Chapter 11: Acorns and Oak Trees – The Answers are Always There

Feather Wheel by Zach Brown Bear - is04-16-430Black versus White. True versus False. Yes versus No. North versus South. Ying versus Yang. Zero versus One. Problems versus Solutions.

Using magnets to illustrate his point, contemporary philosopher Wayne Dyer suggests that we cannot separate one opposing pole from another. “Take a magnet and cut off just the north pole. It can’t be done. No matter how thinly we slice a magnet we will always find north and south magnetic polarity in the slices.”

Similarly, while searching for creative options, the solutions are always right under our noses. Stated another way, if we have a problem, we are halfway towards finding a solution. Like the magnet, we cannot separate problems from their solutions.

Consider, for instance, an acorn versus an oak tree. In the seed of an acorn is the expression of a complete oak tree. For the most part, it is only time that separates them and tricks our minds into believing that one is an acorn while the other is an oak tree. Yet we now know that time is a relative thing and also an invention of mankind. However, in between the two, seed and expression, there is also fertilization from environmental variables. Soil, water, and sundry nutrients inspire the acorn to express itself as the oak.

It has been my belief that when applying creativity to problem solving, all we have to do is examine the so-called problem from an objective point of view, and provide care and food (nutrients) in order to grow a solution.

This point really hit home to me years ago when I was called in to help the marketing manager for Bank Leumi. She had just been assigned a project, which she really didn’t believe in, from the bank’s president. The president was concerned that so many customers were mostly buying short term, three month, certificate of deposits (CD’s), and then rolling them over into another CD, every three months, hoping that interest rates would be higher, as opposed to buying a longer-term CD with a fixed interest rate. By inspiring clients to opt for longer term CD’s, the bank would improve asset ratios and have more leverage for lending money.

My client had $10,000 for a budget and had to have a program in all the branches within two weeks. To make matters more complicated, Bank Leumi was a subsidiary of an Israeli bank whose customers where incredibly diverse. There were Iranian folks out on Long Island who showed up with shoe boxes of cash and spoke little English, while in the Forest Hills section of Queens there were yuppie-types. The suburbs of Westchester, New York catered to the drive through crowds, while downtown Manhattan branches were a completely different scene from all of the above.

I explained to my client that creatively solving this issue would require research and that it was something we weren’t likely to resolve by guessing from our ivory towers in Connecticut. She was pained to spend money on research knowing that she had such a small budget to begin with. Of course there were no guarantees that we would even be successful, yet I had enjoyed great fabric with this woman and her counterpart with previous projects, so somehow she found the courage to authorize our research.

I spent a day in the field interviewing various branch managers on what they thought about their respective branches and the new product. The president’s idea for the new CD included allowing the customer to lock in their money for three years, with the right to choose a new interest rate should rates rise during that period. The stipulation was that bank customers could only choose one higher rate during the term.

Interestingly enough, each manager would describe the product from bank terms: “Yeah, it’s got a bump clause, and we’re not sure how our clients will respond with the economy being the way it is. Around here they count on us for xyz …,” where each xyz was radically different from the other branchs’ xyz.

It was a depressing day, as I was frustrated from the lack of commonalties, with each branch manager confiding in their neighborhood’s uniqueness and lack of faith in the new product. Time was ticking and we couldn’t afford any more research.

My creative team and I racked our brains, but nothing was sticking to the wall. Then I went out to visit another client and got severely stuck in summer construction traffic. Then all of a sudden, like a rainbow appearing from the clouds, there was a construction sign, “Bump Ahead.”

“That’s it. We’ll put up modified orange-colored logos, and have diamond-shaped posters, buttons, counter cards, and fliers that share familiarity with their construction cousins,” I thought.

I called the office and relayed the concept to my team. They all gave it a thumbs-up. Then I called the client, who was way overworked and had little faith in her president’s scheme, but laughed out-loud when I verbally presented the concept.

Long story short, we came in on time, and on budget. Within two weeks of launch, she informed me that they had sold thirty-three of these CD’s, which had a minimum price tag of $10,000 and a max of $100,000. Bank confidentiality prohibited her from sharing exact numbers, but she was almost giggly when she said, “You know Chuck, your team has helped us increase our asset ratio somewhere between the range of $330,000 and $3.3 million.” Even the bank tellers had a good time with the program as some construction workers would come into the branches and kid them about bumps ahead.

The moral of the story is to consider our problems as acorns, and know that the expression of their solution lies within genetic makeup.

As an aside, I once heard this concept of connected duality ascribed as the ultimate meaning of life. I believe it was Hopi literature that suggested all things in life can be deduced as either originating from a basis of love or a basis of fear. They equated a lifetime to that of a person who paddles a canoe from one side of a river bank to another. Sometimes we paddle on the right, and sometimes on the left. Yet when we ultimately reach the other side of the riverbank, we can turn around and see which was our dominant side. Thus their theory that the meaning of life was that when we cross over to the other dimension, we will be able to look back and see whether our paddling through life was dominantly from a basis of love or from a basis of fear.

A dominant love-basis or fear-basis is also interesting since so many assume the opposite of love is hate. Looping back to Wayne Dyer, he suggests that the opposite of love is not hate, but is complete lack of care and/or thought. “When we love somebody or hate somebody, we are obsessed by them … We think about what we want to do to them … We get emotional with our reflection and so on … Yet when we don’t care, it doesn’t matter what they do…”

Great creativity is about caring and stems from a basis of love.

Acorn paddlers welcomed!


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