It’s Blogapalooza season again!

If you recall Blogapalooza is a program we help coordinate through Max Utsler’s Innovation in Communications class at The University of Kansas. Blogapalooza provides an opportunity for Max’s students to have blog posts they write for class published on various blogs. Thanks to this semester’s participating blogs – Spiral16, The Pert Group, AlexanderG Public Relations, Bowden Communications, and BrandTwist.

This first Blogapalooza post is from University of Kansas grad student, Kellen Ashford. Kellen is a media research analyst with a media monitoring service, where he’s worked with clients in healthcare, IT, defense, and security industries. In today’s post, Kellen has another view of innovation from the Snowapalooza festival in Kansas recently! Here’s Kellen:

Beer Run Innovation by Kellen Ashford

Beer-InnovationTwo weeks ago, eastern Kansas was beset by large amounts of snow, and with it, the levels of public hysteria associated with intense weather in this region.After being snowed in on Thursday, I decided I needed to both dig my car out and stock my refrigerator with beer. But typically, I ran into two problems: I had no shovel to dig my car out and I had no car to make the beer run.

The second problem was a very easy fix.  I live in Lawrence, KS and everything is in walking distance from my apartment complex. But, said apartment complex also failed to have shovels ready for both their maintenance crews and residents.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone and walk to both the local Dillons grocery store and the neighborhood liquor store.

At Dillons, I acquired duct tape to fashion a broom and a dustpan into a shovel. Quite pleased with how this invention would work, I walked across the street to the liquor store and bought a six-pack of beer. The clerk was quite bored and was happy to see me. We had a good chat about the apartment complex, my car, and my snow removal innovation. He also mentioned to try a “pot or a pan” if my dustpan shovel didn’t work. “Point taken good sir,” I said while beginning my journey home.

The second the dustpan met the snow, it cracked. My heart sank. I stood up, dumbfounded and looked around distraught at my misfortune. At that instant, the words of the store clerk struck me, and I immediately thought about two cookie sheets I have. My uncle is a professional chef and had left me some quality bakeware when he moved. Most notably, I have two, heavy-duty cookie sheets.  I ran into my apartment, grabbed one, and started to shovel away. Success! In no more than 20 minutes, I had dug my car out and created a path to the car door. I was very pleased with this turn of events.

The Beer Run Innovation Lessons

The beer run innovation lessons of the story are quite simple.

First, you have to take chances in order to innovate. I took a chance with my dustpan-shovel invention and failed, but, I didn’t give up.  My second chance at innovation, the cookie sheet-turned-shovel, was much more successful.

The second point is inspiration can come from unlikely sources. If I didn’t have the conversation with my friendly liquor store clerk, I don’t know if I would have thought of those two cookie sheets. His “pot and pan” idea was the seed for the cookie sheet shovel design.

And for that, I am grateful.

Oh, and don’t worry. The noble dustpan is still in use. Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t fix. – Kellen Ashford


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Today’s Blogapalooza article is from Lindsay Santee, a marketing manager and student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas. We’re doing work with the Kansas City Public Library, so I’m more attuned to library innovation strategy than might be typical. Lindsay’s story on the Human Library is an intriguing innovation in disseminating content that doesn’t sit on a library shelf. The applicability to organizations other than libraries comes from using the core value you deliver and asking, “How could we turn the value we deliver into a more compelling experience?” Another possibility is using a benefits exercise to understand what you do (i.e., a library shares stories of peoples’ lives) and its benefits before innovating on other ways to deliver the benefit.

Library Innovation Strategy – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover by Lindsay Santee

Lindsay-SanteeWhen it comes to change, library innovation does not seem to have advanced much over time, at least judged by all the things that have stayed the same. From the Dewey Decimal System to the book checkout process and the musty smell of library aisles, even in the digital age, not much has changed about traditional libraries over the years.

However, imagine a different type of library where you check out humans – just as you check out books – and listen to these humans share their unique, personal stories. Imagine being able to interact with the stories as you listen to them. It is as if you are seeing and experiencing the world through these peoples’ eyes, from their own perspective.

The “Human Library” is a real library innovation strategy created in Denmark in 2000. Library guests can choose which volunteer they check out based on titles the human books assign themselves. Example titles include everything from “Olympic Athlete,” to “Fat Woman,” to “A Questioning Christian, to “Iraq War Veteran,” to “Homeless Man.” Visitors sit down with their books for approximately 30 minutes to listen to these “interactive books” share their personal stories and experiences.


