Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 153 – page 153
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Creativity isn’t always wild, crazy, and free form.

When you hit a creative block or venture off into a new creative area, structure can actually enhance your creative skills, whether it’s an artsy pursuit or part of an everyday creative role. Structure help get your creativity going and beat a creative block because it:

  • Provides models and creative patterns to serve as inspiration sources. An example is Haiku – a strict poetry structure with 17 syllables spread across 3 lines. If you can count, you can write Haiku, and its form makes almost any words sound impressive.
  • Reduces the number of creative variables you have to consider. Fewer options allow you to concentrate greater creative energy on those that remain.
  • Makes it easier to find instruction and input about using the structure itself. Think about the number of Dummies books available for a variety of creative pursuits.
  • Adds depth, since structure itself can help communicate messages. Icons represent this, since certain images and figures suggest far more depth than their visual meaning alone.
  • Can make your work more shareable, since others will already understand the form and be able to build on and adapt it. A 12-bar blues structure is an example since it easily allows other musicians to improvise within it.

No Ideas + Structure = Creative Block Beating Results. Remember that creative equation! – Mike Brown

To tap into your own creativity, download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these creative benefits for you.

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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From a recent conference, here are more tips for bad presenters. If any apply to you (please ask somebody about that), heed this advice!

  • If you are a flat presenter, listen to “Renegade Master” by Fatboy Slim before speaking. It will definitely pump your energy level.
  • Arrive early and do whatever you can to ensure your laptop is placed so you can see it from where you’re speaking. Then use it to look at what’s on the screen; stop turning around to look back at the screen as if you’re sharing the view with the audience.
  • Also have somebody stand where you’ll stand and see how the lighting looks. If the presentation area isn’t well lit, get someone to help adjust the lights so you’re not standing in the dark. If that doesn’t work, consider changing where you’ll stand.
  • Stop reading slides.
  • When sharing a list of what you plan to cover, don’t talk about each item in detail on the first pass through the list. Save it for when you’re actually going to be covering it.
  • Don’t tell me you’re not a professional speaker. I can tell.
  • When time’s running out and you announce you’re going to move quickly through the rest of the presentation, don’t read the remaining slides word for word. Instead, share the broad themes that you haven’t touched on yet.
  • Finally, go see Edward Tufte present live. It’s an experience that will help you immensely!

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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Even your mentors may need advice and instigation at some point. If you find you have a mentor who is ready to mistakenly pack it in, demonstrate to them why it’s important for them to act, take a stand, or confront what’s confounding them.

I did it recently, and it resulted in a last minute change of course on a major decision.

Do it yourself and some good will assuredly come from you standing up for the right course of action.

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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Although I’ve been accused by co-workers of having a poker face, I’m not a poker player. As a result, this follow-up to yesterday’s post on bluffing is based on secondary research, not real-life poker experience. These rules, adapted from poker bluffing maxims, are helpful in deciding when and how to use a bluffing strategy in business situations:

  • Be attuned to details in others’ behaviors. Study good bluffers and identify why they’re effective.
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  • Don’t make it a general practice to bluff. Use the strategy only when necessary and avoid pure bluffs (i.e., you have limited means to deal with the downside of losing) at nearly all costs.
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  • It’s dangerous to bluff against careless or inexperienced parties. They’ll tend to miss or incorrectly perceive situations and react unpredictably.
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  • Fully understand your position in any situation where you’re considering a bluffing strategy.
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  • Make sure the risks aren’t too high when you elect to bluff.
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  • When bluffing, do so in a way that’s consistent with what the other person suspects is accurate and true about the situation (i.e., they think you have all the necessary information in a situation, so you act as if you do).
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  • Don’t bluff someone you suspect has a stronger position (i.e., more information, flexibility, risk tolerance, etc.).

When to bluff? Here are a few situations where it may be appropriate:

  • A situation is familiar and you need to appear strong and in command even when you don’t have all the information you’d like or a full grasp of this particular situation.
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  • You have some negative near-term information that can be corrected more readily if you don’t have to disclose it to the other party.
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  • You’re bargaining with someone in a low-importance situation and are indifferent to winning or losing.

Consider incorporating bluffing into your strategy repertoire if you haven’t before.

And given how good interviewees are about Googling interviewers, these last two posts might be enough of a nudge to pave the way for reintroducing my bluffing question with the possibility of getting some decent answers.

Thanks for playing along during Sports Strategy Lesson week. Did you enjoy these strategy lessons? Let me know!

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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The start of baseball spring training reminds me of a favorite baseball story with a great sports strategy lesson. It’s been so long since I heard it, who knows if it’s true, but it’s so rich with strategy lessons, it almost doesn’t matter!

