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Last Friday’s Gas Can Creative Conference sponsored by AAF-KC (American Advertising Federation – Kansas City) was a half-empty gas can, at best. While there were a few presentations and ideas to stimulate our creative thinking skills, there were far too few for an all-day event. We’ll turn the event’s downsides into a positive later in the week.

3 Creative Thinking Skills Ideas from Gas Can 2016

Today, here are three valuable creative thinking skills ideas no matter where your creative community is located.

Gas-Can-Sign

Push for Absurd Ideas

Stefan Mumaw, Director of Creative Strategy at Hint, shared a creative thinking exercise in a morning break segment. He gave us three minutes to imagine what might be part of a Swiss Army knife designed especially for a pirate. After finishing the creative thinking exercise, he asked us who had more than 50% of ideas that were absurd. Stefan defined an absurd idea as something that would definitely not fit in a Swiss Army Knife. Perhaps 30-40% of the audience had raised their hands. His point was you have to get to absurd ideas to sufficiently stretch your creative thinking. Being able to pull back after going full-on absurd will reveal innovative ideas that are actually possible to do.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

Stefan used a different path to get to the extreme creativity approach we use: pushing beyond conventional boundaries to find new thinking with near-term possibilities. We typically start by picking the most conventional ideas, however, and blowing them out to extremes. I’ll be including a modification to our extreme creativity approach based on Stefan’s exercise, however, and suggesting we also grab already absurd ideas as a starting point for extreme creativity.

Icky Brand Pairings

Joe Cox, Engagement Director at Barkley, shared a creative thinking exercise comparable to Julie Cottineau’s Brand Twist exercise where you take two brands, put them together, and imagine new possibilities. Joe also recommended pairing your brand with various others brand to see what unique ideas emerge. Beyond simply using familiar, popular, or naturally aligned brands, however, Joe urged us to use extreme and challenging brands, too. What would new ideas emerge when your brand is paired with the NRA, a cigarette maker, or an extreme political candidate (since we have no shortage of those)?

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

I love the idea of pushing the brand comparison beyond Nike, Apple, and Starbucks. Getting paired with an icky brand can lead to incredible ideas to offset all the negatives that would follow. Which of the powerful customer experience ideas to offset your brand’s affiliation would be great ideas even if you aren’t saddled with an icky brand partner?

Make Decisions Faster

Fast-decisions-Gunderson

Seth Gunderson, Creative Director at Sullivan Higdon and Sink, explored the way to cultivate better creativity and decision making. Seth’s presentation, titled “You’re either IN or you’re OUT or you’re MAYBE,” demonstrated how easy it is to make one-off decisions (Puppies – In or Out? Donald Trump – In or Out?) and how hard it is when there are multiple options. His advice was “we will create better work if we make decisions faster.” Seth suggested the way to better decisions is making them in the morning, after getting fresh air, and making sure to have a full stomach along with an empty bladder.

Creative Thinking Skills Idea:

There’s an early Brainzooming blog post on forcing decisions between one thing or another. Deliberately setting up decisions as “Yes” or “No” options is a good reminder. It’s very easy to get very complex and subtle in presenting options. While in/out decision making won’t always be appropriate, it’s probably appropriate in more situations than I ever think about using it.

Those weren’t all the valuable creative ideas. Each of these, though, is easy to overlook yet powerful in its impact! – Mike Brown

 

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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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An attendee at the Curacao Social Media and Content Marketing Strategy Workshop raised a new (for me) and pertinent question: What are ideas to go live with brand impact?

That’s a content marketing strategy topic I’ve been thinking about as more social platforms offer “go live” features, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr.

His specific question was what to do to make it worthwhile for a brand, and how much to prepare so it doesn’t become embarrassing (or boring, or pointless) video content.

First, a quick disclaimer: I’ve NEVER gone live, although maybe we could with some of our Brainzooming events. We’ll have to see.

Nevertheless, thinking of content marketing strategy analogies, brands doing live video strikes me as very similar to “destination TV.”  Destination TV is a program the audience wants to watch in real-time the first time it airs so they aren’t susceptible to spoilers from friends that saw the program first and want to talk about what happened. Among the shows I’d put in the destination TV category are the Super Bowl (and perhaps a few other major sporting events), final episodes of popular TV shows, and major awards shows (Oscars, Grammys, etc.).

Countdown-6-TV

These also tend to be high viewership programs, which is what you want if you are going live! Another common characteristic is that broadcast networks never suddenly decide to go live and start sharing them without sometimes months of forewarning.

That’s a good starting point for how to “go live” differently than many brands are trying it right now. While the video is real-time, there should be ample preparation and promotion to lead to a great go live performance.

