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I came up with this list a few years ago when some friends were searching for high school reunion ideas that would help pass the time.

high-school-reunion-drink

It’s reunion time again. Here’s the list of fun questions in text and image form. Try them out, and see who fits each category at your high school reunion!

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask

  1. Most unrealized intellectual potential?
  2. Who has most over achieved?
  3. Most changed physically—male?
  4. Most changed physically—female?
  5. Least changed?
  6. Person I would most like to change places with?
  7. Would have taken better care of him/herself if he/she had thought he/she would make it to this reunion?
  8. Great news! __________ showed up.
  9. Great news! __________ didn’t show up.
  10. Too bad. ________ didn’t show up.
  11. Highest (unwarranted) opinion of themselves?
  12. Most changed?
  13. And I would know you from?
  14. When did you get so big?
  15. Boy…I’m glad I’m not __________.
  16. Over/under—plastic surgeries? 2
  17. Most interesting conversation?
  18. Most thought provoking conversation?

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask (image)

fun-questions-high-school-r
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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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Waiting at O’Hare airport for my flight, another business traveler stopped in front of me, and asked, “Mike Brown?”

Content-Marketing-Strateg-O

He was a former corporate sales executive where I used to work. He’d been pointed in my direction to talk about content marketing strategy and social media and just happened to run into me in the hallway at O’Hare. He is now the C-level sales and marketing executive at a B2B service company.

His big question about social media and content marketing strategy was, “Why would a B2B company engage in these areas?” He’d never heard of a B2B company gaining business from their efforts.

Incredible as that statement may sound, I understand his reluctance. I told him The Brainzooming Group is a B2B company, and we gain business from our social media and content marketing strategy. And we are definitely NOT by ourselves in that!

8 Reasons a B2B Company Should Engage in Social Media

content-marketing-social-media

For a B2B company, a content marketing strategy, along with a social media presence, allows it to:

Those are only eight reasons. There are plenty more.

Those provide a fantastic starting point for identifying and quantifying the benefits for a B2B company to dive into content marketing – even if it feels late to the game to start! – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your 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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This shouldn’t be a newsflash, but it needs to be said: You are completely free to edit your personal backstory.

Each of us has a backstory.

A personal backstory is what we say about ourselves (along with our behaviors, physical cues, and beliefs that may speak louder than our words) about how we reached where we are right now. A backstory provides others an important input toward beginning to form perceptions about you.

Ideally, your backstory provides a strong representation of your path to where you are and helps people quickly understand where you can benefit them (and where they might be able to benefit you).

In a less than ideal situation, your personal backstory can limit you in who you start believing you are, what you can imagine yourself doing, and even the people you associate with personally and professionally.

Your Personal Backstory Can Change

Personal-Backstory

That brings us back to the starting point: there is nothing to stop you if you want to edit your personal backstory to serve you better than it does right now.

I was chatting with a friend that has lost touch with some of her talents and very positive characteristics. She hasn’t used certain talents as fully as she did in the years leading up to her current job. These talents have essentially disappeared from how she thinks and talks about herself with others.

We discussed the benefit from editing her backstory to open up possibilities or make her diverse experiences work hard to boldly communicate in professional settings.

What’s your personal backstory?

Is it helping or hurting you?

While you may have some sense of how others perceive your backstory, it’s worthwhile to ask them. Talk to people around you (both very and less familiar with you) that can help you better understand how your backstory plays for them.

If the personal backstory others perceive isn’t serving you well, edit and revise it to serve you better.

No one is going to stop you. It’s yours to decide. – 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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While traveling recently, I met with two online friends I’d never spoken with before. We’d chatted, messaged, and emailed, but had never spoken in person.

All I can say is I highly recommend turning online friends into IRL ones whenever possible.

A New Business Collaboration in Dallas

In Dallas, I met and spent two days with Mess Wright. We originally met on Twitter several years ago. I think Mess reached out online after reading some Brainzooming articles. I have been reading her multiple blog sites the last few years chronicling her career and life. I’ve said multiple times that I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone online that’s written about their personal successes and challenges in such a real, raw way.

Leading up to the Dallas trip, we were discussing her new role as a Communications Animator at The Grove, a social impact-focused co-working space located across the street from what was the Texas School Book Depository.

Mess-Wright-Serious

We spent time together seeing “Mess Wright’s Dallas” and attending the Social Media Strategies Summit. Our conversations led to us pursuing a new business collaboration we’re currently defining. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about collaborating with Mess!

A Chicago Creative Nudge

While in Chicago following the Dallas trip, Diane Bleck of The Doodle Institute met Anthony Vannicola (our Brainzooming intern) and me. Diane has graciously created a couple of infographics for Brainzooming articles. Nevertheless, we didn’t have any particular plans for our meetup.

