We see seven keys to creating an innovative workplace culture where individuals are able to meaningfully contribute to the organization’s innovation strategy.

If you’re looking at your organization and wondering where to start to foster a more innovative workplace culture, here are forty articles to go deeper into the topic.

An innovative workplace culture:

#1 Provides Direction

It’s vital to point your innovation strategy in a direction. That doesn’t mean leadership should spell out everything. Yet sharing knowledge about what matters for the organization’s future success shouldn’t be a mystery to those working on innovation initiatives.

#2 Invites Broad Participation

Throw open innovation to encompass perspectives from throughout the organizations AND outside the organization. Instead of asking people for the next big ideas, ask them for insights and perspectives that can contribute to shaping big ideas for the organization.

#3 Meaningfully Engages and Involves Employees

Develop multiple innovation roles that match your team’s talents, strengths, perspectives, and aspiration. Provide the training, structure, and access to opportunities to best use their knowledge and expertise to drive the innovation strategy.

#4 Encourages Change

Make sure senior leadership is saying and DOING things that send a clear message: trying new things is fine, we understand not everything is going to work, and it’s vital we look beyond our current environment to identify innovation strategy possibilities.

#5 Pursues Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

#6 Stays Agile

What’s innovative will continue to change. Your environment needs to be ready to understand what’s important today while looking ahead to future developments and opportunities to disrupt markets and competitors.

#7 Celebrates Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

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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The Big Ideas in Higher Education conference (or #BigIdeas12) was several weeks ago, and I am still missing it. The experience was a very special two days. Going back through my notes and tweets, here are nine ideas (some bigger than others) the Big Ideas in Higher Education conference triggered for me:

  • You’re life’s goal: absorb as many influences as you can and then mix them up so well that the mixture can only represent you.
  • When you want to change the world, start with your distinctive talents. Then go from there.
  • I don’t care how radical you think you are, if you REQUIRE someone to share your world view in order to interact with you, you’re part of the conformity problem. Invite. Don’t require someone to be like you.
  • There is no need to apologize for shortfalls others will never notice.
  • What do you do when things are really, really hard? Rejoice, because that means if you persevere, few (if any) other will.
  • How you react to someone who says they’re going to kick your business model’s ass says so much more about how likely and how soon it will happen than any research you could do about the question.
  • How good are you at asking for opportunities to do incredible things? How can you improve at it?
  • Don’t wait for an emergency to act when you know you’re going to need something at some point in the future anyway.
  • If you believe God created the world, why wouldn’t you look to God as the ultimate guide to creativity?

That is just a start, with a couple of more potential #BigIdeas12 posts in the offing! – Mike Brown


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.

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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I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember the specific of the first time I tweeted with Trilby Jeeves, but it was quite some time ago. I’m sure though, my first encounter with Trilby Jeeves on Twitter had to involve creativity, acting, and her workshops to help people better understand and use their creativity. Somewhere along the line, probably in a later night conversation, I asked her to do a guest blog post. Trilby claims it was 3 years ago! I’m not sure it was that long ago, but suffice it to say I was excited recently when we got the first Trilby Jeeves guest Brainzooming post “in the house.” 

Trilby is an actor, instructor, and writer from Vancouver, Canada. Nine years ago, a back operation inspired her to change her working life and she began “Buffoonery Workshops.”  Trilby is a strong advocate for creativity (as you’ll soon learn from today’s post), and her passion is to help people play in order to lead a more balanced life. Here’s Trilby Jeeves!

Creativity and the Arts are Frivolous.

If you believe that, then you better not run into me or a few of my friends in a dark alley or even a coffee shop.


Let’s say you did meet me in a coffee shop and we start talking about the recent arts education cuts. (I just heard about a whole performing arts program being sliced away, with 15 minutes notice given to the department at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Canada).

You say, “Well, it’s about money, and the arts are frivolous, really.”

At that moment, you will see my face redden, my posture improve immensely, and you’ll sense a strange sort of energy hitting you, paralyzing you in your chair. You will not be able to shift, even if you command your legs to run.

Nope. I will have cast a “You just sit there and listen to me while I re-program, appropriately, your ignorant thinking” spell.

Are you listening closely? Maybe you should take a sip of coffee from that really cool mug someone designed.

