This weekend, I didn’t have the right crayons to get nearly as much work done as anticipated and hoped for before the weekend started.


Creative Skills and Crayons

What does it mean to not have the right crayons?

Remember as a kid how if you had a smaller box of crayons you might be missing the right color to make the picture you wanted to color?

Or maybe how the crayon color you wanted was broken and worn down? Or the coloring book wasn’t fun or the big piece of paper to color wasn’t right somehow?

That’s what this weekend was like.

Now, in my now adult world, the creative skills and tools available to me weren’t what the ones necessary to generate the creative ideas that could turn into creative output.

Too few connections, accomplishment, fresh creative tools, inspiration. Too little exercise, fun, prayer, spirituality, intimacy, motivation, peacefulness. Too much disappointment, fatigue, responsibility, indifference, anger, frustration, apprehension, anxiety, Word and PowerPoint. Too much stuck in one place with no opportunity to do something new.

But now, it’s time to create an opportunity to apply my own creative skills formulas to me.

To call time out and count on the creativity being there when I need it later. To prioritize what really needs to be done, and what can slide into this week. It’s time to see how to put the right crayons together from the broken pieces of crayons I have and move forward creatively. It’s time to move on creatively and look for fulfillment in new ways.

That’s what creative skills are all about in the adult world. – 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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Devising and implementing an innovation strategy seems as if it SHOULD be easier in certain business environments. For instance, companies depending on innovative products and services as a main driver of customer brand value might give innovation strategy a higher priority. One might also suspect the change management related to innovation strategy would be easier at a place such as Disney; heck, Disney has Imagineers!

A recent Fast Company article suggests, however, that the innovation strategy and change management struggles for the new guest experience at Disney are similar to those at less glitzy brands. Our friends at Armada Executive Intelligence recapped the Fast Company article in their “Inside the Executive Suite” weekly feature, highlighting four change management struggles with a major guest experience innovation strategy at Disney. Here’s the “Inside the Executive Suite” recap:

Innovation Strategy – 4 Change Management Struggles at Disney

The new Fast Company (May 2015) covers the challenge of devising, developing, and implementing a transformational customer experience for a brand. As is typical, upending long-standing processes entrenched employees have created and used to build successful careers stirs up significant resistance.

There’s something atypical about the situation described in, “The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness,” though. The story plays out inside a major division of a corporation whose R&D staff members are known by the seemingly change-embracing title of “Imagineers!”

Yes, even Disney faces innovation-related change management issues.


Photo by: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

Realities of Dramatic Change

We recommend reading business magazine case studies with skepticism. The article on the $1 billion Disney investment in MyMagic+, which PROMISES to remake the guest experience at Disney parks, however, rings true. It addresses innovation and change management twists and turns comparable articles often neglect.

We’re highlighting quotes from Fast Company that represent issues most brands face during periods of significant change. Each reinforces important innovation and change management principles.

1. Don’t Look Only Inside and Expect Breakthrough Thinking

Quote: “Flipping through a SkyMall catalog, he (John Padgett, VP of business development) landed on a page featuring the Trion:Z, a magnetic wristband that promised to reduce muscle soreness while simultaneously improving one’s golf swing. The team started to consider whether Disney could create an electronic band that could digitally carry everything a guest might need.”

Situation: Metrics on guest expectations for returning to Disney World were declining. The culprits were high ticket prices, protracted wait times, and a variety of other inconveniences. While guests were identifying significant issues, they couldn’t describe the fixes. Additionally, management team members wedded to the reality of current systems often aren’t able to see breakthrough remedies either.

The MagicBand bracelet, the central piece of the Disney Next Generation Experience (NGE) project, addresses multiple functions, including serving as a digital ticket, money, ride photo organizer, and coupon holder. It also shares information helping dynamically manage the guest experience.

Principle: Your business breakthrough could be what’s new (or even traditional) in another industry. Innovators must continually scan outside inspirations from unlikely places and industries.

2. Knowing “What Matters” Is Vital to Innovation

Quote: “This kind of traffic management wouldn’t just be a service to customers – it could also help Disney fit more guests inside its parks.”

Situation: From an initial visit to the Disney World parks decades ago, one thing was apparent. Nearly everything in the Disney customer experience strategy links to how it keeps guests in the parks for more hours each day for as many days as possible.

Pricing (relatively expensive soft drinks, inexpensive rain slickers plus multi-day pricing packages tied to the number of hotel stay days), access policies (on-property guests receiving preferential early park access), managing time expectations (starting ride experiences many minutes before actually reaching the actual ride), and service niceties (transporting purchases to your hotel room) all made sense for keeping you IN THE PARK longer.

