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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Thanks to a tweet from Richard Dedor, Chris Reaburn and I were last minute attendees at a Kansas City PRSA lunch session by Dan Schawbel based on his book Me 2.0 – Build a Personal Brand to Achieve Career Success.

The talk was part of a career day for students interested in PR, so the average audience age was 20. As a result, the slant of the personal branding ideas Dan Schawbel shared was customized for the industry and audience life stage.

The personal branding ideas he covered were nonetheless applicable to anyone working on heightening their own identities. From talking with many people mid-career professionals in transition, however, they tend to be woefully behind on how personal branding applies to their own career situations.

3 Personal Branding Ideas for Mid-Career Professionals

So for the 25 times 2.0 crowd, here are three personal branding ideas customized for you:

1. Volunteering for meaningful assignments with professional associations is a great mid-career internship.

Dan Schawbel highlights the necessity of internships for college-age job seekers. Mid-career professionals seeking new jobs have similar opportunities. I speak with many people whose current job is “looking for a job.” There’s no sizzle and not much built-in skill development there. Yet associations relevant to you are likely looking for knowledgeable mid-career professionals to take on assignments.

One great thing about a smartly-chosen volunteer project is you typically have room to make it much cooler than anyone in the association ever expected. The result is you get to experiment, learn, and have something with sizzle to lead with when networking.

2. Mid-career, it’s imperative to assess your personality and get on with changing what’s not working.

My advice to people who leave for other companies is always to think about who they want to be in a new job, because it’s the only opportunity to create a “new” you. Dan makes the point it’s tremendously challenging to reinvent yourself in the age of (nearly) total visibility to your online presence.

That’s true, but if you continually trip yourself up through the same behaviors, do the self-help, career coaching, or counseling necessary to eliminate rough spots. Become if not a new, at least a “new formula” you.

3. Mid-career professionals need a solid, actively growing offline and online network.

Dan Schawbel is right when he says a larger network has the potential to work much harder for you. As a mid-career professional, you should be good at determining the highest value people in your network.

While you definitely want to serve and cultivate these relationships very actively, you should also be continually reaching out to expand your network offline and online. Focus on adding people you may be able to help while building the most vibrant, responsive network you can. That’s a far better move than creating the largest network possible filled with people having few real ties to you.

What personal branding ideas do you have to share?

Personal branding is of increasing interest, so look for more personal branding ideas in the future. Let me know how we can deliver value to you as part of the Brainzooming family! – Mike Brown

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Steve Epley visited last week, and we talked about challenges in trying to do for yourself what you do professionally for others. This resonated because of recent work on the Brainzooming™ brand. It’s much easier to figure out another’s great brand value and how to communicate it than doing the same for myself. It’s tough to step back and address your own situation as objectively as you can for someone else.

Are you facing similar challenges? Here are three alternatives:

1. Use what you know works.

Struggling to clarify the Brainzooming brand as a business entity and personally, it struck me that we use a variety of tools with others to help define brand promises and positions. Turning to tools I’ve seen work in so many situations helped push my own thinking and expand the concepts being considered. If you’ve got tools and approaches developed for those you serve, don’t overlook applying them to your own business situation.

2. Ask for help.

I stared at my resume for years, unable to update it. In 2007, I finally sought professional preparation, with great results. Updating it now with all the new experiences and results of the past two years is again challenging. Based on a tip from Jan Harness, whip-smart wordsmith and media maven Emma Alvarez-Gibson is helping convey what Brainzooming represents in words. Never consider it a weakness to get help doing what you know how to do. Instead, it shows the respect for your profession you want others to also have.

3. Be Patient and Wait.

As much I love believing strategic thinking approaches completely get you around time and mental capacity crunches, they won’t in every case. Many issues need to unfold in real time to allow strategic thinking and action. Each passing day, next steps for Brainzooming become clearer and more developed. As much as I’d have loved to figure out some things last year, it simply wasn’t reasonable to do so. Maybe if you can’t work too far ahead on a project, you can at least work on patience instead.

Hope those help in getting around any roadblocks you face employing a DIY approach in your own field. – Mike Brown

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Big shifts are taking place personally. They’re sure to affect the direction and content on Brainzooming™, and it’s appropriate to let you know what’s happening.

For the past five years, I’ve been working a personal branding plan designed to grow my network, increase learning, and build a stronger presentation and writing repertoire. Important activities have included:
  • Speaking and facilitating with groups internationally on developing strategic thinking, innovation, branding, and social media
  • Starting multiple blogs, including one on humor and another on spirituality
  • Introducing Brainzooming as a “personal” brand
  • Employing a social media strategy to grow the brand

It’s been an aggressive effort, and especially recently, I’ve described myself as doing two full-time jobs. The personal branding effort for Brainzooming takes place early mornings, late nights, weekends, and vacation days away from my primary job in a corporate role.

During my career, my day job has allowed incredible opportunities to grow and contribute beyond my original market research position:

Through it all, it’s been amazing to work with incredibly talented and wonderful people. It’s actually quite staggering to contemplate the incredible opportunities I’ve been provided.

This Friday though, after a difficult decision, I’m leaving my corporate position. Despite all the news suggesting it’s a ridiculous time to do it, nearly all indications suggest it’s exactly the right thing to do.

As a result, next Monday my priorities flip: Brainzooming moves to the forefront and pursuing a potential next corporate position becomes secondary.

While I’ve made a point to keep nearly all references to my corporate position out of Brainzooming, its daily learnings and challenges infuse the blog content all the time. With a different routine and new interactions, what gets covered here will change. Together, we’ll find out exactly what that means as the future unfolds.

Welcome to the new phase of Brainzooming, as it grows into a full-time strategic innovation consulting company! The Brainzooming team looks forward to your ideas, business leads, and guidance as the changes take place!

P.S. Especially the business leads! More on that later! – Mike Brown

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