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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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There are various sketchbooks in our home office loaded with ideas. Sometimes a good thought doesn’t fill up a whole blog post right away, but it offers enough possibilities to work well on Twitter. This is the debut of a new feature offering collections of strategic thinking ideas tweeted first, but then grouped and arranged to make them more digestable.

This first group touches on strategic collaboration, a fitting topic since upcoming posts on Wednesday and Thursday are both from people I’ve met over the past few weeks on Twitter.
Collaboration

  • Don’t always answer a question for someone who already “knows” the answer. Let them own the answer.
  • Take risks on determined people. Even when falling short, their tenacity will create something rewarding.
  • Seek help. Don’t try to understand or do everything yourself. There are people better prepared than you. Let them do what they know.
  • Get input early from a boss that has an informed perspective. You’ll benefit from doing so.
  • Ask questions of experts. Chart their answers for agreement/disagreement. Pray. Then make your best decision.
  • Ask someone completely new for help with a challenge. You’ll appreciate the different perspective. They’ll like helping.
  • Go out of your way to (at least informally) mentor those eager to learn & grow.

Please let me know your thoughts on this new feature in the comments section!


TweetIt from HubSpot

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Next time you’re meeting in a room with windows, try turning off the lights for a different creative feel.

It can be calming and creativity-inducing to be in natural light vs. squirming under banks of fluorescent lights that practically scream, “Status Quo!”

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One unexpected benefit from investing time on Twitter has been the interest of others in contributing guest posts for Brainzooming. That’s great since it helps introduce other perspectives to Brainzooming through both comments and entire posts.

Today’s guest post is from Linda S. Fitzgerald, M.S.Ed. I’ve been tweeting back and forth with Linda, who is CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) of A Women’s Place Network, Inc., for several weeks now. She agreed to share her perspective on an important topic: the creativity that’s in each of us.

Everyone’s Got Some? I’m talking about “creativity.” Everyone has some of the stuff that brings new things into being. The energy that makes something out of what appears to be nothing!

Most of us tend to think we are not very creative. In fact, I meet men and women who tell me – flat out – “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!”

The truth is that each of us is born with a level of creativity intertwined with our “destiny design” – the ultimate purpose for which we were born. Most folks’ ultimate purpose requires some creativity if it is to come to pass and successfully function on our behalf and that of others.

Creativity may not look the same to you as it does to me. The genius of Albert Einstein is not the same creativity as mine. My creative genius does not inhabit the world of math. Mine is in design and development of programs and projects. It’s also in the fine art of writing – the use of language to paint word pictures that draw others in and invite them to enter my world through my words.

When we deny that creativity lies deep within us, we deny our very existence and certainly our destiny design. If we choose to decide (and it is a “choice” and a “decision”) we have nothing we or the world would identify as creativity, we have denied our very purpose.

Creativity is energy, and it permeates every aspect of our being. It may be small, such as encountering a challenge in cooking a new dish, only to discover how to overcome the challenge without an expert’s intervention. That’s creativity. We don’t recognize it as such because we may have been led to believe that creative folks create big things.

Being creative occurs in all aspects of our lives! When we find alternatives to overcome a challenge, do something a little different with the time and energy saved, turn old ways into new ways because we must –we are using natural creative energy each of us has in ready reserve.

The wisdom of the day is: go out and exercise your creativity. If you haven’t yet found it; discover it. Ask a trusted friend how they see you being creative. Make note of the things he/she says, and then practice creativity on a daily basis. Practice until (as the old adage says) “practice makes perfect”.

Have an awesome creative day!

TweetIt from HubSpot

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I was in Western Kansas last week, and my mom and I made a few trips to Walgreens. Right inside the parking lot was a huge pothole (interestingly, this may be a part of the Walgreens brand experience because there’s a comparable one at the Kansas City location we regularly visit). The first two times we were there, my mom pointed it out and told me to be careful not to hit it. I found this quite UNNECESSARY since, given its enormous size, it was IMPOSSIBLE to not see the pothole.

On my way out of town, I stopped alone at Walgreens to get something. This time, I didn’t see the pothole, and without my mom to point it out, the car thudded right into it.

Why the difference? I’m not entirely sure.

But here’s the lesson: even when you think you don’t need help from someone, TAKE IT. And more than that, accept it with a smile, take it to heart, and thank them for the advice because you just don’t know what might have happened if they hadn’t cared enough to offer it!

 

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