Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 152 – page 152

Hang on with me as we slam together a couple of apparently random experiences this week. Trust me; we’ll wind up with a strategic lesson here.

Instigating a Strategic Lesson

Salt-WordA reading at morning mass this week from the Gospel of John involved Jesus talking about the apostles being “in the world” but not “of” the world. The point is since His followers should focus on the importance of a heavenly reward, time in this world needs to be marked by a sense of detachment. While human functioning, making a living, and being of service to others are important, the expectation is to resist becoming overly enamored with things (in particular) that belong to this world since they are fleeting relative to eternity.

This may seem a simple enough statement, but the world beckons so strongly with so many attractive diversions – both good and (many) bad – that it’s an incredibly challenging call to live out successfully.

Another Version of the Strategic Lesson

My trainer recently had me begin using myfitnesspal, a weight and fitness monitoring app. I whined like crazy, but within days, the accountability of logging all my exercise and everything I ate changed my behavior dramatically. Seeing the numbers behind my eating caused me to cut down on snacking, especially late at night when I am writing.

One number that surprises me daily is the outrageous amount of sodium in pre-prepared foods.

One day I had a partial order of leftover Chinese food for lunch, munched an appetizer at a happy hour meeting, and ate a sandwich based on a recipe from my family’s former restaurant that my wife made for dinner. When everything was plugged into myfitnesspal, my daily sodium intake was nearly double the recommended amount. The surprising thing about my huge sodium intake is I pick up a salt shaker once a year – maybe.  I don’t add salt to food.

Slamming Two Experiences Together

If you had asked me before myfitnesspal, I’d have confidently told you I was “IN but not OF a salt-filled world.”

My gigantic sodium number tells a very different story tough.

It’s clear that through uninformed and lackadaisical decision making about what I eat daily, there is way too much sodium in my diet. What has seemed harmless or not even an issue is, I now realize, something harmful.

And the Strategic Lesson Is?

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to decide what you plan to do to build your business.

It seems even easier though, to pursue other enticing (potentially overhyped) possibilities that promise to build your business – but not directly and not right away.

In my case, these activities include creating content in lots of venues, exploring intriguing possibilities, and putting additional time into opportunities that once seemed promising. They all tend to be about reaching a new / different / bigger audience that SHOULD yield even greater success than the same old audience.

Absent some way to measure and monitor how much time, energy, and effort is going into all these enticing activities relative to the solid activities to build a business however, you can get away completely from what matters for your business.

The cumulative impact is you wind up being not just in a world of overhyped possibilities, but spending most of your available time on them.

When we started The Brainzooming Group, I sketched out a decision making hierarchy for ranking and narrowing promising but more speculative activities. Because of my interest in trying new things and challenges in saying “No,” that decision hierarchy is still in a long-ago shelved notebook.

So the strategic lesson from these random events this week is it’s time to actually apply the decision making hierarchy and stick to it.

How about you? Can you benefit from this strategic lesson in your business?

By the way, thanks for hanging on with me to get here. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.


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Productive strategic thinking exercises are at the heart of The Brainzooming Group methodology. Great brainstorming and strategic planning questions encourage and allow people to talk about what they know including factual information, personal perspectives, and their views of the future.

The Value of Strategic Thinking Exercises

I tell people who ask about how we developed The Brainzooming Group methodology that a big motivator was business people I worked with who didn’t know how to fill out strategic planning templates and worksheets.

They did, however, know a lot about the businesses, customers, and markets they served. We found we could ask them strategic planning questions and brainstorming questions to capture information to create strategic plans.

Since I could write the plan, knowing strategic planning questions to ask (within a fun, stimulating environment to answer them) was key to developing creative, quickly-prepared plans infused with strategic thinking.

And when you combine “creative,” “strategic thinking,” and “quickly-prepared,” you get Brainzooming!

Order Idea Magnets
Here is a sampling of more than 200 brainstorming questions and strategic planning questions that are part of the strategic thinking exercises we use with The Brainzooming Group. Yes, more than two hundred questions!

