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Like all other Kansas City Chiefs fans (and much of the sports world), I’m fascinated by the team’s new quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. His amazing run of touchdown passes along with the unusual formations and unique details of their plays (such as a left-handed throw by the right-handed Mahomes) make the Kansas City Chiefs very fun to watch.

I picked up a copy of the “Future Issue” from Sports Illustrated because of the topic and Mahomes’ prominent cover image. The SI article focused primarily on Andy Reid, the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. It highlighted how he has built this intriguing and explosive offense by looking everywhere for innovative ideas.

Where does Andy Reid find innovative ideas?

Check out these quotes about Reid’s sources for innovative ideas:

“He set up an R&D unit for offensive football, scouring film and tinkering with new play designs . . . (coach Brad) Childress would sort the Pro Football Focus database for every NFL play run out of an empty formation, looking for anything worth pilfering.”

“He dug back into (Alex) Smith’s college tape from Utah, where Smith ran Urban Meyer’s spread-option offense . . . Then, on opening night in 2017, Reid’s Chiefs roughed up the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots with an offence that looked like nothing the league had ever seen.”

“In the end, it all worked exactly as the Chiefs staff had seen it play out before . . . on North Dakota State’s film.”

Yes, Andy Reid and his staff are looking EVERYWHERE for innovative ideas they can lift and adapt for the Kansas City Chiefs offense. They are open to discovering innovative ideas for NFL plays no matter the level of football. By borrowing ideas from elsewhere, they can see ahead of time how they are working.

As one receiver, Chris Conley, put it, “The plays in our playbook could be from any year, anywhere. They just seamlessly come together. There’s the conglomerate of good plays [Reid] has accumulated over time. That’s what makes up this offense.”

Where are you finding innovative ideas?

This quote made me think of how we have created the Brainzooming methodology over the years: through pure inspiration and artful adaptation from far-flung sources: reality TV, improv comedy, business consulting, Dennis the Menace cartoon books, magazine ads, and obscure behavioral laws, just to name a few!

Borrow innovative ideas from everywhere

So, here is something to reflect on as one calendar year winds down and the next one approaches:

  • How many big starter ideas did you lift from somewhere else this year?

  • How many different places did you lift innovative ideas from?

We’re not talking stealing trade secrets. Just review how broad your inspiration field is. Think about ways to expand your sources of innovative ideas in the year ahead! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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The other day, in an article on quickly creating 100+ cool product names, I mentioned a bad/great customer experience story. It happened while trying to catch an earlier flight from Baltimore to Kansas City.

(And BTW, if you didn’t grab your copy of the FREE naming tool we developed for you, there’s still time. It’s one of the easiest, most productive marketing resources we’ve ever offered.)

Running My Tail Off

Back to the story: I was able to hustle to this early flight possibility out of Baltimore because of wrapping up an all-day client meeting early. I asked the Southwest gate agent, after looking at storms over the Midwest on radar, whether a flight through Chicago would get me home earlier than 9:40 p.m. That was the arrival time for my direct flight to Kansas City departing several hours later. Without saying much, he re-booked me, mentioning that while he couldn’t confirm me on the Chicago flight, the available seats looked fine. I said, “Fantastic,” bought the A7 boarding position, and was looking forward to getting home early after a week away.

I also thought about giving the gate agent one of the Thank You for Kicking Tail coupons Southwest had just sent me. The coupons are to easily facilitate frequent passengers in recognizing Southwest employees who excel at delivering a great customer experience. What a fantastic idea for prompting stronger customer-employee engagement. In the short time between the gate agent re-booking me and boarding the plane, though, I hadn’t dug out the Kicking Tail coupons. I regretted that omission, at least until I boarded the plane.

Great customer experience - Southwest tries to kick tail

Southwest Can Kiss My Tail!

After settling in my seat and responding to Mess Wright about naming ideas, I checked my flight connection in Chicago on the Southwest app. That’s when I realized the gate agent booked me on a flight scheduled to leave Chicago at 9 p.m. That night, it was projecting an even later departure: 10:30 p.m. He knowingly booked me on a flight combination arriving in Kansas City about 3 1/2 hours AFTER my original flight.

WTH???

The app showed the original flight combination I had envisioned would still reach KC at 8:30 p.m. After arriving in Chicago, I’d have to run to the gate for the 7:00 p.m. flight to Kansas City. That was the plan.

