Archive for category PurplePrinciples.

Sweat the small stuff.

Rory Sutherland @ TED:

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Designed by Apple.

An inspiring and simple corporate ethos:  Focus everything on designing things people will truly love.

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Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed.

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David Ogilvy.

When Patricia Sellers, a reporter for Fortune Magazine, asked David Oglivy for advice on building and running a business, the 80 year old advertising legend gave her this timeless advice…

Remember that Abraham Lincoln spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He left out the pursuit of profit.

Remember the old Scottish motto: “Be happy while you’re living, for you are a long time dead.”

If you have to reduce your company’s payroll, don’t fire your people until you have cut your compensation and the compensation of your big-shots.

Define your corporate culture and your principles of management in writing. Don’t delegate this to a committee. Search all the parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees.

Stop cutting the quality of your products in search of bigger margins. The consumer always notices — and punishes you.

Never spend money on advertising which does not sell.

Bear in mind that the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Do not insult her intelligence.

David Ogilvy


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Where’s your concept car?

Do you have a vision for where you are going?

It occurred to me a few years ago that most of the teams I was working with were missing a clean vision.  They had many “projects”.  They all had “vision statements” in their plans.  They had “objectives”, “strategies”, “prototypes” and all of the other stuff that goes into good planning.  But most were missing the ultimate destination in a form that would allow them to share a clear and unified understanding of exactly where they were all trying to go.

Expressing your vision in a way others can understand it allows them to rally, inspire the right thinking, and make the right choices along the way to realize it.

This got me thinking about the automotive industry and the “concept car”.  These are real and functioning manifestations of a vision.  They are not just built to excite consumers at auto shows.  Rather, they are destinations that force the company to think about exactly what the future looks like: in a way they can physically explore it, understand it, test it, find problems and solutions for it, and ensure the right choices are made in the boardroom to enable the company to realize it.  Perhaps most importantly, building your concept car allows you to think outside of your own manufacturing constraints, so that you can focus on what consumers actually want and what you would have to be able to build (vs. what you can build today that they “might like”).

Example:  It’s hard to imagine Apple could have gotten to any of their products without a very clear, real and functioning prototype of what they wanted at the beginning of the process.  It’s also hard to believe Apple would try so hard to innovate if they owned production facilities that couldn’t make a completely different product next year.  They have a fully functioning vision at the start, and then design the business around getting it to consumers.  It’s obvious for engineers, so why do so many marketers miss it?

We need more “concept cars” in our thinking.

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Tim Cook: The Apple doctrine.

Apple COO Tim Cook, quoted during the Q3 2008 results call, when asked if Apple would be OK without Steve Jobs:

“Ben, let me add something to that and backup just a bit. There is extraordinary breadth and depth and tenure among the Apple executive team, and they lead 35,000 employees that I would call wicked smart – and that’s in all areas of the company from engineering to marketing to operations and sales and all the rest. And the values of our company are extremely well entrenched.

We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.

We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.

And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well. And I would just reiterate a point Peter made in his opening comments that I strongly believe that Apple is doing the best work in its history.”

This explains so much, on so many levels.

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Think different.

The best of the Apple “Think Different” campaign.  Not just advertising, rather a corporate statement of belief in itself and its culture.  Years on, it is still this culture that inspires the wonderful products we see today.

For fun and interests sake, I’ve added their most recent campaign “Our Signature” (2013):


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The PurplePrinciples.

A collection of guiding management principles I wish I had understood before having to learn them the hard way:

Set your destination.

Define the goal, paint the picture of success, first.  An action without this is directionless.

Know your objective.

What exactly is it you are trying to achieve?  Questions are usually easy to solve when you know what the answer needs to be.

Make the hard choices.

Strategy is about choice.  You cannot do everything well, so what do you want to focus on?

Move the needle.

An idea without action is meaningless.  An action with no results is a failed investment.  Make sure the things you do create value.

Be Better.

Understand those you want to love your product / idea.  Then create something they would love, by ensuring that it is BETTER than anything else they could find.  Dont be competitive, be BETTER than everyone else.

Keep it simple.

Things are generally complicated, but complexity breeds misunderstanding and people avoid it.  Making things very simple is not easy, but everybody gets it.

Borrow it.

Invent where absolutely required.  But stealing what works and then doing it faster and better is always much easier.

Don’t be insane.

The definition of insanity is to do the exact same thing over and over again, yet each time expecting different results.  Clear the table of what is not working.  Don’t be crazy.

No weak links.

Team members who aren’t pulling their weight, or are counter-productive, need to go for the sake of the greater good.  Even if they are the smartest and brightest.  Its uncomfortable, but essential.


Celebrate when you move the needle.  Note others achievements aloud.  Make sure that you mark the occasions where hard work has delivered.


Two ears, one mouth.  Understanding what someone actually means is not easy.  Plus, people will like you more.

Finish what you start.
When you start something, write it down and scratch it out once done.  Don’t leave too many things undone.  It creates anxiety, which creates stasis, which stresses you and those that work with you.

Build, don’t destroy.

It’s very simple to spot imperfections in others ideas, and pointing these out rarely has any productive value or result.  Help build on others ideas instead.

Make wonderful things.

Don’t ever leave yourself in a position where you are trying to put makeup on a pig.  Make your products wonderful, and they will be loved and sell themselves.

Be Remarkable.

Doing something that people will notice, and might matter enough to share, is always a goal unto itself.

Be positive.

