Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 112 – page 112
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Someone noted recently that the furor generated on TV talk shows makes it clear the hosts aren’t paid to be problem solvers. They’re paid to be problem sustainers. A host’s primary strategy is to generate and sustain an audience, and solving problems isn’t part of the equation. What creates an audience is the host’s ability to stir up concern and milk an issue for all it’s worth. It’s about finding innovative angles from which to fan indignation. And before a problem is, heaven forbid, solved by someone in the real world, a TV talk show host needs to have already identified the next crisis where their indignation will be focused.

I’d never really thought about a talk show host’s strategy in quite those terms, but it makes perfect sense.

An interesting wrinkle, however, is how many people embrace the same strategy in their careers. Rather than taking constructive steps to solve problems, they fuel their sense of importance by finding innovative tactics to keep the day’s (or week’s or quarter’s) crises going unabated.

The tough question for you to answer: Are you a problem solver or a problem sustainer?

Really? A problem solver? Is that what your co-workers or boss would say?

Now you’re not so sure, huh?

This week, keep track of the problems with which you’re presented at work. Draw a line down a piece of paper. On the left side, write “Problem Solver.” On the right side, write “Problem Sustainer.

After each discussion, project, or meeting where a problem is under consideration this week, make an honest assessment of whether you helped move the issue closer to a solution or if you helped to keep it alive. Put a mark on the appropriate side of the page.

At week’s end, look at which side of the page has the most marks.

If it’s the left side, good for you.

If it’s the right side, maybe that’s why you’ve been having so many challenges at work. At least now you know the most important problem in front of you: learning to be a genuine problem solver! – 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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Last Friday’s post came from the TEI President’s Forum in Kansas City. Today’s does as well, featuring some strategic thought starters from Danny O’Neill, the Bean Baron at Kansas City’s The Roasterie:

  • We learn more from failures than successes, and they usually make more fun presentations.
  • In Iowa, you don’t get accolades for just showing up.
  • Live in the moment; say “yes” to invitations. You never know how doing so will change your life.
  • When you’re looking for something (i.e., a job or business opportunity), tell everyone you know.
  • There’s inherent stress in choices. When starting a business, you don’t have a lot of choices.
  • It’s a lot easier to bet the farm when you don’t have a farm.
  • Wisdom from Henry Bloch as The Roasterie was starting: “You don’t know it, but where you are now is where it’s most fun. Building is the most fun.”

Pick one or two of these and think this weekend about how they apply to where you are now or are headed in the future. – 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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Last week, our priest shared a quote from another priest suggesting a good missionary “takes people where they are.” The comment was shared in relation to a Bible account I’ve always enjoyed where St. Paul, walking the streets of Athens, discovered a place of honor devoted “To an Unknown God.” He used this as his point of departure in telling Athenians he was there to reveal to them this unknown God.

The quote and story provide a great business strategy lesson for change agents trying to catalyze significant innovation:

Before you do anything, listen and observe.

It’s critical to first get a sense of the people you are trying to transform. A great strategic observer will be able to readily detect instances where people desire (or are already leaning toward) a new approach.

Starting your transformation strategy by absorbing people’s mindsets and dispositions allows you to structure your change agenda to begin with areas of agreement, not areas of conflict. This strategy allows you to gain credibility, build trust, and typically uncover further insights as others begin to open up and share more personal hopes and concerns. All these inputs allow you to better tailor your message and successfully take people from where they currently are.

This is why smart turnaround people conduct listening sessions and tours before trying to implement huge transitional change. Don’t interpret this as suggesting big changes have to be put on hold for extended periods of time. It simply means that observing first will allow you to sequence and implement changes with the greatest likelihood of success.

One of my favorite stories from having watched business turnaround CEO specialist Maury Myers occurred during his first few weeks at our company. It was a corporation in shock, with its first truly significant leadership change in 40 years. People were down in the dumps and wanted something signaling management was in touch with what was happening. At his first town hall meeting, Maury told the corporate office staff he knew the senior management group had been debating adopting an all business casual environment. It made sense he told us, so the next Monday, it was business casual five days a week.

