Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Short Story: When it comes to creativity, start with and return to the underlying strategy; that’s the most important piece of creative advice I have to offer.

I’ve been trying to let go of some creative reins on the Brainzooming brand. This is a matter of necessity: too little time, too many other things to do, reaching the limits of my execution talents, needing fresh perspectives on things I have been looking at for years.

This transition forces me to formally communicate aspects of the Brainzooming brand, including strategic assumptions and brand personality, vocabulary, design standards, and other elements that have only been in my head until now.

It also reinforces something I’ve known for a long time: I’m both a great client and a horrible client.

I’m a great client because of all the creative thinking background and experience communicating with creative people. I’m horrible because I have just enough creative chops to do many things myself, which I’m not reluctant to do if a project isn’t quite working.

8 Pieces of Creative Advice from a Great and Horrible Client

While collaborating with others on the Brainzooming brand, I’ve doled out plenty of advice. Here are eight creative advice tidbits that are more broadly applicable beyond our growing creative team:

  • Sometimes they hire you for how you’ll bring your personal creative vision to a project. Sometimes they hire you to put your creative vision to the side and perform work that sounds/looks like the brand. Know which type of gig you are working on right now.
  • Get the strategy down before you move to creative ideas. Return to the brand strategy and the creative strategy frequently. Nailing the strategy exactly is more important than delivering the most stellar creative idea.
  • Make sure you get a creative brief in place so there’s some type of objective way to assess the work when you’re done.
  • If you’re strong on big creative ideas, you can probably slide on some of the fine points. If you’re very strong at creative details, that can make up for not having the biggest ideas. You can’t fall short on both big ideas and details, however, and think you’re going to thrive creatively.
  • If you are struggling with both the big ideas AND the detail, make sure you under-promise and over-deliver. Work quickly to allow time to recover from dead ends. Most importantly, be a person of your word: hit the deadlines you agree on with the client.
  • Push yourself to explore lots of creative ideas; more creative ideas than you can imagine you need. You WILL need all those creative ideas to uncover the winning idea.
  • Don’t throw your creative work over the transom with no explanation. Push for the opportunity to explain your bold creative choices. Once you get that hearing, be ready to tie your bold creative choices to the underlying strategy.
  • If your usual jobs or projects don’t allow you to regularly go for big creative ideas, cultivate something else creatively that allows you to grow and develop your big creative thinking.

That’s my creative advice. Do with it what you will. Mike Brown

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Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured a piece called “Two Cheers for Failure in a Tough Drug Industry,” by Jonathan D. Rockoff. The article highlighted innovation strategy options that drug companies are using to instill and support risk-taking behaviors. These companies are trying to motivate researchers facing daunting odds for bringing a drug successfully to market. Rockoff cites odds of 1 in 10,000 for drug compounds to ultimately gain regulatory approval.

The innovation strategy options include cultivating company culture, celebrating failures with parties and awards, and making sure they are failing as fast as possible with sufficient learnings.

4 Ways to Celebrate Risk Taking

While an innovation strategy that suggests throwing a party to celebrate a failed idea seems outrageous, the message from the pharma companies is that it’s smart business. Even if your innovation success rate is dramatically higher, motivating employees to embrace risks vital for innovating can be challenging. It’s chic for gurus to extol embracing failure. Yet, most employees have no track record of seeing peers – or anyone else – fail repeatedly as a pathway to corporate success.

Let’s suspend judgement and see the innovation strategy decisions certain pharma players are introducing to motivate taking risks.

1. Cultivating a Resilient, Innovative Environment

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is targeting both learning and emotion to prompt engagement and risk taking among its nearly 700 employees. In business for nineteen years, it has only one drug in the marketplace; eight more are in advanced development stages. To create broader understanding among employees about embracing serial risk taking amid tough odds, it invites well-known pharmaceutical innovators to share their experiences and practices.

The company also depicts development paths of drugs that have successfully made it through the regulatory gauntlet. They display these case studies in the workplace. To further engage its team, Ironwood asks staff to submit clever early-stage names for products in development. They encourage temporary names that are inside jokes or reflect pop culture interests.

By involving employees beyond its research team, Ironwood personalizes for all staff the challenges of innovating when you expect to meet many setbacks and dead ends. Inviting everyone to name test drugs creates personal investment in products under development, even among non-researchers.

