Someone asked me earlier this year if I had simply gone to a facilitation training class, swiped the content, renamed it Brainzooming, and opened up shop.

My answer was an emphatic, “Definitely not!”

What has become the Brainzooming methodology developed from a wide variety of sources.  It evolved into a tested approach for developing strategy that takes full advantage of the diverse inspirations from which its strategic thinking exercises originated.

I was reminded of the diversity of influences we incorporated while creating the Strategic Thinking Fake Book for a recent Creating Strategic Impact workshop.


In the workshop, we covered twelve different strategic thinking exercises in two hours. Revisiting the twelve strategic thinking exercises presented in the workshop, the inspirations are all over the place:

  • A Fortune 500 CFO
  • A strategic thinking book
  • An advertising agency
  • A poster from a poster shop in New Orleans
  • A strategic mentor
  • A magazine ad
  • My own thinking about anticipating disruptive competitors
  • A different advertising agency
  • My own thinking about social media networks
  • Lateral thinking principles
  • Helping a co-worker try to think differently about a business situation
  • An innovation consultant

The lesson here is there are great strategic thinking examples all around you.

Focus less on business gurus who get written up all the time in magazines and online. Their lessons are broadcast so broadly, there are many people trying to mimic them.

Look instead for the great lessons where perhaps YOU were the only person ever exposed to them who recognized them as strategic thinking lessons.

Those are the ones you can adapt and do something with to really set yourself apart.   – Mike Brown


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Extreme creativity can scare some people, but . . .

The people saying you and your bold ideas are “crazy” generally have way too many problems of their own. That’s why they have energy to waste “fixing” you.


Don’t let people who have no idea what they are talking about tell you your bold ideas are crazy. Celebrate your extreme creativity.

And if you need help with getting yourself ready for the extreme creativity that leads to bold ideas, take advantage of all these Brainzooming creative thinking resources.

Mike Brown


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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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A client made a comment recently, that falls into the, “I know that, but forget about it all the time” category.

While discussing how we’d approach strategy development and creating strategic impact for the organization, the client said, “You guys think about strategic planning very differently.”

That’s true, but it’s easy for us to overlook it.

I often tell participants in our strategic thinking workshops the Brainzooming approach for strategic planning, thinking, and implementation is different because it was designed on the client side, not the agency side. The Brainzooming approach accounts for the fact WE had to live with the plan, its implementation, and the results. We couldn’t simply walk out the door with little concern whether it worked or not.

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The client comment prompted me to include a new section in our strategic thinking workshops on ten fundamentals of creating strategic impact. In this way, participants understand the context for the Brainzooming approach. Since you’re reading our content, it’s valuable to share the ten fundamentals with you here.

10 Fundamentals of Creating Strategic Impact

  1. Strategic thinking involves addressing what matters with insight and innovation.
  2. What’s considered strategic or not shouldn’t involve how far in the future it is.
  3. Use the most important strategic thinking question frequently: What are we trying to achieve?
  4. The greater the range of diverse perspectives you incorporate into strategic thinking, the richer the thinking can be.
  5. Strategic thinking needs to include both quantitative/analytical people and creative people.
  6. The best strategic thinking comes from three strategic perspectives working together: people with direct experience, functional expertise, and creative energy.
  7. Strategy happens at all levels of an organization, so strategic thinking needs to happen at all levels also.
  8. Strong strategic thinking involves both using structure AND actively exploring multiple scenarios.
  9. When it comes to innovation, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” – Linus Pauling
  10. Using non-traditional questions creates strategic detours around conventional thinking.

With that foundation, our strategic thinking workshop attendees (and you) are much better prepared to see how the Brainzooming approach helps you realize incredible advantages in new insights, innovation, efficiency, and results!  – Mike Brown

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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Jennifer Spencer of The Spencer Group, a marketing recruiter in Kansas City shared her perspectives, insights, and engaging wit with the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s June meeting.

