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imageWhen it comes to creative thinking exercises, I’m typically a proponent of introducing people to incremental creative thinking before trying to dunk them into extreme creativity.

That preference is predicated on getting people more familiar and comfortable with smaller creative steps. In that way, the first creative step you ask them to take isn’t such a doozie.

Sometimes, however, when it comes to creative thinking exercises, starting small is not the best strategy to follow.

We were using a combo creative thinking exercise recently. We had asked creative thinking session participants for three progressive creative leaps. For the first step, it was okay for their response to be a conventional idea. We wanted to stretch the creative thinking, however, for steps two and three, with the third answer being a strong example of extreme creativity.

While that was the plan, the mindset we first set was too incremental creatively and too lasting.

Our initial question got them too stuck on what’s happening today.

Subsequently, absent very strong and clear extreme creativity inducing questions for steps two and three, we had to work extra hard to move everyone toward more outrageous ideas. We eventually pushed toward extreme creativity in their responses, but it was much harder than it needed to be.

The lesson?

While it’s not always the case, sometimes you do need to go big creatively right from the start before you are forced to go home with overly familiar ideas. – Mike Brown

 

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Baseball-FieldWith the major league baseball season upon us, think about an innovation lesson now common in many baseball leagues, but not all: the designated hitter rule. (Or more specifically, Major League Baseball Rule 6.10 for you precise baseball fans.) 

The designated hitter rule, which Wikipedia suggests was almost implemented in the 1920sallows a baseball team to substitute a hitter for the team’s pitcher in its regular batting lineup.

While preparing a strategic thinking workshop for a client, it struck me that the designated hitter rule takes what used to happen as an irregular event for a baseball team (and still does for National League teams) and simply extends it.

Extending an Irregular Event

Specifically, it’s always been possible to substitute players in a baseball lineup. Before the designated hitter rule, it was common for baseball teams to substitute for the pitcher, especially late in the baseball game. The reasoning behind this is using a pinch hitter to get a strong batter to the plate in place of pitchers, who are notoriously weak hitters. A team is willing to bet that the pinch hitter’s effectiveness in a particular batting situation will be greater than any downside of losing access to the current pitcher for the rest of the game.

In essence, the designate hitter rule says, if that move is a good one in a specific situation, let’s extend it, doing it all the time for the benefit multiple audiences.

And that’s a great innovation lesson.

The Innovation Lesson in the Designated Hitter Rule

Rather than only looking for high frequency situations in your organization and exploring them for innovation opportunities, look in the fringes for innovation opportunities you can extend to more situations.

Ask, observe, and identify what your organization is doing that might be considered an irregular event, a temporary situation, or only done in very special or specific circumstance.

After identifying possible innovation opportunities, see if you can extend these special cases to apply all the time to improve performance and results.

It all comes down to finding ways to get your smart, but infrequent moves, into the starting lineup of your business every time you go out on the field of competition! Mike Brown

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We’ve covered how comparing apples and oranges in a variety of ways can spur creative thinking. Dilbert took up the identical topic in a Sunday comic strip. Dilbert and Wally double team the pointy-haired boss on appropriate and beneficial ways to compare apples and oranges. 

Dilbert.com

Although you might not completely get the point from Dilbert, it is definitely true that the better you become at finding insightful, intriguing comparisons, the more consistently strong your creative thinking will be.

Comparing Apples, Oranges and Anything Else

This Dilbert comic strip is a great introduction to a compilation of Brainzooming articles on creative thinking and making intriguing and valuable comparisons.

Here is wishing you all the fun and success of making better comparisons for learning, creative thinking, and implementation! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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Cup-SizesWe’re constantly tweaking Brainzooming creative thinking exercises. Our objective is learning what works better or differently in new situations.

Recently, we have been experimenting with how different questions stretch creative thinking to varying degrees.

We have always had expectations for how “big” the ideas will be from different types of creative thinking exercises. Now, we have been consciously mixing and matching questions from multiple idea “size categories” within individual creative thinking exercises.

One learning is we can definitely categorize creative thinking exercises based on idea sizes: Small, Medium, Large, or Extra Large. 

Creative Thinking Exercises in S, M, L, and XL Creative Idea Sizes

In light of that, here are a variety of previous Brainzooming questions and creative thinking exercises arranged by idea size. Click through all the links, and you have access to one hundred forty-four creative thinking questions to apply as you most need them!

Small Ideas

Medium Ideas

Large Ideas

Extra Large Ideas

Be sure to bookmark this list, and the next time you’re only hungry for an idea snack OR you really want to SUPER SIZE your ideas, you know where to go! – Mike Brown

 

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Firefighter-StrategyHave you been waiting for your organization to really be strategic instead of continually fighting fires?

