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We started the week talking about keeping a creative and innovative perspective going amid dramatic change. The seven lessons below, originally shared in an abbreviated form on Twitter, were written across several days of thinking strategically about how Brainzooming is progressing and how to move it ahead even more dramatically.

If you’re in a situation where you’re contemplating making a dramatic change, consider these ideas and how you can get a head start now, before the change takes place:

  • Flexibility is freeing. Design your life strategically to create future options for yourself. You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Create situations where you can make as many of your learning mistakes as possible before it really matters. While the intensity will naturally be less, you’ll be that much more ready when everything counts.
  • It’s one thing to build a network. It’s quite another to effectively use it to benefit others and yourself. Beyond simply helping others in your network, work on how you can and will ask others for their mutual assistance as well.
  • Never depend on any one thing as a “sure” thing. Always be prepared for what you’ll do “just in case.”
  • You may not have your elevator speech down pat the first time you get on the elevator. It may take a lot of elevator rides to refine it. Start the process now.
  • Borrow liberally and tweak ideas. But be sure to extend credit even MORE liberally than you’re borrowing!
  • Don’t be crippled by someone telling you, “It’s the worst time in the world,” to do what your attempting to do. In reality, it’s the worst time in the world to tell someone it’s the “worst time in the world” to pursue their dreams. – 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 had two Brainzooming articles and great comments last week on personal branding strategy. The subject reminded me of a recent exchange underscoring the memorability a great personal brand can create.

Last month, Cyndi and I were having her second free birthday dinner at Houlihan’s (and BTW, although they messed up the first dinner, Houlihan’s performed outstanding service recovery, really overcompensating for the servce failures taking place initially). Both nights, the same two women were eating nearby. One looked so familiar, I was sure I knew her.

At the end of the second dinner, my curiosity took over. I approached the table and asked if she were Evelyn Young. Yes, she replied, wondering why I asked. I told her I’d bought several pieces of jewelry from her years before. She asked with a twinkle in her eye if they’d been for my wife or a mistress. I assured her they’d been for my wife, as Cyndi showed her one of the rings, which Evelyn examined, commenting on its beauty.

She then asked if she made me spend more money than I’d wanted. I told her she had; Evelyn smiled and noted I had looked familiar to her as well. A variety of pleasantries and stories ensured, including one about getting a husband planning to spend a total of $100 on a 25th anniversary chain to spend $100 PER YEAR (or $2500) instead.

Evelyn reminded us that she is now 86 years old and gave me a business card, which she admitted wasn’t any good since the jewelry store where she worked had closed and the mall torn down.

She may not have ever heard of the term “personal branding,” yet Evelyn is a great example of everything you want to do in terms of personality and engagement to create incredible memorability and loyalty.  I always returned to Evelyn for jewelry purchases when she was working, and if I needed to buy something now, she’d get a call to see if she’d go shopping with me. And since she told us she and her friend eat at the neighborhood Houlihan’s every Sunday night, we’ll even try to schedule our return visits to coincide with seeing Evelyn.

Beyond how-to’s on personal brand strategy, what matters is the positive impact you make on others. Boy, has Evelyn done that! The question for all of us: are we doing as well as Evelyn? - 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 an idea that works well when you’re trying to uncover how to be more creative: force yourself (or your business brand) into completely new strategic situations.

The Brainzooming Group will be doing that this Thursday. Barrett Sydnor and I will be participating in the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s 2010 Portfolio Showcase, along with a talented group of creative talent – designers, writers, web developers, and artists. We’ll be there showcasing how Brainzooming helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement.

Barrett identified this opportunity, and while it may seem a stretch for Brainzooming to hang with the creative Freelance Exchange organization, the preparation alone has had a strategic and creative  impact. The opportunity to meet prospective Brainzooming clients in a very different situation (i.e., event marketing) forced positive refinements in our marketing message and creative delivery.

This event has made us think strategically beyond the one-page capabilities piece we’ve been using. In this venue, we need to provide visually eye-catching creative material to capture attention during a quick walk by our table. This new situation led to more case study-oriented pieces, such as those shown here.

Thinking about our strategic messaging from the perspective of the solutions and benefits Brainzooming provides, selecting images can be a challenge. Typically, our tangible output is a concise, actionable plan that’s tremendously valuable, but not all that visually intriguing. Changing our messaging focus to a potential client’s business challenges offered many more creative opportunities to place images with our message. It’s been much easier to depict business people challenged by too much data (without relevant insights), too few strategic options, or being left out of conversations about their brands in social media.

The point is this: presenting at the Freelance Exchange 2010 Portfolio Showcase was so different, it forced both a new look at our marketing and moved an important to-do higher up on our list. Whether you’re on your own or inside a company, look for brand experiments to force re-examining and innovatively approaching what you do from a new strategic perspective.

If you’re in Kansas City Thursday afternoon, April 22 from 3 to 6 p.m., stop by the Terrace on Grand (1520 Grand St., KCMO). We’d be eager to talk with you about how the proven Brainzooming process can help address your strategic challenges and catalyze innovative success for your organization! – 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’re in the middle of World Innovation and Creativity Week which started April 15 (the anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth) and runs through April 21 (my half-birthday).

