Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 122 – page 122
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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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During a presentation, I was highlighting the blog post on finding a strategic PITA (pain in the ass), describing how it was originally inspired by a senior person at our ad agency who never fails to dissect our ideas in painful, yet tremendously valuable ways.

A number of the attendees were in advertising and were surprised someone from an agency could get away with taking strong stands with a client. The experience for most of them has been that the agency has to conform to what the client wants to do, with little challenging involved. They wondered how my strategic PITA gets away with what he does.

My reply was he is able to do it because we want him to do it. It’s a waste to engage smart people with diverse perspectives and then expect them to hold their tongues and simply agree with what we want to say or do.

Whether someone has the experience and intellectual horsepower to be strategic is only part of the issue. The important part, particularly in client-vendor relationships, is whether you’ve given another person permission to take on the “pain in the ass” role you need. So, have you given your potential strategic PITA the go ahead yet to be truthful? If not, do it today!


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Producing social media content for the BMA conference in Chicago came together quickly and was an incredible learning experience. It was also incredibly rewarding to work with a diverse group of writers & video people to create content for the conference.

Amy Lillard was at my right, tweeting, blogging, and sometimes, being snarky, throughout the general sessions. In her own words, Amy “helps smart, talented people find the words to express their smarty-pants-ness. She specializes in marketing writing for agencies, social media campaigns, technical writing, and medical writing. Her new blog on ‘Making It Better,’ which highlights how a turn of phrase and well-chosen word can improve any marketing piece, is coming soon; in the meantime, visit Wayfarer Writing for updates, case studies and contact information.”

I asked Amy to share her take on learnings from the social media experience at BMA09. She’s done so, in addition to using one word that’s never appeared in Brainzooming before….enjoy!

What will social media get you?

In my case, a response to a LinkedIn question and three days of blogging and tweeting got me a seat at the sold-out Business Marketing Association 09 conference, lots of cool leads, a chance to wear some new suits, a guest post on Brainzooming, new friends over margaritas, and free breakfast at the Drake Hotel. Not necessarily in that order.

When Gary Slack, Chair of the Business Marketing Association, posted a LinkedIn call for bloggers, tweeters and videographers to attend the Unlearn conference, I jumped at the chance. Through luck (and minimal stalking) I joined Mike Brown and eight other folks on the social media team at the jam-packed conference. After three days of non-stop blogging and tweeting, my brain hurt, my fingers ached, and I needed (several) drinks, but I was exhilarated and educated.

What exactly did I learn from the experience?

  • Think you know how to multi-task? Yeah, I did too. I can listen and take notes with the best of them, and I pride myself as a writer at getting to the meat of what’s being said. But keeping it up over three days? Tweeting main points, responding to questions, retweeting, and taking notes for blog posts, all while paying attention to the nice gentleman/lady and their nifty slides on the podium? Good gravy, my head was mush. I’m lucky I didn’t resort to “Picture’s r pretty, man has beard” as a tweet summation.
  • When people know what you’re doing, you’re seen as an expert. We’re talking palm fronds and lots of bowing and scraping. (Wait – that may have been a dream.) Gary Slack was kind enough to call attention to our row of computer junkies at the beginning and in the midst of each day, and as a result attendees visited our section for social media questions and technology support. It led to some great discussions and tutorials.
  • When people don’t know what you’re doing, dirty looks will abound. For most of the conference we were in the main room, and our team was seated in a fixed location. During breakout sessions, however, we weren’t as easily identifiable. As I typed away (on an older Dell that sounds like a typewriter or drum kit), I’d often get the pursed lips, the creased eyebrows, the stern librarian shush, and some eye daggers of death. Next time perhaps I’ll wear a tablet: “I’m not a rude prick. I’m part of the social media team.”
  • DMs are like the new version of passing notes during class. Full disclosure – I stole this line from Mike. But my theft does not diminish the truth of the statement. During one egregiously bad presentation that had slides and examples from 1982 (all B2C, no less), direct messaging on Twitter] allowed some team members to vent and practice their comedy routines – without the chance of a teacher picking up the note mid transit and reading it to the class.
  • Social media and conferences: a match made in geeky heaven. No matter the hard work (or because of it), my experience at the conference was deeply enriched. I was able to increase my understanding of presentations, meet fellow attendees and tweeters in instantly-bonding fashion, generate new leads for my writing business, and expand my social media skills. All good things.