After landing at Midway, the KC flight’s gate was close by. The Southwest gate agent there put me on standby. She couldn’t confirm an upgraded boarding position immediately, though. She told me to return in 15 minutes. At that point, she said she could make it work. I tore off one of the Kicking Tail coupons and handed it to her with my thanks. That left a few minutes to grab a quick to-go dinner and hurry back.

Upon returning, the system wouldn’t upgrade the seat. I don’t know the impact the coupon had, but when it didn’t work right away, she became tenacious. There was no way this wasn’t going to work. She tried multiple ways to get the upgrade to take. She called another gate agent to handle the growing line of passengers. She contacted a supervisor to assist her. Suffice it to say, she wasn’t going to stop until she got me on THAT Kansas City flight.

Because of her efforts, I arrived home an hour early!

Southwest Kicks Tail with a Great Customer Experience Recovery

Thank you, Southwest, for providing a way to both recognize her and motivate her to REALLY kick tail. It turned my crappy customer experience into a great customer experience win – maybe because she KNEW it would bring favorable notice! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Doing the work to review a strategic plan can be one of the most cumbersome steps in developing your organization’s strategy.

We have not found a way around the challenge that at some point, someone (ideally multiple executives) must read through a strategic plan to make sure that everything makes sense, fits together, and paves the way for implementation success.

3 Equations to Review a Strategic Plan

When you review a strategic plan, go beyond the blah-blah

We’re going through the steps to review strategic plans with multiple clients right now; it’s that time of year. Beyond the line-by-line read, I wrote out these three relationships the other day to help assess their overall plans:

1. Patience > Aspirations for Change

There is always a need to find the right balance of impatience and patience when driving major change in an organization. You need a level of impatience, refusing to stick with the status quo and pushing aggressively for change. At the same time, strategic patience is important because change can take longer than leaders want. If your plan involves dramatic change, make a check before you move forward to make sure your organization is up for how long it will take and what dramatic change will involve.

2. Innovation Strategy ≠ Competitor’s Innovation Strategy

As you develop a plan, it’s easy to develop an innovation strategy that keeps you aligned with competitors. In that way, you can check off all the basics and all the features that you think customers expect. But if you’re simply keeping up and doing what all the major industry players are doing, you aren’t innovating. Review the strategic plan to see if it’s calling for innovation that sets your brand apart from competitors instead of simply matching them.

3. Implementation Complexity < Capabilities

As you review your strategic plan, look for how much complexity is going to be involved in implementing it. You want to make sure that your capabilities exceed the implementation challenges you’ve designed. It’s a great time – BEFORE you release the plan – to make sure you’ve streamlined and simplified implementation so that it’s well within your organizational capabilities to bring it to life.

You STILL Have to Read the Plan

While these equations are great overall checks to review a strategic plan, you must also read it. So, get started on that step now! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I was standing in line at the Baltimore airport, about to board an earlier-than-planned Southwest Airlines flight through Chicago on my way back home. I was trying to shake a lingering stress headache, while feeling good about getting home an hour earlier, even though I’d passed up my direct flight to be able to do it.

Suddenly, Facebook Messenger buzzed. It was a message from my buddy, Mess Wright: “Hello. Are you there?”

I responded, saying I was about to board a plane, but had a minute. Mess let me know that she’s working on a new idea, had a variety of potential names, and wondered if I’d review them. I asked for more background information to determine how well the names were working to convey her brand. Mess sent a few paragraphs plus photos of the list of possible names.

On the plane, I decided, based on the headache, to generate other possible names versus trying to concentrate and read the one from Mess. Without an available list of our Brainzooming cool product name questions, I used the descriptions Mess sent to identify strategic starting points. I began imagining what words might pertain to the new brand’s:

  • Personality
  • Benefits
  • Customers
  • Business Category
  • Other Audiences

I also left myself some mental white space to riff on any other names that came to mind.

When we reached Chicago, I forwarded a list of 106 potential names generated before landing at Midway. Mess responded later that several of the cool product names were resonating, along with others from her original list.

This past Friday and Saturday, Mess sent possible logo executions incorporating suggested name number eighty-three from my list. By this weekend, she’s using our online branding lab tools to further explore brand positioning, content, visuals, and product ideas.

