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Creativity tip: ask a four year old

>> 28 November 2010

What better and simpler way to get fresh ideas than to ask other people?

In business terms we tend to call this brainstorming: we sit in a room and discuss the same topic, bounce things off each other in the hope of coming up with that one bright idea that will make our project sky rocket.

Some serious research however suggests that most brainstorming sessions fail to achieve exactly that.

Also, brainstorming the way we know it requires a small group of people, which you don't always have around when you need it.

So one day, when I needed some ideas and didn't have a willing group of brainstormers handy, I used the closest thing to it... my children.

Seth Godin has very simple advice on how to raise your children:

  • ask them to solve complicated problems, and
  • teach them to be leaders
I am taking that at heart and whenever I need to get some creative input, I ask my children all sorts of adult and complicated questions.

Like how to solve the Greek debt crisis for example.
Or how to get rid of the Iceland ash cloud.

And you know what?
They are actually pretty good at solving problems and coming up with original ideas.
And you, as their parent (or aunt, or friend) know them well enough to translate their answers into usable (adult) information.

So next time you are looking for a great idea, a solution to a problem, grab yourself a 4 year old.


12 sites for mindful presents for the holidays

>> 24 November 2010

The holiday season is known for spending money. Often on gifts that end up being not wanted.

To make your choice this year a bit easier, I would like to point out a few sites for gifts that are:
  • original and creative
  • ethnic and ethical
  • ecological
  • mindful and for a good cause 

The movement for tribal people. Survival is the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide.
Their shop offers cards, t-shirts stationary, jewelery, books, etc

The bubble tree offers organic, fair trade, recycled gifts often manufactured by locals. (site in French)

Ethnic and modern African fair trade decoration.

This Fair Earth believes that handmade, ethical products can be more desirable, more individual and higher quality than their mass-produced counterparts. This Fair Earth has a fantastic range of ethical home ware and ethical jewelery. The home ware includes striking, fair trade and environmentally-friendly photo albums, photo frames, journals and candles. The beautiful range of jewelery is either fairly traded from small producers in developing nations or hand made closer to home in the UK.

If you are looking for unusual gift ideas then quirky shop Daisy Daisy is just the place. The shop is bursting with fabulous fair trade goodies including handmade jewelery and accessories, hand painted ceramics, wooden toys, fair trade organic cotton kids clothes, handmade homewares and organic skin care. Daisy Daisy is proud to be a member of the British Association for Fair Trade Shops. 

Tree2mydoor is a unique gift company that specialises in sending personalised trees as gifts to people all over the UK and Ireland. They have created special tree gift packs for newborn baby gifts, green wedding gifts and 4th, 5th and 25th wedding anniversary gifts. Tree gifts range from native UK tree species to garden fruit trees and indoor citrus trees. 

Wishcraft has carefully selected the most unusual and beautifully handcrafted gift ideas from around the world. Every striking piece in Wishcraft’s collection is ethically sourced and individually created by master artisans. They offer a huge range of beautiful handcrafts and fashion accessories created under fair trade conditions. Their collection includes contemporary silk bags, traditional hand embroidered soft furnishings and colourful children’s items. 

Nkuku specialise in eco friendly, fair trade gifts and home accessories. They combine contemporary designs with age old techniques, natural materials and sustainable methods of production. Nkuku is socially responsible and is built on the principles of fair trade and equal opportunity. They are a member of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) and BAFTS.

THE FAIR TRADE STORE  is an Online Shop bringing you unique, handmade Fair Trade products from around the developing world in an easy, convenient and secure way. Select from a wide range of Fair Trade Gifts including Fair Trade Jewellery, Bags and Recycled Fashion Accessories.

Fairwind is about gifts and fair trade. They pride themselves on great customer service and on being kind to the planet. They offer a high quality range of the most desirable fair trade gifts from across the globe, safe in the knowledge that nobody in the third world is being disadvantaged, and the environment is not being harmed.

Visit Pure Design's online gallery and be amazed by their range of beautiful designer eco accessories for you and your home. Made in the UK by award-winning designers, their range of organic, recycled and sustainable accessories are all available to order online. They also offer a consultancy and commissioning service; whether you are decorating a new home or simply looking for a centre piece to refresh a room or outfit, let Pure Design help you find an exclusive design piece just for you. 

