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Typical writer conundrum: Better to sleep on the flight and write when I get home, or try to write on the plane and sleep when I get home? Never an easy answer . . . The writing is easy on this flight because it’s completely the wrong topic . . . It’s easy to sluff off creating great brand messages. But the thing is, it’s not THAT much harder to create incredible brand messages. Do everyone a favor, and put in that little extra effort . . . Yeah, I over-share what’s going on in my life. I’m working on curbing that, though . . . When you’re a bottom feeder, you always want someone just a little more bottom than you. Thank you, Orioles, who are, in the words of our client, the “best of the worst.”

Hoping this book makes it to 22 states

I would definitely do “twenty-two states and half a mile” . . . Roll with the changes, as best you can . . . Sleep would be highly prized right now . . . You see, I’m on a losing streak . . . Being in the middle of a shit show of a job ain’t no fun for nobody . . . I forgot what the one cat’s name is. Been gone a long time, I am clearly a bad cat dad. BAD cat dad.

It’s Salvy. His name is Salvy.

Guy in front of me waiting to get on a Southwest flight: “Are you 33?” Me: “Yeah, at least for the next few minutes” . . . I hate closed windows on planes. Wait. Let me clarify: I hate closed window shades on planes. I’m just fine with the windows all sealed up tight . . . I legitimately wish there were a training school for sitting in the exit row where you could practice everything you are supposed to do under realistic, albeit simulated, conditions. I think we would all sleep better at night . . . Sat in the exit row over the weekend with two California soccer mom chaperones. Had to clue them in on everything in the Wizard of Oz that ISN’T accurate about Kansas. So, that occupied the entire trip from LA . . .We NEVER anticipate a drop in oxygen. To clarify: They don’t, but I wanna be ready. Do you know how hard you can pull on those masks? I expect to be pulling pretty hard.

Why would ANYONE schedule a bunch of meetings and calls the day you return from 10 days away from home? Duh . . . Sometimes, it’s the heat AND the humidity . . . Growing up, my uncle used to talk about One-Eyed Mildred, who ran a bar in his hometown. When we went to visit, he took us there, and she legitimately had only one eye. He said it was because she was so mean, a rooster pecked it out. That last part may be a rural myth . . . Professional photo bombers are SOOOOOO annoying. Why you gotta always get in my photos?

From a Walmart in LA. This is obviously where the aliens are expected to land.

A client told her team that they found Brainzooming because they Googled, Strategic planning” and “fun.” We’ll take those searches EVERY day of the week . . . Some people REALLY don’t like the people of Walmart. I, however, am one of those people. You take me, you take my retail choices . . . Last few weeks, I was, perpetually, half the way home . . . Oh, that’s who that is! I should have figured that out sooner . . . Many happy hours aren’t, so much. That’s just a cruel joke, I think. Others, are oh, so happy . . . Does anybody know what any of this means?

Laurel & Hardy, right?

Knowing where something is eventually going to go is half the battle . . . The other half of the battle is figuring out what order these one-liners should go in . . . If I had more money than I knew what to do with, I’d have a new t-shirt every day . . . I can’t wait to stop flying blind. It’s killing me . . . Stop me when you’ve had enough. Wait! Quit scrolling back up the page . . . Crab cakes and fried pickles. Who knew? – 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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Everyone who speaks or has attempted to speak more than one language has truly excellent stories of times when their linguistic wires got crossed. I find these types of stories incredibly charming; in our efforts to understand one another, we often create a delightful kind of chaos–or at least a hilarious kind. For instance, one woman I know proudly introduced herself to someone in Rome by saying that she was “a happy milk” rather than “happy to meet you.” As a second-generation American child, having learned English and Spanish simultaneously, I was eager to make sense of both languages, and particularly colloquialisms. At some point I discovered that TV commercials were an easy way to learn about American English as well as American behavior at large. Mainly, I learned that there were very specific ways of doing everything, and my family was doing all of them wrong — but they were useful, nonetheless.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned I wasn’t alone in having gone the commercial route to becoming American. My mother, as it turned out, had blazed that trail before me, and as today’s guest blogger, she’s here to share her first-generation American childhood experiences with the worlds contained in 1960s American television commercials. Welcome, Mom!  Emma Alvarez Gibson

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor – Sarah Andrade

I cannot recall exactly when I became Brahtti, or rather a part of Brahtti. I know I was too young to find the word in the dictionary, although it would have been futile to try.

Prior to becoming one of (the?) Brahtti, I had lived in a very small town in Mexico where evening entertainment consisted of playing in the street with the neighborhood children — roughly fifty or sixty of us — until our parents had shouted to us to come in at least ten times and we had shouted back “Just a little while longer!” at least eleven.

