Here are five things strategic thinking approaches, any one of which you can work on this week to improve your performance:

  1. Take time to perform long-term actions even when near-term pressures are very distracting.
  2. Don’t overreact in the face of incomplete information. Ask questions & allow others the opportunity to answer.
  3. Ask questions of smart, well-informed people outside the mainstream. You’ll learn a lot.
  4. Be willing to ask, “How could this be different?” particularly if you’re a black & white type thinker.
  5. Work on developing more decisiveness, tenacity & patience. You need them even more these days.

BTW – Based on reader feedback, the summer Brainzenning videos are moving to Fridays starting this week. - Mike Brown

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Listening to The Beatles Abbey Road show provides a sense of the incredible talent they brought to the recording studio. The impact of George Martin, their producer, is also clear in how he shaped the group’s artistic sensibilities and vision, crafting them into a coherent whole.

Considering the benefits a producer can provide, do you have one (or more) producers in your creative life? Your “producer” could be a mentor or a creative instigator who’s there to:

  • Expand and shape your creative perspective
  • Bring in other talents to help realize your vision
  • Challenge and edit your work from a less invested perspective than you have

Maybe you self-produce your own creative efforts. That’s a viable approach, and some people do it well. But if you don’t have a producer for your major projects, think seriously about working with someone in that role who can be the catalyst for new creative success. – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Twitter continues to be a great source of new thinking to share on the blog via guest posts.

Today’s comes from Patrick Fitzgerald of Straight Face Productions. Using original sketch comedy as a way to engage audiences and further brand marketing objectives, Straight Face Productions creates original characters that are easier to relate to than the brands they represent. The approach, while nuanced, is aligned with the evolving viewing habits of online audiences.

Here’s Patrick’s view on the link between creativity and innovation and what it takes to actually deliver results from creativity.

What’s so funny about Creativity and Innovation? In my estimation, not much.

When I was invited to write a guest blog for Brainzooming, I was guided toward the topic of humor in relation to creative thought and innovation. I suppose this is because I lead a company using comedy as a method to engage audiences and further brand marketing objectives.
This is a common situation for me; when I make presentations to brand folks, there is an air of anticipation in the room as people wait for me to be funny.

Trouble is, I don’t do funny – not like that. Comedy is hard and best left to professionals. We all know the quote from the British vaudevillian on his death bed, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Try dying in front of a room of people expecting you to be funny – that’s really hard.

So, I revert to writing about the creative process and innovation, as people generally agree that Straight Face Productions is an innovative and creative company.

We all know creative people. We serve on committees with them because they “have a million ideas.” To varying degrees, everyone is creative. Innovation, though, is the ability to implement logical structure to creativity; to give it function and then value. Innovators distinguish themselves by recognizing opportunity where others may not, valuing the opportunity appropriately, and developing methods to realize the value in a timely manner.

Innovation necessarily begins with a creative thought process – thinking beyond what is known and creating a set of possibilities that extends beyond our experience.

Creativity is necessary in order to overcome the forces of status quo and cultural norm. These two forces, behind gravity alone, bind us to the earth and limit what is possible. Status quo and culture are damning forces to innovation. They are always felt, and never seen. They are evidence of the Laws of Inertia in the plane of ideas. Creativity provides the energy necessary to overcome culture and status quo.

The creative process begins with a set of questions of a more general nature. Start with “What if?” and “Can we do this?” Shape your solutions based in possibilities, not in fear and limitations. Innovation takes place when you evaluate the possibilities and begin solving problems in the gap between the possible and the real. Albert Einstein said, “Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.”

Innovators are not primarily concerned with failure. Any real innovator, though, will have a good deal of experience with failure. Woody Allen said, “If you don’t fail now and again, you’re not doing anything very innovative.” In fact, the familiarity with failure provides motivation; knowing failure through experience provides a powerful avoidance mechanism. To be successful, innovators manage their relationship with fear; innovators find fear to be a useful in navigation but a terrible traveling companion.

