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Suppose you are part of your organization’s management team. The organization is trying to encourage an employee idea program so employees will come up with possibilities to improve your prospects, processes, and products. You really want to get employees involved generating and sharing ideas, but nothing is happening. That may be because your organization is committing some or all of the sixteen employee idea killers in the list below.

Employee Idea Killers

  • The management team does not share information about the organization to allow employees to generate strategic ideas.
  • No one openly requests employees share their expertise and insights.
  • Requiring all employees to participate in the program.
  • Not explaining the impact employees can have on the organization with their participation.
  • Hanging up a suggestion box – either physical or virtual – and expecting the rest to take care of itself.
  • Designing an overly complicated process for employees participation.
  • Demanding employees only share completely brand new ideas.
  • Announcing the organization is only looking for “big” or “game-changing” thinking.
  • The management team exerts pressure for employees to participate – or else.
  • The management team criticizes employee submissions (or allowing others to do so) prematurely and inappropriately.
  • Not demonstrating appreciation when team members participate.
  • Prematurely comparing ideas to one another.
  • Unnecessarily trying to correct and fix ideas in their early stages.
  • Rewarding participating employees with additional unwanted work to document ideas.
  • Expecting someone who has submitted a concept with big impact will always have big impact ideas.
  • Never sharing success stories of the impact employee-generated ideas are having for the organization.

Are any of these sixteen employee idea killers going on in your organization?

Are there other idea killers you see happening?

Are you part of  a management team that is struggling with committing some of these employee idea killers in your organization?

If so, you need to stop it right away and get on with trying to rehabilitate your employee idea generation efforts. Right now. – Mike Brown

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.

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 haven’t watched 10 minutes of Desperate Housewives in the years it has been on ABC. My lack of personal context with the show didn’t stop me though from reading a recap story about Desperate Housewives in Entertainment Weekly. The article, “Housewives Confidential,” provides behind the scenes reminiscences about the show from its actors and executives. These Entertainment Weekly stories always seem to include both new creativity and innovation lessons or provide real life backdrop to creativity and innovation lessons we’ve already covered here on the Brainzooming blog. Here are five beneficial lessons from the Desperate Housewives article:

1. When a brand is damaged, there’s a lot less risk in “swinging for the fences.”

Susan Lyne, who was the president of ABC Entertainment when Desperate Housewives was green lighted, recalls that ABC was the fourth place network then. As a result, the network was looking for innovative types of programs which, “if executed perfectly,” could be massive hits. It’s always fun, and potentially very rewarding, to swing for the creative fences.

2. Plan ahead so you can be ready to ignore the plan.

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, in discussing some less than popular storylines and characters in the show’s second season, explained the challenge as not having good ideas and no time to think of any good ideas. The second season taught him the importance of planning six months in the future. The start of year three was marked by significantly more story planning than previously. Yet, when one of the main stars became pregnant in real life, Cherry had to be flexible in dealing with unplanned events.

3. You need to run different variables through creative formulas to stay innovative.

By the fifth season of Desperate Housewives, the show’s storyline was shifted five years into the future to freshen up the show. As Cherry points out, he wanted to try a new angle to the story since he didn’t want the “formula to get tired.” When you are able to capture your creative pursuits in some type of formulaic approach, it allows you to be much more deliberate in how you manipulate vital creative variables without blowing up the formula that’s worked.

4. Creativity and tight resources are intermingled. Get over it.

In a move that wound up in court with a lawsuit for wrongful termination, Marc Cherry killed off actress Nicollette Sheridan’s character unexpectedly. In court testimony, Cherry explained that amid a tight production budget, part of his consideration for the death was the salary a major character commanded could be spread across three or four actors the following season. With more actors in the creative mix, the creative story possibilities increase. What a fantastic reminder to never think you can use tight resources as an excuse to not be creative and innovative.

