Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 191 – page 191

Here’s the latest Blogapalooza post, this one on two individuals known for innovation in life and, in one case, an unusual recognition for innovation after his death. The author of today’s post is Aaron Patch, a Project Manager for a national sales and marketing firm specializing in entrepreneurial education. Aaron has a background in e-commerce and internet marketing. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing Communications. You can contact Aaron at

Innovation in Life and Death

Over the past weeks, cancer claimed the lives of two great innovators. Although one man’s innovations are much more widely known, the other man’s innovations may affect far more people. Steve Jobs and his Apple Incorporated are ubiquitous with technology innovation.  The other innovator, Dr. Ralph M. Steinman made lasting contributions to the way we understand the human immune system. While Jobs personalized technology, Steinman’s research may be the basis for curing cancer, AIDS and countless other illnesses.

Dr. Ralph Steinman

After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Ralph Steinman began his career in 1968. His reputation as a leading researcher in the fledgling field of immunology grew rapidly, and in 1973, Steinman made his breakthrough discovery of a previously unknown class of cells. Discovery of the dendritic cell became the fundamental innovation required for understanding how the human immune system reacts to infection in the body. Nearly forty years after the discovery, his body ravaged by a disease he spent his career to fight, Steinman continued to provide breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer. Dr. Ralph Steinman died Friday, September 30, 2011. Just three days later, he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his initial discovery.

A long-time colleague of Steinman, Dr. Louis Weiner said of his work:

“Because he was looking down the barrel of his own gun in a sense, he shared the cancer patient’s sense of urgency that we identify new and effective treatments. He didn’t want to be held hostage to failed concepts, to petty obstacles that interfere with the development of effective therapies. He wanted to see effective treatments made available to people so that they could be helped.”

Steve Jobs

Much like Dr. Ralph Steinman, Steve Jobs became an innovator early in his career. In the 1970s, Jobs and a small group of friends founded Apple. Jobs presided over countless innovations in personal computing, starting with the Apple II computer. In the early 1980s, Jobs pioneered the use of a mouse and graphic interface in computing. Although absent from Apple between 1985 and 1997, Jobs continued to innovate with the creation of a computer operating system and forays into computer animation. Upon his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs transformed the company, changing its focus toward personalized technology. Many successful products later, Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple in August 2011. Steve Jobs died Wednesday, October 5, 2011.

In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs addressed death and innovation:

“No one wants to die…And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Death as a Change Agent

Perhaps death is the change agent that Steve Jobs described. The loss of these innovators may spur others to take chances and challenge conventional wisdom in the pursuit of their own novel discoveries. Throughout their lives, Jobs and Steinman fostered a culture of innovation that may exceed their own personal accomplishment. Apple will continue to produce innovative technology, and researchers in the field of immunology will cure many diseases. Although both men are gone, their legacies live on, and will serve as the foundations for future innovation. – Aaron Patch

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Photo by: zettberlin | Source:

The past year seems to have yielded various waves of content celebrating making mistakes. Advancing the “failure at the heart of innovation” theme seems to have become a cause célèbre for the creativity and innovation set. Celebrating mistakes as part of innovation was the topic of a July Innochat on Twitter on innovation failure and, most recently, a Wall Street Journal article on “Better Ideas through Failure.”

I grew up with a clear perfectionist streak (or whatever term you would use to suggest whatever is deeper, wide, and more permanent than a “streak”), I wrestle with a gleeful attitude toward failure.

Yet between Kathryn Schulz’s TED talk “On Being Wrong” and recognition of my own experiences where learning from something that did not succeed as planned has led to much better future results, openness to errors clearly has its place in creativity and innovation.

However, I think celebrating mistakes in and of themselves is an easy banner for behaviors that don’t come easily to many people or many organizations, for that matter. It’s not so much organizations are celebrating failure as the willingness to move forward on efforts before everything is figured out and an appreciation for learning when something doesn’t go right.

Being Bad at Making Mistakes

What really needs to happen in an organization to benefit from an apparent willingness to celebrate and reward failure?

