Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 190 – page 190

Here’s an informal strategic thinking chart about who on purpose, by accident, or by default winds up creating social media content in an organization. It’s an obvious over-simplification, but I sketched it out based on a variety of conversations with people responsible in large organizations for fighting internal struggles related to implementing social media content strategy.

While the upper right is ideal – since the content will be the richest and most integrated because people knowledgeable about the brand are creating social media content – organizations can wind up in any other quadrant as well. Agencies can work in producing contentinterns aren’t great choicesLawyers – who don’t so much directly create content as create it by default through saying “yes” or “no” to what can be shared – are an even worse option.

If you’re at someplace large enough to struggle with questions about who will be creating social media content in your organization, does this chart reflect the discussions and trade-offs you’re considering? What’s working to make these discussions in successful in moving toward brand experts creating your organization’s social media content? – 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 or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated social media strategy for your brand.


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I frequently challenge my team to design an in-person customer experience for an event like the best Fourth of July fireworks displays. Why fireworks displays? Because the best fireworks displays and their big bangs tug on emotions, create anticipation, and generate excitement in ways that make them tremendously memorable. And memorability is an important objective for any event-based customer experience, whether it’s a presentation, a conference, or a sponsorship marketing activity.

Since the Fourth of July is around the corner, here are 10 experience design principles you can borrow from the world of fireworks displays to introduce into your events:

  • Based on how long the experience will last, create an event flow which ensures the desired intensity with no unexpected lapses in activity.
  • Anticipate the vantage point from which people will view the event and design it accordingly. Remember, the vantage points could be physical, mental, emotional, etc.
  • Begin with a “big bang” (maybe the third biggest bang of the whole show) to get the audience’s attention right from the start.
  • Don’t plan each successive element of the event to be bigger than the one immediately before. Allow for quieter time after some intra-show highlights. This allows the audience to recover and re-set their expectations of what’s next.
  • Create an irregular pacing so highlights inside the event will further the sense of anticipation and surprise.
  • Design differing elements into the program to create a real sense of variety for the audience.
  • Don’t make it a practice to duplicate creative elements inside a program. If you do, however, mass them in one section of the program to create the biggest impact and minimize a sense of repetition.
  • Use multiple locations to introduce the event’s creative elements. It’s all about keeping the audience guessing what will happen next and from where it will originate.
  • Use other integrated creative variables (music, lighting, sound, etc.) to build emotion and excitement into the program.
  • Save the biggest bang for the event’s finale, with the second biggest bang right before it.

Those are my planning suggestions for creating a big bang for your customers at your next event.

And my suggestion for watching fireworks this Fourth of July? Find the highest place you can (hotel, office building, an airplane) to watch fireworks. It will be a whole new Fourth of July experience if you’ve only watched fireworks displays from the ground before! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”for help on how to be more creative!For an organizational creativity 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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I am definitely not a psychologist, although my wife has suggested I get a degree in psychology. The views behind today’s post on working with sociopaths in business results from dealing with a variety of bad personality types and managing relationships with them in my career. A few of these individuals could only be described as corporate sociopaths. If you happen to be working for one directly, they definitely make horrible bosses.

What are the characteristics of a sociopath in business?

Here’s an official description of what a sociopath is, but from an organizational perspective, the behaviors below suggest how to spot a sociopath in business. To gauge if you’re working with one, ask yourself if the person in question:

  • Superficially compliments an individual then quickly attacks and/or criticizes them in much greater depth?
  • Displays a sense of superiority and talking down to others?
  • Addresses and subsequently changes topics in an apparently random fashion?
  • Displays a micro-focus on topics of intense interest to them which don’t relate to significant (or even real) organizational issues?
  • Repeatedly undermines progress by creating havoc and disruption within the organization?
  • Appears to live in a “fictional world” where their intentions, behaviors, and actions appear to have little relationship to reality?
  • Accuses others of the very detrimental behaviors they display?
  • Is tremendously contradictory in their behavior without any apparent rhyme or reason for their actions?
  • Spreads falsehoods for no obvious reason, including lies which don’t seem to even directly benefit them?
  • Alternates between showing another person intense focus and then completely ignoring them?

Sound maddening? It is when you are dealing with a sociopath in business.

If you see an individual demonstrating a majority of these sociopath traits coupled with a general sense they’re hard to do business with, you are likely dealing with a corporate sociopath (at least by my definition).

What are steps to dealing with a sociopath in business?

One key I’ve found to accomplishing things while working with horrible bosses and other sociopaths in business is to skillfully work around them. If a sociopath thwarts progress, it’s vital to maneuver them away from important initiatives that will move the organization forward. Let sociopaths in business wreak havoc on efforts which won’t make huge differences one way or another.

