Don’t write for the eye.

If you record and transcribe the way people really speak, it isn’t pretty. Ums. Ahs. Stepping on each other’s words.  It’s generally ungrammatical. When you present radio to a client on paper, it will remind them of a print ad.   So when they see “uh oh” or pre-planned interruptions, it appears odd on paper, but not in production.

6.  Sell sparingly.

This is the most difficult challenge of all.  In the 60-second spot you have a lot of landscape to create funny bits and include the sell. In 30-second spots, you have very little especially when you have to include a phone number or web site. Or worse, both.

For example, I once did a spot for Bank One (Also linked below) where the client asked to put the phone number in the spot five times.  Strategically it makes good sense, but it turns up the difficulty factor in pulling off a spot that will be enjoyed.

That means we often have to go to a donut – or the area where the “announcer” does the sell.  It screams to the audience “this is the serious part.”  The great radio spots like the Budweiser frogs didn’t need it, but for cell service or a bank offering, it’s almost impossible not to use this format to convey information.

One of the big amateur mistakes in radio is what we call the all too knowledgeable consumer.  It’s your next-door neighbor who knows that you can replace your windows for “just $49.95 plus tax and delivery charges.” 

Sometimes you can't avoid having talent saying things that oversell the product -- in the case of the Toyota spot below -- I had to mention payload which triggered "X amount  of people, cargo and equipment."  If you have a limited budget adding an announcer in addition to talent is going to raise the cost of the production especially if it's a spot that plays nationally or in major city markets.

Below are some of the radio spots I created using Jim Kirby and Alan Barzman as talents.   Thanks Jim, Alan, Bert and Dick for the schooling and inspiration.

Hardware Hour (Jim Kirby Talent/Marty Baker Writer/Producer  (Click below to download)

More spots to be added. 


Hardware Hour