Archive for March, 2010

go indie

photo by Juanjo Gaspar

It’s not always easy being independent. The rise of click-and-ship buying has delivered a coordinated hit on neighborhood bookstores. Indie retailers need an iron will (and a bulletproof business model) to keep breathing in today’s market.

More than anything, they need loyal customers — people willing to step away from the screen or the big-box outlet and spend their dollars locally. It’s a vote for choice and independence, and nine-and-a-half times out of 10, you’ll benefit from staff and owners who really, really know their stuff.

This is where IndieBound comes in. It’s a community-based movement launched by independent members of the American Booksellers Association. From the IndieBound website, users can search for stores, add new locations to the ever-growing database, and connect with other community members. You can also download the new iPhone app, which offers book recommendations from indie booksellers and direct e-book purchase links. It also uses iPhone location data and comprehensive maps to help you find stores at home and when you’re on the road.

The movement began with books, but it’s expanding to include independent coffee shops, bike stores, movie theaters and more, across both the U.S. and Canada. IndieBound also produces a monthly Next List, billed as “inspired recommendations from indie booksellers.” This list formalizes the best part of shopping indie — connecting with a passionate, knowledgeable bookseller — and leverages that experience across multiple platforms and social networks.

Slick websites and smartphone apps will never replicate the experience of wandering among well-stocked shelves, hearing the wooden floorboards creak beneath your feet, but they’re strategic weapons in the battle against a bland, corporate shopping monopoly. IndieBound is using the techy tools of those mainstream competitors to promote its members’ key advantage: choice, diversity, character and an everyday love of great literature.

photo by Shelby H.

posted 24 Mar 10 in: books, business, retail. This post currently has no responses.

break it down: jamie oliver

all photos courtesy Jamie Oliver

I just watched Jamie’s 2010 TEDPrize talk. Whatever your take on Mr. Oliver and his cooking, the man is plying his fame to tackle a critical problem. Even better, he’s proposing a simple, grassroots plan to stem the greasy tide of fast food and rampant obesity. Cheers to that.

Creative outsider, he’s not. But back in the late ’90s, Jamie was just a cocky Essexer working in London’s River Café. The charming, scruffy-haired lad who could talk almost as fast as he could chop intrigued BBC crews filming a documentary on the trendy dining spot. The TV segment aired and Jamie’s phone started ringing. Next came his own television series, The Naked Chef, and a growing audience dominated by women with a sudden interest in Pasta Puttanesca.

From that first series, Jamie built his name into a global brand expressed through television, best-selling cookbooks, an eponymous magazine, cookware and kitchen products, restaurants, and now a U.K. multi-level marketing program (think Tupperware). I realize that few creatives want to ply their wares in the style of sex toy and candle parties, but we can still rip a page from Jamie’s playbook. Let’s break it down:

The position

Jamie can cook and simultaneously charm the camera. That’s his thing. Flustered in the kitchen? Grab a stool and crack open a beer. He’ll show you how to grill up some fish with one eye on the football match. Simple. Easy.

The math

Choice and content

From a position of choice and expert status, Jamie had the leverage he needed to address issues close to his heart: The Fifteen restaurants built to train under-privileged young chefs, unhealthy school lunches and now, the bloated business of Big Food.

In 2004, sharing and creating content outpaced straight communication (i.e. email) as the top online activity. It was a huge cultural shift and technological shift. Jamie built his career by translating two basic talents into compelling content. That content built an audience, which in turn, enabled him to create more content, grow his profile, and leverage that profile to build his earnings, attract new opportunities and ultimately, control his own fate. That’s how the cheeky chef from Clavering has found himself onstage at TED. And isn’t independence — mixed with straight-up passion –– really the Holy Grail?

When creative skill is expressed through the right content (appropriate medium, format, distribution, tone), it builds an audience for the core work. We can’t all talk cricket and chop onions without severing a finger or two. But, every creative pro can develop engaging content. Take the best of who you are and what you do, match it with a fitting medium and create content that leads you to choice.

posted 9 Mar 10 in: business, food, media. This post currently has no responses.

the look of creativity

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be cleansed? Behold, I show you the Superman. He is this lightning, he is this madness.

Friedrich Nietzsche (from Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

Here’s another interesting thread from Psychology Today (a magazine I’ve been surprised to find myself reading with increasing frequency).

In a post titled, “What Do Creative People Look Like?” psychologist and resident blogger Mark Batey writes about the intellectual and personality markers that often define highly creative people — traits such as divergent thinking, curiousity, extroversion vs. introversion, and comfort with disagreement. Then he moves on to tackle motivation. Batey writes:

“There are two major strands to thinking about motivation and creativity. The first concerns general motivation. Creative people tend to be highly driven, hard working, persistent and possessive of a ‘never say die’ attitude. Coming up with new ideas that challenge existing paradigms is never an easy task. Armed with indefatigability — the creator ploughs a lonely, but steady furrow.

The second strand involves motivational orientation. In simple terms, we find that creative people have a tendency towards intrinsic motivation. That is, they are driven from within — by a sense of challenge, curiosity, desire to explore and to meet internal expectations. However, the picture is not so clear cut… Extrinsic motives (external facing motives like – respect, reward, remuneration, etc.,) can also be high priorities for creative people. The challenge lies in balancing the desire to listen to internal drives whilst maintaining enough external focus to see how the creative idea, process or product will be welcomed (or not!) by the outside world.”

Sounds true to me. I like Batey’s assessment of general motivation, which fights a cartoonish, Hollywood image of the artist struck with sudden genius, eschewing sleep and sustenance to channel overnight genius. That happens, clearly, and it’s a pretty fantastic high. But creativity is a daily business that can sometimes feel like drudgery, and, when it does, that doesn’t mean the outcome will be any less innovative.

I also appreciate the grey fabric of internal motivation. Is it inauthentic to feel driven by creative excitement AND a solid paycheck? Does it have to be a lonely path littered with empty bottles? Obviously not. Batey’s post highlights the slippery median between creativity and commerce. It acknowledges that feeding an internal fire can co-exist with paying the mortgage, and that it’s human to consider intangibles like respect and reward. Creativity is never a simple beast. Like all of us, it’s complicated, murky, and fascinating — especially when fully engaged.

posted 4 Mar 10 in: art, media. This post currently has one response.