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Something I’m trying to improve is being deliberate about what I agree to do that could end up distracting from what’s important. After consciously pursuing many new avenues the past few years, it is evident some very fundamental business capabilities aren’t receiving the attention they need. I’ve been thinking about what strategic thinking questions could help me stay more focused.

In the midst of that personal reflection, kick ass business person and cycle instructor, Kate Crockett, posted “2016 – The Year of No” on Facebook. Kate’s strategic thinking questions resonated with me, and I asked her for permission to share them here.

I suspect you will find them valuable as well. Here’s Kate!

2016 – The Year of No by Kate Crockett

I challenge you to make 2016 the YEAR OF NO.

Before you agree to anything, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to do this?

We all need to stop doing things we absolutely do not want to do or things that cause us stress and anxiety just because we feel it’s what others want us to do or it is perceived as the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to care for yourself so you can care for others when needed.

Will doing this make me feel satisfied?

kate-crockett

Kate Crockett and her daughter, Olivia

Would the person asking me to do this do the same for me if I asked?

We all need to stop bending over backwards and going out of our way for people who wouldn’t help us even if it weren’t out of their way.

Would you allow a friend to say “Yes” to whatever it is if you knew they didn’t want to do it or it caused them stress or emotional anxiety to do it?

Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?

Is this time well spent?

We all need to learn to set our boundaries with those in our lives so that we aren’t the ones driven to stress and anxiety while the others in our lives skate around us caring very little that they’ve have put us in an inconvenient situation.

All of us are extremely talented, caring, generous, loving and amazing humans who allow those around us to exploit those admirable qualities to their advantage with little care for what it does to us. Spend your time this year on those who support your physical, emotional and mental well-being and lift you up. At the end of the day, it will make us less stressed and happier people for those that really matter to be around. – Kate Crockett

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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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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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Today’s Blogapalooza article from a student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas comes via Allison Dollar. Allison is a Local Business Account Executive at The Kansas City Star Media Company. Her article for today on personal leadership lays out 10 keys to hustle . . . every day.

Personal Leadership – 10 Keys to Hustle . . . Every Day by Allison Dollar

Allison-DollarIn the words of Mos Def, “Focused. I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.”

Well-said Mos Def. Well said.

A hustler is defined by Merriam Webster as, “An enterprising person determined to succeed; go getter.”

Are you a hustler?

You don’t have to be in sales to be one but you do have to commit to the following ten steps if you want to be successful. While I consider myself a hustler in constant training these are 10 keys to hustle, every day. You have to practice them daily, get better at them, and enjoy.

  1. Love your Hustle

Whatever it is, love it. And I mean with all of your heart. If you don’t enjoy what you spend most of your life doing then it’s a waste of time; time is the one thing we can’t get more of so…again I say, Love your hustle.

  1. Listen

Most people like to talk sometimes, no, most of the time, and they talk too much. Listen more, and speak less, I promise you will hear something that will lead to a business lead, idea or relevant knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation where listening is difficult, leave. It’s not worth your time. This brings me to my next point.

  1. If it’s dead, leave it on the ground and walk away

This could refer to anything, a client that will never be happy and who takes too much time, a peer who complains all the time about the same old things, or my favorite, a manager who has no idea what he/she is doing or saying the majority of the time. If you run into any of these situations leave them immediately and do not look back, it’s not worth it.

  1. Swagger

Confidence is a non-negotiable for any professional hustler, you better be able to own whatever it is you need to own. The presentation you just gave to high-level decision makers, the smart-ass comment you dealt to a high performance peer or the stare down you delivered in the boardroom full of talented professionals just like yourself trying to get ahead. Whatever you do, get and keep your swagger. Without it, you are just like every other professional “insert your title of choice here” working day in and day out. Your swagger is just that Your Swagger. It is as unique as you are, use it to your advantage.

  1. Learn Something

Learn something every day. It’s as easy as that. Each day approach it so you learn something new, no one can ever take your knowledge away from you. Believe in your abilities and reward yourself with the knowledge it takes to come out on top every day.

