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In the midst of a dreary day, we watched the Cake Boss marathon on TLC last Sunday. The reality TV program was fun and illustrated all kinds of extreme creativity lessons:

Shatter conventional definitions – The show is about cakes. But until Sunday, it never occurred to me a cake could be made from rice crispie treats, wood, screws, and PVC pipe. But look inside “star” Buddy Valestro’s “cakes,” and you may find any of those and more. If he stuck with traditional cake recipes instead of creative ones, he’d never be the “Cake Boss.”

Construct a creative team that’s better than you – Buddy appears to have command of many skills critical to making incredible cakes. Yet it’s clear he surrounds himself with specialized, creative people who have stronger talents than he does in focused areas equally essential to creating the kinds of extreme cakes he’s known for.

Your distinctive talents work all over the place – Why be just a baker? Carpentry, painting, and pottery skills were all used to create innovative cakes shaped like teapots, motorcycles, boats, and mannequins.

The impossible = amazing creativity – In one special episode, the challenge was to create a full-size NASCAR race car shaped cake. Two separate locations were used to make all the cakes for the more than 12,000 pound final creation. 12,000 pounds? That’s nearly 4 times how much a real race car weighs! That’s extreme creativity!

Creativity doesn’t mean glossing over details – For an apple farm, the bakery had to make its first ever apple cake. While the apple grower appreciated the cake’s taste, what really excited him was the cake’s appearance – edible mini-pumpkins, apples, and a “working” tree swing.

Yell, laugh, and cry – Buddy’s family bakery is an emotional place. They wear their emotions on their sleeves; it’s all part of the intensively creative, deadline-driven process.

Shut up and fix disasters - Since it’s a reality show, disasters are a must. The front end of the NASCAR cake fell-off. A cake for a drag queen’s holiday show was too big to fit through any door to the theater. So what do you do? Throw more rice crispie treats at the NASCAR and get the holiday show audience to come outside to get their cake. No harm, no foul.

Put these extreme creative lessons to work, and cook up some creativity for yourself! – Mike Brown

Want to be as creative as Buddy, the Cake Boss? To tap into your own extreme creativity, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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3

Several times a month, Brainzooming innovation articles appear on Braden Kelley’s Blogging Innovation website – a compendium of work by top innovation writers.  Additionally, there’s a monthly focus topic where a number of writers address the same innovation subject.

The April topic was how social media and social networking applications can benefit innovation strategy. I submitted an innovation article on “30 Ideas for Using Social Networks to Help You Be More Innovative.” It was picked up by a popular email newsletter, which led to lots of page views for the piece, getting in touch with a former business acquaintance, and several speaking opportunities!

Rather than let the innovation strategy and social media ideas stop at thirty, here are ten additional possibilities for using social networks to catalyze your innovation strategy:

Tapping New Expertise

  • Use social media to create innovation teams and networks across organizational boundaries with your suppliers and customers.
  • Encourage employees to interact and learn from experts outside the company who are active on social networks.

Gathering Different Inputs and Information

  • Use comment-oriented social networking applications to solicit broad input on successes and challenges with your products and services.
  • Build a network of customers willing to respond to questions and brief surveys delivered via social media.
  • Post potential innovation ideas and allow them to be voted up or down based on internal / external audience perspectives.

Enabling Innovative Collaboration

  • Eliminate conference calls and use Skype for video conferencing since the visual cues communicated through a video conference will add visual information to help fuel brainstorming and innovation.
  • Share professional background information across the company to match up people with complementary skills, talents, and interests.
  • Use the professional background information to match up diverse people with very different skills, talents, and interests to instigate debate and contrasting views.
  • Require an innovation team to only interact through social media channels during a project. Capture the beneficial and negative learnings to incorporate into future team efforts.
  • Use social networking tools to increase information interaction among geographically separated team members.

What other ideas would you suggest for how social media can catalyze your innovation strategy? – Mike Brown

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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18

Over the weekend, our cat Coco (or “my cat” as she was known), passed away. She had a rare tumor, and for a number of months, we knew it wouldn’t be that much longer before this happened.

I won’t get maudlin, but the story of Coco’s adoption holds a couple of solid lessons.

Cyndi had wanted a black cat for some time. While waiting for her to finish at a store in our nearby shopping center, I saw, in the car’s rear view mirror, a Humane Society volunteer carry a caged black cat toward the early Saturday morning pet adoption just down the way.

When Cyndi returned, we decided to see about adopting the black cat. She was sitting rather forlornly in her cage when we found her. In talking with the volunteer, we discovered she was a Manx kitten, i.e. she had no tail. The volunteer explained how this caused potential problems and made these cats more difficult to care for than the typical cat. She asked us whether we had other cats and if they went out doors. After answering a few more questions, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to adopt this kitten.

We were surprised but went on our way. Later, we figured that beyond the fact we told them our two cats went out in the back yard, the fact we had gone over to the shopping center before getting all spruced up in the morning may have been a factor. Granted, we probably looked pretty scruffy, but I’d never known being unshaven to be grounds for being denied the opportunity to adopt a pet.

Running errands that afternoon, we decided to go back and see if the cat were still there. Sure enough she was, and now, nicely dressed, we got none of the questions we’d received in the morning. Instead, we were welcomed and within a very short time, were headed home with Coco.

That was nearly fourteen years ago.  We talk often about how in a world where people increasingly look disheveled, the way we looked that Saturday really did matter in how we were judged. We also remind ourselves about all the joy we’d have missed in our lives if we’d have taken the first “no” as the final answer.

