Spare a minute to recall what stood out for you last week, looking for creativity triggers in your recollections. If you’re on Twitter, they make for great fodder to tweet as well.

Here are some things from last week on my creative quickie list:

  • Important relearning of the week? When introducing a new idea, deliberately put yourself in situations that require explaining it. It really helps refine messaging much more quickly.
  • Most interesting strategy question of the week? “In ten words, tell me what creates profit in your business?”
  • Most surprising street sign? This one below. Where, but in Kansas City, is there a 10 hour parking sign?

  • A good deed that’s usually appreciated: Invite an introvert to go with you to a networking function. (Or to paraphrase @trmndsblndtte: Help de-flower an introvert!) If you’re an introvert and someone asks you to an event, accept the invitation!
  • Greatest inspirational messages while walking down the street? These from the school at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

  • Most innovative job title of someone I met? “Chief Creatologist”
  • Most reassuring development? Encouragement from so many great people. Now to figure out how to engineer it happening every week! – Mike Brown

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I’m a huge fan of NOT starting from scratch. If there’s a remnant of a leftover idea, approach, or possibility sitting around, I always want to begin innovating there and get that much of a head start toward a final goal by incorporating what I’ve done before.

Earlier this year, long-time friend Vince Koehler stopped by while in town. Vince shared his approach on collateral updates: he requires his staff to throw out all the copy on a brochure that’s being redone and start over with a creative fresh start.

The reason? Doing so forces strategic thinking and a fresh creative view of the program that’s being marketed. There’s the potential for tremendous innovation value since this is another way of forcing a different look at a familiar topic.

If you’ve got a project that looks and feels like a re-do but needs some new creativity, why not give this strategy a try? Toss out everything that’s gone before, and it will feel just like starting over. – Mike Brown

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Keith Prather and I attended the October 21, 2009 Central Exchange CEO Series luncheon featuring Beryl Raff, Chairman and CEO of Helzberg Diamonds.

It was an interesting talk, especially when she went off script, discussing challenges in her career, how she developed a specialty in turnarounds, and the first meeting with her new “boss,” Warren Buffett.

The first audience question was about what type of atmosphere she feels fosters innovation. Her answer was one where the status quo is challenged all the time and people “talk about ideas.”

There’s your creative quickie: see how often you’re challenging the status quo today (vs. settling for what’s okay or routine) and notice amid the time pressures of business, if you’re avoiding “talking” about ideas.

Don’t rush to “just do something.” Invest time in strategic thinking and challenge your world as it exists today. – Mike Brown

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I’ve extolled the benefits of surrounding yourself with both left brain and right brain people to complement what you lack in expertise and perspective. It’s incredible to tap innovative people across the entire spectrum of points of view on strategic situations you’re facing.

Last Friday at my going away party, another upside of a network of great diverse thinkers surfaced: it makes for a better party!

Shortly after the announced start time, someone remarked about the “surprising” number of attendees from finance and accounting backgrounds. Looking around, nearly the entire crowd would be considered naturally left brained thinkers (i.e., quantitative, precise, punctual).

A little while later, more of the right brain people (i.e., intuitive, holistic, random) began to arrive. By the time the event was well underway, it became a whole brain party, spawning interesting combinations of diverse people interacting with one another throughout the evening.

And since some of my creative friends drove the party planning, there were 3 innovation exercises along with post-its and Sharpies for guests to ideate on what Brainzooming could become!

Because of the whole brain network of great people in attendance, we had a crowd early on, lively interactions and ideas throughout, enough people staying late to extend the party, and a final small group of both left and right brainers having a passionate (and by “passionate,” I mean “interesting but slightly uncomfortable”) conversation about my future prospects. Truly, the type of whole brain night I love! – Mike Brown

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Many (okay, let’s be real, nearly all) corporate visions, missions, values, BHAGs (you name it), sound alike. They either extol bland concepts (i.e., “our associates will be the best”) or meaningless ideas (i.e., “our human intellectual capital will leverage world-class synergies”).

If you have boring or confusing strategic statements in your business, here’s an approach to correct it: ask the questions below to help simplify and enrich the language in your strategic statements:

  • How would customers describe what we’re talking about in ways very meaningful to them?
  • If we were telling somebody who knows nothing about our business about why this idea is important to the company’s success, what would we say?
  • How would we communicate this in a way that really inspires our employees to greatness? How about potential employees?
  • What are more emotional words to describe this statement?
  • How will we talk about it when we’ve accomplished this goal?
  • How would one of our mothers proudly tell a relative about what we’re trying to do?
  • If we had to explain this to children, what would we say so they could understand it and be able to act?

Give these questions a try with your management team or on your own. Take the words and phrases you imagine and start turning strategic corporate speak into language that moves the hearts, minds, and actions of everyone in your company! – Mike Brown

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A Reflection

Published on October 30, 2009 by in Brainzenning, Brainzooming - All Posts, Career, Video


We never know how long important personal and business relationships will endure. That necessitates using every daily opportunity to help those around you grow and to learn from them as well. A post last year when a friend was leaving our company included questions to see if you’re really giving enough of yourself to important people in your life. The questions warrant repeating:
  • Can you see your positive influence on these people?
  • Have you helped prepare them to pass on to others the lessons you’ve shared?
  • Do these people know how much they mean to you?
  • If you had one extra day to spend with one of these important people, would you do the same things to help them you’d do any other day?
  • Are you ready to let them go so they can grow and develop even more?

If you answer yes to all of these, you’ve truly given of yourself in helping someone grow and develop.

Entering a new career phase, I want to thank all those people who should be answering “Yes” to these questions in light of what they’ve given to me. They know who they are, and if you look back through the first two years of posts on Brainzooming you will too!

And as suggested by Chris Reaburn, here’s a time lapse Brainzenning video of the denuding of the orange in my office.

What’s Next? I’ll be in Chicago Monday, leading a roundtable on Business Innovation Roadblocks at the Frost & Sullivan Marketing World 2009 Conference and having a Brainzooming tweetup / happy hour get together on Monday (11/2). – Mike Brown

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Cleaning offices isn’t a distinctive talent for me; it’s a chore from beginning to end. Yet, as you learned this week, it’s necessary right now.

Among my files was a notebook from a Statistical Process Control training class my first weeks on the job. Inside the notebook was a section on conducting brainstorming along with handwritten notes from the class.

I don’t remember learning brainstorming in grad school, and we didn’t have training at my first job, so this had to be my first formal exposure to brainstorming. There in the notes are the familiar admonitions I use all the time: listen intently to all participants, capture what they’re saying in the words they use, encourage and reinforce all comments, don’t judge prematurely. Everything’s there for getting innovation started.

While the class (and some of the great people I met there) is as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday, this specific topic isn’t even a vague memory. Back then, it was something my boss was making me go to. In retrospect, it was life altering day.

The moral – you never know.

You never know which days will change your life. So never write off any day as a throw-away. Go into each one with a sense of wonder. Look for who you may meet or what you might learn that will fundamentally shape the rest of what you’ll ever do. – Mike Brown

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