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Out of Our Minds
Friday, July 29, 2005 1:37 PM
When You Ask for Advice
Kevin Salwen on Life

... The great news is you get it. Yesterday, I sent an email to a few gazillion friends and colleagues promoting my appearance on CNN. The responses were great, and ranged from the technically challenged (3 people sent 'I don't have a TV, please tape!') to the offbeat ('Make sure Anderson Cooper knows how good of a softball player you are') to the motherly ('Make sure to comb your hair and smile').

But I had included a tease that I might wear a red tie, another tie or no tie at all. So, most focused on haberdashery:
-- 'Anderson is very natty, so go for the tie.'
-- 'I am pro tie. Cooper looks like he is trying too hard with the open neck French blue shirt.'
-- 'I say no tie--it better reflects the magazine's mission, I think!'
-- 'Blue is the new power tie, plus it's blue state friendly.'

And one of our cartoonists, Steve Smeltzer offered this wardrobe tip: 'How about (wearing) just the tie like you wore in your days as a Chippendale's dancer. I'll bet Paula Zahn would come in early to see that.' (For the record, I was turned down for that job, which crushed my ego.)

What this all reminds me, of course, is that if you ask, people offer. And it also reminds me of why I like these folks to begin with. We so often classify people into discussion groups, rarely asking them about areas we'd never expect them to opine on. I'll have to toss another one out there soon.


Jerrod - 8/1/2005 9:17:51 AM
Whitney's story reminds me of a similar one actually. I was working for Andersen Consulting and we had lost the name Andersen in a lawsuit against Arthur Andersen, so we had to find another. We hired a 'branding' firm to bring us the new name -- and of course they did the obligatory studies on brand attributes, etc. At the same time, we asked employees if they had ideas on names (and offered a roundtrip to Australia for the winner). Bingo: an employee in Sweden beat the 'branders' by coming up with the name Accenture (accent on the future).

My guess, Whitney, is that your side biz is going to succeed because you're open to outsiders' ideas.
Whitney - 7/31/2005 12:51:41 AM
(I think men should get a permanent free pass out of wearing ties. Men in ties look about as uncomfortable as women in high-heeled shoes...somewhere, someone's circulation is getting pinched off.)

On 'rarely asking [people] about areas we'd never expect them to opine on', I work with software developers in my day job. Coders, unfairly, are not known for being creative. Yet it was a developer who came up with the name for the newsletter we send to our clients, and it was developers who came up with the most creative lists of desirable employee benefits and perks when our HR department polled us last year. And that's the ultra-short list.

So, when three months of brainstorming with friends failed to find any inspired choices for a name for my side business, I decided to throw the challenge out to our developers. Within the first four days, I received a half-dozen intelligent, creative names...any of which are an appropriate fit for my personality.

Sometimes the people we rarely consult are the ones best able to comment because their distance from the subject at hand allows them to see things that we take for granted or dismiss altogether. As Kevin points out, the resulting dialogue is often so lively and insightful that it makes it worth throwing another question out just for the fun of it.


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