Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 149 – page 149
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I had a disastrous presentation last week. The webex was ready and working when right before the presentation was to begin, the computer completely froze. Next steps involved restarting by yanking the laptop battery, yanking my other laptop from its docking station, and trying to get one of three computers back on the webex. We ultimately had to email a file to all participants, delivering an originally designed interactive presentation on using Twitter from a 4-to-a-slide pdf, after a 20 minute late start.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Venting my frustration that evening, my niece, who signed up for Brainzooming via email last year, reminded me of the recent column about envisioning potential problems and being ready to wing it.

Great point Valerie! Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The presentation failure scenarios I had imagined focused on webex problems, so I got there early to ensure people could to see the computer desktop on the webex. What I hadn’t anticipated was the computer freezing. While there was a nearly-current version of the presentation on a USB drive, anticipating the computer failing would have led to sending the presentation upfront with another computer ready to go.

Under stress, there wasn’t time for problem diagnosis; the only alternative was implementing multiple potential solutions. Not until afterward did the problem’s source occur to me: the LCD projector had a long ago history of jamming computers with USB-based clickers. The problem hadn’t occurred in years, and I’d forgotten about it.

So let me amend the first bullet in the previous post’s advice:

  • Invest a little effort ahead of time imagining what complete system failure scenarios could develop. Really go for it – if Armageddon were taking place before a presentation, could you still get things up and running on time? And what’s the backup to the alternative?

There, that feels better. Maybe I’ll be better prepared next time. – Mike Brown

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2

Want to be more critical to your business in one easy step? Here it is:

Step 1: Create recommendations instead of reporting problems.

It’s that simple.

You can stand so far away from the crowd by simply not bothering your boss and co-workers with long descriptions of what you perceive to be broken, failing, aggravating, or insufferable in your workplace.

Instead, create some well thought out, innovative options to address the issue at hand. Deliver your recommendation, sans the soap opera, to your boss.

It’s a little harder than it sounds, but it’s well worth the effort to become the person your boss will turn to for creative answers in challenging times. Mike Brown


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1

Face it: there are a bunch of expectations placed on each of us that, quite frankly, are completely arbitrary.

Oh sure, someone (maybe even someone very important) thinks they’re absolutes. Yet relative to what’s really important (i.e., strategic), there’s more whimsy than criticality in the request.

What can you do when presented with tasks, duties, or expectations that fall into this category?

  • Ask the fundamental question: “What are we trying to achieve?” Invite the other party to participate in answering it to develop a more refined sense of what’s strategic.
  • Suggest more innovative or workable alternatives that still deliver on what you are trying to achieve.
  • Be prepared to creatively negotiate and develop a mutually-agreeable approach.
  • Don’t discount that doing nothing could be the best answer for whoever is requesting you do something that doesn’t really matter.

Give this approach a try to better expend your efforts on things that will legitimately make a difference. Mike Brown


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Never underestimate predictability as an innovative and very attractive brand benefit.

For example, I stay at a particular hotel regularly where I have gold status. Frequently an upgrade’s offered for the stay. Often it’s a “preferred guest” floor room with slightly more plentiful amenities and free in-room bottles of water. As an all-suites property, there’s a microwave, a small fridge, and two place settings – all great for fixing a 5 a.m. breakfast.

During slow periods, I’ve been upgraded to a multi-level room on the top floor with a wonderful view, meeting space, and a full kitchen. Many times though, even with gold status, I’m in a regular room with few amenities and $4 bottled water.

Rather than gold status, I feel as if I have “Forrest Gump” status in their rewards program because I never know what I’m going to get.

While the preferred guest rooms have better amenities, the hotel remodeled those rooms last. So for nearly two years, the non-preferred rooms were much nicer, with better work space and lighting. The large multi-level room (considered the upgrade pinnacle) was the worst in the property, with water stains, peeling wallpaper, and a full flight of stairs to drag your luggage up once in the room. And invariably, when the room has great meeting space, I’m not traveling with a co-worker where our project would benefit from a place to work after hours.

