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Woody Bendle is back with one of his favorite strategies for getting past creative blocks, using a creative thinking exercise we explored early in the days of the Brainzooming blog under the name “Change Your Character.” I really enjoy Woody’s very fun take, turning the brainstorming questions from “Change Your Character” into a creative thinking exercise that puts the FUN into a creative funk!

Overcoming the Funky Creative Funk with Scooby Doo and Friends by Woody Bendle

We’ve all heard of “creative blocks” and most of us have probably experienced one at some point in our lives.  If you have experienced a creative block, you know they can be frustrating and sometimes even worse.  So, where do they come from, and what are some strategies for getting past creative blocks?

Creative-Funk-PosterA creative block is generally regarded as a common and temporary psychological condition.  I personally call it “creative funk.”  And if your livelihood depends upon creativity and producing creative ideas or solutions, a creative funk can feel devastating. Time in a creative funk feels like an e  t  e  r  n  i  t  y and is exceptionally nerve racking, especially if there is the looming pressure of a deadline.

For some, a creative funk can even begin to feed on itself and snowball, creating anxiety and sometimes even leading to a person seriously doubting one’s ability to be creative at all.

That’s a major creative funk!

Creative Funk and a Bad Brainstorming Session

Creative funks can be caused by a number of things ranging from fatigue, to stress, to criticism (or fear of criticism), to obsessing over self-imposed performance expectations (perfection).

And, if you’ve ever participated in a poorly run brainstorming session with your organization, you’ve probably experienced all of theses things, and possibly even more.  There aren’t too many things worse than a bad brainstorming session.

Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar. You’re cooped up for hours with a bunch of corporate stiffs in a small, sterile conference room with buzzing fluorescent lights; getting hopped up on M&Ms, Twizzlers and Coca-Cola, and you’re being told to come up with a bunch of good, game-changing ideas because you’re organization’s future (and your job) depends on it.  Yep, that’s a recipe for a real funky creative funk. YIKES!

On its own, the pressure of having to be imaginative or creative under a time crunch can be stressful.  But, add the pressure of having to be brilliantly creative in front of your peers (or perhaps, even your bosses) – it can almost be paralyzing.  I mean let’s admit it, we’re human right!  And even though you’re told that the two most important rules for brainstorming are: 1) there are no bad ideas, and 2) do not criticize the idea, you naturally might be worried about making a bad impression and being judged.

So, what do we do?  Scooby Doo!

Scooby Doo and Friends to the Brainstorming Rescue

Scooby-DooOne technique I’ve found particularly valuable in breaking through a funky creative funk is something I call, “What Would Scooby Do?”

I use Scooby Doo as my illustrative cartoon idea sleuth, but I recommend inserting as many different characters (cartoon, TV, or movie) as you like. The idea here is to put yourself into your character’s mindset and approach solving your problem as they might.  This exercise can be particularly fun in a group!  When everyone is assigned a very different character, and is asked to think about as many different ideas that character might bring to the table, some pretty interesting things can happen.  But the most important thing that happens is that the creative funk gets broken and the creative ideas get flowing!

This creative thinking exercise can help you, and your team break through your funky creative funk for the following reasons:

  1. You focus on the character and not yourself – which can instantaneously de-funk your creative funk
  2. A character has permission to provide “whacky”, off the wall ideas – it’s their idea, not yours
  3. People often see characters quite differently and can offer additional very interesting opinions about how any given character might approach solving the problem, last and perhaps most importantly
  4. It’s a ton of fun and you feel like a kid again! And who doesn’t want to have a little more fun every now and then?

Scooby Doo in Brainstorming Action

So, let’s say you’re team has been charged with coming up with a revolutionary new way to get remove dust from delicate, high-tech surfaces.  There are a number of products out there already that do this pretty well, but how many of those solutions were created by, Rambo, or Wile E Coyote, or MacGyver, or Harry Potter, or Tigger, or Po (Kung-Fu-Panda), or Ferris Bueller, or Kenny (from South Park), or Granny (from the Beverly Hillbillies)?  You’re getting the idea by now I bet.

Each one of these characters would likely approach the problem quite differently and have VERY VERY different ideas about how to solve it.

  • Rambo might just decide to blow the surface up – screw the dust and the stupid surface it’s on!
  • MacGyver might use duct tape – because what can’t he do with duct tape?
  • Tigger might hop up and down to vibrate the dust off.

