New Lenses: Evaluating A Business' Process Management From A Montessorial Perspective

2013-07-02 20.14.07.jpg

In the book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators, the authors state, “Innovative break-throughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields.” It’s true, there is often merit in taking ideas and innovations from one industry and applying it to one that is unrelated. Travel writer, Giles Foden, has a “cinematic approach” to gain different perspectives in his writing; by varying the lenses through which Foden views the world, he captures the story he wants to tell. On a parallel plain, varying the lens, from wide-lens to zoom may have you seeing your business with fresh perspective.

Carmen Morgan – The Writing on The Wall

I enjoy discovering how things work. And Since I don’t have a job yet, I’ve been spending a lot of time observing business models (mostly retail) and finding a lot of value in looking at them from a “Montessorial perspective”…which is to say, deconstructing their most basic function(s) and then tracing the process backwards from the end of the customer experience back to the production process. It’s how I see my three year old daughter learning mathematics. Her Montessori teachers have broken math down to the core elements of: patience, dexterity, counting and the physical comprehension of quantity

Studying business operations is stimulating largely because of the challenge presented when conventional process systems are often broken to some degree and with a small amount of adjustment…what I like to call: “microfinement of process management”, you can usually find greater efficiency for the multitude of people any single transaction or service affects in it’s lifespan.

The challenging aspect of recognizing curable inefficiencies or identifying potential process improvements is the necessity to view the entire process from an “outside” and “far-sighted” perspective so that every degree of future impact separation can be considered from a distance like a position on a map.

I was going through my closet the other day when it occurred to me that although I was satisfied with the job my dry cleaner was doing with my clothes…all of my shirts seemed to be facing the wrong direction. Instead of the hooks of the hangers making a question mark…they opened to the opposite side (to the right). After trying to relocate the shirts on different bars throughout the closet, I realized that the only fix to this problem was to unbutton every shirt and put them back on the hangers after turning the hanger around so that the hooks of the hangers formed a question mark (opening to the left instead of to the right).

Every article of clothing my drycleaner hung (from my wife’s dresses to my sport jackets) faced the “wrong way”. On our recent move from Philadelphia to Sioux Falls, I had transported a few of shirts and suits that had been dry cleaned in Philadelphia and never came out of the dry cleaning plastic sheaths they were picked-up in.  While in the process of pairing shirts up with suits, I noticed that I was able to slide all of the suits still covered in plastic (from my Philadelphia drycleaner) to the right while standing on the left and viewing them from the front. When I placed a recently dry cleaned shirt in front of these particular suits, the shirt was facing away from me and I was unable to view the pairing as it would appear when worn.   

Thinking that this may just have been the standard operating procedure of one particular dry cleaner…and being happy with that dry cleaner, I made a mental note to ask them if it would be possible to put my shirts facing in the opposite direction upon my next visit.

It wasn't until several trips later to the dry cleaner that I remembered and had asked if it was possible for them to accommodate my peculiar request. The owner of the dry cleaner informed me that they were unable to change the direction of the hangers since all of the garments go through “a machine” and are all hung in the same direction. I tried to explain why I believed all of the shirts were being put on hangers facing in the wrong direction but I was not successful in effectively communicating my point. I dismissed this minor inconvenience like a man who continues to work with slightly broken tools…until I went to a new dry cleaner out of convenience before a trip out of town. I noticed they too had shirts and dresses hung in a similar fashion. 3 dry cleaners later it occurred to me that most every dry cleaner in town was hanging their shirts and what I had decided was the wrong direction. That should have been sufficient evidence that I was the one whose perspective required some adjustment...but regardless of how hard I tried to accept it, it still bothered me.

I mentioned this to a few friends who dismissed my attention to this minutia of detail as not only silly but also irrelevant and uninteresting. “Seriously?...Who cares?” they said. But my discomfort with this process intrigued me as if it were a puzzle…or a movie title I couldn't remember. I gave it some serious thought and realized that in a world where most of us are right hand dominant and in a country where we read from left to right it would make perfect sense that the clothing industry would display their garments in the manner I a way that was not only efficient but also enabled a consumer to envision themselves wearing the garments when sliding them left to right (as a mannequin would mirror them).  

