Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 123 – page 123
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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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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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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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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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