Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 37 – page 37
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(This is another in a week-long series on forming oneself as a Catholic business person.)

I used to think creative inspiration came from inside.

As a result, the pressure for inspiration and creative thinking was always dependent on me. What did I need to do to trigger creative thinking? What ideas did I need to imagine? What situations did I need to seek out to trigger desperately-needed inspiration?

At some point, God provided the grace to realize my creative inspiration was from outside, not inside. While creative thinking had something to do with me, it wasn’t dependent on me at all.

God provides all the needed creative inspiration.

Understanding that changed things for me.

Creative-Inspiration-Sky-Cl

I realized much of my creative inspiration came at church.

Inspiration arrives when I surrender MY answers and ideas…and wait…prayerfully and patiently. It involves being hopeful and ever watchful to see what leads to inspiration. It’s being blessed to depend on the graces God generously offers to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.

Importantly, this isn’t something commercial in nature. If it were commercial, it wouldn’t be from God. And what I mean by “creative inspiration” in this regard is ideas, words, being in the right place, or being in the wrong place but still having good things happen. It’s about help when you need it most even if it’s not on my timetable. It’s about all the things I don’t want to do or would simply never do that now work out in ways I could have never imagined.

Our priest asked during a recent homily at daily mass if we see the same type of miracles today that are documented in the Gospels. My answer is that with God’s grace and an openness to surrender, these types of miracles and more do happen today.

Every day.

We just don’t chalk them up to God anymore.

And that reflects much worse on us than it ever does on God. – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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4

Our cat, Clementine, passed away this weekend, just shy of her seventeenth birthday.

While I haven’t shared much about her on the Brainzooming blog, I discovered over the weekend how many people she had touched as the only bona fide social media celebrity at The Brainzooming Group.

Clementine was a beautiful and unique looking cat. She resembled the original Gremlin in the movie of the same name. After our last “my cat” passed away in 2010, Clementine attached to me. She was the first one I’d typically see in the morning. She hung out with me when I got ready each day. She’d be in the home office as soon as I was, jumping up on the desk to see what was going on, and typically to take a nap. During my last milestone birthday, Clementine was the only one in the house who spent time with me. She frequently provided the only greeting I’d receive when coming home, especially when it was a late flight returning from a business trip.

Clementine Facebook Photo Montage

The Director of Enthusiasm

One day, I think it was on Twitter, I posted something about Clementine being in the middle of things on my desk. Someone (I SO wish I could remember the person), said it was obvious Clementine was our “Director of Enthusiasm.” Trust me, I am not the kind to think of giving a cat a title. But I started referring to Clementine as the Director of Enthusiasm (or “DOE”) on Facebook when posting funny pictures of her; she became a mini-celebrity. Clementine was not in Grumpy Cat’s league (although people thought she had a grumpy look despite being anything but grumpy). Her social media presence, however, added a lighter and more personable stream of content to our brand. People seemed to be interested in her; when I went to events, I can’t tell you how many questions I’d receive asking how the Director of Enthusiasm was doing.

99-PROBS-Clem

Heck, Karen Harrison of FullyFeline.com even requested that Clementine write a blog post about her life as an executive cat. Karen also ran a tribute to Clementine on the very popular Fully Feline Facebook page on Sunday.

Taking a Blog Break

Because of all the time she spent with me the last few years, her passing has hit me hard.

The weekend is usually my main blogging time. Quite honestly, I was NOT in a mood for writing this weekend. I wasn’t in a mood for doing much of anything other than reading the incredible comments on Facebook about how much Clementine meant to people. Those comments created both incredible joy and many tears. I guess it’s all part of working through the emotions.

Anyway, that break from writing this weekend means a blog hiatus this week. I’ll be at a conference through Friday, concentrating on learning, so not trying to get the blog written will provide focus. It will also offer an opportunity to reflect and get to a happier place since for the foreseeable future, I’ll have to generate my own enthusiasm.

Because while The Brainzooming Group might have a DOCAP (Director of Creativity and Purring) in the future, there will never be another Director of Enthusiasm. 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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A Wall Street Journal article on how the Buffalo Bills are changing their typical practice routine caught my eye. The headline included the phrase “No Wasted Time.”

Not wasting time is near and dear to my heart. Not wasting time is a major part of why a Brainzooming strategy workshop is so focused on effective time management. We’re continually trying to be as productive as possible, generating business strategies in as little time as possible.

100408-Orange-Clock

6 Ways an NFL Practice Is Most Productive

The motivation for the Buffalo Bills changing the practice routine is a response to new NFL restrictions (only one practice allowed per day and only fourteen practices with pads during the season) and the short attention spans and need for ongoing engagement among today’s younger players.

The moves the Buffalo Bills are making and the associated reasons and benefits match closely to how The Brainzooming Group designs a strategy workshop. The Bills are:

  1. Splitting the team into two groups – Players are active all the time, with no waiting around for the next thing to happen.
  2. Making deliberate decisions about group composition and activities – Players are getting used to working with a specific group and are always engaged to stay focused.
  3. Increasing the range of plays in their repertoire – Getting more done at the same time allows them to implement and see the impact of new plays without extra time.
  4. Letting players’ mistakes and errors go uncorrected during practice – Not correcting mistakes builds an environment with less stress and creates opportunities for players to go all-out and risk making a mistake.
  5. Analyzing and addressing mistakes AFTER practice – With the various ways to capture what happens on the field and review it later, corrections and adjustments are more efficiently handled afterward.
  6. Creating more free time for players – The net of all the changes means the team is getting more done in less time, creating free time for studying playbooks or getting rest.

All those moves make sense and easily translate into a strategy workshop design.

6 Ways a Strategy Workshop Is Most Productive

Here’s how we incorporate these principles for Brainzooming. We:

  1. Use small groups to allow participants to be more active
  2. Manage group composition to structure groups that will work together productively
  3. Look at opportunities and challenges from multiple perspectives in shorter bursts of time to generate more diverse thinking
  4. Have clear times for coming up with new ideas, protecting divergent thinking from extensive explanations or analysis
  5. Move most of the evaluation and organization of ideas until later when it doesn’t waste time for the overall group
  6. Create an experience that uses as little group time as possible to maximize productivity for the organization

If you want to improve the productivity of a strategy workshop within your organization, we recommend using these six steps as a great way to start.

Or, you can call The Brainzooming Group. We’ll design the strategy workshop and make the whole thing happen for you so you can engage from beginning to end.  – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas!

For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

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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3

We’ve written a tremendous amount about change and change management strategy since the Brainzooming blog’s inception.

Just HOW MUCH have we written on change management strategy?

Well, to identify the articles listed here, a search for “change” on the blog yielded eighty-six PAGES of articles. I reviewed all eighty-six pages to develop our change management strategy primer.

35 Articles on Change Management Strategy in a Change Agent Role

If you’re trying to determine, implement, or refine a change management strategy, especially in an organization resistant to change, these articles will take you through diagnostics, strategy planning, and implementation approaches to carry out your change agent role.

New-Sheriff

Determining the Issues and Options for a Change Management Strategy

Confronting Individuals’ Change Challenges

Planning a Strategy in the Change Agent Role

Dealing with Change Management Strategy Barriers

Creating Change with Less Leadership and Information than You’d Like

 

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Suppose you’re going into a meeting and taking over leadership of a team or initiative where those you will be leading have been involved and active previously.

Or maybe you have been thrust into a job assignment that’s new territory for you.

Or perhaps you are filling in for someone else with extensive expertise, and you, unfortunately, don’t have the same background on the topic or the time you would like to have to prepare.

The question in each of these cases is how you use your leadership skills so you can “fake it until you make it?”

