Building Successful Companies …ovation– The Faces of Business
Fri, Dec 08, 2023 2:17PM • 55:52
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Damon Pistulka, Daniel Steininger
Damon Pistulka 00:02
All right, everyone, welcome once again, the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am excited today, because we are going to be talking with Dan Steininger from Steininger associates. Also, Dan is an instructor as Arizona State University. And today we’re gonna be talking about building successful companies and leaders with creativity and innovation. Dan, thanks for being here today.
Daniel Steininger 00:30
Thanks, Tim. And looking forward to the interview. Oh, this
Damon Pistulka 00:33
is gonna be fun. So, Dan, why should someone listen to us today?
Daniel Steininger 00:38
Good question. If you want to be known as the creative and innovative leader, I’m about to share with you the secret sauce of creativity. So if you stay tuned, take notes on this, you can depart this podcast and immediately start implementing some of the secret sauce of creativity I’m gonna give you so it’s practical, and you can implement it your life. And soon you’ll have a reputation of being a creative, innovative person as a leader.
Damon Pistulka 01:05
Let’s just savor that for a second. Because this is going to be good, this is going to be good. So, Dan, you are a prominent figure in the field of business leadership, you’ve got a couple books, we’ll start with your older one. It’s called moving mountains, everyday lessons for business leaders in creativity and innovation. And you’ve got a more recent one, conquering your mountain solving problems through innovative leadership. What really drew you in to learning so much and teaching people about creative creativity and innovation?
Daniel Steininger 01:43
Okay, everything I do, both books have the mod mountain in it. So where does that come from in my college years. So we’d hop on the Great Northern leave mill, Milwaukee, head north to Glacier National Park where I got I worked summer jobs in Glacier Park, the crown, oh, cool. Crown Jewel, the Rocky Mountains. And as you come across the eastern plains of Montana, you see these rocky mountains emerging from the, from the plains like wow, and you get out and you’re done. John Denver is you smelled them out in the air, and you’re like, I’ve been born again. And this is phenomenal. I’d been there about two weeks work in the park, and I serve you and Lewis and Clark, because they came through that same area, on their way to the Pacific. And I realized when they saw that mountain range, they said, Oh, lordy, how are we going to get through this mountain range to the Pacific? And that’s why I characterize things, mountains are those problems and challenges we all face in life? And how did they get around it? Excuse me? Well, number one, you have to get creative. That’s the only way you’re going to navigate your problems and challenges in life. So what did they do? Naturally, they reached out to a woman Sacajawea, who had been born and raised in the area, and they and she was able to read them through to the mountain passes to get through the Rocky Mountains, or we wouldn’t own the Pacific, California, and Russia would all be by the British and the Russian would control California. So an Oregon and Washington. So because of her. But there were other ways. You know, you can find a mountain pass, you can do switchbacks, you can avoid the mountains, whatever. But mountains are those problems and challenges we all have. And if you don’t have any, I say stop, listen and go to a bar and celebrate. So which gets me to the first step and creativity. And that is that you you have to look at a problem and brace it. And I say why? Why that because all of the great entrepreneurs, all of the great people who have led to solutions start with an understanding of the problem. Now, Americans in general and I can characterize them is not I didn’t make this up Americans in general, when they see a problem, it’s shoot Ready, aim. They want to just jump to solution. The great entrepreneurs don’t they take their time to understand why they’re in the semester in or why the problem is challenging. Give you a good example. I mean, Elon Musk did pick, you know, Iranian entrepreneur for the for the world sort of said, Okay, we’ve got a problem with climate change. We’ve got a problem with the fact that Russia control space, launching of satellites. He saw those problems, took his time to understand and came up with solutions. But there’s another reason that what I’m going to share with you today helps your listeners and it’s a true story A 911 When the plane there was a woman named Maria Pangalos so she was working in the North Tower 19th floor and the plane hits the South Tower in her on her floor now before they could feel a heatwave go through but nobody knew what that was all about. This huge heatwave just goes through they know the South Tower had been hit. So people on their cell phones at a nine o’clock meeting she didn’t stop. She didn’t call anyone she got up and went right to the elevators and started out. She was joined by another woman who went with her for a few stroke stories and then went back to get pictures of her grandkids. The reason I tell you and when she was making her way to the to the to the stairs, people kept saying Maria, where are you going? We have a meeting. Why are you doing this? He didn’t stop she didn’t talk. The reason I share that with you she was the only person on the 90th floor to live to tell us the story. And and so what you learned today may save your life. And I can tell you since I’ve, I’m in Arizona right now, last spring I was I was hiking and have great hiking trails in around Phoenix. Heard a rattle and next thing I know I was nailed by a rattlesnake. Okay, went off about that, that this could be seriously dangerous to my life, much less my limb. So my wife called 911. But then even though I was in a distressed situation, I started using my creativity skills. Well, the first thing is what I said to my wife, well, you know, tell the people that I’ve been bit by rattlesnake and to bring into them what she did. Number two, I said I was a boy scout. Like I was an Eagle Scout. I learned that you need to suck out the venom. She gave me the divorce first. Yeah. And I said, Okay, great. But here’s the deal. I’m going to write my funeral ration now. And I say I died because you didn’t suck out the venom. So John Wayne True Grit style. She got her water bottle out, washed out the wound, which was in my ankle right above my lightning bolt and started sucking out some venom. It was disgusting, but she did it. Again to the helicopter. They are my vitals are enough. I could walk to the helicopter about a quarter miles away and outcomes. The captain introduces himself. He says, Hi, I’m Captain Kirk. I see the day I’m having if you’re Captain Kirk. I’m the Easter Bunny. Is that No, I really am. And then we’re rising up over Phoenix. My leg is starting to swell. And I said, Cut. There’s a lot of pain with this. He said don’t worry. We’ll give you fentanyl. He said fentanyl. Don’t you die from it? He said no, no, no, it’s not the Mexican cartel guy. In the meantime, they’re pumping intravenously in the anti venom because he had brought it with him to the ER room that night. And the top toxicologist in the state visits me and says, I came for one reason on me, you know, usual case, you had less venom in you than the average