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Bloomberg Businessweek featured a pitiful review of the book “You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles after the Breakup,” by Peter Doggett in a recent issue. The theme of the rather tortured review (and one can assume of the book) was whether something could have been done to keep the The Beatles together, primarily because of all the money they left on the table.

As a point of comparison, the Rolling Stones (essentially Mick Jagger and Keith Richards) were cited for having kept their creative partnership together in the face of impending bankruptcy around the same era The Beatles disintegrated.

That’s certainly one point of view – keeping your failing creative partnership together solely for the money – but it’s a messed up one. I’ve always admired The Beatles for calling it quits before the complete collapse of their collective creativity. It was readily apparent the group wouldn’t ever work creatively anywhere close to the levels of just a few years earlier.

Sure the Stones had some musical highlights in the early 1970’s, and they’ve grossed a lot of money since, but is there anything in the Stones’ creative output of the last thirty-five years you couldn’t live without (remember 1981’s Tattoo You was largely recorded much earlier)? Answer: NO.

Here are two other examples from my personal favorite bands:

  • The Who reunited several times to try and keep John Entwistle out of financial trouble despite the fact they were artistically and creatively bankrupt through the ravages of drugs and without the unique drumming style of Keith Moon.
  • As much as I love early R.E.M., the group said they’d break-up if any member ever quit. Yet drummer Bill Berry (who been credited as being a songwriting strength within the band) came and went as the band continued. Sure they continued to get paid on a huge recording contract, but there’s been little fresh material from the group a fraction as strong as their early catalogue.

Are those enough examples to move on? Great.

Sometimes creative energy gets used up, never to be replenished. That’s part of what was magical about The Beatles. We didn’t have to live through (much of) their crappy output. We have their best work to remember them by without years of subpar filler.

Take this lesson to heart in your own creative life. You may be a part of a magical creative team, but chances are it will run its course – which is completely normal. When it happens, enjoy your memories, and let your former creative partnership be. – 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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Last Friday, July 9 was “Cow Appreciation Day” at Chick-fil-A. Customers dressing up as the company’s signature cow icon were rewarded with free meals (for a head-to-toe cow costume) and sandwiches (for any part of a cow costume). While there was a microsite set up for the day to allow customers to find locations and a Facebook page to upload photos, the interactive brand strategy was clearly geared toward a real life visit to a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant.

We headed out for dinner on Cow Appreciation day and saw many customers more than happy to turn themselves into Chick-fil-A brand icons for a reward valued at less than $5.

What a brilliant interactive brand strategy to get your customers to jump through a pretty easy “brand” hoop in exchange for what a restaurant might give away on a typical “buy one get one free” coupon requiring no customer brand interaction other than showing up at the restaurant.

In this case, turning couponing into an interactive brand strategy delivering a memorable brand experience creates all kinds of residual brand value in stories, pictures, videos, and likely, increased people per ticket as we witnessed large groups routinely entering the restaurant we visited.

And what about my Cow Appreciation Day participation? We’ll I love free Chick-fil-A as much or more than the next person. I put on my Ben & Jerry cow socks and a cow beanie and collected my free sandwich as well!  – 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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Reader Chris Reaburn introduced me to Prezi, “the zooming presentation editor” in the summer of 2009, and it remains on my list of things to dive into and better understand. Notice, it’ still “on the list,” with little progress toward accomplishing the task.  As a result, when I saw previous guest author Lesley Heizman tweet the other day about doing a Prezi presentation, I immediately asked her if she’d write a Brainzooming guest article to share what she’s found with the application. So thanks Lesley for sharing your expertise!

Prezi is not your mother’s presentation tool. If you want to keep on doing your old boring presentations with the 500 slides that nobody reads and the graphics that you can’t really see and the bullet points of everything you are going to say out loud… then stop reading.  If, however, you want to switch to a cool presentation style that will get people’s attention and focus in on your main ideas instead of falling asleep on you, then Prezi is for you.

The theory behind Prezi isn’t new…people have been talking about good presentation style and how to effectively present for years. It’s the actual execution part that Prezi excels at. By taking away the concept of slides, it changes the way you approach your presentation. What Prezi forces you to do is sit down with your ideas and distill them into the basic foundation of what you want to convey. What I tell people to do is sit down with a piece of paper and “map” out what your presentation would look like…what are your main talking points? What would the groupings of these topics look like? Do you have any media/pictures/documents you might want to share about these topics? This is a good place to start.

Without boring you with the details of the step-by-step use, you can go online and create a free account on the Prezi home page. Create your Prezi and start throwing in your ideas and text into your Prezi canvas (Hear that people? We are all artists with a blank canvas!!!).  Then re-size the text bigger for main ideas, group like text together, and unite portions with frames. Add any images, sounds, or videos you like.  Make it look pretty with a theme.  Finally, give your ideas a “Path” (your journey through your presentation), so it navigates through the ideas in a way that makes sense.  Prezi is web-based, so you can do it from any computer at any time.  If you’re not sure if the location where you’ll be giving a presentation has web access, they offer a for-purchase version of the tool you can download to work on and give presentations offline as well.

