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Creative Thinking in Summer

There are some real challenges in the summer that just aren’t that big of a deal in the winter. Still, I like summer so much more . . . It’s really hard for people to change, me included . . . I take on stuff I really shouldn’t because I know there will be learning involved, and it’s SOOOOOOO tough for me to turn down a juicy learning opportunity.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently about a research project conducted on 36 kids who had been DIVIDED into THREE groups. They’re granting ridiculous credibility to assuming twelve kids in a split group represent all kids . . . With some potential clients you just want to say, “Don’t pull on my ears. I know what I’m doing.” You don’t, though, because it’s rude and offensive. Which is why it fits in the first place.

Challenging Words

Sorry, but I gave up early today. I’ll do better tomorrow with my creative thinking . . . I spent two hours driving around to do shopping and errands the other day because Cyndi can’t. That’s where the missing Friday blogs posts have gone this summer . . . It’s not a healthy sign when you are boring yourself . . . Some things just aren’t meant to be . . . You try saying, “a people peculiarly his own,” fast a couple of times (Deut 7:6) . Heck, it’s a challenge to even say it slow . . . Yes, I understand you are avoiding me.

DietDPatUMKC

There’s enough to love about the QuikTrip convenience stores brand just in its crushed ice machine and 79 cent, 32 ounce drinks during the summer . . .No, don’t claim you’re getting the exercise you need through “resistance training.” Resistance training doesn’t simply involve you vehemently disagreeing, refusing to cooperate, and then not wanting to talk about it . . . This band of flies that act drunk have invaded our house. I think they want be part of our Framily plan.

Good Words

The most profound words ever written about the human condition? “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Rom 7:15),” gets my vote  . . . The truest words ever written about what passes for a lot of business expertise these days? Teddy Roosevelt saying, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” - 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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Jennifer Spencer of The Spencer Group, a marketing recruiter in Kansas City shared her perspectives, insights, and engaging wit with the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s June meeting.

While Jennifer was specifically addressing Kansas City freelancers on ways to better position and sell themselves, her career lessons extended beyond geography and career path. Here are valuable career lessons, paraquotes, and audience reactions from Jennifer’s talk.

Jennifer-Spencer

Building Awareness about YOU

People won’t call or hire you if no one knows who you are. Always have a business card with you. It’s not THAT old school. Does anybody bump a phone . . . really? Work samples are important, however, THEY HAVE TO BE ONLINE (JENNIFER’S CAPS).

If you’re already in a full-time job and aren’t known within the senior levels of your company, you’re a sitting duck for a layoff. Make sure you’re building awareness of you and your contributions – no matter what.

Hang out around digital incubators because if these companies get funding, they will need to grow and support require from people outside the company.

Think Global, Behave Yourself Local

With the advent of online options, you could be competing for your job with people globally, especially if it’s an area employers see as a potential for outsourcing. Do you know what the global market for what you do looks like? Even though the market may be global, in the Midwest especially, you don’t want to get a bad reputation because it will spread.

Come in and Deliver

Companies want people to come in and quickly make their lives easier. Especially early in your career, be smart about how you introduce new ideas that could be perceived as scope creep. Unless you’re brought in as a turnaround person, your first day on the job isn’t the time to solve all the company’s ills. Solidly contribute and look for opportunities later to deliver more completely and creatively

Just Get ‘Er Done

Project management is the in vogue role currently. You may be expected to take ideas from concept to execution. You need a foot in both the offline AND online words. If you do and you’re further into your career, you can really use your experience to your advantage.

The Paraquotable Jennifer Spencer

  • “Find out what you’re good at and own it.”
  • “Own your awkwardness when you’re out there networking. Making fun of yourself is quite endearing.”
  • “You HAVE TO LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF.” (My CAPS)
  • “People find work in the darndest places.”
  • “Hold your best for last. Sacrifice a few ideas upfront that you are willing to see sacrificed.”

For What It’s Worth, Freelancers

Hourly rates are all over the board for creative freelancers; it really, really, really depends. You have to keep a sense of what the market and going rate is for your services.  Be prepared to negotiate when you’re going in as a freelancer to try to secure a project.  You have to be willing (and getting better) at negotiating.

The limbo of rate negotiations comes down to this question, “How low should you go?”  Go in with a higher rate early when they love you. Don’t go to the rock bottom ever, or even just too low when you start negotiating

You can’t be scared to negotiate. Believe in yourself and what you’re worth.  Raise your rates as you add experience and can deliver more value. Consider creating a menu of prices for basic vs. more conceptual, strategic work. Don’t work for people who come back at you with stupid, ridiculous rates. It won’t get any better later.

Prepare in Good Times for Challenging Times

You have to manage cash flow in good times to be ready for bad times. Try holding back 50% of your current income for challenging times.

