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So far, 2018 has been a year of so much progress…along with a sizable dose of healthy frustration. Progress, in that we’re pushing multiple new brands (including Idea Magnets) to market. Frustration, because it’s 2018 and not 2011 or 2012, at the latest.

Here is the ultra-honest admission: I didn’t have all the business model stuff and entrepreneurial lessons figured out when I started The Brainzooming Group.

While I’d spent TONS of time and effort on developing our methodology, I thought all the people who told me that they wanted to work with me when I left the corporate world would come running to work with Brainzooming. The rest would be history.

I was wrong.

It’s taken until this year to feel like we’re putting important parts of the business model in place, and while that’s great and all, I wish it had happened years ago. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s entirely possible you might start getting all your ducks (or even just a few important basics) in a row AFTER you’ve jumped into the entrepreneurial pool with both feet.

And, you know, if you keep surviving to do business another day, maybe it’s okay if you don’t have the entire business model solved immediately.

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Wish I’d Figured Out Earlier

While I usually save my entrepreneurial lessons for an annual-ish article, here’s a head start on what I’ve learned during the last year about the best advice people have shared with me that I wish I’d fully grasped before starting Brainzooming :

  1. The best advice? You have to find opportunities for leverage in your business. Without this type of opportunity, no one will want to invest in it. Without this type of opportunity, YOU should question your own investment in your own business.
  2. The next-best advice? Figure out what you can sell to all the visitors to your website that fall outside the target for your main business. Someone pointed out this incredible truism in 2012 or 2013. We’re only now starting to capitalize on it.
  3. The best advice after that? You need to have products to sell globally if you hope to generate revenue when you sleep (or even just sit on your ass and do nothing at some point in your life).
  4. Then? If you’re ultimately going to have something to sell to everyone that comes to your website, you need to engage and reach out to them along the way. It’s a mistake to overlook them until you have products ready for them. Find early opportunities to deliver value to them.
  5. Finally? Build your database EARLY. Spend time with your database. Continually explore and learn new ways for your database to shape and grow your business.

Looking at this list, it seems to comprise mainly things that I, as a marketer, should have instinctively known.

Alas, it’s taken time. And there’s still more learning ahead.

I just wanted those of you who more recently made the jump to the entrepreneurial life (and those of you in corporate life who think it sounds great to be your own boss), to know that you don’t have to know everything at once.

Despite what all the gurus say: it takes time, my friend. It takes time to learn the entrepreneurial lessons. – 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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We can all use a butt kicking occasionally that provides a wake up call to dramatically improve our own confidence levels and performance.

I got one of those butt kickings last Tuesday morning via an opening keynote presentation by Amber Selking, PhD, at the International Thermprocess Summit. Dr. Selking is a Performance Consultant who focuses on “Building Championship Mindsets.”

It feels like I’ve been running on fumes for weeks (months?), and I was in Atlanta on too little sleep to close out the conference that afternoon with a talk on transitioning businesses and their intellectual capital from one generation of Idea Magnets to the next. Before the Tuesday session opened, I took a seat at the very back table, hoping to strike a balance between conserving energy, walking through the slides in this new talk, and identifying ideas and themes from other speakers’ talks to weave into the closing.Order Idea Magnets
That’s when Amber brought the message, the energy, and the call-to action that made everyone stop and think about what they are personally doing to improve themselves and their teams. Everyone walked away with a new and improved mindset.

I told her later how her talk challenged and scared me.  As I sat there needing to deliver the same energy and passion as Dr. Selking brought to her talk, I feared there was noooooooo waaaaayyyyyyy I could muster half of the enthusiasm she did. At one point later in the morning, I returned to my room to get my stuff and wondered aloud WHAT I was going to do in the next two hours to energize myself.

My concerns were heightened when the conference organizer told me right before I started my talk that she was looking for me to deliver the same impact as Amber had earlier in the day.

I guess Dr. Selking’s message really did land with me, because I found much more energy than I’d had that morning. The closing talk was interactive, had some fun moments, and challenged the audience to return home and make room for millennials to actively engage in sharing and learning new and conventional knowledge to take their companies forward.

Enough about me. Amber Selking, PhD has a podcast you need to check out, and a TEDx Talk that will give you a sense of the impact of her message.

Go find out about Amber Selking, PhD. She’s an Idea Magnet!

