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I have (finally) written a book on creative leadership. We’re wrapping it up in the coming weeks. The book, Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders, emerged from my experiences working with and knowing Idea Magnets throughout my career. They are creative leaders that share bold visions from which they generate incredible creative ideas and motivate others drawn to the amazing creative energy they generate. The book shares tools, techniques, and frameworks to perform as an Idea Magnet, even if that isn’t your natural creative leadership style.

You may ask: Is being an Idea Magnet naturally occurring, or can you develop the qualities?

The answer? Idea Magnets develop both ways.

For me, the path has been from exposure to Idea Magnets. They have shaped my perspectives, talents, and energy to be more like them, whether they were born as one or developed from exposure to other Idea Magnets.

In true Mike fashion, until recently, my perspective was that if I benefited from exposure to Idea Magnets, then EVERYONE must have had that exposure and been shaped by what they experienced.

Then I came crashing into a massive wall of, “THAT’S NOT GOING TO WORK.”

That ongoing refrain during a conversation prompted me to realize that this person had NEVER been exposed to an Idea Magnet. Idea Magnets shape their team members’ views to become comfortable working from a vision (and not a detailed plan), incomplete steps (vs. figuring out everything before launching), and a rich sense of hopefulness (in contrast to a prove it to me before I start attitude).

In the absence of that exposure (or a life experience causing an individual to learn that you must move ahead and succeed instead of complaining about what isn’t there), one winds up continually saying NO and walking away from innovative possibilities.

With Idea Magnets, I’m trying to make a very conscious shift in my own thinking and communication to focus more on what can be incredible. Let’s all seek out the attractive power in embracing possibilities, starting right now, and accomplishing amazing things in the pursuit of even more amazing ones.

I invite you to come along with us as an Idea Magnet. To find out immediately when the book is available, click here or on the image below. You will be the first to know when we unleash Idea Magnets on the world!  – 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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Idea Magnets display a creative leadership mindset that incorporates acting in ways that help others become high performers in their own tasks.

As you consider the people you interact with, ask what you can do and how you can do things to enable their strong performance in their own activities.

Want to learn more about Idea Magnets?

Find out more about how you can better embody a creative leadership style that sets you and your team apart for collaboration, imagination, implementation, and success! – Mike Brown

 

Keep current on Idea Magnet creative leadership secrets!

 

 

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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The 2018 Fast Company Most Innovative Companies issue arrived Saturday. It’s always a wonderful inspiration for strategic and creative thinking questions (plus it’s exciting that we have a current client among the companies recognized). In the spirit of the first Agility question below, rather than trying to imagine questions from across all the companies listed, we limited the focus to creative thinking questions inspired by the top ten most innovative companies’ innovation journeys and priorities.

16 Creative Thinking Questions from the Most Innovative Companies

You can apply these creative thinking questions to trigger your own brand’s strategic thinking on innovation strategy:

Strategy

  • What’s the heart of our brand that we can double down on right away?
  • If our time horizon were 25 years, what current things would we eliminate? Which ones would we accelerate?
  • How is our leadership removing distractions to innovation (instead of creating them)?
  • How can we focus on innovation results and let the financial results follow?
  • Where can we mass resources for innovations with the biggest impacts?

Customer-Focused Innovation Strategy

  • What remarkably new things can we deliver to the marketplace in the next year? 3 years? 25 years?
  • Where can we innovate to allow customers to do things they have never been able to accomplish before?
  • Where can we innovate to provide customers and partners greater visibility and growth opportunities?
  • What innovations would help customers do the right things?
  • What would we halt if we stopped doing anything that might be remotely bad for customers?
  • What will it take to immediately stop using our customers as guinea pigs for innovation?
  • How is our B2B brand dramatically changing individuals’ lives?
  • What opportunities will let us grow by 100x the amount and variety of valuable content our brand produces for customers?

Agility

  • What can we do to deliver innovations when they need to get to market vs. when we’re done tinkering?
  • What changes would let us keep tinkering and improving right up to the time we deliver our next innovation?
  • Which of our internal systems have value for other brands like ours that we can sell?

Which creative thinking questions from the most innovative companies will you take to your next leadership team meeting to focus the conversation on your own brand’s innovation strategy?  – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



 

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’re leading a major new initiative for your organization. It’s kind of a big deal. Since you’re leading it, that means a lot of other people ARE NOT leading it. Nearly all of them are fine with that. It’s one fewer thing to be responsible for beyond their regular day jobs.

One person, however, resents the hell out of your leading the initiative.