  1. Be the Expert

Ensure that whatever it is you know just as much if not more than the senior level manager/sales representative/vice president or whoever it is in the room. Be able to speak in a healthy fashion no matter what the topic. Set yourself apart by showing you have taken the time to educate yourself on the topic at hand.

  1. No Fear

Period. Fear paralyzes you and has no room in the mind of a true hustler. If you have it, do not show it. Get a plan together on how you can keep it to yourself then toss it away after your mind has processed the situation. Fear is a private thing that everyone experiences but a hustler never shows.

  1. Love yourself

No one can love you like you. Sounds weird but it’s true. No one knows you better than you. Give yourself the time to process demanding information; strategize your next move or whatever it is you need. Also take care of yourself, even a proper hustler needs to eat right, exercise, and get some sleep. Know when to shut it down and take care of you.

  1. Never ask Permission

A hustler just gets it done. Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness. Like I said, a hustler gets it done, and anyone who knows a hustler realizes this from the moment they are introduced.

  1. Network

A hustler knows everyone. The new business owner around the corner, the new employee on the second floor and even the new CEO hired to work for the competition. You can’t be successful being a recluse. It just doesn’t happen. Know your people.

Think you got what it takes to hustle? Use your cane if you need to, but get your hustle on or at least get it started. – Allison Dollar

 

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Lens smashing is a common innovation strategy technique to get to the next level of thinking.  With lens smashing, you articulate different perspectives and create a forced connection or dot-connecting activity to see the impact of various combinations.

So what are the lenses?

When Strategos created the lens concept in the early 2000’s, it illuminated three external and two internal lenses:

  • External lenses – Discontinuities, Customer Insights, and Economic Engines
  • Internal lenses – Orthodoxies and Core Competencies

Smashing. That sounds really powerful, doesn’t it? It can be, but as with most things, garbage in, garbage out.

Let’s start with orthodoxies. I call them “sacred elephants.” In other words, they are the things everyone believes, but no one wants to challenge.

Defining orthodoxies in your organization can be similar to teaching an elephant to dance. Both activities are nerve-racking and intimidating. Who wants to point out to an elephant that it is not exactly light on its feet? Similarly, who wants to point out that the organization is clinging to beliefs that are clearly mistaken. Remember the Naked Emperor?  There wasn’t a rush to speak up and point out the fiction everyone was willing to embrace.

Dancing-Elephants

In light of that daunting view, let’s define orthodoxies in a way that feels safer.

An article called ”20 Cognitive Biases that Screw up your Decisions,” by Samantha Lee and Shana Lebawitz, gives us a framework to identify orthodoxies in an objective fashion that will keep you from being crushed. Delivered via an infographic, the article describes many ways we let our cognitive biases keep us from making better decisions. Orthodoxies also keep us from making better decisions.

Let’s take a look at a couple of these cognitive biases and convert them to orthodoxies:

Biases

  1. Selective Perception: Here is an example of an orthodoxy that reflects this bias about competitors: “Our competitors’ practices are unethical. If customers knew about these practices, they would be outraged.”
  2. Stereotyping: Here is an example of how this bias can become an orthodoxy: “That person, place, thing, process wouldn’t fit within our culture.” Think about that one.

Here’s a new innovation strategy tool: Take the 20 biases in the article and write as many orthodoxies as you can envision for each one. Break them up among team members. Duplicate with other team members to see what is common and what is different. Give a few to executives and see what they can come up with in a short amount of time.

Next, we make those sacred elephants flip. Take the orthodoxy and write it in a way that conveys the opposite meaning.

For our previous examples, the orthodoxies could read:

  • “Our competitors have as much integrity as we do. Our customers have a tough time choosing between our offerings.”
  • “Our culture is based on inclusiveness and diversity; the more different the better.”

How does that simple restatement make you think differently about the innovation strategy possibilities?

Do you feel safe to create new ideas? The sacred elephants are dancing! – Marianne Carr

 

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Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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Talking with various colleagues, clients, and potential clients recently, each discussion included a reference to innovation expertise.

