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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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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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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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Whether telling a story personally or in business, the natural inclination is probably to include all the information perceived as relevant. Conveying complete information is truthful and also can make you feel as if you’re doing everything possible to create understanding.

But while sharing complete information may make it seem as if you’re doing your part to convey a message, it’s not necessarily the case. Sharing the complete story might really be undermining the impact of your message.

In “Made to Stick,” both “Simplicity” and “Unexpectedness” are discussed among six fundamental strategic characteristics for helping an idea take hold and remain in a listener’s mind.

Not constraining yourself to telling a complete story (as defined by including every detail) can simplify the audience’s listening experience. And inserting previously omitted details for dramatic effect can allow you to strategically improve how memorable your tale will be.

Want an outstanding example? This short video by Fr. Larry Richards contains one of the most memorable stories I’ve ever heard. Its simplicity and sense of the unexpected make it truly memorable. Take a look and think about how you can create the same sense of drama in some of your most familiar stories. - 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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3

Despite some good friends who can’t believe this is the case, it’s challenging for me to talk to new people, especially in a large group setting. After working to improve, it’s a little more natural than previously, but it can still make me very uncomfortable.

That’s why the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City Portfolio Showcase was a reach for me last week in more ways than one. Beyond having to stand in one spot and attempt to strike up conversations with people walking by our table, it also meant it was vital we further refined the Brainzooming elevator speech. Getting our message down to a few words has been a challenge since what we do can seem very intangible to people. This has been especially true for those who haven’t been exposed to how Brainzooming helps organizations  rapidly expand their strategic options and create innovative plans.

Interestingly though, it was actually easier to hone our business message among people less familiar with what we do. Approaching it with fewer preconceptions, we got the messaging down much more effectively than we had previously. One key difference was removing a constraint we all often cling to: sticking to the situations in which we’re the most comfortable. – 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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4

Working on a client project last week, an unusual constraint was placed on the project. The marketing lead for the multimedia presentation dictated there be no narration on the 3 to 5 minute piece. As each creative team member pointed out how narration would be such a help in getting the message across, he would reiterate his statement, “That’s great. And maybe narration will put it over the top, but it has to work without any narration at all.”

While it seemed to be a frustrating and potentially very unnecessary constraint, there was clearly a strategic rationale for his statement.  The narration would be the last element within an incredibly time-sensitive project. The voiceover itself would be a highly variable creative element where subjective opinions about its quality or tone could completely undermine the deliverable, i.e., if the CEO didn’t ultimately like the voiceover, the whole project could fall apart at the last hour.

By imposing what seemed like a ridiculous constraint, he forced stronger, more complete performance on other creative aspects of the production. He also left the possibility of a voice over as a bonus and not a possibly vulnerable critical element. What an interesting strategy, and one worth considering when you want to protect yourself from the potentially weakest variable in your equation. – 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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