rattlesnake bite. And I told her the story about my wife. And she’s well our scientific studies don’t necessarily prove that. So okay, you’re gonna have to explain why I’ve left less than better than me, and why the cowboys and ranchers who all settled this area didn’t have any better. Anyhow, fast forward a few weeks later, I’m in Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, traveling somewhere else, but I can actually walk again. People are coming up to me and saying, how’s your snakebite? And I said, How do you know? Oh, you were on the evening news. You’re the first person that’s ever been treated with anti venom in the field with they’ve changed all their procedures now to bring the anti venom to the field because the quicker it gets in you the better. Yeah, yeah, creativity is capable of saving your life and it’s the most difficult situation. So it begins with step one, embrace uncertainty. As a business leader, we have a paradigm that is CEO where you are the feast, VP, whatever you are, you know the answers. Well guess what? Embracing uncertainty is the most important thing you can do as a leader. Now I’ll give you an example. I left the law practice to become the CEO of one of my clients, just distressed financial institution. And I know maybe I had a midlife crisis to make that I went the loss coach, and a lot of friends at the Harvard Business School I swore I’d never go into business. But they asked me to head it up. I said no, but they said, Go part time until we can get a CEO Well, sitting started making out after a year, my partner said we can’t have a CEO in our partnership in the law. So I hopped up, I became the CEO of this company. Now I’m called all the vice presidents together. We have a meeting, and 11 vice presidents. And one of the questions that came in at the first meeting is what’s our strategic plan? And I said, What’s the strategic plan? 1111 VPS? Out. Oh, boy, we got to live on here. Yeah, that’s your initial reaction. And again, remember Americans paradigm leaders, no answers. But what happened? What happened when they knew I was serious? I said, if we’re going to have a strategic plan, you’re going to have to come up with it. And like this guy serious and suddenly start getting engaged. I was trying to American management techniques in the first year to it as CEO and I got this didn’t feel right. Then it was a a piece in The Wall Street Journal. Nissan had built its first plant in CIP Smyrna, Tennessee, the first plant in America and, and they were interviewed the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, interviewing a Japanese CEO, Miller translator. And at some point, the interviewer he got so upset, he broke his pencil. He’s so frustrated. He couldn’t get the answers he wanted. Finding the President isn’t America said, What’s your problem? He said, Well, I’m trying to find out how you build your cars. And you’re not telling me and the President said, Well, why are you asking me? I’m not building the cars go out and talk to the people who are building the cars they’ll tell you. I wrote a piece in the University of Michigan’s business review about HR via camera which saying it’s all over for the American audit industry will never compete with these people. It was a guy there had been a GE engineers and gentlemen, is that gender I’m never going back. Think about leadership as knowing all the answers. Don’t take the opposite force the people who work with him, come up with solutions. And be honest, don’t think because you made this title and you haven’t, you know, the answers. So begins with the humility when problems arise, reach out to the collective wisdom of the people who report to you, and I’m going to give you some tips on how to get them involved. But anyhow, that’s stage one. Because yeah, it’d be nice into problems, making sure that they understand that the teams that work or you work with, you’re on a journey together. And not Yeah, versus knows all the answers.
Damon Pistulka 10:38
So you know, that’s, it’s funny, you say that, because, you know, I started out in my my leadership, journey, running running facilities and businesses and such, you thought that, you know, you’re supposed to be walking around communicating with people, but really, when, and that’s good, that’s good building those relationships. But when you truly engage those people, like you said, Doesn’t matter who janitor, VP doesn’t matter, everybody in what you’re doing to the point that they can help you be better. It is amazing what happens. And then And like you said, the Japanese started out doing that, before we did in the US and, and taught us how to do it again and reinvigorated in us again. But that is one of the key things of being a leader I think is and personally helped me the biggest, the biggest phrase that ever helped me is what do you think that it’d be? And that’s just just asking somebody they like, well, and they’ll come to you with a problem, or what do you think we should do?
Daniel Steininger 11:39
And you know, Damon, before and I don’t mind sharing it, in this podcast, that you have a little Elon Musk in you. And by the way, the book about him is hard to put on Isaac’s a new book. It’s just, he’s crazy. But he’s crazy. But in any event, he had to exact he whenever goes to SpaceX, or, or Tesla, or neural link any of his companies, he’s always walking around asking serious questions to the people at work. Why do you do this? Why do you do that? They know he is fully invested. So let’s talk about what it means to be a creative leader and why everyone who’s listening can be known as someone who’s a creative when I say, Who do you think of his creative? Well, everyone will say, well, musicians, artists, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs. Okay, great. The point is creativity can be taught. And why do I say that? If you think of our children, grandkids, children can be padam. Watch young children. Did you ever did a parent ever have to teach a young child to start playing with toys? Did they ever tell a young child, you need to start crawling, you need to start walking, did they have to bribe him or threaten him? And the most complex thing we do as humans, it’s all over by five children have learned to communicate without one bit of threats, bribery, they’ve learned the most complex human behavior. So creativity is normal enough. And as Charles Darwin said, it’s not the most successful, the most successful people. I’m not the strongest, or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable, so it’s inside of us. So what happened to that activity? Well, we went to school, what happens in school and you get rewarded for the for different answers. And no teacher? I have a different way of doing that. No. And then you get to the new graduate to the work world. And what a way to employees. Sir, I like your idea, but I’m going to do my job differently. Oh, good luck with that. So that sort of beats us out of it. So I’m going to share some tips on how to restore what is natural to us, our personal creativity. And that’s why it’s a learned art and you can learn it. And that’s where you can be known as a creative leader. So that’s something short of Uber trying to do. So step one, awesome, awesome. It’s a problem. Don’t complain about it. Say you say
Damon Pistulka 13:45
just for one moment here, we got Marcel stopping by today from Atlanta. Just wanted to say hello, real quick. Take a break, because we’re gonna go into step one now. Let’s hit it, Dan.
