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Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC) friend, Sarah Eggers tweeted Friday afternoon that we should run a compilation post on beating writer’s block in association with National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo 2013.

Since Sarah’s previous Brainzooming blog topic ideas have all been winners, you can bet I paid attention to Sarah’s tweet.

Creativity Ideas for National Novel Writing Month

Stormy-NightHere is a compendium of Brainzooming blog posts on a variety of aspects for enhancing creativity and getting around creative blocks.

While not all these creative ideas focus on writer’s block or writing, and none of them are specific to writing a novel, I went through the Brainzooming blog to narrow the list to articles with potential value to NaNoWriMo 2013 participants.

If your creativity is stuck for NaNoWriMo or in any other way, check out these articles to start or rekindle your creativity when you need it most!

Getting to the Root Causes of Your Creative Block

Some Ways to Try to Shake Creative Block

Other Peoples’ Ideas for Enhancing Creativity

– Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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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Group-SessionStrong strategic thinking involves exploring multiple, often conflicting, scenarios. So it’s not surprising the most productive team strategic thinking exercises also embody conflicting characteristics. It’s an example of “form reinforcing output.”

7 Important “Ands” in Strategic Thinking

As you consider what team strategic thinking exercises are most appropriate for your group, look for these 7 “Ands.” Each of these 7 “Ands” sets up the right amount of internal tension within team strategic thinking exercises so that they are beneficial as possible:

1. Divergent AND Convergent Thinking

You have to both push both thinking about lots of ideas (divergent thinking) and ultimately narrowing to those ideas with the greatest potential (convergent thinking).

2. Individual AND Group Participation

Since not everyone will be most effective contributing in the same ways, team strategic thinking exercises need to allow for both individuals to work and contribute solo while taking advantage of the team’s combined thinking skills also.

3. Long AND Short Activities

While it is ideal to have an extended period of time for a group to engage in strategic thinking exercises, that doesn’t mean using a single activity the entire time. Instead, it’s beneficial to break up the time into brief activities through a variety of team strategic thinking exercises.

Ands4. Tested AND New Frameworks

While it’s important to have tested, dependable team strategic thinking exercises you know will support a group’s thinking, it’s beneficial to customize exercises (even if they are completely new) to reflect the team’s particular strategy challenges.

5. Loud AND Quiet Times

Typically, the mix of group and individual exercises sets the stage for varied loud and quiet times when a team is doing strategic thinking. Some people advocate starting quiet; others are proponents of beginning loud and raucous to shape the time together. What works best depends on the group and the strategic thinking challenge at hand.

6. Important AND Silly Matters

A group can’t think seriously all day without mental breaks. We call these breaks “mental lemon sorbets.” Doing a few silly exercises amid the important stuff provides both fun and a break from rigorous mental activity.

7. Thinking AND Doing Phases

A productive strategic thinking session isn’t solely about contemplation. Thinking times contrast with doing in order to actively develop concepts, prototype ideas, and create implementation plans.

Too much to think about with team strategic thinking exercises?

Getting the most from team strategic thinking exercises requires upfront planning and great facilitation.

If you prefer to simply participate and leave the planning and facilitation to someone else, let us know. We create productive team strategic thinking exercises all the time and would love to do it for your organization. – 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.

 

 

“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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Two-GeeksWhile it might require a healthy dose of strategic gymnastics, it’s still easy to narrow down competitor comparisons on how your brand performs to a subset of only direct competitors who do exactly what you do.

When you make the strategic decision to try to create favorable comparisons by only looking at how your brand is doing relative to brands JUST LIKE yours, you:

  • Make everyone feel better about how your brand is performing
  • Restrict nagging strategic discussions about brand weaknesses
  • Allow your brand to be number one in something – or maybe many things
  • Give your salespeople something to talk about
  • Create tidier competitive comparisons
  • Don’t have to invest as much in doing new things to keep up
  • Don’t have to invest as much in doing what you do today dramatically better
  • Help create focus
  • Provide a quick way to sidestep challenging performance questions
  • Help fuel a sense of internal brand pride

While these things can all seem good and make things easier, they all stand in the way of your brand creating strategic impact. That’s because easy competitor comparisons completely miss that your customers don’t make easy comparisons for your brand and that the most dangerous potential competitors may look NOTHING LIKE your brand.

Your customers are most likely comparing everything you do for them and everything they experience about your brand to the brands they know perform those particular functions the best. That’s true whether those other brands are in your market, or if you have even heard of these brands, let alone track them as part of your standard competitor comparisons.

While you may feel the need to make easy competitor comparisons to get everyone to feel good about your brand, you’d be much better off to make all the hard comparisons instead.

Making the hard comparisons will get everyone motivated to improve your brand to be truly exceptional and distinct compared to ANY other brand out there.

Making the hard comparisons will fuel creating strategic impact. - Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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Who are the best collaborators to have on your team to participate in creative thinking?

