Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 196 – page 196

The Brainzooming Group helped shape an intriguing project featuring two graduate level marketing communications classes at the University of Kansas. Students in Max Utsler’s “Innovations in Marketing Communications” class and Barrett Sydnor’s “Integrated Marketing Communications and Sales Strategy” class are writing blog posts during the semester on topics related to the classes, including branding, marketing, social media, experience marketing, and innovation.

Working with a number of Brainzooming friends who publish popular blogs in these areas, we’ll be running a number of blogs from students in these two classes. Max Utsler dubbed the project “Blogapalooza,” and today, we’re publishing the first guest Blogapalozza post on Brainzooming.

Today’s author, Patrick Kerr, lives and works in the Kansas City area. His interests include good food, fishing, and finding new hobbies to take his mind off the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. Today he takes up the question of the impact Groupon has on customer service – both for the provider and the customer:


My wife and I recently spent our wedding anniversary at an upscale restaurant hailed by critics for its outstanding food and ambience. The owner of the establishment is a highly accomplished chef who enjoys a stellar reputation in local and national culinary circles. He is one of a few true culinary celebrities who live in our area and has won numerous accolades for his cooking skills. As self-proclaimed “foodies,” we couldn’t wait to celebrate the occasion over a gourmet meal and fine wine. Even better, my wife purchased a Groupon for the restaurant so we felt like we could splurge without feeling too guilty.

The day of our reservation, I checked out the restaurant’s ratings on Yelp and was surprised to find so many negative reviews. The reviews spanned from mildly critical to downright nasty. Not exactly what you’d expect from a four-star restaurant. Of the bad write-ups, there were two common denominators: poor service and Groupon. Prior to the Groupon introduction, the marks were consistently positive if not gushing with praise. It was only in retrospect that I made the connection.

So how did our dining experience turn out? The food lived up to its excellent reputation, but the only way to get our server’s attention was to flail my arms about like some over-eager 2nd grader dying to be called on by the teacher. If anything, service at a four-star restaurant should border on hovering. This felt more as if we were being quarantined for some highly contagious virus. I’ve had better service at Waffle House. At least they refill your drinks once in a while. We couldn’t help but think that our early admission of using the Groupon had an overall negative impact on service. It turns out we were in good company. Apparently, Groupon and poor customer service go hand-in-hand.

Customer Service Rating of Groupon Users

Additional research revealed a direct link between the use of Groupon and a negative service experience. The above graph is from a study conducted by Cornell researchers who studied over 16,000 Groupon Deals in 20 US cities between January and July this year. The study found, among other things, that Groupon users averaged a 10% lower rating than those who didn’t use Groupon.

So why does Groupon promote bad customer service? From the merchant’s perspective, Groupon often means more trouble than it’s worth. The servers I’ve spoken with all complain that users frequently tip on the discounted amount, and not on the actual amount of the food. For expensive restaurants like the one we went to, that could mean the difference of $100 – $200.  In fact, our receipt clearly read what the amount would have been prior to the discount. Obviously, that is a sore point that needs addressed.

If Groupon wants to establish a loyal following, they need to make it clear to partners that they must uphold a certain standard of service and refuse to do business with those restaurants that won’t commit to those terms. Perhaps establish a “code of excellence” that becomes synonymous with their brand.  Groupon’s reputation and the reputation of the restaurants they do business with depend on it.

Have you had a negative Groupon experience? If so, please share it in the comments below. -Patrick Kerr 

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Photo by: Gräfin. | Source:

If you need someone’s help with a strategic decision or action, there’s often a tendency to do as much work as you can yourself before going to someone else to minimize the impact on them. Then after you’ve taken it as far as possible, you approach them for participation or a strategic decision. This is often done quite earnestly to demonstrate your personal contribution and effort.

The Problem

The problem is that the other party may see the situation from a very different strategic perspective; they could have different and potentially more creative ideas than you do. But if you’ve advanced the process so far that it’s beyond the opportunity for the other person to meaningfully contribute (or worse, you’ve made strategic decisions that eliminate options the other person may have been able to pursue), your attempt to save them hassle can wind up sabotaging your own efforts.

An Example

Someone became very frustrated with me when I couldn’t help in a way that fully satisfied them.

