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After presenting an “Idea Magnets” keynote last week for the inaugural customer forum at one of our logistics industry clients, an attendee pointed out an intriguing omission when it comes to creative leadership. Talking afterward, he noted a creative leadership characteristic that shows up near the top on most lists of what it takes to be a strong leader was missing from Idea Magnets: empathy.

Acknowledging empathy IS a frequently mentioned leadership quality, I began trying to figure out why empathy isn’t part of Idea Magnets.

Do Idea Magnets Get a Pass on Empathy?

Idea-Magnets-Title

I thought back on the strategic mentors and creative leadership standouts I’ve known and worked with that shaped the Idea Magnets content. Quite honestly, with a couple of exceptions, empathy is NOT high on the list of their common characteristics. While none displayed the creative prickliness one associates with classic creative geniuses, they were all intently driven toward realizing their strong creative visions. While giving a nod to team members’ needs and feelings, they push incredibly hard creatively. That can mean feelings, mental and physical energy, and reasonableness go by the wayside since the creative goal is the most important thing in sight.

Even though empathy may be a vital leadership skill overall, I don’t think it’s high on the list for successful idea magnets.

That doesn’t make them better or worse when it comes to creative leadership.

It simply means they can accomplish what they need to accomplish creatively without being overly concerned with team members situations and sensibilities.

How Do Creative Leadership and Empathy Match Up for You?

I’m curious to know where you would place empathy as a creative leadership trait for idea magnets. Is empathy a must have, nice to have, or a non-factor in realizing creative aspirations in a team?  – 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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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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How “wild and crazy” should you be in using creative thinking exercises? And do you need to be more or less wild and crazy in teaching creative thinking to a group?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Orange-Squeeze-Toy

Creative Thinking Exercises without Wild and Crazy

Sometimes, the right answer is not being very wild and crazy at all – not even one little bit.

At least that was the answer during one strategic planning session we were leading back in the B2B, Fortune 500 transportation and logistics days. While onsite with one of our subsidiaries, a Senior VP called me over to talk with the subsidiary’s president before we started working on the annual plan. He plainly and sternly said, “I don’t want any funny business.” I assured him our approach was to “work,” but at some point, there might be a little funny business. Since we needed his agreement to work with his team, we didn’t put out any toys. We started by facilitating a relatively staid strategic planning development process. No toys, few jokes, and a clear focus on being all business instead of wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

As the group relaxed during the day, however, we put out a few squeeze balls. They soon started flinging them at one another.  We introduced the “What’s It Like” creative thinking exercise to help them see how their trucking brand was JUST LIKE Ritz-Carlton. Most importantly, at the day’s end, the president said it was “good” and invited us back the next year.

Net result? We were very successful with hardly any wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

Our Most Wild and Crazy Creative Thinking Exercise

Contrast that with a recent “Doing New with Less” workshop in the heavily regulated financial services industry. One might expect it to be completely serious without any extreme creativity.

It was, but only partially.

We didn’t put out toys at the half-day workshop’s start. There were no funny slides or typical sight gags to begin. By the end of the workshop, however, we dove headlong into the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise.

When done well, Shrimp is one of our most outrageous, wild and crazy creative thinking exercises. It pushes participants to initially generate trouble-inducing, extreme creativity ideas that we then scale back to reality.

And the financial services marketers embraced their extreme creativity.

Among the trouble-inducing ideas they imagined initially were psychic economists, Chippendale dancers delivering financial reports, a high school musical to communicate annual performance to individual investors, and giving people scratch cards to discover how lucky they’d be in securing an interest rate.

They turned these wild ideas into a new positioning for their chief economist, new ways to deliver financial updates to clients via a group event, and a simple decision tree to identify interest rate categories.

All this from a wild and crazy creative thinking exercise we rarely teach in workshops because groups aren’t THAT ready for extreme creativity.

