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A brand can be completely careless about its branding strategy and brand messages. If it is, it runs the risk of confusing itself, its employees, and the marketplace.

Really smart brands, however, employ a coordinated branding strategy across values, employees, products and services, messages, and all the cues that reinforce the brand. They take advantage of every opportunity (or at least as many as they possibly can) to reinforce brand messages, even on what might seem to be throwaway situations.

On several road trips, we passed Chick-fil-A logos on multi-restaurant highway signs. These highway signs are the ones where several restaurants buy small placements to highlight a presence at an upcoming exit.

Each of the Chick-fil-A placements on these restaurant signs featured the brand’s logo and the message, “Closed Sunday.”

Chick-fil-a-Sign2

It might initially seem to be an odd, negative branding message. Why tell someone when you AREN’T open when you could convey a positive message such as, “Open Mon-Sat.”

Yet, while “Open Mon-Sat” is a message, it does nothing for the Chick-fil-A brand. “Closed Sunday,” on the other hand, sends a big brand message about Chick-fil-A and the values its brand represents. Importantly, it also resonates strongly with an important target audience for the brand.

That’s a tiny lesson, but suggests a big question for any organization’s branding strategy: How many meaningless brand messages are you putting out into the marketplace, and what are you going to do (SOON) to give them real brand value? – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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After presenting an “Idea Magnets” keynote last week for the inaugural customer forum at one of our logistics industry clients, an attendee pointed out an intriguing omission when it comes to creative leadership. Talking afterward, he noted a creative leadership characteristic that shows up near the top on most lists of what it takes to be a strong leader was missing from Idea Magnets: empathy.

Acknowledging empathy IS a frequently mentioned leadership quality, I began trying to figure out why empathy isn’t part of Idea Magnets.

Do Idea Magnets Get a Pass on Empathy?

Idea-Magnets-Title

I thought back on the strategic mentors and creative leadership standouts I’ve known and worked with that shaped the Idea Magnets content. Quite honestly, with a couple of exceptions, empathy is NOT high on the list of their common characteristics. While none displayed the creative prickliness one associates with classic creative geniuses, they were all intently driven toward realizing their strong creative visions. While giving a nod to team members’ needs and feelings, they push incredibly hard creatively. That can mean feelings, mental and physical energy, and reasonableness go by the wayside since the creative goal is the most important thing in sight.

Even though empathy may be a vital leadership skill overall, I don’t think it’s high on the list for successful idea magnets.

That doesn’t make them better or worse when it comes to creative leadership.

It simply means they can accomplish what they need to accomplish creatively without being overly concerned with team members situations and sensibilities.

How Do Creative Leadership and Empathy Match Up for You?

I’m curious to know where you would place empathy as a creative leadership trait for idea magnets. Is empathy a must have, nice to have, or a non-factor in realizing creative aspirations in a team?  – Mike Brown

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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How “wild and crazy” should you be in using creative thinking exercises? And do you need to be more or less wild and crazy in teaching creative thinking to a group?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Orange-Squeeze-Toy

Creative Thinking Exercises without Wild and Crazy

Sometimes, the right answer is not being very wild and crazy at all – not even one little bit.

At least that was the answer during one strategic planning session we were leading back in the B2B, Fortune 500 transportation and logistics days. While onsite with one of our subsidiaries, a Senior VP called me over to talk with the subsidiary’s president before we started working on the annual plan. He plainly and sternly said, “I don’t want any funny business.” I assured him our approach was to “work,” but at some point, there might be a little funny business. Since we needed his agreement to work with his team, we didn’t put out any toys. We started by facilitating a relatively staid strategic planning development process. No toys, few jokes, and a clear focus on being all business instead of wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

As the group relaxed during the day, however, we put out a few squeeze balls. They soon started flinging them at one another.  We introduced the “What’s It Like” creative thinking exercise to help them see how their trucking brand was JUST LIKE Ritz-Carlton. Most importantly, at the day’s end, the president said it was “good” and invited us back the next year.

Net result? We were very successful with hardly any wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

Our Most Wild and Crazy Creative Thinking Exercise

Contrast that with a recent “Doing New with Less” workshop in the heavily regulated financial services industry. One might expect it to be completely serious without any extreme creativity.

It was, but only partially.

We didn’t put out toys at the half-day workshop’s start. There were no funny slides or typical sight gags to begin. By the end of the workshop, however, we dove headlong into the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise.

When done well, Shrimp is one of our most outrageous, wild and crazy creative thinking exercises. It pushes participants to initially generate trouble-inducing, extreme creativity ideas that we then scale back to reality.

And the financial services marketers embraced their extreme creativity.

