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Today’s Blogapalooza article is from Lindsay Santee, a marketing manager and student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas. We’re doing work with the Kansas City Public Library, so I’m more attuned to library innovation strategy than might be typical. Lindsay’s story on the Human Library is an intriguing innovation in disseminating content that doesn’t sit on a library shelf. The applicability to organizations other than libraries comes from using the core value you deliver and asking, “How could we turn the value we deliver into a more compelling experience?” Another possibility is using a benefits exercise to understand what you do (i.e., a library shares stories of peoples’ lives) and its benefits before innovating on other ways to deliver the benefit.

Library Innovation Strategy – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover by Lindsay Santee

Lindsay-SanteeWhen it comes to change, library innovation does not seem to have advanced much over time, at least judged by all the things that have stayed the same. From the Dewey Decimal System to the book checkout process and the musty smell of library aisles, even in the digital age, not much has changed about traditional libraries over the years.

However, imagine a different type of library where you check out humans – just as you check out books – and listen to these humans share their unique, personal stories. Imagine being able to interact with the stories as you listen to them. It is as if you are seeing and experiencing the world through these peoples’ eyes, from their own perspective.

The “Human Library” is a real library innovation strategy created in Denmark in 2000. Library guests can choose which volunteer they check out based on titles the human books assign themselves. Example titles include everything from “Olympic Athlete,” to “Fat Woman,” to “A Questioning Christian, to “Iraq War Veteran,” to “Homeless Man.” Visitors sit down with their books for approximately 30 minutes to listen to these “interactive books” share their personal stories and experiences.

Library-Innovation-Homeless

The Human Library project is meant to fight discrimination and foster diversity by giving people an opportunity to speak with someone who they may not have interacted with otherwise. This experiment allows people to establish human connections and cultural appreciation. The library even has “bestsellers”- the most popular volunteer storytellers who tell stories of tolerance and understanding.

In the world we live in today, we cannot begin to address global issues such as poverty, disease, and war until we learn to better understand and relate with one another. We must unite above and beyond the boundaries we allow cultural difference to build between us. Perhaps, if we consider each person on an individual basis, undamaged by unsupported perceptions, we will be more likely to learn about one another on a personal level. The Human Library is a big step in creating a world free of bigotry and hate, a world without stereotypes and prejudice.

Today the Human Library social experiment has expanded to 50 countries across the world. There is a US-based Human Library each September at Utah State University. I look forward to this social experiment appearing more broadly in the US. This library innovation truly adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – Lindsay Santee

 

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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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Based on all The Brainzooming Group experience in helping clients generate new ideas and innovative strategies, diversity is vital to successful creative thinking  activities.

Many organizations and people make decisions, however, leading to squandering diversity. Maybe it’s because there’s comfort in being with others like themselves.

When Very Few Things Are Not Like the Other

For example, at one of our client creative thinking workshops there wasn’t any diversity to spare. The predominant “type” of person was a Caucasian male with many years of business experience. The group did include several different sales groups. There were a few women, a handful of native-Spanish speakers, and, based on my recollection of the large audience, no African Americans, however.

So how did the participants sit in the large room for the creative thinking activities?

Squandering-Diversity

The few women tended to sit together, as did the handful of native-Spanish speakers. There was a one significant group of guys that were new to the organization; they bunched up in one spot. The sales groups all tended to sit together so audience members that worked together, stayed together. The Canadian were also largely grouped in pockets throughout the audience.

This audience-selected seating arrangement was comfortable and familiar, but it wound up squandering diversity when there was precious little diversity to spare.

To demonstrate the wasted potential and importance of diversity to creative thinking activities, midway through the creative thinking workshop, we used a Brainzooming exercise to identify individuals with the most and least experience with the company. One woman had 37 years with the company; a native-Spanish-speaking male had one week under his belt. After identifying these two, we gave each of them a pair of orange, “I am creative” notes to self®  socks and invited them to move to reserved, front row seats to work together and learn from each other during the remainder of the creative thinking workshop!

creative-thinking-activities

I would have loved to take the time to completely re-arrange the audience, but that wasn’t a possibility. At least we made the point about diversity’s impact on creative thinking activities through re-seating these two participants to emphasize how they were squandering diversity and the opportunity to learn and work with people different than themselves.