You also need to stay relevant and on-trend to prepare for downturns in the economy. Staying relevant may push you out of your comfort zone; you’ll have to get out from behind the computer.  It’s vital to network out of your typical circles with people who are in the same careers as you are. You’ll stand out more effectively if you’re networking where people like you ain’t (my grammar there).

Career Lessons Galore!

As you can tell Jennifer Spencer shared so many fantastic career lessons. Her talk will be a hard one for the next presenter to follow! And that happens to be . . . me. I’ll be talking at the July lunch on a topic Jennifer chose after her talk: Digital Self-Promotion. Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer was!

Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer Spencer was!  – Mike Brown

 

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

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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Idea-Magnets-TitleI think this is a first today. It’s an excerpt from another publication about Brainzooming creative thinking content.

Specifically, this recap of Monday’s “Idea Magnets – Creative Business Leadership” webcast I presented for the American Marketing Association is from “Inside the Executive Suite.” This newsletter is a weekly feature within the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing System. We worked with Keith Prather, the publisher of the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief, for many years in the corporate world. Additionally, when we have a client engagement requiring a larger group of facilitators, Keith is my first call. He was at ground zero when we developed the techniques that later became the Brainzooming strategy methodology.

Beyond this Idea Magnets recap, you should sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Executive Intelligence Briefing System. It’s designed to keep executives current with both what’s going on in the world and what it’s going to mean for their businesses. Additionally, since Keith won’t listen to my pricing strategy advice, you can subscribe to the entire array of multi times per week publications for less than $100 a year. It SHOULD be a four or five-figure subscription, so like I said, subscribe now before I convince Keith to raise the prices!

Without delay, here’s the Armada take on the seven creative thinking characteristics of Idea Magnets. – Mike Brown

 

 7 Keys to How “Idea Magnets” Boost Creativity from “Inside the Executive Suite”

Know someone incredibly strong at generating new ideas and attracting team members who also excel at imagining creative ideas?

If so, you know an “idea magnet.”

Here is our recap and the take-aways from each (idea magnet) characteristic discussed.

Idea Magnets are . . .

1. Inspiring

Idea magnets generate interest and passion for the big objectives and dramatic visions they are trying to accomplish within their organizations. Unlike creative geniuses who may work in a more solitary basis, they want strong creative leaders surrounding them. The bigger team’s creativity helps identify the details behind making the vision a reality.

In sharing a big vision for an organization, whether it’s stated as a core purpose, vision, or mission statement isn’t critical. What’s important is the statement boldly challenges and stretches the organization.

Our take-away: Idea magnets ground creative ideas in strategies and objectives. They are NOT pursuing creativity for creativity’s sake.

2. Serving

Idea magnets are servant leaders. They participate in the challenging tasks they ask their teams to address. They also grow their team members into idea magnets themselves through strategic mentorship, sharing personal lessons with their teams, challenging the status quo, and cultivating team diversity.

Idea magnets surround themselves with smarter, more talented people and display patience while team members do their own explorations to imagine ways to turn the idea magnet’s vision into reality.

Our take-away: Idea magnets aren’t standoffish. They are in the middle of imagining ideas AND accomplishing results.

3. Attracting

Just as magnets attract metal, idea magnets attract great creative leaders and their big ideas. What makes idea magnets so attractive? They bring excitement to the workplace. They also display “abundance thinking. ” What others would consider as constraints, they see as opportunities to pursue more abundant resources and possibilities. They also provide what other leaders need to be abundantly creative, including physical space, time, resources, tools, and interactions with new (and new types of ) people.

Our take-away: The intangibles in business often support abundance thinking. Ideas, energy, passion, and learning aren’t limited, so identify ways to take greater advantage of them.

4. Connecting

Idea magnets connect people and situations to fuel creativity. They are great “and” thinkers. This means they embrace and easily work with both ends of what others might see as opposite perspectives. Idea magnets are strong at:

  • Generating and prioritizing ideas
  • Thinking creatively and implementing ideas
  • Exploiting tested ideas and unknown possibilities

Using creative formulas, idea magnets combine possibilities others would typically miss to create many more new ideas.

Our take-away: Idea magnets we’ve known in business are all strong at spotting relationships between apparently disconnected things. These connections help fuel ideas and anticipate future opportunities.

5. Encouraging

Idea magnets use multiple tools in multiple ways to motivate team members. For example, they might use time in contrasting ways. Sometimes idea magnets negotiate for MORE time so team members can finish necessary creative thinking and implementation. Other times, they may be maxing out the team’s capacity with more projects than they can handle. This LESSENS times for unnecessary creative thinking and encourages rapid progress.

Idea magnets routinely facilitate unique creative experiences, maximize fresh perspectives from new team members, and celebrate successes and the learnings from new ideas that fall short of intended impacts.

