Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 190 – page 190

Several readers have shared challenges with surviving and thriving in a corporate career this year. A recent conversation began with a direct message on Twitter asking how I’d survived in corporate world for so long.

The Corporate World Is a Game

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My advice was that a corporate career is like a multi-player, OFFline game. When you’re able to detach enough to view the corporate world as a game, your challenge becomes aligning with the right players, trying to stop as many bad guys as you can, and scoring as many points as possible for the organization and its customers.

The most important advice, though, is to do all that without losing yourself in the game. You need to be able to walk in the door each morning and leave each night as the same person you’ve always been. Over time, as you advance levels, you’ll start to see many of the same behaviors repeated, which is when things really get fun: you can use the repetitiveness to know where to take short cuts, increase your level of experimentation, and deliver stronger results.

Another thing to remember in a corporation is that anytime you throw that many people together, you’re going to have big pockets of really smart, cool people to work with and learn from – along with a healthy dose of co-workers who are incompetent, mean-spirited, checked out, and/or just in it for themselves. While the bad people are clearly a drag, there are ways to minimize their negative impacts as well.

Don’t Think Your Corporation Is Unique

As the conversation continued, I assured the reader his situation wasn’t unique. In fact, for nearly every issue he raised with corporate life, I recalled Brainzooming blog posts with advice and ideas on how to deal with it successfully. Going back through the Brainzooming blog, there were more than 40 posts addressing personal leadership, not losing your personal guiding principles, working successfully with others, confronting a negative environment, and actively managing your career success in a corporate environment.

There were so many articles on surviving and thriving in a corporate career, in fact, look for an eBook on the topic from Brainzooming in 2012.

In the meantime, do you have questions you want answered about thriving and surviving in a corporate career? – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help in better using creative thinking exercises! For an organizational boost toward Taking the NO Out of Innovation, 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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I love questions to help you both expand innovative possibilities and prioritize ideas, and today’s Blogapalooza offers five questions fitting that description. This is second Blogapalooza post from Chris Gregory, vice president of marketing for a high-growth transportation engineering products company here in Kansas City.  Chris is sharing the five questions he uses to gauge whether an innovative idea is really what it purports to be:

Is Everything Really Innovative these Days?

Every couple of years a new catch phrase rises to prominence in the management lexicon. Today the word is “innovation.” As touted as innovation is as an asset, it introduces a challenge: how do you know it when you see it?

Because innovation is the buzzword, it permeates management’s direction to its teams and companies. “Be innovative!” New product launches now require a press release with the word “innovative” in the headline.

  • What are customers looking for? Innovative products.
  • How will we sell more? Innovative products and innovative marketing.
  • How will we solve internal challenges? Innovative processes and culture.
  • How will we build our brand? Innovative communications and service.
  • How will we staff our teams? Innovative recruiting and structures.
  • How will we beat the competition? Be more innovative.
  • How will we attract outside investment? Be known for innovation.

So if innovation is so critical to…everything…then how does one know when an idea is a valuable innovation? An idea labeled new, creative, progressive, insightful, clever, or even inventive may not be innovative. To reach that distinction, an idea is all those things and more.

5 Questions to Test for Innovation Potential

I scrutinize ideas using these five questions to determine their degree of valuable innovation:

1. Is it viable?

Sounds like a simple question. Unfortunately, most would-be innovators fail to analyze all the angles of their new idea. Focusing on the positives of an idea often overshadows the inherent challenges. For an idea to reach reality, it must have powerful benefits and nearly no downside. A new process that will quadruple productivity at only twice the cost has little chance of adoption. If you can double productivity at the same cost, then you really have something.

2. Does it meet a market’s need or want to an extent they never dreamed possible?

Good products can meet market needs. However, innovative products do it in such a way or to such an extent no one thought was possible. Because it took so long to get a message from one US coast to the other, the Pony Express was established. It was a faster version of the existing method for delivering mail. However, the telegraph solved the same problem in both a profoundly new way and to a far greater extent.