Negative thinking breeds laziness and inaction.  Positivity is productive and breeds excitement.  Both can spread through an organization like a virus.  Pick one.


What would you love to do?  Do that.

Do what you say you will do.

Don’t set precedent as someone who might not deliver by leaving things undone.  You want to be the person whom others can count on to make things happen.

Some people will not to like you.

You won’t be effective unless some people don’t like you.  Trying to please everyone is a certain way to take the power out of any initiative.

Make things easy, useful and fun.

Simple, relevant and engaging.  Be it a product, a project ,an ad or an experience, meeting these three standards will make sure you always connect.


The very best idea, without execution, is the worst kind of idea.

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Parkinsons law.

Parkinsons law:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Choosing how much time and resource you want to dedicate to any given project or task is one of the most important things a manager can do.  As Parkinsons law predicts, work complexity will expand to occupy all of the time and resources you give to it.  If you allocate an entire team $1 million and 1 year to solve a problem, would you expect them to come back in a month having only spent $5?  No.  The team will always believe the task cannot be simple, and unknowingly set themselves up to spend the resources and occupy the timeline.

Big problems need to be allocated just enough time that resolution will be efficient.  Small tasks should never be given too much time.

Sometimes my best presentations were the ones I only gave myself an hour to prepare…  I simply wasnt given the time to complicate it.  I had to stick to the big, important, meaningful content.

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The Peter principle.

The Peter Principle:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.


It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. This principle can be modelled and has theoretical validity.[1] Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence”.

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Beware of the new guy.

How many times have you seen the new manager come into their role and systematically deconstruct and change everything that was built before them?

Sometimes this is required.  But not always.

I cannot remember where I first learned it, but there is a saying in brand management that “a new friend can be a brands worst enemy“.  In brand management constant reinvention destroys value – as consistency with a brand over time is how it establishes its meaning.

As a new manager, you need to try to find an unbiased way of identifying what is good and working vs. what is clearly not and needs to be improved.  Build on the first, and fix or eliminate the latter.

Use caution in your approach.  Just because you did not develop it, doesn’t mean its wrong.  Just because it’s not ‘perfect’, doesn’t mean it should be changed.

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You cannot save your way to greatness.

There are a lot of businesses that seem to be single-minded on cost reduction these days, and less focused on the customer, improving their products and generating growth.

Cost reduction can be productive, useful in creating short-term value or in reallocating resources towards growth.  But alone driving costs out of the business will never lead to the big ideas that build value.  You need to invest in ideas and innovations that will grow the business moving forward.

It’s really that simple.

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Seth’s in session.

For those that know my marketing side, they know we can’t discuss much for long without Seth Godin popping up: either in quote, in principal or in practice.

I just came across this piece from Dan Martell that nicely summarizes some of the many lessons that fall out of his works (Godin in quotes):

Strive to be remarkable.

“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”

It’s all about the stories.

The only asset to get built online is permission.”

Let your product speak for itself.

“The product is the marketing. You can’t out spend.”

You cannot hide from customers.

“Are you going to bet on secrets, or are you going to be open?”

Your plan isn’t enough.

“Successful people rarely confuse a can-do attitude with a smart plan. But they realize that one without the other is unlikely to get you very far.”

Be humble.

“No one cares about you, not even your mother-in-law. No ones eagerly waiting your press release.”

Create meaning.

“Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed.”

There is a hierarchy to success:

“Attitude, Approach, Goals, Strategy, Tactics, Execution”

Listen to your customers.

“Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul.”

Flex your expertise.

“Everybody is an expert about something”

Implement quickly.

“Ideas in secret die. They need light and air or they starve to death.”

Choose your words carefully.

“Why waste a sentence saying nothing?”

Focus on great customer service.

“The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset.”

Don’t be afraid of being edgy.

“Playing safe is very risky.”

Find your precise market.

“Don’t try to please everyone. There are countless people who don’t want one, haven’t heard of one or actively hate it. So what?”

Push limits in your industry.

“You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it’s getting raised regardless.”

Create desire.

“People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want”

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Man up.

Seth Godin on ‘Whining’:

Two problems with whining.  The first is that it doesn’t work. You can whine about the government or your friends or your job or your family, but nothing will happen except that you’ll waste time.

Worse… far worse… is that whining is a reverse placebo. When you get good at whining, you start noticing evidence that makes your whining more true. So you amplify that and immerse yourself in it, thus creating more evidence, more stuff worth complaining about.

So true.  There is such an obvious correlation with the people who think positively and their ability to deliver positive results.  The negative always end up caught in this downward spiral.

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Almost every brand and company is trying to engage consumers with digital these days.  Everyone is talking about ‘conversations’ they want to have, or that those consumers could be having about them.  However, in the end, its always about the content you end up creating and putting out there for the world of digital beings to react to.  If they do, then the conversation begins.

To help, I pulled this simple ‘S.M.I.L.E.’ approach I liked for generating such content off of

  • Small – make sure your content is small and easily digestible. Don’t write 1000 words when 140 characters will do
  • Meaningful – ensure that your content means something to your audience. It’s one thing to push your content out, but you do want people to read it too!
  • Intent – make your intent with the content transparent. Don’t say one thing and do another
  • Laugh out loud – the three word acronym LOL means “laugh out loud”. Don’t forget that much of our inter-personal communication is based on sharing and humour. Share that aspect of your personality in your content
  • Engage – make sure to follow-up with conversations/comments as they occur. Don’t let the conversation start and end abruptly.

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