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Here’s a career success idea that can provide returns in multiple dimensions of your career: create a “Smile File” to capture good news related your career success.

What’s a Smile File?

Smile-file

A smile file is a repository of successes, congratulations, comments, feedback, and other mementos of your career. Some specific items could include:

  • Thank you notes you receive
  • Outstanding job review documents
  • Final recaps on products, services, programs, processes, and other efforts you’ve managed or contributed to meaningfully
  • Emails you receive as testimonials
  • Photos of great team performance
  • Copies of materials you’ve produced that have exceeded expectations
  • Notes and kudos from co-workers

That’s simply a starting list.

Basically anything that brings to mind a career success and brings a smile to your face when you see or remember it is fair game for your smile file.

How does a smile file help your career success?

  • When updating your resume or LinkedIn profile, these items are wonderful reminders of things to include
  • If you’re having a “I’m a fraud day,” your smile file mementos will demonstrate you really aren’t a fraud.
  • They will cheer you up on bad days
  • They can help you prepare for your next job review
  • It’s tangible evidence when people question the impact of things you are addressing in your job

It’s a simple idea, but a smile file can make all the different on a bad day when it seems you’re having anything BUT career success.

Trust me . . . it works! - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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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I attended the visitation for a former co-worker last week whose illness I learned about only after his passing.

Don was responsible for equipment at the large transportation company where we worked. You can’t even begin to imagine the attention to detail this role demands for the entire equipment and maintenance organization in a multi-billion transportation company. Equipment Services is the group that has to ensure all equipment is available, has been prepped, and is ready to leave when it’s dispatched.

Yellow trailer

Living Your Life and Dying Exactly the Same

Talking with other co-workers at the visitation, it’s clear Don approached his cancer diagnosis exactly as he had his career.

Given perhaps eighteen months to live, Don (beyond the planning he’d already done) appeared focused on making things as easy and straight forward as possible for his wife and family. Sure, he planned the music and details of the visitation and the celebration of life the next day.

The stories I heard, however, revealed Don’s focus on getting EVERYTHING ready for after his departure.

He made an extended trip to visit relatives so his wife would start to adapt to life without him. He even bought his wife a new car two days before he died so she wouldn’t have to deal with transportation for years to come.

It struck me how Don approached death exactly as he had life.

He performed as much preventive maintenance as possible for his family. He knew he was working against a not completely certain, but nonetheless, very real departure time when everything would need to be ready. He apparently worked his pre-trip checklist to make sure every detail was in order.

Quite amazing.

Life Lesson Time

The experience reinforced two life lessons of a well-lived life, one of which we’ve probably never talked about here.

The first life lesson is the value of seamlessly extending what you know and love about what you do – the areas where you are most creative – across all aspects of life.

The other life lesson is the satisfaction that must come from being able to die exactly as you lived your life.

In Don’s case, it’s clear his whole career and the ethic he brought to his work (including creativity although he’d have probably denied being creative) paved the way for the readiness with which he approached his death.

Don was a good man, and I’m thankful for having known him. – 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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Jennifer Spencer of The Spencer Group, a marketing recruiter in Kansas City shared her perspectives, insights, and engaging wit with the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s June meeting.

While Jennifer was specifically addressing Kansas City freelancers on ways to better position and sell themselves, her career lessons extended beyond geography and career path. Here are valuable career lessons, paraquotes, and audience reactions from Jennifer’s talk.

Jennifer-Spencer

Building Awareness about YOU

People won’t call or hire you if no one knows who you are. Always have a business card with you. It’s not THAT old school. Does anybody bump a phone . . . really? Work samples are important, however, THEY HAVE TO BE ONLINE (JENNIFER’S CAPS).

If you’re already in a full-time job and aren’t known within the senior levels of your company, you’re a sitting duck for a layoff. Make sure you’re building awareness of you and your contributions – no matter what.

Hang out around digital incubators because if these companies get funding, they will need to grow and support require from people outside the company.

