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“Back in the day, we did creative thinking about ideas.”

I was talking with a colleague the other day. He has been working closely with a particular client for fifteen years. So long, in fact, if people walk through the department where he is stationed, you would never know he ISN’T an employee unless someone said something about it.

The client has undergone tremendous changes in leadership and staff during his tenure working with the company. It has also endured a variety of boom and bust periods in these years.

He mentioned saying “back in the day” almost daily before introducing ideas in meetings. The company has implemented very smart, creative strategies through the years. It just as frequently has lost track of how creative thinking brought about these strategies whenever it hits a bust cycle or goes through a leadership change.

So in suggesting previous ideas that used to pass for creative thinking, he feels compelled to inform others that they aren’t original ideas, but ones the company has tried previously.

They were great ideas once. They fell out of favor, however, and the company abandoned them.

Bloxed-Up-Ideas

Every Old Idea Is New Again

My immediate reaction was, “Stop doing that!”

It’s the same reaction when an individual who changes jobs makes continual references to how things were done at the former employer once they are the new employer. I tell people who do this to own their experiences and simply introduce ideas they are bringing along from previous jobs as if they emerged from completely fresh creative thinking.

The same principle applies someone has been in one place much longer than most co-workers. These individuals have earned the expertise, experience, and valuable historical frame of reference co-workers have not. Continually prefacing ideas with “back in the day” not only makes one seem old, but could be creating hurdles for gaining support for smart ideas that haven’t taken hold, but should have.

It’s a New Idea to Them

When you have a strong historical perspective on what will work because you’ve been around long enough to see an idea tried and work before, simply state the idea. Unless there’s a clearly compelling reason to disclose the idea’s origins, it’s far better to share the idea without attribution, keeping your need to date the idea as an “old idea” to yourself.

Following this strategy, you’ll be recognized for the creative thinking and ideas you’re sharing irrespective of when and where the idea was first imagined and implemented.

Struggling to Bring New Creative Thinking and Innovations to the Market? We Have an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness comebacks often tie to introducing new products that more strongly resonate with customers.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enable your brand to ideate, prioritize, and develop the innovative growth ideas to spur a business comeback. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!

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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 published an article on how to engage a team in strategic thinking and creative thinking exercises without having an offsite meeting.

It prompted a question from our buddy, “Jim in Massachusetts.” Jim asked about handling people not interested in participating. Specifically, Jim asked, “What do you do about the ‘overly serious’ people who don’t get the exercises, never read, ‘Whack on the Side of the Head’ or its sister book, and try to turn these meetings into useless frustration exercises by bitching about the work they are not getting done??”

I address this question all the time in creating strategic impact workshops, but was surprised nothing on Brainzooming covered this.

The point of the “strategic thinking without having an offsite meeting” list was you can engage a team in creative thinking exercises without telegraphing what they are doing.

Small-Group

When Multiple People Aren’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

Suppose multiple people on a team don’t want to engage in creative thinking exercises or anything resembling creative thinking.

  • Typically we try to head this off before things begin by working with the client to plan who will be participating.
  • If several people MUST be there who are reluctant but not obnoxious about not wanting to participate, we spread them out with people who are engaged. We then see if we can win them over to participating.
  • If a few people are ruining things for others and for what we’re trying to accomplish, we might put them all together in a group and let them beat up on one another for the rest of the time. While other participants get to switch groups, they’ll all stay together. If ANYTHING productive comes from them, it’s a pleasant surprise.

 

When One Person Isn’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

With just one person in a group not into creative thinking, our approach is different.

  • If a boss or authority figure is taking energy from creative thinking activities, we pair them with someone that can over-enthuse the group to offset the authority figure. They generally stay together and won’t move to other groups. This minimizes the damage the authority figure might inflict on the group.
  • If we have a good relationship with the authority figure, we might ask them to step aside and only observe. In one case, given a team’s concerns (even through their boss was NOT dampening anything), the client left the room so the team could work on people issues inside the organization unencumbered.
  • If someone other than the boss is overtly antagonistic to strategic thinking exercises and activities, we simply suggest they use the remaining time on their own. This first happened when a curmudgeony director at our company walked in late to a strategy planning activity. He took one look at the toys and noisy people having fun working on new ideas, and told me, “I have real work to do.” I told him we’d all be better off if he concentrated on his real work. That was the end of that.