The following suggestions are premised on you not being able to take formal steps for dealing with a sociopath in your organization. If you can’t act formally, from personal experience (including reporting to at least one corporate sociopath), these 7 steps will help you be more successful in working with sociopaths in business and horrible bosses despite their negative behaviors.

1. Determine the individual’s underlying motivation as best you can.

If you can determine this accurately, it becomes your backdrop for anticipating a sociopath’s potential actions. For example, after a co-worker suggested the ego of a senior leader in our business was his Achilles’ heel, the proper strategy was clear: “blow smoke” to steer his attention whenever he was around. Hint: The motivation is typically going to link to personal attention or affirmation.

2. Don’t believe anything you can’t independently corroborate.

Operate with the understanding you can’t believe anything a corporate sociopath says. Because of this, continually gather information you’ll need to assess what’s going on. Be seen as a confidant within the organization. Ask open-ended questions, listen, and observe what’s actually happening.

3. Minimize one-off conversations and avoid decisions during them.

If you’re working with a corporate sociopath, to the extent you can, use one-on-one conversations to ask questions and engage in harmless small talk which may help you better understand the individual. Avoid using one-on-one conversations as decision making opportunities because you want witnesses for the decisions a corporate sociopath makes. Push decision making to meetings where others are present who can corroborate decisions and direction setting when they’re inevitably changed later.

4. Continually hone your flexibility and scenario planning skills.

When corporate sociopaths try in some unanticipated way to disrupt efforts where you’re making progress, you want to be able to adapt and keep going as readily as possible. It’s critical to do the strategic thinking that allows you to stay several steps ahead at all times.

5. Make smart trade-offs to keep the corporate sociopath placated and occupied.

If your boss is the offender, you can’t play the “avoid” and “small talk” cards all the time. Decipher what’s important and what isn’t to the organization – not to the corporate sociopath. What that insight, placate sociopaths on all minor things you can to ideally buy a little room for quiet defiance on things that really do count. If you’re in a position to do it, pair a lower impact team member with the sociopath to provide attention and crank through the busywork sociopaths create. In exchange, offer strong support and counsel to the person assigned to this role.

6. Carefully identify others who understand there’s a problem person in your midst.

Be on the lookout for others who hint at frustration or exasperation with a corporate sociopath. Probe, without saying or revealing anything self-incriminating, and see where their loyalties are and what perspectives they’ll express. It may be someone you can work with more closely to get things accomplished. Again, be careful it’s someone you can ABSOLUTELY trust.

7. Protect yourself at all times.

Keep yourself above reproach. This makes it more difficult for corporate sociopaths (especially horrible bosses) to try to throw you under the bus. Protect yourself by:

  • Putting your ego to the side. Your objective should be making good progress for the organization. Concentrate on a personal sense of accomplishment because corporate sociopaths aren’t going to make you feel GOOD about YOUR efforts.
  • Consciously trying to get out of the working situation you’re in, if at all possible. This isn’t destined to be rewarding work. Try to minimize how much time you have to deal with this person and ignore them as much as possible.
  • Never depending on a corporate sociopath to do real work. Cover your bases by minimizing any dependencies on them completing tasks. If they do own a task, figure out how to make sure someone else is backing them up.
  • Always thinking, but never saying everything you think, even to those you really trust.

Are you dealing with a sociopath in business?

If you have had to or are currently dealing with horrible bosses or other sociopaths in your organization, what have you experienced in dealing with a sociopath and still trying to do good work? – Mike Brown

If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.

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Managing relationships with bosses throughout your career will be among the most critical personal leadership roles you’ll fulfill professionally. Think about how you’re managing the relationship with your boss:

  • Do you work well together or are there personal challenges between the two of you?
  • Do you learn from each other?
  • Do you drive each other crazy?
  • If you weren’t working together, would you stay in touch professionally over time?

You alone can consciously take the personal leadership steps in strengthening and managing relationships, including those with a boss. The often used phrase for this is “managing upward.” While the phrase describes aspects of managing relationships with bosses, the dynamics are deeper.

From my personal experiences and observations, here are 16  ideas to consider in creating a stronger working relationship with your boss. (BTW, I alternated “he” and “she” as personal pronouns throughout the list.)