Think Global, Behave Yourself Local

With the advent of online options, you could be competing for your job with people globally, especially if it’s an area employers see as a potential for outsourcing. Do you know what the global market for what you do looks like? Even though the market may be global, in the Midwest especially, you don’t want to get a bad reputation because it will spread.

Come in and Deliver

Companies want people to come in and quickly make their lives easier. Especially early in your career, be smart about how you introduce new ideas that could be perceived as scope creep. Unless you’re brought in as a turnaround person, your first day on the job isn’t the time to solve all the company’s ills. Solidly contribute and look for opportunities later to deliver more completely and creatively

Just Get ‘Er Done

Project management is the in vogue role currently. You may be expected to take ideas from concept to execution. You need a foot in both the offline AND online words. If you do and you’re further into your career, you can really use your experience to your advantage.

The Paraquotable Jennifer Spencer

  • “Find out what you’re good at and own it.”
  • “Own your awkwardness when you’re out there networking. Making fun of yourself is quite endearing.”
  • “You HAVE TO LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF.” (My CAPS)
  • “People find work in the darndest places.”
  • “Hold your best for last. Sacrifice a few ideas upfront that you are willing to see sacrificed.”

For What It’s Worth, Freelancers

Hourly rates are all over the board for creative freelancers; it really, really, really depends. You have to keep a sense of what the market and going rate is for your services.  Be prepared to negotiate when you’re going in as a freelancer to try to secure a project.  You have to be willing (and getting better) at negotiating.

The limbo of rate negotiations comes down to this question, “How low should you go?”  Go in with a higher rate early when they love you. Don’t go to the rock bottom ever, or even just too low when you start negotiating

You can’t be scared to negotiate. Believe in yourself and what you’re worth.  Raise your rates as you add experience and can deliver more value. Consider creating a menu of prices for basic vs. more conceptual, strategic work. Don’t work for people who come back at you with stupid, ridiculous rates. It won’t get any better later.

Prepare in Good Times for Challenging Times

You have to manage cash flow in good times to be ready for bad times. Try holding back 50% of your current income for challenging times.

You also need to stay relevant and on-trend to prepare for downturns in the economy. Staying relevant may push you out of your comfort zone; you’ll have to get out from behind the computer.  It’s vital to network out of your typical circles with people who are in the same careers as you are. You’ll stand out more effectively if you’re networking where people like you ain’t (my grammar there).

Career Lessons Galore!

As you can tell Jennifer Spencer shared so many fantastic career lessons. Her talk will be a hard one for the next presenter to follow! And that happens to be . . . me. I’ll be talking at the July lunch on a topic Jennifer chose after her talk: Digital Self-Promotion. Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer was!

Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer Spencer was!  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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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Idea-Magnets-TitleI think this is a first today. It’s an excerpt from another publication about Brainzooming creative thinking content.

Specifically, this recap of Monday’s “Idea Magnets – Creative Business Leadership” webcast I presented for the American Marketing Association is from “Inside the Executive Suite.” This newsletter is a weekly feature within the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing System. We worked with Keith Prather, the publisher of the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief, for many years in the corporate world. Additionally, when we have a client engagement requiring a larger group of facilitators, Keith is my first call. He was at ground zero when we developed the techniques that later became the Brainzooming strategy methodology.

Beyond this Idea Magnets recap, you should sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Executive Intelligence Briefing System. It’s designed to keep executives current with both what’s going on in the world and what it’s going to mean for their businesses. Additionally, since Keith won’t listen to my pricing strategy advice, you can subscribe to the entire array of multi times per week publications for less than $100 a year. It SHOULD be a four or five-figure subscription, so like I said, subscribe now before I convince Keith to raise the prices!

Without delay, here’s the Armada take on the seven creative thinking characteristics of Idea Magnets. – Mike Brown

 

 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity from “Inside the Executive Suite”

Know someone incredibly strong at generating new ideas and attracting team members who also excel at imagining creative ideas?

If so, you know an “idea magnet.”

Here is our recap and the take-aways from each (idea magnet) characteristic discussed.

Idea Magnets are . . .