 

That’s Our Experience

Again, the best way to deal with these situations is heading them off before the group convenes. If not, you may have to improvise. If this situation happens in the future, however, who knows what other solutions the specific setting may inspire! – Mike Brown

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic impact, and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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Sure, you may not know what you don’t know.

You may even think you can’t discover what you don’t know that you don’t know.

But that’s bunk.

9 Ways to Discover What You Don’t Know that You Don’t Know

How-empty

Try these nine ways to discover the blind spots in your knowledge:

  1. Have diverse people around you with lots of interests that don’t match yours.
  2. Listen to what other people are talking about and saying about new things.
  3. Ask great questions of others.
  4. Take every opportunity you can to observe your situation from new perspectives.
  5. Know who you can count on to challenge your thinking.
  6. Surround yourself with people who will talk to you honestly, even when that’s difficult.
  7. Let others share what they know that you don’t know as anonymously or as visibly as they would like.
  8. Always keep the knowledge that you don’t know everything you need to know front and center in your mind.
  9. If you don’t find out at least one new thing you didn’t know that you didn’t know daily, you aren’t trying hard enough . . . so try harder!

Now you know. – 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 816-509-5320816-509-5320 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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Yesterday’s Brainzooming article shared ways to increase the strategic thinking in your organization without holding an offsite meeting.

Here’s another way to improve daily strategic thinking. It builds on one idea in yesterday’s post (“Develop a working command of ten to fifteen strategic thinking questions that fit many of the business and organizational situations you encounter”).

This approach leads to developing a list of targeted questions specific to your business situation. You can complete it in a week, but we recommend spreading it over several weeks or during a typical month of activity.

4 Steps to Customizing Your Strategic Thinking Questions

Creative-Thinking-Question

Step 1. Anticipate

Before the week or month you have selected, list typical business issues and conversations you have with your team and other groups you work with regularly.

Step 2. Categorize

Group the issues and conversations into general categories. Possible examples include:

  • Understanding things (analysis, evaluation)
  • Developing things (innovation, creativity)
  • Building things (operations, manufacturing, efficiency and process improvements)
  • Growing things (creating more sales, implementing more initiatives)
  • Fixing things (diagnosis, correction)
  • Forecasting things (projections, estimates)

Step 3. Track

With the list in Step 2 complete, use it during your selected timeframe to keep track of how many issues and conversations pertain to each category. If you need to add other categories, add them.

Step 4. Compile

After you’re done monitoring your conversations and activities, see where your focus is. Work on developing a custom list of ready-to-use questions in each area. You can mine our extensive lists of strategic thinking questions for ones to use. Here are links to some of our most popular lists:

This focused approach will pay dividends with your ability to develop a solid command of strategic thinking questions for daily use to boost strategic thinking in your team, yourself, and everyone you work with in the organization.  – 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 816-509-5320816-509-5320 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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Want a quick innovation strategy formula you can easily commit to memory?

A 5-Step Innovation Strategy Formula

Here’s a five-step innovation strategy formula that fits the bill:.

Step 1. Try lots of stuff.

Step 2. See what works.

Step 3. Heavy up on stuff that works quickly.

Step 4. Quickly kill stuff that doesn’t work.

Step 5. Revel and repeat.

5-Step-Innovation-Formula

Say it three times, and you’ll have in memory. Follow this five-step innovation strategy formula, especially if you’re in an environment that’s resistant to change, and you’ll soon start reaping the benefits of greater innovation success.

Need more help leading your team’s innovation strategy for new product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas?

With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

141104 Download EBook

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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I was demonstrating several Brainzooming techniques for identifying valuable business analogies during a workshop on creative thinking exercises. Small groups were identifying comparable situations to a situation where individuals were being moved within an organization, quickly forming new groups, and leaving challenges in the wake of the moves. Each group used the “My situation is like” creative thinking exercise to generate multiple analogies.

Some analogies were very specific and creatively rich in possibilities (i.e., a beehive where drones are dying off or a sports all-star team quickly forming and performing). Others were overly general, such as “doing more with less.”