3 Questions to Stop Squandering Diversity in Creative Thinking Activities

Let me ask a few questions:

  • Does your organization have all the diversity it needs to uncover creativity and innovative strategies?
  • Are you squandering diversity within your organization by allowing people to avoid interacting with people that know varied things and think differently from each other?
  • If the answers to the first two questions are “no” and “yes,” respectively, are you ready to formulate a plan to change your organization’s bad habits and realize more impact from creative thinking activities?

Diversity is a terrible thing to waste. – 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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We’re with a client today, delivering a strategic and creative thinking skills for sales workshop. We’re scheduled to have more than 120 of the client’s sales team members participate in an interactive, half-day Brainzooming workshop in the Chicago area.

As an outgrowth of the workshop, here is a strategic and creative thinking skills compilation comprised of articles that support the Brainzooming workshop we’re delivering. We developed this specific list of topics based on feedback from participants on a pre-workshop survey. This is an approach we always take to ensure the specific areas we cover most closely address the audience’s self-identified needs.

Grid-and-Exercises

In fact, the graphic above shows how the exercises and tools we’ll cover help attendees get out of their comfort zones. This was an issue high on their list of learning objectives and prompted writing a Brainzooming blog post about this matrix just before the workshop.

See, we really do both listen and act on attendees’ desired learning objectives.

If you’d like to talk about how we can customize a strategic and creative thinking skills workshop for your organization, let us know at info@brainzooming.com or 816-509-5320. We’d love to customize Brainzooming content to strengthen your team’s performance throughout the year!

Setting the Stage for Creative Thinking Skills for Sales

Embracing a Strategic Sales Perspective

Expanding Creative Thinking Skills for Sales

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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We facilitated a two-day innovation strategy workshop for an industrial company. The company wants to make significant changes to a major production process. During the innovation strategy discussions, we addressed the production process changes from five different perspectives. In each of the five mini-innovation strategy workshops, we had a group of core team members, plus people familiar with each perspective. The overall group sizes for each innovation strategy workshop varied from fourteen to more than twenty-five people, depending on the topic.

From a facilitation standpoint, it was the most arduous couple of days of going through strategic thinking exercises I recall.

With groups changing out every few hours, there was a continual, tight window to get all the input we’d need to build out a strategic plan and timeline for our client’s strategic initiative.

As I described it to an associate, facilitation may look easy. You stand there, ask some questions, and crack a few jokes to keep things light.

11 Things Running through a Facilitator’s Head

Strategic-Thinking-Brain

In reality, I shared these eleven things going through my head at all times relative to the strategic thinking exercises we were using with the group:

  1. How quickly can I read the dynamics of this new group, even though I don’t have time for them to do meaningful self-introductions?
  2. Who are going to be the active participants?
  3. Am I able to keep up in writing down all their ideas on sticky notes?
  4. As we progress, is everyone participating? If not, what can I do to get laggards to actively participate?
  5. If I become the bottleneck on recording ideas, at what point do I split them into smaller groups to work independently?
  6. If we split into smaller groups, what structure can I put around each small group to help them perform successfully even though I have no time to manage the group composition to maximize their input on innovation strategy?
  7. Are we on schedule, and if not, what do I need to do to adjust?
  8. What questions or exercises can I eliminate to save time while still getting enough input in all the areas we are covering for each innovation strategy?
  9. Are the people having fun with the strategic planning activities, or do I need to do more funny stuff to keep their heads in the game?
  10. Do I have time and room to experiment with the group to take them into new areas of innovation strategy?
  11. Are we done yet? And how much time do I have to get ready before the next workshop?

Yup, those questions were all running through my head nearly continually. Add to that the constant headache I could not shake, and it was a two-day mental crunch, without a doubt.

But when we look back and see how we pushed the thinking on the initiative, it’s clear all the challenges were all worth it!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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 “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence profiled an intriguing innovation strategy example within a regulated industry.

The feature looked at JetBlue Airways and its plan to introduce an internal training program for pilots. The basis for the strategy is to parallel the typical FAA requirements for pilots flying 1,500 hours with other training on decision making, handling a flight crew, and other particulars of real world flying situations. It is also expanding the use of flight simulators in training. While meeting all the particulars of FAA regulations, JetBlue Airways hopes to demonstrate there is a faster and better way to train pilots that could lead to the 1,500 flying hour hurdle being modified at some point.

