Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 117 – page 117
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Remember the song, “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen?” Remember the song, “Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35?”

They’re both about stoning . . . so to speak.

Today, December 26 is the feast of Stephen, the first martyr, who was stoned to death in the first century. In his Feast of St. Stephen sermon, Fr. Gilmary Tallman spoke about two reasons why stoning, although illegal under Roman law, was used.

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The first was stoning was a graphic and very painful form of death; it sent a clear message to others you shouldn’t do what the person who was being stoned had done. Secondly, stoning was a group activity, so no one individual had any personal responsibility for carrying out the stoning.

When you put it that way, it makes stoning sound like many (most) modern business meetings:

  • We convene with a group think mentality
  • Perhaps one bold person offers an original idea
  • The group kills the idea (and potentially the person) en masse through its invective and takes great satisfaction knowing any future upstarts with bold ideas will keep quiet to avoid a similar fate.

One thing Brainzooming is about is helping you get new ideas introduced and implemented without your group even realizing it so your next team meeting doesn’t turn into a corporate version of the Feast of Stephen.

Here’s to more creative Brainzooming subterfuge in the new year! – 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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On my Labor Day road trip, I listened to “Live at the BBC,” a 2-cd set of recordings The Beatles made on BBC Radio from March 1962 to June 1965. It made me think about an old book definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in the musical creative process.

“The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono” is a transcript of interviews the pair did with writer David Sheff right before Lennon’s death in 1980. In one section, Lennon walked through the entire Beatles catalog, discussing the creative origin of each song with Paul McCartney. Sometimes it was true collaboration; at times it was the other person adding a small, yet critical element that made the song. Many times, particularly in later years, it was primarily individual creation. Yet because of publishing agreements, and perhaps a recognition that their creative styles were inexorably shaped by each other, all of their songs were jointly credited as Lennon-McCartney.

R.E.M. in its original line-up also credited every song to all members – Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe – irrespective of how it was composed, acknowledging that through the recording process, each band member had shaped the final creation.

I’ve always loved that creative team approach. In the best creative work in which I’ve participated, I enjoy the phenomenon that once it’s done, it’s very difficult to actually recall which person contributed which theme, idea, line, or edit.

That truly reflects a collaborative creative team.

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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Jan Harness and I are continuing to work on the “Creative Instigation” presentation and book for our August 12 Kansas City PRSA session. We’ve been working individually, but also carving out time to collaborate. Some joint meetings have been more productive than others. One last week was particularly beneficial in getting the presentation order and transitions finalized. So what’s been the common denominator in the productive get togethers?

It might be surprising, but in the two best working sessions, we didn’t sit across from each other. We sat on the same side of the table and spread the materials in front of us so that we both had the same perspective on what we working on at the time.

So while I frequently extol the virtues of diverse perspectives, there is also a place for trying to create the same perspective too!

Register today for the session if you’re in KC, and also vote in the poll about creativity at work!

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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Yesterday’s post talked about building a personal creative team that you can reach out to compensate for your creative shortcomings. It’s a tremendously valuable approach to take.

Here are three keys that will help you cultivate a strong personal creative team:

  • Start with the attitude of giving yourself to others. Before thinking about how people can benefit you, understand your talents so that you know how you can first serve them. I initially heard Zig Ziglar say that the best way to ensure your own success is by figuring out how to make as many other people as possible successful.
  • Treat people nicely, be friendly, and smile (either in person or in your voice or written word if you’re communicating via voice or email). Taking the first step to be kind, appreciative, and friendly will create incredible relationship opportunities and open many doors that might appear to be closed.
  • Embrace “mutualism” – a sincere effort to find commonly shared goals, even among potential competitors, where you can realize a greater good. A great example is former presidents Bush and Clinton coming together several years ago for Tsunami relief. Although political rivals, their effort helped others, while benefiting each of them personally in different ways. Embracing mutualism requires the ability to compromise, reprioritize, and share: risk, success, and the limelight.

There are many other keys to building a great team, but these three will take you much of the way. Give them a try as you add to your creative team.

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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Creativity in teams is critical because no single creative gift is sufficient in an of itself. A team provides the opportunity to assemble a whole variety of talents in a strategic fashion. It’s similar to the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” where a whole variety of gifts are needed to express true love.

So as you make up your holiday card list, keep track of something besides who sent you a card last year: do a double check to ensure that you have a full range of personalities and talents among your informal creative team’s members. See if you have someone on your list for each of these 12 characteristics:

  • Artistic
  • Funny
  • Inventive
  • Stylish
  • Adventurous
  • Well-Read
  • Diverse
  • Quirky
  • Playful
  • Spontaneous
  • Curious
  • Pop-Cultured

If there’s a creative talent missing on your team, resolve to identify a new team member in the new year that expresses their creativity in that manner. And if you don’t have a creative team you can reach out to, start building it! You’ll truly love the impact that it will have on you!  – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on creativity, strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members 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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The Importance of Strategic Mentors

A mentor can be invaluable for any business person as part of your informal business team, providing a different and more experienced perspective than you’d have on your own. Not all mentors are suited to fill every role, so it’s beneficial to have various mentors to satisfy specific experience gaps.

