Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 115 – page 115
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This week’s guest post is by Marissa Levin, an award-winning and well-recognized entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Information Experts. The company creates technology-based integrated communications solutions, human capital strategies, and learning strategies for government agencies and firms in a wide range of vertical markets.

Marissa shares her perspectives here on tapping the incredible creative and innovative talents existing among the diverse group of people inside her company:

How well do you really know your co-workers and employees?

Sure, you see them on a daily basis and know just enough about their personal lives to be dangerous. You may even know what they like for lunch. There’s probably a “comfort level” you’ve established. You’ve identified some personal boundaries, designating topics acceptable for discussion and those off the table.

But have you ever stopped to consider what defines your co-workers outside their jobs? More importantly, have you ever thought about how these aspects influence our jobs, and what they add to the workplace?

As a CEO focused on company culture, I’m always thinking of ways to maintain a connection with my employees and protect the valuable connections among everyone working here. As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this. Employees become more scattered (thanks to telecommuting), are assigned to client sites, and work amid additional layers that develop to ensure adequate management structure.

Adding to these challenges, I am out of the office for appointments, meetings, and networking events. Despite email exchanges and conference calls, it is far too easy to lose the human touch. When I am working “on” the business, it is often difficult to work “in” the business.

I’ve always known we have incredibly creative, passionate, intelligent, and highly individualized people. We are not a typical organization. We have many out-of-the-box thinkers who display individuality throughout their lives. This uniqueness gives us an edge with our culture and customers.

To find a way to understand and bring all this creativity into the company, I surveyed our employees about what defines them outside work. The results were unbelievable.

Beyond having top-quality instructional designers, project managers, strategists, writers, graphic designers, developers, & human capital experts, we also have scuba divers, college-level volleyball players, swing and belly dancers, scrabble professionals, marathoners, environmentalists, a competitive U.S. Master’s swimmer, competitive soccer players, classical pianists, wine enthusiasts, equestrian experts, poker players, gardeners, and chefs.

That’s not all – our staff also includes:

  • A certified “High Power Rocketeer” who has launched rockets to 6,000 feet at 550mph
  • Someone who taught welding at a vocational school
  • A four-time Outward Bound participant
  • A Special Operations Sergeant whose unit’s experience was the basis for “Blackhawk Down”
  • A two-time patent holder for educational technology who served on Barrack Obama’s Education Policy Committee
  • A published physique photographer and bodybuilder known at WOLVERINE

Think about the creative & innovative power of that incredible diversity of skills, interests, and passions. The question now is how to integrate these interests and skills into the company. I hope to celebrate their individuality in some sort of event or create an internal online tool that brings people together based on their interests.

Here’s your question: What creativity & individuality is beneath the surface inside your company? Ask around, and you may be in for some surprises of your own! Marissa Levin
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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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Face it: there are a bunch of expectations placed on each of us that, quite frankly, are completely arbitrary.

Oh sure, someone (maybe even someone very important) thinks they’re absolutes. Yet relative to what’s really important (i.e., strategic), there’s more whimsy than criticality in the request.

What can you do when presented with tasks, duties, or expectations that fall into this category?

  • Ask the fundamental question: “What are we trying to achieve?” Invite the other party to participate in answering it to develop a more refined sense of what’s strategic.
  • Suggest more innovative or workable alternatives that still deliver on what you are trying to achieve.
  • Be prepared to creatively negotiate and develop a mutually-agreeable approach.
  • Don’t discount that doing nothing could be the best answer for whoever is requesting you do something that doesn’t really matter.

Give this approach a try to better expend your efforts on things that will legitimately make a difference. Mike Brown


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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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Don’t underestimate the tremendous motivational force of challenging someone to produce facts to try and prove you wrong. Most people like to be right and will expend at least some effort to support their point.

If you can get someone to do this, you’ll benefit in multiple ways:

  • You’ll better understand counter arguments against your point of view.
  • There’s the opportunity to learn more about your topic from a different perspective.
  • You might discover you are actually wrong and be able to correct your own misunderstanding of the issue in a lower risk situation.