The Travelling Souk was set up in 2003 by Georgiana Grimston and Anna Craven. Inspired by a trip to the magical souks & markets of Marrakesh, Georgiana realised there was an opportunity to re-create them in the heart of British homes and raise money for charity. Each Travelling Souk event would become a unique private sale bringing together small businesses selling unique and exotic wares. 

If you have kids, you might want to think about making some gifts yourself. It's guaranteed family fun and an original gift.

If all this is still too much for you, you can always decide to buy nothing this Christmas



Creativity tip - Morph it!

>> 21 November 2010

Today I want to give you another way to crank out some new ideas.

I call it 'MORPH IT' as you try to look at the problem as if it were something completely different.

1. Formulate the issue (for example as a HOW TO statement):

  • How to increase traffic to our website?
2. Create 2 columns:
  • Column 1: Pick a totally different product or service and describe it:
    • What are its attributes?
    • What are its functions?
    • Does it have unusual aspects?
  • Column 2: Relate each attribute back to your issue:
    • How could these attributes be used to resolve your issue?
    • Look for ideas and write them all down
    Examples of other products/services:
How to increase traffic to our website? -> morphed into Fedex:
Fedex attributes:
  • Delivery the next day before noon
  • Personal delivery
  • Fast
  • Different options for sending
  • Online tracking
  • ...
 Ideas sprouting from there:
  • Put a face of your employees/CEO on the website
  • Offer subscription to weekly newsletter
  • Reply faster than anyone to online questions
  • Make it load fast
  • Give people different options when coming to landing page (just browsing: open random page, looking for specific info: field to let them enter what they look for, etc)
  • Add widgets that allow them to follow you
From now on, try giving your issue a different morphology whenever you encounter a problem and see what jumps up!


The Secret to getting from A to B

>> 17 November 2010

I often get asked 'How do you do all the things that you do? How do you manage to do them all? How did you get to where you are now?'

Well, let me tell you a secret:

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” -- --John Pierpont Morgan


That is indeed the very first step. And it is the most important one.

So let's stay with it for a minute here and analyze what it really means.

Many people have realized that something needs to change, that something is not right. And they keep looking for the kind fairy to spin her wand and miraculously make it all right.

Well, let me tell you another secret:

There are no miracles. There are no fairies.

And even if there were, you would still be stuck at the first step. 


YOU need to DECIDE that you are NOT going to STAY where you are.


Read that again.

So you, need to take an action to create movement. As simple as that.


Many people are stuck or unhappy and they know it. They moan about everything to everyone. But they don't do anything about the situation. They complain that it's too complicated, too difficult, too risky or that they just don't know where to start.

So let me tell you another secret:

Once you have decided that you don't want to stay where you are, all it takes is a small step.

  • You don't need to stop smoking by tomorrow (that would be very smart, but very hard).

  • You don't have to loose 20 pounds in a week (that wouldn't be very smart and probably very unhealthy).

  • You don't have to start your business by the end of next month (that would be possible but you would just feel overwhelm and experience no fun).

All you need to do is take a small step:

  • Tell someone you would like to stop smoking (tell them tomorrow). Or, buy some nicotine patches to see how they can help you reach your goal (buy some by the end of this week).

  • Take out some pictures of yourself when you liked the way you looked and stick them on the bathroom mirror (do that tomorrow). Make an appointment with your doctor in view of making a weight loss plan with him (do that by next week).

  • Make a list of all the things that need to be done (by the end of the week). Then break each big step up into small steps and those again into smaller, doable steps (do that by the end of this month).
Start wherever you are and start small. -- Rita Baily 

You are not changing the starting point (A) or the end result (B: quit smoking, loosing 20 pounds or starting a business), you are just breaking the path up into doable portions, baby steps, little A to B sub steps.

This will allow you to:
  • experience completion along the way (and hey, you can celebrate the little successes!)
  • remain motivated
  • experience fun
  • keep up momentum (once one step is finished, another one is already lined up)
It will also prevent you from:
  • experiencing overwhelm
  • giving up before you even really started
  • being stressed and bitchy and no fun
And look, all these famous people can't be wrong?