Fake-It-Here

8 Ways to Fake It Until You Make It

If you need to go into the meeting or new situation and move things forward with less knowledge and experience than you prefer, here are ways you can fake it until you make it. You can employ your leadership skills to:

  1. Do some homework upfront and focus on information sources you don’t suspect others involved with the initiative have been looking to for information.
  2. Solicit each participant’s ideas in advance. Aggregate and organize the ideas before the meeting to identify new, overarching insights unknown to the group.
  3. Develop a basic agenda for the meeting with the participants doing most of the talking, as you listen and summarize ideas.
  4. Jot down your initial ideas on the direction you think the meeting / initiative should go and introduce them at an opportune time.
  5. Reuse steps you have used previously in another successful initiative you led that faced comparable opportunities and issues.
  6. Ask the participants to help in catching you up on the most important issues they have been discussing previously.
  7. Have participants share what they would want to know if they were in your shoes.
  8. Return any questions you receive with questions in return, asking for clarification or soliciting the group’s ideas on a particular topic.

Frequently, when I write a story along the lines of how to fake it until you make it some folks will say you should never fake it.

That’s certainly one point of view, but not one I share when it comes to using your leadership skills in the best way possible.

If you are a leader, you need to lead – even when you are thrown into an unfamiliar situation. When faced with that type of challenge, it’s smart and professional to be able to take what you’ve been handed and make the best of it to move things forward.

So, have you ever faked your way to a successful start? What worked for you?  – 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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Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If you took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – 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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There was a Brainzooming posse in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday as Marianne Carr and I attended ConfabuLarryum, the Lawrence festival of creativity. In just its second year, Ben Smith’s brainchild increased its attendance 4x to more than 5,000 adults and kids.

What a fantastic event celebrating creative thinking skills of all kinds!

ConfabuLarryum-Wideshot

The only disappointment was I didn’t get to spend any time with the incredible array of activities and demonstrations. With a noon time slot to speak, I stayed in the auditorium to see the presentations before mine, getting a read on the audience, the room, and what content would work most effectively.

I presented a mini-workshop on Busting Creativity Barriers. One of the audience questions from a fourth grade teacher was on  how to help kids stop editing their creativity and new ideas for fear of being wrong.

My response was that’s clearly a challenge in a school environment where we are grading kids on their academic performance and monitoring all their actions and behaviors for conformity to expectations. Talk about a recipe for teaching children to edit their creativity and curb their creative thinking skills! It takes a full-blown creative rebel to survive creatively in that environment. And that survival will likely be VERY rocky because a student putting up enough of a fight to hang on to their own creative thinking skills and instincts will be going dangerously against the grain.

How about establishing a grade-free zone to cultivate creative thinking skills?

My spontaneous idea and response to her question was to create a grade-free zone in the classroom. This would be a spot where children could go to experiment, imagine ideas, and explore their creative thinking skills without ANY grading or correction.

Thinking about it, the grade-free zone might be a physical location in the classroom, a condition (i.e., a certain day or days), a situation (i.e., a child could call for grade-free zone time to create), or maybe all three of these.

Grade-Free-Zone

What else might need to be in place for a successful grade-free zone?

Those are some initial thoughts from someone who ISN’T a childhood educator; they are based, however, on how we try to create what are essentially grade-free zones inside creative thinking workshops. It would be interesting to see how my friends at the Boulder Journey School would address the question!

Two other thoughts emerged later:

  • Perhaps rather than being grade-free, the zone should be an all-A zone. That would be akin to conductor Benjamin Zander’s statement that he only teaches A students.
  • Even though ConfabuLarryum WAS a grade free zone filled with all kinds of creative outlets, I heavily edited my workshop presentation before starting, inserting stories that weren’t part of the presentation when I walked in the building and taking out a number of pieces.

I guess being grade-free is harder than it initially sounds.

What do you think of the idea, and how would you approach helping students to stop editing their own creativity? – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBusting Creativity Barriers with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

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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