Instead of listing behaviors for celebrating mistakes (which I started to do but failed to complete), it’s much easier to list mistakes individuals and organizations make at making mistakes. Thinking through the personal perfectionist demons I’ve had to try (and still try) to slay, here are eight mistakes that can shut you off from productive failure:

  • Being afraid of fear
  • Not being able to manage or tolerate ample levels of risk
  • Becoming easily embarrassed – either personally or organizationally
  • Failing to properly frame and learn from experiments
  • Being uncomfortable with unanswered questions
  • Doing a bad job of making assumptions which allow you to keep making progress
  • Focusing too strongly on too much detail
  • Not being able to fix things as you go

Getting Good at Making Mistakes

If you can get past these eight, you’ll be a lot better at making mistakes that pay off in the future. What about you – what other mistakes at making mistakes have you encountered – in either yourself or others?  – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you get a lot more comfortable with everything not going right, yet still being innovative! For an organizational 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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The outpouring at Steve Jobs’ passing and the discussion about how one person can “change the world” create a relatively rare situation to consider some vital questions in a very real, very public context.

Steve-Jobs-AdoptionMy Twitter (and sometimes phone call) buddy, Emma Alvarez Gibson posted this image on her Facebook wall last week. It was right on the heels of me re-watching the Steve Jobs Stanford commencement address. In the video, Jobs discussed being born out of wedlock to a graduate student in 1955. The setup in this challenging graphic is intriguing, yet it is clearly out-of-step with the decisions his mother would now face.

Today, there would be a clear decision point for his mother to make before, “BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK.”

Today, Steve Jobs’ birth mother would have a critical decision on whether her baby would be born.

Of course, she would have to make this choice without knowing about Apple, the iPod, the iPad, Pixar, and all the other sparks of creative genius that prompt so many people to say this one person, Steve Jobs, changed the world.


Suppose she would have had that choice back in 1955. What would she have decided about the unknown future of this child without any idea of what he would accomplish?

In the Stanford address, Jobs discussed how connections only become apparent after the fact and how things that happened to him didn’t fully realize their impact until much later. That’s no surprise. We can’t see life-changing connections beforehand. Yet, our society has chosen to present individuals with the opportunity to make life and death decisions where there is no choice but to presume what incredible connections will or won’t happen in the course of another individual’s entire lifetime.

What was Steve Jobs’ birth mother considering in 1955? Was she thinking about the possibilities this child might realize for society one day?

Maybe she was, but she could not have known for sure.


Steve-Jobs-Adoption-QuoteSteve Jobs’ birth mother’s decided to give her baby up for adoption with a hoped-for assurance he would receive a college degree courtesy of college-educated parents. While her expectation was not ultimately fulfilled, look at what this then unknown child contributed to the world.

Today, his mother would face a decision (plus encouragement for the decision’s outcome) she would not have faced in 1955.

But the one thing common to 1955 and today is there are no tests to tell us what a baby will grow up to accomplish. There is no test to tell us how this one child will change the world.

Yet considering the million-plus decisions made in the US annually which presume a child will have a greater negative than positive impact on the world, we have to ask:

  • How many children who would have changed the world as much or even more than Steve Jobs have been denied the opportunity to live out their destinies?
  • And how are we, as a society, worse off for not having had them in our midst?

Just as with the earlier questions, there are no known answers to these two last questions. But we do know that “none” and “we’re not worse off” are not correct answers. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helped shape an intriguing project featuring two graduate level marketing communications classes at the University of Kansas. Students in Max Utsler’s “Innovations in Marketing Communications” class and Barrett Sydnor’s “Integrated Marketing Communications and Sales Strategy” class are writing blog posts during the semester on topics related to the classes, including branding, marketing, social media, experience marketing, and innovation.

Working with a number of Brainzooming friends who publish popular blogs in these areas, we’ll be running a number of blogs from students in these two classes. Max Utsler dubbed the project “Blogapalooza,” and today, we’re publishing the first guest Blogapalozza post on Brainzooming.