Daniel Steininger 13:56
Okay, wonderful. All righty. Okay. All right, step one. Take the time to understand the problem. And you know, little kids ask if you ask them something. They’ll say why? And then you’ll see that then they’ll say why again. So what happens when you’re facing a problem? The first thing you want to do? Just start with five why’s, keep asking why keep asking why? Why, why? What’s the cause of that? Did we contribute? Did I make a mistake? How did we get into this situation? What’s the cause of the problem trying to get to the causes? Because that’s where creativity starts. You have to spend the time that’s not the American way. Give me an example of when this there’s a company that had three elevators and at five o’clock, the lines were crazy. And everyone had to wait, they got home late, it was just yourself. The proposal was to add another batch of elevators to get the problem solved. Well, they spent their time asking the wise, and one of the things they discovered is that well, everyone’s departure time was Five o’clock, you know, these other companies are. So the got people who agreed to staggered departure times, guess what, they never needed $20 million worth of new elevators problem got solved. So spend the time to understand the problem. And that’s going to get you to understand, start to point the direction of where you might find some solutions. So that’s step one, embrace uncertainty. Approve, you don’t have all the answers and spend the time to understand it. So there you go. So write that down, folks. And that’s not our tendency as Americans, we know. It’s constitutive to what we’re doing. So
Damon Pistulka 15:41
we like to think we know, we know or even and sometimes even which is worse, I think, as you get a few road miles, you think you know, before you’ve been here what the problem is? Exactly.
Daniel Steininger 15:53
We’re just wanting to Sofic oh, by the way, as to the Japanese, you know what the sad thing is? Dr. J. Dr. Edwards Deming went there after World War Two and train them. And they kept saying that’s not what the Americans do. And he kept saying, you do what I tell you, you will beat the Americans in the marketplace. It makes them break your heart.
Anyhow, right over there. There’s books are right over there around
Daniel Steininger 16:16
and speaking. So now, step two is okay. As you explore the causes, you want to start to prioritize them. The first thing to do is be willing to take blame. True story in when I was in law school, I was researching a case out of the federal district court in San Francisco, Japan, airlines flew into San Francisco. And one of the planes captained by Captain Osho, who’s also happen to be Japanese came into the airfield sits right on the harbor in San Francisco. Okay. He came in short of the runway, his landing was so perfect. Nobody knew he didn’t. He wasn’t he was in the water, until he saw sailboats going by the windows. Now the plane was rescued, no one got hurt. But the FAA Of course, convenes a hearing and that’s why I got to read about it in the federal digest about this hearing. And the FAA said, put them on the witness stand, raise your right hand and promised to tell the truth, the whole truth. Okay, Captain. Oh, so, we’re gonna do a six month investigation. We’re gonna do fact finding, and clauses and we’re gonna publish all this. So you understand, we’re here to find out why it happens. So Kevin, also, in your opinion, now you’re under oath. Why did this occur? And it was a long pause and pause. And then I’m reading the transcript. And Captain Gnosis said, how you American said, Captain also screw up. It’s five minutes later, the hearing was completely over close done. And now he was taken off slide passengers. Yeah, but I cargo. But you and I know, we’ve been enough meetings that there’s always fingerpointing covering yourself. You have to build a culture that people are willing to admit mistakes. And that happened to me. early in my tenure as a CEO, something went haywire. And my company ended up in the media with a negative story. So well, everyone together said, Okay, we’re getting hurt in the media. We need to understand how this problem why did this problem occur? Nobody’s saying anything. Oh, my vice president staring at me. I said, Okay, we’re gonna be here all day. And finally, someone raised their hand and said, will we tell you the truth, we get in trouble. I said, No, we’re trying to find out why this happened. And the person said, I actually, Dan, it was your idea. Is it my idea? Yeah. Remember, when I was walking down the hall a few weeks ago, and I ran this by you said, Hey, that’s a great idea. Go for it. And you could see the whole room go deadly silent. You know, that may be the dumbest idea I’ve ever had. What that told the culture is if the CEO can make mistakes, and be honest, that we can because you can’t solve problems, and people are just going to be finger pointing all the time. So it’s honesty and integrity, and you built it as a leader by being willing. So you think I don’t want to make my mistakes? I want to deny him. Oh, no, that’s the wrong signal to send. You want to be a creative leader? Elon Musk is constantly emitting is one of the stupidest decisions. I mean, he doesn’t admit it at the time, but afterwards, boy, I was wrong about that. Right now, he’s already missing. Why did I buy Twitter? I mean, this is what leaders do. They’re constantly being honest about their shortcomings, that allows a culture, say I can try things I can experiment, I can fail, and I’m not going to be punished. So step two is all about getting the causes and start to prioritize the causes of the problem. Once you have them listed, then put them in, it’s the old Pareto chart. 80% are usually one cause what is that? What’s the main driver of this problem? And then what do we do to solve it? So there’s step two, so write that down. And it is the second step in the creative process. So does that make sense? Because,
Damon Pistulka 19:46
yeah, does it work? Because when you start to look at it that way, first of all, get honest with yourself about why something really happened. But then, you know, then you start to look at like you said, you hit it. You said it very well. that that Pareto, you can oftentimes find one root cause that that causes three or four bad things that you’re trying to. So you can eliminate a lot by, by getting to the real root of everything.