During one stay the upgrade was to a lower floor multi-level room. This alleviated hauling luggage up the stairs. The meeting space was great with a huge TV, but it went completely unused. The water was still $4 and for the first time, there were no plates, silverware, or napkins. So eating an early breakfast required going outside to buy plastic utensils and paper towels!

Thus while appreciating the upgrade effort, the impact generally creates more challenges or wasted benefits than positives. If they ever asked about my brand experience, I’d say it’s “nice but unpredictable,” since there’s no opportunity to plan ahead to take advantage of a potential upgrade.

What could they do? Three simple steps:

    1. Ask upfront about my particular situation and what would be of greatest benefit.

    More room? Better work space? A nicer view? A particular room location? All of these are available, but depending on the trip, which upgrade provides real benefit changes.

    2. Realize that an upgrade can be about the experience and not the actual room.

    Why not be creative and have upgrade kits with amenities and free water no matter what room I’m offered.

    3. Ask specifically at the end of the stay about how things were and consider the comments.

    This is something they never do.

      Three simple steps. If they did them, they’d discover an opportunity to do less for me (either in actual expense or opportunity cost) and get credit for greater value, simply by asking first and delivering a predictable experience that reflects an understanding of my needs.


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      1

      This week’s guest post is from Tracy Brown and Gordon Simmons are the co-creators of Happiness Inside – a social networking website offering articles, tools, tips, and encouragement. Its aim is to help each visitor develop a toolbox to build their own Happiness INSIDE. Gordon is a writer, musician, and online businessman. Tracy is a writer, a dreamer, and loves to engage and inspire others. You can follow them on Twitter at HappinessInside.

      They’re sharing their perspective on making a strategic choice for happiness:

      When we were invited by Brainzooming to do a blog on employing strategic thinking and choosing happiness, we jumped at the chance. You may wonder: Why “strategic thinking” when you are talking about being happy? Well, happiness is a choice – we’ll discuss that later in this post – but first let’s start with thinking strategically in order to choose happiness.

      The mind is a funny creature. Undisciplined, it wanders from subject to subject, thought to thought, from imagined scenario to perceived situation. Sometimes, this is fine – it’s nothing more than benign musings. But the undisciplined mind by itself doesn’t always necessarily act in your best interests. When this happens, thinking strategically can help.

      For a moment, picture the mind as river, water rushing along as you stand along the shore. The water in the river will follow the path of least resistance, especially when circumstances cause a surge in its volume. The water itself is not out to create a flood or breach the river banks; it’s just following the route it can flow in most easily without opposition.

      The mind can behave in a similar way. When left unchecked (like the river’s water), the mind can wander into subjects and areas you do not want to think about or do not need to dwell upon. And it can certainly wander into areas that are simply not true and have a negative effect on how you feel, and ultimately believe and act.

      Consider these examples. You are in school and fail a test. Or you are giving a presentation for work, and you totally bomb in front of your coworkers and maybe even your boss. It just doesn’t go well for you that day. An undisciplined mind might start to travel in “unruly” directions telling you things like:

      • “I’m so stupid.”
      • “I can’t get this.”
      • “I never do these things well.”

      And on and on. Those thoughts are just not true and do not employ thinking strategically. Now, let’s apply strategic thinking to the two examples above.

      Number one, you failed the test. Your deliberate thoughts can go in this direction:

      • “Ok, I really did not do well on that test.” [This is true.]
      • “Today was not my best day.” [This is true.]
      • “And I will work to do better in the future. I can do better.” [This is also true.]

      This last thought is the beginning of thinking strategically. It opens the door and points your mind toward finding a way to create future positive experiences for yourself.

      The bombed presentation?

      • “This was not my best presentation.” [That’s a fact.]
      • “I had the opportunity to learn what works for me when I’m talking to a group and what does not.” [That’s a fact.]
      • “My next presentation will be better because of what I’ve learned in this one.”