I went to a few stores ranging from low to high-end (The Salvation Army, Target, Khols, The GAP, Macy’s, J.Crew, Brooks Bothers, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman). Every one of these retailers had their garments hung on  display racks in the same way. They were all hung so that you can move the items from left to right and quickly observe the shirt, dress, sweater or whatever, on the right hand side facing you as it would be in a mirror if you took the time to try it on. I was discussing this with an executive at Gap North America who told me that she had "spent some time in the fashion industry and explained that it was common knowledge, in retail, that the hanger should always be making a 'question mark' at the top when facing a customer in order to ensure uniformity. Not only on horizontal racks but on rounders [AKA: circular racks) and T-Racks as well. The reason being: so that whether right-handed customers are pulling the garments towards them or pushing the garments away, the garments are always facing the same direction and always 'mirroring' the [right-handed] customer." 

What these dry cleaners are doing by putting garments on hangers where the hook goes to the right instead of the left made me question why such a fundamental convenience was not availed to their customers. There was something to learn here in seeing how their system worked. It posed an interesting life-cycle of service opportunity to learn where the breakdown occurred and how I might prevent similar breakdowns in developing production management systems for restaurants… or for any service related business. I went back to my regular dry cleaner that week and told him that I once had an opportunity to work in a dry cleaner one summer as a boy and had always regretted it because of the mystery of what happens to the clothes when they go behind the wall. I told him that I found it very curious and asked if I could take a peek behind the curtain and see the Great and Powerful OZ. He agreed happily and even offered to show me how each station and each machine works. Not surprisingly, the entire process was a horse-shoe shaped assembly line that went from the left side of the store all the way around to the right of the store where the clothes were picked up. The clothes would travel this path of individual stations after being tagged and sorted by hand at the first station.

Some garments go to the laundering station and some skipped to the dry cleaning station (quite a machine!). After being cleaned, some go to the tailoring station while most go to the next station in a large canvas bin with wheels where they are fit over what looks like a large human figure / dummy. (Every dry cleaner has one and so they typically have a name. Theirs was named Suzie) Once the garment is fit over Suzie, the station operator steps on a large metal pedal that emits enough steam from within Suzie to puff out the garment and instantly steam it. After the steaming, some articles go to a long press and some go to a “hand-ironing” station. After each garment is steamed, pressed and or ironed, they are hung on hangers and pinned with a small numbered tag that corresponds to the number on the ticket originally given to the customer when they drop off their clothes. This whole process goes from left to right until the clothes are then bound together in sections with twisty ties and covered in plastic with the customer's receipt stapled to the plastic. The customer then picks up their order, pays and makes haste to their closet where the white noise of clothes hanging in the wrong direction ensues.

After my back stage tour, I explained how it all made sense to me why the garments were hung the direction they were on the hangers. I explained to the owner that it all made sense to me now and that I understood the garments are hung on the hangers the way they are because the assembly line moved from left to right and you always have the next station in the line receiving the garment from the left and facing them head-on….as is necessary. He smiled upon my “seeing the light” with an almost perceptible sense of satisfaction. I thanked him very much for my tour and left. What I didn’t share with him was that the problem with this process is that it values the employees’ need to see the garments in a convenient head-on fashion but not the end user or customers’ need to.

The owner of the dry cleaner mentioned, before I left, that if I was unhappy with the direction of the shirt on the hanger I could always change hangers as many other customers do. Not only do I find it hard to believe that even five percent of any dry cleaner’s customer are taking their shirts off of the wire hangers and putting them on some other sort of customized hanger in their closet, but if I had the time to do that, I’d probably be washing and pressing my own shirts.  

The easiest way to microfine this process is clearly for the owner/operator to change the direction of their assembly line from LEFT TO RIGHT to RIGHT TO LEFT. This would ensure everyone in-house and at home had the same advantage of viewing the garments in an advantageous fashion (pun intended).

This change would bear only a nominal expense of moving the machines and stations to the opposite side of the store. Doing this would maintain their current efficiency and likely increase their sales exponentially over time due to the fact that the service they are providing is largely identical to their competitors with one exception…they would have a growing base of customers who, perhaps inexplicably, prefer this dry cleaner over another even though they might not be cognizant as to precisely why. The fact, alone, that it would make a customer’s life even the tiniest bit easier, in my mind, is a strong enough case to change the conventional system this operator employs.

This one man’s kindness in offering me a behind-the-scenes  tour of his business, left me with an indelible reminder of the value in consciously considering the lifespan of any product or service beyond the initial point of transaction and the advantage of offering even the subtlest of convenience(s) for one’s customers in a competitive marketplace. 

