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Last Friday’s Gas Can Creative Conference sponsored by AAF-KC (American Advertising Federation – Kansas City) was a half-empty gas can, at best. While there were a few presentations and ideas to stimulate our creative thinking skills, there were far too few for an all-day event. We’ll turn the event’s downsides into a positive later in the week.

3 Creative Thinking Skills Ideas from Gas Can 2016

Today, here are three valuable creative thinking skills ideas no matter where your creative community is located.

Gas-Can-Sign

Push for Absurd Ideas

Stefan Mumaw, Director of Creative Strategy at Hint, shared a creative thinking exercise in a morning break segment. He gave us three minutes to imagine what might be part of a Swiss Army knife designed especially for a pirate. After finishing the creative thinking exercise, he asked us who had more than 50% of ideas that were absurd. Stefan defined an absurd idea as something that would definitely not fit in a Swiss Army Knife. Perhaps 30-40% of the audience had raised their hands. His point was you have to get to absurd ideas to sufficiently stretch your creative thinking. Being able to pull back after going full-on absurd will reveal innovative ideas that are actually possible to do.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

Stefan used a different path to get to the extreme creativity approach we use: pushing beyond conventional boundaries to find new thinking with near-term possibilities. We typically start by picking the most conventional ideas, however, and blowing them out to extremes. I’ll be including a modification to our extreme creativity approach based on Stefan’s exercise, however, and suggesting we also grab already absurd ideas as a starting point for extreme creativity.

Icky Brand Pairings

Joe Cox, Engagement Director at Barkley, shared a creative thinking exercise comparable to Julie Cottineau’s Brand Twist exercise where you take two brands, put them together, and imagine new possibilities. Joe also recommended pairing your brand with various others brand to see what unique ideas emerge. Beyond simply using familiar, popular, or naturally aligned brands, however, Joe urged us to use extreme and challenging brands, too. What would new ideas emerge when your brand is paired with the NRA, a cigarette maker, or an extreme political candidate (since we have no shortage of those)?

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

I love the idea of pushing the brand comparison beyond Nike, Apple, and Starbucks. Getting paired with an icky brand can lead to incredible ideas to offset all the negatives that would follow. Which of the powerful customer experience ideas to offset your brand’s affiliation would be great ideas even if you aren’t saddled with an icky brand partner?

Make Decisions Faster

Fast-decisions-Gunderson

Seth Gunderson, Creative Director at Sullivan Higdon and Sink, explored the way to cultivate better creativity and decision making. Seth’s presentation, titled “You’re either IN or you’re OUT or you’re MAYBE,” demonstrated how easy it is to make one-off decisions (Puppies – In or Out? Donald Trump – In or Out?) and how hard it is when there are multiple options. His advice was “we will create better work if we make decisions faster.” Seth suggested the way to better decisions is making them in the morning, after getting fresh air, and making sure to have a full stomach along with an empty bladder.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

There’s an early Brainzooming blog post on forcing decisions between one thing or another. Deliberately setting up decisions as “Yes” or “No” options is a good reminder. It’s very easy to get very complex and subtle in presenting options. While in/out decision making won’t always be appropriate, it’s probably appropriate in more situations than I ever think about using it.

Those weren’t all the valuable creative ideas. Each of these, though, is easy to overlook yet powerful in its impact! – Mike Brown

 

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Wikipedia describes a superpower as a “fictional superhuman ability.”

But what if the superpower weren’t fictional, at least when it comes to your ability to envision and implement an innovation strategy? If you actually had an innovation strategy superpower, which one would you want to wield?

For me, I’d want my go-to innovation superpower to be a protective shield against hearing any ill-founded “no” standing in the way of doing new things. That shield would provide protection from other people saying no, and it would, perhaps most importantly, provide protection against all the reasons for not innovating that come to life inside my own brain. Those are often more damaging and more long-lasting than the ones someone else delivers. At least when someone else is shooting down your idea, others may hear the objections and help jump in to challenge them.