      Again, this is thinking strategically.

      So what does thinking strategically have to do with choosing happiness? The answer is simple: What you choose to think about will ultimately have a direct affect on how you feel. Choosing more positive thoughts will create an environment for your mind to be more apt to discover, develop, and experience happiness. Choosing to be happy will create more opportunities for feeling good.

      The happier person is the one who is more strategic in his or her thinking – the one who chooses to think, “I bombed today, but I’ll rock tomorrow!” – Tracy and Gordon


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      3

      I’m a huge advocate of saving idea snippets for later refinement. Doing this has saved me so much creative time over the years.

      Sometimes, though, this strategy leads to a creative dead end.

      I have a nearly 100 page Word file of blog article starters along with several sketchbooks loaded with ideas. These have been great resources, serving as a safety net when ideas or time are tight.

      Yet, the ease with which I used to write the blog has evaporated over the past several months.

      This is likely due to a whole variety of legitimate tugs on my time and mental energy. But instead of my idea trove helping me, the chore of sifting through it and thinking about what and how to edit the ideas has been more daunting than invigorating.

      So I tried a new approach this weekend. I began with a brand new Word file, a few ideas written down this week, and pounded out 5 new articles Saturday evening, just like the early days. Freed from the creative baggage of feeling compelled to rescue ideas, words and ideas started flowing naturally again.

      It comes back to a fundamental strategy: be willing to walk away from what has worked for you when it isn’t working anymore. 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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      Last Thursday, thanks to a heads up tweet from Todd Chandler, Cyndi and I attended our first Pecha Kucha night at Crosstown Station in downtown Kansas City. If you’ve not heard about it, Pecha Kucha is an innovative 20-slide PowerPoint presentation format with each slide on-screen for 20 seconds. Introduced in 2003, Pecha Kucha nights have been held in more than 200 cities globally.

      Pecha Kucha emphasizes rapidly-paced, visually-oriented, creative slides. You’d think, by definition, it would be difficult to do a bad Pecha Kucha presentation since so many poor presentations emerge from slow pacing and too many words on a slide. While avoiding these downfalls helps improve presentations, it doesn’t fix everything.

      As a result, here are 6 presentation reminders from Pecha Kucha night that apply to other presentations too:

      Reminder 1: Boring presentations aren’t only caused by too much text on a slide. Despite agonizing about overly bullet pointed PowerPoint slides, an exclusively visual presentation can be deadly as well. One way to accomplish it? Read your presentation and don’t make eye contact with the audience.

      Reminder 2: You can lose the handle on a presentation in less than 6 minutes. Even if you’re only presenting for a few moments, failing to have a solid presentation strategy and a well thought out flow will put you in the ditch quickly.
      Reminder 3: Sometimes 20 seconds a slide is still too long. You wouldn’t imagine it, but 20 seconds can push the limits of how long a slide should be on screen if there’s no reason for it to be there or it’s not information rich.
      Reminder 4: It’s a good thing corporate presentations don’t usually include beer and poetry. No matter what they are, distractions change a presentation. The beer break in the middle of the evening introduced an attractive distraction. Subsequent presentations became funnier or less tolerable (i.e. the poetry reading) because of it.
      Reminder 5: Doing a visually-oriented presentation doesn’t mean you should treat it like a slide show. Really compelling pictures are worth a thousand words. Marginal images are worth about five. And if you’re not prepared to fill in some of the other necessary words to make a point, you’ve got a problem.
      Reminder 6: Humor nearly always helps a presentation. Even in a brief presentation, smartly using humor makes a presenter more intellectually & emotionally approachable, bringing the audience into the experience. One of the funniest lines of the night? “These mouse turds were hand rolled by me.” How can you not be rooting for someone who’s willing to honestly share that?
      Go to Pecha Kucha if you get a chance (as a teaser, here’s Todd’s fun presentation). I’ll be working on my 20 second presentation chops for evening #7 on October 22! – Mike Brown

      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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