5. Get off the ride with a little creative juice left.

The plan was for Desperate Housewives to run nine seasons, but Cherry elected to wrap up the program in its eighth season. Co-executive producer, Bob Daily, notes how often the phrase, “We’ve done that…,” had crept into writing discussions. With a sense that all the viable storylines had been explored, Cherry stepped in to end the show early. While it is tough, stopping early is a decision many creative people and programs ignore, much to their ultimate chagrin.

Have you been watching Desperate Housewives?

If you’re a Desperate Housewives fan, what creative elements are you going to miss from the show once it’s gone?  – Mike Brown

Download the free Brainzooming eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas for any other area of your life! 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 info@brainzooming.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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6

I had the privilege of attending the Service Management Forum recently in Atlanta.  Service Management Group, a Kansas City company specializing in helping businesses develop, measure, and monitor differentiated customer service experiences, has been organizing the Service Management Forum for 14 years. The Forum has a reputation for a terrific line up of thought-leading business executives, academics, and motivational speakers.

The Forum theme surrounded innovation, supported by the title, “Think Different. Be Different.”  With a title like that, who wouldn’t want to be there!

Two of this year’s speakers leveraged concepts from improv comedy for business and innovation lessons, with five important improv lessons for innovators shared during the Service Management Forum.

Lesson 1 Make Little Bets

The first speaker offering innovation lessons from comedy was Little Bets author Peter Sims (Twitter @petersims).  Peter started with a clip from the 2002 Jerry Seinfeld documentary, “Comedian” to demonstrate Little Bets since “most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas – they discover them.”  During the clip, Seinfeld is on stage at a small comedy club, struggling to work out new concepts and ideas.  It was almost painful watching Seinfeld try out ideas that weren’t connecting with the audience.  Not connecting is actually an understatement, he was flopping.  Through this clip, Peter’s point hit the mark.

We are all accustomed to the polished brilliance of Jerry Seinfeld.  Contrary to popular belief, “brilliance” doesn’t pop up out of thin air.  Rather, comedic brilliance results from many hours of hard work, trial, error, and numerous iterations – “experimental innovation.”  Top comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock become top comedians by experimenting through Little Bets to find big, successful ideas.

Photo credit: The Second City - Chicago

The next lessons were provided by The Second City’s Communications group (Twitter: @SecondCityBiz) via a hilarious, gut-busting performance by an improv troop from The Second City.  Besides laughing so hard my abs hurt, we saw principles of improv in action.   However, I suspect that most of us in the audience were unaware of the improve lessons we were being exposed to since it was just great improv comedy!

Forum participants subsequently spent an hour learning a number of their key tricks-of-the-trade from two of The Second City Communication Group’s experts as we participated in several improv drills driving home the principles they were teaching and had demonstrated on stage.

Lesson 2:  Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral

This lesson builds nicely on Sims’ notion of Little Bets in that it doesn’t insist on starting with a singular brilliant idea, but discovering it over time.  In improv, the key to success is taking one person’s idea and building on it just a little bit more, then passing it along to be built on even more by someone else.  In time and with skill, something brilliant has the opportunity to unfold – the cathedral.

Great improv teams work together deliberately and carefully to keep things moving by only adding a little – and not trying to do anything more.  If a member of the troop is trying to uncork something amazing on their own, they can become preoccupied with their own thoughts and miss what is being said around them.  As a consequence, when the improv skit makes its way back to them, they can be caught off guard, unable to contribute appropriately, and bringing the skit to grind to an uncomfortable halt.

A parallel for this in business and innovation is the assertion that “Action Creates Clarity” from Peter Sheahan’s (Twitter @PeterGSheahan) 2008 book FL!P. Sheahan states businesses would be far better served through an action-oriented approach “built on the fundamentals of behavioral flexibility and rapid decision making . . . [It needs] to have a broad vision, or what I call a trajectory, that compels you toward a better future. It should be flexible enough to absorb changes in market conditions and completely new technologies and products.”  Sheahan’s point is essentially the same as point being made The Second City, move forward, one brick at a time – but do move forward. That’s where improv lesson 3 needs to be employed.