We could go on like this for hours!  And that’s actually the point in the first place. You’re looking to break down your creative funk, and once you get the ball rolling with this technique, it’s actually hard to stop those creative juices from flowing!

I’ll admit that “What Would Scooby Do” might not be the solution for every creative funk, but what have you got to lose?

Have your own techniques for breaking down creative blocks?  I’d love to hear about them! – Woody Bendle

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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.

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Thinking back through teams I’ve led in my career, there are clearly project team members you’re always happy to have on a project team. There are also team members you dread having involved on your project.

Want to be one of those always in demand project team members?

Fingers-Team

Photo by:; jarts | Source: photocase.com

Here’s a seven-step recipe to follow when it comes to project team meetings:

  • Rather than bringing challenging questions you’re anticipating asking to a meeting, send them to the group leader ahead of time. This allows the team leader time to think about the questions – and potentially answer the questions at the meeting before you even have to ask.
  • Take time to prepare the pre-work you’ve been asked to do. While you’re at it, anticipate other pre-work the team leader should have asked for but didn’t and work on that too.
  • Show up early for the meeting to lend support (and to get a sense of the meeting venue, too).
  • Come to the initial meeting – whether in-person or online – with whatever form of a smile and a nodding head is appropriate for the meeting format.
  • Encourage others on the team by being a cheerleader for the group.
  • Let small mistakes or issues during the meeting that concern you but aren’t tripping anyone else up slide until you can discuss them privately with the team leader after the meeting.
  • Stay late to provide affirmation to the leader and see what else you can do to help make the effort successful.

Trust me . . . if you do these things, you’ll be in more demand than you can imagine! – Mike Brown

 

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Does your organization have good ideas, but lacks the project management techniques to bring them to reality? The Brainzooming Group and our collaborative, implementation-oriented project management techniques will quickly move you toward success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call  816-509-5320  for a free consultation on how to get started.

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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12

Do expectations of making something to your own standards of perfection ever create a creative block that stops you from getting started?

Getting-Started-BlockThat was the case a dear friend described as she struggled getting started creating a very special book of reflections about her husband. She could see the book perfectly in her mind. But her apprehensions about the potential disconnect between the perfect book of reflections she saw in her mind and her expectations of how the final product would fall short created a huge creative block to getting started.

The thing is the book of reflections will be a truly incredible gift – no matter what it ultimately looks like.

Creative Block vs. Getting Started Block

When you have expectations of perfectionism on a high stakes creative effort, it’s possible for an apparently huge creative block to form. My contention though is it is less about a creative block than a getting started block.

Thinking about the situation that evening, I created this list of eight questions that might be helpful for her or you when facing a similar situation and expectations of perfection prevent getting started.

Honestly answer these eight questions about your creative situation:

  1. How many people (other than you) will notice if it’s not perfect?  ___
  2. How many people (other than you) will care if it’s not perfect?  ___
  3. How many people will change their opinion of you if it’s not perfect?  ___
  4. How many truly great future opportunities will you lose if it’s not perfect?  ___
  5. How many significant problems will you create for yourself or others if it’s not perfect?  ___
  6. Have people who might help you to do the best you can refused to help you?  Yes | No
  7. Is anything stopping your from practicing ahead of time to help you do better?  Yes | No
  8. Will something prevent you from starting over or adjusting if it’s not as good as you’d like?  Yes | No

Add the numerical answers to the first five questions with the number of “Yes” answers to the last three questions.

Getting Around Your Getting Started Block

In some cases, the number may be large – if you’re Beyoncé and supposed to sing the National Anthem live at the presidential inauguration. In most cases, however, the total number is probably very small. In my friend’s case, I’d contend the number was “zero” for all eight questions combined.

If you find the number seems too large, your answers can show where to adjust your creative situation to minimize the getting started block.

With my friend, I was helping her create cartoons for the book (question 6), she developed her own handwriting font to allow her to format and adjust the book’s written sections on the computer (question 7), and she found a book style that allowed pages to be removed and added (question 8).

In a follow-up phone call, she was still hesitating. I asked her how many pages were in the book compared to how many pages she needed (a version of question 5). Her answers revealed she had 50% more pages than she needed for her completed book. Think about that – even with all the concerns, she could still have a 50% “failure” rate and be okay!

