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Over the past month, we’ve been designing a 150-person brainstorming session for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund launch in Kansas City, Thursday, February 13, 2014.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will invest $150,000 in the Kansas City innovation community (with an equal amount in Chattanooga, TN) to support “development, experimentation, and deployment of learning experiences and workforce development opportunities enhanced by next gen networks.”

Brainstorming-FacilitationOur objective for the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 brainstorming session is to build community and imagine concepts for how technology can address needs and aspirations in multiple community segments. These segments include K-12 and higher education, workforce development, digital inclusion, seniors and lifelong learning, and digital making and storytelling.

The scope and detail behind designing and producing a brainstorming session for such a large group is exciting. It’s also something we’ve become known for doing very successfully at The Brainzooming Group, starting with the first Building the Gigabit City event in 2011.

5 Keys for Successful Brainstorming with Any Group

To produce the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of individuals from Kansas City and beyond to help facilitate the Brainzooming session we designed for Mozilla.

Creating the facilitator’s guide for Building the Gigabit City 2.0, I included five keys for successful facilitation. Whether your creative thinking group is just a few people or approaches multiple hundreds, these five keys to successful brainstorming and facilitation for our extended team apply to any group:

1. The facilitator is present to serve the group, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Far better to reach the desired result and be forgotten as a facilitator than to be remembered for being part of the reason a group wasn’t successful.

2. Facilitators should be managing the group for the outcomes, not all the interim steps.

There may be a pre-planned flow to a brainstorming session, but the specific activities are less important than reaching the expected outcomes and deliverables.

3. One of the facilitator’s chief roles is managing and respecting participant time.

By sticking as best possible to the timing guidelines and keeping the session moving, you help create energy, focus, and productivity within the group.

4. You have a unique opportunity to draw out once in a lifetime creative thinking.

This group may never come together again, so this is the only opportunity ever for exciting creative thinking from these individuals as a team. Actively push, prod, stimulate, and cajole the group for more ideas throughout this precious time they are working together.

5. A facilitator is more important for creating “white space” than for sharing ideas.

Depending on how the group is progressing toward answers, cheer a lot, suggest a little, and say what YOU think the answers is only as a LAST resort. Try to answer their questions with questions. The group will get to where it needs to be, only if you give them sufficient room to explore.

What else?

I know we have other facilitators in the audience. What would you add to or subtract from this list of keys to for successful facilitation? – 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.

 

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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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Tweet-SBEXPMany (Most? Nearly all?) brands face the brand strategy challenge of cutting through the clutter of other brands’ advertising and marketing. It may be clutter within a brand’s own category (at a trade show, in an industry publication) or across categories (in mass media, sponsorships, online).

No matter the types of clutter it’s battling, a successful brand strategy has to account for all the planned and random distractions getting in the way of its target audience receiving, experiencing, remembering, and acting on its message.

The brand strategy imperative to cut through the clutter in Super Bowl advertising has generated a wide variety of tactics never envisioned when the Super Bowl debuted including:

While these tactics sometimes work to cut through the clutter, they more often than not raise another form of clutter: internal clutter.

Internal clutter results when there is so much (or so little) going on within a brand’s own Super Bowl advertising (or any other advertising for that matter) that its audience is distracted from the core message the advertiser is trying to convey.

This phenomenon became more evident for me two years ago while watching Super Bowl advertising at a party instead of sitting in front of a TV and computer so I could tweet and blog about it. While watching the game amid a crowd, much of the Super Bowl advertising was there and gone without with little recognition of what it was trying to get across to the audience.

I’ll be at a Super Bowl party again this year and will be on the lookout for those ads not creating their own internal clutter. Will these be the Super Bowl ads that stand out from the loud, aggressive, complicated ones and register the biggest impact?

If you’ll be watching for Super Bowl advertising and want to tweet about it, you’re invited to join the Super Bowl Twitter Chat party #SBEXP (for Super Bowl Experience), hosted by author and branding expert, Jim Joseph. If you want to learn more about #SBEXP, Jim has a blog post on it. You can also learn more about Twitter chats (and the “rules” to make them even more fun) in a previous Brainzooming post as well.

And here’s to the brands that avoid 15-yard penalties for clutter come Sunday evening! – Mike Brown

 

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Is your organization lacking innovative ideas? Does it seem as if your employees are deficient in creative thinking skills?

If so, how frequently do you hear these phrases around your organization?

  1. It’s not my idea
  2. We’ve never thought of that before
  3. We don’t know how to do that
  4. Things are crazy busy right now
  5. We don’t have the right people on board
  6. It seems like it may get us in trouble
  7. We’ve done something similar before
  8. People could think it’s a boondoggle
  9. That will stretch us too thin
  10. I don’t see how we can pull it off
  11. Nobody in our industry has ever done anything like that
  12. They’re better at it than we are
  13. I don’t know anything about that
  14. We’ve got too many initiatives going on
  15. It’s too new for our market
  16. We already doing too much in that area
  17. They’re not expecting anyone to do that
  18. Our salespeople have too many things to sell already
  19. I know what the forecast numbers say
  20. It seems like such a small deal
  21. We’re already trying something else
  22. It seems too late to do anything about it
  23. We’ve never done anything about this
  24. I don’t understand why that’s necessary
  25. No customers are asking for that
  26. It seems impossible to pull off
  27. It’s not in the budget
  28. It seems like overkill
  29. We don’t have time for that

All these phrases could end with a period. A period is final. A period is definitive. A period says, “We’re done here,” like nobody’s business.

When you put a period at the end of any of these phrases, you are blocking potentially innovative ideas others are trying to share.

Making a change to this doesn’t require major creative thinking skills though.

