The Case Of The Changing Book Cover: Six Strategies That Increase Ingenuity

Humans like to create. We find happiness in making things that matters to us. Once we’ve made something, we also enjoy making that “something” better. The desire to make something better can be as strong as the desire to make it in the first place. Many of us feel a prod to enhance everything, from health, to art, to dinner, to technology, to relationships, to you name it. We crave transformation and delight in turning what is into what could be.

 

I’m always on the hunt for stories of people who made something better. What I love about these stories is that in them I find the power of ingenuity.  I also find in these stories principles and strategies we can all use to increase our personal and collective ingenuity.

 

Here’s an example of transformation from my work that  can hopefully help you be more ingenious in your work.  As I share it, I’ll point out six critical “ingenuity insights” you can use to increase the quality of your ingenuity.

 

The Case Of The Changing Book Cover

 

A Rush To Finish

 

Earlier this year, I published the book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity. However, when I published it, that was not the title. The original title was, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What You Have Into What You Need. Here’s the original front cover and title:

 

Trbal-Alchemy-Book-home

The imagery on the cover is meant to convey a metaphor–a tribe turning what they have (sticks) into what they need (a house).

 

The group that helped to create the cover listened to my thoughts about the book and then created various options. None of the early book cover options captured the essence of the book and also seemed to confuse people. One final attempt yielded the cover you see above.

 

Now I believe everyone involved in the design felt there was a better cover waiting to be born. But I had placed an unnecessary deadline on the cover, which made it impossible to explore more options. The truth was, I just wanted to be done. I had worked on the book for 2 1/2 years and was ready to move on. I forced completion.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 1: Ingenuity is stifled when we unnecessarily rush based on emotional reactivity or personal burnout.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for appropriate acceleration of work. Dilly-dallying around, because of laziness or indecision, derails important progress. There is a time to ship a product. And waiting to make it perfect is a big no-no. But to prematurely launch due to emotional funkiness or reactivity, leads to regret and (often) frustrating rework.

 

The book launched.

 

The cover made me uncomfortable from launch day forward. The first time I held the book, I knew the cover wasn’t right. My discomfort had nothing to do with the concept or creation of the cover. It had to do with the fact that the cover could have been better if I had been appropriately patient and allowed others to challenge me (and the process). When we don’t make room for different voices, we miss out on perspectives that enable and enhance transformation. When I thought back to design conversations, it became clear that people tried to strategically slow me down. They had offered other solutions, but I was in a hurry; that hurry diminished our ability to experiment.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 2: Ingenuity is about collective experimentation

 

Throughout the book, I preach the gospel of collective ingenuity. We are more ingenious together–particularly when we weave together diverse perspectives, insights and creative action. But during the development of the cover, I made it hard for the team to add multiple insights and creative action. I made it hard to experiment together.

 

During early feedback sessions, it was obvious that people felt the cover could be better with more experimentation. At some point though, I turned off the spigot of experimentation and stopped the flow of ideas. When I sent the message that experimentation was over, I also sent the message that we didn’t need any more ingenuity. If you want more ingenuity, you also have to welcome experimentation.

 

Fast Forward Seven Months: An Opening To Create Alchemy

A couple of months ago, I began work with a creative marketing/PR firm, Priority Marketing. Their goal was to help me reshape my brand and create greater exposure. Early in our work together, we met about my current brand and important goals I wanted to achieve. During that conversation, the cover of my book came up. The facilitator of the meeting saw an opening and asked, “So Dave, are open to changing the cover on your book?”

 

Now mind you, at this point, the book had sold around 1000 copies. I had given a significant amount of personal time, energy and resource invested in the original version. I had already spoken around the country to numerous groups with the original book in tow. Now comes the question, “Are you open to changing it?”

 

Ingenuity Insight # 3: If you’re not willing to strategically adapt fast and often, it will be hard to access ingenuity.

 

Here’s one place in the story I did something right. I seized the opportunity to increase ingenuity even though it would mean a significant rebrand. “YES, absolutely I’m interested in changing the book cover,” I declared with passion that was palpable.

 

Ingenuity Insight #4: If you’ve blown it and you have the chance to make it better, DO IT!

 

When confronted with the need to change due to a mistake or misstep, it’s easy to get defensive or procrastinate. But ingenuity increases when we quickly recognize our failures, embrace them, and strategically use them to make our work better. Humble yourself, embrace your failure, accept help, and get on with it.

 

Along with defensiveness, fear of looking silly or incompetent can also delay ingenious change. “What will people think if I change the cover? Will I look silly or foolish for changing it or not getting it right the first time?” The inner fearful “you” can slow or thwart necessary changes that can make your work, and your life, better. When the opportunity emerges, humble yourself, be courageous, and do it. Risk ignites ingenuity.