While Jennifer was specifically addressing Kansas City freelancers on ways to better position and sell themselves, her career lessons extended beyond geography and career path. Here are valuable career lessons, paraquotes, and audience reactions from Jennifer’s talk.


Building Awareness about YOU

People won’t call or hire you if no one knows who you are. Always have a business card with you. It’s not THAT old school. Does anybody bump a phone . . . really? Work samples are important, however, THEY HAVE TO BE ONLINE (JENNIFER’S CAPS).

If you’re already in a full-time job and aren’t known within the senior levels of your company, you’re a sitting duck for a layoff. Make sure you’re building awareness of you and your contributions – no matter what.

Hang out around digital incubators because if these companies get funding, they will need to grow and support require from people outside the company.

Think Global, Behave Yourself Local

With the advent of online options, you could be competing for your job with people globally, especially if it’s an area employers see as a potential for outsourcing. Do you know what the global market for what you do looks like? Even though the market may be global, in the Midwest especially, you don’t want to get a bad reputation because it will spread.

Come in and Deliver

Companies want people to come in and quickly make their lives easier. Especially early in your career, be smart about how you introduce new ideas that could be perceived as scope creep. Unless you’re brought in as a turnaround person, your first day on the job isn’t the time to solve all the company’s ills. Solidly contribute and look for opportunities later to deliver more completely and creatively

Just Get ‘Er Done

Project management is the in vogue role currently. You may be expected to take ideas from concept to execution. You need a foot in both the offline AND online words. If you do and you’re further into your career, you can really use your experience to your advantage.

The Paraquotable Jennifer Spencer

  • “Find out what you’re good at and own it.”
  • “Own your awkwardness when you’re out there networking. Making fun of yourself is quite endearing.”
  • “People find work in the darndest places.”
  • “Hold your best for last. Sacrifice a few ideas upfront that you are willing to see sacrificed.”

For What It’s Worth, Freelancers

Hourly rates are all over the board for creative freelancers; it really, really, really depends. You have to keep a sense of what the market and going rate is for your services.  Be prepared to negotiate when you’re going in as a freelancer to try to secure a project.  You have to be willing (and getting better) at negotiating.

The limbo of rate negotiations comes down to this question, “How low should you go?”  Go in with a higher rate early when they love you. Don’t go to the rock bottom ever, or even just too low when you start negotiating

You can’t be scared to negotiate. Believe in yourself and what you’re worth.  Raise your rates as you add experience and can deliver more value. Consider creating a menu of prices for basic vs. more conceptual, strategic work. Don’t work for people who come back at you with stupid, ridiculous rates. It won’t get any better later.

Prepare in Good Times for Challenging Times

You have to manage cash flow in good times to be ready for bad times. Try holding back 50% of your current income for challenging times.

You also need to stay relevant and on-trend to prepare for downturns in the economy. Staying relevant may push you out of your comfort zone; you’ll have to get out from behind the computer.  It’s vital to network out of your typical circles with people who are in the same careers as you are. You’ll stand out more effectively if you’re networking where people like you ain’t (my grammar there).

Career Lessons Galore!

As you can tell Jennifer Spencer shared so many fantastic career lessons. Her talk will be a hard one for the next presenter to follow! And that happens to be . . . me. I’ll be talking at the July lunch on a topic Jennifer chose after her talk: Digital Self-Promotion. Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer was!

Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer Spencer was!  – Mike Brown


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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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Idea-Magnets-TitleI think this is a first today. It’s an excerpt from another publication about Brainzooming creative thinking content.

Specifically, this recap of Monday’s “Idea Magnets – Creative Business Leadership” webcast I presented for the American Marketing Association is from “Inside the Executive Suite.” This newsletter is a weekly feature within the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing System. We worked with Keith Prather, the publisher of the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief, for many years in the corporate world. Additionally, when we have a client engagement requiring a larger group of facilitators, Keith is my first call. He was at ground zero when we developed the techniques that later became the Brainzooming strategy methodology.