It was a tremendous experience and rockin’ good time. And it was a clear demonstration of the conference theme – Unlearn. Rethink what you know about conference attendance. Reconsider what you think about presenting information and gleaning insight. Unlearn, and embrace social media to do it. – Amy Lillard


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In early May, a TweetDeck search on “creative” tweets showed several referencing a Creative unConference in New York. I tweeted to attendees asking for a guest blogger to write about their experience presenting at an event where there’s not really a pre-planned schedule.

Part of it was professional curiosity since I’m chairing the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference in October, and we’ve discussed how to incorporate more attendee-driven content. The other part was a sincere interest in all of us learning more about these types of emerging events.

Stephanie Sharp stepped forward to share her perspective on the event. Stephanie owns Sharp Designs, a graphic design and branding consultancy in New Jersey. She has extensive experience with identity work, marketing collateral, and internal communications. Here’s Stephanie’s view on what it’s like when a social networking perspective intersects with a real life event:

I presented at the Creative unConference in New York City on May 7 – 9. This event was organized by The One Show as part of a week-long creative week. Since this was my first unConference, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so here are three take-aways to help others prepare for attending an unConference:

Prepare for a Richer Experience

The registration process included two questions:

  • What are you going to present?
  • What subjects are you interested in hearing about?

My answer to the first question was : “I AM PRESENTING on the rebranding that has occurred in the last year or so. Some has been seen as a misfire among the design community. Is there a shift in identity work? Have we lost Paul Rand’s way of working? Is it better or worse?”

The unConference guidelines warned speakers to not prepare too much. It’s not like a typical conference with a presentation followed by Q&A with the audience. An unConference is very interactive with a session’s attendees voicing their opinions. A comment from a speaker or a fellow attendee can start a longer discussion on one particular item. As such it’s a much richer experience.

Get Ready to Actively Shape the Agenda

An unConference’s schedule is set each morning, so the exact agenda isn’t known ahead of time. Every attendee is in a large room and allowed to introduce themselves. We grabbed paper and markers and wrote what we wanted to present on sheets and gathered in two lines to announce our session to the crowd.

Alternatively, we could write a subject heading in which we needed help, an issue we were working with, or a topic on which we wanted to hear others’ views. We walked over to a large schedule board and taped our session into a slot for a room and time. As people were adding their sessions, you could also move yours to another time. For any sessions that were similar, presenters could discuss and combine them.

Anticipate but Be Flexible

For my session, I prepared ahead of time by gathering recent logo redesigns causing discussion and controversy within the online design community. These included major brands such as Pepsi, Tropicana, the 2012 Olympics, and Xerox among others. Only a few sessions had access to projectors, so I printed several copies of the logos anticipating I’d be in one of the smaller, intimate areas. Needing visuals for my presentation, this approach provided the most flexibility no matter what the space.

Most everyone in the session held similar ideas on the logos, but we shared some interesting insights with each other. It was more of a discussion than a traditional “presentation,” giving attendees more time to interact and exchange opinions.

Summary

In all, I came away from the Creative unConference with some excellent ideas and knowledge I can implement in my own design and branding consultancy and will definitely keep an eye out for future unConferences. – Stephanie Sharp

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Here’s a goal that should be a relief, but for many people, is incredibly challenging:

When you’re in a meeting, make sure you’re NOT the smartest person in the room. Huh?

When you’re the smartest person in the room, all the responsibility’s on you. Who else is going to come up with the best ideas, the most insightful analysis, the most stirring comments?

Nobody. How could they be expected to do it when you’re the best? You the man (or woman)!

Seems pretty daunting.

Instead, make sure you surround yourself with people who are smart, creative, and dynamic. Ask a few questions and let them contribute their own perspectives. Build on their ideas, allowing them a strong sense of participation and ownership.

And guess what?

Not only will you get better answers and results, you can sit back and get smarter by learning from your team!

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We all name drop at times since it can be useful in getting attention and pushing someone to do what you want them to do. There’s just one problem. Name dropping makes you appear weak.

It says to the other party that you realize you don’t have the clout, logic, or savvy to convince them why they should work with you and address your request. It also says you realize this too – why else would you have to name drop? And based on a recent example where someone dropped my name without consulting me, it can also result in cutting off your support if the person whose name you dropped gets surprised by it.

Here’s a better alternative: Talk with the person whose name you might drop upfront and ask him or her for their suggestions on how to get cooperation. They might be able to:

  • Suggest an alternative way to manage the situation.
  • Personally intervene on behalf of the request.
  • Provide some other way to show their support.

This approach means a little more work, but it’s an investment in YOUR effectiveness in building relationships.

 

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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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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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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