Lesson 3: Be grateful for all information

The folks from The Second City spoke about being grateful for, and “taking really good care of the information” one receives.  I thoroughly love this improv lesson!

All information is an opportunity to learn something. You don’t need to like or agree with the information for a learning opportunity.  Orienting oneself towards having a receptive and learning mindset, can make the difference between success and failure. And, if you are wanting to keep the innovation process going, you absolutely need to take really good care of, not only the information, but also the person(s), sharing the information.

The first step in demonstrating gratefulness for information is acknowledging the person delivering the information and the information shared.  To appropriately acknowledge information, one needs to be alert to the information being presented.  Beyond just being “aware” of the information, one genuinely needs to pay attention to understand the context in which it is being provided. One also must receive and thoughtfully process the information in order to provide feedback to sustain the creative discourse, applying the “Yes, and…” lesson.

Lesson 4: Yes, And…

The Second City states “Yes, and…” is foundation for improv success, building on there being no wrong answers in improv (except for maybe…. “no”).  Yes, and… is a powerful mindset and approach. Yes, and… places one in the active listening mode and oriented toward building on the idea or information being shared.  As with “bring a brick,” one key to both improv and innovation, is to keep things going. Yes, and… almost magically helps this happen.

Yes, and… is empowering.  Yes, and… also speaks to and organization’s cultural philosophy.  With Yes, and… as the guiding approach for creative conversations exploring new concepts, there’s a greater desire to provide and share new ideas. This is a signature of a culture of innovation and learning.

Can you imagine having regular conversations that met with responses like this?

Boss: Yes! You know what, that’s a really cool idea! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. And, you know what, let’s take your idea, build on it a little, and make it even better!

Employee:  OK, that’s awesome! And maybe after that, we could go get ice cream at Baskin Robbins in the Bat Mobile!

I digress…. but hopefully you get the point.  Yes, and… is BRILLIANT! And really really POWERFUL!

Lesson 5: It takes a team

Perhaps one of the most significant learning from The Second City is improv (like innovation) is inherently a culture of “we.”  The Second City shared the mantra, “I’ve got your back.” That’s actually pretty cool!

Improv (and innovation) success both require a team that demonstrates a culture of mutual and reciprocal support and trust.  One has to have the desire and commitment to make others look good.  If everyone on the team is committed to making each other look good, remarkable things can happen spontaneously!  If one if focused on making themselves look good, an improv skit’s likelihood of success is dramatically lessened.  It takes a team of players all moving toward the same goal.

In a recent Brainzooming article, I highlighted innovation as a team effort.  “In order for an innovative new product to get to market and become successful, many different people need to contribute to that success.  Just like a baseball team (or improv troop), these different players have unique and complementary innovation roles and skills.  These roles have to work together and depend upon each other executing their role to their fullest in order to come out with a win.”  The bottom line; if you want to be successful at improv, or at innovation, you need a really good team.

I have to admit I really didn’t know much about how improv worked prior to attending the SMG Forum.  And even after attending The Second City Communication’s workshop, I can only claim a little more knowledge than I could previously.  I’ve always had great admiration for comedy and in particular, improv; and my admiration has grown exponentially as a result of what I learned from Peter Sims and the folks of The Second City:

Let me hear what you think! – Woody Bendle

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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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5

There was no way not to share this Dilbert comic strip from Sunday where Dilbert once more delves into the world of creativity, this time trying to carry out a creative dating strategy. I’ve been out of the world of creative dating for a long time, but I’m definitely glad I’m not “out there.” I was a lot more left brain oriented way back when and really bad at dating, but putting a plant on my head to demonstrate creativity never even occurred to me.

Dilbert.com

Is Creativity Simply Random?

What do you think about Dilbert’s comment on creativity being random. I think creativity is somewhere between random and there being an algorithm. While there may not be an objective formula available, creative thinking exercises definitely work, even if creative inspiration happens to be lacking at any particular moment when you need it.