Principle: Even amid dramatic innovation, certain aspects of an organization’s underlying business model may remain sound. Successful innovation strategies benefit from starting with a clear understanding of what needs changing and what needs reinforcement.

3. Not Every Group Thinks the Same Things Matter

Quote: “’You had operations pushback, security and fraud pushback, creative pushback.’ They faced opposition from a powerful corporate force: Disney’s Imagineers…Imagineers argued that the uniformity of the access points (where MagicBands were to be scanned) would disrupt the spirit of their uniquely stylized attractions.”

Situation: Despite the importance of maximizing guest time in the parks, other views of “what matters” exist within Disney. For Imagineers, what matters is immersing park guests in another world of delight that brings them back multiple times. When seamless immersion is “what matters,” even innovative ideas that might disrupt a guest’s experience or could grow stale quickly deteriorate what they are trying to create. Trendy change isn’t good; it’s seen, in fact, as dangerous.

Principle: While a company with a strong strategy creates understanding of its strategy throughout the company, “what matters” DOES differ as multiple levels and parts of the organization implement it. The internal tension in determining the best combination of initiatives to bring the overall strategy to life is why strategy setting isn’t a one-time endeavor. Strategy is lived out daily and employees need support in interpreting and shaping it.

4. Bring Innovation to Life As Soon as Possible

Quote: “The NGE team built out its advanced R&D lab, or what (Executive VP, Nick) Franklin calls a ‘living blueprint’ that would ‘sell the vision.’ With typical Disney flair, the soundstage became a storyboard brought to life, with a full-scale living room…where the archetypal family would book their Disney vacation…(plus) a flight-arrival stage of the set…the hotel set…(and) mock-ups of the in-park experience.”

Situation: It’s one thing to discuss an innovative concept matter-of-factly. It’s another to share compelling stories about it. It’s off the charts to create an immersive prototype to help strategists, executives, and team members experience and react to the concept. As Disney-knowledgeable sources put it, the “’theater’ of selling an idea is more important than the idea itself.’”

Principle: Most organizations don’t have a movie set to prototype a new concept with an immersive experience. Every organization does, however, have prototyping resources. If the innovation is a new product concept, go to the manufacturing floor to demo it. If you are imagining ways to interact with a B2B customer, mock up the customer’s environment in a meeting room. We saw a trucking company do this to re-create a traffic manager’s office. Suddenly innovation opportunities were readily apparent. – Armada Executive Intelligence


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Mike Brown

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Business people can become more proficient at strategic thinking skills through using strategic thinking exercises and tools.

We’ve seen this play out time and time again.

That’s why we don’t buy it when someone says he or she isn’t strategic. Maybe the person isn’t displaying the characteristics of strategic thinking. That doesn’t translate into not being strategic, however.


6 Characteristics of Strategic Thinking Skills vs. Tactical Thinking

If you’re an executive and make a concerted effort to support a team member with strong strategic thinking exercises and tools, what type of impact should you expect?

Here are the differences we see between the two:

A tactical thinker keeps opportunities and issue separate so they are digestible. A strategic thinker integrates these same ideas to create powerful connections.

A tactical thinker looks at what is happening at face value. A strategic thinker imagines what might be happening that isn’t readily apparent.

A tactical thinker works to fill information holes, answering one question and moving to the next without asking any other questions in between. A strategic thinker refines information to build a broad knowledge base with robust insights.

A tactical thinker is focused on checking items off a list to get it finished. A strategic thinker works to make sure the right things are on the list in the first place.

A tactical thinker is sequential, focusing on one thing followed by another. A strategic thinker is holistic, looking for the next biggest result to deliver.

A tactical thinker avoids complexity. A strategic thinker embraces possibilities.

Strategic + Tactical = Creating Strategic Impact

The strongest business people deliver on both strategy and tactics to create results.

And when it comes to results, if you want to learn about the advantages of engaging more of your team in creating strategic impact, we have just the mini-book for you

“RESULTS!!!” is a quick read mini-book designed for busy executives who want to take the first step toward smarter strategy and greater market success. Get your FREE copy today.

Then let’s talk about how to make it happen for your organization.

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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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It’s one thing to have the creative thinking skills to bust creativity barriers when imagining new creative ideas. It’s another to pave the way for successfully pitching ideas internally or externally. Here are seventeen articles touching on the creative thinking skills you need for pitching ideas with greater impact.

Anticipating Receptivity to Change


7 Lessons to Get Ready for Change Now

Don’t wait for the time when you’re going to pitch the idea to start getting ready for change. Start early. Start right now, before you need to start.

Creating Change and Change Management – 4 Strategy Options

Depending on your organization’s strategic situation sets the stage for determining the right mix of emotion, fact, and intensity to pitch new creative ideas.

3 Strategies for Navigating a Political Environment

If your organization’s environment is overtly political (or even subtly political), you need to be thinking about how it will affect reactions to your creative ideas.