Daniel Steininger 20:14
And I want to share this with the audience and enjoy my experience as a lawyer. Although I’ve probably read about neuroscience enough to I could write a book on it. People used to ask me the law practice, how can you defend someone who’s committed a crime? And when I tell him, I would say first, I didn’t do a lot of criminal law. But one thing I learned in talking to some people, no one ever thinks they’re guilty. I mean, you can be caught red handed. Oh, she was pulling the knife into herself that I was hanging on to trying to prevent it. Our brains are hardwired to defend ourselves. And neuroscientists have found that out. And there’s so people who can have a lot of you’ll find people’s seeing the same x effect. When Abraham Lincoln was shot at the fort theater. The federal government interviewed every 240 people in the theater that night over the next several months, guess what, they ended up with 240 versions of what happened. Everybody sees the world from their own perspective. So if you think as a leader, you know, the answers, and you know what you did right or wrong? No, you don’t. We all see the world through our lens. And that’s why you see the right and left they all know the right answers to everything. No, we own can’t see our own shortcomings. And as a lawyer, I knew that and lawyers make livings out of proving that witnesses completely. Yeah, reach each other. So when you start to think you know, the answers, be open to being honest, the feedback that maybe you were wrong, you did something wrong, you’ve got to begin by saying what, as a leader that I might have led people do the wrong thing. That’s not easy, because you didn’t get to be a leader because you have low ego. So it’s a tripping humility. But it’s, it’s an important one. So the other thing is, and this is I’ll give you a story, true story. Early on in my co career, I joined Vistage I joined YPO everything I could get a network as I’m now in the business world, having been trained as a lawyer. And one of the resources we had was a professor Harvey from George Washington University. And he wrote a book about it actually, it’s called a trip to Abilene. And this is really important not just in your business life, but in your personal life. He said he visited his wife who lived in Koh, Texas, it was featured in The Last Picture Show. And this is out in the panhandle, a desert in Texas. Now it was hot, and they’re on the front porch about four o’clock and they had the old swamp cooler going which was wet hay and a fat. Finally, Granddad said, Who wants to go to Abilene for dinner tonight? Well, Jerry, Professor Hart or Jerry How are you said to his wife, you turn to his wife Well, I’m sure you want to go and and and meantime grandmas lacing up her shoelaces and they all just so they all happen. The old Packard they go across the panhandle to Abilene, which was like 60 miles away. Dust is coming. It was miserable. It was hot. They go to the greasy, greasy spoon, cafe head on miserable dinner. Then they go all the way back across the Panhandle. And they end up at the porch around eight o’clock at night. And they’re all sitting there exhausted, furious that they went and someone said, why did we go to Abilene? And somebody said, Well, granddad, it was your idea and greatest? No, it was I just threw something out. I didn’t say I wanted to go. Jerry said I turned to my wife and she said no, I thought you want to go no, I thought you wanted to go and then grandma started crying. They spent the next couple hours trying to figure out how an entire group of people went to Abilene when no one really wanted to go. Now. Fast forward to the Watergate proceedings. And Sam Irwin was a graduate my law school bus University was was interviewing Charles Colson before the nation and a congressional hearing Charles Colson anytime prior to the breaking of the water gate, democratic headquarters, did anyone fig say maybe this is a dumb idea. And Coulson said, No. And then he asked, What if someone had said that? We wouldn’t have done it? So ask yourself in your personal life, or in your professional life? Are you on a trip to Abilene? Nobody’s saying maybe this is wrong. I mean, you know, when we shouldn’t be doing that the way we’re doing it, it’s very hard to be the person who raises the question, raise their hand and say, hmm, maybe this is not what we should be doing. Because they know what why why What are you a contrarian, but think about the trip to Abilene. He wrote a book about it. And we take trips to Abilene in our lives all the time. And so you need to bet in your culture, a willingness to say no, when you even if you don’t know if it’s wrong, or not just raise the question, do we really want to do this? So there are some real advantages to it. So
Damon Pistulka 24:44
and that, that is because those kinds of questions can at least let you pause and take a second thought about it. Take another second to think about it or let other people give a look. Little bit more input because a lot of times in business, you know, with a really, really strong leader that like you said, it can be like grandfather that hey, we’re going to Abilene and nobody even questions why what we’re just going you don’t
Daniel Steininger 25:15
want to be picked on you don’t want to be negative the naysayer, you know that sort of thing. So at least keep be aware of those sort of things that go on all the time in business. And if you really want to be a courageous, creative and innovative leader, you have to be willing to step back and say, Wait a second, is this really what we want to do? Another Okay, so now let’s get to regarding issues we know we have to solve. Now let’s get to the the brainstorming or ideation. It’s done terribly wrong in business. And here’s where you and those listeners can really set a new standard for creative brainstorming. And I’ll give you an example. Harvard Business does a school does a mock test every year where they they put people in a classroom and they say, Here’s your hypothetical, you’re lost in somewhere in Greenville and your plane has crashed. You’ve got a couple hours to take everything you need to survive. And they videotape it. And then they came to the conclusion and they’re watching and they noticed one of the people in that one of the students was not saying anything. When they finished the tournaments, you can say anything, why not? And he said, Well, I’m tend to be a more shy guy. Maybe I was a farmer from South Dakota. Anyhow, but he was really raised in the backwoods. And mind you 50% of the American public are introverts. 50%. And and they said, Well, what do you think of our solution, he said, You won’t last two days, why you’ve chosen all the wrong things. And I grew up in the backwoods, here’s what you should have taken with you. So when you have an a meeting on a set up to do brainstorming ideation, understand, first of all, extroverts are going to dominate, you’re not going to hear from the introverts who have may have better ideas. So how do you get around that? My suggestion is, once you’ve agreed to the problem, main drivers, you share that with everyone in a sort of a brief, I’m still recovering lawyer, here’s the problem. Here’s how we think we got there, share your ideas electronically in email with us. Now the introverts will really be willing to use email. And then you ask everyone, think about other people’s ideas, don’t go wrapped up in your own ego. So by the time you get to that innovation meeting, guess what, you will have a bunch of ideas that will everyone, no one will dominate because everybody has participated equally. So that can be a rule. And you so Reese, restructure how you do your meetings on ideation. And you will start, you will be known as a creative