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Keys-NashvilleIf you are seeking meeting space outside a traditional office, you know the traditional options are Starbucks, Panera, or some local coffee shop. Those are okay places, but they’re typically crawling with people and you smell like coffee when you leave.

So what are other viable no-cost meeting space options for work at home professionals?

Yesterday, Barrett and I wound up meeting at a secondary food court in a mall for a change in venue. It was open, quiet, and very pleasant – if you ignored the major butt crack moment on the women cleaning the window at Loft.

10 Meeting Spaces for Work at Home Professionals Other than Starbucks

Our great meeting experience at the mall prompted this top ten list of informal meeting spaces. All are low or no-cost, low-traffic, easily accessible, and typically smell free!

1. Hotel Lobbies

Lobbies, especially for convention-oriented hotels, are great for finding open meeting areas. They work well for extended meetings since you do not look conspicuous as freeloaders amid the routine convention traffic.

2. Libraries

Library card holders can generally get access to community and study rooms with whiteboards and doors you can close for some privacy.

3. Self-Serve Restaurants at Off Hours

Check self-serve restaurants with good Wi-Fi as prime locations for off hours meetings. With a self-serve place, you can typically linger longer since wait staff aren’t trying to move you along. Increasingly, grocery stores are an option in this category.

4. Museums

Lobbies, restaurants, and galleries inside museums can all be strong creative meeting space options. An annual membership may get you free parking, food and beverage discounts, and access to a dedicated meeting room.

5. Multi-tenant office building lobbies

Major office buildings often have plenty of accessible room in the lobby that works for informal meet and greets. If this is a route you want to go, scout the location ahead of time to see how it will work before booking a meeting.

6. Convention centers

A metro convention center generally features a variety of readily available small lobbies and gathering areas if the venue is open and not completely filled with conventioneers.

7. Universities

If you can get past the pesky parking issues, universities offer multiple meeting spots, including lobbies, restaurants, conference facilities, and dedicated meeting rooms.

8. Outdoor spaces

This option obviously depends on where you are, but who didn’t want to go have class outside in school? It’s still a decent option for grown up business meetings.

9. Friends with Offices

Not exactly “friends with benefits,” but friends with offices might let you use them for an occasional meeting, perhaps with a trade-out for something you can do for them in return.

10. Presentation Rooms after Presentations

Presentation meeting rooms are often booked longer than the presentation to allow for clean-up time. If you’re at an event, check with the meeting organizer to see if you can have an informal meeting immediately after a session is over.

Where else do work at home professionals find alternative meeting spaces?

I’d love to add your ideas to the list. Where do you find great meeting spaces that make you smell like a Starbucks three hours later? – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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Hays-KSI was back home in Western Kansas for the third time in a month this past week.

Time to share a few thoughts, Larry King style, from these road trips:

Strategic Thinking on Relationships

I tend to think I hug people fairly readily, but based on recent experience, that’s not the case. Nevertheless, a hug is wonderful to solidify what might be a loose bond with someone . . . By the time there’s three people in a car, you have a resident expert on most topics within arm’s reach . . . If we think there are meaningless events and moments in our lives, it’s only because we haven’t figured out (or been open to learning) how to use them for a bigger purpose yet.

When you’re dealing with a really boisterous person, don’t forget to look for the soft-spoken individual underneath all the bluster. Chances are that individual is in there, but just afraid to be seen . . . In thirty years, and probably less, it’s apparently possible for people to completely lose sight of why they are where they are, how they got there, and what holds them together . . . If you don’t make a practice of it, start making a practice of getting these words out of your mouth: “Could you help me . . . ?” If you ask enough people, someone will want to help you . . . Checking a profile of someone rumored to be cheating with someone else, the ad on the alleged cheater’s online profile page was for detailed info on cheating spouses. Wow! Google even includes rumors in the advertising algorithm!

Experiences that Shape Us

You become what you’ve experienced. There may be ways to fight it, but what you’ve experienced always tugs at you, even in completely unforeseen ways . . . The human capacity for being shitty to others we used to love is incredible and pathetic all rolled into one . . . We all have the power to ignore the fashion statements of others . . . I never knew someone from our student activities group in college took Pat Benatar shopping at a mall the day she performed at our school. I only got to go shopping for a stool for Chet Atkins to sit on when he performed . . . Is there a song like “One of these things is not like the others,” to encourage kids to see similarities instead of differences? If not, somebody needs to write it.

Having a phone that’s decided to quit telling me I have voice mail messages is great for peace and quiet, but crappy for running a business . . . A reader left me an incredibly gracious message saying how thankful she was for the help provided by reading the blog. I want to re-listen to her message every morning for the rest of my life . . . Facebook is the ties that bind . . .What a blessing to learn that things you hoped made an impact on people really did . . . Go ahead and count your blessings instead of sheep . . .There are times when it would be great to be adept at writing fiction instead of focusing on writing blog posts. Sometimes, there’s just nothing like a short story to capture a moment. – 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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Leave-Mentor-MessageStrategic mentors are incredibly valuable in growing your career and developing your personal prospects in multiple areas of life. If you are fortunate, you will have multiple strategic mentors at various points in your career who are best suited to your current career stage.