You can know the best collaborators based on their actions. They:

  • Are individuals you can trust and depend upon to do what they say
  • Are fun, pleasant, and enjoyable to be around
  • Do their homework upfront
  • Are eager to work with others
  • Think big while realizing details matter
  • Readily generate new ideas
  • Inspire new ideas in others
  • Take-over or sit back, whichever one is needed (and they know when which one or the other is needed)
  • Cheer others on when the collaboration is faltering
  • Will readily challenge people when it will lead to a stronger outcome
  • View some things similarly and some differently than you
  • Are good at structuring and shaping your work
  • Are willing to volunteer and actually do work that needs to get done
  • Create more energy than they consume within the collaboration

What other characteristics would you add based on the best collaborators for creative thinking you have worked with in your career? – Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact TheBrainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us atinfo@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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John Q. Harrington shared a very popular first guest post recently on creative thinking and 9 Ways to Amplify Creativity. Q is back today with 7 reasons why he’s concerned the No Child Left Behind law is putting the US behind in the creative thinking and problem solving skills we need to compete. Here’s Q!

7 Reasons No Child Left Behind Is a Bigger Threat than a Government Shut Down by John Q. Harrington

John-Q-HarringtonThe biggest threat to the future of America is not global warming, not an errant meteor, not even the maddening Government Shut DownThe biggest treat to our country and our children’s future is the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND law.

What, you say?  Hasn’t that been around forever?  And hasn’t it helped to improve test scores?

Yes, it seems like it’s been around forever and yes, it has helped to improve test scores.  But higher test scores are more about memorizing than learning.

7 Threats to Creative Thinking from No Child Left Behind

1. It destroys original thinking, our secret weapon.

The secret sauce for America’s success over the last few centuries has been our love of independent thinking.  We have an almost cultish reverence for those who thought differently and changed the world.  Edison, Ford, Bell, and Jobs are among our most famous, but millions of original thinkers help us to keep reinventing our world and staying relevant every single day.

2. It places a premium on standardized test scores.

Like so many things, No Child Left Behind started with the best of intentions: to elevate the learning of all children by assuring they receive the same standard high quality education.  Unfortunately, the only way to measure the result initiating a series of standardized tests for all students.  If you scored well on the test, you must be doing well.  If you scored poorly on the test, you must be falling behind.  Schools that scored well were rewarded.  Ones that did poorly were chastised and eventually shut down.  So, understandably, schools began to put major emphasis on getting their students to score well on the test.

3. Tests measure memorization skills, not learning.

The MOST important thing we can teach every child is how to think and problem solve.   Even though free form thought is a little messy and not totally predictable, it is what makes us great – or at least it used to make us great.  We need to teach children how to think so they can solve the problems no one knows the answers to yet.   Teaching them to only memorize teaches them to do what has always been done.  And in our world of exponential change, that is a recipe for disaster!!

4. The need for memorization is rapidly moving toward obsolescence.

Why is it critical for children to memorize historical facts and figures when the answers are readily available within seconds on the internet?  Isn’t it much more important to teach them WHY wars and events came to pass and make them think about HOW they might reach a better outcome when they’re older and in charge?

5. It’s the last straw for great teachers.

I’ve always been surrounded by great teachers. I’ve lived next to them, been friends with them, dated them.  Even married one and have a child who’s one of them.  But in all my years of being around great teachers, I’ve never seen them so frustrated and disheartened.  They’ve persevered through low pay, insufficient supplies, and decreased power in the classroom.  But No Child Left Behind hit great teachers like a Mike Tyson punch to the gut. Really great teachers hate teaching to achieve high test scores as much as students hate learning that way. Great teachers find highly imaginative ways to involve students in their subjects, climb inside it, and truly understand the subject, not just parrot back facts and figures about it.

6. It dumbs down how all teachers teach. 

As standardized test scores become the all-important factor in education, standardized ways of teaching are being shoved down educators’ throats. So not only have we knocked the original thinking out of our children, we’ve knocked it out of our teachers!   As a result the best teachers are leaving after a few years, retiring early, or changing careers in droves.  And that only accelerates the downward spiral created by No Child Left Behind.

7. It gives our kids knives, then sends them into a gunfight. 

Global competition is fierce and it’s only going to get more intense.  We’re turning our children into cannon fodder in this global battle if we send them into battle armed only with memorized facts and figures.

It isn’t cost prohibitive to fix NO Child Left Behind

Fixing No Child Left Behind can be done and done affordably.  A recent article in Wired Magazine showed how a small school in a Mexican border town slum totally turned things around by trying a completely different approach.  I’m not saying their approach is the best education option, but I am saying No Child Left Behind definitely is NOT. If a poor Mexican village can figure this out, surely we can do better, too.

The goal of No Child Left Behind was right, but the outcome is not.  So let’s cut our losses and move on to some new, more imaginative way of educating our next generation.

Who knows?  If we teach our children how to think better, maybe we won’t have to tolerate the insanity of another government shut down in the future. – Q

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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.