Bringing Creative Ideas to Fruition


Project Management – Dinner Table Analogy for Project Team Members

There are times to challenge creative ideas within a project team, and there are times you don’t. Here is a way to help team members understand which is which.

Project Management – 15 Techniques When Time Is Running Down

How you finish up a creative idea, pitch, or prototype can impact how the idea is received. Even if you have to rush through the preparation, you can avoid calling attention to parts that aren’t as fully developed as others.

Creative Thinking Skills – 5 People Vital to Critical Thinking, Literally

It’s far better to invite naysayers to challenge your idea before the big day comes to pitch your creative idea in the limelight. Here are five types of critical thinkers to invite to the challenge party.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Who is the Positive Devil’s Advocate?

While we’re big on challenging the flaws in a creative idea to anticipate any potential issues, it’s also valuable to think about the challenges of outrageous success with your idea.

Packaging Creative Ideas


Why Serve Up Your Treasure Like Trash?

Don’t short change presenting your creative ideas. The lack of impact in how you present creative ideas can directly reflect on perceptions of your ideas.

How Are You Staging Your Next Idea?

Giving tangibility to your creative idea can make it easier to pitch the possibilities of how it can strategically change your organization’s situation.

Project Management Techniques – 5 Final Report Success Tips

Sometimes you’re communicating your creative ideas in a report format. Here are five tips to set your communication up for success.

Customer Experience Strategy – 11 Ways to Demo an Intangible Service

If your idea is intangible, this article, focused on demonstrating intangible services, features strategies that can extend to demoing creative ideas.

Creative Thinking Skills: 9 Ways to Present a Business Strategy with Panache

If you really want to go over the top in sharing your new ideas, here are nine possibilities you need to explore.

Building Connections to the Audience


Making Challenging Content Accessible: 5 Steps to Creating a Nick Cave Fan

If you suspect your creative ideas are going to be challenging to the audience’s sensibilities, here are ways you can build a connection to an audience that may really struggle to understand your perspective.

Innovation Strategy with a New Audience

When you are introducing a new idea to an unfamiliar audience, go out of your way to complete the homework that will unveil the similarities you share so you can start from a point of agreement.

Improve the Success of Your Letters to Santa – Guaranteed!

While the title suggests this post only applies to letters to Santa, it’s really a four-part recommendation formula that is tailor-made to communicate creative ideas to busy executives.

Managing Clients Who Love Their Creative Ideas

It may be that you are in a client situation where the client LOVES their own ideas. If that is the case, there are ways to dissect the ideas to keep what’s good and take a shot at changing what isn’t good in a completely acceptable way.

Structuring the Evaluation

Strategic Questions – 19 Ideas for Reviewing Creative Design Work

Don’t walk into an evaluation of your creative idea and have it turn into a like / don’t like conversation. Instead, provide a framework to evaluate the idea that allows you to showcase how your creative ideas are both creative AND strategic. – Mike Brown


Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic impact, and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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This tweet from Kansas City entrepreneurial maven and Chief Nomad at Hostel KC, Brittain Kovač, asked what creative thinking skills resources we had to avoid “mental bankruptcy.”


Mental bankruptcy?

Mental bankruptcy is when an entrepreneur expends so much mental energy on the business they run a deficit. This results in coming up lacking when they to produce the mental energy needed to keep everything going, whether “everything” relates to business or personal matters.

Mental bankruptcy is not a term we have specifically used relative to creative thinking skills. We have certainly covered the phenomenon, though. As with financial bankruptcy, the best way to avoid mental bankruptcy is to head it off before you need to do something about it.

Invest in Your Creative Thinking Skills Before You Need Them

In light of that advice, here are creative thinking skills and tips we would recommend entrepreneurs start addressing now!

1. What is your biggest purpose?

Figure out what really matters to you through developing a personal core purpose statement. I know an entrepreneur is likely to say what really matters is focused entirely on developing the business. Understood, but I would advise thinking bigger and more spiritually than simply getting your business going. If that is all that matters, you are setting yourself up to crash and burn in case that is what the business does.

2. Identify your inspiration inventory

Take 10 minutes and create an inspiration inventory that lists what does the best job of mentally recharging you. List all these people, places, and things ahead of time. Then invest the time to see, do, and enjoy them to keep yourself mentally sharp and replenish your mental energy assets on an ongoing basis.

3, Build a relationship with a strategic mentor

Developing a relationship with a strategic mentor can be life changing. A strategic mentor should both challenge you and boost you. The key for an entrepreneur is to identify a strategic mentor outside your direct business life. You want someone as a strategic mentor who will not be going through the same mental energy swings you are!

ebook-cover-redo4. Download “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Mental bankruptcy can definitely be the NO standing in the way of an entrepreneur’s innovation plans. Take advantage of our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook. It is full of creative thinking skills and suggestions for breaking through a variety of mental energy deficits.