Surveillance: I Spy With My Little Eye...

2013-07-06 11.06.57.jpg

Earlier this morning, I was enjoying my own "time out" (AKA: In the bathroom) and was discovered by daughter who although now demands "a little privacy"  when she is on the potty… will not grant me any when I'm in there.

Upon looking at her tiny face comically frozen between the door frame and the door, It occurred to me that parenthood has bestowed upon me an awareness that most Americans don’t seem to share: The knowledge that no matter how quiet it may get, no matter how remote of a location you may find yourself in, no matter the hour or the day…there is always someone listening to every word and watching your every move(ment).

Perhaps privacy has been an illusion all along. A mythical thing as highly sought after as the holy grail. Like members in our household, there are a growing number of people in our cities as well...and privacy seems to elude us all.  In reading the controversial news of the NSA legally listening in on our phone calls and invading our privacy, I can't help but think that although there are millions more people in our cities now than there were in the Wild Wild West it seems to me that we still have the same level of privacy we had two centuries ago. 

Technology and the NSA have replaced the curious barkeep and the creepy evesdropper outside the saloon. Technology (in a sense) has been the great equalizer preventing us all (good or evil) from blending into the crowd.

 On April 11, 2013 Business Technology published and article by Catherine Bennett 

"A recent study in Scientific Reports entitled ‘Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility’ reveals that only four data points from a mobile phone are needed to directly track and identify the user."...

Whenever a phone is switched on, its location can be identified through its connection to the network. But now it is not only location data that can be determined, but the actual identity of the user. In effect, if they own a mobile phone, it is impossible for anyone to be anonymous any more.

Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, the lead researcher for the study, compared the process to fingerprinting.

“In the 1930s, it was shown that you need 12 points to uniquely identify and characterise a fingerprint”. The team, based at both MIT and the Université Catholique du Louvain in Belgium, did “the exact same thing but with mobility traces”. Mobility traces are the automatic paths our phones leave as we use them – whether we send a text, make a phone call or download an app

Andrew O'Connell reported just one month later, in May of 2013, on Harvard's Personal Genome Project: "In the name of science, 2,500 people have participated in Harvard's Personal Genome Project, anonymously sharing DNA data along with such information as histories of depression and sexually transmitted disease. But Harvard Privacy Lab director Latanya Sweeney demonstrates what "anonymous" really means. Of 579 participants who listed their birth dates, ZIP codes, and genders, her team was able to identify 42% by name using public records. Previously she was able to identify up to87% of the U.S. population with just ZIP code, birth date, and gender." SOURCE: Harvard Professor Re-Identifie

The sheer number of people on this planet are increasing exponentially every minute but the only thing that seems to be increasing regarding privacy over the years, is our expectation of having it…and the disappointing realization that we still don't...and likely never will.

 In May of 2013,The Business Insider Edition of the Associated Press released “Drones With Facial Recognition Technology Will End Anonymity, Everywhere” by Andrew Conte in which the almost science fiction capabilities of facial recognition and technological cross-referencing was used to successfully aid in the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers.

He wrote: “The technology, to be sure, remains in its infancy. Yet cyber experts believe it's only a matter of years — and research dollars — until computers can identify almost anyone instantly. Computers then could use electronic data to immediately construct an intimate dossier about the person, much of it from available information online that many people put out there themselves.

From seeing just the image of a face, computers will find its match in a database of millions of driver's license portraits and photos on social media sites. From there, the computer will link to the person's name and details such as their Social Security number, preferences, hobbies, family and friends. Adding that capability to drones that can fly into spaces where planes cannot — machines that can track a person moving about and can stay aloft for days — means that people will give up privacy as well as the concept of anonymity.”

Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised that the NSA is just as capable of opening the bathroom door when we're sitting down, as a 3yr old... and from time to time probably will.

Risk & Expected Returns: The Applicability of Rock Paper Scissors




My two laws regarding negotiating are simple:

1. Don't even begin the process until you are armed with an advisor who is experienced and appropriately incentivized


2. Don't counter if you can't walk away.

After three years as a Dad, my dimensional understanding of negotiating has broadened into recognizing the need to eliminate risk from the outset. This principle can be witnessed in our home quite regularly as I often pre-select two or more equally appropriate options and allow our daughter to choose one...or pre-select one option out of two that I know my daughter will find extremely undesirable. The result: a win-win 100% of the time. Slanting the field to my advantage is necessary. I can't win otherwise...and if i do, it's a Pyrrhic victory due to the loss of time and stress that ensues.