Who could ask for more? (If you ARE looking for even more questions, download our Brainzooming strategy eBook, “The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions” today!)


More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions for Strong Strategic Thinking

Creating Productive Questions

Strategic Thinking Questions for Developing Overall Strategy

Developing a Strategic Vision

Digital and Social Media Exploration

Creative Naming Questions

Innovation-Oriented Questions

Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Identifying Strategies and Assumptions

Extreme Creativity Questions

Strategic Marketing Questions

Sales and Business Development Questions

Questions to Perform More Effective Recaps

There you go with more than 200 strategic planning questions. Do you have any questions? Let us know! – Mike Brown


Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

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Alex-Knapp-LunchIf you follow the @Brainzooming account on Twitter when I’m live tweeting a luncheon with someone incredibly tweetable, don’t be surprised to be inundated with forty or fifty tweets (sorry!).

That’s exactly what happened when Alex Knapp, Social Media Editor and staff writer at Forbes, headlined this month’s Social Media Club of Kansas City lunch talking about the intersection of publishing and social media strategy.

For those who don’t follow @Brainzooming on Twitter, here via reformatted tweets and paraquotes, are just a few of the social media strategy insights Alex Knapp shared.

Mistakes Publishers (and others) Make with Social Media Strategy

According to Knapp, the biggest mistake publishers make is thinking there is something new in social media. Publishing changes based on the platform, and the only thing that changes over time is the type of content you put on each one. The challenge (and opportunity) with social media is that it is communicating, engagement, and marketing all at once.

Social Media Talents

Social media requires multiple abilities from someone in a short time in a small space. Many publishers (and other types of companies) make the mistake of picking people with only one talent who then struggle. Among the many skills needed to be great at social media, headline writing is THE social media skill.

Alex Knapp proposed a thought experiment: You have two people, one of whom you can hire to do social media for a publication. Do you pick someone who is early in a business career and all over Twitter or someone more senior with lots of work experience and no clue about Twitter? Knapp advises picking the more experienced person since it’s possible to train someone on Twitter in an hour. Training someone who understands social media to write well, think better, and market more effectively? Well, that takes considerably longer than an hour.

Not Every Social Network Should Have Identical Content

When it comes to taking the best advantage of varied content across channels, Knapp pointed out a great example from the world of publishing to illustrate his point: The New York Times wouldn’t run an arts story on the sports page unless it had a very specific sports angle. Given that, why would an organization run the exact same story at the exact same time on very different social media platforms?

Similar to how we covered Mall of America featuring different content by social network, Knapp shared that at Forbes, Google+ is for tech news, LinkedIn is for startup news, and there are twelve different topic-oriented Twitter feeds, some of which have come and gone over time based on what’s working. Ultimately the goal for each platform (which may have much larger readership than a publication’s paid subscriber base) shapes how a brand approaches it.

When faced with too many social media options and not enough time to go around, Knapp recommends to start where a brand has its biggest audience and focus there. He also advises against the common idea of not putting resources toward social media because it’s free. He asked why a brand WOULDN’T want to put resources toward something that was free and worked vs. paying money for marketing efforts that cost a lot and are difficult to track.

Social Media Strategy Fundamentals

  • Social media is the industrialization of word of mouth, so it’s vital to make sure social content is easily shared.
  • If you have great content that’s working, run it again, adding variety to how you feature it. He suggested pulling out a quote (because people love quotes), trying an alternative headline, or featuring a specific item from a longer list.
  • Invite and reward engagement with personalities, content, and readers themselves (i.e., readers whose content and comments are featured will turn around and share it with others). It’s vital to show you are listening to social media exchanges and are able to engage your audience.
  • Data from multiple sources helps determine the effectiveness of social media efforts. Social data sources may disagree, so you have to compare and contrast them. Knapp points out that Google Analytics doesn’t provide accurate information on Facebook traffic.
  • Run analyses as often as possible (or as makes sense), measuring to the extent the results will drive change in what you are doing. While you’re measuring, look beyond the top clicks and shares. If you avoid going deeper or looking at alternative views, you’ll miss other valuable insights.
  • Don’t get caught up in your own preferences. If readers love something you do, even if you hate it, keep doing it anyway.