Extreme Creativity All Depends

The important thing to remember is, however, wild and crazy is simply an ingredient in creative thinking, NOT its sole purpose. You can call us crazy, but that is why we think “how wild and crazy to be” depends completely on the group, the situations, and what our client wants to achieve. Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
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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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Ten years ago today, I led our internal communications team in a variety of creative thinking exercises to develop ideas for our upcoming two-thousand person employee and customer Transformation conference that January in Las Vegas.

The session had both high and lows, as I recall.

Creative-Group

Creative Thinking Exercises – Ten Valuable Lessons

I recently found ten lessons I wrote down at the Transformation Conference creative session’s conclusion that pertain to group facilitation.

Beyond the Transformation conference ideas the group identified, the session was important since it:

Some group facilitation lessons were very specific to the session (including giving Becky’s real name), so they are generalized here.

In their more general format, they are valuable lessons for anyone trying to facilitate a diverse and unruly group of people through creative thinking exercises!

  1. Take a minute at the start and explain to people why we’d do something where you don’t have to consider logistical or budgetary reality when saying ideas (this environment is what made Becky shut down).
  2. Tell people it’s okay that they haven’t experienced the thing that you’re innovating. It actually makes them strong innovators because they’re looking at it with completely fresh eyes.
  3. At a minimum, identify someone to help when facilitating a session by yourself. They are invaluable for gathering ideas and moving things around in the room when you are facilitating.
  4. Make sure if you have people select good ideas that you don’t fail to get them categorized as “better” ideas. If not, ideas people picked out as “special” might be merged back in with all the other ideas (and you lose the valuable input on stronger ideas).
  5. Trait Transformation is a great group exercise and a wonderful place to start a session. It really works to think through which cells you’ll likely go to ahead of time; it makes the exercise flow better.
  6. Set an expectation on the number of ideas generated for each of the creative thinking exercises. It gets people to generate more ideas and puts more pressure on them to just say ideas and not assess them.
  7. Watch for people who are bogging down groups and move them into other groups.
  8. If you have enough naysayers for a small group, put them all together and don’t let them mess up anyone else’s creative experience.
  9. Make sure opportunities are stated broadly enough to yield ideas. If you are too specific about an opportunity’s description, you wind up limiting ideas.
  10. Get more creative thinking exercises in place to be ready for new types of opportunities you may encounter.

It’s amazing to me to read through this list of ten lessons in group facilitation. While I remember certain aspects of the session, these lessons make it clear how pivotal these few hours were in shaping how we still work with creative thinking exercises ten years later! – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

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.

Download Your Free

 

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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Suppose you need to reduce, simplify, or streamline a project. That seems to be an easily enough understood strategic thinking objective requiring basic strategic thinking skills.

Yet, how many times do you see an attempt to simplify a project lead to more complication?

Don’t Rube Goldberg Your Way to Simple

It’s sort of a Rube Goldberg phenomenon. Rube Goldberg was the cartoonist that would concoct elaborate sequences of complex steps all intended to perform some task or achieve a result that could have been simply done in one step…if someone had just done it.

Rube-Goldberg-Cartoon

Having seen this Rube Goldberg phenomenon play out any number of times in big corporations (and, admittedly, having been a part of creating some of them), it typically follows a familiar pattern.

  • Everyone acknowledges the need to cut time, cost, or some other resources required for a project.
  • Instead of also agreeing to a commensurate modification in the project’s objective (or what it is trying to achieve), a group starts coming up with ideas to begin cutting things.
  • One or more participants in the group “agree” to reducing things, but all ideas are filtered against how they can still deliver the original objective.

The result is a new series of steps that seem small and less significant, but that really add complexity, non-standard activities, and multiple hoops to the process. Those translate to more time, costs, and other resources that you were trying to reduce in the first place.

Focusing Strategic Thinking Skills on Simplifying Expectations

If you need to do something more simply, make sure you target your strategic thinking skills to simplify the expectations for your strategic thinking objective BEFORE you start trying to simplify anything else. – Mike Brown

 

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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

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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SPOILER ALERT!

