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Yesterday, we talked about the creative constraint at the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference where we were limited to taking only five pictures of the school environment. Today, I wanted to share my six (yes six, not five) photos!

I’m sure I wasn’t as strategic and reasoned in selecting my photos as the teachers who were at the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference. Obviously, I wasn’t looking for specific projects or to bring into a classroom setting. Nevertheless, they all represent aspects of the school that served as creative inspiration for me.

It’s a Museum

As someone explained it to me matter of factly, “This is a Saturn V rocket; it’s the biggest rocket there is.” Well of course it is. Notice the black walls and ceiling along with the planets and stars. It struck me that not only was building the Saturn V a project, the entire installation conveys a sense of the Boulder Journey School as a museum for children to appreciate art, science, and multiple other disciplines.

BJS-SaturnV

Changing Scale for Creative Inspiration

We were introduced to several examples of using GoPro cameras as a means to explode the size of very small scenes so the children can interact and engage in new ways. This shows a scene the children drew, turned into a 3-D scene, and then were videoing and projecting at a huge scale on the wall. I am excited about the possibilities for how something comparable might let us show what happens at a Brainzooming strategy or creativity event in new ways.

BJS-GoPro-Dinner

This Is Where the Wild Things Are!

This was the actually the first photo I took once our photo taking time began. I had been in this classroom earlier and noticed the Where the Wild Things Are characters sitting on a couch in front of pillows that look like the ones we have on our couch at home…except these have orange in the design! Plus, I painted the character on the right as part of a huge event banner in graduate school, so that brought back memories of long ago creative inspiration.

BJS-Wild-Things

What Goes into Creativity?

If I were being completely strict about ONLY five pictures, this would have been the one that would have gone. I really wanted the list of words tied to creativity: Thinking, Analyzing, Processing, Guessing, Hypothesizing, Predicting, Manipulating, Sloping, Rolling, Blocking, Falling (and one other word I can’t make out). Yes, I could have just written the words, but the creative inspiration for me was in how they dissected this process into a whole series of specific actions adults would typically never think about as discrete activities.

BJS-Creativity

One of the Creative Inspiration Stars

I’d heard stories about the fish at Boulder Journey School Skyping with one another and was mystified. When I heard the full story of how the children wanted to connect the fish tanks at the school so the fish could interact, it started to make sense. Then when they showed how they used GoPro cameras to project the fish (including this cutie, Diggum) on a wall so they were larger than the children, it really started to come together for how it all provided creative inspiration. Suffice it to say, I couldn’t leave without taking a picture of Diggum!

BJS-Diggum

This Was Definitely the Sixth Picture, but Hardly an Afterthought

While this was my sixth (and last) photo, I identified it as a strong possibility early in the conference. This is the intra-school mail center. Children can write notes to other kids, but importantly, parents can leave notes for children that will be delivered later in the day. When I worked in a ten-story office building, we had intra-office mail, even after email was prevalent. Why WOULDN’T you have the same capability in an early childhood school? The answer is you’d only have it when the administrators and staff are incredibly open to translating beneficial concepts into a child’s world!

BJS-Intra-Email

– 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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An intriguing creative thinking twist at the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference runs counter to all but one other event I’ve spoken at or attended in the past several years.

What’s the twist?

It was the spoken expectation that attendees would take no more than five pictures of the Boulder Journey School environment. These five pictures were all to be taken during an ice cream and exploration break on the conference’s second afternoon.

Creative Thinking – Focusing Your Ideas BEFORE You Get Creative

I first learned about the five picture creative thinking and implementation constraint during our preparatory calls for my conference presentation. There are several reasons for the request, including keeping attendees focused on experiencing the current moment, not clogging the narrow hallways with picture takers throughout the event, and helping to reinforce the message that teachers and administrators shouldn’t expect to recreate exactly what Bolder Journey School has done.

Boulder-Journey-Selfie

L to R: @teachercoder, @Brainzooming, @accruick

The five picture expectation, while obviously grounded in a strategic rationale, does seem counter to the school’s philosophy of creative exploration – at least creative exploration as most of us have come to think of it in the age of digital assets. Being limited to five photos along with the expectation that attendees would spend 1 1/2 days of creative thinking time to explore and select what the five photos should be is a huge throwback to the days before digital assets:

  • When you had to print a picture to know how it looked, so you were careful about getting things right the first time
  • When you had to type something on paper and couldn’t easily edit it after it was typed, so you focused on outlining and crafting polished prose
  • When creating a “moving picture” involved physically processing film, then splicing it, so you didn’t just show up, start shooting, and see what happens

Yes, the five-picture expectation causes different creative thinking and creative behaviors. It makes you:

  • Think and plan where you will focus your creative energy before expending it
  • Edit your creative aspirations to stay within a very real creative constraint
  • Get it as close to right the first time as you can since you can’t simply pick five great photos from two hundred photos you took and call it good
BJSSC-Orange-Socks

My Incredible Speaker’s Gift from #BJSSC15 – Orange Socks!