When you are continually shooting down your own ideas before they see the light of day, perhaps nobody else even knows that is happening.

super-power-no-nos

If you invest the time to collect and use the ones that work for you, you can bring your innovation strategy superpower to life via all the creativity questions and strategic thinking exercises on the Brainzooming blog!

See that superpower DOESN’T have to be fictional at all! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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We introduced the first Brainzooming strategic planning workshop resembling what we do today as The Brainzooming Group ten years ago, June 19-20, 2006.

Here’s the story of how a request from a big supporter, then and still, instigated a major change in the Brainzooming methodology.

Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning

I met Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, in the mid-1990s. Chuck facilitated multiple engaging, high-energy strategic innovation sessions for us at Yellow Corporation. Chuck’s creativity techniques and helped us generate tons of ideas. We started dabbling within our market planning team to help our internal clients generate new ideas, too. We’d do these sessions as part of strategic planning. Since we were learning as we went, some sessions worked better than others. The common denominator was we’d help internal teams generate ideas, document and categorize them, and deliver a long organized list. We’d then turn to preparing a strategic plan.

After several cycles, it became apparent our marketing managers couldn’t translate the ideas into effective plans. The ideas were filed away, and they returned to struggling to create plans using traditional ideas.

In May 2006, Dave Kramer, a Senior Sales and Marketing VP at one of our transportation subsidiaries asked us to help one of their company president’s come up with a strategic plan – quickly. They had to deliver the plan to improve performance and profitability to their CEO by the end of June.

Brainstorming-Session-Contribute-to-Success

We had the processes and exercises needed already developed buy had never put them all together to move from ideas to plans within a day or two. Keith Prather of Armada Corporate Intelligence, our strategic partner, and I sat down to figure it out. Finding an article in Inc. magazine about a consultant selling two-day business planning, we saw a possibility. The consultant streamlined traditional strategic planning steps, introduced fun videos, and created a tolerable experience for executives creating a strategic plan over a weekend.

If this guy could do it in two days, we DEFINITELY could! I’d already been accumulating strategic thinking exercises for ten years by that time. All we had to do was integrate the right ones and speed up what we could accomplish in a strategic planning workshop.

Simplifying a Strategic Planning Workshop

After creating the strategic planning workshop, we surveyed the company’s senior team for ideas in advance and headed to Harrisburg, PA for the in-person work. We shared the survey results, led them through prioritizing opportunities and threats, and started to tackle what they needed to do to accomplish their big objectives the first afternoon. Using a few basic posters, we described the strategic thinking exercises, using easel pads and sticky notes to capture ideas. As early evening approached, we had everything needed to draft a pretty solid plan. By facilitating the strategic conversations in a targeted, productive way, even potentially off-topic chatter contributed to completing the strategic planning template we designed.

While the rest of the group went to dinner, Keith and I went to an office supply store to buy a travel printer. Back in the hotel’s meeting room, we typed everything from the day to complete a strategic plan document. Chalking up a late night creating a strategic plan marked an early Brainzooming process standard.

The next morning, the group returned, surprised to find printed copies of the draft strategic plan. All they needed to do was review what we’d created and assign dates and names to strategies and tactics. Afterward, they had the strategic plan!

160620-Brainzooming-Birth1

 

After that, whenever we designed a strategic planning workshop, we made deliberate design decisions on the right balance of creative thinking and focused plan building. The mix varies from pure creativity to pure planning, with usually some mix in between.

Dave introduced our process into the other subsidiary companies in his area of corporation. We also worked with Jim Ferguson at Roadway Express (another subsidiary) to test our process with his teams’ plans. That’s why I tell people the Brainzooming process was really honed in Akron, OH, where both Dave and Jim worked. At one point, Dave said, “I thought you guys had a process, but I saw what you did change every day.” Our answer was we were learning new things daily and adapting what our technique to reflect new successes and failures. By the time I left YRC to spin off The Brainzooming Group as a full-time outsourced strategy, innovation, and planning company, we had completed two hundred workshops of varying types.