If you need help, there are some great learning tools and videos available on the Prezi site to get you started and see what Prezi is capable of producing. You might also want to check out this great Ted talk where James Geary used Prezi and discusses his thoughts on the tool.

Now, get busy people!  Start developing those fabulous presentations! – Lesley Heizman

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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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Thanks to an invitation from Seth Simonds, I’ve started contributing to Stepcase Lifehack, a top 100 Technorati blog featuring pieces on productivity, personal improvement, and other life “hacks” to improve yourself.

My first submission based on the creative and innovation strategy written about here at Brainzooming is “8 Ways to Bring Your Creative Passions to Work.” The response to the piece has been quite gratifying and demonstrates the benefit of getting articles in front of a very large audience. Look for new bi-weekly posts from Brainzooming over at Stepcase Lifehack.

This photo illustrates a great example of someone carrying out a strategy to be more creative at work. Shopping the deli case at our local Hen House Market for dinner, I came upon this ham salad, shaped and decorated as a pig. While I don’t usually want to dwell on what my food originally looked like, this represents a wonderful way to bring a passion for art to a deli counter job.

Yes, you truly can insert creativity into any job. You simply have to be creative in how you do it. Check out the piece on “8 Ways to Bring Your Creative Passions to Work” for ideas on how to get started!

And speaking of a taking a creative approach to an age-old experience, here’s a link to my advice on getting more creative pop out of your Fourth of July fireworks this year! Be safe!  – 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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Always watch out for the quick, “just go with it” ideas presented to you. While it’s really cool when the first (often “obvious”) idea works, at least ask the question, “What about the idea might not make sense?” In asking the question, force yourself to explore all aspects of the customer experience which might readily not fit with the idea. Doing this helps eliminate the awkwardness of moving ahead with a first idea which doesn’t really make sense.

I’ll share an example close to home illustrating the point.

We have a great offer $100 discount offer for the American Marketing Association Marketing Research Conference in Atlanta. It’s available to anyone attending last week’s virtual conference, “Unveiling Marketing Research’s Future Online.” Since I’m chairing the in-person conference, Brainzooming readers can also use the $100 discount if you register by July 2. The September conference is an outstanding learning and networking opportunity featuring presenters with strong points of view and a few surprises thrown in, all in keeping with its “Unfiltered Perspectives, Unexpected Opportunities” theme.

Back to that great $100 discount off for VIRTUAL event attendees. How do you take advantage of it?

By CALLING 800-262-1150 and using the reference code “VIRTUAL.”

Just CALL and use the code “VIRTUAL.”

Something about that doesn’t make sense does it?

When I asked about having to call to get the discount, it’s because of technical limitations with the registration system. Whatever. The “first idea” of making the discount code “VIRTUAL” makes sense if people can register directly within the virtual environment (or at least online). When you have to make a phone call though, it doesn’t make sense any more. At that point, it makes much more sense to pick something related the in-person event, such as “UNEXPECTED” or “ATLANTA” neither of which point right at our registration limitations.

Certainly not the end of the world, but all preventable by asking, “What about the idea might not make sense?”

Irrespective of the registration code, though, check out the lineup for the event and take advantage of $100 discount offer. It truly is the best value in a market research conferences you’re going to find.

And remember, just mention “VIRTUAL” when you call. – 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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We’ve talked before about The Brainzooming™ Group strategy for producing live event social media content. Rather than relying exclusively on content being generated by attendees, The Brainzooming Group strategy focuses on producing social media content through a team covering a conference or industry event across social media channels. In essence, the team we organize is a small news operation reporting on conference events via video, images, audio, and the written word.

At the recent 2010 Business Marketing Association Engage conference, our social media team numbered more than fifteen. It included a mix of business marketers, marketing communications professionals, and social media specialists. With that much talent assembled, we struck a balance between ensuring the event’s coverage from a news perspective (through preparing an extensive live social media reporting primer and editorial schedule), while providing freedom for the social media journalists to interact with attendees and presenters in creating spontaneous content onsite.

Beyond the event’s planned content, the BMA social media team’s creativity produced other great videos. Here are three that emerged from their onsite creativity.

The first video is a recap of the Business Marketing Association Engage conference social team’s efforts during the three day event. It was produced by Tim Dreyer of Zebra Technologies and features team members describing their conference social media roles.

The next video extended our brief post-presentation video interviews by featuring a longer, day-before discussion with author Chris Brogan. It includes a great behind-the-scenes look at how Chris adapted his topic and delivery specifically for the BMA Engage audience. The video was done by multi-dimensional social media team members Nate Riggs and Becky Johns (both future social media luminaries on par with Chris Brogan, btw).

