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It’s Kinda Sorta Official: Harvard Kinda Sorta Says Dummies Concept is Kinda Sorta Innovative…Kinda Sorta!

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I was perusing one of my favorite business blogs from Harvard University and read an article that caught my eye: “When You Can’t Innovate, Copy” written by Ndubuisi Ekekwe,  founder of the non-profit African Institution of Technology.

I have to admit that the article as well as the posts were intriguing. No doubt I haven’t read all the books about business or innovation that most of those folks probably have. And I certainly never went to a big name school like Harvard. But the topic of innovation continues to be, and has been, a personal journey for me for most of my adult life.

If you’ve read this blog, you know that twenty years ago when I was just a “kid” I created the Dummies concept. And I spent nearly a year researching the market for that little fifteen dollar book I wanted to write and self-publish. But during that process I had an “a-ha!” moment when I discovered a huge unmet need in the self-help market. This added to and eventually became part of the impetus for my creating the Dummies book concept. And the core of that concept is the primary reason that it continues to be so successful more than two decades later (more than 220 million books in print, 1,600 titles in 30 countries).

The wake of the Dummies concept was also strong enough to “force” other publishers to rethink (copycat) how they presented information and finally give the lay reading public more readable, better structured, and more importantly, more understandable material on virtually any subject. And whether you like that type of book or not, it’s arguably fair to say that the Dummies concept became the nexus for that entirely new genre of entertaining and informative book (and other media).

So I wondered if that makes the Dummies concept innovative.  Hell yeah according to the definitions bandied about in the HBR blog forum! Although products that aren’t high-tech per se aren’t usually spoken of with that term. Perhaps if I wrote a blog post on the HBR blog saying that the Dummies’ concept was an amalgam of many original and “stolen” ideas (more akin to Jobs’ “stealing” quip and not like the Samwer brothers’ shameless model mentioned in the the article)  I’d get my name plastered in the same light as Steve Jobs…lol. (By the way, you’ve got to read about the billion dollar Samwer clone factory– unbelievable that international Intellectual Property laws allow this!)

But judging by the posts on HBR and some cursory research I just finished, it’s reasonably obvious that even for these smart people, innovation is a difficult attribute to define, create, and reproduce consistently. Some people seem to have the impression that innovation is something you pull out of the closet and wear like a tuxedo or evening gown when you want to change your business climate favorably. Others seem to suggest that innovation is an indescribable voodoo process that only a handful of people understand and can wield. Steve Jobs is at the top of that short list.

I certainly don’t mean to denigrate all the incredible work and effort that so many people have contributed on this subject. And as I mentioned earlier I am not a scholar by any means. But based on my experiences, innovation for me has become more of a quantum creation and delivery service along a constantly fluctuating continuum that encompasses far more than any business school or book today offers. Maybe this is why it remains such a paradoxical recluse within academia and the business community. I’m exploring the feasibility of a broad-scope program to turn that around now.

But in the meantime, if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about innovation, you should head over to the HBR blog and check out the article, When You Can’t Innovate, Copy.

So there you have it. It’s kinda sorta true that Harvard kinda sorta says that my Dummies concept is kinda sorta innovative…kinda sorta.

Lookout Jobs…there’s a shiny newer kinda sorta apple falling from the kinda sorta tree…kinda sorta. 🙂

UPDATE 27 May: I’ve been thinking…ya think lol? Here’s my newest definition of innovation:

“Innovation is the quantum creation and delivery process (service)  moving along a constantly evolving continuum of thoughts, ideas, and concepts – including vicarious and anecdotal experiences – to be sensed and acted upon as necessary to accomplish a task or tasks (call it / them what you need it / them to be) no matter how grand or humble, even if the purpose (or if the fortuitous act) of embracing that continuum is to embody that moment or moments without the physicality of creation. Innovation also has the element of longevity and acts as a singular point of source for copycat and other derivatives.”

My own experience suggests that innovation is more like playing in the Superbowl every day with Warren Buffet, Charles Darwin, Joan of Arc, Stephen Hawking, Walter Kohn, Nostradamus, Alfred Deming, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Allan Poe, Led Zeppelin. Gandhi, Mickey Mouse, Attila the Hun, Amit Goswami, and Steve Jobs…and that’s not even the entire roster.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it’s just one big cluster. And sometimes you just play the game no matter what the circumstances. Even the players change, change teams, or sit out from time to time. But whatever happens the game never ends.

Yeah, that’s weird…but I’m diggin’ it!

© 2012 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved


Inspiration – A River Runs Through My Own For Dummies® Book Cover

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (that’s me on the faux For Dummies® cover holding the cd except that that point should’ve been on the top of my head ha!).  So what can I say? I’m feeling a little feisty today and thought this would be fun to put up here.