That’s the story behind the first Brainzooming workshop ten years ago.

We’re proud to say Dave Kramer remains a client, using us to help develop strategy (for sales growth, communications, branding, and company direction) at two subsequent companies where he’s served as a C-level executive.

Do you want to develop an actionable strategic plan really fast?

If your company could benefit from quickly developing innovative ideas, understanding opportunities in new ways, and creating an actionable, collaborative plan, contact us. Let’s talk about how what we do can help your organization thrive! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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My natural inclination when it comes to business strategy is to identify what is MOST IMPORTANT and build everything around that. Tie the objectives, priorities, and strategies to a very tight focus for an organization. Mass the resources and the organization’s attention on that single area and put everything toward implementing it successfully.

My most memorable example of this goes back to early in my career.  There was a nearly month-long labor strike at the transportation company where I worked. During that time when we were laying off people on a weekly basis as the strike drug on, it was clear to everyone that the single focus for us as a marketing organization was to win back customers for the day we started our operation back up – whenever that might be. I inherited leadership of our department about a week into the strike, and we pointed EVERYONE toward understanding current customer sentiment and developing the plan to incent them to use our brand again even though we had let them down.

THAT was a singular focus.

Granted, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk about a single, focused business strategy than it is to actually create one.

There always seem to be multiple important things or varied priorities among senior leaders or business units that do not line up in a neat and clean rank order. I’m sure you’ve experienced one of those “our three most important objectives” situations. Yes we have a priority; in fact, we have THREE priorities that are ALL EQUAL.

That’s the MUCH MORE TYPICAL business strategy scenario.

When we started developing our varied extreme creativity questions and exercises to drive bolder business strategy, however, one of the approaches was to actively consider that an organization isn’t going to make choices. It would deliberately and actively pursue multiple big strategies with all available resources.

fork-in-road-quickie

So instead of taking ONE business strategy path and wondering about the other, how about taking BOTH PATHS and doing more? What would the business strategy look like if you did it deliberately instead of by accident? – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – Mike Brown

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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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I suspect many, if not most industries, know there’s an elusive brand promise customers have been requesting for a long time that no competitor has figured out yet.

Or maybe a competitor HAS figured out how to deliver the brand promise, but it can’t do it profitably, efficiently, or consistently.

One competitive response is to try to explain to customers why they don’t really need what they think they need. Alternatively, competitors may try to convince customers they don’t really want to buy the elusive brand promise they say they want to buy, no matter how vehemently the marketplace may say otherwise.

A bold competitor, however, will heavy up with tremendous intensity and deliver the incredible, elusive brand promise in a truly disruptive fashion.

10xMoreEffort

What type of competitor are you going to be?

One that drags its feet?

Or the competitor that drags all the other competitors kicking and screaming into a new market reality.

Of course, you know what the RIGHT answer is! – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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There are soooooooooooooo many ways to generate creative ideas.

One way is to come up with a name that inspires an idea. When you check the name, it doesn’t work (or someone has already used it), but the idea has some possibilities, so you run with it.

That’s what has happened here.

A name for a new Friday feature popped into my head at a conference. Unfortunately, the name is already “a thing,” although not that big of a thing. But enough of a thing that there was no credible way to claim that it was unique to the Brainzooming blog.

Since the idea worked, however, we’re running with the concept and resurrecting a feature name we haven’t used for quite some time: Creative Quickies. These features will include photos and strategic thinking questions or innovation prompts.

strategic-thinking-question-innovation-Frideas

And just as we hope for all Fridays, future Creative Quickies will be fast, fun, and stimulating enough (via strategic thinking questions) to give you something to ponder and act upon when you return to the office the following week. Enjoy! – Mike Brown

 

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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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