There’s an important lesson in this experience about how specific or general you should be with creative thinking exercises.

Bee-Hive

How Specific Should You Be with Creative Thinking Exercises?

In certain creative thinking exercises, general examples allow people to think more broadly about their own situations in a less encumbered fashion. Often, however, a more general description is only needed to help identify a very specific, analogous example to use as further creative thinking inspiration. Specific, possibilities-rich examples work well with creative thinking exercises such as, “What’s it like?”

Using a general situation, such as “doing more with less,” makes it too easy for a group to simply focus on their typical day-to-day roles and regurgitate the same things they always do.

With a very specific and markedly different analogy, however, group members begin playing a different role and thinking about their situation in a new way.

The lesson?

Pay attention when you’re using creative thinking exercises to prompt a group’s new consideration of its opportunities and challenges. Do you need to view the issue on the table specifically or generally? Decide early and use strategic thinking exercises to guide them accordingly because whichever direction you pick has a major impact on the creative thinking that follows.

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

 141104 Download EBook

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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The April 2015 Psychology Today has a story on Tania Luna. Ukrainian-born and Brooklyn-based, Ms. Luna is a “Suprisologist.”

What, you might ask, is a Surprisologist?

At least I asked that question.

As a Suprisologist, she has her own company, Surprise Industries, devoted to creating unique surprises for its customers. Luna has also co-authored a book, “Surprise: Enhance the Unpredictable & Engineer the Unexpected” on the importance of surprise.

Luna admits in the interview that she definitely has had a preference for control during her life. She links this, at least in part, to an unpredictable environment as a child. Controlling things and having a “no surprises” outlook was a coping mechanism to feel “safe and secure and in charge.”

Why My Personal Life Is No Surprises

Her admission caught my eye. I operate between an appreciation for surprise and a living situation causing me to go to extreme measures to make sure there are “no surprises” because of the harm they could cause.

No-surprises-fortune-cookie

My wife has Fibromyalgia and related health issues. This includes particularly harsh reactions to many foods and environmental conditions. As a result, the “unexpected” is bad.

One extreme example?

My wife offered to visit a seafood restaurant I wanted to try even though she can’t eat seafood any longer. We went during a happy hour and grabbed a seat at the bar. She scoured the menu to find SOMETHING she could eat and settled on onion straws as the only option. When the waiter brought our food, she took two bites and said, “I don’t think these are onion straws.” Her neck was already turning completely red and she was having trouble breathing. The bartender admitted he had mistakenly served her calamari.

We quickly paid and headed to a drug store. She was moving too far along in the food reaction, though. I drove like crazy to a nearby hospital emergency room where they gave her intravenous medicine to counteract the reaction. As I told the restaurant owner when we met him later at an event, “Your bartender’s mistake could have killed me wife.”

These types of possibilities are why everything is about no surprises and making sure unexpected events aren’t part of our life.

Any restaurant we visit has to be a familiar, “safe” restaurant (knowing they can become “unsafe” via an unannounced recipe change). Nights out at a concert or a movie are subject to cancellation or being cut short because of health issues, so we stay home. We can’t travel together because of her discomfort and concerns about being away from the coping structure home offers. Even trying to do something nice for her that’s not pre-approved can backfire in a big way.

It’s ironic.

While extolling the benefits of new experiences on creative thinking, the most important relationship in my life is focused on avoiding surprises, changes, and unexpected events.

Creative Thinking and Surprises

I find myself thinking a lot about how to keep things new for me since it’s an essential part of our livelihood, while maintaining the view I’ve always had about our relationship as a team. That means not maintaining separate lives, even if it results in staying home because we CAN do that together.

One counter approach to boost my creative thinking reserves is putting myself in other peoples’ hands that are familiar with being adventurous whenever I’m doing something for business. If it’s a lunch, I suggest someone else pick an unusual restaurant. If it’s a meeting, I want to go to unusual locations. I seek out new churches at home and on trips for daily mass (although returning to the same churches years later, you see the same faces in exactly the same pews).

Now you see why a Surprisologist intrigues me so much.

The search for surprises in the narrow part of my life that doesn’t have to be “no surprises” needs the intriguing attention a Surprisologist could deliver! – 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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