Arts, creativity, right brain thinking, drawing, painting, performing, entertainment, storytelling, designing, poetry, dancing, song writing, singing, music and more are all words that conjure different images and feelings for each person in this world. For me, it means air to breathe.

I wonder to myself what they mean for you.

You shrug your shoulders, indicating a nonchalant commitment. “Yeah, those are all nice things, but do they make money?”

I ponder your question and realize I need to address creativity and the arts in a pragmatic way for you to actually get it. I have to let go of the emotional side of the arts for a moment (which, by the way, serves many, many purposes).

“Money, hey?”

“Well, (I refrain from calling you “dear” and releasing my inner sarcastic tone)… well, actually, if you were to do some deep examination and number crunching, you’d probably realize the arts actually bring quite a bit of good economic impact to a country.”

“Take Europe, for instance, I believe that most people voyage there because of the museums, galleries, historical architecture, food (culinary arts), and the richness of the atmosphere of cafes, theatres, and music.”


“Would you agree that brings quite a bit of money to an area?”

You reluctantly agree. I can tell it’s reluctant. But, I can’t stop there. I bring the debate closer to home.

I ask you about where we are currently. This café. I ask you to look around, and take in the atmosphere, how the tables are placed, the types of chairs we are sitting on, the music in the background, the lighting, the splashes of color on the mug you’re holding, and I ask if you think these elements just occurred by magic, or if some thought went into them? It is rhetorical, really, isn’t it?

Of course, someone DESIGNED everything we are experiencing. And, it translates to a monetary value. If the café had no atmosphere, do you really think they would be doing such a roaring business? I don’t think so.

But, what I have explained is very basic. Very. However, it does bring the question of art and creativity to a pretty fundamental place. Maybe that’s where we’ll get the attention of people.

If I were to bring the idea of the Performing Arts (of which I’m part of) to the discussion, I would think you might feel like you have more fodder for dismissing it as an extracurricular activity (as did Keyano College in Fort McMurray).

My guess was correct.

But, if we look at story telling as a basic human need (start with cave drawings and continue to money making filmmaking), you’ll soon realize that keeping stories secret, and not sharing, can be detrimental to your health.  (Result: a community’s health costs rise – not very economical).

I avoid the obvious (to me) benefits of seeing live performances, and coming out of a theatre with life changing ideas.

Need I suggest that when the young embrace performing arts as an option in high school or beyond, how much their confidence is built? We can turn that into a monetary response (since you seem to base everything on that) in that they will do much better in their adult life with this confidence. They might turn into entrepreneurs where creative thinking is crucial (trust me.. I am one of those people who has created her own job via the right brain road). And, they might do so well that they actually create jobs.

I see you are starting to sweat a little. I know that’s a sign you are realizing the absurdity and ignorance of your earlier thoughts, and, that perhaps you need to change your attitude.

I stop ranting. I realize I should let you re-think your ideas regarding creativity with these simple observations. My hopes are that you will look at the world through an alternate lens and realize that “artists” show up in all sorts of subtle ways.

And, if you decide that truck driving for the oil sands is more important, just remember that someone had to design that vehicle and think outside the box in order to make it a little more comfortable and safe. And, they might have even included a DVD player where you can watch those billion dollar Hollywood movies on your break.

I release my spell, watch as you nod, and thank me, shakily, and depart the busy café.  I call out after you, “If you come back tomorrow, I’ll talk about how great the arts and creativity is on a spiritual level!” You nod again.

Eventually, another person strolls over and, asks, “Is anyone sitting here?”

I smile and say, “No, please sit down.”

I breathe in.

“May I ask you a question?”

Need More Ammunition to Challenge “Creativity and the Arts Are Frivolous”?

Just in case you need a little more convincing or some ammunition for your own “Take the Frivolous out of Arts” movement, here are links to check for more information.



Vive les arts ET la créativité! Trilby Jeeves

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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Jason Harper first pointed me to a podcast on the New Yorker article “Groupthink – the brainstorming myth,” by Jonah Lehrer. It was followed by a tweet from Josh Gordon asking my opinion. Additional tweets from Richard Dedor and Aaron Deacon then surfaced about the article. At that point, there was no choice but to go on record about Jonah Lehrer’s premise that brainstorming, first espoused by Alex Osborn of the B.B.D.O. advertising agency in the late 1940s, “doesn’t work.”

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

Jonah Lehrer cited two sources challenging the effectiveness of the approach and ground rules associated with brainstorming:

  • A 1958 Yale study found students working individually generated twice as many ideas as brainstorming groups, and the ideas were judged better.
  • A 2003 study from Charlan Nemeth at the University of Berkley reported groups told to debate ideas generated 20% more ideas than those told not to judge ideas (one of the foundational brainstorming ground rules).

Lehrer highlighted several situations as further evidence that the typical approach to brainstorming doesn’t work for generating creative ideas:

  • A study of Broadway musicals showed the most successful shows had neither very high nor very low familiarity among the show’s creative forces. A moderate level of familiarity seemed to yield the most successful Broadway musicals.
  • Isaac Kohane’s study at Harvard Medical School found that among 35,000 co-authored research studies, there was a positive relationship between more frequent citations and the closer proximity of authors.
  • Several examples of the beneficial creative impact of proximity and random interactions in workspaces were discussed, citing the building arrangement Steve Jobs pushed at Pixar Animation and the Building 20 lab at MIT.
  • The Charlan Nemeth study also found dissent can more successfully stimulate free association and the creative thinking that results from it.

Jonah Lehrer wraps the Groupthink article by stating the fatal flaw with brainstorming is believing one approach leads to the best creativity. Lehrer points to the importance of group composition, diverse perspectives, cumulative unpredictable interactions among people with loose connections, and a tolerance for difficult interactions as fundamental elements for the best creativity.

Does Brainzooming Think Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

I buy where Lehrer is coming from in “Groupthink,” but that may be because of my willingness to consider “brainstorming” to be much more loosely defined than the definition Jonah Lehrer offers from “Your Creative Power,” Alex Osborn’s original book introducing brainstorming.

How Does Brainzooming Differ from Brainstorming?

My willingness to treat the term “brainstorming” loosely and tinker with what constitutes brainstorming in our world is why our process and our company are both called Brainzooming.

In developing our creative method, we already addressed the issues Lehrer raises regarding group composition, interactions, and dissent during a Brainzooming creative session.

Group Composition

We spend considerable time managing group composition for any Brainzooming creative session, making sure there is diversity in any client group. We want people with direct ties to the topic of interest, others with multi-disciplinary backgrounds, and others who are creative instigators. We strive to include some people with very little familiarity on our topic and also people who don’t all work together all the time. That level of diversity works wonders for great thinking, and our Brainzooming method allows them to work together productively despite very different (and often diametrically opposed) worldviews.


We typically only get to design client workspaces for the Brainzooming creative sessions we create and facilitate (although it would be cool to design permanent creative spaces). We design a creative space featuring dramatically more room per person than most facilities want to accommodate. Designing this type of session layout promotes frequent physical movement and rotations among table and group assignments so there are plenty of new creative connections happening.


We do start Brainzooming creative sessions by saying, “Do not criticize ideas.” Given how easy it is for most groups to savage one another’s ideas, our admonition is at best a way to slow down criticism. We have actually started to introduce a variation on the rule in Brainzooming creative sessions asking people challenging ideas to also offer better alternatives.

What Did We Learn from the “Groupthink” New Yorker article?

The awakening for me in the Jonah Lehrer Groupthink article and my reaction to it is the need to speak more precisely about what The Brainzooming Group does. Precise descriptions of what we do are not something I’ve spent too much time addressing. Frankly, it’s more comfortable for me to be very muted in talking about what we do. As a result, I usually talk about our Brainzooming method as me simply having pulled together ideas from a variety of sources. If you want to call it “brainstorming,” that’s been okay. If you want to call it anything else that’s reasonably accurate, that’s been okay, too.

In reality, we’ve built a creative approach with Brainzooming that’s highly flexible and infused with techniques from sources as varied as big time consulting, strategic planning, creative thinking, market research, self-help methods, reality tv shows, design, and improv comedy – to name a few. The Brainzooming approach has been tested, adapted, and refined through hundreds of strategy, innovation, and creative sessions in some environments that were incredibly hostile toward creativity. We have delivered real results with the Brainzooming approach, even when we had senior managers actively hoping we would not be successful.

I have talked about what we do as brainstorming, because it is the easy way to talk about it, but it is not simply brainstorming.

