Can you think out of the box?


Here is an interesting topic. No matter where you are, in school or at work, you will hear talk about “thinking out of the box”?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it – how did we get in the box in the first place?

Unfortunately, the reality of you being in the box, does not change the fact that your bosses probably prefer you to think “out” of the box.

One common misconception is that to think out of the box is to break all the rules. On the surface, this makes sense. You read about the rule-changing innovations like Fedex’s hub-and-spoke concept, and about the Macintosh innovations, and many other examples of how, by ignoring conventions, companies and individuals have managed to achieve amazing results.

Yet, all these innovations, once created, form their own rules, essentially creating a “new box”. So, the real question is not about thinking out of the box, rather, it is about designing a new box. When you are able to transcend the boundaries of your current situation, you will be able to develop an innovative solution.

Often, designers are faced with this challenge. They need to conform to many rules. These rules are important. They are real. Things like Corporate Style Guides, Logo Usage Guides and in the areas of product design, you have safety guidelines, usability guidelines and many more. The boxes seem many and varied. It is not easy to rise above all these.
There are no rules for thinking out of the box. Sometimes, vast experience and knowledge provides the foundation from which the innovative ideas spring. Sometimes, totally naiveté spurs the brave (and foolish) to persist on their path to glory.

Can you think out of the box? Most certainly, anyone can. Yet, being able to tie those wayward ideas back to reality in a way that will render them useful, relevant, practical and innovative; that is really a skill that will most likely come with experience.

So, if you want to think out of the box, stop thinking about it and just, well, think.

Inspired by this article at Thinking out of the box

How to handle a video or television interview

For most small companies, the opportunity to appear on TV is not high. However, with the Internet becoming a part of everyone’s lives, there is definitely a good chance that you will have the opportunity to be interviewed and be on video.

Here are some tips:

1. Plan your time. Make sure that you are not scheduled for anything stressful before or after your interview. Rushing to the interview really does not help, and being anxious for it to end is probably worse. You need to be relaxed and at ease. So, be early, and make sure you have plenty of time “after”.

2. Be groomed. Check with your interviewer if there is any specific dress code. Also, this is a bad time to have a “bad hair day”. Make up, hair, clothes; you need to be immaculate.

3. Equipment check. Make sure that the people doing the interview check the equipment. Camera, lights, microphone, even the chair. You really don’t want it squeaking each time you move. And of course, your cell phone need to be OFF or completely SILENT. Really. Vibrate mode can be quite loud if you are in a quiet studio.

4. Always on. Make sure that you are always on your best behaviour. Never assume that the camera is off. Even if they tell you “you’re off the air”, the camera might stil be rolling. Don’t be the next YouTube sensation, flopping onto your knees after an exhausting “filming session”.

Social Networking in the Working World

It is so easy to take part in the social networking world when you are just a student. What you had for breakfast, where are you now and the many other foibles don’t seem to matter that much.

Then, look at the people who have had some really bad things happen to them when they too participated. The lady who lost her job because she was partying while on Medical Leave, the guy who bad-mouthed his boss…

Well, I don’t know where my friend got this, but I thought it was a really interesting decision tree to share with everyone. So, take a look and let me know what you think.

Web Sites and Usability

Just read an interesting interview over at the Corporate Eye blog about good usability.

This is an interesting read. You would think that after so many years of being online, most of us will have a good grasp of this concept of usability. Well, just as common sense is rather uncommon, than good usability is yet another illusive phantom for many.

Many small companies cannot afford to get a full time team to take care of their website. These sites become white elephants faster than you can eat a Happy Meal. Worse, many of them “cannot afford” to spend to create a decent site. Just yesterday, I saw a site where they simply scanned in their promotion flyer and put it up as a single JPEG file. So, that website had one page, and one page only. Worse, it was just a jagged, slightly blurry JPEG file of a handbill.

There are some nice solutions. For example, if you just need a simple site, yet want it to look professional (eg. Flash, animated menus etc), you can use professional templates that can give you almost an instant site – see and for example.

A professionally designed site will give you a good level of usability. It makes the user feel comfortable and imparts a certain level of trust that they are dealing with an “OK” company. Another important reason for having good usability on your site, you need your visitors to be able to actually find something useful for them. You really don’t want them to come to your website, click around in futility and leave in a huff.

So, if you are interested to hear what an expert has to say about good website usability, go on over to read: Expert interview: David Hamill, Good Usability

Completing 2008, Creating 2009

How did you like your past 364 days?