3. Is there a definable group that needs your innovation?

A better mousetrap is only useful to people who have rodent problems, can afford to solve them and are dissatisfied (whether they know it or not) with their current extermination method. Ask yourself if there are people who will jump at your new idea as soon they know it exists. Can you identify and find them? How will they become aware of your innovation?

4. If your innovation is a product, are your marketing and sales people excited about it?

An innovative product is so clearly valuable that your go-to-market teams cannot wait to get their hands on it. They see the opportunity to sell more and help their customers.

5. Are you changing the game?

Such a cliché, but a useful question. Does your innovation so fundamentally and obviously improve on or replace the previously available alternative that in a short amount of time no one will want the alternative?

How innovative is your idea?

If you answered yes to each of these questions, be assured your idea is innovative. If you answered yes to more than half, you have something valuable. If you said yes to three or fewer, your idea needs some work before deeming it to be an innovation. It may be a great idea, just not yet innovative. Chris Gregory

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Twitter Notes

Sometimes things are done simply because you simply declared them done.

With all due respect to all of us, most of the time, we have no clue what’s going to happen in the future. If hindsight is 20/20, foresight must be about 20/500.

I talked with a blog reader who asked where I came from. I said, “Well my mommy & daddy loved each other very much…” Apparently, that was too far back.

TV Quotes

“A great artist is willing to fail flamboyantly.” – Jerry Saltz, “Work of Art”

“They say you have to spend money to make money. I don’t know where we went wrong. We spent all of our money.” – Tom Haverford, “Parks and Recreation”

“I might read more if they put fire behind the words.” – Beavis

“As humans we want to categorize and organize things in our head, and it’s kind of hard to pin this piece down.” Bill Powers, “Work of Art”

Plus Some Creativity Quotes to Check Out!

Previous guest writer and creativity cheerleader Tanner Christensen is launching a set of iPhone lock screen wallpapers today featuring creativity quotes from some of the greatest minds in history on Tanner sent me a preview look Sunday night, and if you’re an iPhone user, I think you’ll enjoy them. I particularly like the Jack London quote. Can you guess why? – Mike Brown 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!


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I’ve written a variety of blog posts with blogging topic ideas with things to blog about when you’re out of ideas. When I see someone on Twitter expressing frustration with a writers’ block on their blog, I enjoy reaching out and sharing links with blogging topic ideas to get their creativity going again. Rather than continuing to cram multiple links in a single tweet about writers’ block, it seemed time to compile a big list of blogging topic ideas, especially for business bloggers.

If you’re stuck thinking about what blogging topics you can write about when you’re out of ideas, take a look through these ideas. I attempted to make these blogging topic ideas general enough they would have wide applicability, irrespective of your industry or business blogging focus.

This list is a start. Expect it to grow over time, hopefully with your ideas!  – Mike Brown