That shouldn’t mean, however, that you ever lose touch with someone who has been a high-impact strategic mentor for you.

Even if someone doesn’t play the primary strategic mentor role in your career now, it’s incredibly valuable to remain in close touch over time. Though your relationship may be different, be sure to:

  • Stay connected with a previous strategic mentor because chances are you haven’t tapped all your mentor’s wisdom.
  • Relive the old days because your mentor may remember details, challenges, and successes you’ve forgotten but would do best to remember.
  • Share how you are applying things you learned from your mentor because that’s returning value in exchange for the value you received.
  • Pick up the tab for a meal you share because it’s a small token of appreciation.
  • Go out of your way to respond quickly and perform a favor requested by your mentor because they did the same for you at one point in time.

If you’ve fallen out of a touch with a strategic mentor from earlier in your career, reach out now to get back in touch soon.

A Correction

In a recent post on favorite Brainzooming posts for 2013, I listed guest bloggers who contributed their expertise to the Brainzooming blog. I inadvertently left John Q. Harrington off the list. John is a longtime friend who contributed a number of well-received guest posts last year that I’d invite you to check out!

Sorry for the omission, Q! – Mike Brown

 

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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2014-crazy-busyHere is a prediction for 2014: bosses and client will want even shorter reports and presentations than last year because everyone will be busier and have even shorter attention spans. (In fact, I also predicted on Twitter last night that 2014 will be the global year of even “crazier and busier.”)

But what if the report you are writing is destined to be way longer than your audience’s short attention span will tolerate?

How are you going to make the right decisions about cutting content to experience report shrinkage?

The first step, if it is at all possible, is printing the report you are developing. By printing the report, you can easily change the order of the content and compare alternative versions with and without specific content. This preference for printing and working with hard copy may reflect my age and thinking biases, but I find it much more efficient (and personally satisfying) to turn cutting content into a physical experience.

7 Questions to Experience Report Shrinkage

Beyond readying a physical or virtual version of your report, these seven questions will help you make decisions to achieve report shrinkage:

  1. Based on your previous history of positive and negative reactions to content with this audience, what can you get away with removing?
  2. If you don’t have previous experience with this audience, are there other comparable situations you can reference to identify what to eliminate?
  3. Can you create a reference or link to content you’re not including so if there’s interest in it, you can reference it on the fly?
  4. Does each piece of content you’re planning to keep disproportionately contribute to the short list of information the client needs to know, understand, or believe to take the desired actions?
  5. Can you combine content that’s similar but not exactly the same to create higher impact in the presentation?
  6. Have you duplicated content as the deck has moved through multiple authors and iterations?
  7. Are you to the point of cutting things that make you wince when you cut them? If not, you definitely have more content to cut.

We used these questions recently to get a forty-page report down to fourteen pages, just under the fifteen pages the client could reportedly handle!

Are you predicting more report shrinkage in 2014?

Do you buy our report shrinkage prediction for 2014? And if you do, what strategic thinking and actions are you going to do about it?  – 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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Returns-Line

Photo by: Tom Jenkins (Tech Guy Tom)

Perceptions about something that’s given and received don’t always match up between the giver and the receiver.

This can happen not only in traditional gift giving situations, but it can occur in group and team settings where individuals are sharing and receiving creative ideas. One team member’s self-perceived extreme creativity can become a team leader’s nightmare when the ideas take hold even though they don’t fit what the team’s strategic objectives.

How can you minimize the awkwardness when this giving and receiving mismatch happens in a group setting with creative ideas?

Try applying these six creative thinking skills adapted from ideas for more successful gift giving and receiving to improve how creative ideas are shared and applied for everyone’s benefit.

3 Creative Thinking Skills for Sharing Creative Ideas

If you are sharing creative ideas, think about these three points.

1. Ask strategic questions ahead of time

Invest time and effort to understand what types of creative ideas are needed and expected. That doesn’t mean you have to be a creative order taker, but at least gain some idea of what creative expression will have the most significant impact.

2. Start with subtle creative ideas

This is definitely a personal preference to start subtle. If you’re not sure how or where your creativity might be used, it could be better to offer your initial creative ideas in bite-sized chunks. Unless extreme creativity is expected from the start, consider playing it close to the creative vest on the first go around.

3. Don’t over-explain creative ideas to fill silence

If you sense the creative ideas you’re introducing to the team aren’t resonating, the first instinct can be to fill any awkward silence with explaining. While that might make you feel better, it can also make it more difficult for the team to adapt and move forward with your creative ideas. Try sitting back and providing room to react without any further creative help.