Something to Think about for Your Business: How does your organization create opportunities for all employees to invest in innovation, even if you are not looking for them to generate or develop new product ideas? Just as you might encourage every employee to find the connections between themselves and end customers, how can you encourage them to create closer connections to the innovation centers in your business?

2. Celebrating Risk-Taking Behaviors

The biotech units at AstraZeneca and at Bristol-Myers Squibb each award scientists and researchers for outstanding work. Their awards are independent of ultimate commercialization or lack of it. AstraZeneca hosts an annual event to recognize scientists. The awards, presented at a black-tie event (dubbed the “Science Oscars”) are based on promising work; results are not a factor. The “Bravo Awards” at Bristol-Myers Squibb are similarly granted based on research efforts.

When an organization singles out people for dedicated, positive effort AND successful results, it sends a powerful message. It says the organization realizes successful innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovation depends on ideas and exploration, development and testing, and ultimately, achieving some threshold rate of commercialization. Reinforcing a multi-dimensional innovation process view with incentives and rewards along all phases shows that the company understands the importance of cultivating all aspects of innovation.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Do your innovation metrics track performance from idea generation to R&D, and through business results? If not, what are some smart steps that will expand your innovation dashboard?

3. Letting Go when an Innovation Strategy Isn’t Working

Beyond ingenious names, Ironwood holds wakes for drugs it has tested but killed before reaching the market. The company introduced the idea of a drug wake to allay researchers’ fears related to its first failed drug. With research and development on the drug suspended, employees were dreading restarting their research efforts (at best) or losing their jobs (at worst).

The wakes salute development efforts that extend up to a decade without commercial success. Ironwood now has six in its history; the wakes are integral to helping employees move to new assignments with strong outlooks. Recalling personal experiences and memories conveys appreciation for each innovation journey, even if the desired destination proves elusive.

Organizational behaviors convey whether or not true appreciation exists for risk taking that doesn’t result in bankable ROI. The audacity of throwing a party for what could easily be classified as failures signals confidence in ultimate success, investment in valuing people (beyond exclusively ROI-based outcomes), and a relaxed environment. These send the clear message that support for innovation and risk taking exists independently from market success.

Something to Think about for Your Business: What do your organizational behaviors say about your organization’s risk tolerance? Do you back up communication about the value of risk taking with obvious support and encouragement when individuals and teams pursue new ideas that fail to come to fruition?

4. Failing and Learning

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is training employees to conduct thorough post-R&D analysis. It wants to ensure that scientists capitalize on every possible learning from failed innovation. Embedding the US Army’s “after-action reporting” technique provides a methodology for in-depth researcher interviews to identify themes behind successes and failures. The process turns personal learnings into organizational knowledge.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Are you using every innovation initiative, regardless of its success, to create learnings that make your organization smarter and better? How often are you prioritizing and green lighting higher-risk innovation initiatives that promise disproportionate new learning potential?

What ideas does this raise about your innovation strategy?

Could you identify a couple of areas where pharma companies are supporting risk-taking behavior that would benefit your organization’s innovation strategy? Maybe it’s not a wake for a dead idea, but what else can you mine for an innovation strategy boost? – Mike Brown

 

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3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
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  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

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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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What could you do to your boring office so you and others are thinking strategically more readily and effectively?

Someone searched and came to the Brainzooming.com website looking for strategic thinking in the office examples. While we have a post on doing thinking strategically without leaving the office, we don’t have anything on how the physical surroundings of an office can boost strategic thinking.

32 Ideas for Thinking Strategically in the Office

If I were going to outfit an office to boost strategic thinking in a big way, here are things I’d do (and btw, the links below are nearly all affiliate links):

Physical Surroundings

I’d make these adjustments to the physical space:

  • Include a mobile, magnetic white board to draw out ideas
  • Even better, white board paint to make all the walls into white boards (and underneath, we’d apply metal primer so we could use magnets to hold up paper)
  • Paint grids (maybe like graph paper) on the white board walls to organize thinking and ideas
  • Maybe smart board technology (but I’m not quite sold on it yet)
  • A couple large screens to look at data, images, and video
  • Video conferencing equipment (preferably a Telepresence system, if at all possible)
  • Soft carpet to be able to lay on the floor and imagine
  • Make sure there are plenty of windows to look outside
  • Include multiple types of lighting with multiple ways to shut them down in certain parts of the office, but not in the other parts
  • Have fifty square feet of space per the number of people expected to meet for strategic thinking in the office