leader, because you had a process that allowed everyone to be heard. Yeah. There’s another very important tool. And this is going to really surprise people really surprise people. The use of humor. Now why do I say that in meetings? Why is that important? Well, we have a right brain and left brain, everyone today is listening to me on their left brain. That’s the analytical part. Verbal math is all their right side is a source of creativity. If you go back 1000s of years, and we run around in the stone age and okay, you saw someone in the distance, they might have a sphere. Is that a friend or enemy? Well, you couldn’t text him, you couldn’t email them. You couldn’t call him right. So human beings develop expressions, which they could let you know that I’m friendly. So it was primarily humorous things they would do so that people would know, this is a friendly person, don’t throw your spirit. Well, why is that important? Because in a meeting, human moves you from your left brain, into your right brain, it frees you up to relax. It reduces the political tension. It’s anthropologically hardwired into us. And as a result, you’re going to see, and by the way, it’s not hard to inbred human meanings. You don’t have to be a joke teller. You can just pay YouTube clips. But make it part of your makeup part of your everyday life before you go to bed at night, play something funny, do an old Seinfeld I don’t care. Humor is an important part of the creative process. And so it reduces tension allows people come up with ideas that may be a little wacky, but okay, maybe crazy. When they start to laugh and they’re more relaxed, they’ll start entertaining, weird and unusual ideas, which may be the solution to things so bred into your culture of innovation, ideation meetings, the use of humor in those meetings, trust me, and you as leaders or want to be known as creative leaders. People are going to wonder about you at first in time, they will love it. They will know it’s an expectation. I mean, I’ve been had I even had a creativity room where we do brainstorming, and I had things that we had things up on the wall like sacred cows make great hamburgers, Keynote two things to create an environment where people feel relaxed to say and come up with unusual because you never know what’s going to be the solution to things. You just don’t have a clue So you want people to be brave enough to come up with things and not be criticized. So that’s another thing you can embed into your brainstorming meetings. And that will I guarantee you, yeah, provide a more robust, and you will come up with more innovative ideas. Now, before those innovation meetings occur, where you’re going to do brainstorming, I also recommend that your team do what I call ethnographic research. Now give you an example. There was a wine company, a small one in Australia, and they wanted to grow them their brand internationally. So how did they do that? So what they did is studying the wine market and found out that good grief is expensive. And so they went to beer drinkers and hard drinkers, and asked them why don’t you drink? Why. And what they found is that those drinkers said, Well, why is it a little expensive, we don’t understand all these names like Appalachian control and all these rankings you have to have. And by the way, we don’t even like to taste a lot of the stuff. So what they did is they came up with a brew up a wine that was simpler, a little less costly, taste, easier to go down. And, and price below the the high price wines. And they launched it. It was the greatest launch of a wine company in the history of the world. And it was called yellowtail, and yellowtail is an Australian company that’s still with us today and still going clusters and they got those. They found the what we call the blue ocean, instead of competing in red ocean. With the Wind, they found that niche of blue oceans and and so ethnic that they did that research, saying I was in I can this applies to just about everything. I was in the hospital early in March of 2020. I had COVID Nobody else no one knew what to do with me, right? It was kind of crazy time. Every day, I had a different doctor at 90, not every nurses every three hours, another nurse, it was kind of chaotic. And I kept thinking the doctors need to become patients in their own hospitals. They don’t understand the patient experience. And they made mistakes. And thank God I use my creativity tools to actually do the latest research and that well why are you giving me antibiotics when I obviously don’t have this is not a virus, whatever. Anyhow, it’s as simple as this. When you deploy to the hospital, they give you an oxygen tank. Okay, I got home and you needed it to breathe. And suddenly it stopped working. Now I’m having trouble breathing. I call the front desk and thank God the hospital is still open. And they said oh, that’s a rechargeable you have to get there recharged, which is attached to the thing and charge it. Now how simple would have been to just put the instructions on the oxygen tank. So whatever you’re selling whatever you’re doing, don’t come up with a tracker for the farm community unless you’ve talked to farmers, John Deere went to India introduced this great 400 pound driven diesel beautiful tractors was amazing. Guess what it flopped in India. They didn’t take the time to interview the farmers in India, who by the way, have plots of five and 10 acres. And this little tiny tractor that Indians produce was very popular. John Deere learned a hard lesson went back reinjured and came up with a really small tractor that fit the Indian average Indian farm. So do that homework and bring those insights to your brainstorming meetings. The last example I give behind every consumer choice is a value system. And let me give you a simple example. If someone owns a home, you’ve got a lawn, and the grass has to be cut, right? Some people do a really good job of grass cutting other do a mediocre, some are lousy at it right behind how you cut your grass is a value system of how you want to be looked at by your neighbors. And so trying to understand the values that drive it. I mean, I’m from Milwaukee, the home of Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson is not just about a motorcycle, it’s about born to ride you’re born to ride what is the value you’re trying to appeal to end people. So do that homework before you do your brainstorming to get inside the mind of your customer from a farmer to a factory worker to whoever so there you go. Coco Chanel introduced a world class brand because she understood that women wanted a simpler way to dress and change the fashion world because she paid attention to people so there’s that so that’s that’s effective brainstorming you do that you will be known overnight as a very creative leader has an amazing approach to doing innovative thinking and brainstorming in a way that’s never been done at your company before. So there you go, yeah,
Damon Pistulka 34:48
well you can get you can get people comfortable and engaged in and even that like you said the the people that aren’t that aren’t the extroverts the introverts will also be engaged Just because of the way you’re preparing for the meetings, as well. So yeah, and then going into the doing the research and finding the blue oceans, the blue oceans where you can play is, is another thing that I think people get stuck with is, you know, you’re not going to you’re Why are you competing with everybody else doing the same thing? I mean, it’s just just see that over and over and over and over and over. And it’s, it’s, you know, I do this or I do that and, and just like they do down the street. It’s like, why you can you can be a plumber and it can be way different than the plumber right next year?
