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The response to my Twitter-based request for guest posts has been incredible, with several cool strategic and creative thinkers writing their perspectives for Brainzooming.

Today’s guest post is from Tim Tyrell-Smith, a 20-year CPG marketer and, during the wee night hours, an author of two blogs. The first, Quixoting™ – A Quest for New Ideas, presents the contents of his idea book and inspires others to take action on their ideas. The second, Spin Strategy™ – Tools for Intelligent Job Search, was the first idea he acted on from his book, covering the strategy and psychology of successful job search and includes a website and a LinkedIn group. You can also follow Tim on Twitter in two places: @Quixoting and @SpinStrategy.

Wow – a full time job, two blogs, Twittering under multiple identities. Sounds familiar, so I’m not sure when Tim has time to daydream, yet I’m really excited he took time to share his perspectives on its creative role with us today:

It can happen when you are supposed to be doing other things. It can happen while you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. For those of us busy thinking almost all day long, daydreaming can be an easy exercise to provide some quiet time upstairs. Think of it as slowing to a jog in the middle of a running race or letting your car’s idle push you along a normally busy freeway.

The power of daydreaming is what it lets your brain do: create – on its own time and in its own quantity.

Ever try creating really hard? You clench your teeth and tightly close your eyes only to find emptiness on the page where the ideas were supposed to show up? We’ve all had creative blocks from time to time, but when the brain stops all together, it’s time for a little R&R.

Sometimes my kids catch me staring off into the window behind them. They say, “Dad? Hello. Are you in there?” For a few blessed seconds, my brain was cycling at its own pace with no pressure to solve, compute, or judge – a rare break from synapses constantly snapping.

So I’m going to suggest something: Our brains have two optimum speeds – really fast and barely moving. I know mine works this way, and it’s important to appreciate the differences.

Really Fast

Really fast feels really good on most days. On the right projects when your heart is lined up with your brain, there’s nothing like it. Yes, your brain can work without your heart, but I don’t think the content is as good. These are the days when your brain is most productive, leaving the table, whiteboard, or computer screen covered with the residue of great production. Think of a great thoroughbred halfway through the Kentucky Derby; like that thoroughbred, your brain is meant to run hard.

Barely Moving

Here I’m not talking about sleep. Sleep is sleep. While evidently very beneficial to maintain sanity, sleep is not my focus, although I’ve had some amazing dreams!

The time I’m referring to is called daydreaming or quiet production. It’s the time when you let the brain do what it wants without cracking a whip against its hindquarters. There is no race this time, only the soft shifting of the brain, side to side. I do this sometimes when I drive and keep the music and cell phone off. The only problem with this example is that you might miss your freeway exit from time to time. Let your mind go for a walk and you’ll see some great sights. It’s how I get what are my best ideas. There and in the shower, of course.

So, whether you plan a good daydream time or have it come upon you without warning, please do me a favor. Enjoy it.

And know that your brain thanks you for a brief moment’s rest. -Tim Tyrell-Smith

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Training budgets get cut in challenging times. Yet it’s critical to continue growing and developing. If training budget dollars aren’t available for traditional training though, what can you do personally? Here are 10 ways to continue expanding your expertise when many others aren’t:

  • Select a topic and develop a presentation you can deliver at conferences. You’ll typically get a reduced rate or free registration as a presenter. Contact conferences you’re interested in attending and pitch your presentation well in advance.
  • Find out if your company has online training. This is a great way to improve your understanding of business basics in-house with minimal investment.
  • Participate in free webinars. One upside of today’s economy is the large number of companies offering free webinars. I’ve participated in several this year and haven’t come across a clunker yet.
  • Take a community college course. Our local college has an unbelievable array of business and professional development courses. They’re affordable, often feature multiple sessions, and scheduled for people who work.
  • Attend local association seminars. In a city of any size, there are likely multiple daily options for professional learning opportunities at breakfasts, lunches, or dinner meetings. These professional training sessions may be sponsored by associations, Chambers of Commerce, or even private businesses. For a nominal personal investment, these types of sessions are a way to learn and network cost effectively without travel.
  • Ask if outside partners will open their training to you. A consultant had its in-house presentation designer do a session for us on constructing a presentation’s logic flow. It was fantastically valuable and something we couldn’t have paid to attend. This could be a value-added opportunity for both: you get education and usually, a more educated client is a better client.
  • Get on Twitter – develop a network involved in your field, participate in chat groups, and network for new ideas. Twitter is the richest, most diverse interaction opportunity I’ve come across. In a short time, it’s exposed me to many smart people around the world eager to share information, perspectives, and links.
  • Share your own expertise. Whether it’s presenting, writing, or answering questions on LinkedIn, you always learn by teaching. Sharing knowledge forces you to be on top of your game, plus trading perspectives with your students exposes you to new learning also.
  • Agree to a sales call. I’m emphatic about not spending time with salespeople when there’s no real opportunity for them. Recently, I’ve started to relax that. After an admonition that a meeting implies no near-term buying intent, I’ve invested time with potential vendors eager to share new techniques. The downside is dealing with follow-on calls.
  • Learn from others through effective networking. With any of the previous ideas where you’re interacting with people, it’s an opportunity to offer value, share expertise, and build a reputation for helping others.