What we do is Brainzooming.

And if you have a need for better ideas that can actually be implemented successfully, we’d be honored to show you what results the Brainzooming approach can deliver for your organization. – Mike Brown

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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Reviewing Brainzooming Google Analytics for the past month, the most frequent search term people are using to find the Brainzooming blog is “brainstorming.” These Google Analytics results prompted me to share a variety of Brainzooming posts related to brainstorming techniques on Twitter last Saturday.

Because of this, here are the brainstorming techniques shared on Twitter plus a few other posts on various related aspects, many of them tied to the Google Fiber brainstorming sessions we conducted in October 2011:

Brainstorming Session Expectations

1. A Career-Changing Business Quote – 10 Years Later – A fantastic setup for the value of brainstorming techniques and their importance in anticipating what you can’t specifically anticipate.

2. The Value of Brainstorming Techniques for Business Ideas – Brainstorming is seen by some as an unproductive, low yielding activity. The people who think brainstorming techniques don’t provide value are simply wrong.

3. 7 Things a Brainstorming  Session ISN’T – Some people think a brainstorming session can cure all the issues plaguing a business. The people who think brainstorming techniques can do all this are simply wrong. 

Brainstorming Session Design

4. “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” – Our free eBook on Taking the NO Out of InNOvation is a tremendous resource to get yourself and your team ready in planning a productive brainstorming session.

5. Not Even One of These Things Is Not Like Another – When you choose who will be in your brainstorming session, make sure to build in plenty of diversity.

6. Looking for the Elusive Big Idea – You don’t want to start looking for a BIG idea. Look for big volumes of ideas and then find the clear winners within that list.

7. Put Yourself in a Sticky Situation for Strategic Thinking Exercises – We’re making an interesting investment in a really powerful tool to do more of our brainstorming sessions online, but we’re still big fans of sticky notes for many reasons.

8. Extreme Creativity – 10 Questions from Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives – Extreme creativity can come from anywhere. We try to pull from a variety of reality TV shows and other sources to maximize how extreme creativity can help drive brainstorming results.

9. Creative Thinking Exercises for When You’re Successful – Sometimes a team has been together for so long and had so much success, it’s tough for the team to imagine doing anything differently. You can build on past success as a platform for new ideas though.

10. A Creative Thinking Exercise to Boost Team Energy & Ideas – One way to brainstorm really bold ideas (and have a lot of fun along the way) is to deliberately try to tweak your authority figures.

Participant Roles

11. Brainstorming Success & Saying “Think Outside the Box” Don’t Mix – Brainstorming success isn’t just about telling people to “think outside the box.” It’s important to actually create an environment that triggers creativity and new ideas.

12. Strategic Connections – 3 Tips for Identifying More Opportunities – The more strategic connections you can create among ideas, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate in a brainstorming session.

13. Thinking Aloud: Can You Hear What I’m Thinking? – There’s real value during a brainstorming session to having participants voice their ideas so others can hear them and build on them.

14. Brainstorming Session Success – 8 Ways to Contribute Beyond New Ideas – Although generating ideas is the objective with any brainstorming session, there are other important roles participants can and need to play as well.

15. Subtle Forms of Censorship – It’s valuable to have an organization’s leaders actively participating in brainstorming sessions. You have to make sure their behaviors, however, don’t lead to ideas being censored.

16. How Creative Thinking Gets Killed by Team Members – 8 Fatal Blows – Leaders aren’t the only ones who can censor ideas from other brainstorming participants. Participants can censor and beat up on each other, too. Those behaviors have to be managed.

17. Dilbert and Brainstorming for Innovative Business Ideas – Of course Dilbert has a funny and dark perspective on brainstorming. And unfortunately, the funny and dark perspective on brainstorming in this Dilbert comic strip happens all the time.

After a Brainstorming Session

18. 11 Next Steps for Brainstorming Output – Shared in relation to the Google Fiber brainstorming session, these 11 next steps for brainstorming output apply broadly to a whole variety of brainstorming sessions.

19. Dirty Ideas? Let Others Help Clean Up Your Creative Thinking – It’s not always to your advantage for the brainstorming facilitator to clean up and categorize the ideas. Someone who has a fresh perspective may be able to shed even more light on the results.

