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This week’s guest post is from Joan Koerber-Walker, MBA. Joan is Chairman of both CorePurpose, Inc and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation. She’s become a wonderful new member of the Brainzooming creative team via Twitter where she provides great insights under even more names than I do!

Based on the 140 character start to our interactions, I’m excited to have her share her perspectives today on what we can all learn about innovation from little kids (BTW, the photo of the cute little boy is her son Nicholas who is now 6′ 6″!):

As leaders in the adult world, we are often expected to have all the answers, such as knowing “innovation” is doing something in a new way to make life better. But when it comes to actually being innovative, anyone who has spent time with a two-year old can tell you toddlers are the real masters of innovation.

The reasons are apparent, since two-year olds:

  • Ask “Why?” – It’s the ubiquitous word in any two-year old’s vocabulary. Why do I have to do that? Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I have this? Why do I have to do it this way? Why, Why, Why….
  • Aren’t afraid of messiness – They have yet to learn you’re supposed to color within the lines or get all the food into your mouth. They think building with blocks is exciting and are rarely concerned with following the rules.
  • Find their own answers – Have you ever seen a toddler reading the manual or following instructions to solve a problem? Of course not. Unless they’re prodigies, they can’t read. Instead, they use their brains and figure out how to solve their own problems. And if they can’t do it alone, they don’t see anything wrong with asking for help.
  • Are willing to embrace new ways of doing things – Even though they have done the same thing the same way their whole life, their whole life is two years, not decades. With some coaching and lots of encouragement, they’ll readily learn and adopt new and innovative ways of doing things. And when they do, everyone benefits. Need an example? Think diapers!

So if you’re trying to be more innovative, don’t go to school on how executives in tall business buildings create strategies. Instead, find a preschooler on the floor who’s playing with building blocks and creating fun!

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If you have to create a written report in PowerPoint, here’s a good discipline to enforce on yourself for clarity and flow:

Write the headlines on each page in such a way that if they were the only things read, your audience would get the report’s main messages.

Since many readers will do little more than a quick scan of the document, this approach creates a greater likelihood you’ll get your points across to both skimmers and those who do spend more time with the report.

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After last week’s “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” presentation for the AAFKC “Get Charged Up” Symposium, I was talking with one attendee about the strategic challenge of successfully promoting oneself. Even for people who are great at successfully marketing other people, products, and services, selling yourself can be a daunting task.

In response to her question about strategies for how to approach it, here are three suggestions:

  • Do Some HomeworkInvest time defining a personal category by exploring your distinctive talents and developing a strategy for how you can accentuate them to set yourself apart.
  • Ask a Fan for a Recommendation – I wrote a sincere, very favorable recommendation letter for a long-time business partner recently. His response, “(This guy) seems to be everything I doubt about myself.” Everything in my letter was true, but it was a lot easier for me to say it than it was for him. You may be in the same situation. If you are, reach out to someone who understands your skills and can succinctly package them in a recommendation letter. Ideally, it will provide the basis for words and phrases you can use to promote yourself.
  • Get Professional Help – If you’re struggling with a resume, consider having a professional assist in preparing it. Select someone who puts you through the discipline of answering questions about your responsibilities and justifying the results you delivered. Being forced to think through answers to these types of in-depth questions is of value all by itself. - 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help make your strategic thinking and brand planning more productive!

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Midnight on Friday, Nick Demey from The Board of Innovation direct messaged me on Twitter, asking if I could review two student presentations as part of 24 Hours of Innovation. The assignment had been to advance 3 new automotive concepts based on business models from the music/entertainment business.

One presentation was from a US team, the other from a Belgian team. I’d recommend taking a look at both. Pay particular attention to three lessons on presenting new ideas demonstrated by the Belgian students:

  1. They show their mindmap – great for highlighting the transformative variables and range of ideas considered.
  2. A single slide upfront contained short descriptions of all three concepts – a helpful reference to understand what was coming.
  3. Each business model concept featured both text and visual representations – this provided a deeper sense of the concepts.

We can all learn from these techniques that make a document more likely to receive executive review. Thanks Nick for allowing me to participate in this hour of the 24 Hours of Innovation!


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Here’s a potentially unusual theme for a 2009 half-time innovation pep talk: Let’s go out, boldly innovate, and not talk so much about it!

So what is an innovator to do in the second half of the year?

You can close up shop and wait for better times. Alternatively, you can redouble your business case building efforts and take a run at getting some semblance of the funding you used to secure for formal innovation efforts. Or, you could go underground and create a more modest innovation approach.

Why go underground?

Going low-key can provide several advantages:
  • It potentially lowers expectations and increases maneuverability. You’re asking for less, so there’s potentially less scrutiny. That can mean more freedom to experiment, make mistakes, learn, and still drive results.
  • The parties who decide to participate are likely to be more committed and motivated. There’s a certain amount of risk in joining forces with an underground effort. People won’t typically get in half-way.
  • It forces more ingenuity – you’re going to be cut-off from some potentially fundamental resources. But at least you can understand limitations upfront and spell out a plan for what you won’t have. It may force you to innovate in new areas you wouldn’t have considered before.
  • You may be able to focus more on creating deliverables than having to justify each step in the innovation process. For a challenged management team centered on near-term results, being able to provide a view of an innovation nearer to its potential implementation can be beneficial.
  • You can get an advantage relative to competitors who may be taking a more traditional route to innovation or completely eliminating innovation programs.

An underground innovation strategy won’t work in every business or for every type of innovation program. But if what you’ve been doing is stalled, it’s a valid approach to try to keep innovation efforts moving forward in the second half of 2009.

Thanks to The Board of Innovation for the opportunity to participate in the 24 Hours of Innovation!

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Here’s another installment in Strategic Thinking Snippets – ideas first shared on Twitter and now collected and arranged for Brainzooming. This Strategic Thinking Snippet installment focused on identifying strategic direction and managing through change.

  • A lot of effort gets spent solving wrong problems. Important Safety Tip: Invest the time to figure out the right thing to fix.
  • If you don’t start with questions, it’s really easy to solve the wrong problem. Go ahead…ask questions.
  • Without a strategic foundation, even bad ideas can masquerade as great ones. Don’t skip the strategy step.
  • Being able to recall past patterns is key to strategic thinking, no matter how you’re able to recall them.
  • As important as recall is for strategic thinking, looking at things anew is vital also. Together, they’re transforming.
  • Be careful of “never” & “always” statements. The real frequency is “almost always” between these 2 extremes.
  • Sometimes you need a mini-crisis to drive change. Know how to create one, if necessary.
  • Force yourself to put things you think are really good in new settings. You’ll find many new ways to improve them!
  • Get comfortable with the intriguing twists life takes that you could never anticipate. Simply enjoy them!

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Be sure to check out tomorrow’s Brainzooming post at 7:02 a.m. CDT. It will be part of the 24 Hours of Innovation effort as innovation bloggers from around the world offer “Half Time Pep Talks” for innovation. Click here to learn more about the project and to find out where you can track the posts worldwide.


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