Saturday, January 21, 2012

...from Blue Man Group

You’ve seen the iconic three blue men in posters across the largest cities of the US. Now, Blue Man Group is on tour, and they are bringing their show –and business lessons- to a city near you.

Created by a group of friends in Manhattan, this variety show took off to become one of the most famous off Broadway shows. It’s the perfect –yet unexpected- place to look for business lessons.    

This blog is a look at the entertainment industry and the lessons it has to offer in business. 
The Ten Things I Learned from Blue Man Group

1. Be creative
With a mission like this one “Blue Man Group is a creative organization dedicated to creating excitement-generating experiences for our audience and ourselves” it’s a perfect place to learn about creativity. From their iconic image with paint drums to their hypnotic drumbone music, this group of comedians has some real imagination from start to finish. Bring some creativity to your office; expand it to your work and to your thinking too. 

2. Build things (prototyping)
Check out the story of how these three friends came together in their Youtube official site
In it, they explain how they created their own instruments. Without them, it could have been just another drum show. Imagine now, making music out of plumbing pipes and how that holds an entire room’s attention. Build things at work, prototype new ideas, play with different materials to come up with some unexpected new products. It might just bring the color and sound your company needs. 

3. Leverage your skills

In the same video, two original members explain how their inspiration came somewhat from the Vaudevillians, an entertainment idea in the 1880’s and 1930’s. Interestingly, they point out that they didn’t know how to do much with any entertainment value, except catch things with their mouths. Now, a marshmallow throwing sketch forms part of every show. We all weren’t meant to be jugglers, sword-swallowers, or drum percussionists, but we all have our unique skills. Easier said than done, find your best business ones and use them. 

4. Stand out from the rest

The premise of the show – I think – is three blue men having fun, playing music, and learning about technology. And throughout the entire performance, one always tries to stand out from the other two. The most evident scene is when (spoiler alert) one performer lights his drums with Christmas lights leaving the other two with pretty dull black barrels (end spoiler alert) Don’t lose sight that your job is a competition, and to be recognized, you need to stand out from what could be a pretty generic -and in this case blue- group of people. 

5. Appeal to a broad target

Their creators admit the blue men are pretty strange at first sight. If they look funny in posters, wait till you see them in the show. After a while they grow onto you, your partner, the person sitting next to you, and the kid jumping in front of you. The show has found the perfect sweet spot to appeal to all ages – a task not easily accomplished by even the most recognized marketing companies. Challenge yourself to make your company, your product, your business appeal to more people and that’s what gets you sold-out shows. 

6. Engage your audience
If you decide to see a show beware, you might get pulled in, literally. The cast does an outstanding job engaging the crowd in sketches and segments of the show, but I won’t share much so you go see them live. This entertainment, which connects at a whole different level, is something that’s made them so successful. Does your company offer something as engaging? Something that lets the consumer enjoy and makes them part of the show? If not, you’re missing out on a captive audience.  

7. Work together

The show is not called The Blue Man, it’s the Blue Man Group for a reason. Alone, you’d have a strange man banging on colorful pipes. Add two more and you get a pretty unique and musical drum beat. Every combination of hits makes a different sound, ultimately landing the trio CDs, DVDs, and guest appearances on Leno, Ellen, and more. Unless you have your own little business, you probably have to work with other people. Work collaboratively to get your best results. As one of the founder’s said in the Youtube video “unleash the power of collaboration”

8. Follow your consumer

Since not everyone can make it to New York, Vegas, or Orlando, the Blue actors have taken their show on the road again. Don’t settle with the status quo of distribution, if your customers don’t come to you, go after them.

9. Tailor your message to local markets

I happened to catch their latest show in Fayetteville, Arkansas where they kicked off the 2012 national tour. For those who don’t follow College Football, Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks. Halfway through the show, a Blue Man put on a Razorback Hog Hat and the crowd cheered on, fist pump and all, “calling the hogs”. As you market your business, or even yourself, follow in their blue footsteps and tailor your message to each market. Woooo, Pig Sooie! is what worked here but surely nowhere else.

10. If it’s working don’t change

In July 2011, the group celebrated 20 years of entertaining. Check out some scenes and more on their facebook site hereI’d say the secret to their success is sticking to what they do best, and adjusting just slightly to keep it fresh and fun. I’ve seen their act more than once, and I’d think about 80-90% remains fundamentally the same, yet it doesn’t grow old. Add on top of that the new 10-20% and it keeps me coming back. Do the same with your products or service, stick to what it does best but upgrade it 10-20% every so often to keep customers coming back for more. 

Entertaining is a pretty common practice and some people and/or industries do it better than others. We all have to do it, at home, in meetings, approaching our consumers. The Blue Man group, with its unique spin on it gives you those lessons to become successful at it too. 