If you really want to stimulate innovative ideas, instead of a period, put a comma after each of these phrases followed by, “but it could be a great idea.”

A comma says there are nuances to explore, possibilities to consider, and more ideas to come.

If one of your organizational goals is developing more innovative ideas this year, implement this simplest of creative thinking skills. You can even click this graphic, print it out, and put it up around your office.

We-Create-Innovative-Ideas-Brainzooming

How simple is that? Mike Brown

 

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Typical brand strategy often involves making it unattractive and costly for a customer to switch brands, but does little to reward brand loyalty in a positive way. But how about instead of penalizing a customer with switching costs, a brand strategy focused on rewarding future brand loyalty with tangible convenience and cost savings? That’s a point of differentiation.

I experienced a relatively simple brand strategy that creates this upside advantage for being a loyal customer.

Creating Positive Future Brand Loyalty

LockIn a bizarre set of circumstances, our front door lock broke, leaving me stuck outside in below zero wind chill temperatures. After taking a photo of the lock to best match its style, I headed to the hardware store for a replacement ahead of the locksmith arriving to replace it.

Before the locksmith left, he pointed out that if we ever wanted to re-key the lock, we could do it ourselves. All it took was inserting the current key into the lock along with putting a little thingamajig into a slot in the lock. After turning and removing the current key and substituting it with any other key that fit (which ours did because it was the same brand), the lock would then open with the new key.

He asked if I wanted him to demonstrate. I was all over the idea since we have five or more keys that fit the old lock made by the same manufacturer. He went through the steps, and suddenly all our keys to the old lock worked with the new lock.

No inconvenience or cost associated with having to get a full complement of keys replaced.

No time spent changing keys on our own key rings.

No hassle of having to trade out keys with those people having backup keys to our house.

Talk about a brand strategy delivering a feature that works like crazy to cultivate future brand loyalty by eliminating hassles and switching costs when it’s time to replace your brand’s product!

What comparable brand strategy examples do you see?

What example are you familiar with that deliver the same type of built-in, positive incentives toward future brand loyalty? – Mike Brown

 

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Please Vote for The Brainzooming Blog by 12/31/2013!

Vote ButtonWe were nominated once again for the Top 40 Innovation Blogger list featured by Innovation Excellence. The final ranking is based on both on voting and determination by the Innovation Excellence editors.

We’ve always appreciate your support in past years to vote for Brainzooming among a great list of other innovation bloggers. If you enjoy the innovation articles on Brainzooming, please cast your vote in several ways this year:

Voting on the Innovation Excellence Blog:

Tweet: @ixchat I vote for Mike Brown @Brainzooming for Top #Innovation Blogger

Voting via Twitter:

  • To vote on Twitter you can actually press the “Tweet This” bird to the right (if you’re logged into Twitter) or paste and share this tweet: @ixchat I vote for Mike Brown @Brainzooming for Top #Innovation Blogger

Voting via Facebook:

Vote Now! December 31, 2013 Deadline for Voting

You can vote on all the platforms if you’d like. Voting ends December 31, 2013 and I really appreciate you taking a moment to vote and help Brainzooming demonstrate a strong showing for this year’s list!

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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3-DoorsSometimes there is only one door available as your point of entry for a problem or opportunity you’re facing. While your choices for how to approach things are severely limited, there isn’t a lot of strategic thinking required when deciding where and how to start.

Sometimes there is only one good door to open up a problem or opportunity, yet it SEEMS like there are five or six different doors you COULD try. Choices are typically beneficial for strategic thinking. Having several doors from which to pick when addressing a problem or opportunity, however, can slow progress as you do the strategic thinking and trial needed to identify the only door that will maximize success.

Other times, there are several doors that will work with varying levels of success to address a problem or opportunity. In these cases, you need to quickly accomplish the strategic thinking to best identify the door (or doors) that will be most productive and fruitful.

Still other times, as was the case working with a client the other day to plan a kickoff event, there are fifteen doors you could open to begin developing a strategic opportunity. Pretty much all fifteen doors will lead toward creating strategic impact. The big thing here is your willingness to embrace the strategic thinking and exploration that having so many possibilities entails.

Short story?

You’ll face various situations all the time that have different dynamics and variables leading to success. One of the best things you can do early on is hone your ability to identify how many doors a particular problem or opportunity offers that could lead to creating strategic impact. Mike Brown

 

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Framing-IdeasHow do you frame creative thinking and the ideas you hope to generate?

That is an important question, because how you frame your creative thinking task makes a fundamental difference in the subsequent ideas you generate.

Creative Ideas that Feel the Same

I re-learned this lesson again while beating myself up over the perpetual struggle to write something closer to a book than a blog. While SAYING I want and need to write a book, whenever I have a time to generate ideas, I invariably write at the top of the page – whether in a notebook or on an iPad – “Blog Ideas.”

And what creative ideas do you think appear on the page?

You guessed it: my creative thinking produces MORE blog ideas and blog posts.

As I wrote “Blog Ideas” on a page to start this blog post, I realized how much even this simple, initial label shapes the subsequent creative ideas.

Frame the Creative Thinking You Really Want

We are big advocates for not starting creative thinking with a blank piece of paper. Using tools and exercises to frame creative thinking works wonders.

Yet maybe it is a good creative idea to sometimes leave the very top of the piece of paper blank. Doing so, you launch your creativity devoid of expectations about what the ultimate uses are for the creative ideas you generate.

Or, if it is helpful to scrawl something at the top of page to frame your ideas, make sure what you write is going to frame the creative thinking you really want.

Even better, make it an outrageously EXTREME label that is just the right size to stretch your creative thinking beyond the same old size and direction. 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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