As usual, we extend the week to April 22 around Brainzooming since it’s the birthday of the original creative instigator, Jan Harness.  And today, I’m really looking forward to getting together with Jan for her early birthday lunch! It’s amazing to think that this will be the first time we’ve seen each other since January 2nd. Having gone from working together in-person multiple times weekly, it’s been a creative shock to talk or email only every few weeks.

In fact, with Brainzooming as a full-time strategy and innovation catalyst for organizations needing help in these areas there have been different and typically less-frequent interactions with all my previous creative team members. It has created opportunities to meet other new creative people (which have been wonderful), and interact with some former ones in new venues, absent some of the restrictions working in a big corporation can pose. Interestingly, through much of this same time, I was cutting out many of my usual non-human creative instigators (including caffeine) for Lent. Since then, I’ve tried to continue staying away from them.

Taking the NO out of InNOvation

Talk about changing a lot of strategic elements all at once (remember an early 2010 post that referenced embracing dramatic change)! While I’d hoped radically changing my creative surroundings would awaken a whole different set of creative instigators I’d previously overlooked, it hasn’t been the case so far, at least as far as I can see. It’s simply been hard work to continually refresh my creative perspective. No innovation epiphany yet, but I’m still seeking it. When it comes, I’ll let you know what strategic combination of new creative instigators is working the best!

P.S. This week is a great time to download “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” as a way to refresh your personal creative perspective. I’ve certainly been using these eight perspectives to help refresh my creativity! I think you’ll enjoy and benefit from them 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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I picked up a copy of Ink, a free Kansas City entertainment publication, when leaving the local American Marketing Association get together last Thursday.

There were two great creativity articles worth checking out:

  • The cover story is 20 Ways to Let Your Inner Child Go Wild. The article celebrates the magazine’s second anniversary by suggesting a variety of fun things kids might do at a birthday party. As you know, doing what kids do is always sure to spur creativity. While the twenty suggestions list Kansas City locations to carry them out, all of them will likely have identical or similar options near you. Check it out and celebrate like the big kid you know you are!
  • Another Ink article worth reading, particularly while the season is still young, is a piece by Charles Gooch on how to fix what’s broken in baseball. He lists 10 ideas, all reflective of a great creative perspective that’s able to look at something very old with entirely new eyes. If only all of us could re-examine the familiar in such a novel way! – 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 sat through a poorly managed, business-wide meeting to allegedly solicit perspectives for an organization’s vision statement. Rather than using creative thinking exercises to help collectively form a strong vision, however, the leader directly asked the entire team what the vision should be.  Participants then sat quietly as only a few people spoke (one-at-a-time) to offer opinion-filled perspectives.

Beyond being incredibly boring for everyone, think about this: What was the cost of 40 or 50 well-paid people sitting around mostly twiddling their thumbs for 3 hours, as perhaps 10 of them actively participated at any point?

What a way to waste time, creativity, and goodwill for future strategic planning.

Do yourself a favor. Bookmark this article, and if you find yourself in an organization trying to develop a vision statement, PLEASE don’t take the same approach I endured! Here’s what to do:

  • Break into small groups where multiple people can actively participate at the same time to stretch the group’s thinking and share creative ideas.
  • DON’T ASK the obvious question, “What should our vision be?” Going right to this question won’t save time or improve results. People don’t talk in ready-made “vision statements.” This one-question approach simply draws out monologues doing little to coalesce a group’s collective perspective.
  • Instead, ask strong strategic planning questions to get participants to share the important words, phrases, and ideas that shape a vision. Such questions include:
    • What is our organization passionate about doing for our people and our customers?
    • What are we best at and where can we continue to excel?
    • Who will our customers be five years from now? What do we think will be important for us to deliver in best serving them?
    • What are capabilities we want to put in place to stretch our organization and better serve our audiences?
    • What are the things we need to concentrate on to dramatically exceed our goals and objectives?
  • Have small groups report their answers to these questions. Listen intently and write down ALL the ideas the group shares.

From this treasure trove of input, you’ll be ready to construct an overarching statement born from active participation and the hopes and language of your organization. Plus people will actually be excited about participating the next time you need them to do strategic thinking.

Oh, and by the way: The Brainzooming Group is great at facilitating these types of discussions so you get maximum participation. We actually generate creativity and enthusiasm through how we approach a team’s strategic conversations. Email me at brainzooming@gmail.com, and let’s talk about how we can help you deliver great results for your organization. – 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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Did you notice the incredible full moon last week? Especially at its rising and setting, the moon, at least as seen from here in Kansas City, loomed very large and clear.

Its magnificent size, however, is an optical illusion. It’s caused by our human inability to visually process the moon’s size accurately relative to its distance from us. Against objects in the foreground we see the moon as much larger than when it’s over head. Cut out the distraction of the foreground with our hands, and the moon appears no bigger than when it’s high above us.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to large objects in the sky with us humans. It’s frequently applicable to how we view life’s challenges. As potentially major issues appear on the horizons of our lives, we see them relative to near term pressures and concerns in the foreground. In this position, problems can seem unbelievably large and clear, even when they are in reality much smaller.

When you’re facing a situation such as this, strategic thinking approaches can help eliminate the foreground issues of our lives. A strategic perspective places us in a much better position to view potential challenges realistically and with a creative problem solving 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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