- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Ships from: Wilmington, NC
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Ships from: Plano, TX
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
About the Author: Diane Tracy has more than 20 years’ experience as an internationally recognized author, speaker, and coach to executives in Fortune 500 companies and beyond. She has appeared on more than 150 radio and television talk shows and is a popular speaker to audiences worldwide on the subjects of leadership, management, creativity, change, and empowerment.
Copyright © 2002 Diane Tracy.
All rights reserved.
Clue In to Your Mission
The Blue's Clues Mission: To empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers while making them laugh.
MISSION AS MANTRA
The simple statement above is the guiding light, the foundation, the yardstick, the conscience, and the compass for everyone at Blue's Clues. If you could sum up the show's success in one sentence, it would probably be this: They are crystal clear about what their mission is; they are passionate about their mission; and they are vigilant in the ways they live their mission every single day. At Blue's Clues, everything begins and ends with the mission. Hardly a decision is made without testing it against the mission. It's a mantra to them, one that they guard with the fierceness of a lioness protecting her cubs.
As you can see from the 8 Secrets to Business Success model in Figure 1.1, the show's mission is at the heart of its success. It informs every decision made, which gives Blue's Clues its staying power. It is a phenomenon that has all the signs of becoming an enduring classic. The chapters that follow describe ways people at Blue's Clues discipline themselves to be the best at everything they do and how everything they do circles right back to the mission. The clues to their success are all designed to answer the question, How can we empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers while making them laugh?
MANIFESTING THE MISSION
This mission-focused behavior has paid off handsomely for kids, parents, the people who work at Blue's Clues, and for the parent company, Nickelodeon. Next to Rugrats, Blue's Clues is the most successful children's program ever produced by Nickelodeon. The creators not only created a bit television show—they created the Blue's Clues brand, which includes a host of ancillary businesses.
In case you are one who doesn't read book introductions and just in case you have never heard of Blue's Clues, it's the savvy, critically acclaimed children's television show for preschoolers. Here are just a few facts that point to how well Blue's Clues lives its mission:
* Within the first 18 months of airing, virtually 100 percent of preschoolers' parents knew Blue's Clues, an awareness comparable to top-tier programs like Sesame Street, a show that has been around for more than 30 years.
* It has one of the highest ratings among all television shows for preschoolers and is the favorite cable preschool program of parents and preschoolers.
* It had the highest rating of any Nickelodeon show premiere.
* Approximately 13.7 million viewers tune in to Blue's Clues each week.
* Blue's Clues airs in approximately 60 different countries on six continents.
* Blue's Clues generated approximately $1 billion in licensing products sold around the world in the year 2000 alone.
* The show has received LIMA (Licensing Industry Manufacturers Association), Prix Jeunesse, Parent's Choice, and many other awards for excellence in children's programming, educational software, and licensing. It has been nominated for nine Emmys.
* It was the subject of almost an entire chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling book, The Tipping Point, in which he describes the process through which Blue's Clues and other cultural phenomena occur.
* More than ten million Blue's Clues books from Simon and Schuster were in print as of Summer 2001.
* The book Blue's Egg Hunt made the New York Times bestseller list.
* Over the past four years, Blue's Clues has been the number-one preschool CD-ROM license. Six Blue's Clues CD-ROM titles have sold a total of over three million units since their initial release in 1998.
* Ten Blue's Clues video titles have broken the million-unit mark and consistently appear on the top ten on the Children's Video Chart.
* Bathtime Blue, from Fisher-Price was the number-one tub toy for 1999 and 2000.
* In 2001, the Blue's Clues party pattern was the number-one performing Hallmark pattern in Party City, one of the world's largest party-supply superstore chains.
* The 1998 launch of high-quality Blue's Clues products at the FAO Schwarz flagship store was the most successful product launch in the 136-year history of the store and was attended by over 7,000 people—in the rain.
That's what can happen when a company really knows its customer, is clear about its mission, and is totally focused on achieving it. But don't think for a minute that they are satisfied with what they have created. They are constantly looking to find new and different ways to please their customers while remaining true to their mission.
