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I was watching an HBO documentary on supermodels from the 1940s through the 1990s. The HBO documentary included supermodels sharing perspectives on their careers from earlier days, how they have changed since their prime modeling years, and ideas about what they have learned along the way.

Among various intriguing interviews, Paulina Porizkova spoke about how she viewed herself at the height of her modeling career in her mid-twenties. At the time, she felt her thighs were fat, her knees were ugly, and in general, she did not have good legs. At 45, however, she said she looks back twenty years and thinks she looked great. Now though, she was bemoaning going to the gym 6 days a week only to have everything on her body sagging, with a too large forehead, and a stretchy face. She admitted that at 70 though, she will look back at herself at 45 and probably think she looked great in her mid-forties.

Now to me and just about anyone else, Paulina Porizkova looked fabulous in her twenties and still looks incredible today.

So how can an objectively beautiful woman such as Paulina Porizkova have such mistaken perspectives when it comes to judging how she looks?

Paulina Porizkova cannot assess how she really looks for the same reason it is so difficult for any of us to objectively judge our situations and provide the best ideas to ourselves about what we should do. Yet how many business people cling doggedly to the idea that they (or at least only the people already within their organizations) know everything there is to know about their situations and do not need outside help assessing things or helping devise new, more successful ideas?

6 Vital Insights Outsider Perspectives Offer

If you are one of those people who does not want outside help, here are six reasons you’re missing vital insights by not seeking outsider perspectives:

  • Your internal voice will not give you objective insights on your situation.
  • Even if you know you don’t know everything, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • You have no diversity of mindset, knowledge, or experience relative to yourself.
  • You can’t objectively assess what your strengths and weaknesses are by yourself.
  • You are either too bold or too reticent to provide ideas for yourself with the right degree of urgency and intensity.
  • You would have to be excellent at all of these: assessing your situation, determining the right steps to take, AND then taking the steps. Good luck.

It is so much easier to provide vital insights to other people on what to improve than it is to do the same for yourself. While the Brainzooming Group provides many outsider perspectives on strategy to clients across a variety of industries, I am always interested in hearing what insights others in our strategic circle have about opportunities for The Brainzooming Group. Trust me, an outsider can see, process, and speak with a clarity it is nearly impossible for an insider to muster.

If you are ready to give up on excluding outsider perspectives on your strategy, give us a call at 816-509-5320 or email us. The Brainzooming Group would love to provide the objective, outsider perspectives and ideas you are missing! – 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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It’s always great to have a guest blog from Woody Bendle. I ran into Woody last Friday night at the Kansas City Airport, and I’m not sure if that’s what prompted it, but this fantastic post on the importance of asking stupid questions showed up in my email last weekend! Take it away, Woody . . . 

Woody Bendle - Asking Stupid QuestionsI love questions!  Really!  But not too long ago, I was attending a seminar and I heard someone near me say to the person next to them, “That was a stupid question.”  I frankly don’t even remember what the question was, but do remember how uncomfortable I felt after hearing that.  I jotted a note down in my notebook and decided to write a piece about the value of questions (even the value of asking stupid questions).

Mind if I ask you a question?

So, I’m going to put you on the spot for a few seconds. When was the last time you heard what you thought was a stupid question?

Why did you actually think it was a stupid question?  I’ll let you think about this one for a bit . . .

Ok, did you think it was a stupid question because of:

  • Who asked the question? “Wow, only he would (or could) ask a question like that.”
  • How it was asked? “Whoa… that was snarky. What a stupid question.”
  • Where the question was asked? “Uh-oh. Why would anyone ask that in front of these people?”
  • You not thinking of it first? “Dang – I must look like a total idiot for not asking that.”
  • You not having an answer for it? “Oh yeah… well… I… I’d like to hear your answer…”
  • There being no possible answer to the question? “What kind of question is that? Come on… let’s get real!”
  • The answer being sooooooooo amazingly obvious that any moron should already know the answer? “UGH!  Are you serious? Because, that’s just the way it works you knucklehead…”

Was your opinion of “stupidity” aimed at the person asking the question or at yourself rather than the actual question?  More times than not, it’s not about the question at all nor the person who actually asked it.

Let’s fess up; at one point in time, we’ve all probably thought, or even perhaps said something similar to many of the exclamations above.  If you haven’t, you wouldn’t be human.  But, if we actually said any of these things aloud to someone, or in a group setting, we know that the result is that people just stop asking questions – immediately.  Perhaps that is what you were shooting for, but this is incredibly unproductive in the long run!  Bad things happen when people stop asking questions!

So, what’s the big deal? Why do we need questions?

Questions are critical for breakthrough progress!

It is important to remember that without questions, and without the desire to answer questions (curiosity), we’d all pretty much still be flopping around in a primordial soup.  Questions are an essential component of progress – all progress.  Given the current state of the global economy and the lack of topline growth among many of the world’s leading companies, I’d say we actually need a lot more people asking many more questions.