In fact, I’m creating a bunch of fun goodies like t-shirts and stickers for all of us Dummies – you know, we simple folks who have special ideas that just don’t quit…that invade our thoughts and days without effort…that wake us up at night…and “talk” to us in our dreams, waking and not.

Writing this got me thinking that sometimes our thoughts flow through us like a river untamed. But a river does not just flow – it cuts rocks, carves mountains, moves boulders, and leaves behind pieces of what it’s collected along its path. A river has a goal, too – create a path to allow the current to find a way to keep moving towards the ocean.

Every day is an opportunity for you to move one step closer to your own ocean…even an inch is progress…so let yourself flow! See how this process works? Inspiration is everywhere if you just let it in…even when you’re poking fun at yourself in a goofy book cover.

P.S. Maybe I will go to Comic-Con 2012 this year in San Diego with “Big Dummy” on my chest. Whatta ya’ll think of that? Now all I need is an illustrator to make a Dummy Zero™…a super hero! No tights. But a cape and cool mask…hmmm…ideas?

I crack myself up sometimes…8-)P

©2012 Dummy Zero All Rights Reserved

My Phoenix Rises from the Smoldering Ashes of a Love Letter

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As I get involved with more projects aka “butterflies” I’ve found that I’ve gotten further from my roots. First and foremost I am a writer (okay an inventor, product developer, and creative marketer, too, but a writer first). I’ve written everything from resumes to business letters to newsletters to marketing and technical white papers to instruction manuals to direct mail letters and web content (even a movie script).

Just recently I wrote a love letter that fell on a deaf heart. At first I was crushed and felt as if I had lost some direction in my life. But reflecting on that loss I had an epiphany that everything would be just fine – it’s not the right time for me to travel in that direction…and with someone who doesn’t share the same vision with me anymore. And within that introspection I found clarity of purpose for both my personal and business lives.

So why am I letting you inside my personal love life and what could it possibly have to do with my Dummy’s blog? Everything my friends. We don’t have inspirational, a-ha, or life changing moments in a vacuum. We learn from our various lives, our heart, and our gut and move forward wiser and happier and wealthier (yes, one is hopeful). It’s give and take. So sometimes life and those in our life let us know when our direction is right – or just the opposite – when it’s not and when it’s time to say goodbye as it was in my case. This holds true in business as well because at some point we may need to evaluate what’s best for us and our business – after all it is a relationship, too.

I just finished reading a blog post written by John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing. In his post, he describes my recent processing – you need clarity of purpose to really be successful in business and to enjoy your life. Clarity of purpose helps define you, your role with your business, and your business. That got me thinking: if you can’t delineate what it is that you’re doing for yourself and for others clearly – and understand the need or want for what you’re offering – then why are you doing it in the first place?

As I mentioned earlier a business is more than just an idea it’s a relationship…with a beginning, middle, and an end (sometimes). And just as with any relationship, to be successful you need to accept that it’s a living process that needs constant nurturing and food for thought to help you maintain that clarity of purpose. I’ve found through my years that introspection is a powerful tool to bring to the table when you’re evaluating your business for yourself and its intended purpose. How many times lately have you held on to an idea or belief or hunch that what you’re doing is absolutely right – yet little or no fruits from your labor seem to be blossoming? How many red flags have you been missing or avoiding or refusing to acknowledge because this is the way you’ve always operated your business?

Am I saying that the clarity you have right now couldn’t be right about your idea or business? Nope. I’ve read that Colonel Sanders tried selling his chicken seasoning recipe 1,009 times over a two year period driving across the U.S before he had his first sale. So it’s quite possible your idea or business is right on. But keep in mind that Colonel Sanders must have had a total clarity of purpose to do what he did and he was driven – maybe being broke helped.

But what if you’re not sure that you have that kind of clarity for your own business or business idea? What can you do to give yourself a swift kick in the parts and a help you get a clearer vision of what you’re doing and why? Here’s some food for thought to get you started:

Consider asking yourself why you’re approaching your idea as a business for yourself or for someone else – does it make sense in the form that you’re imagining? Does it make sense at all? How do you know? Or even more importantly for a going concern: does it make sense to continue your business in its current operating environment – retail, wholesale, online only, etc? For example, Qualcomm stopped making cell phones and started licensing their technology to companies whose core business was making phones. Can I repackage my idea, product, or service as something else? Is this really a brick and mortar business? Would digitizing it work perhaps as a web application instead of something more labor intensive? Would someone else be better suited to running my business? Can I lease or sell or insert my business, idea, product, or service into someone else’s idea, product, service or business? Should I consider getting outside help – physical or consultative? Have I already been down this road before? Should I close up shop or expand? What do I do best and what do I really have to offer and is it worth it to any of us?