The Human Library project is meant to fight discrimination and foster diversity by giving people an opportunity to speak with someone who they may not have interacted with otherwise. This experiment allows people to establish human connections and cultural appreciation. The library even has “bestsellers”- the most popular volunteer storytellers who tell stories of tolerance and understanding.

In the world we live in today, we cannot begin to address global issues such as poverty, disease, and war until we learn to better understand and relate with one another. We must unite above and beyond the boundaries we allow cultural difference to build between us. Perhaps, if we consider each person on an individual basis, undamaged by unsupported perceptions, we will be more likely to learn about one another on a personal level. The Human Library is a big step in creating a world free of bigotry and hate, a world without stereotypes and prejudice.

Today the Human Library social experiment has expanded to 50 countries across the world. There is a US-based Human Library each September at Utah State University. I look forward to this social experiment appearing more broadly in the US. This library innovation truly adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – Lindsay Santee


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Here’s a Blogapalooza post from Max Utsler’s class at the University of Kansas. Kayla Foley, a Marketing Communications Specialist at P1 Group, Inc., shares ideas on shaping a successful innovation strategy through exploiting two-dimensional diversity in an organization.

Innovation Strategy and Exploiting 2-D Diversity by Kayla Foley

Kayla-Foley-KUOnce upon a time a group of people established an entity called Swissair. Together they ruled the skies. Swissair was deemed so financially stable in fact, it earned the moniker the “Flying Bank.” Then egos got the best of them, and they fell into the trap of groupthink. The result was eventually bankruptcy for Swissair. In hindsight, you can bet they wish they followed the advice of ancient philosopher Socrates: “Think not those faithful who praise thy words and actions, but those who kindly reprove thy faults.”

The question inevitably arises, “How can we avoid this insidious groupthink crippling our innovation strategy?”

The answer is diversity. Let’s say you need a problem within your company fixed. Half the solution could be floating around in one employee’s head. The other half of the idea that would complete and transform it into a game changing innovation may exist in the mind of someone else with an entirely different outlook on the problem. Until you get them in a room together to combine their puzzle pieces, your solution will never be born.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies should look at diversity in two ways: inherent and acquired.  Inherent diversity includes demographics such as gender, age, and ethnicity. Acquired diversity focuses on experience related traits such as working with niche markets, or overseas experience. Companies that exhibit at least three traits in each category attain two-dimensional diversity. From a numbers standpoint alone, the impacts of 2-D diversity on innovation speak volumes. One study cited in the Harvard Business Review article found that 2-D companies are 45 percent more likely to show growth in market share and an astounding 70 percent more likely to capture a new market.

Examples of companies successfully utilizing diversity as part of an innovation strategy include:

  • Google – A Google R&D center in India with over 1,100 employees speaking different languages and practicing separate religions are to thank for the creation of Google Finance.
  • Pepsico – With a 50 percent hiring requirement for women and minorities, PepsiCo doesn’t play around when it comes to diversity. They claim that one percent (around $250 million) of their 7.4 percent revenue growth is directly related to their diversity efforts.
  • Procter & Gamble – In the last decade, P&G delivered an average of 6 percent organic sales growth due to innovation from diverse teams.

Analysts at Ernst & Young (EY) have stated that, “Most large corporations today have a diverse workforce that is scattered all over the world, and the enormous diversity of culture and viewpoints is fertile ground for innovation.”

When companies encourage diversity within their organizations, they dispel the negative effects of groupthink. Diversity does so much more than that though. It empowers employees to share and create new ideas. It pushes people past their comfort zones to go places they otherwise would not. It paves the way for innovation to occur. – Kayla Foley


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Today’s Blogapalooza article from a student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas comes via Allison Dollar. Allison is a Local Business Account Executive at The Kansas City Star Media Company. Her article for today on personal leadership lays out 10 keys to hustle . . . every day.

Personal Leadership – 10 Keys to Hustle . . . Every Day by Allison Dollar

Allison-DollarIn the words of Mos Def, “Focused. I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.”

Well-said Mos Def. Well said.

A hustler is defined by Merriam Webster as, “An enterprising person determined to succeed; go getter.”