We continue to find the right formula depends on not just creativity, but on having people with expertise in the area you’re addressing also actively participating in working on creative thinking exercises.

Maybe that’s why even with the few creative tools I had back in college, my complete lack of ideas about what worked in dating held me back!

My best creative dating idea was buying this great girl lunch every day during college at Fort Hays State University. Not necessarily the most creative idea in the world, granted, but it did eventually get her to marry me! – Mike Brown

Download the free Brainzooming eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas – for dating or any other area of your life! 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 info@brainzooming.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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If The Brainzooming Group has worked with your organization or you have read our blog for any length of time, you know we are big believers in the value of using creative thinking exercises for brainstorming new ideas. Typically, the creative thinking exercises use multiple probes to yield ideas in a variety of areas within a single exercise.

Source: http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/IMAGES/MEDIUM/0601073.jpg

When Creative Thinking Exercise Provide Value

Beyond their help in brainstorming new ideas, creative thinking exercises also provide context as we document ideas from a Brainzooming session. If the description of an idea written during a fast-paced Brainzooming session lacks specificity or leaves a lot to the imagination, knowing the creative thinking exercise the idea is associated with can provide context to fill in missing details.

For some time, we used to both document the exercises for their value in providing context for ideas and as a way to organize brainstorming output from sessions. We would create elaborate spreadsheets with thousands of ideas in a database format. Sorting, analyzing, and grouping these spreadsheets with all their fields, however could quickly become mind numbing and counter-productive. Ultimately, we wound up putting a lot of time into organizing ideas that never made it out of a spreadsheet.

This issue came up as a client was working with several hundred blog topic ideas generated during a Brainzooming session several weeks ago. As she got everything entered, the number of ideas along with all the categories and sub-categories associated with the ideas became unwieldy.

When They Aren’t Providing Value

As we talked about dealing with all the information from the session, it dawned on me the creative thinking exercises function like the rocket boosters on a spaceship. The rocket boosters are essential to launch the astronauts and the main vehicle into space, but once they have performed that function, they are jettisoned. They are not pulled along on the entire space mission after they have served their purpose and quit providing value.

It is the same with creative thinking exercises and ideas they trigger.

Creative thinking exercises get you started brainstorming with incredible creativity, but once an idea takes life, which exercise triggered the idea is of little importance.

That is when they quit providing value, and it is time to let them go. – Mike Brown

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.

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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Angela Dunn’s March #Ideachat focused on “How to Take an Idea from Concept to Execution” with Whitney Johnson, Francis Pedrazza, and Kevin Sakhuia as co-hosts. #Ideachat was its typical mega tweet-filled hour, but even more so than normal this month. As an indication of #Ideachat’s growing popularity, it seemed as if the greetings between participants went on for 10 minutes at the start. While that’s part of the fun, it just takes up time from the real creative interaction and information sharing that makes #Ideachat the one Twitter chat I really try to make each month.

Here are some of the paraquote highlights from the March #Ideachat Twitter stream:

March 2012 #Ideachat TweetersWhat does Personal Disruption Entail?

Personal disruption was the point of departure for #Ideachat to get a sense of what it takes to push yourself through fear into implementing ideas and launching significant new ventures.

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney: That’s the innovator’s dilemma: Die or die sooner. Disrupt yourself and you die later. I find that I need to walk in the direction of my fear. It is a signal that is exactly where I need to go.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: You have to feel lost before you can be found.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: Disrupt = unlearn = breaking rules = conversion = amazing results

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making the case.” – Ken Kesey

My Contribution: Personal disruption is knocking or allowing the footing to be knocked out from under what feels comfortable to you now.

Overcoming Fears of Failure to Get Personal Disruption Started

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: I consider most things “Nearly impossible” – that engages my curiosity and creativity.