1. Inspiring

Idea magnets generate interest and passion for the big objectives and dramatic visions they are trying to accomplish within their organizations. Unlike creative geniuses who may work in a more solitary basis, they want strong creative leaders surrounding them. The bigger team’s creativity helps identify the details behind making the vision a reality.

In sharing a big vision for an organization, whether it’s stated as a core purpose, vision, or mission statement isn’t critical. What’s important is the statement boldly challenges and stretches the organization.

Our take-away: Idea magnets ground creative ideas in strategies and objectives. They are NOT pursuing creativity for creativity’s sake.

2. Serving

Idea magnets are servant leaders. They participate in the challenging tasks they ask their teams to address. They also grow their team members into idea magnets themselves through strategic mentorship, sharing personal lessons with their teams, challenging the status quo, and cultivating team diversity.

Idea magnets surround themselves with smarter, more talented people and display patience while team members do their own explorations to imagine ways to turn the idea magnet’s vision into reality.

Our take-away: Idea magnets aren’t standoffish. They are in the middle of imagining ideas AND accomplishing results.

3. Attracting

Just as magnets attract metal, idea magnets attract great creative leaders and their big ideas. What makes idea magnets so attractive? They bring excitement to the workplace. They also display “abundance thinking. ” What others would consider as constraints, they see as opportunities to pursue more abundant resources and possibilities. They also provide what other leaders need to be abundantly creative, including physical space, time, resources, tools, and interactions with new (and new types of ) people.

Our take-away: The intangibles in business often support abundance thinking. Ideas, energy, passion, and learning aren’t limited, so identify ways to take greater advantage of them.

4. Connecting

Idea magnets connect people and situations to fuel creativity. They are great “and” thinkers. This means they embrace and easily work with both ends of what others might see as opposite perspectives. Idea magnets are strong at:

  • Generating and prioritizing ideas
  • Thinking creatively and implementing ideas
  • Exploiting tested ideas and unknown possibilities

Using creative formulas, idea magnets combine possibilities others would typically miss to create many more new ideas.

Our take-away: Idea magnets we’ve known in business are all strong at spotting relationships between apparently disconnected things. These connections help fuel ideas and anticipate future opportunities.

5. Encouraging

Idea magnets use multiple tools in multiple ways to motivate team members. For example, they might use time in contrasting ways. Sometimes idea magnets negotiate for MORE time so team members can finish necessary creative thinking and implementation. Other times, they may be maxing out the team’s capacity with more projects than they can handle. This LESSENS times for unnecessary creative thinking and encourages rapid progress.

Idea magnets routinely facilitate unique creative experiences, maximize fresh perspectives from new team members, and celebrate successes and the learnings from new ideas that fall short of intended impacts.

Our take-away: By adding one new or unusual variable, idea magnets facilitate once-in-a-lifetime creative experiences. This concept extends to personal relationships, so all you long-time married folks take note!

6. Deciding

Idea magnets imagine and attract many ideas. Processing those ideas so their teams aren’t overwhelmed is imperative. That’s why being strong at “deciding” is vital.

When a project or initiative launches, idea magnets identify upfront how decisions will be made as completion draws near. Sometimes the idea magnet makes the decision; other times, team members will be deciding how the team proceeds. Knowing upfront the freedom team members have in exploring ideas and the approach to setting priorities signals how much autonomy others have to shape strategies to move forward.

Our take-away: While they say in brainstorming sessions there are no bad ideas, there are. It’s vital to pick the right time to decide on good and bad ideas to sustain creative thinking.

7. Replenishing

Applying creative thinking to business issues is mentally stimulating. There’s still the need, however, for idea magnets to replenish creative energy along for the team. Idea magnets understand what encourages their creative passions and what will prepare team members to hit their creative peaks. Idea magnets have to know the people, places, situations, times, and techniques that most readily maximize creativity.

Our take-away: Managing a business team’s creativity is like a basketball coach managing the varied talents and personalities on the team. The idea magnet may have to try a variety of “player” combinations before the team scores creatively.