Beyond this Idea Magnets recap, you should sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Executive Intelligence Briefing System. It’s designed to keep executives current with both what’s going on in the world and what it’s going to mean for their businesses. Additionally, since Keith won’t listen to my pricing strategy advice, you can subscribe to the entire array of multi times per week publications for less than $100 a year. It SHOULD be a four or five-figure subscription, so like I said, subscribe now before I convince Keith to raise the prices!

Without delay, here’s the Armada take on the seven creative thinking characteristics of Idea Magnets. – Mike Brown


 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity from “Inside the Executive Suite”

Know someone incredibly strong at generating new ideas and attracting team members who also excel at imagining creative ideas?

If so, you know an “idea magnet.”

Here is our recap and the take-aways from each (idea magnet) characteristic discussed.

Idea Magnets are . . .

1. Inspiring

Idea magnets generate interest and passion for the big objectives and dramatic visions they are trying to accomplish within their organizations. Unlike creative geniuses who may work in a more solitary basis, they want strong creative leaders surrounding them. The bigger team’s creativity helps identify the details behind making the vision a reality.

In sharing a big vision for an organization, whether it’s stated as a core purpose, vision, or mission statement isn’t critical. What’s important is the statement boldly challenges and stretches the organization.

Our take-away: Idea magnets ground creative ideas in strategies and objectives. They are NOT pursuing creativity for creativity’s sake.

2. Serving

Idea magnets are servant leaders. They participate in the challenging tasks they ask their teams to address. They also grow their team members into idea magnets themselves through strategic mentorship, sharing personal lessons with their teams, challenging the status quo, and cultivating team diversity.

Idea magnets surround themselves with smarter, more talented people and display patience while team members do their own explorations to imagine ways to turn the idea magnet’s vision into reality.

Our take-away: Idea magnets aren’t standoffish. They are in the middle of imagining ideas AND accomplishing results.

3. Attracting

Just as magnets attract metal, idea magnets attract great creative leaders and their big ideas. What makes idea magnets so attractive? They bring excitement to the workplace. They also display “abundance thinking. ” What others would consider as constraints, they see as opportunities to pursue more abundant resources and possibilities. They also provide what other leaders need to be abundantly creative, including physical space, time, resources, tools, and interactions with new (and new types of ) people.

Our take-away: The intangibles in business often support abundance thinking. Ideas, energy, passion, and learning aren’t limited, so identify ways to take greater advantage of them.

4. Connecting

Idea magnets connect people and situations to fuel creativity. They are great “and” thinkers. This means they embrace and easily work with both ends of what others might see as opposite perspectives. Idea magnets are strong at:

  • Generating and prioritizing ideas
  • Thinking creatively and implementing ideas
  • Exploiting tested ideas and unknown possibilities

Using creative formulas, idea magnets combine possibilities others would typically miss to create many more new ideas.

Our take-away: Idea magnets we’ve known in business are all strong at spotting relationships between apparently disconnected things. These connections help fuel ideas and anticipate future opportunities.

5. Encouraging

Idea magnets use multiple tools in multiple ways to motivate team members. For example, they might use time in contrasting ways. Sometimes idea magnets negotiate for MORE time so team members can finish necessary creative thinking and implementation. Other times, they may be maxing out the team’s capacity with more projects than they can handle. This LESSENS times for unnecessary creative thinking and encourages rapid progress.

Idea magnets routinely facilitate unique creative experiences, maximize fresh perspectives from new team members, and celebrate successes and the learnings from new ideas that fall short of intended impacts.

Our take-away: By adding one new or unusual variable, idea magnets facilitate once-in-a-lifetime creative experiences. This concept extends to personal relationships, so all you long-time married folks take note!

6. Deciding

Idea magnets imagine and attract many ideas. Processing those ideas so their teams aren’t overwhelmed is imperative. That’s why being strong at “deciding” is vital.

When a project or initiative launches, idea magnets identify upfront how decisions will be made as completion draws near. Sometimes the idea magnet makes the decision; other times, team members will be deciding how the team proceeds. Knowing upfront the freedom team members have in exploring ideas and the approach to setting priorities signals how much autonomy others have to shape strategies to move forward.