Today’s author, Patrick Kerr, lives and works in the Kansas City area. His interests include good food, fishing, and finding new hobbies to take his mind off the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. Today he takes up the question of the impact Groupon has on customer service – both for the provider and the customer:


My wife and I recently spent our wedding anniversary at an upscale restaurant hailed by critics for its outstanding food and ambience. The owner of the establishment is a highly accomplished chef who enjoys a stellar reputation in local and national culinary circles. He is one of a few true culinary celebrities who live in our area and has won numerous accolades for his cooking skills. As self-proclaimed “foodies,” we couldn’t wait to celebrate the occasion over a gourmet meal and fine wine. Even better, my wife purchased a Groupon for the restaurant so we felt like we could splurge without feeling too guilty.

The day of our reservation, I checked out the restaurant’s ratings on Yelp and was surprised to find so many negative reviews. The reviews spanned from mildly critical to downright nasty. Not exactly what you’d expect from a four-star restaurant. Of the bad write-ups, there were two common denominators: poor service and Groupon. Prior to the Groupon introduction, the marks were consistently positive if not gushing with praise. It was only in retrospect that I made the connection.

So how did our dining experience turn out? The food lived up to its excellent reputation, but the only way to get our server’s attention was to flail my arms about like some over-eager 2nd grader dying to be called on by the teacher. If anything, service at a four-star restaurant should border on hovering. This felt more as if we were being quarantined for some highly contagious virus. I’ve had better service at Waffle House. At least they refill your drinks once in a while. We couldn’t help but think that our early admission of using the Groupon had an overall negative impact on service. It turns out we were in good company. Apparently, Groupon and poor customer service go hand-in-hand.

Customer Service Rating of Groupon Users

Additional research revealed a direct link between the use of Groupon and a negative service experience. The above graph is from a study conducted by Cornell researchers who studied over 16,000 Groupon Deals in 20 US cities between January and July this year. The study found, among other things, that Groupon users averaged a 10% lower rating than those who didn’t use Groupon.

So why does Groupon promote bad customer service? From the merchant’s perspective, Groupon often means more trouble than it’s worth. The servers I’ve spoken with all complain that users frequently tip on the discounted amount, and not on the actual amount of the food. For expensive restaurants like the one we went to, that could mean the difference of $100 – $200.  In fact, our receipt clearly read what the amount would have been prior to the discount. Obviously, that is a sore point that needs addressed.

If Groupon wants to establish a loyal following, they need to make it clear to partners that they must uphold a certain standard of service and refuse to do business with those restaurants that won’t commit to those terms. Perhaps establish a “code of excellence” that becomes synonymous with their brand.  Groupon’s reputation and the reputation of the restaurants they do business with depend on it.

Have you had a negative Groupon experience? If so, please share it in the comments below. -Patrick Kerr 

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Photo by: Gräfin. | Source:

If you need someone’s help with a strategic decision or action, there’s often a tendency to do as much work as you can yourself before going to someone else to minimize the impact on them. Then after you’ve taken it as far as possible, you approach them for participation or a strategic decision. This is often done quite earnestly to demonstrate your personal contribution and effort.

The Problem

The problem is that the other party may see the situation from a very different strategic perspective; they could have different and potentially more creative ideas than you do. But if you’ve advanced the process so far that it’s beyond the opportunity for the other person to meaningfully contribute (or worse, you’ve made strategic decisions that eliminate options the other person may have been able to pursue), your attempt to save them hassle can wind up sabotaging your own efforts.

An Example

Someone became very frustrated with me when I couldn’t help in a way that fully satisfied them.

A big reason?

She’d wrongly interpreted someone else’s comment, implemented a number of very final strategic decisions based on the misinterpretation, and then expected me to make exactly the decision she wanted. If we’d have talked three decisions earlier, it might have been a possibility, but the strategic decisions that had been made precluded me from being able to pursue several potentially favorable alternatives. I tried to devise a compromise that could work, but the situation led to completely unnecessary acrimony between us.

An Alternative Approach

So how do you ask for help?

  • Figure out early on in what areas you need help and who can provide it
  • Do some homework
  • Before you start shutting down options, first consult the people you’re looking to for help.