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5. Subscribe to the Brainzooming blog

If you have not already, subscribe to the Brainzooming blog. (You think we would miss the Brainzooming blog as a great mental energy booster?) Whether it is coming up with new ideas or figuring out innovative ways to get things done, we are all about getting your Brainzooming whether mental bankruptcy is on the horizon or already a part of your entrepreneurial life!

Creative Thinking Skills Build Your Mental Energy Assets

Whether you are an entrepreneur or work in a bigger company (yes, entrepreneurs, there ARE big company people who work hard enough to put themselves into mental bankruptcy), these recommendations are all solid investment for staying out of mental bankruptcy.  – 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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I will admit to not being the most perceptive person in the world.

Even if I would not admit it, however, my wife would tell you that (assuming she reads the blog, which she does not).

In any event, over the course of my career – and I’m sure yours as well – it’s been imperative to get better at addressing the right strategic thinking questions to read other people’s interests, priorities, and behaviors. This is vital to making sure we can help someone else be more successful. Often, there is a clear tie between facilitating overall business success and whether you can assist an individual leader in becoming more personally successful.

What do you watch for to get a good read on someone else?

This question surfaced recently while trying to anticipate whether someone would engage and actually take action to move an initiative ahead. Up until that point, the person was talking a good game, but not delivering on the talk.

21 Strategic Thinking Questions for Reading Someone Else


This is not an exhaustive list of strategic thinking questions for reading someone else, but it is the list running through the back of my head based on this recent experience:

  1. What things intrigue this person?
  2. Where does he/she spend her time?
  3. Does the time investment match up with what money, words, and visible behaviors suggest are most important?
  4. What is the ratio over time between this person being successful and falling short?
  5. What events or patterns always happen when the person is successful?
  6. What events or patterns always happen when the person falls short?
  7. How does the person talk about others?
  8. What do other people around this person have to say about him/her?
  9. Is the person timely most of the time?
  10. Do they focus on the big picture, the details, or both?
  11. Do they get it right on the big picture, the details, or both?
  12. Does this person act in largely consistent patterns, and if so, what are they?
  13. Is this person predictable or not?
  14. If the person isn’t predictable, are they predictably unpredictable or not?
  15. How can you fit seemingly disconnected pieces about the person into a bigger story that suggests future behavior?
  16. What personal strengths does he/she gravitate toward?
  17. Which personal strengths does he/she avoid?
  18. What personal weaknesses doesn’t this person realize?
  19. How often does the person do what he/she says?
  20. How often does the person do things he/she doesn’t talk about in advance?
  21. Can this person think outside him/herself, or is it all about what’s good for him/her?

What does your arsenal of strategic thinking questions for reading others include? – Mike Brown


Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic impact, and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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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I learned in a Bible class that one meaning of the word “holy” is “to be set apart.” In the case of religion, obviously, whatever is considered holy is being set apart for God.

Extending this idea to business can help explain executives who act as if they are the only ones involved in developing strategy for their organizations.

Many executives commonly think, believe, and act as if strategic planning activities are “holy” since they are set apart as something in which only leaders can participate.

Everyone else gets told (ideally) or not (far too often) what the company strategy means for employees, customers, and other stakeholder groups. This communication about strategy may be so superficial it is nearly impossible for an employee to understand and connect to the business strategy to effectively it to life with customers.

Who Participates in Strategic Planning Activities?

At its heart, how the broader organization participates in strategic planning activities is a philosophical issue about what “owning” a company’s strategy means. This extends to who in an organization (or even outside an organization) provides input, hypothesizes about, develops,  shapes, articulates, and implements strategy.

From spending most of my career in the Fortune 500 world leading and participating in developing strategy, the approach The Brainzooming Group supports is that strategy SHOULD NOT be considered “holy.” We push for and support more people participating in developing strategy because it paves the way for dramatic marketplace success.

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Our thinking about strategy permeates the content here.

Creating Strategic Impact and Results!!!

Additionally, The Brainzooming Group has published a new mini-book for senior executives called, “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact throughout an Organization.”

In this mini-book, we share ten lessons for how senior executives should approach developing strategy as an open, collaborative process that meaningfully involves participants and insights from inside and outside their organizations.

These lessons from our work with clients across industries lead to discovering new ideas and changing how organizations serve customers more successfully. The lessons include how to efficiently incorporate a wide number of perspectives about delivering value and more seamlessly linking strategy and implementation throughout the organization.

Download your copy of “Results” today and get a big head start beating your competitors to new heights for strategic impact and dramatic results!

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

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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