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    Published on: June 20, 2014

    by Kevin Coupe

    Ed Catmull has a pretty cool job - he's the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, maker of films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, and the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation. He's also the author, with journalist Amy Wallace, of a new business and management book, entitled "Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration," which is one of the best books of its kind that I ever have read.

    To be sure, Catmull has an advantage. He can write about the specific challenges involved with producing a sequel to Toy Story or write about dealing with Steve Jobs (who was CEO of Pixar, having acquired the company from Lucasfilm in 1986). He's got great raw material, and he makes the most of it.

    While the spine of the book is the evolution of one of the most remarkable companies in the entertainment business, which completely rewrote the rules of animation, the meat of the story is about leadership and management, and so many of the themes he sounds and stories he shares are absolutely relevant to people in any industry.

    "I've made a policy of trying to hire people who are smarter than I am," he writes. "The obvious payoffs of exceptional people are that they innovate, excel, and generally make your company - and, by extension, you - look good." But he also argues for getting past the fear that sometimes inhibits one from taking risks, from hiring people who have more potential than experience. Ultimately, it comes down to this: 'If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better."

    "Unleashing creativity," Catmull writes, "requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear, Doing all these things won't necessarily make the job of managing a creative culture easier. But ease isn't the goal. Excellence is."

    What really struck me in reading "Creativity, Inc.," is that in so many ways, every business needs to have a creative culture. From page to page, I saw Catmull's comments and stories as having great application in almost any company that wants to create a culture that focuses on excellence and understands that is the people throughout the organization - not just the folks in the executive suite - who make it possible to achieve it.

    "Creativity, Inc." is a great book - full of wonderful stories, fabulous lessons and totally accessible. Go buy it, and make it part of your summer reading stack. I think you'll find it to be an indispensable source of inspiration.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    United Fresh Produce Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) yesterday announced what they described as "a new partnership to significantly increase the sales of fresh produce in convenience stores … With more than 151,000 locations across the country, convenience stores are increasingly seen as a convenient destination for consumers to buy fruit and vegetables. In 2013, produce sales at convenience stores were up 16.7 percent, more than doubling the overall 7.3 percent growth rate of produce in the United States."

    A task force made up of members of both associations met last week during the United Fresh show in Chicago, and "reviewed current challenges in supply chain management, in-store handling and merchandising, and other barriers to produce success for convenience retailers. The task force also began identifying best practices in meeting each of these challenges, learning from those retailers and produce suppliers who are finding the greatest success today. "

    The goal, the associations say, is "to develop tools and services to share best practices and successes with the broader memberships of NACS and United Fresh."
    KC's View:
    This is a common sense alignment, and one can hope that they are successful in helping improve produce access in c-stores.

    These kinds of moves, it seems to me, are really significant … we're seeing a real kind of momentum here, especially when you consider this within the context of the new deal signed by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) with Sesame Street to use characters such as Bert, Ernie and Elmo to promote fresh produce sales.

    Lots of opportunity here.

    Now, if we could only get kids to learn how to cook…

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama plan to spearhead a movement to reintroduce cooking classes in the nation's public schools, reasoning that "one reason parents of all income levels struggle to serve healthy food at home is because they lack basic culinary skills."

    “We can’t call it Home Ec because that’s got a bad connotation," Obama says. "But something like that for young men and young women that allows them … the tools they need to survive nutritionally, economically, financially. No kids are getting that anymore."

    According to the story, "Sam Kass, executive director of Mrs. Obama’s 'Let’s Move!' health initiative and a former White House chef, said the administration is only starting to explore the concept. One idea is teach cooking skills in after-school programs. Under discussion is how to adapt such teaching to the fact that schools no longer have a full room with 12 stoves."

    Kass tells the Journal that he'd like to partner with “companies who really have a big stake in people cooking more.”
    KC's View:
    Big opportunity here, I think, but its probably going to have to happen a) after school, and b) with the help and funding of the private sector. There simply are too many academic requirements in the schools right now to spend any time on things like cooking.