Diane-Bleck

To put it succinctly, Diane came in and kicked my creative and content marketing ass in the nicest possible way. She dropped a strategy and business model on me that both makes so much sense AND runs wildly against the balance I’ve tried to create between The Brainzooming Group brand and how visible I am in the mix. We did a Periscope video (my first). She also kindly shared one of her Innovation Think Pad kits and issued a creative nudge to create a visual vocabulary for Brainzooming.

Being the dutiful student, I spent the flight home starting to craft a set of doodle icons for Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.

Visual-Vocabulary

As an introvert, meeting online friends IRL has definitely extended my social boundaries in incredibly positive ways. It’s made me more open to meeting new people. That includes sitting down and talking with complete strangers in airport restaurants on both trips. When I got back to a flooded-out Kansas City after the Chicago trip, I gave the guy across the aisle on the plane a ride home. Our introduction stemmed from a mutual friendship with Paula Holmquist. I met Paula at a copy shop years ago while preparing for our first big community collaboration event.

San Francisco and the SMS Summit

In late September 2016, I’ll be co-presenting and hanging out with Whip-Smart Wordsmith, Emma Alvarez Gibson, at the Social Media Strategies Summit and Marketing Conference in San Francisco. I met Emma in 2009 via an introduction from Jan Harness. Emma’s helped develop the initial Brainzooming brand messaging. We collaborate online frequently, and Emma co-facilitated an in-person workshop we did for CompTIA in San Diego several years ago. Additionally, she’s been editing our eBooks this year.

Creative-Friend

And btw, if you’re focused on marketing in general or social media and content marketing specifically, you should join us at this great event!

Want to Meet IRL in Your Town?

Introverts can grow and gain comfort with going from online to IRL friendships. Every time I’ve done this, it has led to learning more about online friends and about myself. In multiple cases, these meetings have fostered further collaboration.

So if I’m coming to your city (including Evansville, Indiana, San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis. Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and other locations before the year is done), are you interested in meeting IRL? Let me know! – Mike Brown

 

Conquer Fears of Business Innovation!

FREE Download: “7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears”

3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
  • When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

Download your FREE copy of 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears today!

Download Your FREE eBook! 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization's Innovation Fears

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas today, delivering a two-hour workshop on developing a branded content marketing strategy. The key is finding the right balance between employing outside-in topics and outside-in timing while still making sure your brand personality and messages come through clearly.

We recently conducted a dedicated content marketing strategy workshop for a client on this very topic. We worked with nearly thirty of its business and communication leaders to explore topics four different audience personas would find valuable and that the organization, a healthcare non-profit, could credibly address.

The client is a non-profit focused on healthcare. It entered the workshop with five profiles of target audience members that The Brainzooming Group helped them develop. These profiles, called personas, are three-to-five paragraph descriptions it developed describing specific individuals it serves, seeks to hire, or collaborates with in serving clients.  Small groups prepared the personas in advance by brainstorming answers to ten questions on each audience member.

The personas provided the basis for other workshop activities imagining topics audience members would be interested in and willing to read, watch, or listen to if the non-profit were to address them.

Here’s an overview of each of the strategic thinking exercises:

5 Content Marketing Strategy Exercises to Generate Audience-Oriented Topics

content-marketing-strategy-topics

What questions do audience members ask during the buying journey?

The initial exercise explored three phases of an audience member’s journey. The first phase (Awareness) encompassed their initial exploration as they became aware of an opportunity or issue an outside party might address. The second phase (Consideration) involved the audience member describing the relevant opportunity or issue and looking at organizations to help satisfy needs. The final phase (Decision) involved the audience member selecting, engaging, and evaluating the relationship with the outside party they chose.

Within each phase, the small groups identified questions audience members might ask. The comprehensive list of questions each group identified became the basis for the second content marketing exercise.

What topics address important audience questions?

The second exercise used questions from the first one to generate content topic ideas. For each audience question, participants suggested one or more topics or working titles. The topics they generated were not intended to communicate an overtly promotional brand message. Instead, the content would help audience members be smarter in their exploration, evaluation, decision-making, engagement, and post-purchase experiences. As the brand addresses topics of interest to audience members, it has the opportunity to subtly convey its helpfulness, expertise, and audience-focus through sharing beneficial content throughout has the audience journey.

Why do audience members select the brand?

Another exercise focused participants on the relationship stage where audience members either choose or do not choose the brand. Workshop participants identified five primary reasons audience members select the brand. They then identified five reasons audience members do not pick the brand. For each positive reason, they generated multiple topic ideas (of interest to audience members) that would back up the brand’s attractive characteristics. For reasons the brand was not selected, they brainstormed possible topics to help counter or refute misperceptions about the brand.

What do audience members say about the brand relationship?

