Diversity | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5
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Sometimes, try as you might, it’s impossible to focus on the task at hand. When you can’t focus, one alternative is to accept the mental roadblock and actively look for another time (perhaps an unconventional one) where you can shift the activity and your creative energy.

At dinner recently, we had a very specific business topic (that had been hanging for a while) we were supposed to address. With little opportunity to prepare that day, I offered an idea intended to fit within the various strategic constraints we faced. While it sort of worked amid the constraints, I woke up that night realizing it wouldn’t work in practice for a whole variety of reasons.

Next morning, I alerted the person looking for input that more work needed to be done. Yet, I still didn’t have any better alternatives.

Lo and behold, enduring a flight delay one day later when the pressure to “think” about this specific issue wasn’t top of mind, a very innovative solution came to me in about 5 minutes.

Why hadn’t I been able to come up with a creative answer at dinner two nights earlier? I have no idea.

But I do know at times our mental capabilities aren’t up to the specific demands we might need to place on them. Much of what’s on Brainzooming is intended to help you function more innovatively in these situations. These techniques aren’t always going to work though.

For these other instances when your brain isn’t zooming, often the best thing you can do is manage time expectations and pray for creative inspiration to hit you ASAP, or at least when you least expect it. – 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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This week’s guest post is by Marissa Levin, an award-winning and well-recognized entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Information Experts. The company creates technology-based integrated communications solutions, human capital strategies, and learning strategies for government agencies and firms in a wide range of vertical markets.

Marissa shares her perspectives here on tapping the incredible creative and innovative talents existing among the diverse group of people inside her company:

How well do you really know your co-workers and employees?

Sure, you see them on a daily basis and know just enough about their personal lives to be dangerous. You may even know what they like for lunch. There’s probably a “comfort level” you’ve established. You’ve identified some personal boundaries, designating topics acceptable for discussion and those off the table.

But have you ever stopped to consider what defines your co-workers outside their jobs? More importantly, have you ever thought about how these aspects influence our jobs, and what they add to the workplace?

As a CEO focused on company culture, I’m always thinking of ways to maintain a connection with my employees and protect the valuable connections among everyone working here. As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this. Employees become more scattered (thanks to telecommuting), are assigned to client sites, and work amid additional layers that develop to ensure adequate management structure.

Adding to these challenges, I am out of the office for appointments, meetings, and networking events. Despite email exchanges and conference calls, it is far too easy to lose the human touch. When I am working “on” the business, it is often difficult to work “in” the business.

I’ve always known we have incredibly creative, passionate, intelligent, and highly individualized people. We are not a typical organization. We have many out-of-the-box thinkers who display individuality throughout their lives. This uniqueness gives us an edge with our culture and customers.

To find a way to understand and bring all this creativity into the company, I surveyed our employees about what defines them outside work. The results were unbelievable.

Beyond having top-quality instructional designers, project managers, strategists, writers, graphic designers, developers, & human capital experts, we also have scuba divers, college-level volleyball players, swing and belly dancers, scrabble professionals, marathoners, environmentalists, a competitive U.S. Master’s swimmer, competitive soccer players, classical pianists, wine enthusiasts, equestrian experts, poker players, gardeners, and chefs.

That’s not all – our staff also includes:

  • A certified “High Power Rocketeer” who has launched rockets to 6,000 feet at 550mph
  • Someone who taught welding at a vocational school
  • A four-time Outward Bound participant
  • A Special Operations Sergeant whose unit’s experience was the basis for “Blackhawk Down”
  • A two-time patent holder for educational technology who served on Barrack Obama’s Education Policy Committee
  • A published physique photographer and bodybuilder known at WOLVERINE

Think about the creative & innovative power of that incredible diversity of skills, interests, and passions. The question now is how to integrate these interests and skills into the company. I hope to celebrate their individuality in some sort of event or create an internal online tool that brings people together based on their interests.

Here’s your question: What creativity & individuality is beneath the surface inside your company? Ask around, and you may be in for some surprises of your own! Marissa Levin
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We have another international guest post this week. Andrew Tilling, from Surrey, UK, is a consultant specialising in creative thinking techniques, team dynamics and leadership. He heads Preseli Partnerships Ltd. which provides providing training, coaching and consultancy to help organisations make a difference.