You’ve heard it before: “Negotiate like a 3 year old.” ...or is it “Negotiate like a 2yr old”?  Or is it "Don't negotiate with a 2 yr old"?  Regardless... dealing with young children can be difficult to say the least but insightful.  They are irrational. They won’t take “No” for an answer, They can have an unlimited supply of whining and tears to gradually wear you down and their idea of compromise is re-wording the same demand over and over. (I've faced clients like this as well).  These tactics reveal themselves both in daily "transaction interactions" and in the games children play themselves as well.

Take, for instance, Rock Paper Scissors. I thought about how this (like many other things my daughter has reintroduced me to) might translate into my line of  business….and here’s what I came up with:

A parallel application I call "Bully Beg Buy" which can be utilized upon entering into negotiations that are already in progress with two or more parties competing for the same thing.



Bullying functions when one party inflicts fear on another and fear is a great motivator…not the best, but certainly stronger than calculated gains due to the fact that it breaks through the walls of logic and plays heavily on the emotional reaction to imagined physical or social suffering. The instinct to survive socially or even politically within one's professional circles can be the weaker party's Achilles' heel. The flip side of that coin, however is that in negotiations or transactions that involve more than just two parties, bullying as a means to attain an advantage over multiple parties may not work so well. For example: One party pressuring another party to sell to them. In this simple bilateral negotiation, the selling party may be under duress to sell to the bullying party and so the tactic works…but add to this equation another variable such as an additional interested party or a trilateral (or tripartite) agreement upon which the bilateral negotiations rely. The later party’s consideration supporting the promise of the other two parties, (a contingency by definition) is imperative. In a case such as this or in any where there are more than two parties, it is unlikely that the bullying will have an equal impact across degrees of separation. I have seen this diluted pressure often result in the third party coming to the table out of undue influence... but eventually finding and exercising a way to circumvent the transaction via a loop-hole or by intentionally causing some contingency to fail being met prior to closing. “Bully” is vulnerable and that vulnerability resides, predominately, on an emotional level…which brings us to the power of "BEG".



Consult any management or social psychology reference and you will learn that people like talking about themselves. It’s because of the developed ego and sense of self in which we take great stock. People like to feel important. The #1 word used in every language around the globe is “I”…it is for this reason that, all things being equal, when one party (in the case mentioned above: the selling party) is presented with an opportunity to feel strong, important, powerful and/or benevolent, they will most often choose that over the opportunity to feel like a victim. Especially if a negotiation is already in progress and the pressure of "BULLY" is being felt. It’s in this instance that the bullying has likely been taking an emotional toll on the selling party and "BEG" not only offers some relief but also presents a safe exit.



Although "BEG" beats "BULLY", bullying and the desire for physical, social or political preservation are often outweighed by the desire for financial gain. After all, what good is money if your dead or worse…a social, political or business-world outcast? "BUY", however does beat "BEG" and it's benefit of making someone feel benevolent. Nothing makes most people feel more powerful, smart or strong than significant financial gain…remember, they can always imagine purchasing social or political collateral such as popularity and be a little benevolent / charitable with some of those large profits later.

Like Rock Paper Scissors, the trick to this method of negotiating relies heavily on two rather large assumptions. The first: that you know which hand all competing parties are going to throw (thus the arena defined as: negotiations already in progress) and two: that no two parties throw the same hand.


Swim With The Sharks: Swimming Lessons at The Local College

    "The single greatest mistake a manager can make is not getting out of the way! Provide goals, resources, and leadership... Knowing when to get out of the way is the key."

    -Harvey Mackay: Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

Going Viral: So Many Viruses That We Missed A Bacterial Infection

We almost had to postpone a trip back to Philadelphia because Catherine couldn't shake a terrible cough and runny nose. We took her to the doctor and she was put on a heavy dose of antibiotics to treat what appeared to be a sinus infection caused by a situation that hadn't previously resolved itself when she was last on the "Amox". This time we treated it with not only the antibiotics but also with regular nasal clearings using a can of saline spray and 27 boxes of Puffs with aloe. 

Much to our surprise, it came back 2 weeks later. We attributed it to the fact that it's the height of allergy season and our 3yr old little girl still sucks her two fingers... presumably after touching everything and anything germ-infested at home, school and under the dogs. After all, a pattern of illness seemed to be developing of 2 weeks on and two weeks off...which could have also been a result of this being her first year of school and thus a bit more social interaction.