16 Ideas for Managing Upward

  • Understand your boss as a teammate and a client because both roles are relevant.
  • Ask and learn how your boss likes to communicate? Deliver communications that work for him, with the “right” amount & type of information.
  • What are the strengths & weaknesses of your boss? Complement both of them in your working relationship.
  • What’s her decision making style? Propose recommendations in ways that fit how she evaluates & decides on things.
  • Hone your skills to anticipate what he needs and see things coming before they actually happen.
  • Demonstrate complete trustworthiness. Display the highest integrity. Don’t break confidences; safeguard the “vault.”
  • Be networked – know who knows things and be able to share relevant information your boss might not be privy to in her relationship circles.
  • Have a great working relationship with your boss’ assistant and the other key people around him.
  • Be a strong negotiator.
  • Ask questions – help her think through issues and get to stronger points of view based on your contributions.
  • Provide ideas and recommendations – not long lists of what’s wrong.
  • Be honest with your fact-based opinions – let him know if (and why) you think something isn’t correct or won’t work.
  • When you challenge, do it with facts and know when you need to give up the challenge.
  • Be prepared to give her what she needs, even if it’s not what she asked for (if she even bothered to ask for it).
  • Go above & beyond when the effort’s needed, without questioning it at that moment. Make sure, however, “most” of your dynamic efforts get noticed.
  • Let your boss know when he does a good job. Everyone appreciates knowing this.

Tomorrow we’ll complete the series on managing relationships by turning attention to the dreaded corporate sociopath and managing relationships with these people who can create so much havoc in organizations. – 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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What can you do through critical personal leadership behaviors and managing relationships to make your workplace better, even when the odds appear stacked against you?

This question was an off-shoot from a recent conversation with a senior, but newly-placed, leader in a major corporation. Shortly after starting a new position, this individual was being routinely thrust into the middle of pre-existing, passive-aggressive political battles which have turned nasty through a shifting power structure.

Yuck. Been there, done that.

The conversation prompted me to think about advice on managing relationships I could offer based on having had to deal with comparable situations in the past. The advice falls into three categories:

The next three days, we’ll tackle these topics about managing relationships.

11 Personal Leadership Ideas

Today’s post includes ideas on things you can do to make sure you’re performing well on critical personal leadership behaviors. Self-assess your performance and work on improving where you’re coming up short:

  • Always act with honesty & integrity. While you’re at it, look around – you’ll be judged by the company you keep. Are you comfortable with what that judgment will be?
  • Recognize the role emotions play in business (it’s bigger than you might think), but place a premium on facts & logic. They’ll win out eventually. Are you a fact-based leader?
  • It’s vital to figure out your purpose & priorities, but you also have to be open to modifying them at some point, too. Do you know and embrace what really matters?
  • Continually challenge yourself to grow and expand by seeking out and listening to varied points of view – even ones you disagree with completely. How varied is the group you reach out to for perspectives?
  • Be distinctive. Give people lots of people lots of good things to remember you by. Is it clear to those in your organization where you’re adding distinctive value?
  • When you meet someone, along with remembering their name and asking them questions about themselves, identify one or two ways you can help them. How many people are on your current “helping them” list?
  • Shut up and listen for a minute – you hardly ever learn while you’re talking. Are you known as a listener?
  • Learn how to communicate your ideas in multiple ways so you can be ready to share them in the forms your audience is willing to hear them. Is your communication repertoire multi-dimensional?
  • Make sure you try lots of things because no one thing will work in every situation. When something doesn’t work, acknowledge it and learn everything you can to get better next time. Do you have lots of possibilities underway?
  • Constructively challenge ideas to find what’s “right,” realizing not everyone has the same definition of “right.” Are you known for a level of tact that allows you to push hard without people even realizing it?
  • Bring intensity to what you do along with passion. And work your butt off. Well?

What personal leadership ideas would you add to the list that you use in managing personal relationships?

Tomorrow, ideas for creating a stronger team with your boss. – 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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In case you think “how to be more creative” ideas aren’t real techniques used by people in more creatively-oriented industries, a recent “Entertainment Weekly” article shows that’s not the case. In an interview-based article called, “Kids at Heart,” directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams talked about their careers, their creative relationship, and the movie “Super 8.” The how-to’s of creativity fascinate me, and I’m always up for listening to practitioners talk about the techniques and perspectives infusing their creative processes. Here are 8 creative lessons from the guys behind “Super 8.”

1. Collaborate with People Stronger than You

It can be intimidating to be paired up with a creative force having more experience or notoriety. But what better way to be more creative? While Abrams says that working with Spielberg leaves him “paralyzed with disbelief” at times, he views Spielberg as his creative “consigliere.”

2. Focus Your Creativity

When developing “War of the Worlds,” Spielberg asked Abrams to craft the movie’s script. Abrams was focused on getting the TV series “Lost” off the ground though, so he passed.

3. Create from Your Distinct Talents and Passions

“Super 8” offered the directors an opportunity to pursue a subject central to both of them since youth: making movies. The film also intertwines their shared interests in science fiction. Creativity from a true passion always seems easier.

