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The Unexpected Power Of Motivational Memos and Cementing Project Success


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an art installation!

This week we learned that British artist, George Rollo, recently broke a world record by launching 12 works of art into the Earth's stratosphere using weather balloons. Orbiting at over 100,000ft, the exhibition contains the “most artworks exhibited in the stratosphere” in the world. Perhaps we’ll see more and more artistic expressions that definitively cannot be done by AI?

Well, on the topic of elevating creative potential and the creative spirit…

Here’s what you can expect in this week’s call-to-action:

  • 🥫 An unorthodox approach used to save a failing soup company teaches us how to harness the most underrated ingredient for achieving tough goals.

  • 🖼️ We’ll improve our odds of pushing a project to successful completion with an inspiring message that motivated the completion of one of the world’s most ambitious megaprojects.

P.s., you can check out editions 1-7 here in case you missed them. Seriously, there are some gems you’ll appreciate in these early editions. ;-)

1. You’re not just there to learn or decide, you’re there to care.

In 2001, Campbell Soup was in crisis.

The once beloved American company was the world’s largest soup maker, but sales were falling fast—3% in the previous year alone.

The company hoped that Doug Conant, their newly appointed CEO, would turn the ship around. But Doug’s first address to the leadership team did not instill much confidence. He didn’t seem all that interested in new sales strategies or innovation. Instead, Doug stressed the importance of employee sentiment. The mindset of employees is important, sure, but—should it be the most important concern during a crisis?

Confidence dropped further when they learned that Doug was working closely with the maintenance department. Apparently, one of his biggest priorities was sprucing up the entrance to Campbell’s headquarters. Doug wanted to put up fencing that was more inviting, paint the curbs yellow, and improve the landscaping.

Campbell's stock was sinking and now their new CEO was planting flowers. Surely, they were doomed.

But Doug insisted that his approach was data-driven. He had recently learned from a Gallup research report that world-class organizations had a 12:1 engagement ratio. This meant that, for every 12 engaged employees a world-class business had, only 1 was disengaged. But Doug had also learned that Campbell Soup’s engagement rate was 2:1—a far cry from world-class performance. The company had some of the worst engagement data ever recorded from a Fortune 500 company.

Doug believed that addressing this metric was the key to turning Campbell around. “You can’t expect an organization to perform at high levels unless people are personally engaged,” Doug once explained. “And they won’t be personally engaged unless they believe you are personally engaged in trying to make their lives better.”

And so Doug made it his mission to show employees that he personally cared about them.

Once he was finished making the exterior warm and inviting, he had the maintenance team paint the hallways, lay new carpets, and hang up new pictures. He attached a pedometer to his belt and made it a daily habit to walk 10,000 steps by visiting people throughout the HQ. On these walks, he would take time to personally connect with Campbell’s team members and ask how he could help them.

And perhaps the biggest display of warmth was Doug’s famous handwritten notes. During the course of his 10-year tenure, Doug sent 30,000 handwritten notes to Campbell’s 20,000 employees. That’s almost 10 notes per day!

How Can I Help? These four “magic” words can transform your leadership profile. They have transformed mine. I have found that the more I focus on helping my associates, the more they focus on helping me. 25 years ago my mentor, Neil McKenna, said these words to me and changed my life. They can change yours too.

Doug’s notes were short and usually celebrated a specific accomplishment or contribution. “This practice showed people I was paying attention,” Doug explained, “the action is in the interaction.

By the time Doug left Campbell in 2011, the employee engagement ratio was an astonishing 17:1 and their stock was outperforming the S&P 500.

As you ascend the scale of a new venture or the ladder of any corporate hierarchy, your time will become more precious and you’ll become more protective of this finite resource. Your tolerance for meandering 1:1 conversations or circular debates in meetings will diminish. You’ll increasingly measure the value of meetings in action steps and whether your time influenced an outcome or not. Expecting a high ROI on your precious minutes is a key attribute of effective leadership. However, don’t forget that half of leadership is making people feel heard and supported.

You’re there to care.

2. Help people visualize progress AND patience with the prospect of “making history too.”

In late 2001, the UK government gave the green light to a project of eye-watering ambition…

🔐 This insight, that reveals the message that motivated the completion of one of the world’s most ambitious projects (and can inspire our own success!), is for premium subscribers (yep, this weekly digest is reader supported). For the price of one fancy coffee per month our research team will agonize over the lessons learned from world class creative leaders and teams who make ideas happen, and send their tightly summarized conclusions directly to your inbox on a weekly basis. What a proposition, huh?!

☕️ Join us and help make this weekly action catalyst for creative minds a sustainable project.  

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Action, Action, Make Ideas Happen

The Action Method was designed almost 15 years ago to help the most productive and creative teams in the world think and work with a bias towards action.

The Action Method is a 3-part system with each page containing a zone for your preparation notes (prepare), a zone for you to jot down thoughts and ideas (explore), and a zone for you to convert ideas into action steps (execute).

It's like having a personal trainer for your productivity, ensuring you're always exercising your brainstorming and execution muscles with excellent form.

Over the years, iconic leaders across design, entertainment, and business became loyal users. Now, after a short hiatus, the original founders have assumed responsibility and updated the products.

Check out the new and improved Action Method family.

It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.


If you want to stay sharp and immerse yourself in the discipline of taking action and making ideas happen on a weekly basis (and unlock the final section of today’s digest - the motivational message that spurred the completion of one of the greatest megaprojects in history), join us for the price of one fancy coffee. ☕️

Upcoming insights and hacks for subscribers:

  • What technique does Richard Branson credit to the success of his 12 different billion-dollar companies? We explore a habit that’s essential for fueling innovation.

  • How did one of the world’s greatest screenwriters go from broke bartender to Hollywood hit? The answer teaches us how our small ideas can compound into masterworks.

  • Why are old ideas vital for new breakthroughs? A study of history’s greatest “aha!” moments show us why looking backward is the key to leaping forward.

  • So much more… Making ideas happen is a form of fitness, and we are your trainer. ;-)

We’ll leave you with this…

“Gratitude is active, not passive; more than a feeling, gratitude requires behaviors and action. It doesn’t happen by accident. It requires intention and discipline. The more we honor people, the more we prove our credibility and earn trust.” 

Doug Conant

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