Do you have a strategic mentor – one who can help you identify the things that matter in your business situation and provide new insights & perspectives on how to approach things innovatively? When seeking one out, look for the following characteristics – beyond those that any great mentor possesses. The best strategic mentors are:

  • Smart
  • Experienced & diverse
  • Adept at asking productive, probing questions
  • Oriented toward innovation
  • Gifted with perceptive, accurate instincts
  • Able to identify “what matters” in a particular situation
  • Visionary
  • Open to challenging both you and the status quo
  • Comfortable holding a contradictory view
  • Able to make solid, insightful connections

I’ve been blessed to have several great strategic mentors. Some of the lessons they’ve taught me are shared below.

Dave Brown – College Years

Dave Brown (no relation) introduced me to my wife and was our boss on the student activities board at Fort Hays State University. We later went to Southern Illinois University as a result of Dave introducing us to his former student activities boss from grad school. Dave was the first strategic mentor in my career.

I learned a number of very important lessons from Dave that have served me incredibly well since; they can probably benefit you also:

  • Whenever you’re bringing even a few people together, it’s an event and you should make it special. Under Dave’s tutelage, I produced small coffee house performances and a 5,000 person concert. No matter how many people were attending, he emphasized making the event something memorable. That perspective shaped me to view every meeting or presentation, no matter how small, as an event where there’s a duty to create a memorable experience.
  • You have to plan and manage the whole host of details for any event. Dave demonstrated the discipline of planning and producing large events. It became quickly clear I wouldn’t get into concert production (Kansas City’s most well-known promoter told me to forget it, because “you start at the bottom and work your way down”). Yet when another mentor entered my career later, and our company started producing large events, I was able to step into a production and on-stage role seamlessly even though I was a market research guy. That opportunity has profoundly shaped my career the last 10 years.
  • Create a huge vision and stick to it amid all odds against you accomplishing it. Dave created an incredible, nationally-recognized concert series at a small Western Kansas college, attracting an unbelievable string of #1 chart acts. He did it with an often hostile university administration that completely missed the significance of his accomplishments in gaining attention for the university. It was audacious, but it was the right thing for the school, and Dave was going to make it happen no matter what.

There’s a host of other things in my life that Dave shaped, but within this short post, he accounted for me meeting my spouse, making the introduction that ultimately led to me getting a nearly free graduate education, turning me into an “event person,” and paving the way to successfully seize one of the biggest opportunities of my career.

Bill McDonald – Early Career

The first week Cyndi and I were in in Kansas City while unpacking boxes and listening to Mike Murphy’s radio show, I heard Bill McDonald talk about how his company, Kansas City Infobank, researched and identified market opportunities. While unsure about my career, I loved school, was good at it, and Infobank sounded like school. Thus began my “second MBA” – spending 2 ½ years at Infobank doing strategic projects for entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between.

Despite our financial challenges as a small business, Bill became an important strategic mentor. As mentioned before, the business instruction he gave me encompassed lessons too numerous to list. One in particular transformed my writing, helping create a personal business writing style.

Three months into the job, I was struggling with my first major report about the market for a laser printer add-on. Despite the report’s focus, I was writing pages on the personal computer market as an enabler for this technology.

Bill finally sat me down and said, “You need to understand you’re not in school anymore. You don’t need to write a long litany of facts to prove you’re qualified. You’re writing for business. The fact we have this assignment presumes we know what we’re doing. Get right to the point of our recommendations and the rationale behind them.

The discussion was a wake up call that business writing was different. Unlike school, where you’re required to demonstrate understanding to support getting a good grade, business writing needs to get right to the point. That’s even truer today. Bill’s direction has been a tremendously valuable career-long lesson that I’ve shared with many others to help improve their written communication.

Greg Reid – Career Job

No one’s success depends exclusively on individual efforts. We’re products of the ideas and interactions in which we’re immersed daily.

Greg Reid (far right), one of my strategic mentors, provided an important gift relative to this and the importance of talking about “we” instead of “me” in business.

Why use “we” when you communicate?

Being able to talk from a “we” perspective brings responsibilities, requiring you work with others in developing a recommendation, opening yourself to challenges and different perspectives. Considering different points of view creates stronger recommendations. While it may take more time or work to build broader agreement, the benefits are tremendous. It forces others with a stake in the recommendation to voice their support. Credibly talking from a first person plural perspective also removes a recommendation from standing on your point of view vs. someone else’s.

While there’s plenty of valid emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability in business, the “we” approach doesn’t fly in its face. Instead, it helps mitigate sometimes unwise behaviors attributable to seeking too much personal responsibility.

In making his point, Greg suggested listening to a co-worker’s language. When focusing intently, it was clear how often he used “I,” “me,” and portrayed sole responsibility for a recommendation he was advocating. Unfortunately, “his” audience didn’t support it, and having characterized it as his own, the decision came down to whose individual perspective was deemed more valid. Guess what? He lost. Not long after, his failure to build alliances was cited as a factor when pushed out of his position.

Pay attention to your communication. What’s your frequency of using “I” or “me” when you could have easily said “we”? Even without formally including others, simply dropping self-attribution for ideas creates some mystery regarding how big your support base is.

Summary

These are three of my incredible strategic mentors. Strategic mentors are out there – find one of your very own!


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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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