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What if you are a person that freezes up when you think you need to come up with or implement a creative idea?

What if even having someone TELL YOU that there are no wrong ideas doesn’t free you up to start sharing ideas in a group?

What if your fear of being wrong is so great that you can’t even start implementing creative ideas that are just for you for fear you’ll goof something up?

Is there hope?

Sure, there is hope.

Typically, the creative thinking exercises we teach and use are a huge source of hope to get past fears about self-judged “bad” ideas. Those creative thinking exercises don’t work for some people, however.

I had someone dealing with these concerns come up and talk with me the other day during a wonderful weekend I spent at the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites annual conference. She could be creative in other areas on her own time, by herself. Or she could express creativity when she patterned what she did creatively on someone else’s approach. While she wanted to contribute to the group creative thinking exercises we used, however, she “froze up.”

She was another “Becky,” a person we worked with that was miserable in group creative situations.

I told my new friend that she was also me. I can still be the person that doesn’t want to mess up a creative idea right from the start or expend creative energy on things I don’t think will lead to success or progress.

To help, I bought her a cheap sketchbook (not a nicely bound book that says “don’t mess up a page” to someone like my friend), a few Sharpies, and a couple of the Pilot pens I use to scribble notes. Inside the sketch book, I wrote this message for her.

Creative-Note

Finally, we talked about other ways to lower the stakes of imagining and doing something with new creative ideas:

  1. Write down ideas you are willing to throw away if they don’t turn into anything.
  2. Don’t plan to show anyone your ideas until you are happy with them.
  3. Get over it: if someone doesn’t get your creative idea right away, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
  4. Create something you can erase, adjust, or modify.
  5. If you are creating in a group, make it very easy for others to participate so their expectations for the creative output might not be so big.
  6. Share ideas that aren’t comfortable for you. Don’t judge them on whether you like them. Evaluate them later by whether they inspired someone else to come up with new ideas.
  7. Apply some creative ideas you like in one area to another area where you have less comfort with new ideas.
  8. Decide for yourself that your idea doesn’t have to be perfect and take a risk.

Are you a Becky? If you are, figure out which of these ideas (or others) will work to lower creative stakes for you.

Because the only creative mistake you are REALLY making is missing out on sharing your creativity with the world. – Mike Brown

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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’m at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas today, delivering a two-hour workshop on developing a branded content marketing strategy. The key is finding the right balance between employing outside-in topics and outside-in timing while still making sure your brand personality and messages come through clearly.

We recently conducted a dedicated content marketing strategy workshop for a client on this very topic. We worked with nearly thirty of its business and communication leaders to explore topics four different audience personas would find valuable and that the organization, a healthcare non-profit, could credibly address.

The client is a non-profit focused on healthcare. It entered the workshop with five profiles of target audience members that The Brainzooming Group helped them develop. These profiles, called personas, are three-to-five paragraph descriptions it developed describing specific individuals it serves, seeks to hire, or collaborates with in serving clients.  Small groups prepared the personas in advance by brainstorming answers to ten questions on each audience member.

The personas provided the basis for other workshop activities imagining topics audience members would be interested in and willing to read, watch, or listen to if the non-profit were to address them.

Here’s an overview of each of the strategic thinking exercises:

5 Content Marketing Strategy Exercises to Generate Audience-Oriented Topics

content-marketing-strategy-topics

What questions do audience members ask during the buying journey?

The initial exercise explored three phases of an audience member’s journey. The first phase (Awareness) encompassed their initial exploration as they became aware of an opportunity or issue an outside party might address. The second phase (Consideration) involved the audience member describing the relevant opportunity or issue and looking at organizations to help satisfy needs. The final phase (Decision) involved the audience member selecting, engaging, and evaluating the relationship with the outside party they chose.

Within each phase, the small groups identified questions audience members might ask. The comprehensive list of questions each group identified became the basis for the second content marketing exercise.

What topics address important audience questions?