3 Creative Thinking Skills for Receiving Creative Ideas

If you’re on the receiving end of creative ideas from others, make sure you’re receiving them in the best fashion possible.

1. Expect and plan for creative mismatches

If team members are familiar to one another, the team leader likely has a sense of which team members will offer creative ideas that are too big, too narrow, or too something else to work right away. A team leader can anticipate this and plan for how to handle creative ideas that don’t match up with the team’s immediate task.

2. Before anything else, express appreciation and gratitude

Step one when receiving off-the-mark creative ideas from a team member is expressing appreciation before judging. Find something to celebrate, praise, or comment on positively. If nothing else, say something innocuous and open-ended so you don’t disaffect a team member who may be very sincere, but just a bit off with their creativity.

3. Try incorporating the creativity in some recognizable way

Even if the creative ideas offered aren’t going to address your immediate needs, look for ways to give them some visibility as the team’s effort progresses. Try to use some aspect of them so the originator experiences a sense of contributing to the team’s progress.

The Gift of Creative Thinking Skills

It’s relatively easy to return a white elephant gift you receive for Christmas. You can’t return creative ideas though. That’s where these suggestions provide a path to taking advantage of even the oddball creative gifts that come your way! – 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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Merry-Christmas-FamilyAmid all the advertisements pummeling people to shop right up to Christmas Eve for holiday gifts and to resume shopping as early as possible the day after Christmas, some of the most memorable holiday gifts aren’t found in retail stores.

These holiday gifts do not cost anything and will never be directly measured in an economic recap of the holiday buying season.

12 Free Holiday Gifts

Thinking back on some of the incredible things people have done for me this year or I’ve witnessed people do for others, here are twelve ideas for holiday gifts you can still make happen in time for Christmas that cost only the commitment and effort to do something special for someone.

This holiday, how about . . . ?

  1. Cheering another person toward greater aspirations than they have imagined themselves pursuing.
  2. Dependably reaching out to someone when you suspect he or she might most need it.
  3. Leaving a voice mail message for someone you have not talked to in some time saying you are going through withdrawals because of it.
  4. Extending empathy to another person and then devoting yourself to listening to what is bothering them.
  5. Praying for a miracle for someone who can really use a miracle.
  6. Being a beacon of positivity when your own situation looks to others to be anything but positive.
  7. Letting someone who is struggling know that even though they feel messed up, they are really on the right track.
  8. Telling a friend, “I love you,” even if it is in that beer commercial kind of way.
  9. Being giddy when you see an old friend you haven’t seen in ages (other than on Facebook).
  10. Putting yourself squarely in the middle of a life situation to help someone who can’t help themselves right now.
  11. Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.
  12. Showing up when hardly anyone has made an effort to do so.

That’s a list full of true blessings!

Life Lessons

As much as I love “commerce,” these free holiday gifts are what will really make a lasting impact in someone else’s life more than anything you’ll ever lug home from a store.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from The Brainzooming Group!  – 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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Some project management techniques arrive early in life and never leave you. One of my favorite project management techniques originated in grade school.

Project Management Techniques for a Lifetime

Stones

Photo by: Ingenium-Design | Source: photocase.com

There was a new boy in class with a Southern accent who arrived after our fourth grade school year started. We discovered his dad worked in the oil fields; their family moved around a lot based on where his dad was working. One result was Dominic wound up in several schools every year, disappearing at some point in as unannounced a fashion as he had appeared perhaps a month before.

One result of continually being in and out of schools was Dominic couldn’t read much, if at all, and was unable to even write his own name.

During the time Dominic was at our school, our class was preparing a couple of plays to stage for the rest of the school. Our teacher stressed that everyone in the class actively participate in the play.

When it came to Dominic, that was a challenge.

We fashioned a part in the play “Stone Soup” with only one speaking line. Even though he couldn’t write his name, Dominic could memorize one line of dialogue. When it came time for the play, he delivered his single line perfectly, and Dominic was an actor!

Simply making the effort to tailor a part that recognized his talents and limitations, Dominic could perform successfully.

Creating Success for an Untalented Team Member

I always recall the Dominic story whenever a team member presents more challenges than beneficial talents to accomplish the task at hand. The project management opportunity is to create perhaps a very non-traditional role offsetting an individual’s limited or non-existent talents to allow him or her to perform at a disproportionately useful level, with greater impact than you might otherwise imagine.

This involves the strategic and creative thinking (and subsequent planning) to determine how to successfully feature a person no one expects to contribute productively.

Having done this on many occasions, more often than not, the person you are trying to help realizes what is happening, tries very hard to make it work, and rewards your efforts with a greater degree of appreciation and loyalty than if you’d have ignored them or let them off the hook by not participating.

Do your thinking and planning, and see how you can find a way to showcase even a challenged person with a role that lets him or her create meaningful value. – 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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