Our take-away: While they say in brainstorming sessions there are no bad ideas, there are. It’s vital to pick the right time to decide on good and bad ideas to sustain creative thinking.

7. Replenishing

Applying creative thinking to business issues is mentally stimulating. There’s still the need, however, for idea magnets to replenish creative energy along for the team. Idea magnets understand what encourages their creative passions and what will prepare team members to hit their creative peaks. Idea magnets have to know the people, places, situations, times, and techniques that most readily maximize creativity.

Our take-away: Managing a business team’s creativity is like a basketball coach managing the varied talents and personalities on the team. The idea magnet may have to try a variety of “player” combinations before the team scores creatively.

Is creative thinking and creative business leadership for everyone?

A question at the webcast’s conclusion asked whether creative business leadership is important if you don’t work in a creative field or company. The answer was it’s even more important then to bring fresh ideas to how an organization delivers customer value. – “Inside the Executive Suite”

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If you have been a Brainzooming blog reader for any amount of time, you know how much we love creative thinking exercises and creative formulas you can revisit whenever you need them.

Sure, creative inspiration is great, but a creative formula is ready for action whenever you are ready and need to deliver many new ideas.

Creative Thinking Exercises at the Ready

As you gain command of various creative thinking exercises, you can combine and rearrange them to generate additional creative thinking formulas to inspire more and more varied ideas!

Here is a new example of this phenomenon we shared during the Idea Magnets webcast for the American Marketing Association.

TacosAt one point we used “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” the reality TV show where Guy Fieri visits unusual restaurants around the country displaying all sorts of food-oriented extreme creativity, to generate lists of extreme creativity questions and ideas.

We revisited that content for Idea Magnets and pulled out four creative formulas the chefs on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives seem to use quite frequently:

  1. Combine everything possible into one creation
  2. Repeat one thing in every way possible
  3. Do something huge, and then do it some more
  4. Create something small, focused, and completely stupendous

Stated in this general way, any of these four creative formulas is something you can revisit when you need new ideas or a new way of thinking about a challenge you are facing.

4 Creative Formulas, 15 Possibilities for Creativity

What’s even better, through the amazing power of mathematics, these four formulas result in 15 wonderful possibilities for creativity.

How is that?

You can use any one of the four individually. Or they yield six different combinations of two formulas and four possibilities to use three of them together. Finally, you could put all of them together.

In all, there are fifteen possibilities for creativity – ready any time you need them!

What can you do with those new creative thinking possibilities? – Mike Brown


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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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We’ve all been to a professional development conference that turned out to be a stinker.

And by “stinker,” I mean the conference presentations are weak, too many people are selling stuff vs. being there to learn, and the conference producers seem to have not put meaningful thought into creating a productive conference experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell upfront if a professional development conference is going to be a stinker so you can avoid it?


8 Warning Signs

Here are eight warning signs to look for to better understand upfront whether a pending conference could turn out to be a stinker:

  1. Are details sketchy on speakers and sessions?
  2. Every time you go to the website, does it look like there have been lots of changes in conference speakers, with some conference speakers being swapped out with others?
  3. Are topics listed without any mention of specific speakers?
  4. Is there tremendous overlap between the named sponsors and the companies of the conference speakers?
  5. Is it difficult to find specific information about the speakers other than on the conference website?
  6. Does there appear to be minimal diversity among speakers, especially with respect to demographics and relevant experience histories?
  7. Are there limited choices attendees can make among content (i.e., not enough separate tracks upon which to customize an attendee’s program)?
  8. Is there a heavy reliance on panel discussions that appear hastily thrown together?

If you answer, “Yes,” to most of those questions, it’s probably going to be a stinker of a conference.

How do you decide a professional development conference could be a stinker?

That’s my list.

What do you look for to spot a professional development conference that seems like it is going to be a stinker? - Mike Brown

Subscribe for Free to the Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these innovation benefits for you.


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