Most preschool television programs have about a three-year cycle. Blue's Clues has been around since 1996 and looks as though it will be an evergreen property—a classic that will be around for a long time to come. Before I tell you how they developed the powerful mission that propelled them to success, it's important that you know the series of events leading up to their arrival on the preschool television scene in 1996.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE MISSION
To fully appreciate Blue's Clues's place in children's television history and how its mission was born, let's go back to 1990 when the state of children's television was pretty dismal. For the most part, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was the only source for children's educational programming. Inspired by Peggy Charren, children's television advocate and founder of Action for Children's Television (ACT), Congress passed the Children's Television Act of 1990, which recommended that commercial broadcasters make a reasonable effort to offer educational television to children.
The Act, however, had no teeth, because it didn't specify how much educational television broadcasters had to air, nor did it set criteria or guidelines for what constituted "educational" television. There was no accountability on the part of commercial broadcasters, so nothing changed.
When Blue's Clues came on the air in 1996, there was a proliferation of shows for kids, but most of them were violent and designed to sell toys. What commercial broadcasters called "educational" was laughable. Spurred again by ACT, the FCC ruled in 1997 that all commercial broadcasters' (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc.) affiliates were required to air educational children's television for a weekly minimum of three hours. Any affiliate station that didn't comply would lose its license. The networks began to scramble.
Since Nickelodeon was a cable station, it was not required to meet the commercial broadcasting standard, but they met it anyway—even before it became law. The Nickelodeon mission, which is stated in the form of a "manifesto," demanded it (see Figure 1.2).
Nickelodeon is always looking at the needs of kids and where they can better meet them. They had known for some time that two- to five-year-olds were being underserved, so they decided to do something about it.
On February 14, 1994, an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times, which said that Nickelodeon would invest $60 million in educational television for preschoolers. This was a job for Nick Jr., the Nickelodeon division that develops programming for preschoolers. Led by Executive Vice President Brown Johnson, Nick Jr. set out to be the gold standard for preschool children's programming, a position that had long been held by PBS. One of the things that is unique about Nickelodeon is that they are research fanatics. Nickelodeon does research because they know it is the only way to really know their customer and meet their needs. And their research takes a variety of forms: from formal focus groups, of which they conduct about 250 a year, to their own personal research, which might include a group of executives bringing their favorite childhood games to the office to play with as a way of connecting back to the child within themselves.
Nickelodeon had been producing children's television for years, mostly for the 6- to 12-year age group. Before setting out to improve programming for preschoolers though, they knew they had to do their homework. Nick Jr. called a "summit," which was attended by a diverse group of people from a variety of disciplines: child development experts, toy inventors, a producer from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, teachers, and people who didn't like television at all, to name a few. Nick Jr. posed the question: "What could television be to preschoolers?" Results of that meeting were the seeds for reinventing children's television and a whole new belief system as to television's potential for being a positive influence in the lives of small children. This meeting marked the beginning of a new era in children's television programming.
Prior to this meeting, most people believed that television was a passive medium: it mesmerized and numbed children. It was also believed that children came to television with a blank mind.
Participating in the meeting was child development expert Dan Anderson, a professor from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who would eventually come to play a major role in the birth of Blue's Clues. Dan Anderson's research indicated the opposite: that preschoolers were mentally active when they watched television. They came to television with an open mind, waiting and wanting to be challenged. From his research he could see that their minds were actually going 100 miles an hour. They were actually thinking, not zoning out while they were watching television.
He also found that preschoolers could and would pay attention for long periods—more than short three- to four-minute segments—if they were told an interesting story by engaging characters. His research showed that kids actually got confused when there were a lot of cuts, a lot of jumping back and forth. With this newfound knowledge, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. realized they were in a dangerously powerful position with children.
Nick Jr. came away from the meeting with a new mission statement: To inspire little kids' understanding of the world and themselves through playful entertainment that laughs, sings, and discovers right along with them. Another important product of the meeting was a new philosophy called "Play to Learn," which guided the creation of Blue's Clues as well as every other preschool program developed by Nick Jr. As the famous child psychologist Jean Piaget said: "Play is the natural work of the child." Play has been found to stimulate creativity, grow IQ scores, and facilitate the ability to see things in perspective and language development while improving important social skills such as cooperation and impulse control.
ORIGINS OF THE BLUE'S CLUES MISSION
How many times have you had a brilliant idea squashed because a superior couldn't see what you could see, nor did he or she take the time to understand where you were coming from? One reason companies fail to become phenomenal is because the people of the organization don't trust themselves or each other to entertain way-out ideas—ideas that can become the seeds of greatness if allowed to grow and flourish. Most truly breakthrough ideas that do come to fruition are initially rejected because they seem so foreign. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates are examples of people whose "foreign" ideas changed the world.
