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Today’s guest article comes from now two-time guest author Robert Alan Black, PhD, known as “Wanderingalan” on Twitter. He founded and is president of Cre8ng People, Places and Possibilities and authored Broken Crayons, Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines.” He can be reached online at alan@cre8ng.com. Here’s his take on alternative to lowering your standards to get around creative blocks:

If your job and life requires that you be creative on demand, most every day, then you cannot wait for the MUSES to give you creative thoughts and concepts. You need to re-spark, re-generate, re-discover as much creativeness as you can at any given moment.

One writer was quoted recently saying, “I never experience Creative Block. I simply lower my standards.”

Funny as that may be, it is often true.

Our most creative breakthroughs seldom happen on demand. Yet we can increase the level of creativeness we are experiencing at any given moment by using creative thinking tools or activities. Here are a couple simple ones:

  • Forced Relationships – Keep many small objects and photos in your work area and randomly pick one or two at a time and relate to your problem: How might a flower be related to my not finding new work? How might wrecked automobile relate to the creation of my vacation?
  • Walk in Others Shoes, Hearts, Minds and Creativity – Keep books, magazines, slide shows, and photos of work you think are fantastically creative. When you feel the level of your creativeness lacking look through them and think about what is it you like about them or what makes them especially creative. Then apply those ideas to challenge your problem.

You can stop creative blocks – without having to lower your standards. - Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., CSP

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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The next few days’ Brainzooming posts focus on creativity, including two by guest authors. Today’s article is a follow-up to last Tuesday’s post on The Beatles and how creative partnerships last or don’t in music and elsewhere. This post is from Doug Stevenson ( MadCreative as he’s known on Twitter), who I met via social media and had the opportunity to work with in-person on the BMAEngage social media team. Doug’s an email subscriber to the blog and frequently sends me great comment. When this very thoughtful one arrived shortly after last Tuesday’s post went out, he agreed to let me share it with everyone:

By Sgt. Pepper, or maybe even as early as “Revolver,” the Beatles had begun going their own way creatively, composing and recording often separately on their collaborative albums. Although they stand on their own as classics in their own right, and hold up pretty well, by “Abbey Road” and “The White Album,” the seams were showing. McCartney’s and Lennon’s first solo efforts reveal that they may have been holding back their best material to those ends.

I have always been a Who fanatic and think the B side of “Live at Leads” is right up there, and perhaps at the top of live rock recordings ever (with nods to the Stones’ “Ya-Yas” and some Pink Floyd stuff). The Who has probably been more money-driven, but because I always thought of them more as a performance band (at one time anarchistic, iconoclastic and ground/instrument-breaking), I forgave their lack of creative productivity in their later years, contented to see them as satisfactory shadows of their former stage personas into which I infused more youthful images as my mind traveled back in time.

As for the creativity piece, a hiatus is often what works. Solo excursions both enliven creative juices and humble: you get an adrenaline boost of personal gratification AND a greater appreciation of the synergies you have as an ensemble/team/partner. Witness the renewed energy with which Neil Young periodically rejoins CS&N.

On an individual basis, often a rest, a run, a shower, a crossword work in the same way – a path out and time away to allow the brain’s juices to percolate and new ideas to germinate. So, as to your point, I agree. As the show biz adage goes, “Always leave them wanting more.” You gotta know when to call it quits – like Jim Brown or Sandy Koufax or a comedian knowing to hit the lights at the pinnacle of laughter.

Yet unlike athletes, musicians can rejoin collaborations, often with pleasant, if not groundbreaking results. The same is true for people pursuing any creative process. However, there is more “grist in the mill” in youth – the conditions for a creative cauldron are set there, as teen/young adult angst feeds the fire of creation. Once asked why so many of his songs were introspective or sullen, Paul Simon replied something like, “Well, when I’m happy I don’t feel like writing.”

Maybe another question worth answering is, “How might we create the conditions of angst – maybe alternatively – intense passion or urgency within ourselves to keep our creative flames fully fired?” – Doug Stevenson

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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BP video, via AP (from Cleveland.com)

Last week, John King of CNN was covering the Gulf oil spill in front of what must have been 16 different live camera feeds of BP trying to get the spill capped.  Amid all the discussions about the impact of the Gulf oil spill in deteriorating the BP brand, this scene suggested another question to consider:

Is your brand ready to have 16 cameras covering your service recovery efforts?

That’s another scary thought from this whole fiasco that other companies need to be considering and planning for as a possibility. Because even if it isn’t 16 cameras, it’s very likely your lowest paid front line employee is on camera (or being tweeted about) as he or she is (hopefully) trying to satisfy a pissed off customer. And if the video isn’t available in real-time, then it’s probably going to be posted online shortly after the service recovery takes place.

So again, ask yourself: Does your organization have a service recovery strategy that’s prepared to be shown to the world?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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Didn’t think the Panera “What my passion?” nametags would warrant another blog post, especially a full year later, but this was too good to be true.

At Panera for lunch recently with Barrett Sydnor, the passion of the person taking my order was “Designing ERP Systems.” Cool – finally an intriguing answer to the question.