Is creative thinking and creative business leadership for everyone?

A question at the webcast’s conclusion asked whether creative business leadership is important if you don’t work in a creative field or company. The answer was it’s even more important then to bring fresh ideas to how an organization delivers customer value. – “Inside the Executive Suite”

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 you’re reading this first thing Monday morning (US time), there’s still time to register and participate in today’s Idea Magnets creative leadership webcast. I’m presenting the webcast for the American Marketing Association beginning at 10 a.m. central daylight time.

The Idea Magnets presentation today is a brand new one in the Brainzooming repertoire. It is an outgrowth of a creative thinking blog post from several years ago first talking about idea magnets I’ve worked with throughout my career.

A New Direction in Idea Magnets

Creating the content for Idea Magnets unveiled multiple realizations about how this direction creative leadership is new for me.

First and foremost of these realizations is how much of our content comes from a “don’t do that” perspective. Think about “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” It doesn’t get much more “don’t do that” than “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.”

Much of the content in the first draft of Idea Magnets started life in a “don’t do that” perspective. I was reminded while editing the webcast, however, that idea magnets don’t think like that.

Idea magnets set out a big vision, objective, or purpose, and aggressively march toward it. They are too busy making BIG things happen to spend much time bothering with fighting anti-creative behaviors.

Idea-Magnets-Title

A Creative Leadership Presentation from the Road

As this new creative leadership presentation came together, it became clear Idea Magnets is where I’ve been heading personally for several years.

“Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” addresses the transition early in my career to think about new ideas and change more positively. Our “Creating Strategic Impact” content bridges the point in my corporate career when we were developing the methodology that became Brainzooming and what we do now for multiple clients across all types of industries.

Finally, it struck me the other day that Idea Magnets is a presentation “from the road.” This means it’s a place I’m heading to and a destination I want to be, but I’m not there yet. Addressing the characteristics idea magnets display, it is evident I do better at some of the characteristics than others.

During most of my career, my creative leadership role was to bring to life the big visions of idea magnets. Since stepping out to a big corporation in 2009 to start The Brainzooming Group, however, I have to articulate our big vision. Sometimes that happens; often it doesn’t.

The Idea Magnets presentation NEEDED to come together, because it’s my own roadmap for where we’re going with The Brainzooming Group.

Idea Magnets is a presentation from the road. The road is great, and it’s exciting. And I can’t wait until I get to where the road is taking us! – 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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Are you an idea magnet?

Idea magnets come up with great creative ideas. And just as importantly, through encouraging and motivating others, idea magnets attract other innovators and creative leaders with incredible ideas into their circles. Idea magnets make work and life more exciting, fulfilling, and successful!

Idea Magnets – 7 Keys for Creative Leadership Skills

Idea-MagnetsWould you like to boost your creative leadership skills to become a stronger idea magnet?

Then you need to join me for the LeadOn Webcast: “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders.”

This exclusive webcast, sponsored by the American Marketing Association on June 23, 2014, springs from a popular Brainzooming article highlighting lessons from idea magnets I’ve worked with during my career.

The webcast features a wide array of new Brainzooming creative leadership skills content not covered in our other innovation and creativity workshops. We’ll talk about:

  • ​Strengthening your creative leadership impact with a diverse team
  • Identifying unique connections to maximize new thinking and creative leadership impact
  • Translating creative thinking into effective change, progress, and results​

I would love to have you join us for this webcast! You’ll learn great techniques you can start using right away, plus “Idea Magnets” represents a first-time collaboration that is creating a new look and tone to our Brainzooming content.

Idea Magnets – A New Collaboration

This exciting new collaboration is with long-time friend Leslie Adams who is creating the visuals for the Idea Magnets webinar.

Leslie-Adams-CrownMany people know Leslie as a writer. Over the past few years though, she’s been showcasing her creativity online with her wonderful photography. She has become very active on Instagram and in the Instagram community in Kansas City.

