Get an audio file of ocean waves. Close your eyes, listen, and imagine you’re on a beach.

Now let your mind wander creatively.

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Here’s a goal that should be a relief, but for many people, is incredibly challenging:

When you’re in a meeting, make sure you’re NOT the smartest person in the room. Huh?

When you’re the smartest person in the room, all the responsibility’s on you. Who else is going to come up with the best ideas, the most insightful analysis, the most stirring comments?

Nobody. How could they be expected to do it when you’re the best? You the man (or woman)!

Seems pretty daunting.

Instead, make sure you surround yourself with people who are smart, creative, and dynamic. Ask a few questions and let them contribute their own perspectives. Build on their ideas, allowing them a strong sense of participation and ownership.

And guess what?

Not only will you get better answers and results, you can sit back and get smarter by learning from your team!

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Thursdays are turning into Guest Blogger Day. There continues to be some really cool innovation and strategy experts from Twitter stepping forward to share their perspectives.

Today’s guest author is advertising consultant Gary Unger, author of “How to Be a Creative Genius (In Five Minutes or Less).” Gary’s bio highlights 3 things that make him a natural to share his perspectives on Brainzooming:

  1. He’s done work for Chick-Fil-A, which would be the official restaurant of Brainzooming if there were one.
  2. Gary’s creative work has earned him a place in the Levi Strauss T-Shirt Hall of Fame, which sounds pretty darn cool.
  3. He has a great personal message which fits with Brainzooming’s tone: Be yourself and have fun doing it!

Gary’s sharing his take today on Thought Rivers:

When you talk to me, my mind instantly goes in a million directions with the words you use. Some call it Parallel Thinking. I call it Thought Rivers because there is nothing really parallel about the paths that will be taken. It’s more of a twisting, double back, speed up, slow down, gets deep, then shallow, turns left, then right, and so on – just like a river.

You may say something like, “It’s not very square,” and my mind will instantly relate square to a geeky person, and then to a pair of black thick rimmed glasses, then to black and white image of Roy Orbison singing on stage, which will make me think of the other man in black, Johnny Cash, who I think is an earlier version of Bruce Springsteen who is kind of the everyman who is not really top of the class “cool” but also not “very square.” And that’s just one Thought River stemming from the original comment. Yes, sometimes it is difficult having a conversation with me.

If you want to see an explosion in your creative thinking skills, practice with Thought Rivers. If it’s difficult to do in your mind, write it out on paper. Do your best to not take the word, words, word term, or whatever subject you are working on literally; start looking for what can be rather than for what is. Ask yourself, “What else does this remind me of?” Make the leap from literal interpretation of the subject to every conceivable use of the word and its derivatives. Instead of stopping with the first dictionary term or literal translation, consider other uses of the word in your Thought River. For instance, the word “die” can mean or suggest the act of death, the singular of dice, to color something, a tool used to shape other materials, and even “to desire.”

As you practice, you’ll eventually find your mind will do it automatically, and you won’t need paper to map out your thoughts. That’s the ultimate goal: to be able to do it in your head. And when you can do it all in your head, your creativity will have a genius quality you never imagined possible.

And, as a bonus you’ll have the admiration of your peers for being so brilliant. - Gary Unger

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We all name drop at times since it can be useful in getting attention and pushing someone to do what you want them to do. There’s just one problem. Name dropping makes you appear weak.

It says to the other party that you realize you don’t have the clout, logic, or savvy to convince them why they should work with you and address your request. It also says you realize this too – why else would you have to name drop? And based on a recent example where someone dropped my name without consulting me, it can also result in cutting off your support if the person whose name you dropped gets surprised by it.

Here’s a better alternative: Talk with the person whose name you might drop upfront and ask him or her for their suggestions on how to get cooperation. They might be able to:

  • Suggest an alternative way to manage the situation.
  • Personally intervene on behalf of the request.
  • Provide some other way to show their support.

This approach means a little more work, but it’s an investment in YOUR effectiveness in building relationships.


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Today’s video was instigated by realizing how many cars were parked pretty haphazardly at the hospital when I was visiting my father and thinking about what people were going through as they rushed to the hospital.

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This is a screen grab from my Tweetdeck this morning. The first three tweets of the day themed up nicely, so I wanted to share them, including the live link for the Brainzooming post on “Shooting for the Moon.” Have a great weekend!

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Many conversations recently have addressed the misperception that creativity, by definition, takes time, money, and effort that can’t be afforded right now because of the economy. A couple of examples:

  • Someone showed me a meeting announcement for an “ideation” session to which they’d been invited. It referenced the range of ideas under consideration as “creative and practical and everything in between.”
  • A tweet in recent weeks said that while the sender wouldn’t reject innovation, he would “say no to unique creative thinking.”
  • Another forwarded email suggested a group shouldn’t “over think” a topic “out of respect for time & resources. We can do that later when we can be more creative.”


Since when is practical the opposite of creative? And what types of pre-conceived ideas and misperceptions obscure the role creativity plays in contributing to business results?

The image below of three Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors is another exhibit in showing the fallacy of the “creativity only in selected instances” point of view. Ben & Jerry’s demonstrates the myriad benefits of strategic creativity with ice cream flavor names that:

  • Play on and twist the familiar (to help initial recognition and retention)
  • Are funny (introducing emotion, another element in improved idea stickiness)
  • On brand (completely consistent with something you’d expect from Ben & Jerry’s)

These flavors had to be named something. It probably took little if any additional time to come up with names that clearly work for the brand’s benefit vs. generic names that wouldn’t.

The point isn’t to go out and name everything and call it good. The point is that no matter what the economic environment, being strategic and creative doesn’t decline in importance. It’s MORE important.

Strong branding companies know this and act accordingly, while also-rans wait around for economic signals to suggest it’s time to turn creativity back on. Their challenge is they probably won’t make it until their creativity stop light flashes green again. And maybe that’s just fine!

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