I figured the guy must be brainy so my relatively complicated order (dressing on the side, BBQ sauce on the side, no bean salsa) would be in good hands. After placing the order, there was a prolonged pause as he tried picking out the modified options on the cash register. When he was finally done, he immediately closed the ticket and told me what I owed. I mentioned I also needed a couple of items to go – and a drink – so he opened the ticket back up and added 2 scones and my drink.

After all that, he finally asked what side item I wanted with my salad, although it’s usually the first question right after you order. With that detail out of the way, he went to get the scones and took my money. By the time the order was finally ready, it was many minutes after Barrett, who had ordered at the same time, was seated and already eating.

My first reaction was there was a disconnect between the guy’s personal brand (which said “smart” to me because of his ERP reference) and his challenges in performing on what should be a straight-forward user experience. After reconsidering, it struck me though that my user experience involved:

  • Basic questions which were ignored
  • Confusion and delays associated with my customization request
  • A timing mismatch relative to the typical flow of activity
  • An abnormally long time to complete the process

I realized my experience was actually a lot like nearly all ERP design and implementation experiences. So I stand corrected: this guy did deliver consistently on his personal brand promise! – 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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I presented a social media strategy discussion tonight for the KAIROS Analytics Group. It was a completely different type of presentation since the room size and configuration were designed for enjoying wine, not for viewing Powerpoint. As a result, it was on 6 social media strategy critical success factors done sans computer, using pre-drawn cartoon posters to help convey the points. The posters are featured below

The conversation was great with lots of participation from the attendees and additional discussion about social media in a heavily regulated environment, the social media conversation on the BP oil spill, and the key performance indicators we use for The Brainzooming Group social media presence. – 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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For a planning guy, it’s always time to be thinking about and planning for next year, and how it’s going to differ from this year. To help your business get started, here are five specific strategy questions you should be considering:

  • Are the same strategies going to be important for your business next year?
  • What external factors are surfacing to shape the rest of this year and next?
  • Which other developments may not be visible yet, but have the potential to impact our business?
  • What strategies will we want to continue doing?
  • What looks like it isn’t working and needs to be changed or dropped?

Beyond these five starter questions, here are eleven ways The Brainzooming Group can help you finish this year more successfully and pave the way for greater success next year:

  • If you’ve been repeatedly talking about starting a new initiative but can’t get it going, we’ll quickly create the plan to move you ahead.
  • If you need a quick strategic perspective and creative ideas, we’ll get on the phone with you for 60 minutes and figure out strategically sensible tactics.
  • If you suspect the market is moving away from your business model, we’ll challenge you and clarify where your organization’s future is.
  • If you don’t suspect the marketing is moving away from your business model, we’ll really challenge you and clarify where your organization’s future needs to be.
  • If you have lots of data that’s not leading to decisions, we’ll simplify and focus information into insights.
  • If the staff you have in place can’t keep up with expectations being placed on it, we’ll supply additional marketing horsepower.
  • If you don’t have time to think, we’ll dramatically shorten the time it takes to consider strategic options and do something about them.
  • If you have lots of ideas, but aren’t sure which ones are best to pursue, we’ll rapidly cut through wannabe concepts and zero in on clear winners.
  • If you’re budget is constrained, we’ll identify low and no-cost resources to ensure disproportionate positive market impact.
  • If you’re trying to get a handle on how social media really contributes to your business, we’ll identify which business objectives you can genuinely impact with a solid social media strategy.
  • If your growth and profits are stalled, we’ll help identify better plans to target growth in your major accounts.

Because of the innovative, interactive planning process The Brainzooming Group creates for your business, you get the benefits of solid planning in dramatically less time with the ability to anticipate market changes upfront.

That’s why smart organizations work with us to become more successful as we rapidly expand their strategic options and create innovative plans they can 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. – 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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When thinking about your social media strategy, you should be planning for 6 important metrics. What are the six? There are 3 different levels of social media participation and 2 different types of measures. Put them in a 3 x 2 matrix, and you get six.

Here’s the rundown on the 3 social media engagement aspects to measure:

  • Activity - Any metrics relating to actions your organization is taking on social media: blogging, tweeting, posting, promoting, etc.
  • Interaction - This category’s measures focus on how your audience is engaging with your social media presence: followers, comments, likes, sharing, user created content, etc.
  • Returns - This group accounts for where your social media activities directly or indirectly support measures driving successful organizations: revenue creation (and the activities that lead up to it), cost minimization (along with activities to help achieve it), and other critical financial performance metrics.

Relative to the two different types of measures, use the “whole-brain metrics” strategy we’ve recommended before: capture both quantitative (left brain) and qualitative (right brain) elements. Using this metrics dashboard strategy accounts for both the “hard” numbers and softer perspectives (stories, images, buzz-related feedback) to provide the most complete evaluative picture of your social media strategy.

There’s a clear advantage to considering the metrics strategy when devising your overall social media strategy. The earlier you think through what you should be tracking in these six categories, the better you’ll be able to shape your innovative social media strategy to be ROI-oriented. – 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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