The second exercise used questions from the first one to generate content topic ideas. For each audience question, participants suggested one or more topics or working titles. The topics they generated were not intended to communicate an overtly promotional brand message. Instead, the content would help audience members be smarter in their exploration, evaluation, decision-making, engagement, and post-purchase experiences. As the brand addresses topics of interest to audience members, it has the opportunity to subtly convey its helpfulness, expertise, and audience-focus through sharing beneficial content throughout has the audience journey.

Why do audience members select the brand?

Another exercise focused participants on the relationship stage where audience members either choose or do not choose the brand. Workshop participants identified five primary reasons audience members select the brand. They then identified five reasons audience members do not pick the brand. For each positive reason, they generated multiple topic ideas (of interest to audience members) that would back up the brand’s attractive characteristics. For reasons the brand was not selected, they brainstormed possible topics to help counter or refute misperceptions about the brand.

What do audience members say about the brand relationship?

One exercise focused on interactions audience members have with the brand further into the relationship using a 4-box grid. One axis listed “questions” and “statements.” The other listed “negative” or “positive” interactions.  Each of the four cells named a relevant situation and several questions to trigger potential topics. For instance, positive questions present “Education opportunities,” and negative questions signal “pain points.” Positive statements suggest highlighting ” brand value.” Negative comments indicate “objections to anticipate.” Questions associated with each of these four areas suggested jumping off points for additional topic ideas.

What do we think, know, and do that is relevant for audience members?

Audience members’ interests primarily extend beyond the brand’s traditional focus areas. That is why brands focusing only on content about themselves miss so many rich areas in which to share content. To counter this, one exercise explored areas in which audience members exhibit interests, seek information, and focus priorities. For each of the areas identified, participants generated audience-oriented topics. They made the brand connection to the audience based on what the brand thinks about audience interest areas, knows about the information they seek, and does relative to their priorities.

Coming Away with Plenty of Audience-Oriented Topic Ideas

During the Brainzooming content marketing strategy workshop, participants generated hundreds of potential content topics. Before adjourning, each person walked the room to review the topics and select those they thought had particular potential to interest audience members.

The next step is documenting all the topics on a content calendar. This enables the brand to address topics in an organized fashion across the year when, as they can best determine, audience members are most interested in the information.

If you want to learn more about specific details of this approach, contact us. Let’s collaborate to develop richer content that matters to your audiences. – 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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What are your expectations from a creative thinking workshop?

That is the first question I ask the audience at a Brainzooming creative thinking workshop. While I have a rich array of content planned, audience member expectations shape the points I emphasize and lead to including other unplanned content.

7 Expectations from Creative Thinking Workshop Training

Preparing for a creative thinking workshop this week, I looked back at a recent workshop to review the expectations participants shared. The expectations are a good representation of issues, from personal creativity to organizational strategy, important to getting things accomplished in a large company.

creative-thinking-workshop

How do you move an organization and its strategy from reactive to proactive?

On a personal basis, certain strategic leadership basics are a good place to start adjusting your attitude and growth as a strategic leader. Organizationally, a change management assessment we use identifies the types of change challenge an organization faces, along with ideas for approaching them successfully.

What are techniques to look at problems in new ways?

We offer a wide variety of strategic thinking exercises to change perspectives and look at day-to-day and longer-term problems in novel ways. At that workshop, we concentrated on the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise as a flexible tool suitable for many situations.

How do you build a team to move forward in a new direction?

We recommend assembling a diverse team with members filling specific important strategic perspectives. You can add to the core group with three distinct voices that include traditional leaders, emerging voices, and those challenging the status quo.

How do you motivate others – and yourself – to engage in greater creative thinking?

It may seem easy to stay stuck in the status quo. But for as easy it is to not change, you can’t stop all the change going on around you. We recommend inviting people to participate in creative thinking through using idea magnet behaviors. Idea magnets excite and propel others to tackle challenging creative tasks. Leaders also need to cultivate an atmosphere where people understand it’s okay to imagine and try ideas that won’t be successful right away, if ever.

