Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 196 – page 196

Is the Brainzooming mission to make everybody comfortable with their personal creativity?

I’ll admit this generalization of my favorite CreativeBloc question is in my words, not the attendee’s. His questions (“How do you make Becky more comfortable? Should we try to make a Mike Brown out of a Becky?”) relate to a story about a person (not her real name) frequently shared in my innovation presentations (you can click to read the full story).

The abbreviated version is Becky worked with our large corporation (having been at another large corporation before) and was very uncomfortable sharing her perspectives in a creative session we conducted. The reason? Her self-perceived lack of experience and the pressure of not being able to plan her creative contributions ahead of time. She wanted a creative situation that was the antithesis of how we apply the Brainzooming process. She isn’t unique in her fear of sharing her unscrubbed points of view, however, so how to deal with those like her is a great topic. Let’s tackle the two questions the audience member posed:

Question 1 – How do you make Becky (and those like her) more comfortable?

Becky would be most comfortable and perfectly happy taking orders from someone and squelching her perspective because she grew up in an environment where that was rewarded. And the corporation where she got her experience is certainly not the only one which values that from its people.  Given that, there are lots of places she could have gone and been a lot more comfortable than working with us.

Question 2 – Should we try to make a Mike Brown out of Becky?

I definitely don’t want everyone to be like me! But I do think people should be open about sharing their diverse perspectives, entertaining new ideas, and contributing to a team being more successful in new and innovative ways. If you share that perspective and have someone like her working for you who genuinely wants to expand her horizons, several things could help her grow:

Getting her involved in every creative situation possible.

This will expose her to a less hierarchical structure and a more interactive style. Seeing others share ideas – some good and some not so good – and realizing ideas which don’t get picked don’t get you in trouble would be beneficial for her.

Arming her with tools such as those which frustrated her in the creative session.

What types of tools? The ones shared here on the Brainzooming blog to aid in strategic and creative thinking. The tools here are intended to help people for whom strategic and creative thinking don’t come easily to flourish while reducing the stress they feel in these situations.

Giving her assignments in unfamiliar areas.

This would both frustrate and stretch her. But helping her understand upfront how her experience translates to and helps her in unfamiliar situations will make her a much stronger contributor.

If your Becky really wants to change, this developmental strategy should create a much more fulfilled and successful Becky!


I sincerely hope you’ve benefited from these posts answering CreativeBloc questions. I’m looking forward to doing more of this based on questions from future presentations.  – 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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I witnessed my first in-person flash mob last night as Eric “Mean” Melin (@SceneStealrEric on Twitter) led this creative group of Richie Sambora and Eddie Van Halen wannabes in what is rumored to be the world’s largest air guitar flash mob – right here on the streets of Kansas City.

The air guitar flash mob was in support of the 2011 US Air Guitar Championships Regional Competition coming to Kansas City on May 19, 2011. In a Kansas City First Friday filled with lots of strolling and looking at works of art, Eric’s air guitar flash mob was definitely a creative highlight! – Mike Brown

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What can you do in managing clients who love their own creative ideas?

My comment on sometimes working toward a creative objective without letting others know what’s happening, triggered this more specific CreativeBloc question about successfully managing a client (and the client’s ego) when they love their own creative ideas.

While the question isn’t specific, I’m figuring it’s referencing when there are issues with an idea’s quality, efficacy, implementation, etc. Absent fundamental issues, don’t rule out a creative idea simply because it originated with a client who loves it. (Trust me, as a client, I had agencies do this. It’s infuriating when they don’t come to the table with creative ideas that are any stronger.)

Here’s how I go about challenging an idea when somebody loves it a little too much:

Step 1 – Diagnose the Situation

Start by understanding the client’s opinions, motivations, and foundation for loving the idea. Do this through:

  • Making sure you’re completely clear on what the client thinks the primary objective is the creative idea needs to successfully address.
  • Asking questions (or simply letting the client talk) about what works with the idea. Carefully and strategically probe to see both what personal preferences AND potential concerns exist (if any) about the idea for the client.
  • Discussing how and how well the client’s idea meets the primary objective. This will provide a sense of potential areas you’ll need to support and where you can counter an idea.
  • Reaching out to others who understand the client’s thinking patterns, what’s important to them personally and organizationally, and when they will and won’t be open to compromise.