Given the relationship Nate and Becky have with Chris, they also shot this funny video spoof about Help a Reporter Out (HARO) creator Peter Shankman, with Chris Brogan doing a send-up of Shankman’s manic style.

This video has already turned into a skydiving dare between the two social media rock stars, with someone’s favorite charity due for a $1000 gift because of it.

All part of the fun coupled with the real business benefits of bringing together great talent, providing some structure and letting them create rich social media content for and about an event. If you’d like to explore how The Brainzooming Group can do the same thing for your conference, contact us. – - 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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Here’s a second guest post from Carol Kobza; this one is on the very interesting headline from a recent IBM survey of CEO’s saying creativity is a critical attribute necessary in today’s world of business uncertainty. Carol sheds some light on what businesses and individuals can do to be ready to use their creativity:

The results of the IBM CEO study released during May says CEOs want and need creative leaders who can embrace ambiguity,” “take risks that disrupt legacy business models,” and “leapfrog beyond tried-and-true management styles.” Executives surveyed call out creativity as the most important attribute needed in their people. I wonder how many are taking the all-important step of setting aside the resources needed to strengthen their creative muscles.

Sometimes I’m prone to believing that I have the Herculean strength to lift a piano. Not surprisingly, I wrenched my back last week. When my new physical therapist asked me, “Have you done Pilates?” I had to reply, “No.” I had talked about doing Pilates for years and actually began to believe that I practiced it. But I had not invested the resources needed to build my core.

Resources – one of the elements of an environment that fosters creativity

Organizations have an under-exercised core, too – the creativity of their people.

Like Pilates, meditation or other disciplines, we might believe creativity is important. But it takes more than belief. It takes setting aside resources of time and space.

Organizations can begin to strengthen their people’s innate creativity through consistent practice with simple, low-cost methods and tools. Then, when asked for the Herculean effort required to embrace ambiguity, take risks or find totally new ways of managing, their people can call on their creative muscles.

A few examples of how your organization can exercise its creative core:

Develop a creative community

Try creating a network within your organization made up of small groups of people with diverse thinking styles. One of the best ways to identify and capitalize on creative thinking style is through the use of the Kirton Adaption-Innovation inventory or KAI. Groups that have diverse viewpoints within them become more effective at solving problems, generating fresh ideas and fostering innovation. In addition, they increase creative collaboration because individuals learn to understand that those with styles different from their own are not simply to be tolerated but valued for the unique perspectives they bring.

The groups in this community might meet over lunch once a month and be presented with a challenge or problem to solve. More importantly, they are given time, without a deadline, to let the challenge simmer in their minds until they meet again.

Practice problem finding

Someone who is a problem finder can be seen as negative or not a team player. However, problem finding can lead to more creativity and innovation. Charlie Prather of Bottom Line Innovation has a method for problem finding within his Bottom Line Innovation ® method that he calls WIBNI.

To find problems, gather your creative community and ask them to complete this question: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” Once you have gathered many responses, organize them into categories. What emerges, through expert facilitation, (note: emphasis on expert facilitation) is a set of great challenges to address.

Develop great questions

Once you have developed a set of great challenges, it is truly an art to translate them into a great question. A great question is broadly stated enough to help people think big and yet focused enough to guide idea generation. A great question begins with these words: “How might we…?”

An example of a question that is too broad: “How might we plan an effective and entertaining company conference?” A question that has a bit more grit: “How might we plan a conference that enables and inspires our people to recite our company strategy to their friends?”

For individuals …

Put your strengths to work

Marcus Buckingham’s research says that four out of five people hate their jobs. One of the major reasons identified for this is that people are suffering from the tyranny of being good at something. Just because you’ve become a good, for example, marketing strategist, doesn’t mean that you are using your innate strengths or that you love it. A strength is an activity that makes you feel strong. A weakness is an activity that makes you feel weak or bored. Discover your strengths, use them in your work, and your work will become more satisfying. It follows that those who are more satisfied in their jobs are more creative.

Avoid cynics

Creativity feeds on hopefulness and positivity. When coaxing your creativity to emerge, stay away from cynics, who try to look more intelligent by squashing ideas. If the cynic happens to be you, try turning off what Professor Michael Ray calls the inner voice of judgment or VOJ for one full day. Instead of judging, simply observe and notice how often you need to censor your inner critic. If you’re dealing with an entire group of cynics, try a tool called PMI. When discussing options and finding others coming to conclusions too quickly, ask three questions: 1. What is Positive; 2. Minus (negative); 3. Interesting about this idea?

Through my presentation, “We’re Too Busy to Be Creative,” I offer more methods and tools that organizations can use to build their creative core. – Carol Kobza

Guest Author

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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