This person (let’s make him a guy, because we all know, it’s almost always a guy) knows that HE should be leading the initiative. It’s HIS area of expertise. HE has the best experience. He’s been around longer than you have, is known by all the key executives, and basks in his reputation as always wanting to be the one credited with making things happen.

He sees the new initiative you are leading quite plainly: YOU are going to get the credit if things go well. In his twisted way, if YOU are getting credit for a success, that makes HIM look worse. That leaves only one option: do everything possible (without calling attention to it) to sabotage you, the initiative, and its ultimate success.

What leadership strategy should you employ to succeed while dealing with this type of pernicious corporate antagonist?

The expected answer is probably to keep the corporate antagonist as far away from the initiative as possible.

An Unconventional Leadership Strategy with a Corporate Antagonist

When a new executive at a company faced this situation, I counseled him to instead adopt a leadership strategy where he invites the antagonist into all the planning activities for the new initiative.

The advice surprised him.

Here’s the reason for suggesting it. Inviting the corporate antagonist into the heart of the process forces him to openly share his resistance. Participating in everything, he will be part of a lot of strategy setting, review points, and decisions. Across those opportunities, he’s going to have to either constructively participate or use crazy levels of subterfuge to hide the sabotage he really hopes to carry out successfully. If he elects to go the route of trying to jam things ups for the new initiative later, the initiative leader will have documented a whole array of comments and involvement to challenge and confront the duplicity.

According to the new executive, the strategy is working. The antagonist feels involved. He’s having to go public with several biases and perennial weak spots in his leadership style as he tries to protect his previous work.

In this case, keeping a business ally close and a corporate antagonist even closer is working even when it seems an unconventional leadership strategy. – Mike Brown

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January 28th is, according to a Facebook post from my cousin’s husband, National Fun at Work Day. A quick check corroborated his claim, although there are questions about where the holiday originated. Since my cousin’s husband has worked at the same company for forty-two years or something, I’m willing to believe his post: if you’ve worked in one place for four decades, you have to know a little about fun at work, even when the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.

One great way to celebrate National Fun at Work Day? Download our FREE eBook on eleven ideas for fun strategic planning that are not stuffy for work.

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

We released this eBook for the traditional strategic planning season. We’re, however, finding that demand for fun strategic planning ideas now runs throughout the year. This fun strategic planning eBook tells how to incorporate surprise, new situations, and toys to bring life to ANY strategy meeting you conduct throughout the year.

Speaking of toys, we always say they don’t make strategy great, but they do make strategy fun. Fun strategy leads to greater interest in strategic planning and more opportunities for innovative strategy!

11 Tips for Fun Strategic Planning with Toys

If you are trying to figure out what toys are best at meetings, here are our 11 tips for including all the types of toys to include at strategy meetings.

You want toys that:

  1. Allow participants to build things
  2. Twist into different forms
  3. Have bright colors
  4. People can squeeze
  5. Make sounds
  6. Bounce
  7. Stick to things
  8. Are so inexpensive that you can have lots of them
  9. Will make the people at the table that doesn’t have them jealous
  10. People can safely throw at each other during tense moments
  11. Participants will want to take along at the end of the meeting

Toys rekindle kid-like creativity among haggard executives. They give fidgeters something to fidget. Toys (particularly balls) give more aggressive types something to harmlessly throw. Most importantly, though, toys are one aspect of demonstrating that strategic planning needn’t be a completely serious, mind-numbing experience for executive participants.

Download 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning today. You’ll be ready to make EVERY DAY National Fun at Work Day! – Mike Brown

11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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 personal success strategies do high performers employ to get and stay ahead in business?

Morton T. Hansen, a business professor at the University of California, Berkley, tackles that question in a new book: Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. (affiliate link)

According to Hansen’s article about the book in The Wall Street Journal, and based on a multi-year study of five thousand business people, the key difference in personal success strategies is the ability to be selective in taking on priorities and activities. High performers narrow the range of assignments they address and pour themselves into initiatives with intensity.

Four Personal Success Strategies for High Performers

Hansen lists four behaviors and perspectives to support selectivity for high performers:

  1. Reducing and simplifying activities
  2. Making specific trade-offs relative to new priorities
  3. Basing their work around value creation
  4. Innovating work process through varied strategies

These four personal success strategies provide a menu from which to improve your personal and team performance.

1. Simplifying Processes and Activities

Hansen discusses simplification and doing as few things as possible as important success factors. As he describes the strategy, it entails doing, “as few (things) as you can, as many as you must.”