Albert Einstein is regarded as one of the most brilliant, and fascinating minds of all time, and he OBSESSED over questions!  More importantly, getting to the “right” question.  Albert Einstein is often quoted as muttering to himself, “If I only had the right question” repeatedly during periods when he was stumped by something he was working on.

If Albert Einstein isn’t to your liking, maybe you’ll be persuaded by this fabulous statement made by another pretty smart dude – Peter Drucker.  “The more serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers.  The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.”

This statement from Peter Drucker is exceptionally profound!  Organizations and individuals waste tons of money and time every year in the pursuit of ideas resulting from the wrong questions.  When over 70% of all new products launched each year end in failure, you can be certain people aren’t asking the right questions.

Is asking questions THAT hard?

Asking the right questions is harder than you might think:  It takes time, we haven’t been trained to do it, and without training and conditioning, our brains would rather not do it at all.

1. Asking questions takes time

It is important to acknowledge that getting to the right question is hard work that requires practice.  One reason for this claim is that, most of us have been trained (in one way or another) to efficiently provide answers and solutions to the questions we’re provided.  Asking questions takes time, and time is money; so as a consequence, we’re often discouraged from asking questions… “Just do what you’re supposed to do and get me the answer!”  Sound familiar?

2. There is a lack of training for asking questions

Second, very few of us receive any training in asking questions.  This actually strikes me as perhaps one of the greatest failings of the American education system.  Kids are  pretty much natural born natural explorers and detectives, who ask a lot of questions. And, kids continue to ask a lot of questions until they get into about the second or third grade.  Unfortunately at that point in their lives, they’re being trained (or programmed) to answer questions that other people already know the answers to so they can perform well on standardized tests – in order to get into a good college and answer more questions with known solutions.  But let’s admit it, nothing truly great ever came from providing answers to questions with known solutions.

3. Asking questions can actually wear you out

Lastly, asking a lot of questions (thinking) which eventually lead to asking the “right” question is very taxing on our brains.  While our body is at rest, the brain consumes somewhere on the order of 20% of the body’s oxygen and calories.  When you really put the brain to work, by subjecting it to ambiguity and confusion, your brain begins to consume more calories.  And, unless you regularly work on conditioning your brain by thinking harder and asking perplexing questions, its natural tendency is to try to conserve energy – and work with what it already knows.  You might think of the act of thinking hard and developing the “right” question as like going out and running a10K: if you haven’t trained for it, your legs will be continually telling you that they want to stop and that they’d rather be sitting on the couch with a cold beverage and a bowl of chips, watching some television.  In order to complete and enjoy a 10K, you have to train for it.  And, to become adept at developing the “right” questions, to you need to work at it – often.

What’s the point of all these questions?

The point of all of this is that we need a lot more questions – all of them.  To get to the right question(s), we need:

  • Stupid questions
  • Bad questions
  • Silly questions
  • Dumb questions
  • Good questions

Frankly, we need the freedom and the patience to ask all of these questions.

And eventually, by pushing around all of these different questions, we can land on the right questions that can become catalysts for beginning valuable work to develop meaningful, game-changing solutions. Woody Bendle

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity 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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Monday’s post was a list of creative inspirations behind Brainzooming blog posts. The creative inspiration for this blog post on providing help and support when dealing with difficult people is similar to number 30 on the list: You have relevant pictures to share.

I saw this cactus receiving ample help and support to remain standing at The Buttes Resort in Phoenix. It immediately triggered thoughts about what it’s like to help and support difficult people at work (think “difficult” = “prickly”).

Dealing with difficult people isn’t typically what any of us would volunteer for in a work assignment. Until you can remove yourself from having to help and support a difficult person at work, however, you simply have to manage the situation as best you can.

16 Articles on Help and Support for Prickly People

Since we’ve written about having had to help and support a variety of challenging personalities, the cactus picture created an opportunity to bring them all the content on dealing with difficult people together in one place. These sixteen articles provide advice dealing with difficult people of various types, including handling yourself as the difficult person in your work life!

Cactus-Prickly-PeopleUndependable People

Harmful People

Inappropriate People

Ineffective People

When You’re the Difficult Person

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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If you follow NASCAR, you’re familiar with the term “fuel mileage race.” For those who aren’t NASCAR fans, a fuel mileage race is one where at the end of the race, it’s not necessarily the fastest car that wins. Instead, the NASCAR team that has best employed a fuel-saving and racing strategy allowing it to stay on the track when others have to leave the track to refuel with only a few laps left wins the race. This phenomenon happens based on:

  • The length of the race
  • Typical patterns of racing and caution periods
  • Fuel mileage of the cars

The team that takes advantage of devising and carrying out a solid strategy in these types of situations has used accurate historical insights, preparedness, solid decisions, and stellar implementation to prevail even though it don’t possess the capabilities that usually decide the winner.