Among the trouble-inducing ideas they imagined initially were psychic economists, Chippendale dancers delivering financial reports, a high school musical to communicate annual performance to individual investors, and giving people scratch cards to discover how lucky they’d be in securing an interest rate.

They turned these wild ideas into a new positioning for their chief economist, new ways to deliver financial updates to clients via a group event, and a simple decision tree to identify interest rate categories.

All this from a wild and crazy creative thinking exercise we rarely teach in workshops because groups aren’t THAT ready for extreme creativity.

Extreme Creativity All Depends

The important thing to remember is, however, wild and crazy is simply an ingredient in creative thinking, NOT its sole purpose. You can call us crazy, but that is why we think “how wild and crazy to be” depends completely on the group, the situations, and what our client wants to achieve. Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Remember to click on the headlines to link to the creative thinking articles. Enjoy! –Marianne Carr

Marianne-Carr-Photo

Creative Thinking Boosters – Why do I feel these next three clicks work well together?

Playfulness and High School Kids

Looks like Bueller was right all along. But we knew that.

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The Creativity Pill

Wow, this is fascinating. What would it have been like if Spicoli had been on this instead?

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Here’s Why You Should Doodle

I have been visually “taking notes” since High School. Sister Mary Elephant just didn’t understand creative thinking, man.

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Read this Blog even if you don’t need help.

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Learning is never about being right or wrong; it’s about understanding. Learning with your team means putting on someone else’s glasses and seeing the world through his or her eyes. What you extrapolate is exactly what you should share. – Paul Jun, Growth team at Help Scout.

This organization does content marketing right. I don’t even need a help desk and I read the blog posts. You should, too.  Here’s this week’s and it’s about learning. The criteria for learning together to occur, and I concur, are explained well: Humility, Empathy, A Schedule, and A Safe Environment. I also like the thoughts about writing.

Creative Thinking Down in the Weeds Part 1 and Part 2

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Avoiding the weed patch is usually advantageous — except when it isn’t. Just as some desirable plants do sometimes grow among weeds, ideas that truly are treasures sometimes appear only when we take trips down into the weeds. That’s why examining the detailed structures underlying the big issues is a useful thing to do. What is usually less useful is doing so when we’re supposedly doing something else. – Rick Brenner, Chaco Canyon Consulting

The Chaco Canyon e-newsletter was one of the first newsletters I ever signed up for, and, to date myself, I think it was when I was using Netscape! Rick’s email newsletters aren’t pretty nor has it changed the format in 20 years, but they are good sources for team work, meeting management and project management creative thinking.

Around the World Designing for Change

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Love the Illinois Institute Technology (IIT) Institute of Design. I have been to several of their conferences in Chicago, so I anticipate this World Tour approach will be well executed and worth following.  I hope I can get the t-shirt!

The Best Use of Creative Thinking — Inspiring those that need it most.

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In full disclosure, I have never been to a PechaKucha event. I don’t even know how to pronounce it (Puh-chalk-cha?). Makes me think of that famous Pokemon character. But I like what this organization does. It has a big heart and a lot of creative thinking. This series of supporting global catastrophe zones is inspiring to me. It is beautiful what individual creative minds from around the world create. Why does this program make me more cynical about Ted Talks?

And Now for Something Completely Different…

And I quote, “Here’s an appealing idea: candy containing small amounts of fish.”

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This article, Fruit candy that tastes like salmon by Patrick ST. Michel, Special To The Japan Times, Jul 24, 2015, is short and sweet(?!). Reading articles about Japan from Japanese sources allows me to explore the ever-changing world of fads and trends that this wonderful country offers. I find myself Oooooing and Ahhhhing every day. –Marianne Carr

 

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Most futile words you can ever utter over the phone while standing in an airport security line: “Delete those tweets.” Seriously . . . Best line ever delivered before a hang up on a phone conversation taking place in an airport security line: “I’ve been up since 5 a.m., dude. Deal with it.” . . . Both of these were delivered by the same guy . . . I was reported to TSA for suspicious activity in the security line. I wasn’t completely apoplectically pissed off about traveling. THAT is suspicious . . . It’s rare you get a fun person next to you in the TSA line. I had one next to me the other day, and I went over to him after we both got through to shake his hand and thank him for having some fun while we were standing in line . . . By the way, I’m not sure why Omaha, NE has security lines that would rival Midway airport. Can anyone explain that to me?

Omaha-Airport-Fun-Guy

It’s fascinating how you can make seven decisions all intended to save travel dollars, but in total, they wind up costing you more than if you had made a few more expensive decisions along the way . . . Big thanks to my neighbor for going on a road trip with me for the sole purpose of driving my workshop supplies to Nebraska since I’d be flying to Nebraska (and couldn’t take them along) two days later. It made a potentially wasted afternoon so fun . . . Even if everything else is okay, getting to your hotel room at 1:15 a.m. is a clear sign of bad planning . . . And btw, bad planning for your connecting flights used to be a $50 deal. Now it’s like a $500 deal and not worth the trouble of making a change . . . Does anyone else suspect the percent of people in airports with bad tattoos HAS to be higher than in the general population?

