Leopold Engleitner’s Story of Optimism

Leopold Engleitner is the world’s oldest known male Nazi concentration camp survivor whose experiences have been documented in the award winning book and film Unbroken Will.

For refusing to join Hitler’s Army, Leopold Engleitner, an Austrian born in 1905, was interned in three of the most infamous Nazi Concentration Camps in Germany. His refusal to sign a simple declaration denouncing his religion and swearing his allegiance to the Reich put him in a collision course with Nazi Germany that nearly cost him his life. His iron will and his determination to stand up for just principles have become a role model for all. An old tattered suitcase became a symbol of hope for a long and impossible journey back home. At his release, he weighed less than 62 pounds, but today at the age of 103, he still lives to share his story of optimism.

Fresh from his lectures at Harvard University and in Florida, Leopold Engleitner will be visiting Los Angeles and appearing at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (May 14 and 24) the Moorpark College (May 22 and 23), UCLA (May 20) and the Lammle’s Sunset 5 Theatre in West Hollywood, where his prize-winning documentary Unbroken Will and his 2006 USA Lecture Tour film will be screened from May 15 to 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM, 4:30 PM, 7:30 PM, 10:00 PM.

These excellent articles covered his first event on May 4, 2009 at Harvard University:

Holocaust survivor, 103, tells students of resisting Nazis
The Boston Globe

Oldest living Holocaust survivor speaks at Harvard
The Harvard Gazette

For further information please visit www.unbrokenwill.com.

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Art Not Hate: Creative Responses to Conflict

Our times and our selves are defined by conflict.

We are highly evolved mammals with big brains that can do the most ethereal abstract mathematical reasoning, produce masterpieces of music and art, envision astounding future possibilities — including our own mortality.

Still, we are sensate and aggressive creatures who crave the tactile intimacy of our clan and fear outsiders — and will not hesitate to violently attack perceived strangers.

This issue of Views From CreativeShare explores the tension between our conflicting human tendencies to create and collaborate or to kill each other and destroy the hard won achievements of human culture.

In a world that has witnessed between 119,000,000 and 265,000,000 state-sponsored homicides (depending on who is doing the counting) between World War I and the present, this is not an academic question.

Below you will find an array of web links to stimulate your thinking and to constructively engage your community wherever you find it.

Perhaps the most compelling quote on the subject of overcoming our conflicted nature is from Charles Darwin:

“In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have always prevailed.”

Art Not Hate book

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer,
it sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

Like 74 million other baby boomers, my life has been defined and
changed by conflict. We are the Post-World War II generation.

Read more | Buy the book

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Dreaming up ideas: a talk from Sung Park of Umagination Labs

Sung Park of Umagination Labs recently spoke at MIT Sloan School of Management about effective techniques for coming up with innovative ideas. His engaging presentation offers creative ways to approach the brainstorming process. Take a look:

Thanks to Ted Chan of 2bl.org for the tip.

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9 Pricing Strategies for Artistic and Creative Professionals

By Ted Chan, MIT Sloan School of Management

Pricing a creative product is one of the great challenges in life, and is itself an art form. Getting it right requires an understanding of finance, behavioral economics and social psychology. Pricing contains a number of paradoxes that can prevent you from maximizing your profits. This article provides some food for thought as you consider how to price and market your good.

