Producing Under Pressure

How to Come Up With Breakthrough Ideas

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Do you want to know where breakthrough ideas really come from? I’ll give you a clue: they don’t come from some lightning bolt in the sky.

Breakthrough ideas, almost invariably, are found at the intersection of two or more seemingly unconnected things. What do these intersections look like?

  • They look like Johannes Gutenberg connecting a wine processor and movable type and creating the printing press.
  • They look like Steve Jobs connecting computers and a college calligraphy class and creating ...
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You Don’t Have to Change the World to Be an Innovator

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If I were to ask you to name an innovation, what would you say?

The iPhone? The Tesla? The Internet?

Maybe not any of those three. But the odds are that whatever you name would be a biggie. Something groundbreaking and game changing.

And that’s kind of what we think innovation is. Something groundbreaking and game changing. We associate innovation with names like:

  • Steve Jobs
  • Marie Curie
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Elon Musk
  • Thomas Edison

And look, there’s no question that these people are innovation rock stars. If there were ...

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How to Be the Idea Person on Your Team

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Are all of your dots the same color?

I talk about dots a lot. That’s because dots are the key to innovation, creativity, and breakthrough thinking.

Most people get this wrong. They think that breakthrough ideas—the creative innovations that make the competition whimper like scared puppies—are the result of some divine lightning bolt that only strikes the gifted few. This is the common myth. But it’s just that—a myth.

The truth is that breakthrough ideas ...

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How to Win Against Your Competition

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I’ve been doing homework for the past week or so.

I’ve been doing homework because in a little over a week, I’ll be attending a business development workshop, and the workshop leader gave us the homework assignment. Since I want to get the most out of the workshop (and since the thought of getting in trouble from the teacher triggers upsetting high school memories), I’ve been diligently working.

One part of the homework has been particularly eye-opening.

There are four steps to this ...

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What It Really Takes for You to Be in the Hall of Fame

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This is going to sound like bragging (because, let’s be honest—it is), but I was recently inducted into the Professional Speaker Hall of Fame. It’s kind of a big deal in my industry, because there are fewer than 185 of us alive on the planet. If we were a species, we’d be endangered.

Here’s the interesting thing that I’ve found about reaching an “elite” level in your profession:

At the higher levels, you actually have to be better, and work harder.

It’s easy ...

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Why Fixing a Problem Isn’t Always the Best Solution

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“Let it go!”

That was the sole message of an acclaimed keynote speech that my colleague Joe Calloway delivered at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association some years ago.

Let it go.

In his speech, Joe encouraged us to look at all the manifold things we had on our respective plates and think about how we could simplify, how we could focus. In short, what could we let go of so that we could really shine at what was left.

About a ...

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The Joy of Deadlines (for Fun and Profit)

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In the early days, I would panic.

Friday night. The day before show day. 24 hours from now every seat in the TV studio will be filled, and a million more viewers will be watching the show on television.

And we don’t have a show for them.

It could be any number of reasons: that big piece we’d worked so hard on all week just didn’t come together in editing; the guest we’d booked and promoted canceled earlier today; the perfect monolog we’d ...

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Why You Need To Let The Blocks Fall Down Go Boom

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I think my friend Steve made a mistake.

Steve was a high school friend of mine. Unlike me, he chose to breed just a few years after high school. I remember visiting him when his first-born was maybe two or three years old. And because this was in the olden days, when iPads were not a toy option, his toddler was playing with blocks. Quite happily, in fact. He would try to stack the blocks and, because he was a toddler, ...

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These Five Traits Will Make You A More Creative Thinker

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Quickly now—what do these things all have in common:

  • The iPhone
  • The Taj Mahal
  • Gluten-free bread
  • Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The Golden Retriever

Give up?

They are all outcomes of creative thinking.

[You: “Wait a minute. The Golden Retriever is a dog, not the result of a creative idea!” Me: “Not so fast there, Sporty. The Golden Retriever was the result of a creative thinker saying, ‘If I breed a yellow Labrador Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel, I might get an ...

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Why Your External Pressure Is Really Internal Pressure

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You’ve felt the pressure, haven’t you?

There’s the clock. Just hanging up there on the wall, silently mocking you with its impending deadline.

There’s your team, watching you, judging you, wondering if you’re going to save the day…or blow it in spectacular fashion.

There’s your boss, ever critical, with her unrealistic expectations and her long list of other highly qualified people who want your job.

These are some of the external pressures that you’ve faced in the past, may be facing right now, and ...

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