Our take-away: By adding one new or unusual variable, idea magnets facilitate once-in-a-lifetime creative experiences. This concept extends to personal relationships, so all you long-time married folks take note!

6. Deciding

Idea magnets imagine and attract many ideas. Processing those ideas so their teams aren’t overwhelmed is imperative. That’s why being strong at “deciding” is vital.

When a project or initiative launches, idea magnets identify upfront how decisions will be made as completion draws near. Sometimes the idea magnet makes the decision; other times, team members will be deciding how the team proceeds. Knowing upfront the freedom team members have in exploring ideas and the approach to setting priorities signals how much autonomy others have to shape strategies to move forward.

Our take-away: While they say in brainstorming sessions there are no bad ideas, there are. It’s vital to pick the right time to decide on good and bad ideas to sustain creative thinking.

7. Replenishing

Applying creative thinking to business issues is mentally stimulating. There’s still the need, however, for idea magnets to replenish creative energy along for the team. Idea magnets understand what encourages their creative passions and what will prepare team members to hit their creative peaks. Idea magnets have to know the people, places, situations, times, and techniques that most readily maximize creativity.

Our take-away: Managing a business team’s creativity is like a basketball coach managing the varied talents and personalities on the team. The idea magnet may have to try a variety of “player” combinations before the team scores creatively.

Is creative thinking and creative business leadership for everyone?

A question at the webcast’s conclusion asked whether creative business leadership is important if you don’t work in a creative field or company. The answer was it’s even more important then to bring fresh ideas to how an organization delivers customer value. – “Inside the Executive Suite”

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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We’ve all been to a professional development conference that turned out to be a stinker.

And by “stinker,” I mean the conference presentations are weak, too many people are selling stuff vs. being there to learn, and the conference producers seem to have not put meaningful thought into creating a productive conference experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell upfront if a professional development conference is going to be a stinker so you can avoid it?

Keynote-Presenter

8 Warning Signs

Here are eight warning signs to look for to better understand upfront whether a pending conference could turn out to be a stinker:

  1. Are details sketchy on speakers and sessions?
  2. Every time you go to the website, does it look like there have been lots of changes in conference speakers, with some conference speakers being swapped out with others?
  3. Are topics listed without any mention of specific speakers?
  4. Is there tremendous overlap between the named sponsors and the companies of the conference speakers?
  5. Is it difficult to find specific information about the speakers other than on the conference website?
  6. Does there appear to be minimal diversity among speakers, especially with respect to demographics and relevant experience histories?
  7. Are there limited choices attendees can make among content (i.e., not enough separate tracks upon which to customize an attendee’s program)?
  8. Is there a heavy reliance on panel discussions that appear hastily thrown together?

If you answer, “Yes,” to most of those questions, it’s probably going to be a stinker of a conference.

How do you decide a professional development conference could be a stinker?

That’s my list.

What do you look for to spot a professional development conference that seems like it is going to be a stinker? - Mike Brown

Subscribe for Free to the Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new 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 innovation 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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If you’re reading this first thing Monday morning (US time), there’s still time to register and participate in today’s Idea Magnets creative leadership webcast. I’m presenting the webcast for the American Marketing Association beginning at 10 a.m. central daylight time.

The Idea Magnets presentation today is a brand new one in the Brainzooming repertoire. It is an outgrowth of a creative thinking blog post from several years ago first talking about idea magnets I’ve worked with throughout my career.

A New Direction in Idea Magnets

Creating the content for Idea Magnets unveiled multiple realizations about how this direction creative leadership is new for me.

First and foremost of these realizations is how much of our content comes from a “don’t do that” perspective. Think about “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” It doesn’t get much more “don’t do that” than “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.”

Much of the content in the first draft of Idea Magnets started life in a “don’t do that” perspective. I was reminded while editing the webcast, however, that idea magnets don’t think like that.

Idea magnets set out a big vision, objective, or purpose, and aggressively march toward it. They are too busy making BIG things happen to spend much time bothering with fighting anti-creative behaviors.

Idea-Magnets-Title

A Creative Leadership Presentation from the Road

As this new creative leadership presentation came together, it became clear Idea Magnets is where I’ve been heading personally for several years.

“Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” addresses the transition early in my career to think about new ideas and change more positively. Our “Creating Strategic Impact” content bridges the point in my corporate career when we were developing the methodology that became Brainzooming and what we do now for multiple clients across all types of industries.

Finally, it struck me the other day that Idea Magnets is a presentation “from the road.” This means it’s a place I’m heading to and a destination I want to be, but I’m not there yet. Addressing the characteristics idea magnets display, it is evident I do better at some of the characteristics than others.

During most of my career, my creative leadership role was to bring to life the big visions of idea magnets. Since stepping out to a big corporation in 2009 to start The Brainzooming Group, however, I have to articulate our big vision. Sometimes that happens; often it doesn’t.