  1. Pricing at 00 and 50 is the only option for luxury goods. An experiment performed in an art studio revealed that high-end art with prices ending in 00 and 50 sold far better than anything with other numbers. Art is an acquisition where people want to feel they are buying quality rather than getting value. Ninety-nines and 95s are good for conveying value and might be effective for lower priced goods such as mass market clothing, simple prints or small photographic works.
  2. Understand your costs. One thing I’ve noticed about creatives is that they think very little about costs. Paints, materials, packaging, transport, framing and just about everything else you can think of are expensive. There’s also overhead — a studio, electricity, display space rental and cost of sales. Don’t forget studio fees as well. It’s important to lay out the costs of the entire ecosystem when assessing what price point is sustainable for creating quality art work.
  3. Avoid double marginalization with downstream sellers. Something that isn’t even understood well in Fortune 500 companies is transfer pricing. Double marginalization is the concept that if you overcharge your downstream sellers (distributors, such as art resellers and studios) they will charge a price that is sub-optimal to the end consumer. This means everyone’s profits will suffer, and your art will be less price competitive. A better way to approach the problem is to figure out with your downstream seller what the optimal price would be to the end buyer, and create a revenue split that you think is fair.
  4. For some goods, raising prices may increase demand. An example was a brand of fountain pens in Britain that raised prices and expected a drop in demand. However, demand actually increased for their high-end metal and wood pens. Demand decreased for their plastic pens when they raised prices. This is likely to be true with many luxury and creative goods where perceived quality is more important to a buyer. It’s really important to study what matters to your customers.
  5. A higher price impacts those who enter your network. For service businesses, a higher price signals exclusivity and can act as a gatekeeper to ensure high quality. For instance, a millionaire dating service that charges men $25,000 for an annual membership will keep poor college students out and attract women who are pre-qualified to be interested in meeting such men. This applies to creative services or networking groups as well. Be wary of anything that’s free. You often get what you pay for in terms of the quality of the constituent base.
  6. Luxury goods are not just about conspicuous consumption. People once thought that luxury purchases were related to the desire to show off conspicuous consumption. A more nuanced understanding includes self-perception and milestones. The feeling of “I can buy this, I’ve made it” is also a key part of the luxury good purchase. Make your high end customers feel that way and you will be in better shape.
  7. For gift items, a low price may not be desirable. One must think carefully about the purchase process for their goods. When giving a gift, a low price is not always desirable. This is the case in Asia with alcoholic beverages often given as gifts, such as scotch and brandy. People generally know the prices of these goods, and pricing your brand/goods higher may actually increase price. This, of course, implies that pricing information would be assumed to be available to the gift receiver. If you own an art studio, this especially applies when a millionaire brings his rich boyfriend/girlfriend in searching for a gift!
  8. When you do put things on sale, 30% saturation is about the max. With sales, too much removes the perception that a buyer is getting a good deal. Research at MIT indicates that above 30% “sale saturation” in your store or website removes the effectiveness of this sale topic.
  9. When pricing, give three options. Many interesting studies reveal that adding a ridiculous third option can make a second option more appealing. Originally, the Economist sold an online subscription for $59, and print/online bundled subscription for $129. The split in sales was about 40% for the $59 online subscription and 60% for the $129 subscription. They then added a $129 print only subscription option. You would think that it the new split would be 60% online, 40% for the bundle and zero for the print only. Instead, zero picked the print only, but 80% bought the $129 option.

    Another example is adding an extremely expensive (2x or 3x) third option that is only slightly better than the second option. This leads users to choose the middle option rather than the cheapest option, leading to significant increases in revenue. This is a common strategy for companies like HP and Xerox to get you to move up from a low-range product.

Ted Chan writes his own blog about social entrepreneurship and economics at www.2bl.org. He can be contacted at tedchan@gmail.com with any follow-up questions.


Hopeful Views from CreativeShare

The birthplace of the American experiment was on the rocky coast of New England. It is a place of mercurial weather, merciless gales, treacherous rock ledges, pea-soup fogs, and snug harbor communities.

Many of the people who gave us our durable democratic form of government and a spirit of innovative enterprise were fishermen and mariners. Remnants of this traditional self-reliant and self-confident seafaring Yankee culture are still found in Maine.

This post is inspired by my decade-long connection to the Pine Tree state. The following items are intended to remind Americans that we have a long history of building durable and beautifully designed structures that manifest genuine integrity and creativity.

In many the ways, the profligate waste, shortsightedness, and national incompetence of the last 20 years is an historical anomaly. We can choose to revisit time-tested traditional and progressive American mindsets and verities in new ways.