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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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When you decide to change your routine, you need to be prepared to make do. That can include bending the random into something strategic and on message.

Thus, the photo of the monkey, the cow, and the pig.

Heading to Chicago last week for a first in-person strategy workshop with a new client, I didn’t bring toys. Part of it was saving space. Part of it was being cautious working with a new client on a second-chance engagement and not wanting to start on the wrong foot. Part of it was wedging too many trips and separate client engagements into a seven-day period and neglecting to put toys on my travel checklist.

Dining with our client contact the night before, she mentioned her promise to the company’s CEO that the 1/2-day workshop would involve fun strategic planning. I told her I hadn’t brought any toys along, but that I would visit a store on the walk back to my hotel and buy some toys.

I mean, anything for fun strategic planning!

Fun Strategic Planning and 3 Stuffed Toys

This commitment to our client took me to Walgreens on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I scoured the store for squeeze balls that the executives could safely throw at each other. Finding none, I bought these three stuffed toys, all of which originally had “I Love Chicago” shirts.

The next morning, as we set things up for the strategic planning workshop, I told the clients that each of the stuffed toys had a special purpose that they could call on to guide the workshop:

  • The monkey was for situations where I was moving quickly, and they wanted to spend more time. They could pick up (or throw) the monkey to signal the need to monkey around with ideas a little longer.
  • The bovine was for when we hit a sacred cow issue that needed to be challenged and not simply accepted as imperative.
  • The pig was for wildly innovative ideas that we should consider at future workshops, but were bogging down our progress since, at least right now, these ideas would only happen when pigs fly.

The moral of this little fun strategic planning story?

I didn’t have all those roles figured out when I bought the three stuffed animals. As I was shopping, it occurred to me that they should have some reason for being at the workshop. Using one of our core analogy-finding questions provided the basis to turn these random stuffed toys into a part of a strategic planning workshop.

Those connections were, in this case, part of turning a regular meeting into fun strategic planning. That’s what Brainzooming does! – 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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If memory serves me, I saw actress Sally Field say one time on Inside the Actor’s Studio that performers must be skilled at applying mental sandpaper to themselves to quickly trigger the necessary emotion for a role or scene.

For whatever reason, as someone who has never had any hint of the acting bug, her comment stuck with me. It is probably because the idea of being able to instantly reach something important that is difficult for most to do is at the heart of the structures Brainzooming uses. All the strategic thinking exercises we’ve developed are focused on helping non-strategists become adept at strategy with very little preparation. All we ask is that anyone bring his or her knowledge, expertise and an open mind.

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6 Ways to Help Experts Realize What They Know

I’ve been thinking about this idea of mental sandpaper relative to a talk I’m giving this week on transitioning a business to the next generation of Idea Magnets.

The key point involves how an organization can prevent a huge part of its intellectual capital walk out the door as baby boomers retire in the next decade. One of the challenges in this knowledge transfer is that experts often lose sight of unique knowledge they know that others do not grasp. Working to identify ways to make experts realize other people don’t know things that they know is where the idea of mental sandpaper has been at the forefront of my mind for months.

What are some forms of mental sandpaper in this situation?

  • Having to teach what you know to someone else
  • Creating a presentation about your knowledge
  • Demonstrating what you do
  • Reviewing another expert’s perspective on what you know
  • Having the expert note gaps when someone with less experience explains the information or process at which they are expert
  • Starting over from scratch on a process that the expert typically only tweaks (as when a computer file you really need gets zapped)

Those are just a few ideas. If you have an expert Idea Magnet walking out the door soon and need to capture what they know, stock up on these variations on mental sandpaper and get to work! – 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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I’m a stickler about the word leverage. I can’t stand it when people use leverage when they could just as well use use. Using leverage doesn’t make you sound like an Idea Magnet; it just makes you sound like a jargon fiend.

I’ll admit, though, that in the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about leverage. That ties to a conversation at a networking event with a serial investor. He told me that when he looks at businesses as possible investments, he ALWAYS looks for ones that have a leverage-related opportunity. For him, that means something is present in the business model allowing the brand to scale dramatically with disproportionately fewer resources – be they dollars, time, or something else.

6 Strategic Thinking Questions to Leverage Leverage

We most often apply a comparable version of this idea when working with clients that have started a lot of things and are wrestling with how all the things fit together. At that point, leverage looks like taking the best advantage of things that they can do once and use successfully, with little change or adaptation, many times over.

