Fall in Love with Fear and Other Mantras

I am speaking at She Says tonight a non-profit organization dedicated to giving women in marketing/media/digital fields an outlet for the exchange of ideas and a place where their voices can be heard.

I’m really excited about the opportunity.

I just came from Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference in Los Angeles where I met so many interesting, motivated and frankly just kick ass women in all walks of life from business, to media to politics.

So I am especially keyed up to share and learn from women in my field.

The theme of the She Says event is “Being in love with fear” and the focus is on innovation.

I was asked to share a few of my “secrets” on innovation.

Here a few of the mantras I live by:

Chase Butterflies

This is my version of She Says “Fall in Love with Fear” theme and something I embrace 100 percent.

In my life I have repeatedly sought that feeling of “teetering on the edge” whether by moving to a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language or literally scaling new and scary heights by forcing myself onto the trapeze platform or the zip line.

Or even starting a blog when I knew nothing about social media.

As soon as I am getting too comfortable personally or professionally an inner voice seems to compel me to take on something new.

Sometimes I resent and resist this voice for disturbing my comfort, but I always follow it. I think I’m just wired this way.

I’m actually much more afraid of never achieving my full potential or never realizing my dreams…than I am of trying new and difficult things.

I wrote more on this topic in a post this summer on Feeling Butterflies.

Look Inside The Customer, But Outside The Box

I am a huge believer in the power of lateral thinking.

I love drawing inspiration from random connections.

It’s this passion that led me to develop the Brand Tango methodology when I was at Interbrand.

This methodology solves strategic and creative issues by looking outside of a category to seemingly unrelated brands..

For example, it taps into powerful brands like BMW, Apple and Ikea to create a better brand experience for Avon (all completely dissonant market segments and to some degree targets).

I fully subscribe to Albert Einstein’s quote “problems can not be solved in the framework in which they were created.”

My shorthand for this is read every section of the newspaper.

Be insatiably curious.

Chances are you will find a stronger solution by rejecting category norms and approaching things from a different angle.

It’s why Virgin America is so successful… because it feels like flying in an ipod- not an airplane.

I wrote more about the importance of breaking out of your routine to discover new things in Eating with Your Left Hand.

Dream Like a Child

I know this sounds cliché but its true. There are no purely innovative minds like those of children.

This kind of uncensored imagination gets drummed out of us as we age.

Whether its spending time with children or taking time to tap into our inner child- its so important to harness this spirit of joy and uncensored creativity.

My own children are a constant source of material and inspiration.

I listen closely and take seriously their ideas.

Sometimes its taking inspiration from their weird food combinations (my daughter swears by Mountain Dew mixed with Pepsi and grilled cheese with sugar) to question my own strategic assumptions about what “goes together”.

Other times its being inspired by their passions.

After a weekend spent playing bingo with my kids and their friends and seeing their total enjoyment and concentration in this game, I created an “Innovation Bingo” methodology.

It uses custom Innovation Bingo cards to create new ideas by cross-referencing trends (going across the top of the card) with customer touch points (on the card’s vertical axis)

The more combinations you create, the better chance you have of completing the card and winning at “Bingo”!”

I wrote a post this Spring about the benefits of metaphorically Taking Your Kids to Work, Everyday.

Think like a CFO

Too often we allow creative ideas to be totally devoid of any operational litmus test.

I think the most innovative ideas solve consumer needs and make good business sense.

This definitely our way of thinking at Virgin.

It’s driven by a scrappy challenger mentality, and limited resources and its led to the creation of some amazing experiences.

For example, the unique Virgin America RED In flight entertainment system which is both a better consumer experience and has operational advantages.

It’s something I apply to the projects I lead and which I  talked about in my recent post How to Be a Better Planner-Think Like a CFO.

Fail Harder

I love this expression. I recently saw it in a fabulous video from Weiden and Kennedy in Portland.

Innovation is about pushing the boundaries. If you are not failing from time to time then you are probably playing it too safe.

One of the things I love about Virgin is that failure is accepted. As long as you have some measure of protection on the downside and as long as you learn from it.

You are more apt to be penalized for taking too long to get to market with something than to have given something a good go and failed.

These principles help me fuel my passion and work in innovation.

Keeping them front and center gives me inspiration for a more innovative life.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What are your innovation mantras?

2 thoughts on “Fall in Love with Fear and Other Mantras

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I love the challenge that change brings and the thrill if the chase …but it doesn’t stop self doubt creeping up when you least need it.

    time after time I find myself turning to a small group of ‘fear fans’ – friends and colleagues who’ve seen my ups and downs and have the ability to convince me to jump the final hurdle.

    self belief is strongest when it’s endorsed by those you trust!

    Good luck tonight Julie 🙂

  2. I really appreciated your insights at She Says last week. Everything you recommended that we do to become better innovators is arguably out of our comfort zones; and that is percisely why we should do it.

    There was a passage in a book I read – “The world unwraps itself to you, again and again, as soon as you are ready to see it anew.” I thought of this quote, when I listened to you speak about how important it is to always remain curious and always embrace challenge.

    Afterall, it’s during the most challenging of times, that you get to really see what you’re made of, right?

    Thanks again for your insights and sharing.

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