How do you choose specific creative thinking ideas your team develops?

Ideas are a numbers game. It takes many ideas to uncover the most creative possibilities. Our experience suggests that as few as 8% to as many as 20% of ideas in a creative thinking workshop are viable candidates to move ahead right away. Involve a team in narrowing ideas by letting them select up to 20% of the initial ideas consideration. Then use a four-box grid to let team members express their initial views on the value of potential ideas, while group discussion helps decide which ideas advance.

What’s the life cycle of creative ideas?

The cycle to get from few ideas to many ideas to the best few ideas may happen multiple times during one initiative or plan. You, as a creative leader, need to be on the lookout for when it’ s time to move between divergent to convergent thinking and back again.

How do you communicate new strategies to those that are less open to change?

Personally, you can ask open, neutral, and lean questions of people reluctant to change in order to better understand their concerns. Invite them to play a challenger role in constructively helping to vet new thinking. For setting an overall strategy to handle change fears, download our innovation fears eBook offers seven possible strategies to consider.

Creative Thinking Is a Broad Topic

These questions suggest how a creative thinking workshop can cover a wide range of techniques and tips.

If your team would benefit from honing its creative thinking skills, it’s a great time to schedule a Brainzooming workshop before you dive into planning for next year! Contact us to get your workshop booked today!  – Mike Brown

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Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

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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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You have heard the old business joke about the pig and the chicken’s different levels of commitment to breakfast?

When it comes to ham and eggs, the chicken is supportive, while the pig is committed.

Bacon-Egg-Engagement2

It may be an old and tired story, but it still illustrates an important point about engagement and the willingness (or unwillingness) of employees to go all in with a new business initiative.

The thing is, unsuccessful employee engagement strategies are not an employee problem.

It is a LEADERSHIP problem when purported employee engagement strategies are not working. It means leadership has not made a credible case for WHY employees will benefit from going beyond the bare minimum to justify going all in to make company initiatives successful.

We see great leaders among our clients successfully taking steps that meaningfully involve employees in shaping strategy and implementation. These leaders respect differences completely, ask questions honestly, listen attentively, adapt credibly, and explain thoroughly.

That is a formula that works for employee engagement, and it is one reason we shared our Brainzooming buy-in manifesto.

If you want to go deeper on a viable strategy to improve employee engagement, download our Results eBook. It highlights an approach for more collaborative strategy that provides employees with a real opportunity to contribute their ideas and be a part of actively contributing to your organization’s direction. Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE 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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Facing a major goal when seems you have is too few resources CAN BE an incredible inspiration for your organization’s innovation strategy.

I worked with a CMO who would revel in difficult situations where it seemed we had too few resources, negligible support, and slight chances of success. As he’d always remind us, when you have almost no support, you have almost nothing to lose. Because of this, he saw difficult and resource-scarce times as the BEST opportunity for creativity and moving ahead with a bold innovation strategy.

Too Few Resources Can Create Opportunities to Innovate?

That idea sounds ridiculous on the surface, especially if you have plenty of money and support to bring your new innovation strategy to life.

Yet in situations where we had far fewer resources than necessary, we would step up our innovation game with extreme creativity and more ingenious ways to bring big ideas to life.

Based on these experiences, coming up with many possibilities to get things done in novel ways became second nature!

16 Ways to Find New Innovation Resources

Ultimately, exploring many paths for non-traditional resources became a standard procedure. It was so routine, in fact, I developed a battery of questions we could use when launching any project to identify a potential pool of resources to tap. These strategic thinking questions pushed our thinking on potential internal and external partners, strategy changes, places to borrow short cut ideas, and new outreaches for support.

The point behind all the questions was finding ways to accelerate our ability to innovate, turning more ideas into reality to move our business ahead.

We’ve compiled the questions into an eBook called, “Accelerate – 16 Keys to Finding Resources for Your Innovation Strategy,” and you can get your own copy here.

