Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 332 – page 332

For this Wednesday’s Change Your Character exercise, let’s look at exercise and doing it successfully. Specifically, someone exercising usually works with a trainer trying to trim their waist.

So let’s think about how we can apply a successful exerciser’s approach to trimming wastein a business setting. A successful exerciser:

  • Sets a realistic, aggressive goal
  • Works with a trainer to increase their knowledge, accountability, and results
  • Exercises regularly
  • Varies the workout to stay motivated
  • Pushes to achieve better performance all the time
  • Tracks and records their activity
  • Consumes less food
  • Monitors food intake by counting calories
  • Measures progress toward the goal

Next time you’re charged with reducing something at work (costs, unnecessary process, re-work, etc.) generate at least three potential new ideas for each of the steps above to help you improve your odds of successfully trimming fat.

Note #1 – Today’s post is dedicated to Jenn Oxler, my trainer for the past two years. With her help (and her repeated questions about my food intake), I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds and have gotten into the best physical shape of my life. Thanks Jenn!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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 you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Continue Reading


Doing a creative development session several years ago, the ground rules were clear: every idea was valid and nothing people said could be wrong. A freeing experience, right? Not so for Becky. She didn’t participate that day, much to my surprise, since the session focused on developing themes for a customer conference, and she had extensive analogous trade show experience.

Becky approached me later saying she’d never been in a comparable meeting before and that it had been one of the most uncomfortable experiences in her business life. Startled, I asked her why. She told me at her previous company it wasn’t okay to suggest impractical ideas or ones outside the budget. Without more knowledge of our program, it was nearly impossible to contribute.

One idea at our session was having Lance Armstrong speak. Becky wondered whether we had enough budget. I told her it didn’t matter. By someone suggesting Lance Armstrong, the ideas could branch off to what he’d talk about, who else might cover the same topics, or how we could do team building as he had, among a variety of possibilities.

She also let me know at her old place, only people steeped in a program were allowed in planning discussions. And since she hadn’t seen our program, it was impossible to suggest ideas on the spot. In the future, she asked to get the topics in advance so she could think about ideas, write them out, and bring notes to the session. While I appreciated her diligence, in the time she’d need to write up 10 ideas, the group could generate 150 possibilities or more.

What a sad place Becky’s World (as I called it) must have been.

Think about it – do you live in Becky’s World? Do you and your business embrace new and apparently inexperienced perspectives because they effectively challenge the status quo? Or does your company actively force people to conform to a particular thought pattern or point of view.

Only you can decide. But if you find yourself in Becky’s World, take my advice. GET OUT NOW!!!

Continue Reading


It’s surprising how many readers go right along with popular business books that report historical case studies as if it were always evident that they’d succeed. It’s easy to pick winners when “the game” is over. It’s much more difficult while the game is still going. Having been in big corporation most of my business life, it’s clear that things which look very calculated after the fact often depend on a variety of very fortunate, difficult to repeat circumstances, for success.

You can glean additional value from case study winners by figuring out how the success could be repeated; in essence, what are the strategic bread crumbs that would help find your way down the success trail again? Here are four questions to identify strategic bread crumbs:
  1. What’s a generalized description of the case study, i.e. what were they trying to accomplish and what other businesses have similar situations?
  2. What questions would you ask and answer to recreate the successful situation?
  3. What were the critical success factors – things that had to be there for success or would have thwarted success had they been present?
  4. What steps would it take to recreate the situation or move it into another business?

Also use these questions in your own situations to create the strategic bread crumbs to lead you back to repeat successes.

Continue Reading


This fun Friday (or any other day) exercise turns ho-hum ideas into bigger, more dramatic ones. We call the exercise “Shrimp” because it’s typically applied to small, leftover ideas (much like Japanese Steak House chefs save a few shrimp to throw at the meal’s end). Here are the steps:

1. Take 5 or 10 of your smallest, weakest, or run-of-the-mill ideas to reach your business objective.

2. Select an authority figure (it can be a boss, the board of directors, or a regulatory body) that could shoot down any new possibilities emerging from these ideas. The more distinct and well-known the authority’s personality the better.

3. Use your starter ideas to create incredibly outrageous possibilities by asking, “How could we turn this idea into something that supports our objective but that our authority figure would COMPLETELY HATE or would make them THROW UP?” Remember, you’re going for GENUINE ANGER, not just discomfort; it’s okay to think inappropriate, embarrassing, even illegal possibilities. Go for at least 3 – 5 new possibilities for each starter idea.