Wonder how I did with the five picture creative thinking and implementation constraint?

In the next post, I’ll show you what SIX things I considered creatively intriguing enough to be picture-worthy! – 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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The forming and use of creative thinking heuristics fascinates me.

That shouldn’t be surprising.

As the Brainzooming name suggests, we concentrate on opportunities for short cutting creative thinking in smart ways to keep (or start) things zooming along. If there’s a smart creative thinking shortcut to be tried, we’re up for it.

Creative Thinking at #BJSSC15

During the presentations from mentor teachers and intern teachers at the Boulder Journey School Conference, it was fascinating to hear the lengths to which they go to honor and fulfill the intricate thinking paths the children devise.

150629-BJSSC-Ideas

For instance, the children in one class were working on designing homes for animals, thinking about and accounting for all the things a home would need to include to be homey. The work inspired one of the teachers, Lauren Frazier, to pursue the idea of actually getting a pet for the classroom. Through multiple rounds of voting on what type of pet they wanted (and even absentee voting for parents and grandparents) and what the pet would be named, the class arrived at Nibbles, the guinea pig.

Then, beyond translating their ideas about an animal’s home into Nibbles’ new home, the children wanted to decorate Nibbles’ cage in her favorite color. They devised a series of tests where “doors” of various colors were placed with Nibbles. Students tallied Nibbles’ activity across several days, and using multiple criteria, and they determined red was Nibbles’ favorite color. This paved the way for creating a series of red decorations in her cage.

Before Shortcuts, There Were Many Steps

You may wonder why I’m sharing the Nibbles story.

Beyond the striking separated-at-birth resemblance between Nibbles and our very own Brainzooming Director of Enthusiasm, there’s a very important reminder.

It’s so easy in business and organizational settings to cut out steps and reduce thinking time to save costs and improve the bottom line. We hear the mantra to “ship” new products sooner and fix it later. It’s all part of what we think is making business more revolutionary these days. It’s all about taking fewer steps.

At the Boulder Journey School, however, they walk through each decision step. And the children are the ones charting the steps…not the adults who know better and thus might be the first ones to cut out steps. I know I fought the quick conclusion during the Nibbles presentation to think, “Just pick a color for goodness’ sake and get on with it!”

The learning is when your audience or stakeholder group is newer to ideas and concepts than an organization’s leadership is, there is value to letting them chart the steps and taking all the steps necessary to bring them along in shaping and supporting new ideas. Even if it takes longer, and even if it so deliberate that it can seem maddening, maybe the best answer is going to be the one that emerges from all those steps.  – Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

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I was in Boulder, CO last week for the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference. As more than one person asked me, “Why were you at an early childhood education conference?”

Fair question.

Mike-BJSSC15

The short answer was the school’s founder, Dr. Ellen Hall, and I serve together on the board of another non-profit, Nature Explore. Ellen Hall paved the way for the invitation to speak and attend both days of the conference.

The longer answer is, beyond speaking on creative thinking, it was a welcome change to be surrounded by people and an environment fostering in children the same types of creative thinking we try to instigate among adults in the business world.

And as expected, it was an incredible learning experience.

I’ll share various creative thinking insights and images from the Boulder Journey School Summer conference this week; they are all related to the adult world of strategy, creativity, and innovation we cover.

Today, here are creative thinking quotes and comments that resonated and pushed my own thinking:

Creative Thinking Quotes Mentioned During Presentations

“You can’t do a good job unless you’re keen on it yourself.” – quoting David Hawkins

 

“To be in dialogue means to accept transformation.” – quoting Carlina Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children

 

“If you have no bloody owies, you’re being too careful. If you have more than three bloody owies, you’re probably not being careful enough.” – quoting Teacher Tom

  • This does a lot better job of conveying the whole “you have to fail to succeed” perspective than anything else I’ve seen on the topic.