How to Generate 100+ Cool Product Names in a Hurry!

I see three take-aways from this story:

  1. The benefit of creative structure to generate LOTS of ideas, because the winner may be cool product name number eighty-three
  2. The power of strategy-focused creative thinking questions to help generate a high proportion of on-target ideas
  3. The speed with which you can move from idea to prototype when you are determined and use resources from around the world

This mini-cool product names project was a welcome distraction during the BWI-MDW flight. Without it, I’d have had a full-on head explosion from the detail I discovered about my Chicago connection AFTER I was on the plane. More about that customer experience fail.

In the meantime, if you want help generating names, we have a FREE infographic that features 7 inspiring creative thinking questions to create cool product names! Download your copy today! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I talk to many people who mention struggling to generate amazing ideas. I understand that completely. I would have told you that about myself years ago. Heck, I still find those ideas elusive some days.

The great thing I have going for me NOW is I have a secret creative tool to use. This secret creative tool works whether I’m feeling amazing creative energy or not.

What’s the secret creative tool? Extreme creativity questions!

Different questions work different ways. A specific question might:

  • Provide incredible amounts of white space suited to exploring new ideas
  • Invite people to embrace dramatic aspirations
  • Shut off seemingly vital elements of a situation to force radically new directions

No matter which way they work, extreme creativity questions make over-sized creative thinking a natural outcome.

Your Secret Stash of 49 Extreme Creativity Questions!

If you would like your own secret supply of creative thinking questions, we invite you to download our eBook, 7×7 – 49 Questions to Generate Extreme Creativity. This new eBook offers seven extreme creativity questions for EACH of the seven Idea Magnets strategies:

  • Generate Inspiration
  • Embody Servant Leadership
  • Attract Opposites
  • Make Unexpected Connections
  • Encourage People and Ideas
  • Implement for Impact
  • Recharge Creative Energy

All in one place, the forty-nine questions in 7×7 provide an actionable creative formula. 7×7 will inspire you and your team to amazing creative thinking success.
FREE Download 7x7 - 49 Questions to Generate Extreme Creativity

If you think 7×7 is the powerful secret tool you’ve been waiting for to boost your creativity, download your copy today!  – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you’re creating a successful business strategy, you need at least two vital ingredients to complete it:

Some people are incredible at sharing the vision. They have big ideas, see exciting possibilities, and can paint a picture of how the future will look. At the same time, they struggle to translate their vision into specifics that others can interpret and execute.

Other people focus on doing stuff. They want clear direction, so they can begin the doing part. Or maybe they don’t really want the direction; they just want to start doing what they know because they know it and it’s familiar. Asking them the big picture of where all the activity is headed, though, stumps them.

Review the business strategy you are developing.

  • Does it share a vision?
  • Does it offer tangibles that clearly communicate what the vision means and what strong performance looks like?

Can you answer YES to both questions? Then you are ready to exploit this formula:

Vision + Tangibles = The Basis for Implementing a Successful Business Strategy

If you want to go deeper to make sure you have the right combination of vision and tangibles to implement a successful business strategy, our Fast Forward: Successfully Implementing Your Strategic Plan eBook covers moving your plan from messaging to action. Plus, it’s FREE!  – Mike Brown

Download Fast Forward Today!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When things go wrong, how do you handle it?

Do you bemoan that things were not perfect? Do you become dejected? Do you dig in and try to quickly recover?

Or do you look at it as positive opportunity to learn, change, re-innovate, and grow?

Create Your Own Creative Inspiration Word for When Things Go Wrong

During an Idea Magnets workshop, we invited each participant to make up a positive-sounding word to say whenever something goes wrong. The idea is to address what may seem like a disaster with creative inspiration. Then we practiced saying their words LOUDLY  and BOLDLY!

When I put the question above to Facebook friends before the Idea Magnets workshop, two people from very different parts of my life quickly shared ideas. I went to high school with David Gabler; he suggested, “SMAILURE!” Dennis Smith is an amazing design thinking expert we met through a client engagement. Dennis developed, “FABTASTROPHE!” Those are two fantastic new words for an Idea Magnet’s vocabulary.

My initial idea was, “BRAVANEESIMO!”

What word would you add to your Idea Magnets lexicon to head off negative feelings about things going wrong and encourage a bold, positive confirmation of the new opportunity to learn? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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