How do you intend to create your next 365 days in 2009?

Tomorrow is a brand new year waiting for you and I. Here’s some questions from my friend, John Stamoulos to complete 2008 and create 2009. You may find some of the questions really tough to answer, however, it will help you to have clarity in your life.

Versa Creations and I wish you a happy new year.

Completing and Remembering 2008

What was your biggest triumph in 2008?

What was the smartest decision you made in 2008?

What one word best sums up and describes your 2008 experience?

What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2008?

What was the most loving service you performed in 2008?

What is your biggest piece of unfinished business in 2008?

What are you most happy about completing in 2008?

Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2008?

What was the biggest risk you took in 2008?

What was the biggest surprise in 2008?

What important relationship improved the most in 2008?

What compliment would you liked to have received in 2008?

What compliment would you liked to have given in 2008?

What else do you need to do or say to be complete with 2008?

Creating 2009

What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2009?

What advice would you like to give yourself in 2009?

What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2009?

What would you be most happy about completing in 2009?

What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2009?

What would you most like to change about yourself in 2009?

What are you looking forward to learning in 2009?

What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2009?

What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving in 2009?

What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2009?

What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2009?

Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2009?

What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2009?

How Does Ad Agency Charge Rush Fees – Don’t Do, No Charge! (Part 3 of 4)

Rush Job - Don't Do?

In part 1, supporting clients who have urgent jobs at the usual price – especially when there is no financial loss – is suggested.

In part 2, offering creative payment terms were recommended.

Here, in part 3, let’s talk about when and if an ad agency should seriously consider dropping a rush job if it jeopardizes existing jobs.

It may surprise you, if you are from the client’s side, that ad agencies would do just that when we have to. I cannot think of a better analogy than “A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.” An industry peer had such a sad encounter.

A while ago, a client notified this agency’s Head that there was an ad hoc project worth $200,000 coming up. As that was an unplanned, un-budgeted project, the incumbent agency was given the first rights to accept or reject. It will be opened to suitable candidates for pitching if the incumbent declined. To any small to medium agency, a $200,000 project is a sweet deal. The catch was the OOH (out-of-home) creative, media and production presentation must be made within 8 days. He had the weekend to consider, and he finally turned down the job on Monday morning.

I understood that he was busy preparing for several Christmas projects (last October) and all his manpower was tied. He didn’t have people to recce the various OOH sites, couldn’t get any independent designer at such short notice to render 3D designs and worse, production houses were simply too busy to discuss unconfirmed jobs. He wasn’t prepared to jeopardize his existing projects by swamping his own team with such a rush job.

“I could end up in a lose-lose situation. There was a penalty clause in one of my Christmas projects.”

I cannot say that it is not a wise decision. We do have a responsibility to deliver a decent job punctually, regardless of whether it is the peak or off-peak season. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if he had truly exhausted his options. Continue reading “How Does Ad Agency Charge Rush Fees – Don’t Do, No Charge! (Part 3 of 4)”

How Does Ad Agency Charge Rush Fees – Charge Creatively (Part 2 of 4)

Charge Rush Fees with a Heart

In part 1 of this 4-part series, I have suggested that agencies should consider accepting rush jobs and charge the usual price, especially under these circumstances:

  • This is a long standing client who has been really nice and supportive all these years.
  • This is an isolated incident.
  • There is no financial loss.
  • This is a good opportunity to practice CRM and PR

What if the agency cannot offer the usual price because the cost involved is way too high for it to absorb?

The answer is simple: Charge.

Part 2 will discuss how can you charge creatively.

Should you still charge usual price or impose a rush fee? The purpose of a business is to solve problems for people at a profit. First and foremost, you deserve to be paid. Secondly, if you intend to help a good client, you should do so in such a way that you do not bring his/her burden onto yourself. Anyway, it’s highly unlikely your client will believe you if you tell him/her, “I lost $12,000 for this job because I didn’t charge you for all the extra effort”.

“But they said they can’t pay”
“But they said they won’t pay a dime more”
“But I’m afraid of losing the client”

Trust me, I feel bad too. But I did not create the situation they are in now, however, I will do whatever it takes to make the rough ride smoother for them. However, I cannot do it at the expense of my teammates and my other clients. That will not be fair to them either.

Life is sometime tough. We will all experience set backs, disappointments and events for which there is no “reason”, and no one to blame (not that I recommend blaming people or circumstances). How would I deal with it? Continue reading “How Does Ad Agency Charge Rush Fees – Charge Creatively (Part 2 of 4)”