16 Ideas to Go Live with Brand Impact in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Using the three broadcast examples of destination TV as inspirations, here are 16 ideas for getting the most from your brand going live:

Preparation

  • Go live with events or people that your target audience has a high interest in wanting to see in live setting. Pre-existing popularity, hype, plus past and future rarity all help generate interest.
  • Plan out what will happen ahead of time, knowing where you want to start, end, and places things in between.
  • Help the participants in your live stream develop material and rehearse what they are going to say or do if at all possible. A live dress rehearsal has its precedents (see SNL).
  • Look at ways to integrate pre-packaged segments with the live video, even if it means going multi-platform.
  • Tack on related stories and content delving deeper into the subject to interest specific audience segments.

Promotion

  • Brand your go live segments as part of an ongoing series of events so the audience has more to look forward to in the future.
  • Begin promoting your brand going live well in advance. If having an audience is important, hit the messaging hard on WHEN you’ll be going live.
  • Heighten interest with unexpected guests or feature unusual pairings of people that are intriguing (or pairings that have never happened previously).
  • Incorporate surprise into your promotion. Create a live event situation where viewers might have some sense of what could happen when you’re going live, but they can’t be absolutely sure about it.
  • Invite the audience to participate in pre-show events planned before going live to build hype and anticipation.

Performance

  • Share older (but still relevant) content prior to when you go live.
  • Use a mix of scripted and impromptu segments within your live segment.
  • Record segments if need be, but broadcast them live. That’s what many virtual events do – they playback recorded talks, but take live audience questions.
  • Invite other parties outside your brand to cover / report on the live segment.
  • Create hoopla at the location from which you’ll be broadcasting to generate additional excitement (or another appropriate emotion) that will come through on the live video.
  • Embed cliff hangers into the content to create suspense. You could also create the cliffhangers prior to going live, and then resolve them when you go live.
  • Link partial content you’ve shared before the go live event to what happens live to flesh out a compelling brand story line.

Those are my thoughts on going live, all based off of thinking about a strategic analogy.

If we ever go live, look for more experience-based ideas! – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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On Friday, June 17th, I was in Curaçao, located just north of Venezuela, to present a ¾ day workshop on social media and content marketing strategy for the Curaçao Tourist Board. Angelo Harms, the CTB’s digital marketing manager, was a great host and arranged the content marketing strategy workshop for eighty social media professionals in the island’s travel and hospitality industry.

Curacao Workshop Pic 2

For everyone that attended the workshop (and for those of you that weren’t there), here are links to much of the content I presented, plus a number of bonus topics I would have included given another day of teaching time!

The workshop and the entire trip generated a lot of questions, learnings, and lessons. Look for a variety of blogged posts planned for the near future to share more about content marketing, branding, and customer service learned going to and from this wonderful island.

If you’re looking for a new, warm, colorful, photogenic place to vacation, you owe it to yourself to visit Curaçao!

43 Resources for Strategic Branding and Engagement with Social Media and Content Marketing

Linking Business Objectives to Social and Content Marketing

Curacao Cover

Creating Fantastic Branded Content

Boosting Productivity as a Small Solo Social Media Department

Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your success!

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 introduced the first Brainzooming strategic planning workshop resembling what we do today as The Brainzooming Group ten years ago, June 19-20, 2006.

Here’s the story of how a request from a big supporter, then and still, instigated a major change in the Brainzooming methodology.

Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning

I met Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, in the mid-1990s. Chuck facilitated multiple engaging, high-energy strategic innovation sessions for us at Yellow Corporation. Chuck’s creativity techniques and helped us generate tons of ideas. We started dabbling within our market planning team to help our internal clients generate new ideas, too. We’d do these sessions as part of strategic planning. Since we were learning as we went, some sessions worked better than others. The common denominator was we’d help internal teams generate ideas, document and categorize them, and deliver a long organized list. We’d then turn to preparing a strategic plan.

After several cycles, it became apparent our marketing managers couldn’t translate the ideas into effective plans. The ideas were filed away, and they returned to struggling to create plans using traditional ideas.

In May 2006, Dave Kramer, a Senior Sales and Marketing VP at one of our transportation subsidiaries asked us to help one of their company president’s come up with a strategic plan – quickly. They had to deliver the plan to improve performance and profitability to their CEO by the end of June.

Brainstorming-Session-Contribute-to-Success

We had the processes and exercises needed already developed buy had never put them all together to move from ideas to plans within a day or two. Keith Prather of Armada Corporate Intelligence, our strategic partner, and I sat down to figure it out. Finding an article in Inc. magazine about a consultant selling two-day business planning, we saw a possibility. The consultant streamlined traditional strategic planning steps, introduced fun videos, and created a tolerable experience for executives creating a strategic plan over a weekend.

If this guy could do it in two days, we DEFINITELY could! I’d already been accumulating strategic thinking exercises for ten years by that time. All we had to do was integrate the right ones and speed up what we could accomplish in a strategic planning workshop.

