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It was a pleasure to do a segment Monday on High Velocity Radio with hosts Stone Payton and Lee Kantor talking about a variety of innovation topics. I met Stone initially via Twitter back in January, and appearing on Stone’s show was part of the prize for winning the IDEF140 contest he sponsored.

We covered a range of issues, so beyond a link to the radio show, here are links to many of the topics we discussed during our conversation.

Thanks again Stone and Lee for the opportunity to be on the show, and I look forward to being able to do it again in the future!

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A previous post on Powerpoint talked about covering a slide image and seeing what the headline says, then covering the headline and seeing what the image suggests to look for message agreement between the two.

The same approach is valuable in analytical work as well.

If you’ve created a chart or table, cover it and see what the explanatory text or headline conveys. Then cover the text and ask yourself if the chart backs up your point. Ideally they’ll match. Often though, unless you’ve really pushed the analysis supporting the table/chart, it will show irrelevant or misleading data that compromises or confuses your main point.

Using this technique recently showed that instead of showing a long timeline to depict daily fluctuations, the key point was made much more directly with a stacked bar chart demonstrating a month over month change.

Another twist on the technique is to actually describe aloud the primary message of the analysis as a further check to see if you really agree with and support everything you have on the page!


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PBS recently aired a September 2008 performance of George Gershwin’s music featuring the Nashville Symphony. The show’s closing piece was “Rhapsody in Blue,” perhaps Gershwin’s most well-known piece. I’ve enjoyed the song for a long time but never had the opportunity to “see” it performed and videoed to such great effect.

It was incredible to SEE guest soloist Kevin Cole’s performance – his hands were up and down the keyboard in such commanding fashion. In the video excerpt below, you get some sense of the wonder of his performance.

For today’s challenge – while we usually think of listening to music, in this case, being able to watch music was as impressive as the audio experience.

For other sensory experiences you encounter, identify a different dimension to begin to experience them: Maybe listening to a dog being petted or feeling the texture of the ingredients in a home cooked meal? You decide and come to some new senses of your own.

Update Note: Because of Good Friday, there won’t be a post on Friday, April 10.

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After speaking on “Strategic Thinking for Market Researchers” at last year’s IIR The Market Research Event, I attended a session which discussed “creative consumers.” They were nearly reverently described as “consumers” serving as paid innovation session participants; this, after passing personality tests (both oral and written) and receiving creativity technique training. “Creative consumers” were lauded for being able to write dead-on concept statements.

According to the research agency presenter, her firm has a panel of at least 250 “creative consumers” with varied backgrounds available for business innovation. In reviewing some profiles, one “creative consumer” has been doing this 17 years!
Kraft Foods (the other presenter) applied this innovation technique to design new service concepts. “Creative consumers” were included at a one-to-one rate with business executives (or “drones,” although the term was never actually used) to inject creativity and innovation. The first day-long session produced 154 ideas from five custom exercises; these were narrowed eventually to 15 for further development in a second day-long session. A couple of strategic observations (recognizing I’ve done innovation primarily in a B2B environment):
  • The best facilitated innovation sessions don’t require 50% creatives. At 20% of participants, creative people can really drive creative instigation while remaining participants contribute to other business strategy issues being explored. Going higher saps the diversity critical for innovative ideas.
  • Lack of diversity can hamper the strategy evaluation phase. Interestingly, two later rejected innovation concepts shared to demonstrate the group’s creativity both fell apart based on density requirements. Not enough volume in a certain time period usually signals major problems. Density isn’t necessarily a strategic principle driving CPG, but it’s a challenge readily apparent to service marketing professionals since time is a perishable resource which can’t be inventoried. Here’s where a little more strategic diversity in an innovation group could have been beneficial.
  • One hundred fifty-four ideas isn’t a remarkable a number of new ideas. We’ve seen 500 or 600 ideas from a more diverse participant group in innovation sessions we’ve facilitated. The number of new ideas is highly dependent on what an innovation session’s strategic objectives are and using the right creativity tools to help realize your business goals.
  • It’s ridiculous to call these participants “consumers.” While companies want to feel they’re involving real consumers in the innovation process, that’s suspect. They may have familiarity and experience in the topic. But with the testing, innovation training, and pay involved ($500-$1500 daily), they’re really “part-time, informal creative staff members.” Seventeen years in, somebody doesn’t enter a session with a completely fresh innovative “consumer” perspective.

This is an intriguing innovation concept, but appears to be misrepresented and oversold. The funniest moment was during Q&A when someone asked apprehensively if the creative consumers could travel. I turned to the guy next to me and asked, “I wonder what they eat?”

Probably special pellets to generate creative sparks! – 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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver strategic, innovative, implementable ideas for your organization.

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At a Charlotte Business Marketing Association presentation on “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation,” a question was raised about the right number of people to have in facilitated innovation and strategy sessions.

That’s a common business question, and there are certainly optimum sizes for facilitating innovation and strategy groups. What’s optimum varies based on the business objective and the complexity of the strategy or innovation effort needed. My response was the much more important success factor is the group’s composition based on experience, personalities, and mindset. For the best strategic thinking, The Brainzooming Group always wants to have three groups represented when we facilitate an innovation session:
  • People with solid, front-line business experience to help frame business strategy issues.
  • Others with functional knowledge applicable to the strategy or innovation topic to provide an understanding of capabilities.
  • Creative instigators who can act as innovation catalysts by viewing business situations in new & unconventional ways.

Using The Brainzooming Group framework, we’ve done very successful multi-person strategic thinking sessions with two people who filled multiple roles. Often, it takes 3 to 8 people per group to have enough depth in each of the three areas.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight the business challenges of overloading an innovation session with too much creativity. Trust me, it doesn’t lead to the best, most implementable business ideas.  - 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 learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Why wait until your creativity is challenged to think about ways to stimulate it?

Take a few minutes to complete this creativity inspiration roster listing various things you know are creativity instigators for you. Then when you really need these creativity triggers, you’ll have a ready list to turn to for creative inspiration.

What Inspires Me?

Place _________________________________________

Image ________________________________________

Person ________________________________________

Writing ________________________________________

Music _________________________________________

Time of day _____________________________________

Sound _________________________________________

Memory _______________________________________

Moment _______________________________________

Activity _______________________________________

Prayer / Reflection _______________________________

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 learn how we can enahnce the creativity of your organization.

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From Twitter last night, here’s a video with Tony Buzan, the creator of mind mapping, talking about ways to improve your creative thinking skills. It’s a very worthwhile investment of just over three and a half minutes to learn his perspectives on creativity’s prevalence, whole brain thinking, and growing the speed, originality, and flexibility of your thinking. Check it out!

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