It is there that we will find the will and ways to innovate and grow our still great nation out of its current trajectory of political malaise and economic decline.

The first item for viewing is Musings on a Maine Peapod. It is an intergenerational American dialogue about what matters. There is also a relevant blog entry about the video.

Casco Bay Swing

The second item is an expression of pure creative joy about the coast of Maine. It includes original dance, music, and art.

Video dialogue featuring Betsy Biemann

Thirdly, there is a compelling video dialogue featuring Betsy Biemann (President of the Maine Technology Institute) and Gary Mormino (Director of the Florida Studies Program at USF). Every state in the union needs to innovate itself out of its current economic crisis. These distinguished public policy experts explain how it might happen.

Interview with Jerry Cumbo

Fourth is an interview with Jerry Cumbo, who manages the shop at the world-famous Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine.

CreativeLedge Studio

And last but not least, there is my CreativeShare Studio on Long Island, Maine. This little bit of rock in the Casco Bay is where the entire U.S. North Atlantic was fueled for the liberation of Europe in WWII.

In these turbulent days, it is important to recognize that our country has survived hard times before because her citizens rose to the challenges and did what needed to be done — creatively.

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My Steele Peapod: Musings on a Maine rough water rowboat

What is a Steele Peapod?

A genetically modified vegetable that can be grown for ball bearings? Some sort of cunning trick to discourage deer from munching their way through the garden?

Actually, I’m referring to Maine Peapod rowboats built by Jim Steele.

Many old salts consider Jim to be the best builder of small wooden boats on the Maine coast—which is to say, one of the best builders in the world. But a friend of mine just told me Jim has finally lost his battle with cancer. Jim Steele was the only person on the planet who knew how to build a traditional, double-bowed rowboat with modern tools and materials.

Here is a link to the moving obituary from the Ellsworth American newspaper.

A national creative treasure is gone. But not his boats. They will outlive anyone reading this column by at least a century—or two.

The Steele Maine Peapod is considered to be a perfect design—the ultimate combination of grace, form and function. Here is a video about my Peapod, one of the few crafted for both rowing and sailing.

According to experts, the Maine Peapod is believed to have appeared first about 1880. It was commonly used for lobstering among the reefs where a larger boat could not go. The most common length was 15 feet. Peapods are fine rough-water rowing boats. They were designed to be stable enough for the rower/fisherman to row standing up or to put one foot on the gunwale to haul a lobster pot. The design may have been influenced by the birch bark fishing canoes of the Penobscot and Quoddy Indians.

I first met Jim about six years ago at his shop in Brooklin, Maine. Brooklin might ring a bell for some of you—it was where E.B. White wrote “Charlotte’s Web.” This isolated coastal Maine hamlet hasn’t changed much over the years. It is still the small wooden boat-building capital of the world, and home to the taciturn, resourceful people who haven’t budged from the spot for centuries.

As I recall, his two-story shop encompassed about 4,500 square feet. It was uncluttered. Nothing was out of place, and any tool needed was within easy reach. Jim was also a legendary homebuilder. (More on that in a moment.)

He could bend and join wood for boats like Stradivarius could do for violins. There were no wasted movements as he worked, absolutely no wasted materials, no shortcuts, no tricks to save a few bucks. Even though I was “from away,” the job was completed on time (to the day) and at the agreed-upon price (to the penny).

Four winters ago at the City of St. Petersburg’s marina, I met an architect who had worked in Maine in the ’80s. During our chat, the subject my Jim Steele Peapod came up. The architect was stunned. It was like I owned the Hope Diamond. Steele was a legendary figure.

The architect had his own story: When Jim Steele framed a house, every nail that he hammered into a stud was positioned at exactly the same height. Of course, the wood members were all covered with sheetrock, then plastered over, then painted. But it didn’t matter whether you could see the workmanship or not. Things always had to be done exactly the right way.

Jim Steele had little use for theorists, but his life personified the words of the great 17th-century Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza: “That which is excellent is as difficult as it is rare.”