To close, here’s a quirky moment from Sunday night. I was looking at a video I’d shot of Coco earlier this year when Clementine, our last remaining cat, hopped up on the desk, as she so frequently does. It’s an unstaged, double video goodbye between the two of them. One in January and one today.

I’ll admit this post was kind of light on strategy and innovation. Thanks for reading it anyway though, because I just had to write it – Mike Brown

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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2

If you sell a product that was the driving force behind much of world exploration, you might choose to leave well enough alone when it comes to innovative packaging strategy. I noticed recently, however, that category leader McCormick & Co. isn’t doing any such thing as it introduces some new creativity to its packaging strategy.

We all get that herbs and spices really improve the taste of our favorite dishes and make our not so favorite, but healthier, dishes more palatable. But many of us don’t cook enough to use up the traditional bottle of spice in 2 or 3 years before the contents lose their punch. If your kitchen is like ours, you have bottles of spices that have been there since before there was such a thing as a blog, much less a tweet.

McCormick is displaying new creativity in this area through a new Recipe Inspiration that is an innovative packaging strategy doing away with the bottle altogether. In an innovative way, it also does away with problem of not having the right spices for a recipe or having those spices be stale. They give you the recipe and the spices you need in the quantity you need them. It’s a fantastic example of creating value by giving you less product, but delivering the product with creativity in a more convenient and usable configuration.

I don’t know if this new packaging innovation strategy will be a success, but it surely won’t be because McCormick kept its packaging creativity bottled up. – Barrett Sydnor

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 strategy and implementation efforts.

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3

Introducing a coordinated, vibrant social media effort into an organization depends on more than an “official” group creating content. Ideally multiple and varied people throughout an organization are functioning almost as beat reporters and sharing their individual perspectives on topics relevant to targeted audiences.

How do you get do-it-yourself (DIY) social media support from people already contending with more than full job responsibilities?

Here are 15 tactics you can use to pave the way for success in implementing your social media strategy:

  • Develop a role description for what a social media team member does in your company.
  • Provide realistic estimates of how much or how little time a team member will have to use to participate on the team.
  • Develop and share a social media policy for your company.
  • Create an internship and recruit a university student to participate in the effort.
  • Ask people what their talents and areas of interest in social media are and give them appropriate assignments.
  • Provide step-by-step instructions or basic guidelines to encourage new social media participants.
  • Have more experienced social media practitioners mentor those just getting started.
  • Develop your own wiki, blog, or social network community to post reference materials, FAQs, and other relevant information for the team.
  • Offer some type of simple, fun give-away to team members to incent active participation.
  • Provide a team list with contact information, areas of expertise and focus for each member, and who to call to report on successes and challenges.
  • Offer in-person or webinar training on effectively using social media applications and your brand standards.
  • Provide a thorough list of articles on how to excel at various aspects of social media.
  • Share links to free webinars focused on social media how to’s.
  • Brainstorm and share a list of suggested blog topics.
  • Use an approach that allows participants to smoothly rotate on and off the social media team at reasonable intervals.

What innovative strategies have worked for you to generate broader participation in social media within your business or organization?  – Mike Brown

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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2

In social media ranks, there are lots of people who portray themselves as bigger than they are and incredibly cool in what they think and know. And with all the readily available tools for self-promotion, it’s never been easier to draw attention to oneself than right now.

For wannabes and immature business people, all the apparently easy possibilities for creating attention are a very attractive nuisance. It can appear highly desirable to vie for attention from social media rock stars. A retweet or brief exchange can feel as if you’ve made a personal connection with one of them. A cause gaining attention via social media can easily take on the appearance of an important or broadly popular issue. That’s the case even when it’s grounded on a shaky premise without any strategic thought.

So right now, despite suggestions that social media will change everything around us, one important fundamental hasn’t budged even a little: GENUINE is MORE important than ever.

By genuine, I don’t mean the standard “be transparent online and reach out to your followers” line that’s in every social media overview presentation (including my own).

Instead, I mean real people who have a rich life offline. People who are morally centered. People who truly care about serving others and their ultimate welfare.

I’m talking about genuine people; not people who excel at attempting to appear genuine online.

If you find yourself repeatedly sucked in by the prospect of chasing social media stars, do yourself a favor. Find some real people you can actually meet and know in real life. Talk with them in real life. Share your experiences to try and benefit them. Treat them with kindness. Be a genuine friend to them.

Trust me; you’ll be a lot better off for having done it. – Mike Brown

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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7

It’s always interesting to learn about what you do through someone else’s eyes. When there’s an opportunity for candid feedback, use it to refine your business strategy and look more innovatively at your performance.

The Brainzooming™ Group had a wonderful opportunity to get reactions to our strategic planning process last week from Nate Riggs. Nate started Social Business Strategies to help mid-sized & large organizations develop social media strategies and build internalized Human Business Teams.

Last Tuesday, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a large (35 person) social media strategic planning session for a four-year university. Nate Riggs was invaluable for his experience in working with other higher educational institutions on social media approaches.

We modified several Brainzooming strategy-building exercises to facilitate the large group and came away with great learnings. Nate’s first-time reactions to how we efficiently and effectively manage strategic conversations were also helpful in continuing to refine our process. You can get a quick sense of Nate’s views in this video and in his follow-up blog post on the strategic planning session.

Take a look, and let us know any questions you have on the approach, either for large groups or for developing social media strategy. – Mike Brown

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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