 

“To listen is not to fit what we hear into what we already know, but rather to be poised for the possibilities of what we are about to come to know.” – quoting Davies

 

Live Creative Thinking Quotes from Speakers

“I have a lot of learning to do, that’s why I’m up here presenting today.” – Jen Selbitschka, Studio Teacher

 

“You can’t bring seventy-five people together and make a decision.” – Andrea Sisbarro, School Director at Boulder Journey School

 

“You could look at turning over 41 interns every year as a disaster, or you can see it as a great opportunity to bring new learning into the school.” – Alison Maher, Education Director at Boulder Journey School

 

“The best thing about dandelions is nobody cares if you pull them up.” Another Teacher at the Boulder Journey School

 

“What are we working on together?” – Mary Jane Moran

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Based on conferences I attend, there’s an opportunity to see many “emerging speakers.” These are either executives inside corporations or ones having recently departed. They are in a different experience and style category compared to speakers on the full-time speaking circuit.

This speaking world of emerging speakers is both frustrating and exciting.

It’s frustrating when you sit through full-on bores with content that isn’t compelling. There’s one global B2B company, and every speaker I’ve seen from it the past few years is arrogant and plainly disconnected from the audience. Their presentations are horrible.

The frustrating experiences are more than offset, however, by the excitement of seeing new, strong presenters speaking from real, ongoing experiences. These are always delightful, and a great reminder about effective presentations skills to try to develop for my own speaking engagements.

I saw one of the latter types of speakers recently: Amy Brusselback, a former P&G executive. She left the corporate world to start Design B&B. Amy’s speaking style was a great reminder of three aspirations any speaker should embrace: Be funny, self-deprecating, and quotable.

3-Magic-Keys

More than 127 Tips for Effective Presentation Skills

Thinking about lessons in effective presentation skills from sitting through both good and bad presenters prompted me to compile the varied Brainzooming content focused speakers. Along the way, there have also been plenty of tips for how conference organizers can facilitate speakers being better. There have also been some for how audience members can involve themselves in getting the most from conference presentations.

Effective Presentation Skills for Various Situations

Effective Presentation Skills – 8 Ways to Put More of You in Your Talks

Effective Presentation Skills – 16 Ideas to Immediately Engage an Audience

TED Talks – Six Ideas for Developing a First Time TEDx Talk

9 Things I Do Give a Damn ’bout with a Bad Presentation

9+ Tips for How Not to Use PowerPoint and Other Creative Presentation Ideas

Keynote Presenter Advice – Don’t Do These Things

Effective Presentation Skills – 6 Keys to Successful Last-Minute Changes

5 Things all Conference Presenters Must Stop Doing Right Away

Better Presentations with a Small Audience and a Big Room – 9 Success Tips

Pecha Kucha in Kansas City – 6 Reminders for Better Presentations

7 Steps to Be Ready to Present When Your PowerPoint Fails

Eight Tips for Making a Big Presentation Successful

Presentation Tips – 4 Ideas for Successful, Last-Minute Speeches

Great Presentation Content

Strategic Thinking Lessons – Why Recipes Are Better than Dinner Stories

Presentation Tips – 3 Reasons to Admit You Don’t Do Something Well

Presentation Tips – 5 Tips for Creating Photogenic Slides

16 Creative Ways to Supercharge Presentations

Creative Thinking – The 25 Stages in Creating a New Presentation

Create Lasting Memories in Online Events – 10 Ways to Do It

The Value in Presentations

Strategic Thinking Question – When Does Free Become Getting Paid?

Strategic Thinking for Your Career – What Free Speaking Engagements to Do?

Free Speech? Try a “Fair Trade” Speech Strategy Instead

How Organizers Can Help Speakers Be More Successful

5 Ways to Help a Speaker Deliver a Successful Presentation at Your Event

Event Strategy – 5 Ideas for Generating Applause When You Need It

The Audience Role in Presentations

Creative Ideas – A Memorable Way to Meet Conference Speakers

5 Strategic Thinking Questions for Integrated Listening

8 Warning Signs a Professional Development Conference Could Be a Stinker

Is a Smart Presenter Always Better?

Mike Brown

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Suppose you need to involve hundreds of engaged audience members to shape the strategic thinking for a significant issue your organization faces.

How do you create the opportunity for learning and community collaboration in this scenario?

Digital-Inclusion-Photo

The organizing group addressing digital inclusion in Kanas City presented The Brainzooming Group this situation. Having announced an all-day Digital Inclusion Summit and inviting any interested community members to participate, we designed the event’s community collaboration strategy.