Simplifying a Strategic Planning Workshop

After creating the strategic planning workshop, we surveyed the company’s senior team for ideas in advance and headed to Harrisburg, PA for the in-person work. We shared the survey results, led them through prioritizing opportunities and threats, and started to tackle what they needed to do to accomplish their big objectives the first afternoon. Using a few basic posters, we described the strategic thinking exercises, using easel pads and sticky notes to capture ideas. As early evening approached, we had everything needed to draft a pretty solid plan. By facilitating the strategic conversations in a targeted, productive way, even potentially off-topic chatter contributed to completing the strategic planning template we designed.

While the rest of the group went to dinner, Keith and I went to an office supply store to buy a travel printer. Back in the hotel’s meeting room, we typed everything from the day to complete a strategic plan document. Chalking up a late night creating a strategic plan marked an early Brainzooming process standard.

The next morning, the group returned, surprised to find printed copies of the draft strategic plan. All they needed to do was review what we’d created and assign dates and names to strategies and tactics. Afterward, they had the strategic plan!

160620-Brainzooming-Birth1

 

After that, whenever we designed a strategic planning workshop, we made deliberate design decisions on the right balance of creative thinking and focused plan building. The mix varies from pure creativity to pure planning, with usually some mix in between.

Dave introduced our process into the other subsidiary companies in his area of corporation. We also worked with Jim Ferguson at Roadway Express (another subsidiary) to test our process with his teams’ plans. That’s why I tell people the Brainzooming process was really honed in Akron, OH, where both Dave and Jim worked. At one point, Dave said, “I thought you guys had a process, but I saw what you did change every day.” Our answer was we were learning new things daily and adapting what our technique to reflect new successes and failures. By the time I left YRC to spin off The Brainzooming Group as a full-time outsourced strategy, innovation, and planning company, we had completed two hundred workshops of varying types.

That’s the story behind the first Brainzooming workshop ten years ago.

We’re proud to say Dave Kramer remains a client, using us to help develop strategy (for sales growth, communications, branding, and company direction) at two subsequent companies where he’s served as a C-level executive.

Do you want to develop an actionable strategic plan really fast?

If your company could benefit from quickly developing innovative ideas, understanding opportunities in new ways, and creating an actionable, collaborative plan, contact us. Let’s talk about how what we do can help your organization thrive! – Mike Brown

 

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Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

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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 talking with an executive charged with implementing an innovation strategy for a new company initiative. While the business objectives and expectations are lofty, the budget available to fund the innovation strategy has disappeared. The company pulled the funding because of a soft business environment and quarterly earnings pressure.

I suspect this isn’t the only such case out there like this right now.

As many companies near the end of the quarter, discretionary budgets are often scrutinized much more closely than business objectives. Budget dollars disappear, but expectations for innovation and growth remain.

16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re facing a comparable situation, you’ll want our new Brainzooming eBook, 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy.

Accelerate-Cover

Accelerate features sixteen strategic thinking questions to expand your possibilities for finding ways to move ahead with your innovation strategy even if your available dollars have disappeared.

And another great thing about Accelerate, especially if you really have no budget? It’s a free Brainzooming eBook!

You can use the strategic thinking questions in Accelerate to identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy.

Accelerate is the first in a new series of eBooks we’ll be releasing in the coming months to help you work around common barriers to business innovation.

Download Accelerate today. You can use it to surprise your organization with your ability to keep things going with your innovation strategy EVEN IF people and dollars evaporate mid-year! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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My natural inclination when it comes to business strategy is to identify what is MOST IMPORTANT and build everything around that. Tie the objectives, priorities, and strategies to a very tight focus for an organization. Mass the resources and the organization’s attention on that single area and put everything toward implementing it successfully.

My most memorable example of this goes back to early in my career.  There was a nearly month-long labor strike at the transportation company where I worked. During that time when we were laying off people on a weekly basis as the strike drug on, it was clear to everyone that the single focus for us as a marketing organization was to win back customers for the day we started our operation back up – whenever that might be. I inherited leadership of our department about a week into the strike, and we pointed EVERYONE toward understanding current customer sentiment and developing the plan to incent them to use our brand again even though we had let them down.

THAT was a singular focus.

Granted, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk about a single, focused business strategy than it is to actually create one.

There always seem to be multiple important things or varied priorities among senior leaders or business units that do not line up in a neat and clean rank order. I’m sure you’ve experienced one of those “our three most important objectives” situations. Yes we have a priority; in fact, we have THREE priorities that are ALL EQUAL.

That’s the MUCH MORE TYPICAL business strategy scenario.

When we started developing our varied extreme creativity questions and exercises to drive bolder business strategy, however, one of the approaches was to actively consider that an organization isn’t going to make choices. It would deliberately and actively pursue multiple big strategies with all available resources.

fork-in-road-quickie

So instead of taking ONE business strategy path and wondering about the other, how about taking BOTH PATHS and doing more? What would the business strategy look like if you did it deliberately instead of by accident? – 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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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – 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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