How does a fuel mileage race strategy applies to project management?

If you’re wondering what this has to do with project management, reread the previous paragraph.

That description directly applies to situations where multiple internal or external teams are working together to deliver on a major project. It’s rare that everyone involved in an extended project team is the absolute best in their own field. Smaller players on the extended team also often have to deal with a timeline not devised around their delivery processes or capabilities. Nevertheless, if they want to succeed for an internal or external client’s benefit (and their own success), they have to be performing strongly at the end of the project.

7 Steps to Winning a Fuel Mileage Race Project

Based on that comparison, here are 7 steps NASCAR teams take for winning a fuel mileage race that a project team should be thinking about to succeed in a comparable “fuel mileage race” project.

1. Know your expected process efficiency

In a NASCAR race, miles per gallon is key. For a project team, it’s knowing not just the total hours you’ll be investing in a project, but understanding how long each process step typically takes. Knowing that, always look for new ways to remove steps or reduce time to improve your process efficiency.

2. Get off sequence strategically when it makes sense

A NASCAR team will try to fill its car with fuel at off times compared to other teams to gain an advantage in a fuel mileage race. A project team can look for ways to accelerate early or mid-project deliverables to get off cycle and save time for more complex tasks later in the project.

3. Save resources everywhere you can

A NASCAR driver may drive slower or even shut off the engine during certain periods to save fuel. Project teams can take a comparable approach, looking for ways to minimize revisions or unnecessary status meetings; another approach is to handle meetings online vs. traveling to them in-person.

4. Fully exploit your past work

NASCAR teams keep extensive notes on previous fuel miles race performance and will often bring the same car to a track again when it’s been successful. A project team should be looking for ways to build from suitable work that already exists or repurpose previous output to still deliver successfully with greater efficiency.

5. Monitor what and how the other players on your extended project team are doing

Even if you’re using a different strategy, your team still needs to be coordinated with every other party involved on the project team. Keep a pulse on how your team’s dependability, performance, and timeline management are coordinating with others.

6. Anticipate opportunities and challenges ahead of time

Ask questions and go to school on similar work you’ve done or how your internal or external client typically behaves during an extended project. Try to anticipate where timelines will change based on natural delays or rapid pushes to accelerate progress.

7. Be ready for a last-minute twist or turn

For as much strategizing as a NASCAR race team using a fuel mile race strategy will do, something can happen late in the race to completely upset the strategy that’s worked nearly the entire race. Smart project teams should be thinking ahead to what options they’ll have available when projects take unexpected turns. You always want to have an option and room to adapt when the unexpected (at least what others didn’t expect) happens.

Do you see how fuel mileage racing strategy applies to project you’ve supported?

Do you see how this concept has (or could have) helped your project team perform better? What strategies do you use to deliver exceptionally on projects where you aren’t working with the best resources? – 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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Amid recent news stories about people and companies failing to live up to early and prolonged hype (Exhibit A and Exhibit B), I’ve been thinking about a former co-worker who used to revel in skepticism. As an economist with a long track record of understanding the fundamentals of our business and industry, he would sit back and listen to people selling ideas and plans designed to beat (or maybe simply ignore) well-established industry trends. He’d hear the grand plans out and then skewer them with history.

Sometimes he was wrong, but he was all too frequently right. This typically put him at odds with those selling ideas who depended more on hope in the hype surrounding their ill-conceived ideas than a solid dose of fact-based reality.

Having worked closely with him for years, I guess a little of his skepticism rubbed off on me over time.

The more I hear about how great something is even though it is completely detached from strategic logic and learnings past events suggest, the more skepticism rears its head. Even though I’m a big proponent of creativity and innovation, skepticism becomes the handy counterbalance as you move from divergent to convergent thinking.

What’s a Real Skeptic Like?

If you’re charged with selling an idea to somebody who takes pride in professional skepticism, it’s important to understand what it will be like. If you plan for how you can address these ten perspectives, you’ll be better off since Skepticism:

  • Will always bet on “Too good to be true.”
  • Has an order of magnitude more strategic patience than hopeful enthusiasm.
  • Has an immunity to peer pressure.
  • Checks for consistency between words and deeds.
  • Expects a noticeable, viable track record.
  • Won’t lightly abandon what’s worked before or ignore what hasn’t ever worked.
  • Acknowledges the unexpected while waiting for the predictable to happen.
  • Sits back (way back) to avoid being trampled by the masses stampeding from the new wearing off yesterday’s fad.
  • Is more than happy to be proven wrong when it proves personally beneficial.
  • Will always insist, “The trend is your friend.”