    I don't think that's a good thing. There ought to be time in the schools for kids to learn to cook, to take gym, to learn about art and music and theater … because these are the things that help kids become rounded, insightful, intelligent adults. I understand why the rules have changed, but I'm not sure we're doing our kids any favors.

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    The National Journal has a story noting that Starbucks is not the only company "attempting to reshape higher education for a workforce that desperately needs advanced degrees." Starbucks announced this week an agreement with Arizona State University's online division that will allow its employees to pursue college degrees and get reimbursement from the company.

    An example cited by the National Journal:

    "To keep up with changing industries and changing technologies, the American workforce needs job training and further education in order to compete. But education is expensive, and traditional degrees on a physical campus are just not realistic or practical for many full-time workers.

    To combat this problem in the tech field, online education provider Udacity partnered with AT&T to create a new kind of college degree that takes less time and less money than a master's degree. It's called a 'nanodegree.'

    "The nanodegree is designed for people who work in software development. Without having to take time off, students can earn these certificates in front- and back-end Web development, iOS and Android mobile development, and data analysis. The nanodegree is designed to be stackable, earning you more as your career progresses, complementing whatever degree you've already earned. Industries, especially digital ones, change significantly year by year. A master's degree earned in 2009 might be irrelevant by 2014."

    You can read the entire story here.
    KC's View:
    There are a lot of people carping about the Starbucks announcement, saying that there's only one school involved, that reimbursement is not 100 percent and takes time. But I kind of think this is silly … Starbucks is making a big step here, showing real leadership and demonstrating that it is willing to invest in its front line personnel. I think that these kinds of programs should be adopted by more companies … because the statement that degrees earned in 2009 might be irrelevant in 2014 ought to be very worrisome.

    (Sure, they were talking about masters degrees … but the notion that we're losing the education race seems very current.)

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    Nielsen is out with a new study looking at whether global consumers are "willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that engage in actions that further some social good … Assuming a positive ratio between a stated willingness to pay and an actual willingness to open one’s wallet, Nielsen’s global survey on corporate social responsibility found that the answer is yes for a growing number of consumers around the world."

    Here's what Nielsen reports:

    "More than half (55%) of global respondents in the survey said they are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact—an increase from 50 percent in 2012 and 45 percent in 2011. Regionally, respondents in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%) exceed the global average and have increased 9, 13 and 10 percentage points, respectively, since 2011. While a willingness to pay extra for sustainable products is comparatively lower in North America (42%) and Europe (40%), both regions show an increase in purchasing sentiment from 2011, rising 7 and 8 percentage points, respectively.

    "The survey reported similar responses for stated past purchases of sustainable products. More than half of global respondents (52%) say they have purchased at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company, and respondents in Latin America (65%), Asia-Pacific (59%) and Middle East/Africa (59%) exceeded the global average. Four in 10 respondents in North America and Europe say they have made a sustainable purchase in the past six months."

    “At the moment of truth—in store, online and elsewhere—consumers are making a choice and a choice that is heavily influenced by brands with a social purpose,” says Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen, in a prepared statement. “This behavior is on the rise and we are seeing this manifest into positive impact in our communities as well as share growth for brands.”
    KC's View:
    I want to believe it. I think that people sometimes give themselves more credit than they deserve, but at least their hearts are in the right place.

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    Fresh & Easy this week announced that it is "launching a full-scale marketing campaign inviting customers to discover an all-new Fresh & Easy. Since transferring to new ownership in November, the company has reinvigorated the brand and its stores with the aim of being the anytime, anyway, anywhere solution for getting healthy, convenient and affordable food."

    Tesco sold the Fresh & Easy chain the western US late last year to Ron Burkle-controlled private equity firm Yucaipa Cos., bringing to an end the British company's misguided and ill-fated American experiment.