Use the Crowd

1. Announce a meet-up for local social media friends where people can trade topic ideas.

2. Answer questions your customers or readers have asked you.

3. Ask a question of your readers to see what they think.

4. Ask readers what they’d like to read about (without any prompting on topics).

5. Ask the next 5 people you meet to answer the same question and write their responses in a blog post.

6. Ask your spouse or significant other what you could write about.

7. Contact a couple of readers, ask them a question, and report their perspectives.

8. Interview a customer about what their concerns and challenges are.

9. Look for blog titles on Twitter and then write your own version of a post to go with the title.

10. Solicit guest blog posts from readers.

11. Solicit guest blog posts from business partners.

12. Run an online survey for readers and report the results.

13. Throw out a question on Facebook or Google+ and let the responses shape a blog post.

14. Publish a list of potential topics for the next month and let readers decide what they’d like to read.

Share What You Know

15. Interview yourself on a topic.

16. Recap a past event.

17. Recap the results of a research report someone else published.

18. Report on a conference you attended.

19. Reveal background information on something you do to make your organization successful.

20. Share really cool work you or someone in your organization has done.

21. Share the results of some research your organization has done.

22. Summarize what you know about a topic.

23. Write about things that you know that others might not realize.

24. Write about what you do in your business to serve customers.

Teach Others

25. Expand your thinking on a previously published blog post to make it more teaching-oriented.

26. Take a new angle on a topic you’ve written about already.

27. Teach a new technique or tip you’ve been using.

28. Write about something you learned in the last week that you can share with readers.

29. Demonstrate a process your company uses that could be valuable to your audience.

30. Answer frequently asked questions that require demonstrations.

31. Feature experts in your business sharing their knowledge.

Create Lists

32. List what is more thrilling (or easy or exciting) for you right now than writing a blog.

33. Make a long list of ideas your readers could use.

34. Make a short list of steps readers can take to accomplish something.

35. Write anything that allows you to put a number in the title.

36. Add some additional items to a list you’ve already published.

37. List the types of customer problems you routinely solve.

38. List questions you’re getting in customer service.

39. Ask readers a question and report the answers in a list.

40. List the steps in a process readers could handle for themselves.

Share Opinions

41. Write what you think about a topic or a news story.

42. Disagree with a well-known blogger or social media celebrity.

43. Grab a relevant book off your bookshelf, open to a page, and write a response to one of the ideas.

44. Predict what you think will happen in the future.

45. React to opinions your business competitor or an industry figure is talking about.

46. Review a book or magazine article you’ve read recently.

47. Review a fantastic product or service you use in your organization.

48. Review something people are thinking about in your marketplace.

49. Share a half-baked idea to see if your readers can finish baking it for you.

50. Write a blog post that’s only 80% of the way done and allow readers to take a shot at finishing it.

51. Write about something completely obvious as if you’re the first person to ever think of it.

52. Write about something completely obvious in a way you haven’t written before.

53. Write about something you think will interest readers more than what you’ve been writing about recently.

Make It More Personal

54. Complain about a recent customer experience you’ve had.

55. Have your kid write or draw something.

56. Recount the story of a family pet who died.

57. Share an anecdote that happened in your organization.

58. Share random thoughts you’ve been trying to turn into complete blog posts.

59. Share your experiences with struggling to come up with ideas for blogging.

60. Talk about something you’re not good at doing.

61. Thank one of your customers who has been loyal to your business.

62. Use the first idea that comes into your mind and tie it to what your blog is about.

63. Write about the most interesting thing that happened to you today, yesterday, or this week.

64. Write about the story behind writing the most popular post you’ve ever written.

65. Write about what inspires you.

66. Write about what you do in your spare time that’s relevant and interesting.

67. Write about what you would have written about in an earlier period of your life – when you were in school, early career, etc.

68. Write something dramatically more or less outrageous than what you typically write.

69. Write something that allows you to name drop social media people who will share the post within their networks.

70. Write whatever is on your mind now and don’t self-censor it.

Repurpose Content

71. Combine smaller posts you’ve already written into a longer one.

72. Expand a comment you wrote on another blog into a full blog post.

73. Group a bunch of tweets you’ve made into a list or other blog post.

74. Organize (in new ways) relevant information that’s already been published.

75. Publish a list of links from your blog that make it easier to find everything on a particular topic.

76. Publish a presentation you’ve made on Slideshare and embed it in a blog post.

77. Re-edit and freshen something you’ve already written with new content.

78. Re-run the most popular post you’ve ever done.

79. Share an intriguing video that’s already done (by you or others) with a few comments to give your thoughts about it.

80. Start tweeting small thoughts and turn whatever comes out into a blog post.

81. Write up the points you cover in a slide from one of your Powerpoint presentations.

82. Embed a funny or on-target cartoon.

Use Video or Images

83. Have someone video you doing a brief commentary.

84. Video a demonstration relevant to your audience.

85. Video an interview with a work colleague or business partner.

86. Ask the next 5 people you meet to answer the same question on video and edit the responses into a video post.

87. Use all photos and very few words.

88. Feature photos of your organization members doing interesting things (btw, people standing in line posing for a picture isn’t interesting.)

89. Video a customer talking about their business.

90. Have two customers interview each other.

91. Video a day in the life of your customer service organization.

92. Shoot a short video sharing some real reasons why someone should Like your page you on Facebook.

Starting Over

93. Throw out every idea you have and start all over with new topics.

What topics would you add to the list?