Andrew is also a founding partner in The Nutshell Project, recognizing the value to be found in personal professional development time away from the demands of the day to day. Based on connecting on Twitter and visiting Andrew’s blog, I asked him to share his perspective on the importance of place on creativity:

I have the luckiest job in the world. I am given the freedom to work with people to help them find new ideas, develop those ideas, and get on and make a change in their world. Plus, I get to do this in some beautiful places. It strikes me how much more creative people can be with a change of environment.

And as tempting as it is to write a detailed report on why all businesses should send employees to areas of outstanding natural beauty in order to boost creativity, it’s more beneficial to explore what we can do to our own environment to help become more productive – and especially more creative.

The unconscious mind is our creative powerhouse. To help it along we need to understand it’s capable of processing a lot more than our conscious mind. A natural, stimulating environment adds fuel to the creative fire. We are fortunate that simple objects can remind us of those environments. Objects help our unconscious access old memories in incredible detail, allowing us to draw on new connections and shifting our state into a more resourceful one.

Here are a few things you can add to your workspace to help you become more creative.

  • Have something natural – Innovators constantly draw on nature for ideas. We are part of nature and only our artificial environments disconnect us from that. Office policy or not on potted plants, you’ll want something that grows (or at least grew) in nature to allow you to reconnect.
  • Make time work for you– Have a stop watch or countdown clock you can set for 10 minute bursts of concentration or bookmark a site with a countdown-clock.
  • Something from somewhere special – Remember a time when you felt free from the pressures of daily life? I have a notebook used while travelling that’s never far from my desk. It helps unlock creative potential just thinking about it.
  • A picture of a creative genius – We all need a circle of inspiration – alive or dead. Find a picture of someone whose work blows you away. Learn about and talk with them often (in your head, of course, or people will think you are nuts).
  • A picture of a business genius – Someone else for your circle of inspiration. If you can keep in mind the demands of the market place while being creative, you have more chance of your ideas becoming a genuine innovation.
  • Blank paper and 4 color pen – These ‘click’ pens are awesome for mind-mapping. Shut your laptop lid and find somewhere comfy to sit and doodle.
  • Composition & presentation space – Recognize that finding and presenting an idea are two very different mindsets. Make different spaces for different kinds of work. Even if you can’t move from your desk, you change your space internally through listening to different music styles.
  • Water – Drink it, walk by it, have it flowing nearby. Take holidays by it, swim in it, and study it. You are 90% water. A dear writer friend of mine swears by toilet breaks for getting over writers block. Water helps you get into the creative flow on so many levels. Without it, there is not much of you left.
  • An excuse to walk the scenic route – Whether it is walking a dog or feeding stale bread to ducks, get out into nature at least once daily. Walking will allow you to let off steam and clear your head. That beats playing “spot the idea amid all the clutter” and will make you rapidly more productive.
  • A crowded square – People-watching is a great for finding new associations to help your ideas grow. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop. Snatched snippets of conversations and chance encounters make all the difference – SO LONG AS YOU STOP TO LOOK AND LISTEN. Invest the time, and you will reap rewards.
  • Join the conversation – Social media is a constant source of inspiration nowadays. Just keep your objective in mind as you set your countdown clock and do a 10 minute resource harvest. Later, make sure you post something you learned in return to keep the flow going both ways.

I hope you find these tips to be as much value as I have. I love interaction, so if you have any questions, feel free to comment, get in touch on twitter (@andrewtilling) or check out The Nutshell Project blog. – Andrew Tilling

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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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Someone told me about his new company where they do entrance interviews. In contrast to an exit interview, the objective is to get a download of potentially innovative ideas when someone starts a job, before there’s time to develop a point of view biased by the company’s culture.

What a great strategic thinking approach!