The Idea Magnets presentation NEEDED to come together, because it’s my own roadmap for where we’re going with The Brainzooming Group.

Idea Magnets is a presentation from the road. The road is great, and it’s exciting. And I can’t wait until I get to where the road is taking us! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

 

 

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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You can get six months of work done in a day or you can get a day’s worth of work done over six months. There’s much to be said for getting the work done quickly . . . If you blink too long, you won’t even realize how many creative opportunities you miss. That’s why it’s good to be around people who will make you open your eyes  . . . If you’ve been beating up on someone in person, texting to say, “You’re sorry” is not appropriate. If you’ve been talking with a client by phone, and they email you to give you bad news, that’s not appropriate. You have to match your primary communication channel for the apology or bad news. It’s called “manners” people.

Creative Thinking Thoughts

f-BombDon’t rule out the success formula that involves going to where you want to be and sticking it out longer than anybody else does . . . I bought this paperweight at our local art fair. I carried it all the way home without dropping it even one time . . . Things happen for a reason. Things DON’T happen for a reason, too. They’re just harder to spot as life goes by . . . Thinking of issuing a new policy that Brainzooming is closed between 11 pm and 5 am.

Imagine an x-y chart where the x-axis is “Level of Precision” and the y-axis is “How Particular You Are.” If you’re in the “Very Imprecise” and “Very Particular” quadrant, you’re in for a miserable life, as are the people around you . . . Who put the “Gives Free Advice” sticker on my back?

Success Reflections

A scary “closed blog” test for bloggers? Give them a list of their own titles containing numbered lists and see how many of the lists they can reproduce from memory. I myself would completely fail that test . . . When an attractive divorced woman posts pictures of her ugly kids on Facebook, it’s clear the baby daddy was not living up to his end of the bargain in the looks department . . . If at first you don’t succeed, try plugging the device into a different USB port.

Flattery may get you everywhere, but when you plug it into Google Maps, it doesn’t know what the hell to do with it . . . I don’t plan that far ahead . . . It’s the imperfections that make it seem like people were involved.

Sometimes making the next move is the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s the wrong thing to do. You gotta be the judge . . . History can be a lot more interesting as history than trying to modernize it and pawn it off as nostalgia . . . #IfIWere22, I’d try to be a lot wilder than I was then, but I’m still not sure I’d have it in me. I’d also meet my potential neighbors before renting an apartment and certainly before buying a house . . . That’s all I got. – 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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Creating-a-Strategic-ImpactI’m in Dallas today delivering the closing keynote presentation on “Creating Strategic Impact” for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. This launches a string of Brainzooming presentations and workshops during the summer months focused on translating strategic thinking into business results.

Finding Your Brand’s Strategic Analogs

Prepping for one of these upcoming all-day, company-specific strategic thinking workshops, I was talking with our client on customizing the strategic thinking exercises we’ll teach the group.

She said participants could struggle identifying strategic analogs. By strategic analogs, we mean organizations that perform comparable functions to your brand, even in industries that seem far-removed. Our client’s people struggle with seeing connections between its own business and other industries, quickly dismissing external strategic analogs as irrelevant.

That’s not uncommon.

Since we all try differentiating our businesses, it’s easy to start believing your own messaging that NO ONE does what your organization does in the way you do it. That belief shouldn’t preclude you, however, from using strategic analogs. They are helpful in tracking how other businesses deal with comparable issues your brand may not have yet faced.

For example, at the corporate b2b transportation company where I worked, we spent time thinking about how Disneyworld manages time perceptions. Just as Disneyworld makes it seem as if a line moves faster than expected, we faced a similar task in managing transportation time perceptions.

To develop a strategic thinking exercise on identifying strategic analogs, we’ve collected various questions we’ve used to help business leaders think in new ways about what their organizations do. Look for the strategic thinking questions and the exercise in tomorrow’s Brainzooming article.

Strategic Thinking Exercises in a Workshop for Entrepreneurs

If you’re in Kansas City and want to sharpen your strategy skills, I’m teaching a two-hour workshop on Creating Strategic Impact for Entrepreneurs at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County (ECJC). This Brainzooming workshop is Thursday, June 26,2014 from 11 am to 1 pm.

The workshop focus is how entrepreneurs can take advantage of strategic thinking exercises we use for large corporations to efficiently and effectively spend time working ON instead of only working IN their businesses.

We’ll feature ideas for creating strategic impact that work well even if an entrepreneur has to do the strategic thinking and implementation solo or with a very small, and perhaps less experienced, team.

You can learn more about session and register at the ECJC website. Hurry though; space is limited for the workshop. We’ve been fortunate that most previous Brainzooming workshops at ECHC (all focused on social media and content marketing) have sold out, so get your registration completed today! – 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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