Strategic Inputs

For strategic jumping off points, there are various things to include:

Supplies and Resources

Here’s my shopping list for resources:

Other Stuff

These are other things I’d want around or available in the office:

Granted, it’s likely everything I spelled out here would not fit in most offices. And there is no way this is a universal list for fostering thinking strategically in the office. What will make thinking strategically easier and more frequent in your boring office will depend on what stimulates your best strategic thinking. – 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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From a day-to-day perspective in the corporate world, we didn’t necessarily use objective metrics about creative ideas. Too often, it came down to whether an executive liked or didn’t like an idea.

After talking with a friend, I think the percent of time you are told to pull back your creative ideas because they are too big and bold may be a good way to assess how your creativity is faring in an organization. My friend explained that over a period of years, her bosses shot down every dynamic possibility she proposed as a creative marketing idea. The cumulative impact is she no longer offers big creative ideas because there isn’t any point. Her learned reluctance to push bold creative ideas now creeps into other situations where she does have tremendous latitude to introduce bold ideas. As she describes it, this phenomenon frustrates her professionally AND personally. It takes the creative joy out of side projects she does.

An Objective Creativity Metric

You could define a metric on how often you are told to pull back your creative ideas as a ratio:

Number of creative ideas you suggest
Number of times you have to pull back creative ideas because of bigness and boldness

Here are a few observations about the resulting percentage for this Creative Pullback Ratio (or CPR – yes, it HAD to have an acronym!):

If you are told to rein in every creative idea, that’s not a good place. There is a disconnect. It may be time to make sure your bold creative ideas are clearly and understandably rooted in strategy. Alternatively, you may be in a place that is thinking way too small; you should get out as soon as you can.

If no one ever says your ideas are too bold, that is also bad. It means you aren’t challenging anyone’s thinking with your creativity. You are going for safe and easy instead of innovative and disruptive.

Since neither CPR extreme is good, the right frequency for getting told to pull back creative ideas is somewhere between zero and 100%. That’s a huge range. Where the right place is depends on a couple of things:

Could monitoring a CPR benefit your creative ideas?

I pitched this idea to my friend. She said she didn’t think about developing creative ideas like this at all. That’s fair; maybe the CPR is too calculated (pun kind of intended) for people who are pure creatives.

For someone like me who has to use creative thinking structures (especially extreme creativity exercises) to boost creativity, the CPR may make more sense. I’m manufacturing creative ideas, no imagining them from pure inspiration. When you are a creativity manufacturer, having a creativity metric such as the CPR would help me know if I’ve dialed the right creative recipe.

Could thinking about your CPR help your creativity? Or does it just seem silly? Mike Brown

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  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. Contact 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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During the Lenten season, which starts today (Ash Wednesday), Christians are called to sacrifice in a spirit of reflection and prayer. The point is to distance ourselves from the attractive nuisances of daily living that chip away at our spiritual lives.

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Entering this Lenten season, I’m thinking a lot about expectations and evaluations. Not expectations and evaluations from others, but those we render personally about ourselves.

For as long as I can remember, I tell myself I am not doing well enough or am not performing up to expectations. These are powerful personal motivators for me. In MBA school, I used to worry that each semester’s finals could be the ones that caused me to flunk out of college. In reality, that wasn’t even a remote possibility. Yet, this self-expectation drove me to study harder. It also made me physically ill every semester.

That’s a strong example of lying to yourself in a tremendously self-destructive way.

The same mentality drives me in business, too. Some shortcomings I’m trying to fill are real. Many (maybe most), however, are lies I tell myself to keep pushing harder.

Among other things, this Lent will involve for me trying to be more honest with myself. Self-lies about needing to do more work (or more whatever) have become too much a part of immersing myself in the world. They have detracted from my spiritual life. They cause me to get away from practices that are important to staying healthy and more productive overall.

I’m looking to honesty as an important part of making sure I’m investing my time and energy in the places God (and not Mike) wants.

