The Return of the Neat Idea | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

The Return of the Neat Idea

| September 25, 2013

By Walter Sabo
Sabo media

NEW YORK — This is my experience. In my work, I have seen businesses grow and prosper when they embrace new, daring ideas based on marketplace demand. The winners are nimble organizations that jump on the neat idea and focus on the product, not organization politics. When fear of new ideas sets in and a business allows staff positions to grow too big and powerful, those businesses implode.

The current economic depression celebrates “operators” — executives with shrewd “operating” skills who are known for their ability to cut costs, cut staffs, sell their story to Wall Street and keep their company within its COMFORT ZONE. They do not have nor are required to have vision. Knowing what’s next is the key to growth in any industry. No vision, no growth.

Today, media businesses are excited when they show quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year growth. But this is false growth. Compare any media business with 2007 revenue figures and business is down. Five years after the depression began, revenue is still down.

Business owners are so risk-adverse that they are terrified of trying anything outside of their comfort zone. Let me suggest that “comfort zone” translates to dead zone. The PURPOSE of a business is to risk money in order to generate more money, i.e. PROFIT.

The savior of our economy, which remains in a depression (click here) is Creative Vision.


The value of THE NEAT IDEA has been surpassed by the demand for RETURN ON INVESTMENT. Fact is, the neat idea does not fit nicely into ROI formulas. The result is that Neat Ideas are often silenced by their creator before they are expressed to anyone. Your business can’t afford that. A general failure to hear and embrace the neat idea has resulted in a very bad ROI: A moribund economy.

Encouraging employees and vendors to have a vision for your business and acting on it is the first step toward leading the industry out of the depression. From an economic perspective, neat ideas and vision are free. It will cost a business nothing to fuel rather than discourage creativity. Business creativity is not arts and crafts, it gives permission for the business to HAVE a future.

Here are five steps to establishing an environment for the birth and implementation of neat ideas with pragmatic results. WARNING: If there is no vision, no desire to explore what’s next, your company will be out of business.

1. Fear kills creativity. Employees have idea labs in their heads. A  culture must be established that asks for ideas at every opportunity and never mocks any idea. No “idea bullying.”

2. Reward neat ideas with recognition. Artists sign their work. Naming the source of a new idea put into action will prime more ideas. True creatives are not team players, they don’t group think or brain storm. For many people, brain storming sessions shuts them down. “Everyone participated in the idea” is never true. One creator and evangelist usually makes ideas happen. Don’t pretend everyone deserves credit when a few people are actually responsible.

3. The reason the Apple Mac exists is that Steve Jobs took an elite team and put them in their own building and allowed them to focus on their task without any interaction with the rest of the company.  Jobs removed the Mac team from traditionalists, HR, legal and finance. Without the distractions of a bureaucracy, the Mac squad was able to build a new business through their vision.

The first Macs were signed on the inside of the case by the creators.

4. THE NO COMFORT ZONE.  Visionary thinking should have a specific purpose. For example, a simple guideline for fresh ideas is to ask co-workers for their vision about “what’s next.” Which marketplace forces and consumer opportunities will impact your business next? Failure to spot what’s next has cost American media BILLIONS. All American media has been slow to digital, apps,  slow to on-demand, interactivity and suffer from having some of the worst designed websites in the world. Trash it all and start again.  Hit refresh.

5. NO ONE IS IN CHARGE OF NEAT IDEAS. Dumbest title ever in the history of industry is: “CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER.” It has been my experience that anyone with that title resents innovative ideas unless they personally came up with them.

The partial list presented here is urgent.  Until media revenues exceed 2007 levels, nothing has improved. Maintaining and being prudent is not working and will not work. This is the time for vision, passion, and ideas that will propel new profits.


Walter Sabo is chairman of New York City-based consulting firm Sabo Media.  On a regular basis you will find trend reports and illuminating ideas from Sabo Media in TALKERS ( and RadioInfo ( Walter Sabo can be reached at  Meet Walter Sabo at Talkers Los Angeles 2013 on Thursday, October 10.

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Category: Opinions