Are you a hustler?

You don’t have to be in sales to be one but you do have to commit to the following ten steps if you want to be successful. While I consider myself a hustler in constant training these are 10 keys to hustle, every day. You have to practice them daily, get better at them, and enjoy.

  1. Love your Hustle

Whatever it is, love it. And I mean with all of your heart. If you don’t enjoy what you spend most of your life doing then it’s a waste of time; time is the one thing we can’t get more of so…again I say, Love your hustle.

  1. Listen

Most people like to talk sometimes, no, most of the time, and they talk too much. Listen more, and speak less, I promise you will hear something that will lead to a business lead, idea or relevant knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation where listening is difficult, leave. It’s not worth your time. This brings me to my next point.

  1. If it’s dead, leave it on the ground and walk away

This could refer to anything, a client that will never be happy and who takes too much time, a peer who complains all the time about the same old things, or my favorite, a manager who has no idea what he/she is doing or saying the majority of the time. If you run into any of these situations leave them immediately and do not look back, it’s not worth it.

  1. Swagger

Confidence is a non-negotiable for any professional hustler, you better be able to own whatever it is you need to own. The presentation you just gave to high-level decision makers, the smart-ass comment you dealt to a high performance peer or the stare down you delivered in the boardroom full of talented professionals just like yourself trying to get ahead. Whatever you do, get and keep your swagger. Without it, you are just like every other professional “insert your title of choice here” working day in and day out. Your swagger is just that Your Swagger. It is as unique as you are, use it to your advantage.

  1. Learn Something

Learn something every day. It’s as easy as that. Each day approach it so you learn something new, no one can ever take your knowledge away from you. Believe in your abilities and reward yourself with the knowledge it takes to come out on top every day.

  1. Be the Expert

Ensure that whatever it is you know just as much if not more than the senior level manager/sales representative/vice president or whoever it is in the room. Be able to speak in a healthy fashion no matter what the topic. Set yourself apart by showing you have taken the time to educate yourself on the topic at hand.

  1. No Fear

Period. Fear paralyzes you and has no room in the mind of a true hustler. If you have it, do not show it. Get a plan together on how you can keep it to yourself then toss it away after your mind has processed the situation. Fear is a private thing that everyone experiences but a hustler never shows.

  1. Love yourself

No one can love you like you. Sounds weird but it’s true. No one knows you better than you. Give yourself the time to process demanding information; strategize your next move or whatever it is you need. Also take care of yourself, even a proper hustler needs to eat right, exercise, and get some sleep. Know when to shut it down and take care of you.

  1. Never ask Permission

A hustler just gets it done. Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness. Like I said, a hustler gets it done, and anyone who knows a hustler realizes this from the moment they are introduced.

  1. Network

A hustler knows everyone. The new business owner around the corner, the new employee on the second floor and even the new CEO hired to work for the competition. You can’t be successful being a recluse. It just doesn’t happen. Know your people.

Think you got what it takes to hustle? Use your cane if you need to, but get your hustle on or at least get it started. – Allison Dollar


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It’s Blogapalooza time again! In partnership with students in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas, Blogapalooza provides an opportunity for Max’s students to publish blog posts they write for class here and at Alexander G Public Relations

Laura-BerryThe first post for this semester is from Laura Berry, a master’s student in Integrated Marketing Communication. Laura works in marketing for a global engineering and construction company that is working to bridge tradition with innovation.

5 Characteristics that Set Game Changing Ideas Apart by Laura Berry

Innovation starts with good ideas. But how can you separate good ideas from transformative, game changing ideas? If it’s a revolutionary idea, chances are it has several of these qualities.

1. It’s not your first idea.

Let’s face it: seven billion people live on this planet. Your first idea isn’t original. Inspiration might pop into your mind, but innovation looks more like a notebook filled with sketches and scratched-out notes. If you’ve pushed, reworked and redeveloped your idea, then you’re on your way to game changing ideas.

2. The idea is simple.

Some of the best ideas look obvious in hindsight. It might be complex to build, but it needs to be easy to understand. When you hear it aloud, it makes sense. Heads nod. A social networking website that makes it easy for you to connect and share with your family and friends online? Head nod.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “Get Buy-In for Your Crazy Idea,” Author David Burkus writes, “If you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. In the same way, if you have to spend significant time explaining how your idea will work, it’s never going to win people over.”