Step 2 – Analyze What You Know

Once you’d done your homework, analyze and size up the situation. Understand what elements really need changing vs. those you’d simply like to change. Figure out whether a factual or emotional argument might be more successful. Develop a couple of hypotheses on how the conversation(s) might go with the client.

Step 3 – Plan Your Strategy

At Step 3, I usually map out what my options are to try and move this type of situation to the best one for the business. This mapping out usually involves blank sheets of paper, a marker, and some time to draw out the options I’ll pursue and what could happen at each stage.  To give you a feel for what that might be like, here’s how I’d map out my strategy for trying to move a client from their favorite idea to some alternative. Based on the situation, I might give up right away (if it’s just not that big a deal) or could develop a multi-tiered case that calls attention to what’s identical in the alternative I’m approaching and try to minimize the number of critical issues where the client’s opinion has to be swayed.

One caveat – I’ve found the intensity of my counter arguments has changed since leaving corporate life. Where I had to live with the outcome of bad decisions, I was much more likely to be strident in making my case. It’s been a source of personal development working with clients, however, to realize that ultimately they have to live with the implications of an idea – positive or negative. Because of that, I’ll pull up on counter arguments much sooner than I would have in the past.

Also, I didn’t go into waging an all-out battle to defeat an idea here. That’s certainly a strategy, but it’s one worth avoiding! It’s hardly ever productive for the client or anyone else involved in the situation.

On Monday, we’ll have the final post in this series, touching on whether everybody needs to be a creative thinker. – 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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How do you start enhancing innovation in a small organization?

The keynote training presentation I did for CreativeBloc was on “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation,” with its ideas on how to counteract ten innovation barriers. Each time I present this topic, the audience picks the barriers most relevant to their organizations for us to discuss. In that way, the presentation is never the same, covering a different five or six innovation barriers chosen by the audience.

One post-presentation evaluation thought the concepts were more suited to larger rather than small organizations, prompting today’s CreativeBloc question and blog post.

In reality, the strategies in for circumventing innovation barriers are applicable in a small organization too. If you’re in a smaller organization and want to improve innovation efforts, here are four specific steps you can take:

1. Do a self-assessment to figure out if you are personally creating NO’s to innovation.

This assessment involves examining your personal innovative approach and also asking others who would be confident (and feel safe) in telling you if the see issues with how you conduct yourself. It’s probably best to ask more general questions on where individuals in your small organization feel like they are and aren’t able to contribute new ideas.

2. Get someone outside your organization to ask questions about potential barriers.

The same questions you ask yourself and a small group about contributing and acting on new ideas in your small organization need to be asked of your entire team. Having someone external ask the questions and allowing people to respond anonymously provides the greatest likelihood of getting honest answers.

3. Assess the answers to identify your innovation barriers and ways to counteract them.

Interpret the responses openly and honestly to identify innovation barriers in your organization. Begin implementing changes by involving your organization’s people in sharing ideas. Be clear, however, about what role you’re asking them to play. Are they simply providing input which you’ll evaluate and prioritize? Or are you asking them to actually participate and own responsibility for implementing strategic fixes to the issues?

4. Watch what you say and do.

Throughout this process, display consistent daily behaviors to reinforce your words about truly wanting to create a more innovative culture. Matching what you say and do supports the individuals on your team in creating making innovative changes.

Try these 4 steps in a small or large organization when you want to experience a more innovative perspective and see better results.  – 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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Is it really okay to borrow creative ideas?

I talk and write often about borrowing ideas as a source for creative instigation. One CreativeBloc question wondered about this strategy, saying borrowing a creative idea doesn’t feel like creativity and doing it can weigh on one’s conscience. The attendee asked for some clarification.

First of all, it’s not as if I advocated stealing ideas (although I have advocated it in other settings)!

When I talk about borrowing creative ideas, it means consuming and reflecting on other inputs you can use to instigate new creative possibilities which are clearly your own.