If you’re sitting alone – trying to go it alone – or you feel alone answering these types of questions probably the best thing you can do is visit and participate in discussions on blogs and join Meetup groups. Thousands of blogs and Meetups are out there that you can explore. Talk to friends and family for other points of view. I think you’ll find as I have that someone else has been down your road before. Pick their brains because knowledge and wisdom is out there for those willing to ask for it. When I first started my publishing company I did it all by myself. Research. Writing. Binding. Pitching. It was a lot of work. But one day I just knew that if I didn’t get help nothing was going to happen. So I reached out to my friend in the publishing business and asked for help. You know the rest of the For Dummies® story.

I’m not saying that it’s an easy process. I sure as hell am not 100%…but who is anyway. Look, you don’t have to have to wait for a heartbreak like mine to have your Phoenix rise as mine did. Get clarity, keep it simple, and then move forward with conviction and with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s a safe bet that you can recover from those eventual stumbles and blind corners a bit faster and with more confidence.

It’s working for me – I’m writing again – and loving it.

Your turn.

© 2012 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

The Fwee. The Foh-yih. The F-Word.

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There’s been some discussion about the correct pronunciation of “Feuille”. Some are calling it “fwee” (Tweety’s free). Some are calling it “foh-yih”.

But all I can say is that I’ve heard it pronounced in French and, to me, it sounds like “fwee-yih”.

Yeah, yeah. Branding gurus may want to kick us in the shins because we picked a French name for an American product. But the definition of feuille is “leaf” which is appropriate for the leaf-like Feuille Finish™ that’s created with our tool. And the “hawk” is what plasterers use to hold their plaster…hence, the Feuille Hawk™! And really it’s no more difficult to pronounce than some Venetian plaster techniques like marmorino, scagliola, or sgraffito. Compared to those names ours is not only simpler but also more descriptive.

What’s important is that the Feuille Hawk™ is incredibly simple to use – and it can produce some amazing texturing possibilities to complement existing “sister” faux finishes like Venetian plaster, Trompe-l’œil, Strié, color washes, or rag painting. (We’re excited to report that one of our local casinos is featuring our Feuille Finish™ right now as part of a larger project. Sweet!)

So how do you pronounce feuille? We think “fwee-yih” would be good. It’s easy to pronounce, yes? But you never know when inspiration will strike. Just last week I asked a local hardware store owner about demonstration opportunities for our Feuille Hawk™ at his shop. When I said fwee-yih he scrunched up his face a bit and paused for a minute. I thought he was making an effort to parrot my pronunciation. Simple, right? Fwee-yih.

Then his face lit up. And he smiled.

“We’ll just call it the f-word. Everyone understands that!”


© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

My Watch Seems to be Two Days Slow…

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Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! My product launch is where I’ve been at.

The Mad Hatter’s got a watch that’s only two days slow. Mine seems to be broken entirely and is now more of a glimmer on my wrist than a timekeeper. (Funny how time whistles by when you’re working hard.)

But I’ll get back here with more stories and more good stuff soon. I have a meetup group and another product that’s on hold, too.

Thank you all for hanging with me.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

Feuille Hawk Product Launch coming soon!

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Well, folks, my product launch for a new faux-finish designer tool is finally coming. It’s only taken a year – not to mention the prior two years of focus groups and tool engineering to get that tool to work its magic.

Our tool is called the Feuille Hawk™.

“Feuille” (pronounced foh-yih) is the French word for “leaf”, which refers to the intricate, leaf-like patterns created by this tool. The resulting texture  pattern is called the Feuille Finish™. It’s remarkably versatile, opening up countless interior design possibilities for walls and ceilings.

What’s really cool is that you can embed stones, glass, or tile into the texture to create a mosaic effect, something you might see in a premier Las Vegas hotel. You can also apply faux finishing and airbrushing techniques if you want a more colorful and contemporary appearance. (We were thinking that the finish on our ceiling would look really cool with a paintball spatter!)

All you need is a little drywall compound and our Feuille Hawk™, and you can literally transform those drab white ceilings and walls into surreal landscapes overnight – goodbye poopy popcorn and boring walls!

I realize this sounds like an ad. Okay, it kinda is. But I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with my business partner and want to share it. Maybe some of you reading this would be interested in trying out our tool on your ceilings or your walls.

Unfortunately, our website isn’t finished yet.  So you won’t be able to find our Feuille Hawk™ or find anything about the Feuille Finish™. Heck, you won’t even find anything about feuille on the Internet because this is brand new (actually there’s more to that story, but I’m not going to spill it here). I’ll post our web address here as soon as our site is up.

And maybe when this launch cools down a bit I can get back to this blog and start writing again.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved