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I was in Dallas delivering the closing keynote presentation on Creating Strategic Impact for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA) annual conference.

Based on previous experiences speaking at TMSA conferences, my plan was to avoid the stage and speak from the floor to be as close to the audience as possible.

Setting up for the Creating Strategic Impact presentation several hours early, I placed my laptop on a chair on the floor, rearranged cables, and made sure everything worked. I then unplugged the laptop to head to a breakout session.

Fake-Books

Returning later, someone had returned the cables to the stage. I pulled the cables back to the floor, hooked everything up, did a final test, and went next door to watch the awards presentation.

Returning twenty minutes later, someone had moved the entire setup back to the stage. As I finished moving the laptop back on a chair on the floor, one of the AV techs appeared. He asked why everything kept getting moved to the floor. Explaining the plan to deliver the talk, he asked if I would prefer the laptop be on a table on the floor. I said that would be great if it were not too much trouble. He said it was not; he was sure we could find a table in the service hallway.

As we were about to track down a table in the few moments before the closing keynote was to start, a female tech arrived and asked what we were doing. The male tech explained the plan and said we were going to go find a table instead of the chair I was using.

She turned around to the stage and casually asked, “Why don’t you use the table already on the stage for laptops?”

Well, that was certainly the OBVIOUS answer, but it NEVER occurred to either of us to simply move the table.

That’s because my focus was on the floor. The male AV tech’s focus was on not using the chair.

Neither of us stopped long enough to take in the whole situation and see there was a table right there – behind us. Yet someone with a completely fresh and different perspective of the situation could see the easy answer instantly.

Creating Strategic Impact if Experience Gets in the Way

What a great reminder of how an outsider can see obvious answers that insiders – those most steeped in an issue or opportunity – might never see, no matter how long they look.

Is’ an easy trap for any of us, even those of us who know better, to fall into if we miss viable options our experience prevents us from seeing.

That is why we do what we do, and one big way we add value and specialize in creating strategic impact for our clients.

Could we be of help to you as well? – 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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During a staff meeting call back in the corporate days, a team member whose responsibilities included answering questions for internal clients, recounted how she had received a question from a VP. She proudly reported answering the question in about 45 minutes by giving him a big list of information, and how pleased the VP was with the quick reply.

I questioned her strategic thinking in this situation and challenged her quick response as the wrong thing to do.

Yes, she provided a more targeted pile of information for the VP to locate the answer himself. But, by emphasizing speed, she missed the opportunity to provide even more value. What she gave him was a bunch of useless information to wade through to find the answer he needed, which was maybe 1% of what she gave him.

I asked her whether she might have provided greater value if she had told him it would take a day or two to answer the question. She’d then have the time to cull through the information, identify the EXACT answer the VP needed, and deliver the precise answer to him with a slight, but completely acceptable, delay.

My contention was a day LATER with a specific answer would be of tremendously more value (and the potential for greater accuracy), than a quick, but not precise answer. I couldn’t convince her with my strategic thinking, however, that anything could be more important than fast.

In a world where we celebrate FAST as a nearly universal value driver, it’s easy to miss the fact that sometimes, something else entirely would provide greater value for a client.

13 Reasons to Not Answer Too Fast

Slow-Circle

A comparable situation came up in conversation the other day. It prompted this list of times when it’s better to be SLOWER than FASTER in answering a question:

  1. You could be answering the wrong question right away
  2. The other person may be not be ready for the answer yet
  3. You may need to share more information (over a longer time) to let the other person see how you got the answer
  4. You could be setting unreasonable expectations for the future by answering too fast
  5. Answering too fast is inconsistent with your brand promise or the brand experience
  6. It will compromise your service to other customers
  7. It could remove the motivation for the customer to work with you to provide them the best service over time
  8. They may find the answer suspect if you produce it too quickly
  9. They may find less value in the answer if it appears like it was an off the shelf answer
  10. They may discount the expertise and insight that it takes to produce the answer when it is delivered too quickly
  11. While you may want to answer fast and move on, the client may really need more time and more of your expertise
  12. You miss out on the opportunity to test and adjust the answer based on the perspective of others
  13. You’re foregoing the opportunity to take more time and deliver disproportionately more value in the ultimate answer

Strategic Thinking on Answering Questions

What do you think? Would it make more sense and result in greater value if you slowed down when answering questions? – 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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I attended the visitation for a former co-worker last week whose illness I learned about only after his passing.

Don was responsible for equipment at the large transportation company where we worked. You can’t even begin to imagine the attention to detail this role demands for the entire equipment and maintenance organization in a multi-billion transportation company. Equipment Services is the group that has to ensure all equipment is available, has been prepped, and is ready to leave when it’s dispatched.

Yellow trailer

Living Your Life and Dying Exactly the Same

Talking with other co-workers at the visitation, it’s clear Don approached his cancer diagnosis exactly as he had his career.

Given perhaps eighteen months to live, Don (beyond the planning he’d already done) appeared focused on making things as easy and straight forward as possible for his wife and family. Sure, he planned the music and details of the visitation and the celebration of life the next day.

The stories I heard, however, revealed Don’s focus on getting EVERYTHING ready for after his departure.

He made an extended trip to visit relatives so his wife would start to adapt to life without him. He even bought his wife a new car two days before he died so she wouldn’t have to deal with transportation for years to come.

It struck me how Don approached death exactly as he had life.

He performed as much preventive maintenance as possible for his family. He knew he was working against a not completely certain, but nonetheless, very real departure time when everything would need to be ready. He apparently worked his pre-trip checklist to make sure every detail was in order.

Quite amazing.

Life Lesson Time

The experience reinforced two life lessons of a well-lived life, one of which we’ve probably never talked about here.

The first life lesson is the value of seamlessly extending what you know and love about what you do – the areas where you are most creative – across all aspects of life.

The other life lesson is the satisfaction that must come from being able to die exactly as you lived your life.

In Don’s case, it’s clear his whole career and the ethic he brought to his work (including creativity although he’d have probably denied being creative) paved the way for the readiness with which he approached his death.

Don was a good man, and I’m thankful for having known him. – 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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Idea-Magnets-TitleI think this is a first today. It’s an excerpt from another publication about Brainzooming creative thinking content.

Specifically, this recap of Monday’s “Idea Magnets – Creative Business Leadership” webcast I presented for the American Marketing Association is from “Inside the Executive Suite.” This newsletter is a weekly feature within the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing System. We worked with Keith Prather, the publisher of the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief, for many years in the corporate world. Additionally, when we have a client engagement requiring a larger group of facilitators, Keith is my first call. He was at ground zero when we developed the techniques that later became the Brainzooming strategy methodology.

Beyond this Idea Magnets recap, you should sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Executive Intelligence Briefing System. It’s designed to keep executives current with both what’s going on in the world and what it’s going to mean for their businesses. Additionally, since Keith won’t listen to my pricing strategy advice, you can subscribe to the entire array of multi times per week publications for less than $100 a year. It SHOULD be a four or five-figure subscription, so like I said, subscribe now before I convince Keith to raise the prices!

Without delay, here’s the Armada take on the seven creative thinking characteristics of Idea Magnets. – Mike Brown

 

 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity from “Inside the Executive Suite”

Know someone incredibly strong at generating new ideas and attracting team members who also excel at imagining creative ideas?

If so, you know an “idea magnet.”

Here is our recap and the take-aways from each (idea magnet) characteristic discussed.

Idea Magnets are . . .

1. Inspiring

Idea magnets generate interest and passion for the big objectives and dramatic visions they are trying to accomplish within their organizations. Unlike creative geniuses who may work in a more solitary basis, they want strong creative leaders surrounding them. The bigger team’s creativity helps identify the details behind making the vision a reality.

In sharing a big vision for an organization, whether it’s stated as a core purpose, vision, or mission statement isn’t critical. What’s important is the statement boldly challenges and stretches the organization.

Our take-away: Idea magnets ground creative ideas in strategies and objectives. They are NOT pursuing creativity for creativity’s sake.

2. Serving

Idea magnets are servant leaders. They participate in the challenging tasks they ask their teams to address. They also grow their team members into idea magnets themselves through strategic mentorship, sharing personal lessons with their teams, challenging the status quo, and cultivating team diversity.

Idea magnets surround themselves with smarter, more talented people and display patience while team members do their own explorations to imagine ways to turn the idea magnet’s vision into reality.

Our take-away: Idea magnets aren’t standoffish. They are in the middle of imagining ideas AND accomplishing results.

3. Attracting

Just as magnets attract metal, idea magnets attract great creative leaders and their big ideas. What makes idea magnets so attractive? They bring excitement to the workplace. They also display “abundance thinking. ” What others would consider as constraints, they see as opportunities to pursue more abundant resources and possibilities. They also provide what other leaders need to be abundantly creative, including physical space, time, resources, tools, and interactions with new (and new types of ) people.

Our take-away: The intangibles in business often support abundance thinking. Ideas, energy, passion, and learning aren’t limited, so identify ways to take greater advantage of them.

4. Connecting

Idea magnets connect people and situations to fuel creativity. They are great “and” thinkers. This means they embrace and easily work with both ends of what others might see as opposite perspectives. Idea magnets are strong at:

  • Generating and prioritizing ideas
  • Thinking creatively and implementing ideas
  • Exploiting tested ideas and unknown possibilities

Using creative formulas, idea magnets combine possibilities others would typically miss to create many more new ideas.

Our take-away: Idea magnets we’ve known in business are all strong at spotting relationships between apparently disconnected things. These connections help fuel ideas and anticipate future opportunities.

5. Encouraging

Idea magnets use multiple tools in multiple ways to motivate team members. For example, they might use time in contrasting ways. Sometimes idea magnets negotiate for MORE time so team members can finish necessary creative thinking and implementation. Other times, they may be maxing out the team’s capacity with more projects than they can handle. This LESSENS times for unnecessary creative thinking and encourages rapid progress.

Idea magnets routinely facilitate unique creative experiences, maximize fresh perspectives from new team members, and celebrate successes and the learnings from new ideas that fall short of intended impacts.

Our take-away: By adding one new or unusual variable, idea magnets facilitate once-in-a-lifetime creative experiences. This concept extends to personal relationships, so all you long-time married folks take note!

6. Deciding

Idea magnets imagine and attract many ideas. Processing those ideas so their teams aren’t overwhelmed is imperative. That’s why being strong at “deciding” is vital.

When a project or initiative launches, idea magnets identify upfront how decisions will be made as completion draws near. Sometimes the idea magnet makes the decision; other times, team members will be deciding how the team proceeds. Knowing upfront the freedom team members have in exploring ideas and the approach to setting priorities signals how much autonomy others have to shape strategies to move forward.

Our take-away: While they say in brainstorming sessions there are no bad ideas, there are. It’s vital to pick the right time to decide on good and bad ideas to sustain creative thinking.

7. Replenishing

Applying creative thinking to business issues is mentally stimulating. There’s still the need, however, for idea magnets to replenish creative energy along for the team. Idea magnets understand what encourages their creative passions and what will prepare team members to hit their creative peaks. Idea magnets have to know the people, places, situations, times, and techniques that most readily maximize creativity.

Our take-away: Managing a business team’s creativity is like a basketball coach managing the varied talents and personalities on the team. The idea magnet may have to try a variety of “player” combinations before the team scores creatively.

Is creative thinking and creative business leadership for everyone?

A question at the webcast’s conclusion asked whether creative business leadership is important if you don’t work in a creative field or company. The answer was it’s even more important then to bring fresh ideas to how an organization delivers customer value. – “Inside the Executive Suite”

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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I’m a believer in the idea that variety and trying new things can stimulate creative thinking and improve your performance, even if it is not right away. When you are doing, using, learning, teaching, trying, conquering, and even fumbling your way through something new, you will have do things differently than you have previously.

If you’re paying attention, that newness can be the source of creative thinking inspiration to achieve greater things than you’ve previously accomplished.

This phenomenon isn’t universally smart though.

speed-bump-edit

That hit home talking with someone semi-seriously hoping the “newness will lead to stronger creativity” phenomenon would prove itself out in a “what matters” area. By a “what matters” area, I mean a core belief, relationship, or commitment people generally hold incredibly important.

During our conversation, the other individual was talking about implementing changes to something I (and many people) consider a “what matters” area.

While the thought of making changes for the sake of improving performance makes sense on the surface, the changes under consideration would be so dramatic that the “what matters” area could never hope to remain intact. In this case, what was perceived as tinkering around the periphery would be tantamount to blowing up a core principle.

So be careful out there, kids.

Do you really know “what matters” for you?

Have you explored (and do you revisit) what goes on the short list of the most important things in your life? And do you guard those things as if they truly are the most precious things in the world for you?

If so, then be very, very reluctant to make changes to THOSE things in the interests of newness, variety, and a potentially illusory improvement in performance.

Because that may be exactly what you get.

And what you thought mattered for you, will never be the same again. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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I’m in the midst of developing new themes for the Idea Magnets webcast I’m hosting for the American Marketing Association next week (And btw, have you signed up for the webcast yet? If not, here’s where you can register for Idea Magnets).

One theme from an earlier blog post is unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experiences. What got me thinking about these creative thinking experiences was our involvement assembling more than one hundred diverse people at the Kansas City Library for a large-scale brainstorming session. It struck me that this particular group would likely never convene again for creative thinking. As a result, we had great responsibility for making this unique creative experience a success.

Creative Thinking and Unique Experiences

Looking back through my career, I recognized many more unique creative thinking experiences than I’d ever imagined. It doesn’t require one hundred new people brainstorming to create something that’s once-in-a-lifetime.

Orange-Crowd

Consider any of these eleven possibilities:

  1. Invite a well-known speaker or sports figure kick-off a creative thinking session
  2. Have a less well known speaker or expert new to the group to participate
  3. Hold the creative thinking session in place that you’ll likely never be able to go to again
  4. Never have a creative thinking meeting in the same place twice
  5. Create a completely new creative thinking project for the group to tackle
  6. Take on a project that seems too big for the group to pull-off (but it does anyway)
  7. Devise a never-to-be-duplicated series of creative thinking events
  8. Take your creative thinking interactions on the road visiting and including customers
  9. Use sponsorships your organization has to see if they might provide access to unique venues or people
  10. Secure new tools and resources to develop the group’s creative ideas
  11. Turn a wild idea into a reality for your creative team

Amazingly, one of my strategic mentors (and a true example of an idea magnet), whose birthday is today, brought all these unique creative thinking experiences to life during the time I worked with him. While I appreciated them all as they happened, it never struck me until just the past few days that it’s possible that none of them will be repeated again.

Idea Magnets Create Unique Experiences

So in order to better emulate how an idea magnet approaches creativity, I’ll start asking in our client interactions, “What can we do to make this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experience?” – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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Are you an idea magnet?

Idea magnets come up with great creative ideas. And just as importantly, through encouraging and motivating others, idea magnets attract other innovators and creative leaders with incredible ideas into their circles. Idea magnets make work and life more exciting, fulfilling, and successful!

Idea Magnets – 7 Keys for Creative Leadership Skills

Idea-MagnetsWould you like to boost your creative leadership skills to become a stronger idea magnet?

Then you need to join me for the LeadOn Webcast: “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders.”

This exclusive webcast, sponsored by the American Marketing Association on June 23, 2014, springs from a popular Brainzooming article highlighting lessons from idea magnets I’ve worked with during my career.

The webcast features a wide array of new Brainzooming creative leadership skills content not covered in our other innovation and creativity workshops. We’ll talk about:

  • ​Strengthening your creative leadership impact with a diverse team
  • Identifying unique connections to maximize new thinking and creative leadership impact
  • Translating creative thinking into effective change, progress, and results​

I would love to have you join us for this webcast! You’ll learn great techniques you can start using right away, plus “Idea Magnets” represents a first-time collaboration that is creating a new look and tone to our Brainzooming content.

Idea Magnets – A New Collaboration

This exciting new collaboration is with long-time friend Leslie Adams who is creating the visuals for the Idea Magnets webinar.

Leslie-Adams-CrownMany people know Leslie as a writer. Over the past few years though, she’s been showcasing her creativity online with her wonderful photography. She has become very active on Instagram and in the Instagram community in Kansas City.

While reviewing Leslie’s Instagram and Flickr portfolios for images to incorporate in the webcast, I was reminded of a unique aspect to Leslie’s work that integrates two areas of her creative talents: you have to look at her photos AND read the captions she creates for them. It’s easy enough to glide through virtual contact sheets and not notice what’s written about the photos. In Leslie’s case, you’ll want to do both because her words contribute so much to pointing out the subtle details and motivations for her photos!

In fact, many of the captions and quotes Leslie has included with her photos are inspiring ways to expand and add new texture to the webcast’s content.

We’re hoping our collaboration will turn into an eBook to accompany this new Idea Magnets content.

Register Today for “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders”

Step one is for you to join us for the Webcast on June 23, 2014. Register today for the webcast, which is open to both members and non-members of the American Marketing Association, on the AMA website.

We’ll see you on June 23 as we attract all kinds of new ideas to develop your creative leadership skills! – 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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