I’m going to reveal what we’re doing this afternoon at the Nature Explore / Outdoor Learning Project Leadership Institute at Lied Lodge in Nebraska City, NE.

During our closing Brainzooming workshop, more than 120 attendees will use several Brainzooming exercises to create a book in just 45 minutes.

Yup, 45 minutes, and I cannot wait!

How do 120+ People Create a Book in 45 Minutes?

Nature-Explore-Session

With Creative Thinking Exercises!

Working with Nancy Rosenow, executive director of our long-term client Nature Explore, we’ll teach the attendees at the Leadership Institute the Change Your Character and Extreme Creativity creative thinking exercises. They’ll use the exercises to identify new ways to address challenges they face in developing outdoor, nature-oriented classrooms for children.

Taking advantage of the math (lots of people, high yielding creative thinking exercises, and compressed time) we’ll work with Nature Explore to shape the group’s content to create a book. They’ll make the ultimate eBook available to Leadership Institute participants plus use it as a download and list-building content asset for their new online learning offering.

This content development strategy builds on the large-scale focus group workshop we created for the Leadership Institute last year. It also fits with the strategies for effectively using events to create massive amounts of content that we shared, along with author Pam Didner, at the 2014 Content Marketing World.

As we develop and launch the eBook, we’ll keep you updated. Additionally, plans are to video the session and create a brief case study recap to demonstrate how we can work with your organization to harness the insights, imagination, and enthusiasm of your audiences to create similar great content in a very short time!

If you want to learn more about our techniques sooner than later, email me at info@brainzooming.com or give me a call at 816-509-5320. We’ll start imagining how to do something comparable for your organization!

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

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.

Download Your Free

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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Luncheon-Graphic

I’m in Carbondale, Illinois today delivering a talk at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on “Envisioning the Gigabit City – Collaboration and the Creative Power of Diversity.” It is an honor to return to Southern Illinois University, since I received an MBA from SIU.

At today’s luncheon, there will be an opportunity to meet and talk about community visioning with leaders working to turn Carbondale into a Gigabit City. Two Carbondale leaders, Gary Williams, the Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Carbondale and Steve Mitchell with Connect SI, participated in the Gigabit City Summit that The Brainzooming Group co-developed in January 2015. They had the opportunity to hear, via a Brainzooming workshop at the event, how we help foster community visioning for cities, organizations, and institutions.

In the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute talk, we’ll cover some of the same themes on community visioning with a specific emphasis on what it means in trying to build a creative economy.

You can follow the conversation on Twitter today at #CarbondaleGigabit, plus dive deeper into the content incorporated into the talk via links below:

“Envisioning the Gigabit City – Collaboration and the Creative Power of Diversity”

SIU-Know-No-Bounrds

Appreciating Perspectives

Cultivating Diverse Ideas

Creating Collaboration

Exploiting Structure

Crowd-Friendly Communication

“Measuring” the Return on Creative Ideas

Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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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While creating a scope of work for a Brainzooming creative thinking skills workshop targeted at a B2B salesforce, our client contact (who is a Brainzooming reader) asked for material on what it means to be a creatively supportive leader.

Great question!

4 Keys for Being a Creatively Supportive Leader

When it comes to a leader actively supporting a team’s creative thinking skills development, there are multiple ways to go from talk to tangible support. We typically see the following behaviors from a creatively supportive leader:

  • Actively and fully participating in the original creative thinking skills workshop learning
  • Modeling behaviors and conversations that support exploring new ideas
  • Reaching across organizational lines to include thinkers with diverse and valuable perspectives
  • Using strategic and creative thinking skills in daily interactions to develop and move ideas toward implementation

Brainstorming-wall

Beyond these four keys to being a creatively support leader, here are previous Brainzooming articles to provide additional ideas on the perspectives and behaviors of a leader that cultivates team creativity:

I figured we’d share this compilation on a Monday because there is AT LEAST a week’s worth of reading there to brush up on your skills in being a creatively supportive leader!   – Mike Brown

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
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Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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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