For an innovation to be adapted, it must demonstrate value. The patent office is overflowing with all manner of creative ideas that have failed to demonstrate value. You have to accept that value is a relative term. Sure evidence of that is that marshmallow peeps are an innovation in sugar intake systems. Conversely, purple ketchup is no longer on the store shelves. To be too critical is to dampen your own creative ability. To recognize value where others may not is critical to being innovative in your thinking.

Finally, true innovation requires repeatable success. Warren Bennis warns, “Innovation, any new idea by definition, will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations and monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.” - Patrick Fitzgerald

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I love hearing about the creative processes behind famous works of art. And in any creative process there are obviously first, second, third (maybe even thirtieth) versions potentially bearing little resemblance to the final product. Yet these versions reflect the trials, learnings, and flashes of inspiration necessary to advance the creative process.

If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do with the early versions of your creative efforts?

I know people who, for any number of reasons, immediately discard early creative incarnations. Others hang on to them for nostalgia or the possibility of later re-mining them for pieces, parts, or perhaps new inspiration.

Probably not surprisingly, I’m in the latter group. To me, you never know when an image, video clip, or written passage could take on new life or provide needed inspiration in a different situation.

Want an example?

For months, I’ve had a half-completed draft of a piece similar to yesterday’s post on not naming things too soon. It was centered on the Flip Mino name, talking about how nobody knew what a Mino was, so the name provided a tremendous amount of flexibility for what Flip wanted the product to become. I never finished the post, but it’s stayed in my online file of blogging scraps. Keeping it top of mind allowed it to be combined with The Beatles piece and become a more compelling treatment of a similar idea.

Here’s my advice: maintain an inspiration file full of unfinished work and exploit it for scraps you can mash up into something distinctive and cool at the appointed time. - Mike Brown

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Though The Beatles “Abbey Road” album was recorded 40 years ago, I recently heard a program called “Pop Go the Beatles” about its creation. Told through stories and alternative takes of the album’s classic songs, it was so inspiring it spawned posts for today, Wednesday, and Friday this week.

During an early recording of “Something,” George Harrison hadn’t finished the lyrics. John Lennon advised him to sing nonsense words until figuring out what the actual lyrics should be. One specific suggestion was “attracts me like a cauliflower” during the passage that eventually became “attracts me like no other lover.”

This is great advice. Using nonsense words keeps a writer from becoming enchanted with work that’s “almost there,” but isn’t really on the mark. Nonsense words will get worked on and replaced; “almost there” work might make it all the way to the marketplace, however, if the creator is easily satisfied or downright lazy.

This lesson can extend to developing projects, programs, products, and services. There’s typically a rush to name any of these. Someone picks a rough description that’s close and all of a sudden, the name starts to influence decisions and development steps that should be addressed independently of an early, potentially limiting, and often haphazardly chosen moniker.

Here’s an alternative approach: Pick a code name or some combination of nonsense letters and numbers to describe your effort while it’s in development. Then when the time is appropriate to give it a real name, you won’t have constrained its creation unnecessarily or be challenged by walking away from a now familiar (read “comfortable”) name that might ultimately limit its true potential for success. - Mike Brown

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Here’s my annual advice for fireworks viewing: if you have a place to do it, watch fireworks from the highest vantage point you can. We discovered this one year at the top of the Kansas City Hyatt in its revolving restaurant. Forty some stories up, the downtown fireworks looked like Star Wars special effects; the bursts appeared to be coming right at us. Another benefit to really elevated viewing is seeing multiple fireworks displays at one time in various parts of the city.

Another really cool vantage point requiring a little more planning is to be in a plane the evening of July Fourth. Flying back from a NASCAR race in Daytona one year offered the opportunity to see fireworks from the Southeast to the Midwest.

Last year, however, we learned of a cool new vantage point. We were invited to a private party where they essentially shoot professional grade fireworks. While seeing them explode up high is cool, seeing fireworks of this caliber go off 100 feet away was unbelievable.

And even cooler, we’re planning to go to the party again this year with the hope of shooting Monday’s Brainzenning video!

All this is a great reminder – constantly seek out ways to change your vantage point to be able to see familiar things in new and exciting ways!

Have a safe Fourth!

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