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I was fortunate to have a corporate job where I could bring all the analytical, creative, research nerdy, music-loving, reflective, and outgoing parts of me into my work duties doing strategic planning and marketing communications. Being able to extinguish the work/personal life boundary so many people have to maintain was fantastic. There were very strong lines, however, between my corporate job and all the blogging and speaking already going on as Brainzooming, even though the two separate activities fed each other in a healthy way.

For as much as I’ve tried to have even fewer boundaries since leaving my corporate job, however, I’m surprisingly discovering renewed appreciation for the importance of boundaries.

Photo by: soundboy | Source:

Good Fences Make Good Creativity

Working from a home office much of the time, there are now almost no boundaries between The Brainzooming Group and the rest of my life. Pretty much everything revolves around the business, which now includes both strategy and innovation work for clients and all the blogging and speaking that used to be what Brainzooming solely represented.

Interestingly enough, that’s now a challenge.

The few boundaries I did have between work and Brainzooming (which was more of a creative writing outlet) previously made both better. Now, the lack of boundaries between work and writing is having detrimental impacts, especially on blog writing. Blogging time used to be Friday night into the early hours of Saturday morning, then it was over for the week. It was hardly ever an issue to get five (and for a long time, ten) blog posts done during this time window because I knew there would be no blog writing opportunities during the workweek.

Now, blogging can happen any time, and it’s constantly a mental struggle between time spent blogging and responsibilities for client project work, business development, and all the other things for running a business.

Not only has this boundary-less work and creative situation made it more difficult to invest time in writing, the geography and tools of work and blog writing are now blurred in a negative way. The office environment that used to be new and fresh for Friday night blogging is the same place I’ve been working since 5:15 a.m. It’s made writing difficult for the first time in a VERY long time.

No particular answers yet, other than a new respect for healthy, creativity-inducing boundaries and a commitment to figure out how to re-establish some helpful boundaries.

Finding New Places for Good Creativity

Have you dealt with a similar creative challenge in the absence of positive creative boundaries around your work? What changes have you made to address it? – Mike Brown

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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Every time I present, I ask the audience to complete a Plus-Minus-Interesting-Recommendation (PMIR) sheet. This great technique provides incredible feedback on what each audience finds valuable or would like changed in the strategy and innovation training presentations I conduct.

When reviewing PMIR sheets after a presentation, I always start with the “minus” comments to see what the audience thought should be changed. Invariably the most frequent comments are about the desire to spend more time on the topic. For that, I’m deeply appreciative.

The Challenge with Case Studies in Presentations

Another frequent minus is the request for more case studies. I typically don’t do many case studies in presentations for three reasons.

  • The first is you never know how truthful a case study reported in the press really is. Having led marketing communications in a Fortune 500 company and worked with prominent media publications, it was clear a published case study is often, if not highly fictionalized, at least an incredibly sanitized version of what actually took place. Far be it from me to muddy the waters further by adding a third-hand interpretation.
  • The second reason is I consider the work The Brainzooming Group performs for clients to be proprietary, so I’d only be willing to talk about it in generalized terms. Many people don’t even perceive that as a case study. (The ability to talk about the Google Fiber effort and share the deliverable, in fact, was one of the reasons we got involved in the Gigabit City project.)
  • The third reason is while people like to hear case studies, the way most are presented seems to be of little value. They’re typically a recitation of industry or company-specific steps that often have little applicability to anyone, other than a direct competitor.

Making Case Studies More Valuable

When talking about potential case studies, however, I approach case studies differently:

  • Generalize the business situation in the case study to represent a model that can be applied in many business situations. This cuts out a lot of the detail that narrows the applicability of a typical case study.
  • Figure out what steps would allow the outcome in the case study to be repeated – if it’s a desirable outcome (or avoided if it isn’t a great result). I look for questions or tactics critical to someone else trying to repeat the outcome in their own business situation.
  • Highlight the potential lessons learned from the model that others would want to replicate or avoid, as appropriate.

