Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 112 – page 112
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091212-HigherMoralGroundBob Nugent was a year behind me in grade school. We didn’t really have much contact until college where we were both involved in student government and wound up spending lots of time together as part of an interesting (at least to us), somewhat nerdy political clique.

At one point, several student organizations found themselves embroiled in what passed for college campus controversy in those days. Let’s just say, it was quite a bit less important than the anti-war protests of our predecessors on campus years earlier.

As various groups and individuals were angling for the upper hand in what might be the ultimate resolution of the issue, Bob talked about the necessity of “maintaining the higher moral ground.”

By this phrase, he meant the importance of displaying the upright conduct that allows you to deflect criticism potentially coming your way. The phrase “higher moral ground” resonated so strongly, I’ve used the idea repeatedly in reminding myself of the importance of not extending your own moral point of view beyond a standard against which you are willing to be judged.

Years later, I discovered the concept addressed in a New Testament passage from the letter to Titus:

“…show(ing) yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.” – Titus 2:7-8  

When I first heard it, I was clear this was a description of the “higher moral ground.” Bob’s words from college came full circle for me as a foundational life practice.

Maintaining the higher moral ground is a challenging standard for anyone, but in an age when there’s such interest in seeing people fall, it’s never been more important to be able to live it out successfully.

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – 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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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” begins with its narrator, Nick Carraway, recounting his father’s admonition that not everyone in the world is provided the same advantages. The comment led to Nick’s inclination to “reserve all judgments,” a “habit that…opened up many curious natures” to him.

This opening passage of “Gatsby” has shaped me dramatically. Amid growing up in an environment of clear rights and wrongs, these words were a reminder to delay judgment in order to better understand people, even those who are objectively well outside my behavioral beliefs.

Given the importance of suspending judgment in the early stages of originating new ideas, this practice has been fundamental to helping businesses imagine new possibilities for potential opportunities. There’s a time for judgment, but initially, ideas have to emerge and “breathe” first.

It isn’t all glorious, however, when you reserve judgments. As Nick notes, it led to him being “the victim of not a few veteran bores.” I’ve certainly found that to be the case. It’s also led to having a diverse set of friends (really fun) who at times can’t stand one another (not so fun). Their distinct differences, which I tend to overlook, often make them incompatible.

In all, delaying judgments is a beneficial practice. So what do you think? Are there a few situations in your life right now where you’d be better off to suspend judgment and see how they play out first? The interesting things you’ll experience and learn will FAR outweigh any bores you might encounter. Just go with me on this – okay?

BTW – Want a little “fun” with “The Great Gatsby”? Watch this video of Andy Kaufman trying to read the book to a reluctant audience. You can skip ahead to 2:40 to hear the passage that inspired this post!

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – 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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Early in college, I’d hit a major rut, dissatisfied with myself and an inability to effectively interact with people who were unfamiliar or encountered during casual situations. It was the first time the challenges many introverts face became overwhelming. After one particularly frustrating incident, I gave in to my father’s long-term urgings to embrace self-help books and agreed to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

The book changed my life by pointing out the value of focusing on other peoples’ interests, concerns, and motivations instead of my own as a fundamental principle in advancing ideas and accomplishing success. One of the most memorable suggestions was, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

While acting on the book’s ideas required working hard to become more outgoing in new interpersonal situations (something which has taken years, and is still an ongoing effort), Carnegie’s emphasis on listening to others played to an introvert’s strengths. All of a sudden a situation that seemed hopeless became very much in reach to start improving right away.

My recommendation to you? If you’ve never read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” get a copy and put it into action. Although it’s decades old, it’s a fundamental handbook for creating successful, important relationships. And for me, I’m going to review it as a refresher for both IRL interactions and to consider how I am doing in translating the ideas into the social media world. – 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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At a company-first sales conference, we’d scheduled Tommy Lasorda as a surprise second-day speaker. My boss (a very different boss than in yesterday’s post) was set to emcee the whole conference, yet at the end of day one, he said, “I have to spend the afternoon with Tommy Lasorda, so you emcee tomorrow afternoon.” Startled (and a little worried) by his comment considering there was no script and no rehearsal time, I took on the assignment the next day.

As it turned out, it was an incredible opportunity to be in front of the entire company’s sales team for a whole afternoon. With a pretty boring agenda of speakers, it created opportunities as the emcee to be interactive, funny, and get the entire audience to stand up and scream at the top of their lungs. That night, so many people came up to say they had no idea I was funny. In one afternoon, I went from being a quiet research guy to having a personality within the company and incredibly shaping the next decade of my career.