Since the fevers were few and far between, we let it go and just continued to arm ourselves like guerrilla fighters with ibuprofen and travel sized packs of tissues.  We realized, 11 days later, that this was not letting-up as as much as we thought it would and scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician. Upon looking into her mouth, this mild mannered and seasoned physician exclaimed: "Wow! Disgusting! Come here and take a look at this!" I looked in Catherine's throat while Dr. Nelson illuminated walnut sized tonsils with an otoscope. It was plain as day... and I was, all at once, ridden with guilt and embarrassed for not having even looked before. If I had, I would not have mistaken those white veins wound around her tonsils like heavy marbling on a steak.

She took a culture after pronouncing with great certainty that it was "Strep". The long cotton swabs emerged from the back of Catherine's tiny throat covered in yellow mucus with specks of blood. I played with my stoic daughter for 15 minutes while we waited for the results of the "quick test". 

Although it came back negative we were sure that it was either false...or at least would be positive within 24 hours... so we proceeded to get back on the antibiotic wagon before the coughing through the night left both my wife and I with more than broken hearts and an not-enough sleep. So, now she's missing her first day of Swimming Lessons and I'm calling off the Nanny so that we can watch as many episodes of "Tree Fu Tom" as I can handle.

Privacy Notice: Going Potty All Alone


Today was the first time I stood guard outside a ladies room (albeit a single-service unit) for my 3 yr old daughter.  We were at her doctor's office when she had to "go" and after gently setting her into position she told me: "It's O.K. Daddy, I can do it myself now." I stood back as her shoulders dropped and her eyes narrowed with great focus. Her serious little face turned to me and in a strained voice she said "May I have a bit of privacy please?" I told her "Of course!...shall I stand over here by the door?" and she paused before thoughtfully offering an alternative: "You can stand on the other side of the door".  I smiled and tried not to laugh. I told her that I would as long as she promised to call me when she was all done. She nodded in agreement and I softly closed the door...ever so gently...not all the way...but a little more than half-way...just enough for the metal parts to touch...but not click and potentially lock accidentally.  I stood so proudly outside that door almost hoping someone would ask me what I was doing there.

Comparison Approach: The Tempering Pace & Humilty of The Midwest

passing lane.jpg

Although there is something to be said for the increased level of awareness and sense of urgency that living in a big city of over 1MM people imparts, a slower pace can be refreshing and forgiving by long as, like snow skiing, its in a predictable fashion and to the right:)

Speaking of staying right, there are a few things I am finding difficult getting used to in South Dakota. One of the surprising challenges has been adapting to more self-deprecation than we've ever encountered.

Whenever we're outed as not being native South Dakotans, we are asked about where we're from. The conversation invariably leads to the question: "So how do you like South Dakota compared to Philadelphia?"...and before we have a chance to answer, we are met with lines like: "Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings..." or "I'm sure its not as nice is it?"

Sometimes I think we have a better opinion of Sioux Falls, South Dakota than some of the folks who are from here. As a good friend of mine, Dr. Mason Cobb pointed out: "There is very little we are "doing without" here...rather there is so much we're "doing with." and I couldn't agree more. The amenities and services from foodstuffs (Fresh seafood flown in to Cleaver's Market from Hawaii regularly) to arts & culture (South Dakota Symphony and Russian Ballet performances at the Washington Pavillion) abound. 

Perhaps its because even after having pre-conceived notions, of days filled with hunting buffalo and making mead wine, dispelled; some people still hold fast to their prejudices and find it hard to let go of the feeling that they are much bigger than everyone else. The fact I find curious is not that the Midwest has a reputation that pre-dates it's recent "Renaissance" but rather the fact that the mindset of Midwesterners has not evolved in-stride with their cities.  It reminds me of some contestants on "The Biggest Loser" who even after shedding over one hundred pounds,  getting into unbelievable shape and receiving a total beauty and fashion make-over...still hold a perceptible awkwardness in their posture. Perhaps the Midwest is better this way. There is something more attractive about a beautiful woman who doesn't know (or carry herself as if she knows) just how beautiful she really is (Diane Lane). This Midwest humility, whether self deprecating due to a long-standing inferiority complex or out of a genuine nature of modesty will take some getting used to. Regardless, I think we'll all be the better by being tempered by it.

