Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 112 – page 112
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Today’s guest blogger, Meghan Biro, Founder of TalentCulture, calls me the most patient person on Twitter. One day earlier in 2009 when back home with my parents, I saw Meghan tweeting with someone in my network, checked out her intriguing profile, and had a short Twitter conversation with her. Not sure if it was then or later, but I asked (maybe begged) her to do a guest post for Brainzooming.
 
She said she would, and I began my patient waiting. I’d reach out about once a month to see if she was still considering it, and each time she said she was. That was good enough for me!
 
In the meantime, we’ve talked by phone, paving the way for another great business relationship initiated on Twitter. So without further delay, here’s Meghan’s take on creativity + innovation in business (it’s well worth the wait!):

We are a generation raised to believe we are creative. Some of us actually are lucky enough to be employed as creatives; the rest of us, who received colored markers and sketchbooks in kindergarten, must look for ways to draw out the sparks of creativity we secretly nurture while working as accountants, engineers, administrators or in other career paths not known for rewarding creativity.

The dirty little secret many people live with is that creativity is not usually rewarded in the workaday world. So how can we nurture creativity in our work? What are the warning signs that someone we work with is trying to sabotage our creativity, and what can we do to counter resistance?

First, let’s look at some quick creativity-boosters.

  • Take time for someone else. The conventional wisdom is to take time for yourself, but turn that around, reach out of yourself and set aside 15 minutes a day to think about someone else, and how they are creative. Contemplate the different point of view this person presents; talk to them and ask questions about what they like, not what they do.
  • Try something really new. Listen to music you think you don’t like. Commit to buying a CD or checking out live music– don’t just download a song – and listen to the whole thing. Sample new sounds and accept the challenge of something you wouldn’t normally choose.
  • Ask a question. Then commit to listening to the answer and allowing what the other person says to influence your thoughts. Too often we have the answer we want to hear formulated before we ask a question.
  • Learn something new every day. Commit to learning – and using – a new word every day. Or read history instead of a novel. Teach yourself to dance. Try something new and expand your perceptions, physical coordination and mental agility.

All of these things can be done easily, and all can make you a more creative person.

But what if you work with someone who seems to suck the creativity out of every situation? You know the signs: this person interrupts others or pushes away from a conference table with crossed arms when they hear something they don’t agree with. This person can kill creativity by walking into a room – if you let it happen.

Here are a few ways to work with that person creatively and collaboratively:

  • Look outside your context. Your experience of a person may be that he or she is not creative. Try to look at that person from his or her context – manager, colleague or employee – and open yourself to his or her experience of your comments.
  • Use active listening. Listen to the person speak, restate what they said as a query, and add a comment of your own that brings in a new idea. Open up a closed mind by reassuring the person that you heard them – before you add your comments or ideas.
  • Engage the person by taking the time to learn what he likes, and acknowledging that bit of humanity. Maybe this person reads a lot, or has a beloved dog, or loves to ski. These are cues to that person’s creativity, and acknowledging them gives you an emotional bargaining chip in your next attempt to infuse the workplace with creativity.
  • Work incrementally. Someone who is uncomfortable with creative ideas may respond better to small changes than big, bold ideas. Keep your creative goal in mind but break it down into components and advance your position slowly. It’s worth the effort to see creativity bloom.

Dare to take every action with a spark of creativity and you’ll feed your soul and lift the mood of your workplace. What are your creativity-builders? Meghan M. Biro

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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Here are a few strategic thinking snippets on implementation. Yes, thinking does need to turn into actions and results:

  • On things that don’t really matter, it’s okay to conserve your effort & take the easy way out.
  • On something that DOES matter, do it when you’re ready to do it well. Don’t just fit it in when you’ll do it half-way (or worse).
  • When others are timid and worried about what the right next step is, decide to BE BOLD!
  • Attitude Check Question: Are you looking for and sharing good news with those around you? Please start….now!
  • Embrace the power of symbolism in communication. Not everything has to be literal.
  • Don’t ever let an opportunity slip away through failing to go back & ask for it one more time.
  • Keep ideas with great potential around even if you don’t use them now. They may be ideally suited for a future situation. – Mike Brown


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I presented on “Getting Ready for This” at the Fort Hays State University Business and Leadership Symposium. The talk focused on six strategic success skills vital  in today’s workplace amid a dramatically changing business world. The premise is it’s fundamental to possess strategic success skills in co-creating, contorting, and abandoning ideas and strategies based on what’s relevant at any time. It’s not so much “what” you know, as “how” to continually deconstruct and reassemble your  knowledge in dramatically new and relevant ways throughout your career.

It starts with several amazing factoids from the video “Do You Know 3.0?” recounting dramatic demographic, technology, and information-based changes worldwide. It’s been viewed millions of times, and in the event you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch it.

As a brief overview and reference for the presentation, here are the six strategic success skills to more concertedly embrace:

1. Knowing Answers Is Good – Knowing How to Find Answers Is Vital

Since facts change and information deteriorates, it’s vital to be able to know how to seek and vet potential answers since no one can be expected to have a full command of all available knowledge.