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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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4

4yr-CupcakeEvery year around this time, I do a column looking back at twenty-five lessons learned or reconfirmed during the past year of The Brainzooming Group. Since we’re approaching four years away from corporate life, we’ve now reached one hundred lessons.

While I’ve spent a few weeks putting together the list of twenty-five lessons in previous years, this list came together – with twenty-five lessons plus one – in perhaps thirty minutes. This was surprising since I was originally going to write a column about client lessons for this year’s anniversary of being away from corporate life. The client lesson post will just have to wait

And if you want to see lesson number 26, you’ll find it on our Brainzooming Facebook page. Please check out the Brainzooming Facebook page, and Like us while you’re there. We share Brainzooming blog posts and other items on strategy throughout the month.

25 Lessons Learned (or Reconfirmed) in Year Four Away from Corporate Life

Here’s this year’s twenty-five lessons list:

  1. Past performance is no indication of future performance.
  2. Cash remains the undisputed king despite the message at social media conferences that, “Content is king.”
  3. When you’ve lived with a certain structure for a long time, you can easily miss the benefits of new-found flexibility.
  4. Some things simply take time to figure out and become clear no matter how much you want to figure them out right away.
  5. It makes strategic sense to start with the things that will take the longest to develop, but you also have to launch the other things to maximize the payoff from your planning and efforts.
  6. You can and should learn from every encounter. Not all the learning will be equally valuable, though.
  7. You may multi-task to save time, but you’re not likely to get the same benefit as if you address tasks one at a time.
  8. People other than you are always going to be able to see things you can’t see about yourself.
  9. No matter what someone thinks, says, or promises, there’s still a high probability it won’t happen; plan accordingly.
  10. Not asking someone to commit at a relationship’s start will help form more relationships, but it won’t lead to many relationships that survive challenges.
  11. Even when you know better, if you don’t change your situation, you’ll repeat the same mistakes again because the situation will trump your knowledge.
  12. Not all b.s. looks or smells like b.s., which is why you either have to have a good b.s. detector or just assume most of what you see and hear is b.s. and act accordingly.
  13. People complain WAY too much about travel because it’s an easy target for grousing. If you hate travel SO MUCH, pursue a different line of work.
  14. NEVER and ALWAYS are used WAY too much for effect. The answer is somewhere in the middle, and finding where in the middle is the whole deal.
  15. “Bluff while you learn” isn’t at the top of my “Favorite Strategies” list, but in the right circumstances, it works.
  16. Droughts end, but you won’t know when and may not be able to tell why one ended.
  17. There’s HUGE financial value in a well-placed pause in a conversation.
  18. While there is benefit to concentrating on what you do best, you can’t let yourself off the hook from doing important things where you aren’t your best.
  19. When fretting about what seems like an unbelievably long sales cycles, I need to remember we talked to a branding agency during corporate life and only decided to work with them nine years later. We’re into year three with some potential clients. Guess we have a ways to go.
  20. Great friends may go away from you. Let them go. Find new great friends, and cherish even more the ones that don’t go away from you.
  21. You don’t always have to react to things that go awry right away. Put them on the list, pay more attention to them, but don’t over-react. Some stuff will simply fix itself.
  22. Structure is so valuable because it can help you perform and do what you need to do even when you don’t want to do it or aren’t performing well at all.
  23. Depend on God more. Trust more. Act on it more.
  24. Even when you’re well into your career, you may have to completely re-work some long-ingrained behavior patterns. Doing this is HARD, so start as early as you can.
  25. By the time you let someone know you’re going to ask them for help, know what you’re going to ask them for already, even if it’s not immediate. If you don’t, chances are you’ll never get around to figuring out what you need to ask them.  - Mike Brown

Previous Year’s Lessons Learned (or Reconfirmed)

 

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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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I misread the question in this tweet yesterday – maybe because I was reading it in the car after church. No, I wasn’t driving yet.

Fave-Question

Or should I say I wasn’t driving “yet-ish.”

Creative Thinking Questions

Anyway, I thought the question was about my favorite creative thinking questions. We’ve never covered that, so writing about my favorite creative thinking question immediately suggested a blog post.

Here’s my favorite creative thinking question: How could we make it ______________?

Fave-Question-Jot2

As my quick jottings show, among all the possible creative thinking questions, this one does a wonderful job of:

  • Linking strategy and implementation (How)
  • Getting you looking to the future (could)
  • Implying collaboration (we)
  • Being active since it presupposes doing something (make)

All that, plus it can work (perhaps with a little finessing) as a lead-in question to three of my favorite creative thinking exercises:

That’s a hard working question!

My Favorite Creative Thinking Question So Far

So although this is an answer for an unasked question, “How could we make it _____________?” is at the top of my list of creative thinking questions – so far. There could always be a new one to displace it, but that will take some doing!

Anybody else have a question I can misread and turn into a blog post?

Send them my way!  - 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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