Here are some relevant and intriguing web links:

The WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine

Audio interview with Jerry Cumbo, the shop master at the WBS

Audio interview with Sam Devlin, a master boat builder from the Pacific Northwest who teaches at the school

“One Man’s Meat” by the incomparable E.B. White

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CreativeShare and Creative Tampa Bay Align, with Catalytic Results!

Creative Tampa Bay was created in 2003 amid discussions of bolstering the creative economy, at a time when such incentives required community cooperation and strategic, long-term thinking. Five years later, keeping the creative economy healthy still requires a great deal of persistent effort and initiative. That is why CreativeShare founder Bob Barancik has been chosen as one of this year’s Creative Catalysts.

Deemed as “thought-provoking” by Creative Tampa Bay, his CreativeShare website has become an increasingly notable source for educated discussions and relevant media. As a “Creative Connector,” Barancik has invited environmentalists, authors, professors, entrepreneurs, and artists into the ever-growing dialogue on how to assess the unique needs of a community, maintain cultural integrity, provoke social change, and recognize the potential for economic progress. CreativeShare is honored to be chosen by Creative Tampa Bay, and hopes to remain a catalyst in the movement for a brighter future.

View the Creative Catalysts Awards Program

Video: Nancy Kipnis introduces the Creative Catalyst awards

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Web Goodies!

The following “web goodies” were selected to tickle your creative gray cells. The articles all focus on different facets of innovation and the creative economy. They are worth a look.

“Triumph of the Creative Class” by Joel Kotkin
Even this conservative curmudgeon can (grudgingly) see the rise of a brainy, creative, confident, and culturally liberal class to positions of national influence and power.

“It’s No Time to Forget about Innovation” by Janet Rae-Dupree
The worst times for the economy can be the best times for innovation.

PopTech! Tech Blog: “10 Commandments for the President Elect” by Michelle Riggen-Ransom (video)
Juan Enriquez, Harvard economist and debt crisis expert, dissects the global financial meltdown and offers ten essential and painful steps to rebuild the world economic marketplace.

“A Strategy For Success: Innovation Will Renew American Leadership” by Dr. Rocco Martino (PDF)
The United States needs a national strategy focused upon developing new technologies and creating new industries.

“After the Fall” by Dr. Moises Naim (editor of Foreign Policy Magazine)
The United States government must respond to the financial meltdown with more funding for innovative businesses, but must not over-regulate markets and destroy the American engine of wealth creation.

“A Brief Survey of Innovation” by Lawrence Husick
This thought-provoking list of humanity’s Top 25 innovations will stimulate one’s thinking!

“Top Theorists Examine Rippling Economic Turbulence” PBS Transcript
As the financial sector shifts, so does the reach of the jolt to economic structures around the world. Economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his mentor, mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, speak with Paul Solman about chain reactions and predicting the financial crisis.

“Where the Pros Are Putting Their Money”
Top financial experts explain what moves they are making in their personal portfolios during the financial crisis.

“Sub-prime Crisis Explanation” by The Long Johns (video)
An absolutely hysterical satire about the financial meltdown that is as accurate as it is funny!

“Serving Aging Baby Boomers”
According to the venerable consultants and McKinsey, Baby Boomers have rewritten society’s rules at every stage of their lives, and will rewrite retirement as well. (Free registration is required to read the full article.)

The Skoll Foundation
This is the number one website for social entrepreneurs who want to change the world for the better.

“Is Florida the Sunset State?” by Michael Grunwald
Time Magazine looks at the Sunshine State through dark glasses, but one has always had to have sunglasses to live in a poor man’s paradise.

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The Three Little Pigs, Revisited

For those of you who somehow missed or have forgotten the early childhood fable of “The Three Little Pigs,” let me give you an executive summary appropriate for an age of diminishing attention spans and expectations:

There were three stature-challenged boars who symbolized the three basic middle class approaches to home mortgages.