Daniel Steininger 35:37
Well, it’s well said, Jim, and just the all of us have ordered things that need to be constructed when they get home, you have the instructions, you got your Amazon back now gonna build it right. I would love the technicians who write the directions, and actually have to construct but they have written, these directions were written if though they want us to fail. I mean, make anyone who writes up a set instructions have to build the and have to build what they’re there. So their instructions will actually make sense. One of the things that Elon Musk has done at SpaceX and Tesla, the designers would design it, and then would shift over the engineers and other department. What he did is he made the designers and the engineers sit next to each other as that cars been designed every step of the way, and made them work together. So in any event, so this is a great way of bringing to the table some insights that really are going to change how you brainstorm. So then we can get to the next step is and this is of course, right in your ballpark. Damon, you didn’t I don’t know you’re told history, but I’ll guarantee you, you weren’t an instant success as a podcaster. overnight. You whatever you did, you rolled it out, you tested it, you probably pivoted you tested, it, you pivoted you tested pivoted once you’ve come up with your brilliant ideas, and I do this because I ran an angel investment now work and also created BitStarz, which helps entrepreneurs. That’s a nonprofit to launch companies. Every entrepreneur drinks their own, they’ve got friends and family all love your latest recipe, you need to market this analyse the great things and then you launch it the margin plays in both it doesn’t work. So the important thing is to do a Lean Startup, how can you test things before you roll them out? So figure out and that’s a good learning experience. mean you know in law, we would have mock trials before an actual jury. So figuring out ways to test things as your Damon you can tell some more stories on your podcast along the way that things you must have changed or pivoted to get to where you are today. Right? Tell me I’m wrong?
Damon Pistulka 37:43
Oh, yeah. There’s many things, many things. Yeah, many things in business even more, because you you just you have to you realize that, you know, just because your mom likes it doesn’t mean it’s.
Daniel Steininger 37:57
Well, Thomas Edison tested 1000 filaments that that didn’t work before he found the one that did and and a reporter once asked him, How can you deal with 1000 failures. And he said, I never failed. I never failed. I had 1000 experiments, until I found the right one. And Elon Musk. And this is in the book by Isaacson. He launched three spaceships, rockets that would go up and come back down, right, three failed, crashed, he was down to the last test NASA said we will never buy from you until you have a successful launch. If that had not launched successfully, we would not know who he was, he was virtually bankrupt. Fourth, good, wet, went up, came back to Earth and stayed in one piece. And he signed a contract. So he does 90% of NASA’s launches now and it gets a good part of the world’s launches. So testing is critical. And being able to get feedback from it. How did it work? What did it do? That’s really an important part of the whole process. Every great entrepreneur I know, has pivoted and pivoted and pivot until they got it right. So don’t be discouraged if your original solutions are the immediate answer. Don’t
Damon Pistulka 39:13
give. That’s key because a lot of people think, Oh, I tried it, it didn’t work. But if you try it, it doesn’t work. But you learn three other things that if I go a little bit different direction, now it might work. And then it’s just it’s amazing because you say that. And it’s so clear. If you’ve gone through these processes before because you’re going to you’re going to find out of 10 things that you thought might work. Okay, three of them did. And that took you in a different direction that actually can get you go further than you thought you ever would. Because I made those mistakes and I went are not mistakes. But I found those things out and now I’m going even farther than I’d ever thought in
Daniel Steininger 39:58
the business world of balance. It goes, I mean, we all, we all use posters. So the research chemists who was trying to solve something else suddenly found this sticky stuff. Well, it can be applied to little, you know, pieces of paper and said, Well, maybe maybe, okay, it’s not the solution I wanted. But maybe there’s some use to this, these posters. And any he brought it to the marketing team just said, well, let’s test it in the marketplace. Boom, the world is run by posted and which you by the way can use every brainstorming session should have. It should have posts, it’s coming out your ears. And so there’s now Okay, now you have all these ideas. Now, here’s the next important thing, the last final step, and you’ve got some winning ideas, okay, which to pick. And this again, is part of the secret sauce, and I so rarely see it done. It just breaks my heart. Let’s assume you want to buy a car. Okay, so you’ve got this car, car, a car B car, see car T, which one are you going to buy? How do I decide? You go to every dealership, you’re like everyone you try? Make yourself an every business idea you’re going to do do a matrix, a simple matrix, what are you looking for in that product? Is this car going to be you want to save his car? Do you want the most fuel efficient car? Do you want a low cost car and expensive one? What are your main concerns, so put the names of the car up on the top of the axis on a simple matrix and the left side in priority, what you value the most. So if you want the best, safest car, you’ll wait on a scale of one to five, it gets weighted a five. And then if cost is important, okay, it gets, you know, second, it gets a four, whatever. So you put that, then you give each car, your numerical value based on your criteria. And then you added them up at the bottom. And voila, it’s not scientific, but it’ll show you what is the most likely car you should get. So it’s something you can actually use as simple as what vacation you want to take, or the car you want to buy. So do that evaluation matrix to help decide. And it may be if it’s a complex product, you may say ease of ease of implementation is important. Well, that’s a very complex problem is going to take years to figure it out. That goes lower on the totem pole. Go anyhow, so that’s that evaluation matrix, which is step four. And so on. Then step five is implementation. And, of course, so if you got to this point, now you’re you’re, but it’s not over yet. You have to execute the product. You’ve got the test, you know, it’s viable. Now, what