One of the unique aspects of the Nickelodeon culture is that it encourages and rewards risk-taking and experimentation. When approached by Brown Johnson of Nick Jr. with the idea of doing a game show for preschoolers, Nickelodeon President Herb Scannell looked at her and asked, "What?" The idea seemed preposterous, but his trust in Johnson was greater than his skepticism about the idea. "Sure, give it a try" was his response.
A game show for preschoolers? What were they thinking? They believed the same things that appeal to adults about game shows would naturally appeal to kids—especially since we know now that preschoolers come to television with an active mind, waiting to be challenged. Think about it: What do viewers like about game shows? They make you think. You get to play along. You feel good when you get the right answer. You are stimulated and challenged and you learn.
But how many answers would a preschooler have? At three of four years of age, your store of knowledge about the world is pretty slim. Granted, it is increasing rapidly every day and it is larger than most adults think, but you still don't know too much. In a world where big people have all the answers and little people are almost totally dependent on them, preschoolers don't have a lot of opportunity to feel smart and powerful. They don't have many opportunities to help others, which would empower them.
What about prizes? Can you just see some kids joyfully skipping away with new toys while others go home empty-handed and crying? And would we want children hollering, screaming, and jumping up and down like the adults they see on television game shows?
Many companies fail to innovate because the people of the organization rule out creative ideas based on assumptions. For example, a game show naturally means that someone wins and someone loses. Innovative, creative thinkers, on the other hand, take an aspect of something familiar, reshape it, reinvent it, and work with it until they come up with something totally different.
The Blue's Clues creators took the game-show idea and built upon it. They envisioned a show that would challenge and engage the minds of preschoolers, and invite them to interact with the show and play along with the host. It would help them feel good about themselves when they got the right answer. It would keep their attention by telling a good story.
The creators changed the game-show concept, modified it, and changed the rules to be appropriate for preschoolers. The show would teach cognitive and problem-solving skills. It would also teach social and emotional skills, helping preschoolers understand their own and others' feelings, and modeling peaceful behaviors. It would teach them things like cooperation, sharing, and how to follow directions.
Maybe this is a show adults should be watching. Some do, in fact. Billy Bob Thorton and Angelina Jolie are huge fans of the show and watch it on a regular basis, according to an US magazine interview.
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT
In recent years, a number of books have been written about creating soul in the workplace—probably because it is sorely lacking in most organizations. In general, however, there isn't much talk about the mystical or spiritual aspects of business. This is unfortunate, since these qualities are at the core of the creative process and any lasting business. It's probably why work is a four-letter word to many people—why there is no "juice" when they come to work, and why they check their hearts and souls at the door.
Whenever something truly brilliant and out-of-the-box changes the world for the better, there almost always appears to be a mystical or spiritual force working behind the scenes to bring the right people together under the right circumstances. If you have ever been a part of a team that achieved something truly spectacular—maybe it was a sports team, maybe a volunteer group—you know the feeling. There is nothing like it. You are transported to another place and you know the experience won't be easily duplicated. It is not something companies can plan for; they can only create the conditions for it to occur.
Some may call it destiny. Some may attribute it to the stars being in alignment. Others may call it God's will. Still others probably call it luck. Whatever you call it, it's pretty incredible when it happens.
Excerpted from Blue's Clues FOR SUCCESS by Diane Tracy. Copyright © 2002 by Diane Tracy. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|1||Clue In to Your Mission||1|
|2||Clue In to Your Customer||33|
|3||Clue In to Your Research||65|
|4||Clue In to Your Technology and Workplace||93|
|5||Clue In to Your Work Processes||113|
|6||Clue In to Your Brand||135|
|7||Clue In to Your Leadership and Management||175|
|8||Clue In to Your Culture||199|
|9||The Thinking Chair||221|
|About the Author||229|
Posted January 16, 2004
This is nothing new and really was uninspiring. A lot of this seemed to be a re-hashing of her previous ideas and books. Her cheerleading is becoming boring and offensive. It is time to think of some new approaches.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2002
What a great view on business Diane takes. She is able to provide such tangible examples to promoting innovation and success in a company. If you are an 'out of the box' thinker who is interested in looking for ways to keep your team motivated and having fun, this is a must-read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2002
I loved this book! My favorite chapters were on developing and focusing on your mission. One of my things I really admired about the Blue's Clues team is their mission, 'To empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers while making them laugh.' This has really made me re-think my own work and job.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.