4. Creativity from Putting other Pieces Together

To enrich the “Super 8” storyline, Abrams wove in a monster-oriented movie theme he’d already floated to a studio. Since there’s no law against creative piling on, look for other ideas and concepts you can attach to current creative projects.

5. “Applied” Creativity IS Creativity

Sometimes creativity is purely about art. Sometimes it’s more pragmatic – such as getting your way and staying out of trouble. Spielberg’s first movie as a child was of toy trains colliding. The motivation? HIs father had told him if he continued wrecking his trains, he’d get them taken away. With the movie in the can, Spielberg could watch his trains smash together over and over without fear of punishment.

6. Combine Creative Genres

Abrams loves “combining genres.” He described a movie he made during high school as a “comedy-meets-science fiction-meets-love story.” Stretching yourself creatively can mean combining what nobody else is willing or able to combine in pursuit of your creative vision.

7. Go Against Trends

Discussing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg said that up to that point, movie interactions between humans and aliens were antagonistic and confrontational. His objective was to “buck the trend” and depict something different. His starting point was an extraterrestrial being traveling so far to Earth wasn’t going to come here for violence.

8. The Right Creative Moment Matters

What’s creatively appropriate now, might not be later. Spielberg and Abrams talked about the impact of “Close Encounters” being about a man who turns his back on his family to follow the aliens. Not only do they doubt a studio would make a movie with that plot line now, Spielberg himself, after having seven children, admits he wouldn’t write the movie with a father leaving his family.

Great lessons, huh?

And all of them are within reach of any of us figuring out how to be more creative in our daily lives! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more innovative! For an organizational creativity 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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For reasons which I’m still not entirely clear, my wife was watching a recent marathon of the Bravo reality TV program, “Millionaire Matchmaker.” It’s ostensibly a look at a matchmaking business run by Patti Stanger catering only to single, upper income men and women looking for love – or something damn near like it. Since “improve yourself / learn something-oriented” reality TV shows have been a major source of inspiration in developing the Brainzooming method, I’m always a sucker for watching one, too. Lo and behold, The Millionaire Matchmaker marathon yielded multiple solid strategy ideas relevant to strategic business relationships. And that, my friends, is clearly fodder for a Brainzooming blog post. Here are 5 strategic relationship-building lessons that can be valuable for developing million dollar strategic business relationships as well!

1. Figure out your relationship non-negotiables first.

Identify your absolute requirements from a relationship before pursuing it. In one case a guy with a variety of failed relationships was evasive and very vague about what he really wanted in a woman. Patti challenged him to list his 5 relationship non-negotiables. A definitive list helped him do a better job of evaluating and ranking potential candidates as he met them. The same concept works in business, too.

2. Evaluate many more candidates than you’ll ultimately select.

Don’t ever think you’re only looking for one “perfect” match. Patti interviews many more candidates then her clients will ever meet, and she makes them meet MANY potential people before they select one. Build an ample pool of clearly attractive candidates (who meet your non-negotiables list) and let the narrowing process work to get to the best ultimate candidate for a strategic relationship.

3. Ask questions – lots of questions.

It’s important to know what you’re getting into with a potential relationship partner. Patti Stanger both asks lots of questions and puts candidates in situations where they have to ask questions of one another and uncover who they really are. Before diving into finding a strategic relationship partner, ask yourself lots of pertinent questions also. Do the same with every potential candidate. No matter how well you think you already know them. Even better, observe them in situations as close as possible to those you’ll experience during the relationship. It’s all good learning.

4. Look for someone “age” appropriate.

Patti tries to match people on various criteria after interviewing the millionaires and potential dates. She hits especially hard on people whose immaturity shows through via an interest in dating outside their age range. Translating that to strategic business relationships, are you looking for candidates who are equally strong (if not stronger) partners for your organization? Don’t set your sites on partners you can dominate. Seek  out those who will challenge and make you grow as an organization.

5. Don’t force awkward situations early in the relationship.

That initial date can always be a challenge. Patti has a list of what her clients on “The Millionaire Matchmaker” are not supposed to do on first dates (i.e. no dates requiring swimsuits). Her intent is to minimize stress points for everyone involved. It’s a great idea to not push a strategic relationship too far, too fast. Organizations and the individuals active in the strategic relationship need time to get comfortable with one another before a potential crunch time hits. Build that time into the early relationship stages.


Pretty decent strategic relationship lessons from what is admittedly real junk food TV.

Do you watch “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” and if you do, what other lessons (other than “Patti shouldn’t wear such short skirts at her age”) have you learned from 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 brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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