Keep the Book “Look” a Secret

One of my mentors, James Gilmore, just completed and sent for printing his latest book called “Look” on observation skills. I think this will be a great tool for designers and planners. Can’t wait to get my first copy.

Look Gilmore sm

So keep it a secret. It becomes available on Amazon in August 2016. Here’s where to get it. 

SPARK Your Imagination

There’s a growing trend in America. A trend where the world of art and artists are collaborating with businesses and business leaders to generate a richer offering as well as a new perspective on creating healthier and stronger businesses. There is no better avenue for this thinking in St. Louis than the SPARK Conference hosted by COCAbiz at COCA.

I was honored to be able to perform the graphic recording of the event, for Sharon Price John’s morning presentation and for the evening’s Keynote address by John Maeda. Below is the large-scale graphic recording of the full day event of SPARK at COCA.

COCAbiz SPARK 2015 sm

Please check out the wonderful services and programming that COCAbiz has to offer by contacting Steve Knight at COCAbiz. Just follow the link and get creative with business solutions.

Prism of Ideas

What is the role of a graphic facilitator? How does a graphic facilitator impact a gathering? Is it merely to provoke and record replies or is it much more?

For me, it is so much more. I see the role more than a recorder or facilitator, I see a function which goes deeper than what a participant may observe or be even aware is happening. The role of a graphic facilitator can be compared to the effect that a prism has on light. Graphic facilitators are visual prism for ideas.

Prism of Ideas

For a graphic facilitator, I view the most important function is not the recording nor is the clever tools in the box, rather, the ability to filter a singular idea into a full spectrum of possibilities and discoveries. A single idea is more than a simply thought; for hidden deep inside it can be an endless collection of new possibilities and by applying various techniques and tools we become a prism for those ideas. Taking a single thought and splitting it into multiple ideas through creativity, investigative and mechanical channels, we enrich the conversation, uncover possible and multiple solutions as well as offer a larger view of opportunities for those we serve.

So the next time some ask you what you do, tell them this…

“I am your idea prism.”

So, continue making those ideas visual and keep your prism clear and clean.

You Are Here

I love the malls. My biggest enjoyment in these massive places is people watching. You can learn so much about how we humans interact and react. Also, there is great inspiration in these shopping meccas. One inspiration I use came from a sign that almost all shoppers have see, read and referred. It’s a sign predominately display for all to see.. I am referring to the mall map. The sign that plots out all the shops by place and group of services or goods.

The mall map tells us so much about our environment. However, this sign in its entirety was not the source of my inspiration, rather the simple red dot icon and three words accompanying it. “You Are Here.” As a statement to anyone planning strategy, this hits home quickly and strongly. In order to plan, we need to know where we are on this very spot and in this current time. We need to know where “You Are Here” is.

Here is a visual exercise that I challenge anyone who is planning to move forward to answer ‘Who’ and ‘What’ holds you bank and drives you forward.

Hold Back Move Forward


Before you can move forward you need to know your “You Are Here.”


Four Decisions

Over the past 25+ years working with businesses of all sizes, you come to believe one simple truth; size does not matter when it comes to decisions. All can be life changing or devastating.  Sure, the number of people, dollars or customers may change, but at the end of the day, all businesses owners need to make decisions that will impact their business.

I have been told by some of the best business minds, psychologist, and many entrepreneurs, ‘focus on one major decision at a time.’ This is good advice about 90% of the time, because if you making those decisions all at the same time, you’ll go crazy and eventually destroy what you are trying to build. Stay focused.

That leads me back to the title and the graphic below. In my years of listening to owners, executive management teams, board members and entrepreneurs, I have identified, in most of my meetings, the four main decisions that groups face that creates action fear.

I am not going to label these except by a single letter. I’ll let you create the narrative. If you’re facing any big decision, I am sure you can identify very clearly by one of these four images. Which one stands out to you?

4 Decisions

I use this sets of images to help groups and individuals to uncover their underlining issue(s) so that I can help them understand all the issues facing them at this point. By begin the process with these images, it guides the conversation and visual thinking towards a solution. So ask again, which one stands out the most to you now?

Try it out for yourself

Draw the image that most stands out to you in the center of a piece of paper small enough so you are able to add comments around the image. Now ask yourself the question that you feel relates best to that image. Write down that question just above the image. Highlight this question so that it stay predominant on the page. Now, jot down simple, short answers as they come to you over the next day or so. See if an answer doesn’t present itself, even if it’s the one you may not like, but must do.

Good luck and happy visual thINKing.

To learn more about this type of visual thinking called Mind Mapping, check out some of these sites for more ideas. 

Video File; Tony Buzan “How to Mind Map”

WikiHow: “How to Make A Mind Map”

Apathy to Empathy: A Business Shift

Technology affects our everyday lives more than most would imagine. It has shaped our means of communication, education, social life and even business models. There are many studies that can show trends in delivery and production, yet the biggest change does not set a mark on a statistical chart nor can it be counted on a spreadsheet, but it is there. Technology is changing the very nature of business and consumers.

As a little as 15 years ago, the majority of businesses pushed product and services out to consumers. This was how companies have functioned since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Today, factories produce more goods than a population could actually obtain at sustainable levels. To compensate, companies decrease the cost of goods by lowering the quality of production to ensure constant mass production and keep pushing product to the mass market.