In that way, you’ll maximize the opportunities for them to contribute and minimize potential frustrations for everyone involved. – 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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There’s the old saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Today’s post is mainly pictures of creativity and very few words.

Kids Creativity for Adults

The lower age limit is for sanity and safety. The upper age limit is for inviting adults to rekindle the spirit of kids creativity they might have left behind long ago.

Creative Mistakes

Very few creative decisions you have to make are this big of a deal. Thank goodness. So go out and make creative mistakes and don’t worry about it.

Creative Expectations and Inspiration

I’m all for creative inspiration, but placing a huge creative expectation on the outside of a book with hundreds of blank pages to fill shuts off any creative inspiration I might have. If you make a mistake creating yourself in this book, it does seem like it could kill you.

Well Done Guerrilla Marketing

This is a prime USDA example of outstanding guerrilla marketing. If you have a company vehicle, how about making it reinforce your brand promise?

Creative Company Cars

Speaking of a company vehicle, how about this van as the new company vehicle for The Brainzooming Group?

The Creative Week Ahead

Hope you enjoyed today’s pictures of creativity blog post.

This week, I’ll be trying to keep as many ducks in a row as possible. It will take lots of paddling!

Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help in better using creative thinking exercises! For an organizational 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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Several reactions to the large event Google brainstorming session The Brainzooming Group designed and facilitated for Social Media Club of Kansas City expressed frustration at the participants involved (questioning if people with real-life experience were involved in the Google Fiber brainstorming session), the nature of some ideas (they weren’t extreme enough), and the level of detail (insufficient action steps). You can see for yourself since we now have the report out videos from all the brainstorming groups posted on the SMCKC Gigabit City website.

From a distance, these are potentially reasonable challenges predicated on mistaken assumptions and experiences about what a brainstorming session is or will produce.

7 Things a Brainstorming Session Isn’t

Rather than writing another piece on what brainstorming (or “Brainzooming,” as we like to call it) is, here are seven things a brainstorming session ISN’T:

1. Able to accommodate everyone’s participation – There’s a point (around 10 people) at which the size of a group doing brainstorming starts to diminish results. Unless you’re using multiple facilitators, you have to strive for as much participant diversity as possible while realizing not every potential perspective will be included. That’s where pre-session input and post-session comments count.

2. Best done with a clean sheet of paper – Don’t start brainstorming with a clean sheet of paper, no matter how many people “say” to do it. Brainstorming with a clean sheet of paper generates ideas too close to right now. Start with a sheet of paper filled with creative thinking exercises – questions and tools to stretch creative thinking.

3. Quiet time – Group brainstorming sessions are for thinking aloud. If a brainstorming session is working, participants are going to be voicing and sharing ideas actively. The key is to make sure someone’s capturing ALL the ideas shared for later review.

4. A chance for a facilitator to push a personal agenda – A facilitator isn’t at a brainstorming session to make sure a specific outcome results. A brainstorming facilitator should be asking probing questions, prompting all attendees to participate actively, and ensuring new ideas are freely shared without being immediately ruled out.

5. Going to automatically solve every aspect of a question – Just because you conduct a brainstorming session doesn’t mean every issue will be addressed. Even though attempting to target and focus the subject matter with creative thinking exercises, a brainstorming session is just one input into a successful ideation process.

6. Always a special event – If you’ve been to brainstorming sessions, it usually feels like a big deal. My thinking when bringing people together for Brainzooming is to make sure it’s productive and efficient, but also a very memorable event. If the only time you’re pushing your creative thinking is at special events though, you’re missing out. Make sure you have at least a few techniques you can use informally to brainstorm anytime you need new ideas.

7. A stopping point – Even though a brainstorming session concludes at some point, it’s rarely the end of the work. After the brainstorming session, there will be ideas to review, evaluate, and select to pursue with specific implementation steps.


If that’s what a brainstorming session isn’t, how do the brainstorming sessions you’ve been in compare? – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help in better using creative thinking exercises! For an organizational 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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