June is wedding month, so for a random creativity starter, use the age old advice given to brides on what to include in their weddings: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

Apply the maxim to a creative challenge you have this month in the following way:

Something Old – Think back to a previous creative success. What was the secret ingredient to your creative win? Apply this previous success key to a current challenge to see what it sparks now.

Something New - Buy a bridal magazine or any type of heavily picture-oriented publication that’s new relative to what you usually read. Go through page by page looking for images and words as creative idea starters.

Something Borrowed – Ask others who are part of your creative team for their favorite creative idea starters. Borrow their creative triggers to get your creativity going.

Something Blue – Watch this video of paintings from Pablo Picasso’s blue period. See what new ideas are prompted by Picasso’s artistic approach.

Using these four random inputs should provide a greater than 50% likelihood of creative success – which is better than the marriage success rate!

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In early May, a TweetDeck search on “creative” tweets showed several referencing a Creative unConference in New York. I tweeted to attendees asking for a guest blogger to write about their experience presenting at an event where there’s not really a pre-planned schedule.

Part of it was professional curiosity since I’m chairing the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference in October, and we’ve discussed how to incorporate more attendee-driven content. The other part was a sincere interest in all of us learning more about these types of emerging events.

Stephanie Sharp stepped forward to share her perspective on the event. Stephanie owns Sharp Designs, a graphic design and branding consultancy in New Jersey. She has extensive experience with identity work, marketing collateral, and internal communications. Here’s Stephanie’s view on what it’s like when a social networking perspective intersects with a real life event:

I presented at the Creative unConference in New York City on May 7 – 9. This event was organized by The One Show as part of a week-long creative week. Since this was my first unConference, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so here are three take-aways to help others prepare for attending an unConference:

Prepare for a Richer Experience

The registration process included two questions:

  • What are you going to present?
  • What subjects are you interested in hearing about?

My answer to the first question was : “I AM PRESENTING on the rebranding that has occurred in the last year or so. Some has been seen as a misfire among the design community. Is there a shift in identity work? Have we lost Paul Rand’s way of working? Is it better or worse?”

The unConference guidelines warned speakers to not prepare too much. It’s not like a typical conference with a presentation followed by Q&A with the audience. An unConference is very interactive with a session’s attendees voicing their opinions. A comment from a speaker or a fellow attendee can start a longer discussion on one particular item. As such it’s a much richer experience.

Get Ready to Actively Shape the Agenda

An unConference’s schedule is set each morning, so the exact agenda isn’t known ahead of time. Every attendee is in a large room and allowed to introduce themselves. We grabbed paper and markers and wrote what we wanted to present on sheets and gathered in two lines to announce our session to the crowd.

Alternatively, we could write a subject heading in which we needed help, an issue we were working with, or a topic on which we wanted to hear others’ views. We walked over to a large schedule board and taped our session into a slot for a room and time. As people were adding their sessions, you could also move yours to another time. For any sessions that were similar, presenters could discuss and combine them.

Anticipate but Be Flexible

For my session, I prepared ahead of time by gathering recent logo redesigns causing discussion and controversy within the online design community. These included major brands such as Pepsi, Tropicana, the 2012 Olympics, and Xerox among others. Only a few sessions had access to projectors, so I printed several copies of the logos anticipating I’d be in one of the smaller, intimate areas. Needing visuals for my presentation, this approach provided the most flexibility no matter what the space.

Most everyone in the session held similar ideas on the logos, but we shared some interesting insights with each other. It was more of a discussion than a traditional “presentation,” giving attendees more time to interact and exchange opinions.


In all, I came away from the Creative unConference with some excellent ideas and knowledge I can implement in my own design and branding consultancy and will definitely keep an eye out for future unConferences. - Stephanie Sharp

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Reviews in Delta Airline’s in-flight publication used to end with a section called ITIS. Within the reviews, this portion called out one particular chapter to read or song to listen to “If Time Is Short.”

It’s a cool idea. Yet, who remembers the last time you came across anyone enjoying a leisurely pace at work? A more appropriate acronym is TIAS: Time Is Always Short!

One implication of this more frenzied pace is the increasing difficulty in getting people to read everything put in front of them. Or more specifically, reading what you put in front of them. That’s why it’s vital your communication is as easy as possible to process.

Building a presentation recently on strategic thinking for researchers prompted rummaging through the Brainzooming archives for material on communicating information with greater impact. Here are 12 posts to help streamline your communication so something gets done with it even when TIAS:

Matching Your Communication to the Audience’s Interests

Focusing on What Your Audience Cares About

Making Your Message More Memorable

Categorizing Information

Narrowing to the Really Important Ideas

Structuring Your Writing As a Reporter Would

Forming a Recommendation to Drive Action

Grouping Information with the Rule of Threes

Shortening Your Writing

Writing Complete Headlines

Alternatives to Written Communication

Pitching Your Idea

And here’s a bonus link to “A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods,” a unique way to get a quick review of many different ways of presenting information in a graphic format. The table is constructed so as you roll your cursor over a cell, it pops up a specific example of the visualization method. It’s well worth checking out!

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Visiting Panera Bread recently, I noticed employees’ name tags now include the question, “What’s Your Passion?” and the employee’s personal answer.

Love the question, but I’m not sure about this strategic application. It forces an employee to disclose what might be very personal information or fudge, sharing something more generic and not really a passion at all. For instance, the person taking my order, listed “food” as her passion. From the looks of her, that was no surprise. Yet the answer had to be so short and potentially bland to fit on her name tag it really wasn’t the conversation starter I am sure the person who came up with the idea expected it to be.

Here’s a great application of the question though: Answer it for yourself, identifying your own passions. Then make sure you’re:

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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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