4. Then, for each new outrageous possibility, ask the following question to bring it back to reality: “How could we carry out this concept in ways that are acceptable, realistic, feasible, or actually able to be implemented?” Don’t settle for less than 10 new concepts from each outrageous idea.

These new, more mainstream ideas will benefit from being stretched beyond the boundaries of normal thinking. They typically take on a surprising richness and depth by having been run through “Shrimp.”

Also by encouraging your group to engage in thinking outside conventions under which it normally operates, the exercise creates both great ideas and great fun! What more could you want for a Friday!

Continue Reading


I’m so excited to have Barrett Sydnor, president of Sydnor & Associates, as today’s guest author. We go back nearly 15 years, and I’ve always enjoyed his business writing tremendously. Today he addresses objectivity within strategic planning; he’ll also be back next month with a post on “invented second.”

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, quotes the father of modern consulting, Marvin Bower, as defining marketing as “objectivity.” If so, then objectivity is one of the most important qualities that any good strategic marketing planning process must have. But it is tough to do for two reasons.

One is that most people simply aren’t built that way. A few years ago I led a planning session for a company where I wanted people to think from the outside in (no big insight I know, but bear with me). To encourage that, they were not allowed to use first person references when speaking about the company – no “we” or “our.” It had to be third person, as an outsider would refer to it. To enforce it, we charged a quarter each time they referred to the company in first person. By the end of the session we had collected a very considerable sum for charity. One participant gave up about one-third of the way through, tossed a ten dollar bill in the pot, and said “I hope this gets me through the end of the day.”

These were smart people, good strategic thinkers, but they could not totally divorce themselves from thinking of the situation at hand in a first-person way.

The second reason that objectivity is tough is because often the objective person is seen as being negative or cynical. They are accused of not being a team player. And it is true that sometimes the approach and language of objectivity sounds negative and cynical when it is intended as skeptical or cautionary.

So how do you build objectivity into the planning process? One way is to encourage something I would call “passionate objectivity.” This is a quality or skill set that the best news reporters are heavily endowed with.

Those reporters approach stories with enthusiasm and an open mind, but they look for facts -verifiable facts – to back up or refute the opinions and subjectivity they encounter along the way.
An exercise that you can do to ensure that a planning recommendation is based in objectivity is to treat it the way a reporter would (should) treat a news story.

  • Write down the questions they would ask. Include the basic neutral, fact-collecting ones and the pointed ones that try to dig deeper.
  • Determine who they would go to as sources on the story, both inside the organization and outside sources—competitors, independent industry experts, academicians. Figure out what customers they would talk to.
  • What would they ask each of these sources and what would the answers be?

If you can answer those questions with good reliability and it still points favorably to your recommendation, you’ve had a good test of your processes objectivity. If you don’t know what the answers would be or the answers don’t square with the recommendation, maybe it’s time to go back and put some more passionate objectivity into the process. Barrett Sydnor

Continue Reading


Amid too much jargon, the state of business communication isn’t stellar. We could all benefit from delegating a writing assignment to a great reporter to see how they’d approach it to ensure it’s as clear, concise, and memorable as possible. Here are some of the things a good reporter is going to concentrate on during a writing assignment:

  • Interview people directly involved in the story
  • Use multiple sources of information
  • Write in order to gain attention right away
  • Put the most important things at the start of the story, followed by supporting material, then background information
  • Address fundamental questions – who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Use specific, concrete examples
  • Have an editor who reviews it and makes changes

In addition to identifying at least three new ways to incorporate each of a reporter’s approaches to improve your writing, here’s a bonus book recommendation – do yourself a favor and track down a copy of “How to Take the Fog Out of Business Writing” by Robert Gunning and Richard A. Kallan. It’s a precursor to “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide” and is a short, straight-forward guide to dramatically simplifying your business writing.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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 you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Continue Reading


In business, people typically spend time thinking about arguing and defending their own points of view. It’s rare though when someone spends time thinking about how they’d argue against themselves.

So next time you’re advocating a particularly contentious position, grab somebody who is less tied to your positions and swap sides – have them argue for your position while you challenge their pro arguments smartly and strongly. Seeing what new logic they develop to defend the position you really hold can help unlock new perspectives you can use later.

Debating against yourself (or at least your viewpoint) is a fantastic way to challenge and shore up your thinking before somebody else forces you to do it on the spot.

Continue Reading