do you do? I’m going to give just a couple of real life examples that worked for me. And one of my gigs was in the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee call me and said, Dan, at the port of Milwaukee, we are an international city in terms of our port, our port, our port Milwaukee shifts to the world markets to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Okay. And the port mo I mean, we do industrial stuff, grains, steel, fertilizer to the world markets. We feed half of Africa through the corn, the Greenbelt, through the port of Milwaukee in Chicago. Okay. He said the port is sinking literally. I want you to take it over. And I want you to turn around I said, I told the mayor, Mayor, I don’t know which end of the ship is up. Oh, no. He said, Well, I got my I got my start working for your granddad. My father had been the mayor of Milwaukee in the last century, he was on the cover of Time Magazine as the mayor of the best run city in America. So it was in my blood. So eventually, I parted company with an in Port director, who by the way, had been an admiral and who apparently knew less about commercial shipping. And I did find a guy in Houston, who was running his own company didn’t want another government bureaucrat brought him up, and and said, Look, what’s the problem? How are we going to solve it? And he came up with amazing creative solutions. For and one of the things he was reluctant to come to Milwaukee from Houston, we said, Well, why is it closed for months a year? And I said, Well, it’s called Ice.
Daniel Steininger 43:54
It’s closed because the ice. So what did he do? At some point, he petitioned the Maritime Administration in Washington to allow us to have barges come up to Milwaukee. And they can leave them walking with product go through the Chicago River, or Illinois. We’re down to the Mississippi and ship out of the fort. So we have your own service. Another thing that came up and for business people, there’s a lot of business between Wisconsin and Michigan. Okay. Business people don’t want to fly all the time. They want to have their car, but you’d have to go through Chicago and Gary and all that traffic. Well, he came up with a market study. He said we support a high speed ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon across the lake. He couldn’t get the venture capital. So I went to VCs I knew and pitched it and said, Look, it would ask me Well, number one VCs we will how much is it? 20 million. Whoa, Danny, that’s a lot of money. What’s it for? It says for a boat. And he said there’s something wrong my phone did you say one 20 million voters it Don’t hang up. I got some marketing studies. They eventually raised the 20 million we built a high speed ferry. It had to be built in United States and an Alabama shipyard that lake Express US high speed ferry service has been consulted unbelievably successful business people take it all the time to go to Michigan. And it’s been a high end and the investors have made their money back. They’re so happy. I said, Well, why don’t you come united? But that’s example. Another one is it is the portable walkie as a large bridge or is the Daniel home bridge. It’s named after Daniel home. Now that’s it was his city in the last century. Nobody knows who he was. I came back from walking within the home bridge. But nobody knows who was I said. So I got some Millennials together. And I said, you’re probably living in your parents basement. Why don’t we do something dramatic? These are what looks like the skyline in Milwaukee. Well, what’s that all about? Why don’t we like the home bridge? They got into it took us several years raise $4 million. And look, that bridge with an active LED light show that is second to none. The Republican National Committee comes to Milwaukee sees the light shown among others says we’re having a Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in 2024. So you never know. So again, implementing these things creatively what was actually going to work. So they’ve got they all got some tips now how to drive innovation in the workplace. But I want to end this with some tips about personal creativity. Because and I know this is in running a company, I can talk I can say I want everybody to think outside the box. But if I don’t do it personally, how employee is going to do it right. So I’m going to give everybody some personal tips on personal creativity, that you should start to embed after you listen to this podcast in your daily life. And if you do this, people are going to start to say, Gee, that guy’s really creative. And this has nothing, nothing. Nothing unusual. But let me just share a few of those. Number one characteristic creative people is curiosity. People go whoever’s listening is already they’re curious, because they’re listening to your podcast. And as you said, Damon, you like interviewing people? Because you’re curious about what they gonna say. So it’s so begin to build curiosity into your life. I mean, if you’re going to take a vacation, Google the brains out of where you’re going to find out what’s new, what you should visit, take a different way home, do things all the time that feed your curiosity, we’re all stuck with habits. And my listeners don’t doubt it. I want every one of my listeners to cross their arms like this, fold them, okay, I can fold their arms. And now tell now do it the other way? Yeah, don’t you feel uncomfortable. So we all are habits. So you need to get curiosity. Elon Musk was trying to launch an electric car company, but he couldn’t get batteries that could do it. He heard about some young engineer had figured out a way to cobble the lithium batteries together so that they could all be used to drive electric vehicle. He goes and interviews this young man who had never been in the car business just came up with this idea and hires him to drive the lithium battery inserts for for Tesla’s which now way that company has a market cap bigger than all three of the American auto companies. Talk about a curious curious guy. And even your two you just your whole podcast is meant for people are curious. So if you’re not already listening to David, you need to do it for the rest of your life. So lesson number one, next and number two. And this again, is about how to how to ensure that you’re living a creative life. We all have in our brain, the hippocampus, this executive function. All day long, 1000s of images are coming at us, it might be oncoming traffic, it might be commercials, we’re being bombarded all day long. And our executive brain is trying to calculate all that. For the time we go to bed at night. We’ve had a lot to do. But your brain turns off when you’re sleeping. And you know what that means? The right hemisphere takes over. And we start to have weird bizarre dreams. There’s no governor