There are tremendous benefits for your team members (and for you) when you’re willing to create ridiculous challenges and great opportunities to make them grow in ways no one else would ever imagine.

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – 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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Early in my career, I was struggling with delivering a project in a way that moved our efforts along adequately, even though I had been doing good work. In reviewing a draft with my boss, she asked in frustration, “Do you understand what the function of our department is?”

I was shocked by the question, and while it brought me up short, it did NOTHING to help solve the challenge in front of me. It was an opportunity to teach, but she decided to take a shot instead.

So how was this life-changing?

This and many other actions and comments she made over time helped shaped my managerial style – to do everything opposite of what she did!

I learned a lot technically, but perhaps most importantly, learned an incredible amount about how a bad boss can disintegrate employee loyalty and allegiance. Everybody who has worked for me since has been the beneficiary.

Note: This is one of a series of posts on life-changing gifts. – 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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Look at your network now compared to last year. Have you dramatically expanded the number of people you can call or email and be reasonably sure you’ll get a response from them?

And that doesn’t mean from loading up on contacts inside your company using the “People You May Know” feature on LinkedIn. A network gains value through diversity – not from having 75% of your connections riding on the same economic train as you!

If your active network looks the same as it did last year, ACT NOW when ideally you don’t need your network’s benefits. Here are 12 potential ways to add not only numbers, but diversity to your network:

  • Join and actively participate in professional associations
  • Regularly attend (and even create) networking events and follow up on connections
  • Take on leadership roles in church, school, or alumni organizations
  • Deliberately try to network with other parents at kids’ activities
  • Write articles for publications within your industry
  • Speak publicly on topics of expertise for you (and if you’re reluctant to speak, join Toastmasters and get over your apprehensions)
  • Use Twitter to build a global network of people involved in topics of interest (Twitter Lists or WeFollow are great places to start)
  • Run for public office
  • Find and join groups focused on hobbies you enjoy
  • Share your expertise via social media – start a blog, comment on other blogs, record podcasts or video blogs
  • Start a second job where you interact more with the public
  • Strike up conversations with people you meet standing in line

And IMPORTANTLY, have business cards with you and introduce yourself to new people with your first and last names. I can’t believe how many people go to networking events and don’t have cards and/or introduce themselves by mumbling their first names.

Not all of these methods make sense for everyone. For my networking strategy, numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10 have all been very effective at meeting great new people both online and in IRL (in real life), especially by starting to attend and even organize tweet-ups.

There are certainly several of these that will work for you, so pick and get started adding diversity to your network!   – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can get your Brainzooming!

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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Today’s guest post addressing preparing for 2010 comes from Barrett Sydnor, one of the first guest authors ever on Brainzooming back in early 2008. I’ve worked with Barrett on various strategic planning projects over the past 15 years, including quite a bit of quantitative industry analysis and supply/demand forecasting.

Today, he’s addressing the right marketing stance to have during and coming out of a recession:

Fortune Favors the Bold.

The Roman playwright Terence wrote that in the 2nd century BC, though Virgil often gets credit because a similar line later appears in the Aeneid. Terence was probably talking about the military strategy of some emperor, but it turns out that the sentiment applies to businesses—small and large—as they face figuring out how to plan for 2010.

A natural tendency when looking at bad or uncertain times is to hunker down, keep spending to a minimum, and stay with what you have done in the past. Natural, but maybe not smart.

A Hurwitz & Associates report found that 65% of small businesses that expected increased revenues during 2009 had raised or planned to increase marketing spending. Increased revenues were expected by only 30% of those who were keeping marketing spend flat, and almost half (41%) of those who were cutting marketing spend were expecting a decrease in revenue.

This correlates with a study done at Penn State after the 2000 recession. The authors say that using what they call “proactive marketing” can allow firms to improve both capital market and business performance during a recession. They cite increased marketing spending by P&G, Kellogg, Intel, and Wal-Mart during recessions—and depressions—as a way to grab or consolidate dominant market shares.

For sports fans, one way to restate “Fortune Favors the Bold,” is “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” You might ask, “How did that work out for Bill Belichick and the Patriots against the Colts?” While the execution lacked, he had the science—and the odds on his side (discussion here, here, and here).

In planning, as in coaching football, getting the odds on your side is really is what you are trying to do. Being more aggressive with your 2010 plan may be the way to tilt those odds in your favor. – Barrett Sydnor

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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