The Armada article highlights six ways to formulate innovation strategy in a regulated environment, including the approach JetBlue is taking. Here is what they had to say on the topic.

Innovation Strategy – 6 Possibilities with Regulatory Constraints

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

There’s Always a Possible Innovation Strategy

Innovation-Strategy-Regulat

What can other regulated businesses learn from the JetBlue example that they can adapt?

JetBlue is pushing the envelope in its approach, but is trying to do so within existing regulations. As the Journal article states, “The fledging aviators in the JetBlue program would still have to meet this requirement (1,500 hours of flying), but by assessing students at various intervals short of 1,500 hours, the airline seeks to show that its curriculum can produce outstanding pilots who have spent fewer hours in actual aircraft.”

While the JetBlue example is an actual case study in the making, don’t limit your organization in thinking that’s the only strategy for innovating around regulations. Here are multiple possibilities to consider:

1. A shadow innovation strategy

The JetBlue Airways pilot training innovation strategy is an example of “running a shadow operation.” In these cases, an organization follows the regulations, but creates an innovative approach running parallel to the area that’s regulated. The shadow operation exceeds regulatory mandates, or, at the very least, does no damage to regulatory requirements or intent. The JetBlue training program fulfills the regulations along with extra training and measurement steps designed to (JetBlue hopes) demonstrate the greater efficacy of its alternatives approach to standard training.

2. Innovating in another place, with an eye toward a regulated area

Evaluate if there’s a non-regulated aspect of your business, industry, or market that’s a close analogy to what’s regulated. If there is, can you introduce innovation in non-regulated areas with a very deliberate path to testing and building a case for how successful innovations would translate to your regulated activities? This strategy can provide more latitude for a testing environment while still developing learning that applies to regulated activities.

3. Go underneath regulated levels

Not all regulations apply in all cases. Perhaps operations under a certain employee, revenue, or asset level are exempt from regulations targeting larger operations. Could you carve out a deliberately smaller part of your business (or perhaps create a joint venture or subsidiary) where you have more latitude to innovate? If so, your organization can introduce new ideas and get a handle on how they might need to be adapted when transferred to a regulated part of your organization.

4. Manage permissions by lobbying and negotiating

When there’s an opportunity to innovate and improve what you deliver to the marketplace, but current regulations preclude it, your first step might be a lobbying and negotiating strategy with the appropriate regulatory agency to make the case for innovation. Depending on the situation, it may even be advisable to create an industry coalition to do the lobbying. While doing so might tip your hand about aspects of your innovation direction, this strategy can help establish a role as an industry leader since your organization is building the coalition and shaping the agenda for greater innovation.

5. Push boundaries and ask for forgiveness later

This is the riskiest strategy, but your best path might be to push innovation boundaries in what you view as relatively benign regulated areas and ask for forgiveness later if called on the carpet for the innovative approach. This may be advisable where there’s general agreement a regulation has outlived its usefulness and is being ignored or very lightly enforced. If the potential downsides are extremely minimal for the audience you serve (no material harm is possible) and for your brand (i.e., the penalty might only be to cease and desist a business practice), the best approach may be to introduce the innovation and risk the consequences if a regulatory body swings into action to address the innovation.

6. Devising a combo strategy

Your path to innovation may involve combining multiple strategies above. For instance you may be able to take a shadow operation approach while also building the case for negotiating a new regulatory approach in the future. That seems to be the combo strategy JetBlue Airways is pursuing.

One Additional Thought on Innovation Strategy

Creating-Change

Reading this article made me think of our change management strategy matrix. Based on the frustration JetBlue has with the status quo and the lower perceived need of the FAA for dramatically different results, the change management strategy matrix would suggest an experimental strategy. That’s exactly what JetBlue is undertaking. Glad to see the matrix working!

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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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Here’s a Blogapalooza post from Max Utsler’s class at the University of Kansas. Kayla Foley, a Marketing Communications Specialist at P1 Group, Inc., shares ideas on shaping a successful innovation strategy through exploiting two-dimensional diversity in an organization.

Innovation Strategy and Exploiting 2-D Diversity by Kayla Foley

Kayla-Foley-KUOnce upon a time a group of people established an entity called Swissair. Together they ruled the skies. Swissair was deemed so financially stable in fact, it earned the moniker the “Flying Bank.” Then egos got the best of them, and they fell into the trap of groupthink. The result was eventually bankruptcy for Swissair. In hindsight, you can bet they wish they followed the advice of ancient philosopher Socrates: “Think not those faithful who praise thy words and actions, but those who kindly reprove thy faults.”