Social Media at Forbes

There is a 3-person core social media team at Forbes. Their efforts are complemented by many, many freelance bloggers who are paid (very well according to Alex) based on the hits on their blog posts. (Hey, Alex, where do I apply?)  – Mike Brown

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If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

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ideaprintThis month’s #Ideachat (organized by Angela Dunn on Twitter) was guest hosted by author Jennifer Louden and focused on the extent to which people either claim or hide borrowing ideas from others. Jumping in late, the group was addressing topics such as the impact on your creativity of others borrowing your creative ideas and whether ideas can be “owned” in this day and age.

On the former topic, my response was it all depends on who borrowed the creative idea, if I wanted them to borrow it, & whether they matched up my ideas or content with other people. If they put me in good company, that can be quite a kick.

If you’re really intent on getting something done and think you have a creative idea to realize positive change, the best thing that can happen is others claiming ownership of your ideas. Maybe you accomplish this by being obvious and blatantly saying, “Here, TAKE MY IDEA!” Often though, you have to be much more subtle and kind of leave your creative idea “mentally” laying around for others to find and claim . . . much like they might pick a coin up off the ground and consider it found money.

Leave Your Ideaprints on a Creative Idea

As the #Ideachat group discussed idea ownership, my response was that in the world of social media, it seems you own an idea by being able to point to your first use and predominant sharing of it. I cited Joe Pulizzi and content marketing as a prime example. Joe put a term to the concept, developed it, and shared it for others to expand upon it. What was important was it was readily apparent Joe Pulizzi was the first person everyone remembers talking about content marketing as an idea.

As I tweeted during #Ideachat, when you put an idea out there for others to use, it’s a good idea to leave your “ideaprints” all over it, just as Joe did.

Just like finerprints, ideaprints are indicators you had your brain all over an idea before releasing it into the world. Maybe the idea was yours originally. Maybe you adapted the idea from something else. Either way, if you’ve added value to an idea, your ideaprints signal your brain touched the idea somewhere (ideally early) in its life.

I’m sure Seth Godin has written about something like ideaprints, and there’s a marketing company using the name, but here some ideas for how to place your ideaprints on an idea:

  1. Secure the typical and appropriate legal protections available – copyright, trademark, patent
  2. Develop a unique or at least distinctive name to describe the idea
  3. Frequently use the distinctive name you created online and in other places
  4. Develop your idea into a more fully fledged concept
  5. Author a great deal of content about the idea that continues to expand on, describe, and make it more usable by others
  6. Make it easy for others to advance the idea whether in total or in part
  7. Create an organization that embodies your idea
  8. Cultivate a group of people who will point back to you when others ask them where they heard of the idea
  9. License the idea to others

There are definitely more ways to leave ideaprints, but amid our #Ideachat conversation, those were the first ones that came to mind.

Making It Obvious Your Brain Was All Over a Creative Idea

I think being adept at leaving ideaprints on your most important ideas is an important skill to hone.

One of the last #Ideachat topics covered whether challenges in attributing ideas in the 21st century will lead to more or less creativity. My answer was it depends on the attitude people have toward ideas. People who spend their time chasing down others to protect their ideas will spend a lot less time on generating ideas and a disproportionate amount of time on idea protection.

Far better to spend much of your time coming up with ideas, a little time being more obvious with your ideaprints, and most of your time making things happen with your ideas – whether it’s you or others doing big things with them! – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Learn all about Mike Brown’s creative thinking and innovation presentations!

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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It’s always fun when there is a perspective from Dilbert on creativity. I’ll admit my surprise though the first time I read through the Sunday Dilbert as the boss looks for an employee who is creative.  This particular Dilbert comic seems ripe for being viewed as insensitive.