One way to separate activities and priorities that deserve attention from those that don’t is through determining:

  • How much ability you possess to change something
  • The degree to which there is a return associated with a positive change.

Being able to make a big change with a significant return suggests an initiative to prioritize. To operationalize the strategy, we employ these questions:

  • Who is this initiative very important to, and how do they reward high performance?
  • Who would notice the impact of ignoring this?
  • At what point will the standards of everyone that matters already have been surpassed?

Within an organizational setting, there is a tendency to over-engineer simple. The simple way to simplify is to aim for as few moving parts as possible.

2. Making Trade-Offs with New Priorities

High performers are aggressive reprioritizers. In the face of new assignments and expectations, they say yes to the right things and no to things that will distract them and reduce performance.

One effective way to prioritize is to force yourself to make yes and no decisions. You can accomplish this by writing all your potential priorities on individual sticky notes. Place them on a wall or desk and select two priorities and compare them. Ask, “If I could only accomplish one of these priorities, which one is more important?” Place the priority you selected at the top of the wall or desk, with the other, lesser priority below.

Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is a more important priority, it goes on top, and the other moves down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

This simple model provides a quick prioritization to help determine which priorities warrant focus when everything seems important.

3. Focusing on Value Creation

Concentrating on high-value-creation activities is another element setting high performers apart from others. Instead of checking every box on a to-do list, these individuals concentrate on activities where they can deliver the greatest value for internal and/or external customers.

Part of understanding value creation is being in touch with customers to stay abreast of how THEY perceive and prioritize value. Absent this knowledge, you run the risk of spending time and attention on activities of lesser importance.

We recommend asking three questions to identify value opportunities. You may answer them yourself, but they take on tremendous importance when those you serve provide input, so we encourage you to ask them, too.

  1. What do I deliver that provides tremendous value for others?
  2. What do I deliver that doesn’t provide real value for others?
  3. What do I focus on that has the potential for tremendous value, but falls short because of too little attention or focus?

Answers to the first and second questions should re-confirm the priorities from the previous trade-off exercise. Answers to the third question highlight areas that perhaps can become priorities through eliminating the distractions you identify in question two.

4. Innovating Processes

Hansen found that one way high-performing individuals add value is through improving processes that lead to high performance for others. You can use the priorities providing tremendous value as a starting point to look for innovation opportunities to enhance value to upstream and downstream individuals in your work processes.

For those upstream in the process, think through the view, style, and expertise this person will put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility. Identify where you can provide actionable feedback to better coordinate the activities between you.

For those after you in a process, identify what they expect from you. How can you anticipate what they may struggle with to help them work through challenging parts more successfully?

Enhancing Your Personal Success Strategy

Based on Hansen’s work, simplifying, prioritizing, maximizing value, and innovating are vital personal success strategies to lead you to high performance. Does that match your formula? – via Inside the Executive Suite

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

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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At the church we attend on Sundays, they recite the rosary beginning thirty minutes before each mass. For the 7 a.m. Mass, there are few people present for the start, especially when there is snow on the ground. Cyndi and I arrived yesterday as the snow was flying and rosary was just starting. We took our typical place near where the individual leading the rosary sits.

With a group rosary, the leader typically says the first half of each prayer. The others present recite the second half. With even a small crowd (or a few people gathered within earshot), this approach works well. With only a few people scattered around a large church, it makes the call and response challenging, especially for the leader, who can’t hear when the other people complete their half of a prayer. The fact we were near the leader helped create some volume for the responses to help him keep pace.

When we completed the rosary, he stopped to thank us for being there, saying, “It’s always easier to lead the rosary when you are here to pray along.” I thanked him for showing up early to lead it.

4-Step Formula for Encouraging Idea Magnets and Team Members

I share this story because as we’ve been working on the manuscript for a new Brainzooming book on Idea Magnets and creative leadership, I’ve been thinking a lot about how leaders and followers encourage each another. It struck me how this simple situation underscored what leaders and followers can do for each other.

The leader:

  • Was visible and present so we knew where to find him
  • Got things started, even though the situation was less than ideal
  • Pressed on no matter what
  • Thanked the followers for participating

We, as followers:

  • Positioned ourselves near the leader
  • Dependably followed our designated role
  • Were vocal and available to help the leader more effectively perform his part
  • Thanked the leader for leading

Just a four-step formula for how leaders (and Idea Magnets) and team members encourage each other that seems like it works in most situations.

While there may be all kinds of other things going on within a team, if you as a leader or a follower, can get these four items right, you’re well down the path toward successful implementation. – Mike Brown Keep current on Idea Magnet creative leadership secrets!

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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