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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The response to my Twitter-based request for guest posts has been incredible, with several cool strategic and creative thinkers writing their perspectives for Brainzooming.

Today’s guest post is from Tim Tyrell-Smith, a 20-year CPG marketer and, during the wee night hours, an author of two blogs. The first, Quixoting™ – A Quest for New Ideas, presents the contents of his idea book and inspires others to take action on their ideas. The second, Spin Strategy™ – Tools for Intelligent Job Search, was the first idea he acted on from his book, covering the strategy and psychology of successful job search and includes a website and a LinkedIn group. You can also follow Tim on Twitter in two places: @Quixoting and @SpinStrategy.

Wow – a full time job, two blogs, Twittering under multiple identities. Sounds familiar, so I’m not sure when Tim has time to daydream, yet I’m really excited he took time to share his perspectives on its creative role with us today:

It can happen when you are supposed to be doing other things. It can happen while you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. For those of us busy thinking almost all day long, daydreaming can be an easy exercise to provide some quiet time upstairs. Think of it as slowing to a jog in the middle of a running race or letting your car’s idle push you along a normally busy freeway.

The power of daydreaming is what it lets your brain do: create – on its own time and in its own quantity.

Ever try creating really hard? You clench your teeth and tightly close your eyes only to find emptiness on the page where the ideas were supposed to show up? We’ve all had creative blocks from time to time, but when the brain stops all together, it’s time for a little R&R.

Sometimes my kids catch me staring off into the window behind them. They say, “Dad? Hello. Are you in there?” For a few blessed seconds, my brain was cycling at its own pace with no pressure to solve, compute, or judge – a rare break from synapses constantly snapping.

So I’m going to suggest something: Our brains have two optimum speeds – really fast and barely moving. I know mine works this way, and it’s important to appreciate the differences.

Really Fast

Really fast feels really good on most days. On the right projects when your heart is lined up with your brain, there’s nothing like it. Yes, your brain can work without your heart, but I don’t think the content is as good. These are the days when your brain is most productive, leaving the table, whiteboard, or computer screen covered with the residue of great production. Think of a great thoroughbred halfway through the Kentucky Derby; like that thoroughbred, your brain is meant to run hard.

Barely Moving

Here I’m not talking about sleep. Sleep is sleep. While evidently very beneficial to maintain sanity, sleep is not my focus, although I’ve had some amazing dreams!

The time I’m referring to is called daydreaming or quiet production. It’s the time when you let the brain do what it wants without cracking a whip against its hindquarters. There is no race this time, only the soft shifting of the brain, side to side. I do this sometimes when I drive and keep the music and cell phone off. The only problem with this example is that you might miss your freeway exit from time to time. Let your mind go for a walk and you’ll see some great sights. It’s how I get what are my best ideas. There and in the shower, of course.

So, whether you plan a good daydream time or have it come upon you without warning, please do me a favor. Enjoy it.

And know that your brain thanks you for a brief moment’s rest. -Tim Tyrell-Smith

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Training budgets get cut in challenging times. Yet it’s critical to continue growing and developing. If training budget dollars aren’t available for traditional training though, what can you do personally? Here are 10 ways to continue expanding your expertise when many others aren’t:

  • Select a topic and develop a presentation you can deliver at conferences. You’ll typically get a reduced rate or free registration as a presenter. Contact conferences you’re interested in attending and pitch your presentation well in advance.
  • Find out if your company has online training. This is a great way to improve your understanding of business basics in-house with minimal investment.
  • Participate in free webinars. One upside of today’s economy is the large number of companies offering free webinars. I’ve participated in several this year and haven’t come across a clunker yet.
  • Take a community college course. Our local college has an unbelievable array of business and professional development courses. They’re affordable, often feature multiple sessions, and scheduled for people who work.
  • Attend local association seminars. In a city of any size, there are likely multiple daily options for professional learning opportunities at breakfasts, lunches, or dinner meetings. These professional training sessions may be sponsored by associations, Chambers of Commerce, or even private businesses. For a nominal personal investment, these types of sessions are a way to learn and network cost effectively without travel.
  • Ask if outside partners will open their training to you. A consultant had its in-house presentation designer do a session for us on constructing a presentation’s logic flow. It was fantastically valuable and something we couldn’t have paid to attend. This could be a value-added opportunity for both: you get education and usually, a more educated client is a better client.
  • Get on Twitter – develop a network involved in your field, participate in chat groups, and network for new ideas. Twitter is the richest, most diverse interaction opportunity I’ve come across. In a short time, it’s exposed me to many smart people around the world eager to share information, perspectives, and links.
  • Share your own expertise. Whether it’s presenting, writing, or answering questions on LinkedIn, you always learn by teaching. Sharing knowledge forces you to be on top of your game, plus trading perspectives with your students exposes you to new learning also.
  • Agree to a sales call. I’m emphatic about not spending time with salespeople when there’s no real opportunity for them. Recently, I’ve started to relax that. After an admonition that a meeting implies no near-term buying intent, I’ve invested time with potential vendors eager to share new techniques. The downside is dealing with follow-on calls.
  • Learn from others through effective networking. With any of the previous ideas where you’re interacting with people, it’s an opportunity to offer value, share expertise, and build a reputation for helping others.

Give any one or a combination of these a try, and you’ll definitely realize some of the most cost-effective learning benefits available.


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