So, to end this blog, I’d like to use a pretty simple, yet powerful line from their show:

“Ready. Go!”

Monday, January 2, 2012 2011

With every New Year there’s a new beginning. It’s a time for reflection. Reflections on the things we did or didn’t do, the promises we made or didn’t keep, and more importantly reflections of lessons we learned to make us better.

It’s common to see in television sitcoms an episode that highlights memorable moments and characters, probably to celebrate its first 100 episodes. This blog is my flashback to the 170 lessons I learned in 2011.

The Ten Things I Learned in 2011

1. I learned to start small like Gandhi did.
Gandhi is best known for his nonviolent movement in India against the early British rule. However, his story began in South Africa as he fought for Indian rights before taking on the task of representing his people in his native land – a fight that lasted 30 years. Doing great things takes time and practice. Starting small allows you to master the skills you need before moving on to bigger and more complicated projects.   

2. I learned the importance and value of diversity by watching Sesame Street
From its early start, the popular TV show has been home to many characters beyond your commonly known puppets. Its cast of Hispanics, African Americans, Seniors and more is an example of an inclusive workplace that excels because of the diversity it has. Having a diverse work place will allow you to better connect with the continually changing audience and potentially be in business as long Big Bird and friends have.

3. I learned to turn a weakness into a strength from watching Rocky Balboa’s fights
Rocky is the story of a Philadelphia boxer with a will to win, but beating the champion Apollo Creed wouldn’t be easy for this underdog fighter. The "Italian Stallion", who was known as a left-hand fighter, trained day and night his right arm to throw his opponent off and knock him out in Rocky II. Developing your weaknesses is what sets you aside from other fighters and gets you the championship title.

4. I learned to see things through a different lens while practicing Photography
Get a fancy camera that switches lenses and you’ll see things completely different with every change. Scenes can go from far to close, from narrow to wide, from unfocused to crystal clear. Take a minute to look at things differently and see them from a different perspective, you might get a better view and a more breathtaking result.

5. I learned to reconsider my every move by playing Poker Texas Hold’em
In this form of Poker, you get multiple chances to reconsider your game, the more common ones are three cards dealt referred to as The Flop, The Turn, and The River. With every turn of the card your chances change, so you take a minute to revisit what you want to do next. In business life, it’s hard to take a step back and look at your bets but you could be cutting your losses (or gains) short if you don’t reconsider your every move.

6. I learned to keep things simple like Steve Jobs’s Ipod.
The death of Steve Jobs was felt around the world - the same one he changed multiple times during his life. During an early trip to India, while pursuing spiritual enlightenment, he came up with the principles later found it many of his products: keeping things simple. We tend to believe that adding makes our work stronger which in turn creates a habit to complicate our emails, our presentation, our work loads, and ultimately our life. Take control back by keeping thing simple. You, your family, and your consumers will appreciate it.     

7. I learned to do things differently from Sam Walton and his ideas behind Walmart
The basic idea of doing things differently led an Arkansas entrepreneur to create today’s largest company in the world: Walmart. From putting an ice cream machine outside his first shop to pioneering the lowest prices through distribution efficiencies across America, Sam Walton left this idea behind along with his business principals and memoir. To be different, you need to think and act differently.   

8. I learned to correct my mistakes by watching the Death Star blow up twice on Star Wars
The Star Wars Empire (bad guys) created the most powerful war weapon in the Galaxy called the Death Star. Long story short, the good guys blow it up in the 1975 film and years later, after the Empire rebuilds it, they do it again pretty much because it had the same flaw: a hole (different in size) that gave access to shots that started an explosive chain reaction. Look at your mistakes and fix them before they make you vulnerable to others. 

9. I learned that we can all be Superheroes
Every summer brings a new wave of superheroes to the movie screen. This was the year of Green Lantern and Thor, and next year we’ll be reliving the stories of Spiderman and Batman again. The interesting lesson behind these stories is their different backgrounds -sometimes human and sometines not - and that despite their differences they all became heroes. In your business, in your community, in your home, so can you.

10. I learned the importance of making people feel special from my most Memorable Bosses.  
The bosses that had the most impact on my career were those that genuinely cared and made me feel special. I keep very vivid memories of those people because they went above and beyond their job to show they were committed to developing me professionally. Treat your employees and/or peers with respect and go beyond your daily duties to make everyone feel exceptionally well.

As the year ends, I look back to all the lessons I learned beyond just these ten and I hope that, with more than 3000 page views, someone out there is learning with me.

May the New Year bring everyone the lessons they need to become better employees, betters managers, and ultimately better people.

Happy New Year.