The more I thought about this Dilbert comic (and trust me this is not a perspective based on schooled psychology) though, it illustrates a point at the heart of so many messages about creativity and innovation on this blog.

This potential employee claims his particular combination of ADHD, dyslexia, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia definitely makes him creative, with Dilbert checking the Internet to find each of them does indeed correlate highly with creativity.

Who Is Creative and Who Is Not?

When you think about it, those conditions and other genetic or developmental issues people have that are considered outside the “norm” cause them to experience, process, and respond to life in very different ways than most of society does. Those differences may be more frequently perceived as “creative” specifically because they aren’t the typical responses of most people.

We see creativity in unique, or at least unusual, responses we wouldn’t have imagined. If everyone had been able to come up with comparable responses, they’d be run of the mill and not creative.

Learning from Dilbert on Creativity

That’s why it’s vital, if you want to be more consistently creative, to mine the perspectives you have or can manufacture that place you outside the norm. These atypical perspectives can cause you to experience, process, and respond in very different ways than everyone else might, thus enhancing your creativity.

Where do those atypical views come from in your life?

They can emerge from a variety of places, including these:

Go find the perspectives where you aren’t “a normal” (in the words of the Dilbert comic) and create away with your atypical self! – Mike Brown


Learn all about Mike Brown’s creative thinking and innovation presentations!

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I was in Nebraska City, NE the last weekend of April to attend the board meeting for Nature Explore (a client) and the annual Arbor Day festivities. My road trip from Kansas City provided several intriguing photo opportunities carrying worthwhile branding, creativity, and strategy lessons.

Branding Decisions – What do you think of Stoner Drug?


Don’t think highway advertising isn’t effective.

I’m not sure if the sign was new, but on the way up to Nebraska City, I noticed a small highway sign for the soda fountain at Stoner Drug in Hamburg, IA. While running behind and unable to stop, I left early on my return trip to make time for a brief detour into Hamburg to get a photo of Stoner Drug!

The picture was a hit on Facebook, prompting questions about whether they sold Doritos, why they don’t have grass in front, and wondering about expansion plans for the store (particularly into Colorado and Washington).

While the brand name is memorable, you have to wonder if it’s memorable in the best possible way, even though it is, I presume, a family name on the family business. Do you think Stoner Drug is a hard working brand name in a good way?

More Branding Decisions – Butt Burner Hot Sauce


Speaking of branding decisions, here’s another intriguing brand name for a sauce I spotted in the gift shop at the Arbor Day farm. While the packaging at least presents an idea of what type of butt is going to get burned, like Stoner Drug, this name too raises a whole array of others possibilities that make it a memorable name.

Both Trees and People Outgrow Roots


Roots are important for trees and people.

Roots that have been in place a long time can be both beneficial and detrimental. This tree demonstrates that. It appears to be taking its roots out of the ground as it grows. This seemed an appropriate metaphor for anyone who has been doing the same thing (whether personally or in a career) for a long time. If you have, it may be a good time to ask yourself if your roots are still providing a firm foundation or whether you may not be growing as much because your roots aren’t doing the job they used to do.

The Creative Value of Strategic Constraints


This sign by wood bridge on the way to the Arbor Day Farm gift shop provides a great real life example of the beneficial creative value of strategic constraints.

While it’s convenient to imagine that constraints crunch creativity, carefully chosen strategic constraints can be a significant instigator for creative thinking. In the case of this bridge’s construction, requiring that the natural surroundings not be disturbed, increased the construction challenge dramatically. It also increased the creativity as well, though. By removing the typical construction approaches for a bridge of this type, the designers and builders had to devise different ways to build the bridge that turned out to not only be less expensive but also protective of the woodland ecosystem.


E.T. and Friend


When we last checked in on the E.T. pipe sculpture at Bohl’s in Nebraska City, NE, he was all by himself. Now, he’s been joined by a Tom Servo-looking friend in the Bohl’s front window. I can’t wait to see what new sculptures will join these two in the future! – Mike Brown


Learn all about Mike Brown’s creative thinking and innovation presentations!