If so, this story is for you.

Near the start of any presentation, I ask the audience for their expectations during our time together.

One participant at a Creating Strategic Impact workshop for an organization responded to the question with a challenge on how I would customize the content to his organization’s unique situation.

Fair question.

I spent several minutes of the limited time with the group explaining the multiple steps we had taken to tailor the content specifically for his organization. Based on his body language, the answer satisfied him that they wouldn’t be hearing a canned presentation (which mine never are, btw).

How to Start Creating Strategic Impact

At the workshop’s conclusion, this participant was among the first to come forward. He asked a really important question:

“What does it take to get organizations, particularly those outside the for-profit sector, to fundamentally embrace a strategic perspective and begin operating differently than they have?”

My answer was to just START. Today. Or tomorrow at the latest.

I followed with several ideas to get people thinking strategically without them even realizing what was happening.

He responded by saying he was asking specifically about what it takes to force strategic changes at the senior-most levels of an organization such as his.

Given the complexity of the question’s answer and the rush to clear the room so the next presenter could begin, I didn’t get to answer his bigger question.

My answer to his BIGGER question would have been to just start. Today. Or tomorrow at the latest.

Just Start!

Many people want to wait around for strategic changes to happen at the top. The best way to capitalize on change when it does happen, however, is to have prepared YOURSELF and the people YOU can realistically influence to improve their orientations toward creating strategic impact.

While you may not be able to set the overall strategic agenda for your organization, you can find ways to shape strategy in your own little corner of the world.

That can start with small things done repeatedly and consistently to demonstrate you both understand the bigger picture and can take action to bring it about within your sphere of influence.

Creating Strategic Impact Wherever You Can

Some people get off on big picture speculation about what senior leaders are thinking, expecting, and doing.

Yet, at some point, it’s up to YOU to start crating a change.

OR if you aren’t up for that, you need to quit worrying about it. Or perhaps you need to move on to another organization. Mike Brown

 

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Group-DecisionsSomeone asked during a recent strategic thinking workshop asked about the optimum size for a brainstorming group.

He was specifically interested in what size of group would maximize the creative thinking and number of new ideas from participants.

Similar to the post about the math behind brainstorming new product ideas, we use a loose formula to figure out how big a creative thinking group should be.

What’s the Right Size for a Brainstorming Group?

In any brainstorming group we try to account for:

Put all these together, and the right size for a brainstorming group usually winds up between two or three people on the low side and eight to ten people on the high side.

The lower number works when participants are especially diverse and individually adept at multiple strategic thinking perspectives. The high side number usually comes into play when having a group any larger creates situations where too many people are listening to one person at a time come up with ideas.

One exception to the upper end number is if you are using an exercise where multiple people can actively share ideas simultaneously (as our online collaboration platforms allows participants to do). In those cases, we can have many more people brainstorming simultaneously on a topic.

If there are more than eight to ten people, that’s when we start managing the group size through smaller groups. These groups can be working on identical or related parts of an exercise simultaneously.

Creative Thinking Is the the Solution

Ultimately, we design a Brainzooming creative thinking session to balance between maximizing each individual’s time to contribute ideas with the opportunity to hear other people sharing ideas as an additional source of creative thinking inspiration.

Having written it all out, this sounds like it may be a differential equation-type question. Since I stopped pursuing a math minor in the midst of differential equations class, this loose multi-equation approach is as complicated as we get with this brainstorming math! Mike Brown

 

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imageA prospective client asked about the brainstorming dynamics we address to generate a large volume of new ideas and concepts to replenish a new product pipeline.

My short answer was, “It’s all in the math.”

While that’s the short answer, it’s also the answer at the heart of designing a Brainzooming creative thinking session so it generates many new ideas.

The Math of Brainstorming and New Ideas

As we identify a client’s objectives and desired outcomes, it comes down to the math of how much creative thinking productivity we need from a group to generate the desired volume of new ideas. Among the variables we evaluate are:

  • The number of diverse participants
  • How much time we have for creative thinking
  • The inherent productivity of various creative thinking exercises
  • How many people will be able to share new ideas simultaneously

When you start putting numbers to those variables, you quickly get a sense of how many new ideas a brainstorming session will yield.

Turning Creative Thinking into Ideas

Once the math is done, that’s when the real work starts of actually arranging, designing, and structuring the Brainzooming creative thinking exercises to bring the math to life!

So how many new ideas do you need? We’d be happy to do the math AND turn it into actual ideas! Just call or email to get started! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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