Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 115 – page 115
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Midnight on Friday, Nick Demey from The Board of Innovation direct messaged me on Twitter, asking if I could review two student presentations as part of 24 Hours of Innovation. The assignment had been to advance 3 new automotive concepts based on business models from the music/entertainment business.

One presentation was from a US team, the other from a Belgian team. I’d recommend taking a look at both. Pay particular attention to three lessons on presenting new ideas demonstrated by the Belgian students:

  1. They show their mindmap – great for highlighting the transformative variables and range of ideas considered.
  2. A single slide upfront contained short descriptions of all three concepts – a helpful reference to understand what was coming.
  3. Each business model concept featured both text and visual representations – this provided a deeper sense of the concepts.

We can all learn from these techniques that make a document more likely to receive executive review. Thanks Nick for allowing me to participate in this hour of the 24 Hours of Innovation!


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Training budgets get cut in challenging times. Yet it’s critical to continue growing and developing. If training budget dollars aren’t available for traditional training though, what can you do personally? Here are 10 ways to continue expanding your expertise when many others aren’t:

  • Select a topic and develop a presentation you can deliver at conferences. You’ll typically get a reduced rate or free registration as a presenter. Contact conferences you’re interested in attending and pitch your presentation well in advance.
  • Find out if your company has online training. This is a great way to improve your understanding of business basics in-house with minimal investment.
  • Participate in free webinars. One upside of today’s economy is the large number of companies offering free webinars. I’ve participated in several this year and haven’t come across a clunker yet.
  • Take a community college course. Our local college has an unbelievable array of business and professional development courses. They’re affordable, often feature multiple sessions, and scheduled for people who work.
  • Attend local association seminars. In a city of any size, there are likely multiple daily options for professional learning opportunities at breakfasts, lunches, or dinner meetings. These professional training sessions may be sponsored by associations, Chambers of Commerce, or even private businesses. For a nominal personal investment, these types of sessions are a way to learn and network cost effectively without travel.
  • Ask if outside partners will open their training to you. A consultant had its in-house presentation designer do a session for us on constructing a presentation’s logic flow. It was fantastically valuable and something we couldn’t have paid to attend. This could be a value-added opportunity for both: you get education and usually, a more educated client is a better client.
  • Get on Twitter – develop a network involved in your field, participate in chat groups, and network for new ideas. Twitter is the richest, most diverse interaction opportunity I’ve come across. In a short time, it’s exposed me to many smart people around the world eager to share information, perspectives, and links.
  • Share your own expertise. Whether it’s presenting, writing, or answering questions on LinkedIn, you always learn by teaching. Sharing knowledge forces you to be on top of your game, plus trading perspectives with your students exposes you to new learning also.
  • Agree to a sales call. I’m emphatic about not spending time with salespeople when there’s no real opportunity for them. Recently, I’ve started to relax that. After an admonition that a meeting implies no near-term buying intent, I’ve invested time with potential vendors eager to share new techniques. The downside is dealing with follow-on calls.
  • Learn from others through effective networking. With any of the previous ideas where you’re interacting with people, it’s an opportunity to offer value, share expertise, and build a reputation for helping others.

Give any one or a combination of these a try, and you’ll definitely realize some of the most cost-effective learning benefits available.

 

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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Everybody received an assignment Friday morning: look for someone to help with a creative challenge over the weekend and then comment here to create the Monday Creative Quickie post. The early submissions are included below. You can still add others in the comments section for today’s post.

Mike Brown said…
My wife Cyndi honed her web skills by volunteering to do websites for our Church and her sorority. It helped both out and let her engage new areas of creativity. Mike

Jan said…
I’m helping my daughter who’s away at college celebrate Mother’s Day with us … by breaking the rules. Instead of celebrating May 10, we’ll observe Mother’s Day May 17, after Kate’s out of school and back home. It’s important to know the rules, so you can choose to break them!

Terry said…
Today one of our field managers shared a great analogy comparing one of our old web tools to a simple remote control (you know, the kind that only has power, volume and a channel changer) with our new web tool that’s more like a universal remote with more features. Envisioning a remote with thousands of buttons, I helped him take the comparison a step further by comparing our formerly separate online tools that required customers to go three separate places to my coffee table covered with separate TV, VCR and cable box remotes.

Amy Hoppenrath said…
I received a question from a professional associate today asking for advice about a project she is working on. She was stuck. After some discussion, we determined that before she would find the answers, she needed to ask more questions.


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Today’s guest post is from Eric, or @flyingspatula as I’ve come to know him. That’s one intriguing aspect of social media: people can disclose as much or little about themselves as they’re willing to reveal. Eric is manager of a reporting team in Toronto, and under the @flyingspatula Twitter name, he tweets an amazing stream of great quotes and insights into strategy and management topics.His Twitter bio also says he’s a “funk-tacular” person. I agree, and look for more guests posts in the future. Here, he shares his perspectives on the importance and approach of managing by example:

You may have green-fielded your team and picked the diamonds in the rough. Or maybe you’ve inherited a group of people (inmates). Regardless of your team’s opinion, you are their leader. As such, you are the designate of the company. For all intents and purposes, you write their reviews, give them their assignments, and you sign their check.

So where does this leave you as a leader? You need to wrangle the broncos and lead this herd – regardless of their background or experiences. You are the leader because you have the skill set and attitude to manage these troops better than any of them do.