3. It’s creative.

To create what doesn’t yet exist, you need imagination. Imagination asks the question, “What if?” Did you just create the most powerful bag less vacuum? (Dyson) Great. But what if I don’t want to push it around? (Roomba) Awesome. So now my vacuum cleaner runs by itself. What if my lawnmower did? (Roomba robotic lawnmower). “What if” questions stretch good ideas to new places.


4. It serves a purpose.

Thomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs, and then I invent it.” Breakthrough ideas have an intrinsic human connection. Innovation often solves problems or meets needs. Are you old enough to remember running home to wait for a phone call or accessing the Internet through the piercing screech of dial-up? Thank goodness for innovators. When you understand the problems people face, you’re better able to help.

5. It took some sweat.

If innovation were easy, everyone would be doing it. To take an idea from good to game-changer, you have to nurture it. And that’s just a fancy way of saying it takes work. Your good idea could be a few “What if” questions from game changing ideas. Will you take it there, or will someone else? – Laura Berry


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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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2013-best-worstLast weekend, we published a list of the top 10 new Brainzooming blog posts from this year based on readers’ page views.

Today, here’s my list of thirteen favorites from 2013. And as has been the case in previous years, my list of favorites looks nothing like the most viewed blog posts. My list of favorites, as you’ll see here, is generally shaped by the stories behind the blog posts.

Before starting the list, thank you all for your readership, comments, and, suggestions throughout this year and previous years. Blog writing can be a lonely deal, so hearing your thoughts and reactions is wonderful. I appreciate it so much!

Special thanks to my Brainzooming business partner Barrett Sydnor for his contributions to the blog along with Woody Bendle, Randall Rozin, John Q. HarringtonBill Mullins, Professor John Bennett, Jamie Lacroix, and Max Utsler (along with Blogapalooza writers Jessica James, Kellen Ashford, and Judi Reilly ) for their guest blog posts this year.

Happy New Year, and here are my favorites from 2013 along with the stories attached to each of them.

1. Creating Strategic Impact – The Updated Brainzooming Manifesto

The original Brainzooming strategic thinking manifesto was comprised of the first five posts on the blog. When they were written, there wasn’t underlying content to link to, so this much delayed update provides greater more detail on how we approach strategy development for clients.

2. Creating Strategic Impact – Acting on a Strategic Opportunity at a Different Time

I appreciated readers on the blog and Facebook appreciating this opportunity to celebrate three important dates for my parents this year, even though I only made it to one of them in-person.

3. Creative Ideas – 30 Days of Creativity with Melanie Sklarz the @DoseOfCre8ivity

We don’t do nearly as much video content as we should, but this video was a delightful way to invite you to my in-person meeting with one of my favorite creativity voices on Twitter, Melanie Sklarz. We met up at the Cleveland airport (one of my old business haunts) before my flight back to Kansas City from speaking at Content Marketing World.

4. Creating Strategic Impact – 4 Factors for a Successful Annual Theme

If someone has checked in on the blog for any amount of time, you’re likely to have seen more of a spirituality theme the past few years. This post takes a personal lesson from my spiritual life and spins it around to a business perspective.

5. Staying Productive Working at Home in a Blizzard with no Power

When you don’t have any electricity, you forgot to charge your laptop and iPad beforehand, and you still want to publish a blog post, what do you do? For me, I hand wrote the blog post, took a photo, and published it with advice on staying productive during a power outage.

6. Career Success – 7 Ideas If You Don’t Care About What You Do Anymore

This post had been sitting in an upcoming blog file for quite some time. We finally ran it in December and received an email from a friend who said it was just what he needed that day to deal with some job frustrations. A large part of good timing is admitting you have no clue and simply “listening” for when you should do something.

7 and 8. Strategic Leadership – 18 Learnings from a Personal Strategic Tapestry and A Personal Strategic Tapestry by Professor John Bennett

The idea of living by a strategic tapestry is one I’ve thought about for some time given I avoid wild swings in direction professionally and personally. A tapestry of learning much more closely suits my strategic thinking. I was tremendously honored when the concept resonated with Professor John Bennett who followed the original post by sharing his own strategic tapestry with Brainzooming readers.