“You’re the expert in innovation, what do you think?”

That started me thinking, “Am I an expert?”

Who exactly IS an innovation expert? And WHAT is an innovation expert?

I don’t know for sure, but here’s the first in a series of articles to explore the question.

One type of innovation expert knows a great deal about innovation tools and techniques that propel ideation to new heights. This is an expertise in facilitation.

Ideation

Facilitating innovation ideation is an art and a science that isn’t easy to do. It’s also definitely not for the faint of heart.

Good facilitation takes finesse, fast decision-making, an ability to read people quickly, and high energy. It’s all about the pivot- also practice.

You can read about many of these innovation tools and techniques. But you have to make it your own set.

Training by other experts is helpful (innovation training is an expertise for another article), but it takes the courage to practice, practice, and practice.

It reminds me of a stand up comedian. For a long time you make a fool of yourself. Some people like you and some people don’t. Your style works for some and not for others. You have to take a lot of risks. Work for drinks. And, most importantly, stand up and expose yourself, trying, almost every time, something new while perfecting the old over and over and over again.

What did Malcolm Gladwell say? 10,000 hours is the hurdle for expertise? Yeah, I think if you are serious about becoming the best possible Ideation facilitator, you are one kind of Innovation expert.

But again, that’s just one type of innovation expert.

Innovation-Expert-Tease

Your innovation expertise could also be in training, executing of innovation Strategy and Models, project management, and leadership.

Exploring those varied types of expertise in future weeks will help determine this innovation expert definition yet. That should lead to a snappy answer to questions about who the innovation expert in the room is. – Marianne Carr

 

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

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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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As always, click on the headline to go to the original link. Enjoy! 

Ten Stages of Creativity – Love Sandwich

“The question of what creativity is and how it works will perhaps remain humanity’s most unanswerable — but that hasn’t stopped us from trying.” –  Maria Popova, Brainpickings

Bookmark this article on the stages of creativity and refer to it again, and again, and again. There are great links to the “Wisdom of the Ages” about creativity and ideation. It also features the 10 Stages of Creativity articulated by filmmaker Tiffany Shlain:

  1. The Hunch
  2. Talk about it
  3. The Sponge
  4. Build
  5. Confusion
  6. Just Step Away
  7. “The Love Sandwich”
  8. The Premature Breakthroughlation
  9. Revisit Your Notes
  10. Know When You’re Done

This article started me thinking about the confusion that comes when talking about creativity and innovation. Is there a difference? Of course. But we can all agree that creativity and innovation are very close cousins. It’s difficult to talk about innovation without talking about creativity.

These stages of creativity seem to be a more organic, intuitive approach an artist would followed in painting, writing or filmmaking. However, I can see a parallel path for innovation.

Is there a Confusion Stage in Innovation?

Check. It’s not official, but it’s there.

How about “The Love Sandwich” Stage?

2-The-Love-Sandwich

Here’s the description from Shlain on The Love Sandwich stage:

“To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love — because we’re only human, and we’re vulnerable… Set expectations for where you are in the project, then ask questions in a way that allows for ‘the love sandwich.’ First, ‘What works for you?’ Then, ‘What doesn’t work for you?’ Then, ‘What works for you?’ again. If you just ask people for feedback, they’ll go straight for the jugular.” 

How helpful could this stage be during innovation?

It reminds me of the right way to critique ideas during an ideation workshop.

We all know “No” is a bad word when ideating. The more positive way to challenge an idea is instead of saying, “No, that won’t work because we only produce ten widgets an hour,” to phrase the negative feedback in question form.

For example “How might this work if we only produce ten widgets in an hour?” An alternative is, “In what ways does the number of widgets we currently produce in an hour impact this idea?”

This questioning approach opens the mind, allowing feedback to focus on recognizing opportunities and not shutting them down. Still though, a Love Sandwich sounds more fun!

There might be an opportunity to create an innovation tool mirroring Shlain’s stages of creativity, but with more rigor around the value proposition for your organization. After all, creating art is its own reward; innovation is not. – Marianne Carr

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you 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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