Professional skepticism may be more complex than this ten-item list, but if you’re selling ideas to convince a skeptic, this is a pretty decent starting point on the general objections and resistance you may hear.

What’s your experience dishing out or receiving skepticism?

Are you a skeptic? Do you know one? What would you add to this list to help an idea selling hopeful better prepare to win over a skeptic? – 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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We received some client feedback the other day regarding an online survey and a variety of proposed changes. While the survey was fine as it was, we tried to implement as many proposed changes as possible from one of the client team members. The result of those changes was an online survey that was clearly tighter and better than it had been before. The key was starting with a listening attitude instead of a defensive attitude.
Look for Agreement in Adversarial Conversations

Find Agreement Amid Differing Opinions

A big part of being able to find agreement with someone you expect will have a different opinion than yours, at least in my experience, is your attitude even before you begin what might be an adversarial conversation.

Before you begin talking is the time for strategic thinking –  not about what you will be saying – but about what you will be listening for in the conversation.

By adopting an open and positive strategic listening approach in a potentially adversarial conversation, you can be attuned to ways to start building understanding rather than picking out arguments to refute.

10 Things to Listen for in an Adversarial Conversation

What should your strategic listening approach predispose you to listen for with the other party? Here are ten things you will want to be listening for to build agreement:

1. A little snippet of an idea you can agree with to get started.
2. An opinion you used to agree with and can use as a point of departure.
3. A situation with which you have experience or empathy.
4. An accomplishment from the other person you respect.
5. Experience the other person has that warrants consideration.
6. Ideas you can implement without any issues.
7. Points on which you are willing to compromise your position.
8. Differences of opinion where you are willing to concede.
9. Perspectives you had not previously considered that will make your effort better.
10. Principles that are not worth arguing about to try and change in the other person.

This list of ten things to listen for in an adversarial conversation is pretty obvious. Yet how often do you see people going into a challenging situation looking for a fight instead of looking for things to agree with right off the bat?

If you can find  agreement, no matter how small it is, you have a place to start talking productively. And that is the start of bigger, more complete agreement.

Do you agree? – 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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Not enough ice creamComplaining on Facebook reagarding not being inspired to blog prompted an anecdote from Jan Harness about asking friends for 10 ideas she could share in a mentoring session she was conducting. One person provided 11 tips instead of 10; she included a tip to ALWAYS over deliver on what others expect. Jan related it to when she had asked me for a single cartoon for a presentation, but I drew an entire comic strip about Jan’s creative experience with a really bad art teacher, Mr. O’Neill.

While retelling the Mr. O’Neill creative instigation story didn’t excite me, considering motivations for people to over deliver or give too much was intriguing. Jan’s creative instigation inspired this post with 21 ideas for reasons to over deliver or not.

14 Reasons to Over Deliver

When you’re doing something for someone, here are 14 reasons you might want to over deliver versus what they expect:

  • It creates greater value for them (thinking about value as the relationship between “Benefits” relative to the “Cost to receive the benefits.”
  • They may not be asking for enough of what they need or should be considering.
  • You see bigger possibilities in the work and want to bring those to fruition.
  • Over delivering will (or at least has the possibility to) create greater affinity, loyalty, or even a sense of obligation on their part.
  • It stretches you to take on, learn, and accomplish new things.
  • It’s the “right” thing to do, for one or more reasons.
  • You’ve made a commitment along the way to do that much.
  • It’s what they want, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • It’s what they need, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • You gain enjoyment and a sense of purpose from being able to over deliver.
  • You’re focused on future opportunities and over-delivering now is simply part of the next work you’re going to do for them.
  • You cannot “not” seem to over deliver.
  • You down-sold expectations (i.e. you sandbagged during negotiations) and are simply delivering what you knew you could anyway.
  • You’re trying to showcase new capabilities.

7 Reasons to Not Over Deliver

The question about whether to over deliver or not certainly isn’t one-sided. There are also reasons where you might rightly decide to not over deliver for someone:

  • They’re asking for the wrong thing or something they don’t need and giving them more of it won’t be beneficial to them.
  • They’re demanding or expecting too much already.
  • They’ve not acted in good faith in the relationship.
  • The relationship is on its last legs and doesn’t warrant investing any more in it.
  • What they’ve asked for keeps changing so much you can’t even be sure you’re delivering what they expected originally.
  • You’ve done everything you can.
  • They aren’t able to appreciate any more than what they asked for originally.

Do you have a tendency to give too much?

I didn’t go into creating this list with a target of 21 ideas, or making 2/3 of them reasons to over deliver and 1/3 reasons  not to do it. But in any event, there’s a certain numerical (and business) sense in those ratios, at least from my perspective. Makes sense that you might try to over deliver about 2/3 of the time.

How about you? What is your thinking when you consider whether or not to over deliver? – 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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