9. You Just Might be a Thought Leader by Woody Bendle

I love a good Woody Bendle rant, and this one, originating from a frustrating conference experience Woody sat through this year, is my favorite one so far.

10. Business Innovation – R.I.P. Failure by Jamie Lacroix

I loved the concept of having a funeral for failed ideas that Jamie Lacroix shared as a participant on a webinar given by branding expert Julie Cottineau. Jamie was gracious enough to share the concept in greater depth with Brainzooming readers, along with photos of the tombstones commemorating failed ideas at her organization.

11. Creating Cool Product Names for a New Product Idea – Creative Thinking Mini-Poster

This was our first blatant attempt at creating an infographic from Brainzooming content. It’s something we’d like to do more of given the time to do it well. Solid infographics are definitely not quick to complete!

12. Creative Ideas – What’s The Biggest No You Ever Received?

It’s not often you are asked a completely new question during a presentation, but this was one about the biggest NO I’d ever received. I thought I gave the correct answer at the “Taking the NO out of InNOvation” presentation for an IT consulting company in Nashville. Upon further reflection, I realized the answer was wrong; here’s the right answer.

13. Creative Ideas and Diversity – The Brainzooming TEDx Talk at TEDxWyandotte

While there’s not a lot to the text of this post, it contains the video of my TEDxWyandotte video. If you want to see a TEDx talk that wasn’t tightly scripted, check this out. Audience members got to pick their own preferred path through this TEDx talk on a creativity community.  – Mike Brown

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Blogapalooza veteran Jessica James is back today with her message that stress is a choice, along with 4 ways to decompress that she’s using amid a clearly busy life. Not only does Jessica work for one of the world’s largest casual dining restaurants, she’s also completing her master’s degree in journalism from The University of Kansas. Here’s Jessica:


Stress is a Choice by Jessica James

Stress-YourselfA full-time job, parenthood, married life, graduate school, a social life and the occasional volunteer opportunity– with all this going on, I’ve somehow managed to maintain my sanity.  It’s not something I ever thought about until recently when a close friend commented on how she couldn’t believe I wasn’t medicated.

She openly takes medication to help her cope with the stress and anxiety in her life.  I do not.

I Get it, You Are Busy…

This is not to say that I am not stressed out beyond belief right now.  My husband is a second-year law student who studies around the clock, I travel out of town for work about 30 percent of the time (which is incredibly disruptive to my toddler’s home life) and I am wrapping up my capstone project and presentation in just over a week.

4 Ways to Decompress

In the last three months, l have experienced more stress than ever before.  If I could find the time to go to thy gym, some of this might be alleviated.  However, I have managed to find little moments throughout my day to decompress.

1. Have a Morning Routine

My mornings are hectic, yet predictable.  My 30-minute commute from home to daycare to work consists of morning radio and a large cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee.  Without it, I am lost.  This daily ritual sets the tone for the rest of my day and helps me focus on what’s ahead of me.

2. Keep Your Priorities Straight

It never fails that as I ease into the day at work, my ‘to do’ list for the day gets high jacked by other, more pressing things.  I’ve learned to adjust to this and not become overwhelmed by focusing on what REALLY needs to get done for the day.  My industry is food, not rocket science, and most of the time, things can wait an extra 12-24 hours to be completed.

3. Quantity of Time Spent at Work is NOT > the Quality of Your Work

I refuse to fall into this trap.  So many of my peers at work, along with some leadership, value how long people show their faces at work and not how good the work actually is.  I am a consistent eight-to-fiver.  I excel at my job, always meet deadlines and pride myself on being a reliable and timely source of information for my peers.  As a result, I am able to spend a fair amount of time with my family in the evening and still have some time left for myself.

4. Put Yourself First…Sometimes

Working, going to graduate school and having a family is pretty common these days.  A lot of men and women do it.  I am able to because I am not afraid to do things for myself.  I’ll take a Friday off a couple times each year to shop, have lunch by myself, get caught up on laundry and catch up on my favorite TV shows.  It’s amazing how a few daylight hours to myself really rejuvenates me at home and at work.

Make a Choice to Take a Step Back

So before you let your friends talk you into medicating your stress and anxiety with prescription drugs, take a step back, and evaluate where you might be able to trim some stress out or bring some routine and predictability into your day.  And remember, the choices you make have a direct correlation to the stress in your life. – Jessica James


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