My Contribution: If impossible is not a state of mind, then at least redefining the challenge to not be impossible is. At the TED 2012 Simulcast, Donald Sadoway talked about assigning his grad students projects he thought were impossible without telling them. They then go out and solve them because they don’t know they’re supposed to be impossible.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Learned a new phrase from @jasonwomack: “Practice makes comfortable.”  Applying it to get past fear of disrupting myself.

My Contribution:  Trying small, lower risk steps can help get over the initial fear of failure. It can also be done through taking a bigger risk on something that’s not “life” threatening.  Sometimes you can get over fear of failure by using the buddy system and having someone taking the same or a comparable risk along with you. One way of getting over fear can be letting someone or circumstances FORCE you in to what you fear. It’s all about letting yourself get thrown in the pool without resisting it!

What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart When It Comes to Personal Disruption

JoAnn Jordan / @JordanEM: Visionary, improvisational, rule benders.

Woody Bendle / @wbendle: Seeing things that nobody sees in the things that everyone sees. Commitment. Perseverance. Tenacity. Conviction. Focus. Resourcefulness. MacGyver with some business savvy.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Entrepreneurs get bored easily.

Maureen Devlin / @lookforsun: I think for some entrepreneurs it’s about money, but others it’s passion for solving something. Money comes afterward.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: A3 An entrepreneur is a full time volunteer with an unusual optimism and an extraordinary ability to see problems #ideachat

Steve Koss / @SteveKoss:  Triple play of integrity – thoughts, words, actions all in sync.

My Contribution:  Entrepreneurs have a confidence in “living” to see the next day. They instinctively see beyond any missteps or failures.

What Investors Expect in Attractive Ideas

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney:  The first question I ask: Is it disruptive? If so, is it low-end or new market? (Also) May bet on the founder if not sure of the idea. Won’t bet on the idea if they’re not comfortable with the founder.

Vala Afshar /@ValaAfshar: Ideas are of plenty. Its execution that bridges ideas to meaningful solutions.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Create something disruptive. Product and metrics talk for itself. Surprisingly, investors are also searching for you.

Other Great Tidbits

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: Conventional wisdom is the most efficient path to ordinary.

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: “Avoid being complicit in mindless incrementalism.” And “One person’s pain is another’s game?”

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Crowd funding works if 1) incentive is not monetary 2) u have a great story 3) u are a painkiller not a vitamin

The Harvard Business Review link to Whitney Johnson’s piece on procrastination being essential to innovation.

Final Thought: Any Twitter followers who leave you for all the #ideachat tweets you make in an hour are far outweighed by any #Ideachat participant kind enough to follow you!  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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.

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 received an email recently about presenting to a technology marketing group on ideas for how to incorporate social media into your daily life. Thinking about the topic prompted this list of finding ideas on what to blog about in your daily life that is relevant for your social media audience.

As I always tell audiences, there are blog topic ideas in everything and every situation you encounter. While that is true, it is not as actionable as having a list to prompt you with specific situations to help you decide what to blog about in your daily life.

Today, you could consider these fifteen blogging topic ideas from:

  • Top stories from the morning news show you watched.
  • A novel idea that occurred to you in the shower.
  • Headlines in your newspaper or online feeds.
  • Topics customers are talking about during sales calls.
  • Questions being raised during customer service interactions.
  • Your opinion on today’s industry news.
  • Answering a question you received during a presentation.
  • A story you heard at lunch.
  • Insights gained from a conversation with a colleague.
  • Whatever the interesting person you met would like to cover in a guest blog post.
  • Information you shared in a capabilities presentation you delivered.
  • What you are doing for a customer today that provides tremendous value.
  • Sports analogies from the sports your kids are playing.
  • A perspective on a book you are currently reading.
  • Something you see on television this evening.

The moral of this blogging topic ideas story?

There are blogging topic ideas throughout your daily life, and it takes opening your perspective only slightly to find ideas for pages and pages of compelling blog content to share with your social media audience! – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download 6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!

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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