As per usual, The Big Bad Wolf with the bad breath was the traditional metaphor for life’s uncertainties and hazards… like hurricanes, tornados, car crashes, flash floods, disco music, punk bands, Donald Trump’s hair, sub-prime mortgage brokers, derivative debt-swaps, earthquakes, etc.

The piggy who built his house of straw was of course the fool. We are talking major fire and structural problems when vegetable matter is not mixed with clay. No sane mortgage or insurance company would touch it.

The porker who bought a seemingly solid wooden tract home in a nice middle-class suburb was the conformist. Although there are some inherent flammability concerns and potential termite problems, the structure is still insurable for a price.

And of course, the wise piggy built out of brick in a faux colonial style. He had no problem getting a good insurance policy for an affordable price. (This of course assumes that the brick house is not near the San Andreas Fault; a point entirely missed by the Grimm Brothers.)

The stark moral of the piggy fable (obvious, even to kindergarteners) is that prudence will quite literally keep a roof over your head in stormy times.

It is all very neat and tidy, and rather charming in a picture book sort of way. But alas, the economic lessons for most American home and condo owners are not so neat and tidy, or filled with sunny childish certainty.

For all the “wise piggy” real estate owners who are financially solvent and able to manage their debt obligations (a quaint concept from all together different times), the U.S. government is providing you with a spectacular lifetime opportunity:

You get to bail out all the lard heads with the over-leveraged straw, wood, and brick bungalows and McMansions.

The vast majority of hard-working, semi-solvent American taxpayers are now stuck with the bills from our national debt binge; and that includes all you high functioning creative types.

Our nation’s unfathomable and imprudent debts are conservatively estimated at over $1,000,000,000,000.00 (one trillion dollars) for bum home mortgages and another $60,000,000,000.00 (sixty trillion dollars) for inscrutable derivative “debt-swaps.”

Many of these “financial weapons of mass destruction” are owned by European, Arab, and Chinese financial entities.

These lenders from abroad are indifferent to our “exceptional” national hopes, dreams, delusions, pastimes, and brands of Christianity. In the end, their mantra will be:

“Show Me The Money!”

And pay, we will.

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6 Views of an Apple

I photographed this apple about six years ago just outside of rural Bethel, Maine. It was a real visual cliché but I still like the image.

But even a simple piece of fruit can provoke some creative musings on the nature of human perception.

Consider these six views of an apple:

  1. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse saw an apple hanging from a branch and was reported to have said — “Let it ripen and let it fall.” He would perceive the essence of all human existence with an unflinching eye.
  2. A hungry hiker gazing upon the apple would see a free snack. Maybe it was planted by Johnny Appleseed for famished wayfarers.
  3. A local journalist might scribble some snappy free associations for an autumn “local color” piece for the Sunday paper or a blog entry: Apple of my eye, An apple a day keeps the doctor away, etc.
  4. An 18th century Eastern European rabbi might see the fruit and coin a catchy proverb for his congregation: “To a worm in an apple, the whole world is an apple.” The same insight also apparently applies to horseradishes.
  5. A natural scientist wandering by would probably want to know the Latin name of this particular tree, how old it is, and if the roots are shallow or go deep.
  6. An economist or business person might survey the unblemished apple and start posing these hard-headed questions:

    Can the tree pay for itself? Is it worth investing in fertilizer, pruning, insecticide? Is it worth the effort and money to grow certified “organic” fruit? Does it make more sense to cut it down and mill it into boards for high-priced apple wood tables, chairs, and cupboards?

    With oil at well over a $130.00 per barrel, is firewood a better bet than fruit? Can the digital photo of the apple be sold to a stock photo company and then marketed to art directors worldwide?

    Can it be pressed into cider or made into apple sauce and put into glass bottles or cute plastic cups with eye-catching graphic labels that proclaims to the world that this is “Bob’s Best Old Tymie Natural Apple Sauce: Good for the Stomach & Spirit & Planet.”

Who we are and what we do in life determines so much of how we see an apple…or the world.

It is inherently difficult to believe that what we see is not what others see. And, of course, we are entitled to the first and biggest bite!

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