Saturday, April 23, 2011

Speaking Of Pop-Up Books

Have you noticed the steady stream of national TV ads that makes use of simulated pop-up books? For companies like Bridgestone and JP Morgan Chase, and brands like Coors Light, Lexus and Chevy Malibu?*

I have some ideas as to why I like pop-up books, why I think they can be effective teaching tools, etc. (I’ve incorporated pop-ups and other paper engineering techniques in a "structural bookwork" about general management; see my Imagined Conversation post.) How come, though, the sudden widespread use and fascination?

I’m sure it has something to do with animation technologies that are making production more practical. And it’s probably easier now to locate (inspiring) examples and practitioners than ever before. But, is there something pro advertisers know about their audiences that’s leading 'em to believe pop-ups would be effective on TV? Is it just a fad amongst creative directors? Should we expect to see more?

Anybody got any ideas?

Here’s one of my favorite examples -- this for The Timken Company of good ol’ Canton, Ohio:

*Some other cos. and brands to add to the running list: Pearl Opticians. Mastercard. Ford Focus. Musselman’s Apple Sauce. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Looking Through My Charlie Brown Lens

[My review of SHOCKPROOF by Debra Jacobs, Garrett Sheridan and Juan Pablo Gonzalez]
Linus: I told her (the little red-haired girl) about how you're madly in love with her
Charlie Brown: Aaugh!!
GOOD GRIEF. There’s too much marketing going on here. Even before page one, we’re introduced to the fact that “shockproofing” is now a verb (it isn’t, is it?) and, at the beginning o’ the prologue, to the Shockproof brand promise. That word then keeps appearing again and again, in all its related forms, throughout the book.

SIGH…I didn’t detect any signs of doubt. Is the Shockproof approach foolproof? Is it clearly superior to other approaches? Given the magnitude of their task, I found the authors’ certainty to be, at times: amazing, amusing, and a tad depressing.

AAUGH!! What strikes me as the group’s most original work has to do with dynamically *aligning* strategy, organization and people to achieve great results – but they don’t really get into the nuts and bolts of their alignment methods ‘til page 155. Once they do, IMO they do a better job of de-scribing than pre-scribing. [ Shockproof Lenses, for example, are key conceptual tools. They’re intended to heighten a leader’s awareness as to what parts of his or her business most need aligning. But, aside from providing a short list of questions to ponder (related to and organized by Lens-type: Systems, Value, Change, Interpersonal and Self-Awareness) the book gives no real instructions for methodically using the Lenses, day in and day out.]

OH ALRIGHT, LUCY, I’LL TRUST YOU** Despite my negativity, the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from reading the book and judging it on its own merits. My expressions of dismay have more to do with the quality of the presentation, viewed through my Charlie Brown Lens, than with the quality of the Shockproof approach...which ('though I’m just a regular guy): makes sense, is comprehensive, seems easy enough to implement, and has a good track record. To add a bit more positivity -- the last chapter does a terrific job of spelling out exactly how any company can start using it.

**to hold on to the football.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Take Two Before Bedtime: The New Wonder Drug From Bain & Company

[My review of DECIDE & DELIVER by Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins and Paul Rogers]
Your organization…can be the standout, the one that people point to, the one where everyone wants to work, the one that decides and delivers. Your organization can accomplish great things – beginning with its next decision.
What this book’s authors and their colleagues have done is fascinating. They’ve taken everything Bain has ever learned about [1.] making great decisions and [2.] the makings of great companies – synthesized them – and come up with a nifty, logically consistent and easy-to-digest approach that (they say) pretty much ensures Complete & Total Organizational Good Health.**

I really, really like the central premise: that a company can learn over time to increase the effectiveness of the decisions it makes, and, in the process, get all its moving parts working together to produce great results. I highly, highly recommend reading all about it.

Having said that…

I’d still feel compelled, if I were a business doctor, to offer a few words to the wise to those considering a decision-centered approach.

  • First thing I’d say is you probably shouldn’t let the fact that it’s been boiled down to a 5-step process (in just 146 pages) mislead you to believe your company could master it overnight. Depending on your current state, you might still need to tackle lots and lots of sub-steps.
  • I’d say, too, that it couldn’t hurt to keep in mind that the authors work for a gigantic consulting firm and there are no regulatory restrictions (like the ones placed on giant pharmaceutical firms, for example) on what they can say.

Whoa. What’s that about? Only that a small handful o’ their statements caused my b.s. meter to blip, statements to the effect that “other attempts to reshape organizations” and “traditional approaches to organization” – i.e., competing approaches – are inferior in one way or another to theirs. Those struck me as vague and not well substantiated. Just not up to the high quality standards of the rest of the book.

I like it best when the language is careful and understated. Take my favorite line as an example: “And decisions offer a practical point of entry into what would otherwise be a large and potentially overwhelming task.” That, to me, is the big selling point. That’s their ingenious contribution.

That’s a pill, if you will, I could confidently prescribe.

**when used as directed, of course!