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We’ve certainly covered the heck out of how bad bosses, toxic cultures, and negative comments can crush creative thinking and creativity. These all dampen creative thinking because while ideas are in the awkward stage when someone has just envisioned them, the last thing you need is to attack them because they are outside the norm or aren’t fully-formed.

What you might not consider, however, is how an uber-positive boss that is TOO OVER THE TOP when communicating how great early stage ideas are ALSO CRUSHES creative thinking.

Here’s an example.

Creative-Thinking-Bouquets

Suppose a team is charged with doing the creative thinking to generate new ideas for an initiative. Sometimes the ideas are developed collaboratively; other times, ideas are shared one-on-one with the boss.

In a group where it is understood that creative ideas are considered works in progress, supportive comments from the boss are helpful to further creativity. Ideas that build on original ideas are beneficial. Creative thinking that removes or reshapes initial ideas is okay because team members understand an idea’s origin and can offer creative adaptations in a smart, supportive way.

When creative possibilities are shared individually with the boss, however, team knowledge about new ideas is limited. All you know about the idea is what the boss communicates back to the group. If an uber-positive boss shares only effusive praise for a new creative idea, it is challenging to for someone else to say, “That idea doesn’t make strategic sense,” or “There are other possibilities for that idea that you didn’t consider.” Sure, you can step out and offer these perspectives. But when uber-positive praise from the boss makes it seem as if the weak idea is the best creative idea ever, trying to actively adapt the idea can be, in the best case, a big challenge, or, in the worst case, seen as trying to sabotage someone else’s creative thinking.

5 Ideas When an Uber-Positive Boss Crushes Creative Thinking

A better approach as the boss is, when sharing the idea with the full team, to:

  1. Introduce the creative idea
  2. Credit the idea’s originator
  3. Remark positively on the idea’s possibilities and potential to grow and develop
  4. Share the idea’s status (i.e., it’s open for consideration all the way to it’s a done deal)
  5. Invite team members to comment, build on, and adapt the idea with their own creative thinking

These five steps help a boss be positive about a new creative idea while still creating room to allow other team members to provide their unencumbered creative thinking.

If you’re the boss, be positive about new creative thinking without going overboard. Doing this will encourage your team’s full collective strategic and creative thinking potential. – 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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The previous Brainzooming article was on listening for strategic insights in order to not waste strategic conversations. If you understand the types of information you need to develop a strategic plan, you can often get a jump start on completing it simply by listening closely to strategic conversations for valuable input.

This is the flip of that post. If you have the right people present, and they are in a chatty mood, how can you morph the gathering into a strategic conversation?

One way is by introducing strategic thinking questions that steer meandering conversations into strategic conversations.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Strategic Conversations

Strategic-QuestionMark

Here are nine strategic thinking questions to try and spontaneously generate strategic conversations:

  1. What do we want the result to be?
  2. What will we need to get started? (You can direct this strategic thinking question to consider resources, people, ideas, support, etc.)
  3. What would be the first steps to take?
  4. What has to happen after the steps we’ve identified to ________? (Fill in the blank with “maintain momentum,” “get ongoing support from the people who will need to support this,” and “be ready to implement it when we’re done”)
  5. How will we know we’re successful at each step along the way?
  6. How will the most important audiences for what we’re doing judge if we’re successful along the way?
  7. What things can stop us dead in our tracks at each step?
  8. How do we manage around those things that REALLY seem insurmountable?
  9. What absolutely has to be in place for us to be successful overall?

Along with introducing these questions to steer strategic conversations, apply the listening routine from the previous article to identify the right snippets you’ll need to turn strategic conversations into strategic plans. – Mike Brown

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I don’t have statistically validated data for this claim. I’d be comfortable speculating, however, that a high percentage of productive strategic conversations are wasted.

What do I mean by “wasted” strategic conversations? Those are conversations where no one is actively listening and capturing important ideas and information in ways those participating in the strategic conversations (and others) can use them later.

MAYBE one or more people in a strategic conversation happen to remember what was discussed. Perhaps someone took a few notes. The notes were probably captured, however, in chronological order (i.e., this was said and then this was said), and shared that way. Chronological notes, however, rarely add as much value as they might because productive strategic conversations don’t typically take place in an order that directly supports decisions and actions.

Strategic-Conversations-Thought-Pad

Here’s an alternative approach we use all the time during strategic conversations:  listen for specific types of comments and organize them as you go (or after the fact) into strategic deliverables.

For example, before a strategic planning workshop started the other day, an internal client leader held court with the project team. They discussed a large process graphic we were about to address. The strategic conversation was incredibly rich. It had great potential for shaping the foundation for our strategic planning. That was only true, however, because we knew what to listen for amid a lot of extraneous information and idea sharing.