20. Brainstorming for Later Use – Not every idea you’ll generate in a brainstorming session has to be used right away. Always be on the lookout for ideas whose time may come later.

21. Extending Brainstorming Ground Rules to Everyday Business Life – Why not try and make these brainstorming ground rules a part of your daily work life. It’s possible, and can help you attract new ideas on a very regular basis.  – Mike Brown

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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Today’s the day for “Building the Gigabit City,” which we’ve been developing for a number of weeks. The Brainzooming Group is facilitating an 80-plus person brainstorming session for Social Media Club of Kansas City. We designed the brainstorming session to imagine a wide range of possibilities for how Google Fiber, the ultra high-speed internet capability, will dramatically change lives in Kansas City.

One of the brainstorming session participants emailed me Friday with questions about the event. In the email, she said she probably wouldn’t have any new ideas, but would be there to share results with others. I responded to her email saying I was convinced she would contribute big thinking, but even if she didn’t, new ideas aren’t the only way to contribute to a brainstorming session’s success. I also mentioned she had already provided a new idea – the topic for today’s blog post.

8 Ways to Make a Brainstorming Session a Bigger Success

Here are 8 ways you can contribute to a brainstorming session’s success without ever contributing a new idea:

1. Say aloud what you’re thinking – Your words could trigger someone else to come up with a new idea.

2. Legibly write down other peoples’ ideas – You will help give another person’s thinking life and an ongoing presence.

3. Tell another person, “That’s great!” – Your verbal support will embolden them to share other ideas.

4. Encourage someone to voice an idea they’re not sharing – Your support can be the difference in getting someone to share a winning possibility.

5. Protect an idea that’s being censored – Standing up for new thinking helps an idea not getting due consideration to not be overlooked.

6. Connect two or more ideas others have shared – Spotting a relationship others don’t can spark breakthrough possibilities.

7. Smile – When your brainstorming session’s facilitator sees your smile and hopeful expression, it provides important energy for sharing with the group.

8. Ask a positive question – When someone with an idea is asked to expand the idea, it can help advance their thinking and those of other brainstorming session participants.

Wrap Up

If you want to keep tabs on today’s Building the Gigabit City brainstorming session, you can do so by tracking the #GigabitCity hashtag on Twitter. And if you want to contribute to the brainstorming session’s success, tweet us some words of creative brainstorming encouragement!  – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more creative! For an organizational 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 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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I’m in Cedar Rapids, IA today to be a keynote speaker at CreativeBloc 2011. It’s a wonderful opportunity to speak about both dealing with organizational innovation barriers and personal creative blocks. One way for adults to attack creative blocks or improve creativity in general is to revert to doing what kids – who are often at the creative pinnacles of their lives – do naturally. These 10 creativity-inducing ideas (which all started life as tweets one night last week under the #KidCreativity4Adults hashtag) are great ways for adults to take a more creative and fun approach to our oh-so-serious work lives:

  • Always have a sweet box of Crayola crayons around so you can color a picture and put it on the fridge.
  • Do something every day that will make you giggle. Better yet, do it multiple times daily.
  • Take something with you when you’re in public to occupy yourself creatively in case you get bored and cranky.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a problem, take a guess. Or copy off the person sitting next to you.
  • Draw your ideas, even if the lines are crooked or it’s tough to tell exactly what it is. And don’t call it an infographic!
  • If something isn’t making sense, be sure to scrunch your face so it’s apparent to everybody!
  • Get everybody together for a meeting in the cafeteria and serve ice cream cones.
  • Don’t wait to raise your hand; just start talking when an idea occurs to you.
  • Always have toys in plain view in your office. Don’t be reluctant to play with them during boring meetings.
  • Forget to bring your homework home with you at day’s end. Work on it tomorrow between meetings. It will probably be better anyway.

The fun part of tweeting the forerunners of these ideas was when other tweeters jumped in to contribute to this friendsourced post. @SBarton1220 recommended including a Magic 8 ball and a “Jump to Conclusions” mat (from “Office Space”) in the toy mix. She said she uses Magic 8 balls to help clarify the outcome she really wants by shaking it until the “right” answer appears. @EastRidgePrint suggested her favorite: “Silly putty. Best. Invention. Ever.”

What other ideas do you have to add to #KidCreativity4Adults?– Mike Brown

For an additional creative boost, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! For an organizational 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 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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