At a dinner the other night, we had to go around the table in a crowded restaurant and share our stories. While a quiet, mild-mannered man from California at the other end of the table told his story, I leaned over to the person next to me and said, “I think he said he shot a man in Reno once, just to watch him die.” She said I was deranged . . . The difference between driving from St. Louis to Carbondale, IL at 55 mph vs. 80ish mph is night and day . . . I handed out orange TicTacs claiming they were creativity pills, and they seemed to work to make people more creative. Go figure!

Orange-Tic-Tac

Lesson learned during this recent trip: When you’re doing a media event, look at the cameras. Ignore the people, and look at the cameras. I’ve got that for next time . . . At the start of a Brainzooming workshop the other day, the video person (a woman) and I spent about 90 seconds unbuttoning and buttoning my shirt and playing around with my pockets trying to get two microphones placed on me. In a moment of exasperation, I told the audience, “That’s the first time a women was undressing me that really wasn’t that exciting.”

It’s amazing (let me repeat…AMAZING) when you can get together with a college friend you haven’t seen in decades and have a dinner conversation that is a pure delight. AND you want to continue the conversation later . . . And how crazy is it when you see a teacher you had for one week in grad school completely by chance and recognize him decades later? THAT is a blog post all on its own . . . Self-talk: That wasn’t me. No matter what you might think, that wasn’t me. I promise . . . You hear more bragging and unbelievable stories on a Southwest flight on Thursday night than Monday morning. Do you think THAT many people had THAT good of a week? Yeah, me neither.  – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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These creative inspirations are all about the importance of not settling for “no” when you are seeking, pursuing, or developing creative ideas. As with previous creative inspirations, this is much more about the pictures, with very few words!

Who Notices the Lines, Anyway?

R150718-Pic---Inside-Lines

Don’t Wait around for Someone to Stop Your Creative Detour

R150718-Pic---Detour

People Will Tell You “No” for No Good Reason

R150718-Pic---No-Signs

Maybe the Sign Should Say “Pause” Instead of Stop?

R150718-Pic---Stop-Isn't-Fo

 – Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Ten years ago today, I led our internal communications team in a variety of creative thinking exercises to develop ideas for our upcoming two-thousand person employee and customer Transformation conference that January in Las Vegas.

The session had both high and lows, as I recall.

Creative-Group

Creative Thinking Exercises – Ten Valuable Lessons

I recently found ten lessons I wrote down at the Transformation Conference creative session’s conclusion that pertain to group facilitation.

Beyond the Transformation conference ideas the group identified, the session was important since it:

Some group facilitation lessons were very specific to the session (including giving Becky’s real name), so they are generalized here.

In their more general format, they are valuable lessons for anyone trying to facilitate a diverse and unruly group of people through creative thinking exercises!

  1. Take a minute at the start and explain to people why we’d do something where you don’t have to consider logistical or budgetary reality when saying ideas (this environment is what made Becky shut down).
  2. Tell people it’s okay that they haven’t experienced the thing that you’re innovating. It actually makes them strong innovators because they’re looking at it with completely fresh eyes.
  3. At a minimum, identify someone to help when facilitating a session by yourself. They are invaluable for gathering ideas and moving things around in the room when you are facilitating.
  4. Make sure if you have people select good ideas that you don’t fail to get them categorized as “better” ideas. If not, ideas people picked out as “special” might be merged back in with all the other ideas (and you lose the valuable input on stronger ideas).
  5. Trait Transformation is a great group exercise and a wonderful place to start a session. It really works to think through which cells you’ll likely go to ahead of time; it makes the exercise flow better.
  6. Set an expectation on the number of ideas generated for each of the creative thinking exercises. It gets people to generate more ideas and puts more pressure on them to just say ideas and not assess them.
  7. Watch for people who are bogging down groups and move them into other groups.
  8. If you have enough naysayers for a small group, put them all together and don’t let them mess up anyone else’s creative experience.
  9. Make sure opportunities are stated broadly enough to yield ideas. If you are too specific about an opportunity’s description, you wind up limiting ideas.
  10. Get more creative thinking exercises in place to be ready for new types of opportunities you may encounter.

It’s amazing to me to read through this list of ten lessons in group facilitation. While I remember certain aspects of the session, these lessons make it clear how pivotal these few hours were in shaping how we still work with creative thinking exercises ten years later! – Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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