Give any one or a combination of these a try, and you’ll definitely realize some of the most cost-effective learning benefits available.

 

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Blog comments are a great way to get started in creating social media content without starting a blog of your own. Over time, leaving blog comments can provide the basis for creating posts on your own blog. If you’re just getting started in actively exploring social media, however, the steps of leaving blog comments may not be completely clear. There are four basics on leaving blog comments applicable in most situations:

  • To leave a comment, click where it says “0 (or some number of) comments” at the bottom of a post. Clicking will open a dialogue box where you can type and submit your comment.
  • “Thanks, this post was helpful” is a nice comment, but unfortunately it sounds like the types of comments spammers leave. To make sure you’re comment clears it through a spam filter, add something of relevance which indicates you actually read the post. Expand on, challenge, or clarify a point that was made. Your comment doesn’t have to be the length of a blog, but a few lines and a reference to the original post is important.
  • Identify yourself with your name. You don’t have to sign up for anything to leave a comment here, but it’s great if you at least leave your name so follow up comments can be directed to you.
  • If you’re really uncomfortable commenting, go ahead and send the blogger an email. Anything that provides some type of feedback and breaks the virtual silence is a positive.

Writing a blog can be a pretty isolated experience. Take 30 seconds to break through and leave a hint you visited and enjoyed what was there. It will make a blogger’s day!

P.S. If you’re a blogger, visit this Chris Brogan post for a great overview of approaches to try and generate comments.

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Everybody received an assignment Friday morning: look for someone to help with a creative challenge over the weekend and then comment here to create the Monday Creative Quickie post. The early submissions are included below. You can still add others in the comments section for today’s post.

Mike Brown said…
My wife Cyndi honed her web skills by volunteering to do websites for our Church and her sorority. It helped both out and let her engage new areas of creativity. Mike

Jan said…
I’m helping my daughter who’s away at college celebrate Mother’s Day with us … by breaking the rules. Instead of celebrating May 10, we’ll observe Mother’s Day May 17, after Kate’s out of school and back home. It’s important to know the rules, so you can choose to break them!

Terry said…
Today one of our field managers shared a great analogy comparing one of our old web tools to a simple remote control (you know, the kind that only has power, volume and a channel changer) with our new web tool that’s more like a universal remote with more features. Envisioning a remote with thousands of buttons, I helped him take the comparison a step further by comparing our formerly separate online tools that required customers to go three separate places to my coffee table covered with separate TV, VCR and cable box remotes.

Amy Hoppenrath said…
I received a question from a professional associate today asking for advice about a project she is working on. She was stuck. After some discussion, we determined that before she would find the answers, she needed to ask more questions.


TweetIt from HubSpot

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Don’t feel like you get enough opportunities to be creative in your job? Maybe so.

If that’s the case, here’s an assignment for today and over the weekend: be on the lookout for an informal opportunity to use your creative talent to help someone else, then report back on it here by Monday.

Want a quick example – at a party earlier this year, one guest was talking about trying to come up with an intriguing name for her new business idea. I joined the conversation and offered to help generate some possible names. My motivation? I’d developed a new messaging ideation technique that hadn’t yet been tested. This was a great low-risk way to see if it could really generate lots of cool ideas.

We both benefitted. She received more than a 100 possible names; I learned what worked and didn’t with the new technique.

Be on the lookout for people with creative challenges this weekend and share a brief story in the comments section on this post, ideally by Monday. Let everyone know how you tried to help someone – either previously or over the weekend. And in so doing, you’ll address another creative challenge: your comments will become the whole Monday Creative Quickie post!

So have a great weekend and report your successes in helping others with creative challenges on Brainzooming!

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Today’s guest post is from Eric, or @flyingspatula as I’ve come to know him. That’s one intriguing aspect of social media: people can disclose as much or little about themselves as they’re willing to reveal. Eric is manager of a reporting team in Toronto, and under the @flyingspatula Twitter name, he tweets an amazing stream of great quotes and insights into strategy and management topics.His Twitter bio also says he’s a “funk-tacular” person. I agree, and look for more guests posts in the future. Here, he shares his perspectives on the importance and approach of managing by example:

You may have green-fielded your team and picked the diamonds in the rough. Or maybe you’ve inherited a group of people (inmates). Regardless of your team’s opinion, you are their leader. As such, you are the designate of the company. For all intents and purposes, you write their reviews, give them their assignments, and you sign their check.