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. -- Confucious 

The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can. -- Mike Dooley 

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
Henry Ford 

Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.
Indira Gandhi 

The elevator to success is out of order. You'll have to use the stairs...one step at a time.
Joe Girard  

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.
Lee Iacocca 

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu 

We don't try to be 100% better, rather 1% better a hundred ways.
Ann Mitchell     

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Baby step by baby step, you have what you need right now to start moving in the direction of your happiest dreams.
Marta Davidovich Ockuly 
It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.
Chinese Proverb 

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.
Nora Roberts 

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.
Helmut Schmidt

All great things have small beginnings.
Peter Senge 

The first step is to find out what you love – and don’t be practical about it. The second step is to start doing what you love immediately, in any small way possible.
Barbara Sher 
When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all that I can permit myself to contemplate.
John Steinbeck

Every change starts in a small step.
Ron Stolero
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.
Mark Twain


Creativity tip - Reverse it!

>> 14 November 2010

A good and fast way to crank out some new ideas is to reverse them.

1. Formulate the issue as a HOW TO statement:
  • How to increase training attendance by 30%?
2. Create 3 columns:
  • Column 1: Assumptions
    • What are the key characteristics, elements,...?
    • What must we have/do?
    • What would we get fired for changing?
  • Column 2: Reverse Assumptions
    • Negate the whole statement
    • Reverse elements of the phrase
    • Do not spend time looking for a precise reversal (just write it as it comes)
  • Column 3: Look for ideas in the reversal and write them into column 3
What can this mean/bring you?


From now on, try reversing whenever you encounter a problem and see what jumps up!


How to be kind on world kindness day

>> 10 November 2010

This Saturday it's World Kindness Day


Philospher and psychologist Piero Ferrucci says kindness is composed of 7 ingredients:

Understand a friend, see his point of view instead of answering with anger or impatience.

Be humble with your friends, listen to them instead of boasting about your successes.

Connections are more important than gaining three minutes. Think about this next time you impatiently stand in line at the supermarket.

Offer an object, a feeling, a thought, time. It allows you to go from owning to the pleasure to be with your friends.

Listen to the other without judgment. Accept his point of view even if it's different from yours. It gives the other the space he deserves. Without this respect, kindness remains superficial.

It forms the base of constant solid relationship with those we love. Being loyal allows you to be in line with yourself and to keep our word.

Measure the chance you have to be healthy, thank your loved ones to be there for you,... Gratitude allows you to feel content with what you have and are without taking it for granted. Gratitude nourishes the sensation of plenitude and softens our regrets and frustrations.


  1. It makes you happy.
  2. It reinforces your immune system (check out research of Heartmath)
  3. It improves the performances of others (The Art of being kind)
  4. It relieves pain (The Healing Power of Doing Good)
  5. It gives pleasure (Healthy Pleasures)
  6. It is motivating.
  7. It is contagious (The Art of being kind)


  1. Distribute coffee or tea in the street (to the homeless, the mailman, the paperboy...)
  2. Organize a fundraiser for a charity.
  3. Bring flowers to someone you like.
  4. Thank the teacher of your child with a little gift.
  5. Leave a big tip to the waiter and leave a note of thanks.
  6. Invite a neighbor or lonely elder for dinner.
  7. Write to someone you have lost touch with or are angry with.
  8. At the hospital, visit those who get no visitors.
  9. Put some coins into the snack dispenser with a post-it that says 'Enjoy'.
  10. Play 'I noticed': observe your colleagues, friends and notice their new outfits, haircuts etc and compliment them.
For more ideas, visit:

Acts of Kindness
World Kindness Movement


Creativity tip: Trigger list

>> 7 November 2010

This week I was talking about A wish is a niche and how a bug list can help you come up with the next hype.

There are other lists I tend to maintain to get a creative spark.

One of them is a trigger list.

Every time I come across something where I think 'Hey, that is a great idea' or 'Darn, wish I'd invented that', I keep it:

  • I tear out the page of the magazine (yes, even if it's at the doctors')
  • I bookmark the webpage in a special folder
  • I put them on Tumblr or Squidoo
I use them as stepping stones for gathering new ideas, for writing blog posts, for mindful surfing, for inspiration, for combining ideas etc.

Start collecting today!


Is the 'pike syndrome' keeping your from your success?

>> 3 November 2010

Do you get paralised by imaginary barriers?
Do you suffer defeat because of some made-up obstacles?
Do you have preconceived notions or arbitrary fears?
Do you let outside things (like norms and rituals) cloud your judgment?

How do you respond to change?

Do you adapt?

What is holding you back? Is it real or fictional?

Do you evolve? Or die?


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