Whether you use the questions individually or with your team, you’ll discover ample new options to work around resource limitations standing in the way of your innovation strategy’s progress! – 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 were on a call with an extended creative team generating ideas for client videos. During breaks, I found myself jotting down examples of important creative thinking skills the team was exhibiting.

7 Important Creative Thinking Skills

7-creative-thinking-skills

Infographic by and courtesy of Diane Bleck – DoodleInstitute.com

These seven creative thinking skills demonstrated during the call are ones which benefit both those who display them and those working with them too:

1. Suspending advocacy of your own idea to push for another person’s concept.

It’s helpful to be able to come into a creative situation and demonstrate your willingness to champion another person’s idea. It can open the way to getting others to support your thinking, as well.

2. Putting your own idea to the same test you apply to an idea from someone else.

When it comes to your own ideas, it’s easy to be a hypocrite and apply all kinds of hurdles to other ideas while letting your own thinking slide by unchallenged in your own mind. Just one thing to remember: don’t become somebody known for doing this!

3. Combining two different ideas and making them better (not muddled) as one idea.

Often (maybe “almost always”) compromising on creative ideas leads to something nobody likes, recognizes, or thinks satisfies the original objective. Being able to dissect ideas to pull out highlights and put them together as something new, however, is entirely different, and a great skill to have.

4. Letting someone else take “ownership” of your idea in order to build support for it.

This skill really tests whether you believe so strongly in an idea you’re willing to let someone else step up and take it on as their own idea to see it prevail. The key to seeing your idea win out can be letting somebody else be the vocal proponent for it.

5. Displaying the patience to wait for someone else to say what needs to be said so all you have to do is agree.

It’s tempting to jump in right away and make all the points you feel necessary in a creative discussion before anyone else talks. At times though, patience and silence are called for when it becomes clear someone can and will express your perspective – and can do it more appropriately than you can.

6. Sticking to your guns amid challenges to a creative idea which makes solid strategic sense.

There are many creative ideas which, while being really cool, have nothing to do with what you’re trying to achieve and how you should be achieving it. When confronted with others who are passionately arguing for highly creative yet hardly strategic concepts, make and remake your case if the idea you’re advocating is on the mark strategically.

7. Always looking for new creative skills to develop in yourself and those around you.

Not only do you want to make yourself stronger creatively at every juncture, it’s in your best interests to help improve the creative performance of your overall team. Creative meetings are a great opportunity to spot gaps others labor under as well as seeing your own creative shortcomings. Inventory what you saw (or didn’t see) after a creative meeting and get to work filling the gaps.

How are you doing on these 7 creative thinking skills? How about your team?  – Mike Brown

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

 

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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When it comes to whether an organization demonstrates ample creativity and new ideas, you have to place a load of responsibility on the leadership. How the leaders encourage and cultivate new ideas (or don’t) will affect the volume and richness of creativity throughout the organization.

160709-No-Dump-Ideas

If you want to go deeper into our thinking on the topic, here are a variety of articles on how leaders both support and stand in the way of creativity and new ideas.

Leaders Supporting Creativity and New Ideas

Creative Thinking – 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity

Career Challenges – 8 Ways to Let Talented People Help You

The Process of Strategy Planning: 5 Ways to Keep the Boss from Dominating

New Employee Success – 5 Ways to Create Success for New Ideas

Be a Business Fan for Your Work Team Members

Creative Thinking Skills: 6 Tips for Sharing and Receiving Creative Ideas

Unleash Creative Possibilities with Bob Thacker

Extreme Creativity – When Do You Trust a Creative Genius?

Leaders Getting in the Way of Creativity

5 Ideas When an Uber-Positive Boss Crushes Creative Thinking

Protecting Your Creativity in a Culture that Doesn’t Value It

New Business Ideas and a Creative Block in Your Organization

Mike Brown

 

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

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help 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. Contact 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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