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Great to have Woody Bendle back this week with a new creative thinking exercise that, for those of you old enough to remember, will take you back to the 80’s while it also has you pointed toward future ideas! Here’s Woody . . .

 Creative Thinking Exercise – That’s Just the Way It Is

woody-bendle“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones…” – John Maynard Keynes

I love this quote from Keynes.  In its brevity, it articulates two fundamental realities nearly every business faces.

  1. Most organizations typically aren’t lacking for new ideas; and
  2. The processes and procedures that helped to make organizations successful, are often the exact things preventing them from being innovative and finding that next level of new growth.

I have an idea…

Ideas are abundant – they really are. But good ideas worth backing are exceptionally rare.  By good idea, I mean a bona fide idea that can uniquely satisfy an important unmet or underserved consumer need.  And one that has the opportunity to create new consumer value in the marketplace.

Let’s face it, it feels awesome when you’ve come up with a really cool idea!  But, one of the most significant challenges every innovator faces is resisting the temptation to chase a cool idea rather than solving consumer needs.  This is a proven path to almost certain failure that we need not go down; but still so many do.

Innovation is a numbers game – just not in the way that many still think.  When 80%+ of all new products that launch each year fail, I would consider the current state of innovation a fundamentally broken numbers game.  Tossing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall is irresponsible; not to mention an incredible waste of time, effort and money.  There is however a better numbers game and that is generally regarded as the needs-first, or jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation.

By methodically and thoroughly understanding consumer needs and appropriately sizing up the market opportunity, you can flip the numbers from 80% failures to 80%+ successes. I don’t know about you but I like those numbers a whole lot better!

So, once you have identified the need(s) you wish to address, what do you do next?

Anyone got an idea?

Now is the time to come up with ideas.  Even though ideas can be abundant, coming up with well informed and focused ideas isn’t always easy.  Occasionally, you will be lucky and have one of those serendipitous eureka moments; but more times than not, it doesn’t work out this way.  Coming up with good new innovation ideas is hard work – really hard work.  And, thankfully hard work can often be made easier with creative thinking exercises.

One such creative thinking exercise I often like to use is one I call “That’s just the way it is” (cue Bruce Hornsby… now).

That’s Just the Way It Is, is pretty much what you might assume given the name.  This creative thinking exercise starts by identifying things are often regarded as standards, norms or expected protocols.  Many of you might have read (or at least remember the title from) Kriegel and Brandt’s 2008 book Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers” (affiliate link).

The “That’s Just the Way It Is” Creative Thinking Exercise

That’s Just the Way It Is essentially builds upon the notion of challenging existing conventions (and / or sacred cows) as a way to identity opportunities for innovation.

There are five steps to this creative thinking exercise:

  1. Given the need(s) that you are attempting to innovate against, identify things (processes, procedures, designs, constructions, etc.) in your business or category that just are what they are.  These will be those things that are always done a certain way – and That’s Just the Way It Is.
  2. List as many reasons as you can think of for why this is (or might be) the case.
  3. List all of the ways (and reasons) the current state is good for your organization and all of the ways this is good for the consumer.
  4. List all of the ways (and reasons) the current state might be limiting (and potentially even a negative) for your organization and your consumers.  And finally…
  5. Take the thing you identified in step one and “go opposite.”  That is, what might it look like if you did the exact opposite (or reverse) of the thing you’ve identified.

Once you’ve completed steps 1-5 for the first thing came up with, keep going because this is where the real numbers game happens!

At this point in your idea generation phase, the more things you can identify that are Just the Way It Is, the better.  And more times than not, the things you come up with much later in this exercise are often the ones that have the best opportunity to be real game changers.


So what do you think? Is this a creative thinking exercise you can see adding to your creativity tool box?  Let me know!

Now, let’s get innovating!  – Woody Bendle


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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