In one move, which cost the company nothing, Maury demonstrated he was listening, was there to rapidly make big changes, and was going to make smart decisions. Despite challenging conditions, and Maury being a very challenging guy at times, it was absolutely the right way to take his audience where it was and start moving forward.

What examples have you seen (or done) in starting change by taking people where they are? – 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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On Thursday, I participated on an innovation panel at The Entrepreneurship Institute President’s Forum at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. The panel featured leaders from three outstanding Kansas City business innovation successes, each using a different strategy to break through typical business innovation barriers:

Gina Danner, CEO of Mail Print Rather than defining the business as a “printer” and riding the secular decline of printed matter right into the ground, Gina has defined her business based on the assets, talents, and tools it has (or can put to use). As a result, Gina pursued technology and variable printing capabilities well in advance of competitors. Mail Print is thus positioned to not simply print things, but to drive revenue for its clients. The company has also looked to electronic delivery of messages because it’s part of the right answer to an important client question: “What are you trying to accomplish?”

Brian Weaver, Founder and CEO of Anthem Media Group – A key aspect of the Anthem Media Group back story is Brian’s former employer essentially telling him to stuff his new business ideas. After enough NO’s, Brian (who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur) took his ideas and started his own business. The ultimate comeuppance was several years later when he bought his former employer. Brian talked about going against conventional wisdom to strategically start and acquire businesses in the midst of the 2008-2009 economic collapse. By refusing to listen to the NO’s thrown in his way, Brian’s built a successful multi-media publishing business.

Aaron Zack, CEO of SunlightenSeveral years ago, Aaron thought his company had a clear product advantage with its saunas. A trip to China and visits to several factories manufacturing inferior quality knock-offs of his product changed that perception. His response was to harness the internal expertise of his team, but not just the typical innovators. Aaron brought together a truly cross-functional group (even the accountants) to work on the product innovation challenge. With a diverse team and an intuitive understanding of what customers might want, Sunlighten is introducing a truly unique sauna product using the full infrared spectrum to provide different types of health benefits. After several years of development, the sauna’s launch is imminent.

Great stories and three entrepreneurs with strong strategic handles on their respective businesses. – 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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In the midst of a dreary day, we watched the Cake Boss marathon on TLC last Sunday. The reality TV program was fun and illustrated all kinds of extreme creativity lessons:

Shatter conventional definitions – The show is about cakes. But until Sunday, it never occurred to me a cake could be made from rice crispie treats, wood, screws, and PVC pipe. But look inside “star” Buddy Valestro’s “cakes,” and you may find any of those and more. If he stuck with traditional cake recipes instead of creative ones, he’d never be the “Cake Boss.”

Construct a creative team that’s better than you – Buddy appears to have command of many skills critical to making incredible cakes. Yet it’s clear he surrounds himself with specialized, creative people who have stronger talents than he does in focused areas equally essential to creating the kinds of extreme cakes he’s known for.

Your distinctive talents work all over the place – Why be just a baker? Carpentry, painting, and pottery skills were all used to create innovative cakes shaped like teapots, motorcycles, boats, and mannequins.

The impossible = amazing creativity – In one special episode, the challenge was to create a full-size NASCAR race car shaped cake. Two separate locations were used to make all the cakes for the more than 12,000 pound final creation. 12,000 pounds? That’s nearly 4 times how much a real race car weighs! That’s extreme creativity!

Creativity doesn’t mean glossing over details – For an apple farm, the bakery had to make its first ever apple cake. While the apple grower appreciated the cake’s taste, what really excited him was the cake’s appearance – edible mini-pumpkins, apples, and a “working” tree swing.