So go ahead and issue the challenge to try and prove you wrong. In so doing, you’ll set your challenger up to make your day. Mike Brown


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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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Someone told me about his new company where they do entrance interviews. In contrast to an exit interview, the objective is to get a download of potentially innovative ideas when someone starts a job, before there’s time to develop a point of view biased by the company’s culture.

What a great strategic thinking approach!

Given the current hiring market, entrance interviews may have limited applicability right now. It’s a wonderful idea though for increasing the diversity of an organization’s creative learning during the narrow window when a new employee is approaching things from a completely fresh perspective. 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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Beyond sharing creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking ideas here on the Brainzooming blog, I’ve had several opportunities recently to be involved with other channels to get ideas out. These are free and available for all of you to download!

“Fascination” – An Interview with Sally Hogshead

I recorded a webcast interview with Radical Careering author Sally Hogshead on Fascination and the triggers that make brands, ideas, and people fascinating. The webcast, in support of Sally’s keynote speaking appearance at the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference (which I’m chairing by the way) debuts Tuesday, July 21. It will be available on-demand for one year afterward.

Having known Sally for several years, it rocked to get the opportunity to talk with her about fascination since it’s the topic of her upcoming book. Her discussion on why Michael Jackson is fascinating is worth the listen alone!

And if you’re involved in market research, you should really attend the Market Research Conference. We have a tremendous lineup of speakers addressing how market researchers and intelligence-based marketers need to prepare for “What’s Next” to drive business success. Beyond traditional conference approaches, we’ll be incorporating social media heavily into the event to extend & deepen the learning experience. For updates, http://www.twitter.com/amamrc.

Hosting Eye on Small Business

Kelly Scanlon hosts the “Eye on Small Business” radio program on 1510 Hot Talk in Kansas City. I’ve been on Kelly’s show previously talking about “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” She asked me to substitute host for her on the topic of “What Can You Do When You Can’t Do What You’ve Done Before” with guests Jan Sokoloff Harness and Kate O’Neill Rauber. You can listen to the broadcast and grab the guerrilla marketing tools questions we discuss later in the show.

Some More Brainzooming Stuff

Here are a few more free Brainzooming download sources:

Hope you find these beneficial, and let me know if you have questions on any of them. – Mike Brown

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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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Listening to The Beatles Abbey Road show provides a sense of the incredible talent they brought to the recording studio. The impact of George Martin, their producer, is also clear in how he shaped the group’s artistic sensibilities and vision, crafting them into a coherent whole.

Considering the benefits a producer can provide, do you have one (or more) producers in your creative life? Your “producer” could be a mentor or a creative instigator who’s there to:

  • Expand and shape your creative perspective
  • Bring in other talents to help realize your vision
  • Challenge and edit your work from a less invested perspective than you have

Maybe you self-produce your own creative efforts. That’s a viable approach, and some people do it well. But if you don’t have a producer for your major projects, think seriously about working with someone in that role who can be the catalyst for new creative success. – Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! 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 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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Though The Beatles “Abbey Road” album was recorded 40 years ago, I recently heard a program called “Pop Go the Beatles” about its creation. Told through stories and alternative takes of the album’s classic songs, it was so inspiring it spawned posts for today, Wednesday, and Friday this week.

During an early recording of “Something,” George Harrison hadn’t finished the lyrics. John Lennon advised him to sing nonsense words until figuring out what the actual lyrics should be. One specific suggestion was “attracts me like a cauliflower” during the passage that eventually became “attracts me like no other lover.”

This is great advice. Using nonsense words keeps a writer from becoming enchanted with work that’s “almost there,” but isn’t really on the mark. Nonsense words will get worked on and replaced; “almost there” work might make it all the way to the marketplace, however, if the creator is easily satisfied or downright lazy.

This lesson can extend to developing projects, programs, products, and services. There’s typically a rush to name any of these. Someone picks a rough description that’s close and all of a sudden, the name starts to influence decisions and development steps that should be addressed independently of an early, potentially limiting, and often haphazardly chosen moniker.

Here’s an alternative approach: Pick a code name or some combination of nonsense letters and numbers to describe your effort while it’s in development. Then when the time is appropriate to give it a real name, you won’t have constrained its creation unnecessarily or be challenged by walking away from a now familiar (read “comfortable”) name that might ultimately limit its true potential for success. Mike Brown


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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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