One exercise focused on interactions audience members have with the brand further into the relationship using a 4-box grid. One axis listed “questions” and “statements.” The other listed “negative” or “positive” interactions.  Each of the four cells named a relevant situation and several questions to trigger potential topics. For instance, positive questions present “Education opportunities,” and negative questions signal “pain points.” Positive statements suggest highlighting ” brand value.” Negative comments indicate “objections to anticipate.” Questions associated with each of these four areas suggested jumping off points for additional topic ideas.

What do we think, know, and do that is relevant for audience members?

Audience members’ interests primarily extend beyond the brand’s traditional focus areas. That is why brands focusing only on content about themselves miss so many rich areas in which to share content. To counter this, one exercise explored areas in which audience members exhibit interests, seek information, and focus priorities. For each of the areas identified, participants generated audience-oriented topics. They made the brand connection to the audience based on what the brand thinks about audience interest areas, knows about the information they seek, and does relative to their priorities.

Coming Away with Plenty of Audience-Oriented Topic Ideas

During the Brainzooming content marketing strategy workshop, participants generated hundreds of potential content topics. Before adjourning, each person walked the room to review the topics and select those they thought had particular potential to interest audience members.

The next step is documenting all the topics on a content calendar. This enables the brand to address topics in an organized fashion across the year when, as they can best determine, audience members are most interested in the information.

If you want to learn more about specific details of this approach, contact us. Let’s collaborate to develop richer content that matters to your audiences. – 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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You have heard the old business joke about the pig and the chicken’s different levels of commitment to breakfast?

When it comes to ham and eggs, the chicken is supportive, while the pig is committed.

Bacon-Egg-Engagement2

It may be an old and tired story, but it still illustrates an important point about engagement and the willingness (or unwillingness) of employees to go all in with a new business initiative.

The thing is, unsuccessful employee engagement strategies are not an employee problem.

It is a LEADERSHIP problem when purported employee engagement strategies are not working. It means leadership has not made a credible case for WHY employees will benefit from going beyond the bare minimum to justify going all in to make company initiatives successful.

We see great leaders among our clients successfully taking steps that meaningfully involve employees in shaping strategy and implementation. These leaders respect differences completely, ask questions honestly, listen attentively, adapt credibly, and explain thoroughly.

That is a formula that works for employee engagement, and it is one reason we shared our Brainzooming buy-in manifesto.

If you want to go deeper on a viable strategy to improve employee engagement, download our Results eBook. It highlights an approach for more collaborative strategy that provides employees with a real opportunity to contribute their ideas and be a part of actively contributing to your organization’s direction. Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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Mike Brown

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We were on a call with an extended creative team generating ideas for client videos. During breaks, I found myself jotting down examples of important creative thinking skills the team was exhibiting.

7 Important Creative Thinking Skills

7-creative-thinking-skills

Infographic by and courtesy of Diane Bleck – DoodleInstitute.com

These seven creative thinking skills demonstrated during the call are ones which benefit both those who display them and those working with them too:

1. Suspending advocacy of your own idea to push for another person’s concept.

It’s helpful to be able to come into a creative situation and demonstrate your willingness to champion another person’s idea. It can open the way to getting others to support your thinking, as well.

2. Putting your own idea to the same test you apply to an idea from someone else.

When it comes to your own ideas, it’s easy to be a hypocrite and apply all kinds of hurdles to other ideas while letting your own thinking slide by unchallenged in your own mind. Just one thing to remember: don’t become somebody known for doing this!

3. Combining two different ideas and making them better (not muddled) as one idea.

Often (maybe “almost always”) compromising on creative ideas leads to something nobody likes, recognizes, or thinks satisfies the original objective. Being able to dissect ideas to pull out highlights and put them together as something new, however, is entirely different, and a great skill to have.

4. Letting someone else take “ownership” of your idea in order to build support for it.

This skill really tests whether you believe so strongly in an idea you’re willing to let someone else step up and take it on as their own idea to see it prevail. The key to seeing your idea win out can be letting somebody else be the vocal proponent for it.

5. Displaying the patience to wait for someone else to say what needs to be said so all you have to do is agree.

It’s tempting to jump in right away and make all the points you feel necessary in a creative discussion before anyone else talks. At times though, patience and silence are called for when it becomes clear someone can and will express your perspective – and can do it more appropriately than you can.

6. Sticking to your guns amid challenges to a creative idea which makes solid strategic sense.

There are many creative ideas which, while being really cool, have nothing to do with what you’re trying to achieve and how you should be achieving it. When confronted with others who are passionately arguing for highly creative yet hardly strategic concepts, make and remake your case if the idea you’re advocating is on the mark strategically.

7. Always looking for new creative skills to develop in yourself and those around you.

Not only do you want to make yourself stronger creatively at every juncture, it’s in your best interests to help improve the creative performance of your overall team. Creative meetings are a great opportunity to spot gaps others labor under as well as seeing your own creative shortcomings. Inventory what you saw (or didn’t see) after a creative meeting and get to work filling the gaps.

How are you doing on these 7 creative thinking skills? How about your team?  – Mike Brown

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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