It’s far easier to see how someone else should just be getting started than it is when we’re the one facing an apparent creative block. Ideally, these questions (which I readily admit AREN’T perfect) can help you in getting started next time you’re the only one stopping you from getting started with your first creative step.  – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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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1

Some people seem to suffer from serial career challenges. Not just nuisance issues or problems related to every business working with fewer people and more to do. No, these career challenges come in the form of never being able to get things done effectively, and being surrounded by team members who don’t apparently seem to cooperate, contribute, or carry their own weight. And typically the same issues follow these individuals from job to job.

If this scenario sounds like someone you know (or even sound like you), it could very well be the person in question simply can’t get out of their own way and allow other talented people to help them achieve success.

sos-Gräfin-photocaseSigns There Are Career Challenges with Letting Talented People Help You

There may be several signs someone has a problem letting talent people among their team provide meaningful assistance. These include:

  • Higher than typical churn among team members and / or staff
  • A personal sense of having too much work to do
  • An ongoing challenge in meeting important objectives
  • Self-frustration with having to handle too many details to be able to get projects completed
  • An inability to effectively involve others in key projects to move them ahead

If a few of these signs are familiar, it’s smart to try (or to impose) corrective actions to fix the ongoing career challenges.

8 Ways to Let Talented People Help You

Here are eight behaviors to address, all of which can let others help a boss or team leader be more effective. If you’re the person looking to improve on your career challenges, focus on:

  1. Pinpointing areas where you have weaknesses and identifying who on your team is stronger and can compensate for your personal weaknesses
  2. Making sure to simply state project objectives without telling / showing others HOW the effort should be accomplished
  3. Making sure you are hitting your own deadlines and not causing undue delay to others by delaying project decisions or natural delegation points
  4. Providing others background on how you make decisions and judge performance to allow them to act without having to constantly check with you or have their work closely supervised
  5. Allowing people who have demonstrated appropriate responsibility and ownership to take on more leadership
  6. Being open to listening to ideas from others and then responding quickly and clearly when your team seeks input
  7. Sharing your input when it’s needed and there is still time to act, but then forever holding your peace
  8. Sticking with the decisions you make so others have the latitude to act on them

These behaviors can lead to those you work with being able to use their own talents and meaningfully contribute instead of being in the frustrating position of order taking and / or being continually second guessed. While improving in these areas requires determination, as one improves, there are tremendous benefits from suddenly finding there ARE people around who are freed up to perform better for all involved. – 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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Creative-Thinking-GroupSomeone asked me after a client strategy session how we’d approach working with a group comprised entirely of creative people. The reason for his question was his professional services firm’s principals would all be considered as creatives in the typical sense of the term.

Getting the Best Strategic Creative Thinking from a Creative Group

I told him there were a variety of ways we’d adjust our approach, starting with the group’s composition and extending through how we’d design and conduct the strategic creative thinking session. Seven adjustments we’d make include:

  1. Pushing to increase the group’s diversity by including people who don’t primarily fit in the “creative” category. We’d try to include others within the firm from different functional disciplines, advisers to the firm who represent varied perspectives, and customers or other stakeholders who bring different experiences and backgrounds.
  2. Ensuring we’re introducing data-driven insights to both shape the topics we address and evaluate the output.
  3. Introducing only as much structure as the group needs to make the expected strategic thinking and planning progress.
  4. Using small group exercises more aggressively with frequent rotations among the groups.
  5. Allowing for multiple (and even unplanned) types of expression in sharing ideas (i.e., we’ve had groups create art, develop proposed copy, or write and perform songs).
  6. Carefully monitoring and adjusting the creative thinking session structure based on who plays nicely with others and which parties and pairings produce the strongest work.
  7. Encouraging small groups to push further with developing their ideas so they can pitch concepts as a way to communicate their thinking and prioritize the group’s efforts.

Diversity Counts for More than Exclusive Creativity

While it might seem ideal to work with a completely creative group, it typically isn’t. As always, we stand behind the idea that multiple thinking orientations working together produce the best strategic creative thinking. Yes, even better than a group composed entirely of creative types.

The similarity in thinking styles and perspectives among people who view themselves as creative doesn’t provide enough diversity for the group to work as well as one with people who are less experienced or even more reluctant to participate in creative thinking exercises.

What works for you with working with creative groups?

If you’re working in a purely creative environment, how do you get the best strategic creative thinking from your team? – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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B2B marketing expert Randall Rozin (who you can find on Twitter under his @RandallRozin account) is back with a history lesson on branding in the Wild West and how that models translate to the important area of employee branding  in today’s companies.

