Sunday, August 10, 2008
BREAK BARRIERS TO GET BIG IDEAS
What is it about being BIG? Everybody wants something BIG. When we go to McDonald’s we all want the BIG MAC. Nobody wants a small Mac. When we go to an amusement park we all want to ride the BIG Wheel, not the mini wheel. We want to live in BIG houses, drive BIG cars, have BIG careers, close the BIG deal, make BIG bucks, be granted BIG perks, BIG, BIG, BIG! We all want to be BIG whether it is in the business world or our own communities. Who wants to be small? Nobody wants to be small in physical stature, business, or whatever. Even small business owners want to be BIG.
Everybody wants the BIG Idea. Nobody wants a small idea, or no idea at all. Ideas make the business word and their inventors flourish. Really BIG Ideas can win fame and fortune for their creators and envy from their admirers. Even small-minded people want a BIG Idea.
Ideas are scarce and BIG ideas even more so. They tip the balance of competition to the creators and executors of those precious few BIG ideas. They create winners in the marketplace and make losers of their competitors. Ahhh, the BIG Idea, we know we want it. Why is it so hard to get one? Perhaps we get in the way of BIG Ideas.
The movie (as we Americans call “film”) Kung Fu Panda has been a BIG success, not just in America but globally. With gross sales of $210-million dollars it is one of the 10 biggest movies of the year in the US. According to the China Post, Kung Fu Panda broke box office records for an animated film in China with sales of $135-million Yuan (that’s $19.6-million dollars) in its first 3-weeks. It’s done exceptionally well wherever in the world it is playing and has played. It’s BIG. It’s also a telling example of how we can erect barriers and get in the way of developing a BIG Idea.
You’d think that an animated movie about a panda, the national symbol of China, and Kung Fu, a martial art developed in, and associated with, China would be developed in – well, China, where animation is a state priority. But it wasn’t. This BIG Idea and movie came out of Hollywood. Okay, so what can we learn from this?
According to Mark Magnier in his article “China takes a careful look at success of ‘Kung Fu Panda’,” for Tribune Newspapers, reveals why China could not have made this film. Why? Well because it could never get past Chinese censors simply because the movie is not consistent with practices, beliefs and values in China. In China heroes are perfect. But the protagonist in the film, Po, is flawed. He runs from danger. He has little will power. And, he is fat and lazy. Not a likely hero - at least not in China. Also, his father is a goose. As the song goes, “don’t know much about biology,” but even at that we all know you can’t get a panda from a goose - unless of course it is given birth through the power of imagination.
Magnier also points out a political problem associated with having a slouch for the national symbol of China. The image of the Panda could carry over to the way the world views China. And, China does not want the world to view it as fat and lazy.
Not does the movie set a good example for children. In Confucian China, where there is a deep respect for elders, no student would lift a hand to his teacher as Po, the panda, does to his King Fu teacher. Nor would any teacher show sympathy for an evil character. It’s just not in the culture or national character.
Kung Fu Panda should not be a success in China. Yet, in this country that “has doled out more than $28-million in animation subsidies and preferential financing … banned foreign cartoons during prime-time hours … requires television stations to show seven domestic cartoons for every three foreign one” Kung Fu Panda has broken box-office sales. Why? It’s a BIG Idea. And, it could not have originated in China.
Make no mistake, this is not a criticism of China or of its people. China is not just a world power it’s a genuine superpower. It has the third largest economy in the world and its GDP has been growing at double-digit rates over the past decade. Anyone who tuned into the opening ceremony at the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing had to have been awed by the immense creativity and beauty of this spectacle. The fact of the matter is that all nations, all companies and all people BIG and small are capable of getting BIG Ideas. At the same time they can also sabotage the development of BIG Ideas through the barriers they erect. If we are to develop BIG Ideas on a consistent basis we need to remove these self-imposed barriers.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
- Don’t be small-minded. Commit to the achievement of BIG Ideas. Commitment is more than financial. It is a good start but not enough. Afterall, we can spend a lot of money but realize little to nothing in the way of return on that investment. Instead it starts with an attitude to be BIG and do something BIG. This is more than words. This attitude needs to become a trait of the organization and its managers. This means that the organization will make it a practice to demand, and settle for nothing less than, BIG Ideas. It also means that the organization will need to remove barriers such as lack of thoughtful planning, self-imposed time constraints, absence of a clearly defined vision, objectives and strategy, and, above all, settling, that serve as barriers to getting to BIG Ideas.
- Drop the dogma. Stick with principles. Creativity is subjective. So, it is difficult to gauge. The more subjective and difficult the decision the more we managers want to codify success. Unfortunately, codification is rarely around principles but execution elements that become dogma. Instead of inviting creativity it shuts it down. It forces thinking to merge and adopt those execution practices that perpetuate sameness in a company, category, industry and even country. Nothing kills like executional dogma. It demands blind obedience and turns-off the spigot of originality.
- Don’t be cocksure. Check things out with your target. As a practice we need to know our target so well that we can predict how they will respond to a piece of stimulus and an idea is just that, stimulus to generate a specific behavior. But it pays to perform due diligence by checking out what you have in a dialogue with your target audience. This is not to say that the target should make the decision for you. Instead what we are saying is for you to share, listen, learn and adapt as needed. A less than perfect hero? Perhaps one will find it’s as real as it gets.
- Don’t be so literal. Stir the imagination of your target. Your customers whether they be consumers, health care practitioners, purchasing agents, whomever, may not be imaginative but that does not mean that they won’t respond to the imagination. If people didn’t then Harry Potter books would not be the mega-success that they are. Nor would theater-goers plop down bucks and butts for a Kung Fu Panda, that just happens to be a son of a goose! Move away from the literal. Inspire others to open their imagination.
It’s difficult enough to get a BIG Idea. Don’t make it more difficult with self-imposed barriers. Think BIG. Remove the barriers.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
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