Replication: A Few Interesting Similarities Between South Dakota and Pennsylvania

Far from being South Dakota's doppleganger, Philadelphia, PA has a population density 10xs greater than that of Sioux Falls, SD and is mentioned in way more songs... but there are some interesting similarities between the two.

Although Pennsylvania is aptly named for the amount of lush foliage and bucolic rolling tree-covered hills that more often call to mind more European landscapes than those of the open and primarily flat prairies of the Midwest; both states share a relatively similar size and shape.

The physical location of each state's major city: PA's Philadelphia and SD's Sioux Falls are not only located in the southeast corners of their respective state but also share the unique proximity to several other regional hubs a relatively short drive away. For Sioux Falls it's: Omaha, Nebraska,   Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota  and Des Moines, Iowa whereas Philadelphia is proximal to: Wilmington, DE,   New York City,   Cherry Hill, New Jersey,  Baltimore, Maryland  and Washington, D.C. .

Both States have major "sister cities" a 5-6hr drive to the west. In Philadelphia it's Pittsburgh and in Sioux Falls, it's Rapid City. Both of which are the state's largest city closest to it's western boarders and neither one really has a hockey team.

Both states share significance with regards to historic battles (Indian Wars vs. Wars for Independence) and are home to some of America's most inspiring symbols of freedom and democracy as well...most notably: Mt. Rushmore, Independence Hall & The Liberty Bell. 

Both states also share some space with more socially (and electronically) independent sub-cultures of religious groups founded largely in-part by men named Jakob. In PA, the Jakob Ammann formed Amish & Mennonites and in SD, the Jakob Hutter founded Huttterites. Both trace their roots back to to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century and are easily identified by their simple living, plain dress and wonderful baked goods at local farmers' markets.

Fortune Magazine and US News both conduct annual reviews and ratings for over 24,000 public schools throughout the country. The more notable (ie; Radnor, Lower Merion, Haverford, Trediffryn/Easttown, Unionville-Chadsford, etc...) in the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia  (known as the Main Line) rank in the high 700s to low 800s out of 24,000+....ironically the same rankings as the local public schools in Sioux Falls, SD (namely: Roosevelt, Lincoln and Harrisburg.) Whether we elect to send our daughter to public or private school, the fact remains that public school systems this strong, speak volumes about both areas politically as well as culturally. 

We've only been here for about four months so stay tuned for more interesting similarities between these two states.... 


Re-Branding: Omega 3s In Disguise


Here's the step-by-step for my Honey* Salmon Nuggets that a few have asked for.

*1-2tbsp of melted honey in the egg and also drizzled on top once out of the oven.

Response Time: Another Quick Re-Heat Meal

Hot Dog, Asparagus & Mozzarella Filled Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Ready in like... 10mins. I freeze these and then re-heat them in the toaster oven (or microwave) for a fast meal when time gets away from it occasionally does.

Connectivity: Reaching a Target Market of 2-5yr Olds

2013-05-09 11.10.22.jpg

A good friend of mine asked my opinion on an app that he and his wife are developing. They are creative designers and academics. Therefore it came as no surprise that the app was aesthetically pleasing and educationally focused...but there was no addictive quality to it. There was nothing cute or fun or silly about it. After learning that his target market was 2-5yr olds (and their parents), I remembered something my 3yr old daughter taught me: 

It's much more fun to make and take pretend phone calls from a fresh banana than it is from an old cell phone.

When marketing to children, it's imperative to remember two things:

First - Children want to have fun.

Second- They want to do things All-By-Them-Selves.  

If you wrap up something good, healthy or educational in's as good as sold. 

When things are too "high-brow" or only "mentally healthy", it's on a shelf that is within a parent's sight-line but too high for a child to see. When it's all "silliness and cartoons"  it's on the bottom shelf and only within easy reach of a toddler. The trick is to get the product or service placed right in the middle so that both audiences can see the value.

At the end of the day we, as parents, are often willing to indulge the desires of our long as they aren't unhealthy or dangerous, we'll allow it.

I think a distinct "fun factor" woven into their brand equity...and thus all of their apps wouldn't mean they would be abandoning their reputation for serious childhood development...It would result, more, in a brand that holds a certain..."creative monotony" like the "TOCA" apps. Each one predictable but fun and unique. Beyond enticing to today's demanding children... and if masking some formative developmental process or educational exercise, likely to serve parents in a similar fashion as melted cheese on broccoli.