on the executive brain has gone into silent mode. Suddenly, you wake up with weird dreams or funny nightmares. And who knows what. Do you ever get ideas late at night? Right? You wake up in the morning you have something. So that’s because your executive brain has turned off. So my second tip for people want to leave to build solitude into every day where you turn off the cell phone, turn off your computer, and let your right brain take over and let your executive brain calm down. And guess what you’ll start to see here and Steve Jobs was famous for going for walks. That’s what he thought of things people tell me they think of things in a shower. I’m a swimmer. I think of creativity as doing swimming. There’s one problem. I used to keep a notebook at the end of my swim lane so I wouldn’t forget these things while I was using ink. So when I got back to the office, I asked my assistants What is this say these are brilliant. Well, we can’t Reading. So I now found a tablet, I can write things with a pencil that doesn’t so. So build that into your daily blog, that whole idea of quiet time, solitude, ways that you can allow your right brain to surface and your executive brain to turn off. The third thing I mentioned, humor, build humor into your daily life. And another thing is to have the things. Exercise, I don’t have to preach it, but what they have found about exercise, even if it’s walking, it not just helps your physical body, but it pumps blood into your brain. And then when you do that, you’re you’re loving the brain as to think of all these things. And lastly, I’d say we all have emotions, emotions, can interfere with creativity. So somebody cuts us off, when we’re on the drive and you’re angry. Some people get so angry, they shoot, we all heard about drive by freeway, and your emotions are going to destroy your ability to be creative. So here’s the here’s the thing. You’ve heard of emotional intelligence, emotional intelligence is that your brain can actually govern your emotions. So the next time you get cut off, or somebody does something that angers you or whatever, or you want one to fall in love with someone, you probably shouldn’t use your intelligence to step back and ask yourself Have I contributed? And think of a measured response, just don’t fire off that email, don’t screen one. Think of a measured response? If it’s not if you haven’t really caused it, and they’re really at fault. Okay, what’s the appropriate response? And believe me, you’re going to live a lot longer, and you’re going to come up with a more creative response. So those are sort of the tips when your emotions start to get control of you. Use your intelligence, take a deep breath, do some of the tricks I’ve taught you and think of creative measured responses. So So I have this thing to wrap this up. Okay, we’re all on this planet. We’ve just lost Charlie Munger, who’s the second in command of Berkshire Hathaway, we just lost Henry Kissinger at 100. We all know we’re not going to live forever. Yeah, it’s human beings on this planet. We’re going to face tragedy problems, heartbreaking things, things that will go wrong in our life that are just very difficult to recover. And we all know whether it’s a war experience or not, we have post traumatic stress syndrome. And that’s understandable. We go into shock. It’s hard to deal with. But I’ve seen enough examples where people have what I call post traumatic growth. After you’ve been through the Depression, the anger, the sorrow, they go on to lead amazing lives. There’s a woman I talked to the other day, sure, she lost her husband at 20. In a terrible crash. She had three children and no job. She went on the speaker circuit and started telling that story. And guess what, for 30 years, she was the top of the table speaker, she created a whole new career out of that tragedy. So when you’re hit with these horrible things happen in life, and everything seems dismal. Hang in there, get past the depression and start rebuilding your life because there is hope. So there I’ve worn myself out, Damon, I need a nap.
Damon Pistulka 53:10
That is awesome. At the end there. And there, Dan. It’s it is if there anything that I see in the world today is people need to hang in there. Because it does. There are things and you me and others that are around us. And like the lady you spoke of there, everyone is going to have a challenge that sort of challenges thrown out. And if you’re just lucky if there’s not multiple challenges in a day sometimes. But but that just hanging in there, taking a breath and moving forward, just the next step. And the step after that will get you a long way for sure.
Daniel Steininger 53:47
Whereas the Irish say, when things are going good, don’t worry, trouble is just around the corner.
Yes, yes. That’s for sure. Yes, for sure. Well, Dad,
Damon Pistulka 53:55
thanks so much for being here. And I want to thank Henry stop by today. Thanks. Thanks. And Marcelo, if they had another comment here while we were just finishing up here at the end, but I really appreciate you stopping by and talking to us a bit about creativity and innovation and, and you know, it’s super interesting to hear your experience the research, how you’re teaching people the tips to really weave this curiosity or creativity and innovation, with the simple the simple things you laid out. And I want to tell the people if you’re listening, roll back through this because there are as you said, when we started down simple tips that you can file that can to put more creativity in your world and your business life and and to help yourself personally. And
Daniel Steininger 54:44
one thing and by the way, I a couple times a month I do a newsletter. So if you just go to LinkedIn, Dan Steininger it’s, yeah, Dan, ein ing er DAN STEIN here and just click on my newsletter and instead subscribe to it. So twice a month you get a free newsletter just gives you things to think about. I just want to unlock credit. People always say they’re lucky. I said, Well, I disagree. Luck is they make their luck. And I explained why. So it’s something that just to reflect on. And if you have issues, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, a problem that you can’t solve or change I can give you my perspective won’t cost you anything. Okay, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? So just send me some LinkedIn, and I’m happy to get back to you. So it’d be one. Thanks so
Damon Pistulka 55:29
much, Dan. Thanks that I appreciate that. And I’m sure you’re gonna have some listeners, contacting you. Thanks, everyone, for listening today. We will be back again. Dan. Thanks. hangs out, hang. Can’t talk. hang out for a moment and we’ll finish up. Thanks so much, everyone for being here. Love it. Love seeing the comments. We’ll be back again next week.