12 Things to Listen for in Strategic Conversations

What types of information should you listen for amid strategic conversations? Here are 12 types of input we captured during the pre-planning conversation:

  1. Things that “matter” for the organization or initiative
  2. Aspirations the organization has for changing its current path
  3. Expectations for what a strategic initiative will include or deliver
  4. Numbers defining the size of the effort or quantifying its potential benefits
  5. Speculation about strengths and weaknesses the organization faces
  6. Facts about the current situation
  7. Factors influencing the initiative’s success
  8. Challenges standing in the way of progress
  9. Descriptions of potential objectives and metrics
  10. Organizational beliefs and biases
  11. Specific innovative ideas the organization wants to pursue
  12. Criteria that will shape decision making

Simply by having a plan for what we would need later during strategic planning, we were able to turn what could have been a wasted strategic conversation into a huge head start in completing our work.

Next time you are involved a strategic conversation, quickly assess what you need from it and start listening for valuable strategic nuggets.  Mike Brown

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One church I regularly attend received a new temporary pastor, replacing another relatively new pastor. It is a bit of a mystery why the previous pastor left, leading to an information void causing speculation about what is going on and what will happen next. This speculation extends to the new priest, who seems to have a past, based on a Google search.

The temporary pastor’s first services were this weekend.  When it came time for the homily, he said the bishop told him to share his whole story that first weekend so there would be no questions about him.

He shared his unwillingness in the early years of his priesthood to say no to any new assignment. He took on additional parishes, achieved big goals, and over-extended himself. Through whatever factors, he came to abuse alcohol and, as he stated, “compromised his values.” When the situation became known several years ago, the bishop pushed him to disclose everything. The bishop then called the media to ensure there was no hint of anything being concealed.

church

The priest discussed hitting rock bottom that day, and the steps he has taken since to return to his feet. He is in the “recovery community,” he has surrounded himself with people to foster accountability, and he is moderating his previous ambitions.

He tied the entire message together with the theme for the feast of All Saints Day by reminding us “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

His message was not an apology for being caught.

It was an admission of falling and working hard to get back up.

When he concluded, he was greeted by warm applause from the congregation – a very rare occurrence at a Catholic mass.

What Real Transparency Looks Like

Consider what his homily and the emphasis on immediately sharing the entire story with his new flock accomplished. He:

  • Let everyone know that he, like all the rest of us, need help to grow and improve
  • Fostered a willingness among parishioners to support him as needed in his recovery
  • Signaled to parishioners in the recovery community that he was someone to reach out to if they need support

Most importantly, any rumormongers were put out of business day one since we all learned the truth at the same time.

Contrast what real transparency looks like versus what happens with so many public figures. When famous people are caught compromising their values, they typically apologize for GETTING CAUGHT, without ever acknowledging they did anything wrong. That cultivates distrust and skepticism since the whole apologizing for getting caught routine is too scripted and insincere.

The term “transparency” is thrown around a lot even though it is not carried out nearly as often.

I feel fortunate to have been a witness to see what real transparency looks like.

While it is clearly painful, real transparency does so much more for everyone involved. – Mike Brown

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Every now and then, we’ll run a post that recaps Facebook and Twitter updates, blog post scraps, and other random creative thinking, all smushed together, Larry King-style. If you enjoy those, today’s your day!

Traveling Deep in the Heart of Texas

“Danger. Danger, Will Robinson.” Sometimes danger is scary. Sometimes danger is attractive. Those latter situations are the ones that are going to REALLY get you . . . Something is something….clap, clap, clap, clap….deep in the heart of Texas . . . I love staying in places in cities that make walking to things viable . . . “She calls me ‘baby,’ she calls everybody ‘baby.'”

L-Austin-TX-Elevator

I appreciate conference producers that will let you, in the moment, completely deconstruct a presentation into something you couldn’t have ever planned for, but turns out to be a unique experience for the audience . . . Too bad unique isn’t repeatable . . . Something I hate? People who refuse to leave their phone number because they think your phone displayed their number. THAT doesn’t always happen . . . Sleeping? We don’t need to stinkin’ sleeping. That works for only so long, however.

Sometimes when you are trying to accomplish an unfamiliar mission, it feels weird when you actually accomplish it. In fact, it can feel like failure . . . Beating something up to improve it is one thing. Beating something up because you don’t know what else to do is another thing, and you should stop it right away . . . Having someone channeling an early Sandra Bernhardt attitude in a creative session is not advantageous.

Travel Blogging at an Airport Bar

L-Skybox-Bar-DFW

The guys that paid their tab 20 minutes ago are still sitting at their table in the airport bar. Glad I didn’t hang out waiting for them to leave . . . There may be a pretty strong correlation between doing tequila shots in an airport bar and missing your flight. The correlation may be even greater with doing tequila shots and then not being able to read when you need to board the flight you’ve been rebooked on after you missed your original flight.

If you’re Catholic, don’t ever pass up a priest on the way to get on an airplane . . . If you are of a certain age, it’s funny how you still feel like you should call someone when you pass through their city even though the call doesn’t cost you more than calling them any other time from any other place . . . If you’re confused, just wait. You may find you need to know just right around the corner.

L-St-Marys

Facebook Friends

The last Facebook friend-worthy person I met on a flight was 7 months ago. I don’t know whether that’s a bad sign or a good sign . . .  I was in row 17, if you know what I mean . . . So far, for the woman in 17F, I’ve shown her how to put her phone in airplane mode, told her how to spell Phoenix, and let her know what time we’re supposed to land in Kansas City. And that’s all before we have taken off yet. You gotta love travel blogging! – Mike Brown

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(This is another in a week-long series on forming oneself as a Catholic business person.)