This strategic approach makes a case study much more valuable than simply reporting what somebody else said in a magazine. My approach is oriented toward lessons you can readily pick up and consider applying.

What Makes Case Studies Work for You?

Having said that, however, I am exploring ways to do more case study-oriented content in my training presentations. If the audience is looking for it, then it’s definitely worth adapting my strategy.

If you have ideas about what makes a case study valuable for you, please share it. I’d love to incorporate the thinking of Brainzooming readers to add more value to presentations and to the blog!  – Mike Brown


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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The Brainzooming Group is a big proponent of soliciting diverse input from as big a group as possible. Maybe that’s how you define crowdsourcing or maybe not, but we consistently find diverse input – smartly managed – creates much stronger strategic thinking, creativity, and performance.

What “smartly managed” is can be challenging, however, when crowdsourcing diverse input. It is common to see an online campaign or contest where crowdsourced input is solicited without much, if any, direction or guidance about what’s requested.

Challenges in Crowdsourcing Diverse Input

Here are three challenges in corwdsourcing diverse input we have come across where “smartly managed” is an issue:

  • Inside a global, action-oriented movement where crowdsourced input is an important element in the credibility and robustness of the program, an internal planning team was pushing to ask the crowd to share essay-based answers to a very open-ended, speculative question. Since answers can take any form, before too much input is received, processing the content could become a nightmare.
  • A nonprofit held an online contest involving self-nomination and voting from the crowd with essentially no restrictions. The prize was for the winner to perform a very public function for the nonprofit. The ultimate winner, however, performed the function in a way the organization was not expecting, causing issues that, at that point, were challenging to manage.
  • A client did not pursue a great idea for identifying new social media content creators from their crowd because they could not get over the perceived risk of not knowing what type of persons the crowd would choose as the winning content creators.

It could be my market research background, but to me, there is no reason to ask for questions or participation in a way that does not allow you to be effective with the crowdsourced input. Far better to introduce some guidelines or other provisions to allow both the crowd and their input to perform very well.

3 Ways to Make Crowdsourcing Work Harder

In these crowdsourced cases, and ones you might be considering, here are three ways to make crowdsourcing work harder:

1. Be specific when being specific helps everyone (including the crowd) perform better

It is difficult for people to speculate about things in ways they don’t ever consider. When we created the online survey for the Google Fiber in Kansas City effort, we included an open-ended, “tell us anything you want in the future” question. But most of the survey consisted of targeted questions on current challenges and needs. People think about these, even if they have no idea what Google Fiber in Kansas City and gigabit Internet speeds will be like. We received diverse input that was easier for the crowd to offer and much more manageable to process and use.

2. Crowdsourced does not have to mean there no parameters for participating

In the nonprofit’s case, the challenge came from the nomination, voting, and ultimate winner performing the winning role all without having very reasonable protections in place. Instead of the nominating process visible in real-time, nominations could have been subject to an approval step from the nonprofit before being displayed for voting. Instead of letting the winner perform a function the organization typically would have staff do, they could have let the winner make decisions about pre-selected choices. Either step would have helped deliver a better result with fewer issues to manage after it was too late.

3. Vet first then let the crowd vote

For the client who passed on the crowdsourced content creator idea, we recommended creating a “job” description against which the company would vet nominees for competence. By reviewing the initial nominations and narrowing the field to a short list of candidates, the crowd would only vote on potential content creators who were crowdsourced but also screened to make sure they could create strong social media content. For our client, limited time killed the idea. They needed to hit a seasonal window and the two-step approach, while meeting their concerns, would take too long for them.

Help your crowd be successful and satisfied with providing input

The crowd may well be smarter than the organization in coming up with new ideas and imagining previously unconsidered possibilities. If that is the case, it is in an organization’s best interests to reach out and crowdsource thinking. But the organization should be smarter than the crowd in how to internally manage, shape, and use the input. If that’s not the case, maybe there are a whole bunch of jobs the organization should consider crowdsourcing! – Mike Brown

How can ultra high-speed Internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed Internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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