The question inevitably arises, “How can we avoid this insidious groupthink crippling our innovation strategy?”

The answer is diversity. Let’s say you need a problem within your company fixed. Half the solution could be floating around in one employee’s head. The other half of the idea that would complete and transform it into a game changing innovation may exist in the mind of someone else with an entirely different outlook on the problem. Until you get them in a room together to combine their puzzle pieces, your solution will never be born.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies should look at diversity in two ways: inherent and acquired.  Inherent diversity includes demographics such as gender, age, and ethnicity. Acquired diversity focuses on experience related traits such as working with niche markets, or overseas experience. Companies that exhibit at least three traits in each category attain two-dimensional diversity. From a numbers standpoint alone, the impacts of 2-D diversity on innovation speak volumes. One study cited in the Harvard Business Review article found that 2-D companies are 45 percent more likely to show growth in market share and an astounding 70 percent more likely to capture a new market.

Examples of companies successfully utilizing diversity as part of an innovation strategy include:

  • Google – A Google R&D center in India with over 1,100 employees speaking different languages and practicing separate religions are to thank for the creation of Google Finance.
  • Pepsico – With a 50 percent hiring requirement for women and minorities, PepsiCo doesn’t play around when it comes to diversity. They claim that one percent (around $250 million) of their 7.4 percent revenue growth is directly related to their diversity efforts.
  • Procter & Gamble – In the last decade, P&G delivered an average of 6 percent organic sales growth due to innovation from diverse teams.

Analysts at Ernst & Young (EY) have stated that, “Most large corporations today have a diverse workforce that is scattered all over the world, and the enormous diversity of culture and viewpoints is fertile ground for innovation.”

When companies encourage diversity within their organizations, they dispel the negative effects of groupthink. Diversity does so much more than that though. It empowers employees to share and create new ideas. It pushes people past their comfort zones to go places they otherwise would not. It paves the way for innovation to occur. – Kayla Foley

 

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We’ve certainly covered the heck out of how bad bosses, toxic cultures, and negative comments can crush creative thinking and creativity. These all dampen creative thinking because while ideas are in the awkward stage when someone has just envisioned them, the last thing you need is to attack them because they are outside the norm or aren’t fully-formed.

What you might not consider, however, is how an uber-positive boss that is TOO OVER THE TOP when communicating how great early stage ideas are ALSO CRUSHES creative thinking.

Here’s an example.

Creative-Thinking-Bouquets

Suppose a team is charged with doing the creative thinking to generate new ideas for an initiative. Sometimes the ideas are developed collaboratively; other times, ideas are shared one-on-one with the boss.

In a group where it is understood that creative ideas are considered works in progress, supportive comments from the boss are helpful to further creativity. Ideas that build on original ideas are beneficial. Creative thinking that removes or reshapes initial ideas is okay because team members understand an idea’s origin and can offer creative adaptations in a smart, supportive way.

When creative possibilities are shared individually with the boss, however, team knowledge about new ideas is limited. All you know about the idea is what the boss communicates back to the group. If an uber-positive boss shares only effusive praise for a new creative idea, it is challenging to for someone else to say, “That idea doesn’t make strategic sense,” or “There are other possibilities for that idea that you didn’t consider.” Sure, you can step out and offer these perspectives. But when uber-positive praise from the boss makes it seem as if the weak idea is the best creative idea ever, trying to actively adapt the idea can be, in the best case, a big challenge, or, in the worst case, seen as trying to sabotage someone else’s creative thinking.

5 Ideas When an Uber-Positive Boss Crushes Creative Thinking

A better approach as the boss is, when sharing the idea with the full team, to:

  1. Introduce the creative idea
  2. Credit the idea’s originator
  3. Remark positively on the idea’s possibilities and potential to grow and develop
  4. Share the idea’s status (i.e., it’s open for consideration all the way to it’s a done deal)
  5. Invite team members to comment, build on, and adapt the idea with their own creative thinking

These five steps help a boss be positive about a new creative idea while still creating room to allow other team members to provide their unencumbered creative thinking.

If you’re the boss, be positive about new creative thinking without going overboard. Doing this will encourage your team’s full collective strategic and creative thinking potential. – 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. Email 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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