A Creativity Prayer

As we’ve done for years on Ash Wednesday, here is our creativity prayer. It’s right at the intersection of my spiritual and personal lives. And if you say it, drop in a little prayer for me, please. Thank you!

A Creativity Prayer

Lord, Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours. Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others. Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

©2008, 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 have released a host of eBooks on strategic planning exercises and ideas to increase collaboration, creative thinking, alignment, and successful implementation. In case you missed any Brainzooming strategy planning eBooks, here are seven to jump start your strategic planning exercises and better engage your team in shaping your organization’s direction.

You can download your copies by clicking on the titles or the covers of the eBooks below.

Results – Creating Strategic Impact (Download)

The Results eBook makes our case for collaborative strategy planning among your organization’s employees (and even, in many cases, your customers). That doesn’t mean you turn over strategy setting. It does mean that you ask all your important audiences for their perspectives to meaningfully shape the strategy you determine.

The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (Download)

This is our biggest collection ever of strategic thinking questions to move strategy planning ahead in finding the best strategic direction. The questions also address branding, marketing, innovation, creativity, and implementation.

Reimagining the SWOT Analysis (Download)

The SWOT analysis is the workhorse of strategic planning exercises. That creates two options: always use it as originally designed while it calcifies, or shake it up and realize new value from adapting the SWOT analysis in a way that best suits your organization.

Big Strategy Statements – A Collaborative Way to Shape Your Strategic Direction (Download)

If your organization has a big strategy statement (vision, mission, etc.), but didn’t involve your employees in helping to shape it, you have missed a HUGE opportunity. These strategic planning exercises provide a way to engage employees in the direction you will depend on them to create.

11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning (Download)

If you are in charge of strategic planning exercises in your organization, you can take the same old approaches and perpetuate miserably boring and mind-numbing strategy planning meetings. Alternatively, you can use the fun ideas in this eBook to create an engaging strategy planning experience that motivates great thinking and creates strategy fans!

10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (Download)

As you assemble a team for implementation, you want to start down the right path. The strategic thinking questions here provide teams a way to shape implementation through focus and inclusiveness.

321 GO! 5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better (Download)

Not all implementation teams step up to the opportunity to move ahead. These five situations and corresponding remedies help senior leaders and initiative point people move teams forward if they hesitate.

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times (Download)

Things are crazy right now. There is a lot of uncertainty globally, and has a way of paralyzing organizations. Even if your implementation path is not completely clear, these four strategies will help you move forward in a smart way.  – 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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Are you in a job that looks, from the outside, as if it is perfectly stable, engaging, good paying, and the kind of position that people in your profession would die to get?

Yet you, as the person in the job, feel trapped, under siege, and desperate to do almost anything else, but you can’t leave.

What’s up with that?

Maybe it’s golden handcuffs, or you’ve been trying to find another job for a long time, but you can’t land anyplace. Possibly you want to launch your own gig, but it’s not the right time.

Whatever the reason, you can’t leave that shitty job, which leaves you feeling demoralized, powerless, and stuck with no clear career strategy to fix your situation.

Dear Job, I Can’t Quit You

If you’re mired in a situation like this, what should your career strategy be? Here are some ideas:

Actively work to lower your dependence on the current job, as best you can.

Put yourself in a position – financially, emotionally, or whatever else – to need this job less.

Make the crappy job as small a part of your life as possible.

Fill your outside life with incredible experiences as a way to sustain yourself through the miserable times in your job.

Assess what is beneficial and good about the job.

Once you identify those things, work like crazy to maximize those parts of the job. Even if they are a small part of what you do, find ways to do more of those things.

On the job, conduct yourself as if you might quit the job at any time.

Don’t succumb to acting like you are dependent on the job, even if you are. Just as in a personal relationship, you want to create a sense that you don’t need it if you hope to retain some power for self-determination.

Separate your personality from the job.

You can’t let yourself become synonymous with the job. It’s a job. You are you. That’s true before, during, and AFTER you have the job. Don’t define yourself within the context of the job.

Keep working on quitting.

Step up your energy and focus on getting out if it’s too miserable to continue. Don’t lull yourself into sticking around for your own career destruction.

Own Your Career Strategy

That’s my advice to stay sane and move your career strategy to a place where you can say: Dear Job, I’m Going to Quit You Right Now! – 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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