 

 

Back To My Tribe

The next thing I did was go back to people for help. I realized I had rushed conversations (in round one) and it was time to conduct a few strategic conversations about the cover. I did. And eureka, insights started to flow. In fact, it became clear that the image on the cover was not the only item in need of change; the sub title needed to change as well.

 

Tribal Alchemy is not a phrase we use in everyday language (that is, not yet). I’ve used the phrase for the better part of a decade, but I know its novelty can also be its undoing. The phrase needs other words to support and explain it. What I like about the the phrase is that it’s novel. But with that novelty can come confusion. What the heck is Tribal Alchemy?

 

For some time, I have used “collective ingenuity” as a kind of parallel phrase to define, Tribal Alchemy. It was therefore suggested that this phrase (collective ingenuity) should show up in the subtitle to add clarity.

 

And then there’s the word, “tribe.”

 

As I wrote in the book, the word “tribe” has made it’s way into mainstream thought, but the word is still not as common as the word “team.” I’ve always had a hard time using “team” and “tribe” interchangeably. I felt it was confusing. Why use the word tribe if you can just use the word team, I would think. My wife had a great way of easing me through this hesitancy with gentle words that suggested, “Dave, get over it and use both words.”

 

Through that conversation, as well as others, the sub title took shape: Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity The phrase collective ingenuity supports “Tribal Alchemy” and the word “team” helps a potential reader connect tribe to team. Finally, the word “mining” is a nice play on the idea of exploring the treasure of ingenuity, which is what alchemy is all about.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 5: To be ingenious we must let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be or go. To be ingenious requires we see the limits of our own ideas and push into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory.

 

With the new title, numerous strategic conversations, and the basic idea of Tribal Alchemy in hand, the designer took to her studio. There, she found an image and metaphor that brilliantly conveys the message of the book. Here’s the new cover:

tribal-alchemy-book

The circle and light bulb (made up of people) not only ingeniously conveys the idea of Tribal Alchemy, but reminds us that collective ingenuity is the way to the change we desire. Perfect.

 

From first glance, there was no question this was the right cover and the right metaphor. All the feedback about the cover has been overwhelmingly positive. I am now delighted to share it with you and continue to explore the power of Tribal Alchemy.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 6: When the transformation is “right,” the tribe knows it and energy for the solution surges.

 

 

How Can The Six Insights Help You? 

 

The work of making things better is not easy. There are challenges and obstacles along the path. But if we are willing to risk into new territory, as a tribe, transformation awaits. How can these ingenuity insights help you through your challenges and opportunity? Here they are again in list form:

 

Ingenuity Insight # 1: Ingenuity is stifled when we unnecessarily rush based on emotional reactivity or personal burnout.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 2: Ingenuity is about collective experimentation.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 3: If you’re not willing to strategically adapt fast and often, it will be hard to access ingenuity.

 

Ingenuity Insight #4: If you’ve blown it and you have the chance to make it better, DO IT!

 

Ingenuity Insight # 5: To be ingenious we must let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be or go. To be ingenious requires we see the limits of our own ideas and push into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 6: When the transformation is “right,” the tribe knows it and energy for the solution surges.

2016-10-17T05:58:51+00:00

6 Comments

  1. Ken Sneeden October 17, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

    In my own ongoing research into The Art and Science of Persuasive Presentations, I had a similar epiphany about risk-taking when I read someone else’s definition of authenticity (an integral part of any truly effective messaging). Authenticity = self-awareness + courage.

    • Dave October 17, 2016 at 10:41 am - Reply

      Ken, I like this definition of authenticity. I’ve often struggled with the traditional idea that authenticity is about “being my true self.” I’m not even sure what “true self” means. It’s sort of like the phrase “the real truth.” Um, OK so is there a fake truth? I mean if you think about it, when am i not “me?” If I “fake” something, isn’t it still me that’s doing the faking? So perhaps, using the definition you put forth is better. Authenticity is about awareness and the courage to align my inside thoughts with my outside actions. When I do that, I’m more authentic (full of integrity) then when I don’t. I could go on, but alas my true self wants me to stop.

  2. Carolyn Rogers October 17, 2016 at 9:46 am - Reply

    LOVE the new cover and the mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity – you continue to refine like you teach us to do 🙂

    • Dave October 17, 2016 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Carolyn,

      Thanks for the encouraging support, as always. I am delighted you like it. That means a lot.

  3. Jared Perkins October 17, 2016 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Dave, I also love the new cover. What is amazing is that the old cover is not bad, but it does take me a few thought-steps to find a meaning, right? Whereas the new cover seems to have that meaning in one step. One visual intake and I seem to understand many thoughts. Interesting. Thanks for the article. Jared

    • Dave October 18, 2016 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Jared, Thanks for your feedback. You’re right, the new cover speaks volumes in a simple yet powerful way. I am glad it resonated with you.

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Written by Dave Fleming