Employee Branding Lessons – Riding for the Brand by Randall Rozin

Randall-RozinIn the late 1800s, brands were like a heraldic crest, a cattleman’s coat of arms, if you will. Brands identified not only an owner or a ranch; they also provided a set of traditions and a unique sense of identity for the cowboys who represented the brand’s ranch. It was not uncommon for a cowboy of the times to ride for the brand more than for the individual ranch owner.

As the preface to his short story of the same name, Louis L’Amour described the term ‘riding for the brand’ as an expression of loyalty to an employer.  It was considered a compliment of the highest order. Today, a great deal of effort is invested by companies creating internal branding efforts designed to inspire employee identity, loyalty, and a sense of ‘riding for the brand’.

Background on the Cowboy Branding Process

Branding-CattleOn the great plains of the American West, Ketch Hands roped each calf and pulled it near the branding fire. Flankers then grabbed the calf by the ear and loose skin of the flank, lifted it up and laid it on its side. Others called out the brand of the calf’s mother and the appropriate branding iron was brought to the fire.  While one man held the calf, an Iron Man branded the calf at the hips, ribs, or shoulder according to the practice of the owner.

From Cowboys to Corporations

Modern corporate brand managers employ an analogous branding process. Today’s “Ketch Hands” are typical pre-purchase activities such as advertising, sales promotions, point of-purchase displays, permission-based marketing, social media, and trade show sellers. Each element is designed to bring potential buyers “closer to the branding fire.”

Ropers of today often take the form of marketing automation and other CRM processes. As prospects come into the company via electronic means they are tagged via a cookie or other ad-serving technique to identify their origin. Some companies have consistently done their branding job so well that their customers come willingly to the “branding fire.” Examples where customers actually brand themselves include: Harley Davidson Motorcycles (whose customers often tattoo the company’s logo on their bodies) or many apparel brand fans such as those of Nike –whose millions of customers around the world brand themselves with the Nike Swoosh.

Employee Branding – Supporting Your Brand “Iron Men and Women”

Where the ultimate aim is for customers to perceive a brand as unique, relevant, credible, and differentiated enough to seek it out, most brand managers must adopt the cowboy’s “iron man” process and apply the brand one interaction at a time. However, rather than having one “iron man,” modern brand managers must look for ways to make each brand representative an “iron man” in their own right. Today’s brand “iron men and women” must look for ways to imprint their brand on their customers through employee branding behaviors, attitudes, and consistent delivery of brand promises made at all points of contact.

Likewise for employee branding efforts, today’s management teams and leadership must continuously find credible ways to apply their own branding iron to their employees.  They do this by creating consistent linkage between company values, goals, and behaviors.  They link reward and recognition systems to the delivery of company brand behaviors and create compelling workplaces that consistently live the brand they advocate.  It’s no simple task to authentically and consistently connect brand aspirations to brand behaviors, but walking the walk in visible ways is a best place to start.

While it is entertaining to draw similarities between the branding process of cowboys and the modern branding of corporations it is, admittedly, an over simplification. Today’s brand managers do not have the luxury of taking one key opportunity to permanently brand their customers for life. In addition, unlike the rancher, the brand is not truly owned by the company, but by the customer.

Create More Riders for the Brand

An important goal of the modern brand manager is to uncover each “moment of truth” in the relationship between his/her brand and the customer.  It is equally important to define for employees the role they play in delivering against a given “moment of truth.” It is within each moment of truth that brands are truly built or damaged. The key for effective overall brand management is to ensure that each “iron man” understands his or her role in the branding process.

Like the cowboys of the Wild West, today’s brand manager looks for ways to differentiate his/her product or service from similar offerings. The modern brand is a sign of ownership, of heritage, of quality level, and of employee identification and affiliation. The ultimate goal of both the cowboys of the past, and brand managers of today, is to create more ‘riders for the brand’ to help differentiate the brand and to create more loyal advocates for it. – Randall Rozin

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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.

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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1

Sunrise-CreativityToday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent involves a time to increase time devoted to prayer and reflection while avoiding the typical distractions of daily life. In what has become an annual Ash Wednesday tradition, I re-share the creativity prayer below written for a creative inspiration presentation several years ago.

Anytime you are mired in the creative doldrums, find time to seek out perhaps a new source of creative inspiration and a more peaceful creativity than you’ve been experiencing.

My hope is that this prayer can be a source of creative inspiration to  will help you discover a peaceful creativity for yourself and all those you encounter!

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

 

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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