A big reason?

She’d wrongly interpreted someone else’s comment, implemented a number of very final strategic decisions based on the misinterpretation, and then expected me to make exactly the decision she wanted. If we’d have talked three decisions earlier, it might have been a possibility, but the strategic decisions that had been made precluded me from being able to pursue several potentially favorable alternatives. I tried to devise a compromise that could work, but the situation led to completely unnecessary acrimony between us.

An Alternative Approach

So how do you ask for help?

  • Figure out early on in what areas you need help and who can provide it
  • Do some homework
  • Before you start shutting down options, first consult the people you’re looking to for help.

In that way, you’ll maximize the opportunities for them to contribute and minimize potential frustrations for everyone involved. – 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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There’s the old saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Today’s post is mainly pictures of creativity and very few words.

Kids Creativity for Adults

The lower age limit is for sanity and safety. The upper age limit is for inviting adults to rekindle the spirit of kids creativity they might have left behind long ago.

Creative Mistakes

Very few creative decisions you have to make are this big of a deal. Thank goodness. So go out and make creative mistakes and don’t worry about it.

Creative Expectations and Inspiration

I’m all for creative inspiration, but placing a huge creative expectation on the outside of a book with hundreds of blank pages to fill shuts off any creative inspiration I might have. If you make a mistake creating yourself in this book, it does seem like it could kill you.

Well Done Guerrilla Marketing

This is a prime USDA example of outstanding guerrilla marketing. If you have a company vehicle, how about making it reinforce your brand promise?

Creative Company Cars

Speaking of a company vehicle, how about this van as the new company vehicle for The Brainzooming Group?

The Creative Week Ahead

Hope you enjoyed today’s pictures of creativity blog post.

This week, I’ll be trying to keep as many ducks in a row as possible. It will take lots of paddling!

Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help in better using creative thinking exercises! For an organizational 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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Several reactions to the large event Google brainstorming session The Brainzooming Group designed and facilitated for Social Media Club of Kansas City expressed frustration at the participants involved (questioning if people with real-life experience were involved in the Google Fiber brainstorming session), the nature of some ideas (they weren’t extreme enough), and the level of detail (insufficient action steps). You can see for yourself since we now have the report out videos from all the brainstorming groups posted on the SMCKC Gigabit City website.

From a distance, these are potentially reasonable challenges predicated on mistaken assumptions and experiences about what a brainstorming session is or will produce.

7 Things a Brainstorming Session Isn’t

Rather than writing another piece on what brainstorming (or “Brainzooming,” as we like to call it) is, here are seven things a brainstorming session ISN’T:

1. Able to accommodate everyone’s participation – There’s a point (around 10 people) at which the size of a group doing brainstorming starts to diminish results. Unless you’re using multiple facilitators, you have to strive for as much participant diversity as possible while realizing not every potential perspective will be included. That’s where pre-session input and post-session comments count.

2. Best done with a clean sheet of paper – Don’t start brainstorming with a clean sheet of paper, no matter how many people “say” to do it. Brainstorming with a clean sheet of paper generates ideas too close to right now. Start with a sheet of paper filled with creative thinking exercises – questions and tools to stretch creative thinking.

3. Quiet time – Group brainstorming sessions are for thinking aloud. If a brainstorming session is working, participants are going to be voicing and sharing ideas actively. The key is to make sure someone’s capturing ALL the ideas shared for later review.

4. A chance for a facilitator to push a personal agenda – A facilitator isn’t at a brainstorming session to make sure a specific outcome results. A brainstorming facilitator should be asking probing questions, prompting all attendees to participate actively, and ensuring new ideas are freely shared without being immediately ruled out.

5. Going to automatically solve every aspect of a question – Just because you conduct a brainstorming session doesn’t mean every issue will be addressed. Even though attempting to target and focus the subject matter with creative thinking exercises, a brainstorming session is just one input into a successful ideation process.

6. Always a special event – If you’ve been to brainstorming sessions, it usually feels like a big deal. My thinking when bringing people together for Brainzooming is to make sure it’s productive and efficient, but also a very memorable event. If the only time you’re pushing your creative thinking is at special events though, you’re missing out. Make sure you have at least a few techniques you can use informally to brainstorm anytime you need new ideas.