Yell, laugh, and cry – Buddy’s family bakery is an emotional place. They wear their emotions on their sleeves; it’s all part of the intensively creative, deadline-driven process.

Shut up and fix disasters – Since it’s a reality show, disasters are a must. The front end of the NASCAR cake fell-off. A cake for a drag queen’s holiday show was too big to fit through any door to the theater. So what do you do? Throw more rice crispie treats at the NASCAR and get the holiday show audience to come outside to get their cake. No harm, no foul.

Put these extreme creative lessons to work, and cook up some creativity for yourself! – Mike Brown

Want to be as creative as Buddy, the Cake Boss? To tap into your own extreme creativity, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! For an organizational creativity 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 brainzooming@gmail.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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Introducing a coordinated, vibrant social media effort into an organization depends on more than an “official” group creating content. Ideally multiple and varied people throughout an organization are functioning almost as beat reporters and sharing their individual perspectives on topics relevant to targeted audiences.

How do you get do-it-yourself (DIY) social media support from people already contending with more than full job responsibilities?

Here are 15 tactics you can use to pave the way for success in implementing your social media strategy:

  • Develop a role description for what a social media team member does in your company.
  • Provide realistic estimates of how much or how little time a team member will have to use to participate on the team.
  • Develop and share a social media policy for your company.
  • Create an internship and recruit a university student to participate in the effort.
  • Ask people what their talents and areas of interest in social media are and give them appropriate assignments.
  • Provide step-by-step instructions or basic guidelines to encourage new social media participants.
  • Have more experienced social media practitioners mentor those just getting started.
  • Develop your own wiki, blog, or social network community to post reference materials, FAQs, and other relevant information for the team.
  • Offer some type of simple, fun give-away to team members to incent active participation.
  • Provide a team list with contact information, areas of expertise and focus for each member, and who to call to report on successes and challenges.
  • Offer in-person or webinar training on effectively using social media applications and your brand standards.
  • Provide a thorough list of articles on how to excel at various aspects of social media.
  • Share links to free webinars focused on social media how to’s.
  • Brainstorm and share a list of suggested blog topics.
  • Use an approach that allows participants to smoothly rotate on and off the social media team at reasonable intervals.

What innovative strategies have worked for you to generate broader participation in social media within your business or organization?  – 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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We’re in the middle of World Innovation and Creativity Week which started April 15 (the anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth) and runs through April 21 (my half-birthday).

As usual, we extend the week to April 22 around Brainzooming since it’s the birthday of the original creative instigator, Jan Harness.  And today, I’m really looking forward to getting together with Jan for her early birthday lunch! It’s amazing to think that this will be the first time we’ve seen each other since January 2nd. Having gone from working together in-person multiple times weekly, it’s been a creative shock to talk or email only every few weeks.

In fact, with Brainzooming as a full-time strategy and innovation catalyst for organizations needing help in these areas there have been different and typically less-frequent interactions with all my previous creative team members. It has created opportunities to meet other new creative people (which have been wonderful), and interact with some former ones in new venues, absent some of the restrictions working in a big corporation can pose. Interestingly, through much of this same time, I was cutting out many of my usual non-human creative instigators (including caffeine) for Lent. Since then, I’ve tried to continue staying away from them.

Taking the NO out of InNOvation

Talk about changing a lot of strategic elements all at once (remember an early 2010 post that referenced embracing dramatic change)! While I’d hoped radically changing my creative surroundings would awaken a whole different set of creative instigators I’d previously overlooked, it hasn’t been the case so far, at least as far as I can see. It’s simply been hard work to continually refresh my creative perspective. No innovation epiphany yet, but I’m still seeking it. When it comes, I’ll let you know what strategic combination of new creative instigators is working the best!

P.S. This week is a great time to download “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” as a way to refresh your personal creative perspective. I’ve certainly been using these eight perspectives to help refresh my creativity! I think you’ll enjoy and benefit from them as well!  – 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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