So where does this leave you as a leader? You need to wrangle the broncos and lead this herd – regardless of their background or experiences. You are the leader because you have the skill set and attitude to manage these troops better than any of them do.

Now to deflate you a bit. Your team will mutiny if you waltz in and start bossing them around. You’ve got to be able to manage by example. Here are my top 5 tips to do it successfully:

1. Ask for Help
You don’t have all the answers – don’t pretend you do. Your people may have been doing the job longer than you have. It’s okay to ask them for guidance on the day to day tasks. This doesn’t show weakness – it shows that you’re human. It’ll also demonstrate that you acknowledge and respect your people.
2. Provide Direction but Let People Make Mistakes
You have experience on your side. Play that card. If you’ve inherited a team, you may not know the company as well as them, but you’ve seen certain scenarios play out over and over again. Guide and advise. Unless someone is going to cross the line, let them make mistakes. They’ll see value in asking your advice in the future.
3. Give Up the Spotlight
Your team does wonderful work – partly because you’re an awesome leader, but mostly because you realize you need to hire people smarter than you. Chances are you’ll have to present their work to the “higher ups.” That doesn’t mean you get to pretend you did the work. I’ve got a team of programmers. I’m not about to pretend I know how to code in php and do loop-de-loops in MySQL. They do great work. My role was to pick them out from the crowd and let the glow of the spotlight fall on them.
4. Don’t be Lenient
This is a touchy subject. I would caution that as a leader, you should have the trust of your team before you start waiving the big stick. In a new team, there will be some growing pains at first. Most team building books say you’re going through the “storming” phase. Don’t fall for this. If you let your team dictate the norms, they will walk all over you. Of course I’m being extreme, but seriously, if they step out of line, you need to reel them in. Make it clear that there are Dos and Don’ts in your team. If push comes to shove, they need to do what you ask.
5. Create Performance Measurements Together
As a new leader, you need to evaluate your staff. Engage them during this process. You want your people to realize that you’re not an evil person – and you want a sounding board to make sure your goals and expectations are realistic and achievable.
Hope this helps! Good luck you super managers and gurus in training.

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It’s exciting to have two guest authors this week, both in response to reaching out on Twitter for leaders in innovation and strategy to share their perspectives. Today’s post is from Howard McAuliffe, a real estate and community development professional in St. Louis, MO.

Howard has worked in Real Estate Development and entrepreneurial endeavors since 2001. He holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development with a concentration in Community Development from Saint Louis University and has served on the Public Policy Committee for Metropolis St. Louis, including serving as the Public Policy Chairperson in 2008.

In a recent tweet, Howard mentioned his participation in an upcoming Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis innovation conference. I reached out, and Howard agreed to share his perspective on the speakers and conference content:

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis hosted a conference on community development titled “Exploring Innovation” on April 22-24. The conference comes at a time of economic hardship throughout the world. The Exploring Innovation Conference brought together grass roots practitioners and some of the top minds in the country to discuss, collaborate, and learn.

The term “conference” brings to mind a series of experts speaking at the audience. This, however, was far from a traditional conference. The audience was as vocal as the presenters, with a conversation and exchange of information. Stand out presenters and facilitators included:

  • Alan Berube, a senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
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  • Mark Pinsky, president and chief executive officer of Opportunity Finance Network.
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  • Ray Boshara, vice president of the New America Foundation. He has advised presidents, testified before Congress and given speeches all over the world
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  • Bill Strickland, CEO, Social Architect, Community Leader, and Visionary who has built a state of the art community center and major business incubator in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. He is using the arts to motivate the citizens that society has given up on to realize amazing accomplishments.

 

In addition to the world-class presenters mentioned above, some of the ideas and organizations that stood out to me were:

  • Swamp Gravy, a theatre company, revitalized its small Georgia town through its performances. This resulted in some astounding economic benefits.
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  • The EAST Initiative, started in rural Arkansas, is a program that motivates children to work together to solve problems by addressing practical projects.
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  • The Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity has an innovative program that allows renters to earn equity in exchange for being a responsible tenant. This includes paying rent on time, participating in property upkeep, and staying in the building for an extended period of time.

This conference was definitely a memorable and educational experience because of amazing participants, presenters, ideas, and innovations. For those interested, you can find out more information on the conference, presenters, and tools that are relevant to community development.  

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