In 1998, two gentlemen, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, authored the broadest, most concise look at economic changes with “The Experience Economy”. In the book, the progression of economic value is outlined and clearly defined. During the 2004 TED conference Joseph Pine spoke to this very progression. Both the book and the presentation explains how companies evolve from one economic value to the next. In their book, the authors identify some of the driving factors that make this progression clear. But even Pine and Gilmore could not see how technology would begin reshaping consumer consumption trends years later.

In 2010, Rachel Botsman spoke at TEDx in Sidney on the subject of “Collaborative Consumption” where consumers are making an incredible shift from acquiring mass production products to renting or sharing products only when they need them. She argues the issue that consumers are tired of acquiring “stuff” which ends up controlling their lives or where they must live to house this stuff. Consumers began creating a new consumer acquisition model. (see impact sample study)

U.S. News published a compelling article “The Rise of The Collaborative Consumption Economy” on  April 9, 2012 by David Brodwin. In this article, David identifies a new model of consumer habits, “peer-to-peer” consumption. No longer are people acquiring goods when they want something or even if they may need sometime in the near future, rather, consumers are sharing purchases with others or renting products when needed, minimizing space needs as well as costs.

Just as Pine & Gilmore investigated the progression of economics is driven by the consumer’s increasing demand for greater value, technology is a key reason in the evolution of economic value, however, there is another element that I feel is driving this shift in consumption as well as how companies are modeling their businesses. This is a shift from apathy to empathy. (see empathy maps)

Apathy Empathy

In the traditional business model of consumer goods or services, most companies functioned in a state of apathy. Not listening to the consumer’s wants, rather how consumers buy. Companies create offerings and push them out into the market and using marketing and advertising to create demand. Companies rely on consumer field research, focus groups and test groups to gain insights on what consumers will acquire next. Then came the internet.

At first, the internet was a great way to promote, distribute and sell new products to a larger mass market. For businesses, only a slight adaptation to their business model was needed to exist in this new competitive arena. Yet technology and the internet would begin to grow a new breed of consumers and educate existing ones. A consumer who shares information openly, resells products and even collaborates on product design. Business need to become collaborative if they plan to grow.

Through the use of social media and instant connectivity, the old model of apathy thinking is dying. If companies are to grow and maintain profitability, they will need to begin to think about consumers on a more empathetic level.  Understand how consumers see the world and those providing to them. Companies will need to listen more and tell less to the consumer about products and services. If there is any truth in this new collaborative consumption economy idea, then a new business model is needed.  A model that embraces empathy and moves away from traditional apathy. If companies truly want to know the consumer, then they will need to get to know the consumer and how the consumer sees and thinks about them.

Below is the visual structure model of the new “Empathetic Business Model”.


Originally developed in 2005 for a changing economy and to support a troubled industry, a similar visual model was created to help companies develop stronger observations about their focus markets. Over the years this empathetic business model has been refined and adjusted to work especially well for start-ups, small businesses and individuals. This type of model was conceived to work with traditional business models such as the Business Model Canvas which demonstrates cash flow, business relations and supply channels. The Empathetic Business Model, with a business journey map, is used as a prequel business model that helps companies or individuals to identify their strengths, determine possible obstacles and define the relationship between the provider and the consumer by using empathy as a key discovery tool.

If the consumer is changing their buying habits, then the model to provide for those habits needs to change as well. By employing empathy into a business development model, companies gain insights on the life of their offering, how better to serve their customers and increase the value they offer.

For companies to be successful in this Collaborative Consumption Economy they will need to shift from merely selling products to a market and begin listening to consumers so they can better serve their market.

If you’re interesting in learning more, follow the path along the journey map in the posts. The first “Starting the Journey” and request your access. Thanks.

Get More Customers

From the Mantel

One of the best ways to find new prospects is by finding similar people to your current customers. I used this metaphor of ‘Photos on the Mantel’ with many people and on a earlier post. The process is very straight forward, but does need a bit of control when profiling.

1. Start with your best 5 -10 repeat customers. If you don’t have repeat customers, this could be your first issue, but that is for a later conversation.

2. Create a unique and clear profile of a customer type and not a specific customer. Examples: Stay at Home Moms, Active Couples, Retired Sportsman or Young Parents.

3. Interview your 5 -10 top customers to uncover why they work with or buy from you.  Define their needs, wants and how they were fulfilled.

4. Establish some basic character traits. Try to uncover favorite hobbies, times when they buy, general shopping preferences and even the type car they drive. These are all signs of spending habits and possible social influence.

4. Ask how they found you initially. Was it by print, a friend, radio, internet or social media? Know where each type found you. Everyone does not use the same methods.

5. Product or service types they obtain from you.


Now that you have your basic profiles, label your current customers into these profile types. You should start seeing patterns, if not, you may want to adjust or refine your profiles or customer choice. Some customers may fit into a few multiple profiles. If you start seeing most of your customers fitting in multiple profiles, refine your profiles yet again. Try to be as unique as possible. See profile example chart.

Now, finding new customers can come from current customers that have similar characteristics and needs. Use their associate network.

The second method is use these profiles to find places that various types of your people would be located, such as shopping areas, meeting groups, hobby shows and even online social groups. Similar profile types usually have similar spending, socializing and work habits. Again the key is similarity.

I hope these visual thinking sketches help you grow and prosper.

Until next time, see your path and stay the course. Without a map, you can’t see where you’re going, nor how far you’ve come.