Seven Ways to Borrow Creative Ideas with a Clear Conscience:

In each one of these creative instances, you’re looking for creative instigation – not for copyright infringement – as you borrow creative ideas you can form into your own new creative works.  – 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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When creativity isn’t appreciated in your organization culture, what can you do if changing jobs isn’t an option?

I told the recent CreativeBloc audience that if anyone worked in a place that didn’t value creativity and innovative ideas from its own people, it was best to get out; thus, this CreativeBloc question arose.

Honestly, unless you’re an indentured servant where you work now, changing jobs and finding an organization that places a value on creativity is always an option. It just may be that changing jobs RIGHT NOW isn’t an option.

If changing jobs in pursuit of a more creativity-friendly culture seems like a far-off possibility, you need to start preparing. The first steps are to make sure you’re building a financial cushion (which may involve altering today’s lifestyle), honing your online presence to showcase your expertise and talents, and aggressively putting yourself in situations to meet and help people who can be a part of your future plan.

From the standpoint of protecting your creativity while you get ready to change jobs in the future, two streams of activity are vital:

  • Developing and implementing a plan to cope with where you are (Plan A)
  • Concurrently working on what’s next (Plan B)

Plan A – Your Creativity Coping Plan at Your Current Job

If creativity isn’t valued at your current job, identify what IS valued there. Ask yourself and others, “What matters in our organization?” Beyond asking the question, enhance your understanding by observing where the company’s management devotes its attention.

Once you’ve figured out what’s valued, look for ways to introduce creativity (defined as “seeing things in new and different ways”) into areas the organization values. While you may be stretched to introduce creativity in what you think are non-traditional areas, it’s vital for your creative health.

Make sure management notices your innovative contributions to company priorities. Call attention to what you’re doing. Showcase the value you’re creating for the organization. Don’t do it in a cheesy, conceited way, but confidently make sure your contributions are recognized. Management visibility is important since you’re going to need to reduce your emotional investment in your job. If the job’s not going to enrich your creativity, you can’t afford to be too wrapped up in it. That doesn’t mean you won’t perform well, but don’t over-perform since you’ll need to divert mental energy to other activities.

Personally, in my corporate life, our company began appreciating creativity even less than it had following significant management changes. What was valued? Cost cutting, stopping programs, and doing what we were doing with dramatically reduced expenditures. As a result, I tried to find creative and innovative ways to carry out those tasks. It wasn’t nearly as rewarding as investing in new marketing programs, without a doubt. But taking initiative on these priorities demonstrated my active contribution to the organization even while shifting my mental focus to my Plan B.

Plan B – Working on What’s Next

If you haven’t already, start looking at your entire life as a creative outlet. Concurrently, compartmentalize your work – viewing it as one small part of your life – not your whole life. This move is vital since you’re going to need creative energy to work on Plan B. You can’t be successful in this dual track strategy if you’re allowing your current job to drain you creatively.

Identify your distinctive talents and identify ways to incorporate them into everything you do in both your work and personal lives. Since these distinctive talents should be areas that most excite you creatively, you’ll receive you a much needed creative boost by allowing them to occupy a bigger portion of your waking hours.

Begin creating a new, expanded creative team with which to surround yourself. Take advantage of both the people you know in person and those you meet through social media to share and fortify your creativity.

As your mind starts to clear creatively, begin identifying your strategic career options. As you do this, take deliberate steps to find and/or create your second, more creative “job.” The job may be a paying one, or it could be volunteer work. It may be expressively focused on cultivating your creative pursuits. No matter what it is, your pursuit should be providing disproportionate creative fulfillment and leading you toward what your future holds – moving your creative life and career pursuits in a way that today’s plan B becomes the plan A of some point in your very near future!  – 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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All wonderful questions from attendees at two recent CreativeBloc training presentations I did.

Each CreativeBloc question was shared on a post-presentation evaluation I use at all my training presentations. Asking attendees what questions they still have on the content has become a great source for future blog topics (hint for speaker-bloggers!).

Over the next five days, we’ll tackle each of creativity-based question with an individual blog post to add to the CreativeBloc content. – Mike Brown

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