Now to deflate you a bit. Your team will mutiny if you waltz in and start bossing them around. You’ve got to be able to manage by example. Here are my top 5 tips to do it successfully:

1. Ask for Help
You don’t have all the answers – don’t pretend you do. Your people may have been doing the job longer than you have. It’s okay to ask them for guidance on the day to day tasks. This doesn’t show weakness – it shows that you’re human. It’ll also demonstrate that you acknowledge and respect your people.
2. Provide Direction but Let People Make Mistakes
You have experience on your side. Play that card. If you’ve inherited a team, you may not know the company as well as them, but you’ve seen certain scenarios play out over and over again. Guide and advise. Unless someone is going to cross the line, let them make mistakes. They’ll see value in asking your advice in the future.
3. Give Up the Spotlight
Your team does wonderful work – partly because you’re an awesome leader, but mostly because you realize you need to hire people smarter than you. Chances are you’ll have to present their work to the “higher ups.” That doesn’t mean you get to pretend you did the work. I’ve got a team of programmers. I’m not about to pretend I know how to code in php and do loop-de-loops in MySQL. They do great work. My role was to pick them out from the crowd and let the glow of the spotlight fall on them.
4. Don’t be Lenient
This is a touchy subject. I would caution that as a leader, you should have the trust of your team before you start waiving the big stick. In a new team, there will be some growing pains at first. Most team building books say you’re going through the “storming” phase. Don’t fall for this. If you let your team dictate the norms, they will walk all over you. Of course I’m being extreme, but seriously, if they step out of line, you need to reel them in. Make it clear that there are Dos and Don’ts in your team. If push comes to shove, they need to do what you ask.
5. Create Performance Measurements Together
As a new leader, you need to evaluate your staff. Engage them during this process. You want your people to realize that you’re not an evil person – and you want a sounding board to make sure your goals and expectations are realistic and achievable.
Hope this helps! Good luck you super managers and gurus in training.

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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It’s exciting to have two guest authors this week, both in response to reaching out on Twitter for leaders in innovation and strategy to share their perspectives. Today’s post is from Howard McAuliffe, a real estate and community development professional in St. Louis, MO.

Howard has worked in Real Estate Development and entrepreneurial endeavors since 2001. He holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development with a concentration in Community Development from Saint Louis University and has served on the Public Policy Committee for Metropolis St. Louis, including serving as the Public Policy Chairperson in 2008.

In a recent tweet, Howard mentioned his participation in an upcoming Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis innovation conference. I reached out, and Howard agreed to share his perspective on the speakers and conference content:

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis hosted a conference on community development titled “Exploring Innovation” on April 22-24. The conference comes at a time of economic hardship throughout the world. The Exploring Innovation Conference brought together grass roots practitioners and some of the top minds in the country to discuss, collaborate, and learn.

The term “conference” brings to mind a series of experts speaking at the audience. This, however, was far from a traditional conference. The audience was as vocal as the presenters, with a conversation and exchange of information. Stand out presenters and facilitators included:

  • Alan Berube, a senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
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  • Mark Pinsky, president and chief executive officer of Opportunity Finance Network.
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  • Ray Boshara, vice president of the New America Foundation. He has advised presidents, testified before Congress and given speeches all over the world
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  • Bill Strickland, CEO, Social Architect, Community Leader, and Visionary who has built a state of the art community center and major business incubator in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. He is using the arts to motivate the citizens that society has given up on to realize amazing accomplishments.

 

In addition to the world-class presenters mentioned above, some of the ideas and organizations that stood out to me were:

  • Swamp Gravy, a theatre company, revitalized its small Georgia town through its performances. This resulted in some astounding economic benefits.
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  • The EAST Initiative, started in rural Arkansas, is a program that motivates children to work together to solve problems by addressing practical projects.
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  • The Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity has an innovative program that allows renters to earn equity in exchange for being a responsible tenant. This includes paying rent on time, participating in property upkeep, and staying in the building for an extended period of time.

This conference was definitely a memorable and educational experience because of amazing participants, presenters, ideas, and innovations. For those interested, you can find out more information on the conference, presenters, and tools that are relevant to community development.  

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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There are various sketchbooks in our home office loaded with ideas. Sometimes a good thought doesn’t fill up a whole blog post right away, but it offers enough possibilities to work well on Twitter. This is the debut of a new feature offering collections of strategic thinking ideas tweeted first, but then grouped and arranged to make them more digestable.

This first group touches on strategic collaboration, a fitting topic since upcoming posts on Wednesday and Thursday are both from people I’ve met over the past few weeks on Twitter.
Collaboration

  • Don’t always answer a question for someone who already “knows” the answer. Let them own the answer.
  • Take risks on determined people. Even when falling short, their tenacity will create something rewarding.
  • Seek help. Don’t try to understand or do everything yourself. There are people better prepared than you. Let them do what they know.
  • Get input early from a boss that has an informed perspective. You’ll benefit from doing so.
  • Ask questions of experts. Chart their answers for agreement/disagreement. Pray. Then make your best decision.
  • Ask someone completely new for help with a challenge. You’ll appreciate the different perspective. They’ll like helping.
  • Go out of your way to (at least informally) mentor those eager to learn & grow.

Please let me know your thoughts on this new feature in the comments section!


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I was in Western Kansas last week, and my mom and I made a few trips to Walgreens. Right inside the parking lot was a huge pothole (interestingly, this may be a part of the Walgreens brand experience because there’s a comparable one at the Kansas City location we regularly visit). The first two times we were there, my mom pointed it out and told me to be careful not to hit it. I found this quite UNNECESSARY since, given its enormous size, it was IMPOSSIBLE to not see the pothole.

On my way out of town, I stopped alone at Walgreens to get something. This time, I didn’t see the pothole, and without my mom to point it out, the car thudded right into it.

Why the difference? I’m not entirely sure.

But here’s the lesson: even when you think you don’t need help from someone, TAKE IT. And more than that, accept it with a smile, take it to heart, and thank them for the advice because you just don’t know what might have happened if they hadn’t cared enough to offer it!

 

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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