While still in the Fortune 500 world, we were continuing to downsize. The word came down during one round of layoffs to include a specific individual working for me. My perception was that cost-cutting wasn’t the primary reason for including this person on the list for layoff. I still believe this layoff was motivated by a senior leader’s sense of revenge; he wanted to “get” someone new to the corporation that had struggled to fit in, ruffling many feathers along the way. Having personally experienced the ruffling and other challenging behaviors, I understood why people were pissed and would want the individual gone.

Yet, having worked with the individual closely in the previous year, I witnessed the most dramatic turnaround in personal leadership I had ever seen in a co-worker. This person made big changes, working to take a different, more productive approach to co-worker and executive interactions.

A Personal Leadership Test

Based on the personal leadership turnaround, I made the case several times for a demotion and not a termination. The answer was, “No.” I suggested other alternatives. Our HR rep told me, however, it was a lost cause. The senior executive running things wanted this person out of the organization.

During the weeks leading up to the mass layoff date, I worried and agonized. This person had become a friend I had invested time and energy helping to develop. Carrying out layoffs always bothered me; it was especially troubling in this case. Working out one evening, my fretting and negative self-talk escalated. What happened next is as clear as if it happened yesterday. In the middle of ab exercises, I worried about not having the talents and personal leadership wherewithal to terminate this person. While thinking about what was ahead, I heard a voice in my mind that wasn’t my own. It carried a message I would never consider: “The talents aren’t yours. They’re mine. Quit doubting them.”

I looked around, realizing the message hadn’t been uttered by someone near me. The message had been delivered to me personally and internally. It was completely clear to me God was sending this message. Who else could claim ownership of the talents I completely doubted in myself? Wondering whether this was simply self-talk, it was clear this message about talents was something I would never consider. It was a message that had originated externally to get me on the right track.

st-anthony2

This was the first time I remember, after many years of trying to cultivate a more rigorous prayer life, hearing a message from God directly.

It’s reassuring, however, that it wasn’t the last message. It’s not as if these messages are frequent, but they have happened again at very important times. I test them on whether they are things I want or already think. If so, I dismiss them as my own thinking. When they are messages clearly beyond me, I pay attention and look for external confirmation.

What types of confirmation?

In the case of the layoff, the night before it happened, I received a mysterious, supportive email in the middle of the night from someone who checked out as a real person I didn’t know. Additionally, the person I had to terminate handled it in the most positive, professional way I could EVER imagine. These external signals confirmed for me this message originated from God, even though I still have no absolute proof of that to this day.

Listening for Answers

People who know me as fact-based and logic-oriented will likely struggle to understand this post. Trust me, though. The answers are out there. And if you’re open to listening everywhere, God is more than willing to share the answers you need. – Mike Brown

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

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(This is another in a week-long series on forming oneself as a Catholic business person.)

While social media and content marketing strategy ideas benefit from new thinking and approaches, you can also incorporate offline best practices that make sense, even if they may seem old.

For example, one client expressed challenges in refreshing and featuring seasonally-based story ideas year after year. In answer to this challenge related to content marketing strategy, I realized something from my spiritual life demonstrates a great lesson applicable to developing an editorial calendar to take advantage of recurring content opportunities.

An Offline Way to Plan Online Content Marketing Strategy

Lectionary

Attending mass on a daily basis has helped reveal the underlying calendar that plans which Bible passages are read at each Catholic mass. An approved lectionary (in essence, an editorial calendar) sets the direction. For weekdays, some readings are assigned to annual cycles and other to biennial ones. During special liturgical seasons, all daily readings are the same each year. For Sunday services, readings rotate every three years. Specific feasts and holidays during the year may cause the replacement of that day’s passages with other related Bible readings instead.

The end result, beyond emphasizing different messages with varied frequencies, is simple: over the course of the daily and Sunday calendars, approximately 95% of the Bible’s books are included through at least some passages.

If your organization has many stories to tell and needs to reinforce key messages at different times (with varying rates of repetition), adopting a comparable editorial calendar approach could make sense for you. Employing a similar strategy for content marketing strategy requires answering critical questions. These include:

  • What’s the full range of content we want to cover for the organization and target audiences?
  • What content priorities need more frequent reinforcement, and which can be addressed less regularly?
  • What are special events that need coverage and should rightfully interrupt the editorial calendar?
  • What options can be provided to content creators (either in topics, style, etc.) to allow creative flexibility?
  • What strategic links exist between content areas and associated SEO and keyword strategies?

The questions may seem daunting. There is incredible upside in the content marketing strategy opportunities generated from implementing a strategic editorial calendar that reflects both repetitive topics and new twists on old stories.

If the prospect of creating an editorial calendar and collaborative blogging plan seems overwhelming, let us know. We’d love to help streamline developing and implementing your social media and collaborative blogging strategies.

Has your organization done anything like this? Have you tried a similar approach for a smaller organization? How has it worked, and where, if anywhere, have you struggled?  – Mike Brown

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