While reviewing Leslie’s Instagram and Flickr portfolios for images to incorporate in the webcast, I was reminded of a unique aspect to Leslie’s work that integrates two areas of her creative talents: you have to look at her photos AND read the captions she creates for them. It’s easy enough to glide through virtual contact sheets and not notice what’s written about the photos. In Leslie’s case, you’ll want to do both because her words contribute so much to pointing out the subtle details and motivations for her photos!

In fact, many of the captions and quotes Leslie has included with her photos are inspiring ways to expand and add new texture to the webcast’s content.

We’re hoping our collaboration will turn into an eBook to accompany this new Idea Magnets content.

Register Today for “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders”

Step one is for you to join us for the Webcast on June 23, 2014. Register today for the webcast, which is open to both members and non-members of the American Marketing Association, on the AMA website.

We’ll see you on June 23 as we attract all kinds of new ideas to develop your creative leadership skills! – Mike Brown

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Idea-Magnet-Ad

 

 

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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A Facebook friend messaged recently asking this question about career strategies:

How do you know when to set down what looked like a good idea, or even a good goal/decision, and really tell yourself honestly, “It’s time to walk away from this one. It just didn’t work out.”?

He is in a work situation different than his previous job, and finds himself in a situation stretching his implementation skills beyond his comfort level. His concern was whether it makes sense to try working through the implementation skills issues even though he there is a very real possibility of crashing and burning in the job. The alternative was going back to his previous company in a new strategic role.

I told him this was a fantastic career strategy question and to expect my response that day to wind up in a future Brainzooming blog post.

Today’s the day.

Career Strategy Questions to Ask

If you find yourself in a comparable career strategy conundrum, here are seven yes/no questions to consider:

  • Is pursuing this idea / goal distracting from other things that are more important to me or to others important to me?
  • Are things still moving forward, even if it’s slower than I’d like, or is it stalled or even going backward?
  • Has the time simply passed for this idea / goal? Am I hanging on to something that even if it’s accomplished is going to be too little, too late?
  • Is sticking with it going to take disproportionate effort / resources / time that really have very little chance of paying back – whether financial or in other ways?
  • Are there pieces of what I’ve accomplished with this idea / goal that I can break off and advance with greater success?
  • If I put this on my “things I’m never going to do list,” would I actually feel better than having it on my to-do list but not getting it done?

Brave-Sock

Direction to Seek

As I told my Facebook friend, beyond the questions, the most important thing I’d do is pray about what I should do and then wait.

With prayer, answers don’t come on our schedule. It could be the situation vexing him may have been dropped into his lap to open him to something else entirely.

For example, what you are pursuing that you THOUGHT you wanted may really serve to make you realize SOMETHING ELSE is the right thing. You may be presented not with obvious opportunities but with those that move you in the right ultimate direction.

Changing Career Strategies

My friend is relatively early in his career. One advantage is there is much less of a stigma associated with frequent career changes now, particularly if you can demonstrate how you grew and the moves were part of your career strategy.

There are definitely advantages to making changes on your own terms (if you can) rather than waiting to crash on a particular job. It is easier earlier in your career to experiment, try things, and recover, if necessary.

For those more advanced in their careers, there are still opportunities to change direction. These often involve, however, creating your own company or be willing to become a free agent in the job market.

No matter where you are in your career, however, it’s increasingly difficult to expect you can get by without strong implementation skills. Business should be about “DOING smart things.”

That three-word phrase implies both strategy AND implementation.

It is sad seeing people well into their careers who don’t have the skills to make things happen. While not everyone is a natural implementer, I know people who have had decades of missed opportunities to improve their implementation skills. Even now, they won’t address getting better at implementation so they just drift, and NOT in a good way.

Any of You Made Big Changes in Career Strategies?

While this article still reflects the specificity I offered my friend, I’m guessing a number of you are in similar situations with your career strategies:

  • I made a big change.
  • The big change isn’t working.
  • When should I retreat and get back to my original path?

If that’s where you find yourself, I wouldn’t necessarily expect you to comment. But if you want to reach out and discuss the situation, let me know. Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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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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