If you want to push a group to focus on these types of opportunities, here are ELSE-oriented strategic thinking questions that do the trick to get the thinking started:

  1. Who else can take advantage of this?
  2. What else can we (or someone else) do with this idea?
  3. Where else can we apply this concept?
  4. When else would this be relevant (or important)?
  5. Why else might this matter to someone?
  6. How else can we adapt and extend the advantage of this idea?

Running through this set of strategic thinking questions (along with whatever else you can think of) is a strong start to finding points of leverage and taking full advantage of them!  – 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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I was chatting with someone about what to do when someone asks you a question in a meeting. If you are fine with where everything is heading or you’re not sure what to ask, should you simply say you don’t have any questions?

That may seem like the natural answer.

I suggested another one: Go ahead and ask a great strategic thinking question.

It is always better to respond to a request for questions with a question versus saying you are completely set (whether you are or not) and have no need for more information.

In these situations, asking a positive, open-ended question:

  • Suggests that you’ve been listening very closely
  • Puts the attention back on the other person
  • Provides an opportunity for the other person to clarify

The next natural question in our conversation was about what types of strategic thinking questions to ask.

While I think there’s a Brainzooming blog post for this, it was almost faster to write a new, updated list of questions than to find the post. (That’s why having a book of Brainzooming creative leadership ideas all in one place will be so handy!)

21 Strategic Thinking Questions When You Have Nothing to Ask

via Shutterstick

Here are 21 updated strategic thinking questions with varied purposes you can use when someone asks you if you have any questions:

Create More Room to Elaborate

  • Can you talk about that more?
  • How will it work?
  • What is most intriguing to you about the idea?

Seek Additional Background

  • Is that a typical approach that you take?
  • What brought you to that conclusion?
  • What other ideas did you consider before arriving at that?

Explore Potential Impact

  • What are some upsides to this approach?
  • What types of impacts should / can we expect?
  • Did you look at this idea relative to others and their expected impacts?

Identify Opportunities

  • Are there other areas in which we can apply this?
  • What other initiatives could branch off from doing this?
  • What other initiatives could get new life when we introduce this initiative?

Identify Success Factors

  • What do we need to pave the way for success?
  • Who will need to be involved to make this successful?
  • Can we depend on existing capabilities or will we need new ones to make this work?

Understand Previous Experience

  • What does your experience tell you about how this will work in our situation?
  • How have you used this idea in other situations?
  • How does that differ from other things you’ve tried?

Push for More Innovation

  • Is that a new idea / approach?
  • What are other alternatives you considered (or are under consideration)?
  • How does this approach improve on what’s been done before?

Given all that, do you have any questions? – 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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As a Brainzooming reader, it’s a foregone conclusion that you are an Idea Magnet! That’s why we wanted to give you this exclusive update.

Idea Magnets Is Available Now!

Idea Magnets: 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders, my new Brainzooming book on daily innovation, is now available on Amazon.com.

Idea Magnets shares seven strategies for becoming a more dynamic leader who inspires extreme creativity and innovative success by naturally incorporating these strategies into work and personal life.

Using Idea Magnets strategies, you’ll be able to envision new creative paths that deliver powerful impact, attract new ideas and people, and strengthen your leadership. This leads to greater fulfillment for you and everyone around you!

Order Your Copy of Idea Magnets TODAY!

The Idea Magnets Launch

We’ll be officially celebrating the book’s launch on Monday, July 23 with a live presentation at 11:00 am Central Daylight Time (US). We’re planning to stream it live on the book’s Facebook page.

An Exclusive Free Offer for Brainzooming Readers!

If you purchase your Idea Magnets print or Kindle version right now on Amazon, you can also get a copy of The Idea Magnets Creative Recharge for free. This companion eBook shares strategies that build on the seven strategies in Idea Magnets. It offers fun approaches for recharging your creative energy. To grab your copy, go to IdeaMagnets.com/recharge and enter your contact information and the Amazon order number from your Idea Magnets print or e-book purchase.

For more details on Idea Magnets, visit IdeaMagnets.com and start following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

We’re excited that you are part of Brainzooming family and look forward to benefiting you in new ways with the helpful strategies in Idea Magnets!  – 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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