    Now, Fresh & Easy is looking to make another first impression.

    According to the company, "the campaign is centered on Five Pillars that differentiate Fresh & Easy as new kind of market designed for modern consumers." Those pillars are "affordable organics," "products "handmade in our kitchen," fresh food delivered daily, "no artificial colors, flavors, or any other hidden nasties," and "hundreds of delicious prepared meals to satisfy any appetite."
    KC's View:
    I've spoken to some folks out there who seem to think that Fresh & Easy has a real shot, that there seems to be a new energy and that the Wild Oats offerings are proving to be an effective marketing tool. So maybe things are looking up.

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    • The LMA Consulting Group is out with a new study saying that more than two-thirds - or 67 percent - of manufacturers and distributors participating in a research study "have reported having to respond to the elevated service standards established by companies like Amazon."

    The implication is that Amazon and other, similar companies have had enormous impact "on customer expectations and service standards," and that these standards "are quickly becoming the benchmark with which customers and consumers measure company value and whether they will do business with that company."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    City Wire reports that Walmart CFO Jeff Davis told a global consumer conference that when the retailer opens small stores in markets already served by one of its supercenters, the impact is generally felt by other retailers, and that there is very little cannibalization of the company's existing sales.

    Walmart's US president, Bill Simon, has said that "he expects to see more small stores built than supercenters as the retailer works to fill-in markets where it has already has staked a claim," the story notes, and that while "the 200 new small formats going up this year might not be enough to move the needle for a company with nearly a half trillion dollars in annual revenue," 2,000 of the small stores might.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    • The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "California grocers stand to make millions on a bill working its way through the Legislature that would charge consumers a dime for every paper bag they use - because it's the grocers who would get to keep all 10 cents.

    The American Progressive Bag Alliance, created by the plastic bag industry to fight such nee regulations, calls the bill "one of the single greatest government transfers of wealth from private citizens to private corporate grocery interests that anyone has seen."

    But Ron Fong, president/CEO of the California Grocers Association (CGA), called the accusations "sensational sound bites," and said that not only had grocers not asked for the bill, but that a change in shopper habits would, in fact, result in a lot less revenue.

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that Kraft has recalled a batch of Velveeta cheese shipped to Walmart stores in the Midwest. The reason? Not enough preservatives, the story says, meaning that the Velveeta "can spoil too fast, potentially causing a food borne illness."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    • Gerry Goffin, who collaborated with his then-wife Carole King, contributing the lyrics to such classics as "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman," "The Loco-Motion, "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and "Up On the Roof," has passed away. He was 75.

    King and Goffin were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Their work has come more into focus lately with the success of the Broadway musical based on King's life, "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical."
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    …will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2014

    My now-20-year-old-daughter dragged me last weekend to see 22 Jump Street, the sequel to the very successful 21 Jump Street that was itself a reboot of the old Johnny Depp TV series about undercover cops who infiltrate a high school.

    (Regarding having my youngest kid turn 20…when did this happen? But that's a different column…)

    To begin with, I have to admit that I laughed a lot at 22 Jump Street, and I was thrilled to have an evening with my daughter. (We followed it with a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings … it doesn't get any better than that.)

    That said, it really isn't a very well-made movie. It sort of works despite itself, and because its two leads - Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum - who are enormously appealing.

    Critics have made a lot of the fact that 22 Jump Street is very self-aware, making sequel jokes frequently throughout the movie. And that's true. Not enough to make it a good movie, but enough to have a good time, especially if you're with one of your kids.

    (The good news is that my daughter still says Young Frankenstein is one of her favorite movies, and we recently screened Trading Places at home, and she thought it was a scream. So there's hope. I hope.)

    I spent some time in Vail this week for a speech, and discovered that I really like both Elk Chili and Rocky Mountain Gumbo. Yum. Washed both meals down with Fat Tire Amber Ale. Who could ask for anything more?

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    KC's View: