Lots of people tell me that when they see something orange, they think of me.

Orange socks, I have a few.

That’s incredible, because, to paraphrase a story in Idea Magnets, some people are called to orange, and others have it thrust upon them.

Orange was thrust upon me.

And it took some time for me to realize how important the color would become. As a natural introvert (at least to the extent that it’s tough for me to meet new people and strike up conversations), orange has become a way to open the doors to interaction. People notice the orange socks I wear and will say something. They’ll ask whether I went to Tennessee, Clemson, or Syracuse, wonder if I’m color blind, or just go, “Wow, those orange socks are bright, dude!”

No matter what they say, we’re into a conversation!

10 Things Folks Learn When Asking about Orange Socks

Orange socks? Orange pants? What else is there orange?

Here are ten things I typically wind up sharing with people when they ask about my adopted color.

  1. Greg Reid directed our entire marketing team (including me) to wear orange socks on October 22, 1997. After January 2002, there was no way I could ever NOT wear orange socks again. It’s because of that (and being associated with creativity and innovation) that orange is the Brainzooming brand color.
  2. Two articles of orange clothing never entirely match.
  3. Me and my orange suit (and the orange socks).Orange clothes I now own? Socks (I’ve lost count of how many), a suit, 4 Ralph Lauren linen sports coats, dress shirts of all types, pants, plenty of shoes, a belt, outer coats, underwear and t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweater, baseball caps, workout shirts, sweat pants, gloves, a scarf.
  4. My fashion advice? When you find something orange, buy multiples of it. (See the 4 Lauren orange sports coats.)
  5. Where do I find all this orange stuff? I pay attention to local sports teams to find unexpected pockets of lots of orange. I can also walk by a store and sense whether there are orange clothes inside. Seriously. But that doesn’t stop me from packing too many orange clothes – just in case something bad happens.
  6. You can always wait for something orange to go on deep discount. It’s going to happen. WITHOUT A DOUBT. (Someday, I need to share the story here of WHY I have 4 orange Ralph Lauren sports coats!)
  7. Orange things in our house? The kitchen, a bathroom, towels, dishes, a fuzzy blanket, table lights, folding chairs, bed sheets and pillow cases.
  8. We’ve never owned an orange vehicle, although I used to always rent orange HHR cars (which we called planning mobiles).
  9. If I weren’t wearing so much of this color? I’d be wearing more blue, like I used to do.
  10. Favorite quote EVER about me wearing orange? “Halloween is the one day of the year when Mike looks fashionable.”

Orange you glad you read this far! – Mike Brown

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I think frequent readers know this. New Brainzooming readers might not know it. Come to think of it, maybe even you regular readers don’t have a full appreciation for this important point: We use the business strategy resources we share with you in OUR OWN business and with our own clients.

One thing that got me thinking about this was a Chris Brogan webinar I bought last night. During the webinar, he said that people download free eBooks but never read or use them because they are free. He challenged everyone to think about all the eBooks we download that we never use.

I’m sure we’re all guilty.

Here’s the thing when it comes to the business strategy resources we create for you – whether directly on the website or via download. We create all these tools as outgrowths of our work or as we develop strategic planning or innovation strategy work that we’re about to do for a client.

Either way, you have the opportunity – for free – to take advantage of proven (or soon-to-be-proven) business strategy resources to improve your organization’s performance in real ways.

2 Business Strategy Resources to Implement Now!

The other thing that got me thinking about this point? A client call earlier yesterday afternoon.

The call was our regular Tuesday afternoon check-in on progress with the strategic planning and internal customer experience engagement we’ve been developing with them. As we near implementing the first strategies in a multi-decade roadmap, we discussed what a kickoff workshop would look like as we launch new teams to get started.

What did I do to quickly prepare our recommendation?

By now, you’ve guessed it: I used two of our eBooks. I copied and pasted screen images of activities and questions the teams would answer to get started. In minutes, we had a tangible recommendation for how to prepare these teams for implementation success. Time saved, client able to easily visualize the workshops, and buy-in secured to keep moving. Boom!

Since lots of you are implementing your strategic plans and new initiatives right now, these two eBooks are for you:

Grab these two eBooks TODAY if you are responsible for implementing successfully and delivering results.

Download Fast Forward Today!

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

Then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, put them to use. Save yourself time and pave the way for implementation success.

And yes, they’re both free (for now), so knock yourselves out! – Mike Brown



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What is your definition of innovation?

An article in The Wall Street Journal about food companies innovating to raise prices features this definition of innovation from Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen:

“Creating something I didn’t know I needed is innovation.”

We tell new product development leaders all the time that generating innovative ideas isn’t in any customer’s job description.

It’s an organization’s responsibility to identify what’s next to deliver new value and grow sales. You may get lucky. A particularly engaged customer could suggest a winning idea. Yet, customers probably aren’t thinking much about using your product, let alone ways to improve it.

4 Strategies this Definition of Innovation Suggests

This definition of innovation suggests an important question: If innovative new products and services must surprise customers with what they didn’t expect, how can you develop these ideas?

Here are four paths you can use to develop innovative product ideas:

1. Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

Aggressively explore and analyze actual customer behavior data in your internal systems (and relevant external sources):

  • What product groupings do customers already purchase, and what are natural (or unexpected) next things to offer them?
  • What situations seem to be causing long-term customers to leave?
  • Where are new customers stopping and not going deeper into your product offerings?
  • Why are they demonstrating the behaviors you identify? What can you do to offer innovative new things to them?

By interpreting data related to these questions, you create a strong platform for imagining new products. Looking at actual customer behaviors should suggest new opportunities and/or missing components in your product offerings.

2. Listen and Observe Between the Lines

We use early-stage innovation research to ask questions that can help identify product innovations. Instead of asking customers what products they want, we ask questions about their situations:

  • Can you describe the challenges you are having in doing what you want to do?
  • What are your unrealized aspirations (for yourself and/or for your business)?
  • What are the most frustrating aspects of using our product (or those of competitors)?

These types of questions aren’t asking customers to provide any solutions. Instead, they provide a way for customers to give voice to the goals they have and the challenges they face. With strong insights from these questions, your team can work to figure out innovative ways to address their concerns and aspirations.

Alternatively, you can spend more time with your customers to see firsthand what their challenges and missed opportunities are. You will observe things in the normal course of their activities that spark ideas for you to solve.

3. Discover What Lead Users Are Doing Now

Executives (and most everyone else) are better at describing what’s happening right now than predicting the future. You can use this to your advantage to jump start innovative ideas for your broader market. Identify current customers who are the most advanced in using your product or others like it. Think about:

  • Who is pushing the product to the extremes?
  • Who is constantly asking for more because their needs demand it?
  • Which customers seem to be months or years ahead of  most other ones?

You can reach out and learn more about this group’s current activities. Their views on today will provide advance insights into the rest of the market’s future needs.

4. Excel at Rapid Development

Another way to stay ahead of the market?

Develop an incredible ability to efficiently and inexpensively imagine, prototype, and develop new products at a rapid pace. Innovation is largely a numbers game. The more possibilities you can test and launch that aren’t copy-cat products, the greater the likelihood you will introduce successful, innovative products that surprise the market.

How might this definition of innovation shape your strategy?

You have multiple ways to imagine product offerings before the market knows it needs them. Pick one or two that fit your organization’s assets and let you get in front of trends and market expectations easily. – Mike Brown

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“Can you show up and do a strategic planning workshop early next week?”

We get a decent number of requests from companies that resemble that question. Since a time is booked, and we do this all the time, why couldn’t we simply show up and immediately facilitate a company through developing its strategy? When someone makes a request like this, I’m sure they can’t imagine there is anything THAT complicated about designing a strategic planning workshop.

My question back to those executives are how comfortable they are with:

If they can answer YES to all those questions AND really LOVE high-stakes surprises, then sure, let’s see if we have a Brainzooming facilitator available to show up next Tuesday.

11 Steps in Designing a Strategic Planning Workshop

designing a strategic planning workshop

When an executive cares about successful, productive results that move an organization forward, they UNDERSTAND it takes more than a few business days to make it happen. You need enough time to work through eleven steps we address when designing a strategic planning workshop:

  1. Ask foundation questions to develop a strong sense of the objectives and desired participant experience
  2. Figure out relevant and intriguing comparisons to the situation
  3. Check internal information and comparable situations we’ve addressed
  4. Prepare an initial engagement design and scope of work
  5. Perform secondary research, looking for clues to explore additional sources
  6. Identify intriguing ideas, themes, and inspirations from the secondary research results
  7. Develop new insights and hypotheses
  8. Conduct informational interviews
  9. Develop the input opportunities for the broad audience
  10. Analyze results and themes that emerge from the broad input opportunities
  11. Finalize the workshop design

Not all these steps require significant time to complete. They do build on each other. In aggregate, they lead to designing a strategic planning workshop that delivers results.

Want to Dramatically Improve How You Develop Strategy?

You may not be thinking about scheduling your next strategic planning meeting right now.

Even so, it could be exactly the right time to start PLANNING and designing your next strategic planning workshop to improve the outcomes over the last one.

Have you been trying to identify new ways to make developing strategy more collaborative, simpler, results-oriented (and even fun)? Contact us, and let’s chat about the impact these eleven steps can have in changing how you think about developing strategy from now on.  – Mike Brown

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Whenever You’re Stuck Creatively

Stuck creatively? Try something new.

Try to start with anything – ANYTHING – that might move you ahead or sideways when you’re stuck creatively.

What you’re struggling, break a pattern and then approach what you’re facing from a new direction.

When there are too many possibilities ahead of you, pick one – perhaps the easiest one – and take a step or two.

When you know too much about all the potential challenges (or all the ways that already work easily), pick up something new that’s still full of surprise and use it.

When you know exactly what you need, but it’s not available, consider it a signal to change.

When you seem incapable of making progress, put something small together that you can see, then tinker with it.

Write something, and then edit the daylights out of it with no fear of erasing and keeping just a little bit.

Do a little something of what you do, and then go from there when you’re stuck creatively.

Listen to Mike Brown discuss Amazing Ideas on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

A Strategy for a Life that Is Stuck Creatively

I wrote the lines above on the way back from Huntsville, AL on Saturday. I was thinking about advice to help others do what they obviously know how to do, yet struggle to start.

Then, Emma Alvarez Gibson found this article on how to be an artist from art critic, Jerry Saltz.

This article says it all. All of it, when it comes to being an artist – whether that’s an artist as we typically think of them, or simply trying to bring artistry to whatever means something to you. Read it today! – Mike Brown


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Are you trying to accomplish new things or create a bigger impact in your life professionally or personally this year? Do you have the excellent leadership skills you need to accomplish your initiatives in a workplace experiencing dramatic changes?

If you are, I’m wondering if you have gotten your copy of Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders?

Here’s why, if you don’t have Idea Magnets yet, you should act now: Idea Magnets delivers a tremendous repertoire of leadership tools and actionable strategies, all in ONE PLACE!

Curious about how Idea Magnets will recharge excellent leadership skills?

Here’s a partial list of tools within Idea Magnets to address your leadership skills:

  • Stating your core purpose (p. 19)
  • Knowing where to go for daily creative inspiration (p. 22)
  • Having a dependable way to attract amazing ideas (p. 24)
  • A checklist for improving your collaborative leadership performance (p. 34)
  • Striking the balance to offer both strategic direction and ample room for innovation (p. 40)
  • Three simple steps to further strategic leadership (p. 42)
  • How to surround yourself with the most effective collaborators (p. 53)
  • Dependably seeing familiar situations in fresh, innovative ways (p. 54)
  • A formula to generate 1,000 ideas – YES, ONE THOUSAND IDEAS (p. 60)
  • Uncovering unusual, innovation-triggering connections (p. 71)
  • Mega-sizing your innovative ideas (p. 72)
  • Improving your ability to spot emerging competitors and potential partners early (p. 78)
  • Using unique experiences to energize creativity (p. 85)
  • Ways to make it easier for team members to share ideas (p. 89)
  • Effective methods to showcase diverse talents within your team (p. 93)
  • Creating high-performing team members (p. 97)
  • Speeding up decision making (p. 105)
  • Simplifying complex choices (p. 106)
  • How to help your team implement more effectively (p. 109)
  • Developing contingencies for when plans don’t work (p. 111)
  • Going from 1,000 ideas to the very best ideas to implement (p. 113)
  • Managing and maximizing your personal and team creative energy (p. 122)
  • Using different creative roles to spur new thinking (p. 128)

Yes, all of these tools to recharge excellent leadership skills are in Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders.

If you’ve already gotten your copy, we hope this list pinpoints the tools you need to increase your leadership effectiveness!

If you still see new opportunities to recharge your creative leadership, you need to get Idea Magnets. It is THE book for you! Get your copy on Amazon today! – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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This past summer, while organizing documents that I brought with me when I left the corporate world, I discovered something I didn’t know I still had: my handwritten notes from a January 31, 1995 America Marketing Association luncheon. We hosted the lunch-time seminar on creative thinking skills at my company’s headquarters. Serving as the host, I had the opportunity to meet the creativity expert who would be presenting and get to know him before the meeting started.

Agreeing to host the luncheon at our company was one of the most important business decisions I ever made.

The reason?

The creativity expert was Chuck Dymer.

The Creativity Expert Who Inspired Brainzooming

As anyone who has read Idea Magnets knows, Chuck was a major influence early in my career; he continues as an influence still. Chuck, through the knowledge he shared at the creative thinking skills seminar, introduced ideas that have dramatically shaped career.

Reviewing the notes, I found mentions of fundamental concepts that still influence Brainzooming:

It is amazing; Chuck shared all these vital ideas in just one hour. If you’d like, you can look through a PDF of the notes below and see what impact they may have for you!

Thank you once again, Chuck, for being the creativity expert (and Idea Magnet) that walked through the doors of Yellow Corporation on this day, all those years ago. It is an honor to have you as a friend and important part of the Brainzooming family! – Mike Brown

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