7. A stopping point – Even though a brainstorming session concludes at some point, it’s rarely the end of the work. After the brainstorming session, there will be ideas to review, evaluate, and select to pursue with specific implementation steps.


If that’s what a brainstorming session isn’t, how do the brainstorming sessions you’ve been in compare? – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help in better using creative thinking exercises! For an organizational 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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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I have never been an Apple fan boy. My computer life started on MS-DOS, and viewing technology as purely a way to get things done, I tend not to jump technology platforms unless something forces it on me. I do have a dated iPod I use when working out and love iTunes because it unites two of my passions – music and research. But that is about it for any Apple products.

Nonetheless, I had started a creativity-oriented blog post for today, but couldn’t see running it given the news. While I tend to not conform the blog’s writing schedule to current events, it would be ridiculous on an innovation and creativity-focused blog to simply march ahead with whatever the next blog post was without at least a moment of “blog silence” for Steve Jobs.

Because whether or not I’ve been on the Apple bandwagon all these years, you have to acknowledge Jobs’ incredible disruptive, creative genius in business, design, and leadership.

For that, I will always be in awe.

There are very few people hard-wired the way Steve Jobs was.

For the rest of us, it comes down to trying to figure out if there are tools to push our thinking down comparably disruptive paths – minus the brain matter and perspective Steve Jobs had to look at the world with such an elegantly disruptive mentality.

So while Steve Jobs’ passing doesn’t hit me with a critical fear of future cool product deprivation, it hits me because an amazing creative business genius is gone today. – Mike Brown

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We facilitated the “Building the Gigabit City” brainstorming session Monday, October 3 with a tremendous, diverse group of individuals from across Kansas City. Our objective was to identify potential opportunities for how Kansas City will use the ultra high-speed internet capabilities Google Fiber will provide to change individual lives in the metro area. In partnership with Social Media Club of Kansas City, we designed and facilitated the event as a large strategic brainstorming session.

Visualizing The Brainzooming Group Process

We don’t write much about specific clients we work with on the blog, because frankly, the type of strategy and innovation work we do results in proprietary output. Even that The Brainzooming Group is working with a particular client is often sensitive information. As a result, this pro-bono session, inspired by a challenge to Social Media Club of Kansas City from by local Kansas City government officials, is a rare occasion to write about and depict the strategy and innovation work The Brainzooming Group does for specific clients.

Right now, we’re in the midst of reviewing, compiling, and documenting the Gigabit City brainstorming session’s output and our strategic input on the three themes of “Learning, Living, and Leading.” The brainstorming session results will be shared with anyone in the community or globally as an input to make the effort more successful.

In the meantime, here are three initial videos from Kansas City television stations (Fox4 and KCTV-5) plus one from Jason Harper at the Kansas City Missouri Public Library, another major “Building the Gigabit City” sponsor. Each video depicts a different aspect of the Google Fiber event, the facilitators, and the participants.

Look for more updates over the next few weeks here, and on Social Media Club of Kansas City’s Gigabit City website. “Building the Gigabit City” was an exciting, dynamic innovation step for Kansas City, and we are very appreciative that The Brainzooming Group was in a position to make it happen!  – Mike Brown

Fox4 – Google Fiber Plans

KCTV 5 – Gearing up for Google Fiber 



Kansas City Missouri Public Library Recap

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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help enhance your marketing strategy and implementation efforts.

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Based on the video date on Vimeo, this video for Foundation for a Better Life has been out there for a while, but I saw the “Concert” video for the first time this past weekend on the Speed Network NASCAR pre-race show (I offer that level of detail because it’s an interesting targeting for this public service announcement).

The video’s encourage creativity theme says it all: we have to encourage creative talents in kids, but the music-loving child in the “Concert” video could just as easily be an adult at work with a creative talent that could benefit from encouragement.

Whether adult or child, how are you using your distinctive talents to encourage creativity in all those who you come in contact with daily? You may be the only person in a position to encourage, build on, and grow someone else’s creative talents. Make sure you take advantage of those wondrous opportunities you’ve been given!  – Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more creative and encourage creativity in others! For an organizational 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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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