The Story

During a Yankee World Series appearance, Joe DiMaggio’s arm was reportedly injured. Scouting reports said opponents could run on anything hit to center since supposedly DiMaggio couldn’t throw. How did DiMaggio deal with this blatant weakness?

Even though hurt, he could make one throw a day. Most people would save that one throw for an important play late in the game. Not DiMaggio. Before the game, with the opposing team on-field, he’d uncork a bullet from center to home plate. Seeing this for themselves, the other team wouldn’t dare try to take advantage of DiMaggio’s arm by attempting to grab an extra base when things really counted.

Strategy Lesson One

Strategy lesson one focuses on the fundamental strategic question, “What matters?” In this case, preventing runners from advancing on balls hit to center was paramount. And since DiMaggio’s physical prowess was failing him, he used an alternative – his mental skill – to accomplish this important objective. His adeptness demonstrates a true strategic perspective. Applying this lesson is relatively clear: understand your desired objective and be open to unconventional ways to accomplish it.

Strategy Lesson Two

The second strategic lesson is you don’t have to display all your capabilities all the time for them to be effective. DiMaggio relied on his “brand” reputation, with only slight real evidence, to create a larger-than-reality perception. Using this strategy lesson is more subtle. Suppose you have a brand capability that’s temporarily weakened or under attack. While it’s fine to not rely on the capability, you may still need to let others know it’s in your repertoire. If that’s the case, determine in what ways you can compensate, perhaps by taking advantage of an opportunity to mass resources temporarily and deliver better than typical performance or ward off a competitor.

This two-part sports strategy lesson can help prevent others from taking advantage of you or your brand when it really counts! – 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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We’re in an annual transitional time in sports. Football just wrapped up, baseball spring training has started, and Matt Kenseth won the rain-shortened Daytona 500 in NASCAR yesterday. There was even a big poker tournament on ESPN Sunday. While there’s not a lot on sports here, this week’s articles will each touch on sports-related strategy lessons.

“One of Them Racing Lessons”
For several years, I ran a NASCAR sponsorship. It was a wonderful testing ground for guerrilla marketing approaches, and surprisingly, yielded a great strategy story from an unlikely source – our driver, Jimmy Spencer, “Mr. Excitement.”
At a 2002 Dover, DE race, our team had a good but not great car. The weather was iffy all day as storm clouds rolled over, and rain drops weren’t far behind. As the rain started, most cars stayed on the track to keep their positions, figuring the race would be rained out.
Instead of following, our car left its position among the leaders, heading for a pit stop to get gas and tires just as the race was halted. As a result, we went to the back of the pack, ruining our chances for a strong finish – if the rain washed out the race.
Why did the team make the decision?
Our team checked all available radar information and saw the rain should stop after too long. Knowing our car’s mileage and tire wear, coupled with how much of the race would remain if it resumed, the team used a strategy based on its insight (and expectation) the race would go the distance.
So what happened?
Unlike yesterday’s Daytona 500, the clouds moved on and the race resumed. While nearly every other car headed for the pits, Jimmy Spencer moved up to third. As racing heated up near the end, the first and second place cars made contact, slowing down just enough for Jimmy to drive underneath them and take the lead. “Mr. Excitement” won the race.
Even though we’d try to script what Jimmy would say, we’d always hold our breath when they gave Jimmy the microphone. In the winner’s circle that day, Jimmy made an unexpected great strategic statement: “We didn’t have the best car today, but we had the best strategy.”
I’m not sure if Jimmy meant all that in his comment, but I’ve used this story many times since because it’s truly a great strategic insight with value to all business strategists! – 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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In a Cosby Show episode, one of Bill’s daughters brought her new fiancé home; the fact they were engaged (and had been for months) was a complete surprise. Bill compared it to serving an expensive piece of steak on a trashcan lid, i.e. taking something wonderful and desirable and completely ruining it through how it was presented.

The same thing happens to great ideas all the time.

We’ve become so dependent on email as a means of communication that no one thinks anything of taking a new idea, burying it in an email with a non-descript subject line (or worse, an unrelated forwarded subject line), and sending it off to rest among potentially scores of unread emails in someone’s inbox.

Even if the recipient does eventually read the email, an accurate understanding, interpretation, and any excitement about the idea depends solely on the recipient, not on your presentation of the idea.

Instead of taking this easy (and typically fruitless) way out, here’s an alternative – actually present your ideas as you would pitch any creative concept:

  • Identify who can approve your idea
  • Frame your pitch as simply as possible with the audience’s motivations and expectations in mind
  • Practice and refine the pitch, augmenting it with any necessary support & identifying how you’ll counter challenges
  • Pitch the idea with enthusiasm and be there to answer questions and clarify

Try this when you have an idea to share instead of passively emailing it. The process needn’t be overly complicated, and you’ll find yourself with a stake in so many more successfully implemented ideas.

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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