Given the current hiring market, entrance interviews may have limited applicability right now. It’s a wonderful idea though for increasing the diversity of an organization’s creative learning during the narrow window when a new employee is approaching things from a completely fresh perspective. 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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The great perspectives from creative and innovative thinkers I’ve met on Twitter continues this week with this post on breaking creative blocks from Robert Alan Black, Ph.D. Known as “wanderingalan” on Twitter, he’s the founder and president of Cre8ng People, Places and Possibilities and author of “Broken Crayons, Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines.” He can be reached online at alan@cre8ng.com

It’s a real honor to have
Alan share his perspective on a random thinking technique that’s a twist on the “Change Your Character” approach that’s been shared here previously:

Oh no! I’m blocked again. No ideas. I just sit and sit and no ideas come. 

Where is my muse when I need her?

I have to have ideas and a basic proposal in 90 minutes, and I feel stale, blank, dry, like a void in space. No ideas are coming, especially creative ones.

This blocked, frustrated feeling often happens when we are under pressure. One process I find helpful is to Alphabetize Sources.

Simply take a sheet of paper and write down the left side of the page the letters a, b, c, through z. Then think of the name of a famous/infamous person whose name fits, i.e., Abe Lincoln for A, Benjamin Franklin for B, Charles Manson for C. You can use first names or last names or a mix. It is up to you.

Then proceed to randomly pick a series of letters from a to z and write them on separate cards or pieces of paper. Now look up the names that match on your list.

You may have chosen D, X, M, T, U, O, H and the names from your list were:

D – Walt Disney
X – Xavier Cougat
M – Mickey Mantle
T – Teddy Roosevelt
U – U. S. Grant
O – Oscar Wilde
H – Henry Fonda

The next step is to imagine how each of these people might approach your challenge. Walt Disney might focus on amusement or entertainment while Xavier Cougat would orchestrate the problem using a large group of players and Mickey Mantle might swing for the home run, and so forth.

Often the ideas will appear farfetched at first. That is when you need to use your always available logically creative thinking skills. Take the “wild idea” and ask yourself: How might I alter this to make it more workable (using any appropriate criteria or limitation)?

This process helps “break mindset,” “shift paradigms,” and forces me to explore approaches I might never consider otherwise, especially under pressure of a time restraint.

This method can be used in many different ways. Instead of famous people’s names you could use:

  • Cartoon characters
  • Characters from literature
  • Super Heroes (Steve Grossman developed this version)
  • Occupations
  • Animals
  • Objects
  • Randomly chosen nouns from a dictionary

The possibilities are endless. The key is to force your thoughts into new patterns, to “Break Your Crayons,” change your mindset quickly, and effectively find creative directions even when your muse is off on vacation in Barbados. By breaking your crayons you will cause your brain to make leaps when you need it to and not have to wait until it is in a creative mood.

This is just one method to help ourselves be more creative on the spot, on demand, and off-the-wall. What ideas do you use to stimulate your muse? Share your ideas in the comments section for other innovators to learn. – Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., CSP

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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Here are five things strategic thinking approaches, any one of which you can work on this week to improve your performance:

  1. Take time to perform long-term actions even when near-term pressures are very distracting.
  2. Don’t overreact in the face of incomplete information. Ask questions & allow others the opportunity to answer.
  3. Ask questions of smart, well-informed people outside the mainstream. You’ll learn a lot.
  4. Be willing to ask, “How could this be different?” particularly if you’re a black & white type thinker.
  5. Work on developing more decisiveness, tenacity & patience. You need them even more these days.

BTW – Based on reader feedback, the summer Brainzenning videos are moving to Fridays starting this week. 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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Listening to The Beatles Abbey Road show provides a sense of the incredible talent they brought to the recording studio. The impact of George Martin, their producer, is also clear in how he shaped the group’s artistic sensibilities and vision, crafting them into a coherent whole.

Considering the benefits a producer can provide, do you have one (or more) producers in your creative life? Your “producer” could be a mentor or a creative instigator who’s there to:

  • Expand and shape your creative perspective
  • Bring in other talents to help realize your vision
  • Challenge and edit your work from a less invested perspective than you have

Maybe you self-produce your own creative efforts. That’s a viable approach, and some people do it well. But if you don’t have a producer for your major projects, think seriously about working with someone in that role who can be the catalyst for new creative success. – Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! 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 info@brainzooming.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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