The Magic of One Good Idea

I came across this story on the internet, and it is a wonderful example of how one single good idea can have an immense impact for a business.  If you are still thinking ‘inside the box’, this story will inspire you to climb out! 

One of the successful businessmen I sought out at church for advice in starting my own business – is a 90 year-old gentleman named Floyd. Some 20 years ago, he and his nephew, Tom started a small manufacturing company here in town that makes kitchen blenders.

To test their blender’s durability – Tom would often ram a broom handle into the glass container – to see if it would “blend”. This little quirk of his would become significant later.

For 15 years or so, they had moderate success locally selling their blenders. Then, 5 years ago – along came an internet phenomenon, called “YouTube”. The marketing department suggested Tom & Floyd make their own commercials for YouTube.

Someone decided the image of Tom “blending” a broom handle might be catchy – so in a small room at the factory, they filmed Tom and his broom. They had him blend other objects – like a Chuck Norris action figure, a gun, a live video camera, an iPod . . . Their commercials went “viral”. Do a YouTube search for “Will It Blend?” and be prepared to laugh out loud.

Their YouTube commercials get tens of millions of views EACH. Last year, their little company, Blendtec did more than $50 million dollars in business. Tom & Floyd are recognized all over the world and have appeared on TV shows from Good Morning America to The Tonight Show.

It all starts with one good idea.   What’s yours?

The Master Motivator

For most of my adult life I have been fascinated by the idea of motivation.  In fact, my doctoral work in educational psychology, at the University of Albany in New York, was focused on “learning and motivation.”  I wanted to know what made people want to do things and how did they learn to do them. 

Recently, I read a very pragmatic book about workplace motivation: Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  He says that research points to three big motivators: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  I’ve memorized them by using the acronym: AMP.  These three things (Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose) get us “amped” for action and achievement.

However, I think that just ONE of these three is really the key to high achievement.  Certainly all three are powerful motivators for taking action.  We all want to gain AUTONOMY: the freedom to do what we want to do, when we want to do it and in the way we chose to do it.  And, most of us look to follow a higher PURPOSE: to make a difference for and in the lives of others – friends, loved ones, colleagues, clients and the world we live in.

But, the key to high achievement, in my experience, is the middle one: MASTERY.  First, learning to master new skills, knowledge and techniques is inherently motivating. But even more important, mastery of the right things is what really leads to the highest achievements – in the arts, in athletics, in scholarship, in the professions and in business.  Those who make the greatest contributions must master the fundamental skills.  They must do it at the beginning and they must keep doing it along the way – continuing their mastery to an ever higher level.

In the end, if someone is not motivated by MASTERY, they may not fully gain AUTONOMY or fulfill their PURPOSE.  The willingness to put in the work, do the time, invest the effort and endure the failures on the path to mastery – that is what makes the biggest difference.  It’s walking the talk, putting rubber on the road, paying your dues and staying the course.

In fact, it is MASTERY that tells us what we are truly meant to do.  When we love the learning, the practice, the rehearsals and the feedback, we know we are in our “home zone,” our “sweet spot,” our “wheelhouse.”  If we’re bored with the repetition or tired of the labor – if we give up on the effort; we know that we are not doing that which is our true calling. 

We are best served when we seek those endeavors where we enjoy the work, the constant repetition and the slow but steady progress. 

That is the path to MASTERY – that is the big, sustaining motivator with big, long-term payoffs!

The War of Enterprise

We call ourselves “free enterprise warriors” for a very powerful reason.  Not because we are mercenaries or soldiers whose goal is to harm others.  Or, that we seek to gain from others losses or at their expense.  We are warriors in the classic sense of being guardians and protectors – we stand up for the values of human freedom, individual rights and common justice.

As entrepreneurs we seek to play fair and succeed based on our own skill, production and creativity.  We want to achieve our goals because we have the courage to aspire, the willingness to learn and the determination to persist.  We are willing to pay the price, make the commitment and do the work.

This is the challenge of launching, growing and sustaining a worthy venture; whether for profit or not.  In this age of social entrepreneurs and conscious capitalism, the goal is not always about money.  However, the wise uses of money and resources are always a part of the equation – do well and do good.

The reason we call it war is because, at the deepest level of heart, mind and spirit, it is.  There are a set of forces that work against the desire to create, to produce and to build.  In the natural world of science, these are the forces of entropy – anything left unattended falls apart.  Hot becomes cold, structures give way to gravity and life gives in to death.

The opposite of this entropic pressure is the life force- some philosophers call it extropy.  It is how things become organized, orderly and functional.  It is how new technologies are invented, new products are manufactured, new structures are built, new services are delivered and works of art are created.  It is that mystical, magical energy that motivates us, focuses us and empowers us.  It is LIFE in capital letters. 

As entrepreneurs, that is the battle we fight – to bring order out of chaos, to bring profit out of poverty, to bring competence out of confusion, to create and enhance life.  But, we are always challenged to take on and overcome that dark side – the forces of entropy: doubt, denial, distraction, discouragement and defeat.  We seek to be optimistic, enthusiastic and confident, but we must learn to overcome the forces of pessimism, lethargy and self-doubt.

Steven Pressfield calls this “the war of art” in his book of the same name.  And, he takes that theme even further, with solid and pragmatic strategies, in his recent book Do the Work. I highly recommend both – they are well written, concise and uplifting.  They show us how to have the courage to create that which we were meant to create; to overcome resistance; to embrace life: to be free enterprise warriors.

Complacency?

“A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself… ” ~Eugene O’Neill~

I’ve observed this time and again while working in HR for larger corporations: layers of people who felt entitled to a raise just for showing up or undermining the energy of the group with their complacency. They were “self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers”.

Working with entrepreneurs, whose resources are stretched, you can see how crucial it is that their talent be motivated to do well and be their best. As an entrepreneur you cannot allow complacency to grow in your organization. If you do, you will end up spending double the time & energy to change that mindset. If the mind-numbing repetition of tasks sounds good to anyone, then you don’t want them working for you. They will not contribute new ideas, business or add to the culture of your organization.

The primary way to prevent complacency is to make the right hire in the first place. Surround yourself with like-minded people that share your energy and vision. But, sometimes even a great hire can slip into the “complacency” mindset. It’s the art of keeping them engaged and interested. You can find out through communication what makes them motivated. Schedule regular one-on-ones with employees and encourage open dialog. It’s a two way communication, you get to pass on your enthusiasm and passion, and they can share theirs back to you. You will light a spark and keep fanning it with the exchange of ideas, training and energy.

It’s a sure bet that if you are feeling frustrated, your talent is also. As a leader it’s your responsibly to bring it to the forefront and shake things up. If this doesn’t work, then it’s time to “cut bait”.- admitting it isn’t working and parting ways can be the right thing for them and for you.

Letting someone go is never easy, people sometimes looked shocked like it’s a surprise or they get upset. It can be very stressful for you, too. The first time I had to let someone go, they handed me the tissue box and they told me, “Don’t worry everything is going to be alright.” That person knew in their heart that it wasn’t the right place for them. (I have since learned to keep my composure.) Even if there is anger and tears (by both parties),you have to keep moving forward and do what’s right for the business. You must remove the complacency!

And, if making no decision is really a decision to do nothing. Then, the question is this: have you become a source of complacency?