2. Balanced Thinking Allows You to Be More Strategic

USA Today featured an article in July on retraining a left brained orientation to a right brained one in order to cope with a changing job environment. We talk plenty about the importance of knowing your thinking orientation, surrounding yourself with a complementary team, and the strategic impact of being able to work with contradictory points of view.

3. Possibilities and Emotion are Important in Business

From someone whose more natural orientation centers on facts and logic, this has been the most challenging of the 6 areas to retrain my own view. The best place to go on this topic is Benjamin Zander, who has been mentioned frequently here. As a homework assignment for attendees at the FHSU presentation, I asked them to watch these two Zander videos and get a genuine sense of the importance of emotion and possibilities thinking:

4. You Have to Be Able to Communicate in Multiple Ways

Communication is in the top 10 topics addressed on Brainzooming so far because it’s so critical to successful creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking. Students need to be pushed to go beyond the typical team presentation that summarizes a semester-long project. They need to be adept at using formats of varying lengths (simple recommendations, elevator speeches, tweets, etc.) and mediums (songs, video, acting, etc.).

5. Leadership Starts Day One on the Job

Leadership is about service, not titles. That means day one is the time for new graduates to start leading on the job. Taking on a strategic leadership role can be simple. You just have to be willing to do something about it!

6. People All Around You Are Making Decisions Based on Personal Branding

Personal branding isn’t a meaningless concept authors dreamed up to sell more books. It’s truly the driver behind why anyone gets hired, advances, and has intriguing opportunities develop. Step one is understanding your talents and exploiting them. Here are two great books to read on how to further develop and sustain a personal brand:

I look forward to comments from those in attendance (and non-attendees as well) with thoughts on the topic since it applies to all of us as dizzying changes occur around us. Stay close to the Brainzooming blog for more on change and dealing with it in the near future!  – 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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We’re all likely involved in relationships tied to coaching, mentoring, or just plain supporting one another. They’re tremendously helpful in personal and business growth, yet at times, these relationships can become stale.

What can you do if you find yourself in such a relationship? Here are a few options to spice things up:

  • Add a Person: I’ve been working out for more than three years with the same trainer. The results have been great, yet at times, we tend to fall into the same routines. When my niece was visiting last month, she went along as a guest trainee. The spirit of competition improved my effort and also created some new enthusiasm from my trainer.
  • Reverse Roles: I’ve got a great career coach who can amazingly have one meeting with me that creates about nine month’s worth of activity and progress. Recently we got together for lunch and turned the tables: I was able to provide some coaching for her on new possibilities she’s considering. It was of benefit to her, and it was really exciting for me to give something back to someone who has done so much to help me!
  • Schedule a Reunion: Early in my career, a group of us working as analysts for a challenging boss formed a tremendous bond as we tried to survive and figure out what we’d do with our careers. We don’t get together often anymore, but we met for a happy hour recently to renew our friendship and share perspectives on what each of us is doing now.
  • Take a break: If you find a once thriving coaching relationship has stalled, consider seeing other people. The break could be temporary or permanent, but may be just the thing to open up time to find other relationships that work better for both of you right now.

Give one or more of these a try so you can keep moving forward with renewed enthusiasm! – Mike Brown

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  • Be friendly to people who may not seem to “count.” Chances are they do count, and you simply don’t realize it yet.
  • Ask questions, or at least listen more than you talk. You’ll appear smarter, in part, because of all the things you’ll learn.
  • Say “please” and “thank you” very often. You’ll seem nicer than you probably are.
  • Be “quick” to apologize. That means both doing it sooner than later and getting it over with fast. Don’t dwell on the mistake.
  • Actually do and repeat the four previous ideas!!! 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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Say you have a conference call scheduled with geographically dispersed parties. You decide to email the multiple documents needed for the conference call 2 minutes before it begins.

Don’t assume:

  • I’m in my office.
  • I have a clue why this conference call with no agenda is being held.
  • The meeting before this didn’t put me behind schedule.
  • You have my undivided attention, especially when things are frantic.
  • There’s a computer in front of me – with current versions of the necessary software.
  • If there is a computer, it’s functioning properly.
  • Your email is the most important thing I’m dealing with right now.
  • There’s time for me to print the documents for the conference call.
  • Someone’s available to print and retrieve the documents if I’m running behind.
  • You won’t be sitting around waiting for me to open / save / print / retrieve documents for the conference call which could have been handled more efficiently with adequate prep time.

You know what? All these assumptions are manageable by sending the documents in adequate time.

So manage the situation, make sure we have the information, and are setup for strategic thinking and productive work.

Stop playing the “we don’t want you to look at the documents ahead of time” game. Please. – 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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Not sure where I learned this originally, but it’s a great, simple strategy for business meetings where you’re voicing a position contrary to someone else’s: never sit across from them.

Try sitting next to, or at least on the same side of the table as, whoever might be an adversary. The arrangement makes it so much harder to employ confrontational body language. Instead, you’re likely forced to discuss your differences strategically rather than posturing about them.

And while we’re at it, here’s one more strategy for arranging seating: if there are going to be two or more distinct “teams” represented in a meeting, consciously keep them from sitting in groups. Forcing group members to intermingle helps break up confrontational group body language.

These two strategies may sound silly, but I’ve seen them work too many times to not try and carry them out in every situation where they’re appropriate.

So come sit over here by me! – 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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