There are challenges we don’t typically encounter. Because of the general invitation to the community, we didn’t have upfront insight into who would participate until that day. This meant there was no opportunity to ensure the right mix of people within all the educational sessions. Additionally, our digital inclusion community collaboration approach had to fit fifteen different pre-planned educational segments we wouldn’t have visibility to upfront.

Strategic Thinking and Community Collaboration

How did we design a community collaboration approach for the Digital Inclusion Summit within these constraints?

The simple story to our community collaboration approach is we:

  • Identified two topic tracks (best practices and strategy) to describe the education sessions in order to organize the collaboration approaches.
  • Developed strategic thinking worksheets for each topic track. Each had several related questions for the topic track that could be used both individually and in small groups.
  • Coached each education session presenter on taking fifteen minutes in the middle of his/her content. This time was for participants to react to the learning and complete the worksheet strategic thinking questions.
  • Deployed our team, along with Digital Inclusion Summit team members, to manage the community collaboration activities.

Additionally, we developed an experience-based activity. For this activity, we invited participants to turn off all their digital tools for the day to simulate being a part of the digital divide, i.e., citizens who lack access to the Internet on a day-to-day basis.

Community Collaboration Yields New Strategic Insights

From the community collaboration worksheets participants completed in small groups, we documented nine individual strategic themes. Within these Digital Inclusion Summit themes, participants suggested serious issues standing in the way of digital inclusion and new leadership groups needing seats at the table to effectively narrow the digital divide.

In a rare situation for us, we can fully share the final Digital Inclusion Summit report we created to give you a sense of the nine themes and all the individual comments. The Digital Inclusion Summit report is available for free to the public on a new website designed by the Kansas City Public Library. It is a great treat for us to be able to actually share the final work product we developed.

Community Collaboration – Engaging to Address Digital Inclusion from Mike Brown

Do you have a community of stakeholders you need to meaningfully engage?

Whether you are tackling city-wide issues needing community collaboration or have an organization that needs to better engage its diverse stakeholders, we’d love to talk with you about how we can turn your hopes for meaningful engagement into reality.  – Mike Brown

 

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Whenever presenting to a group, I love trying out new ideas, tools, and techniques with the audience. I also appreciate the opportunity to be candid about what works and doesn’t relative to the topic we’re addressing. This is one of the great presentation tips shared early on by someone who works with a lot of speakers. I’ve adopted it, and the more intimate and interactive the setting, the more likely I will push further into successes and challenges.

During my “Creating Fantastic, Shareable Content” workshop at the Social Strategies Summit, we discussed how a content marketing strategy fits with a lead generation strategy. Typically, creating and sharing content is motivated by growing the number of prospects in your audience identifying themselves as interested in talking further about how your organization could serve them.

Covering various aspects of this content marketing strategy that must work well to make the overall strategy successful, I shared what we do well and an area we don’t do well as an organization with our own strategy.

Okay, rather than simply pointing it out, I said we “suck” at one part of our content marketing strategy.

Later, one of the great people I met at the conference remarked how unusual it is for a speaker to say his organization “sucks” at something. She wondered why I did this.

At the core, it is one of those things I sometimes say “in the moment.” The workshop atmosphere was very comfortable, making it easier for me to push the messages harder.

Presentation Tips – 3 Reasons to Admit You Don’t Do Something Well

Mike-Brown-Speaking

Beyond that, there are three other reasons why I said, “We suck.”

1. It is truthful

There are some things we do really well on content marketing, including creating business-oriented, evergreen content delivering value for readers around the world. We haven’t been as strong on following up and taking the next steps with the audience that wants to work more closely with us.

2. It is realistic

I’m suspect of speakers who paint the picture of EVERYTHING being wonderful as the basis of the credibility for the messages they share. Call me cynical, but I’ve been around too long to ever swallow that EVERYTHING is perfect with any organization.

3. An audience member may have an idea to help us improve

Overwhelmingly, I’m blessed to talk with very diverse, experienced audiences typically as eager to offer ideas as I am in offering ideas to them. If one of these smart people has an idea for how we can improve what The Brainzooming Group does, I definitely want to learn it.

What did he say?

Yes, saying we “suck” was a little strong, but it got attention, which is why I said it.

If you have us speak or do a workshop, be prepared for truthful, realistic content to help your audience better understand what to do. They will also understand the challenges that could be looming, too.

Consider it part of the Brainzooming brand promise.

If you don’t want me to say, “Suck,” however, let me know. I’ll use another word! – 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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