This changed when the wealthy family of the neighborhood bought a black-and-white television set and those of us who had a centavo could sit on the floor of their living room and watch a show. There were so many of us, and the TV was so small, that it was difficult to see. It was doubly difficult to hear, given all our excitement and the munching of our pumpkin seeds from newspaper cones, but we were all awed to be taking part in this new thing called television.

A year later, when I was five, my family moved to the United States, and wonder of wonders, we soon had our own television set in our very own living room! We did not have to pay a centavo to watch it, and there were a lot more shows. Everyone spoke English on this new set, but my sister and I were learning the language quickly. What’s more, this television actually addressed its audience, which is how I came to discover that I was part of Brahtti.

At first I thought Brahtti was a particular person, but soon I realized it was the name given to us, the collective audience. Prior to each show, there were things that we were asked to buy: shaving cream, cereal, soap, cigarettes, etc. They would say something like, “And now we present Dobie Gillis! Brahtti, YOU buy Tide detergent.” [You might want to say this out loud a couple of times for best results. “Brahtti” rhymes with “hot tea.”] I noticed that they always emphasized the “you,” and I was unsure if they were being a little too demanding, or just trying to make each one of us Brahtti feel special.

Because I was trying to learn the culture as well as the language, I took my cues from the people that would show Brahtti how to do things such as spread peanut butter (huge amounts, followed with a flourished S, as in Skippy), apply shampoo (LOTS of suds) and conditioner (toss my head s-l-o-w-l-y back and forth to show how rich and manageable my hair was) and even relate to the boys (wink, smile, and walk away).

In those days there were door-to-door salespeople, which took my Brahtti status to a whole new level: face-to-face contact. Mama would ask me to interpret for her when these folks would come around, and I would have to explain that no, we could not purchase anything. Sometimes, however, they would leave samples for us. One such sample was the beautiful little bottle with a liquid that smelled of violets. The sales representative asked me to tell Mama that it was toilet water. We both stared at the little bottle in amazement. What a country! Even the toilet was supposed to smell lovely after every use. I proudly placed it on the commode and used it. Every time. After all, I was BRAHTTI. Sarah Andrade

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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There’s a meme — perhaps you know it — in which two stick figures are trying very hard to make plans to get together. Reviewing their calendars, they trade offers and counteroffers until finally they embrace, tearfully, saying, “It was so nice knowing you!” and “I’ll never forget you!”

Adult friendships, it turns out, require a different level of care and persistence. They can be overwrought with complexity.  We’re not often completely sure about its boundaries or rules. We wonder, we worry. And yet we don’t talk about it much.

Enter Randi Buckley and Dyana Valentine.

Last Saturday, I joined forces with these two inimitable women to record episode 3 of their podcast series, The Challenges of Adult Friendships. It’s an ongoing conversation that explores “the terrain, confusion, gravity, importance, grieving, and nuances of adult friendships,” a topic I think about often, and one I was excited to discuss with these two fascinating and brilliant women. We talked about some of the things that happen around the question of, “What if they don’t want to be friends with me?” We also laughed. A lot.

We haven’t yet figured out how to solve the challenges inherent in adult friendships, but there’s something intensely freeing, and–I hope–helpful about this type of discussion. You can listen in to the podcast here — click on episode 3, far right. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Challenges of Adult Friendships! Emma Alvarez Gibson

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You’re working on an important new employee or customer communication to further your branding strategy. You’re trying to say things succinctly. Perfectly. But as you’re looking for just the right word that will have just the right impact, it’s not coming to you.

What do you do?

The answer is obvious: you go to an online thesaurus and look up synonyms for the tired old word you would typically use. Or maybe you will settle for a little inspiration to imagine what the right new word could be.

Either way, I have a request to make.

STOP loving those generic words in the thesaurus.

I mean, if you REALLY think communication supporting your branding strategy will be fine with just any old generic word, than I suppose you can go ahead and do it.

On the other hand, if you want to use language that sounds like your intended audience and resonates with them, don’t make the online thesaurus your first stop for ideas.

Instead, explore previously-well received communications you’ve delivered to your audience. While you may be looking for new ways to communicate key elements of your branding strategy, chances are what works with your audience has more to do with building up consistent language that means something to them than it does with constantly throwing new terms at them.

Another great source to draw from?

Revisit comments and language that your audience already uses to talk about your brand. Those can come via documentation from online surveys, online collaborations, customer service calls, emails, testimonials, or content they have shared through social media.

If you have some time and/or the means to do it, reach out to your audience with questions that allow them to talk about the area of interest to you.

In our experience, any of these options are better, more on-target sources for meaningful language than an online thesaurus.

Why?

It’s because these words come directly from the audience. That makes the language more likely to score on its simplicity, understandability, and resonance.

So, yeah, I know it can be tough, but do yourself a favor: step away from that thesaurus.

Your audience will thank you, and so will your ROI.  – Mike Brown

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What You Get Traveling

First trip of the year, and I started getting a sore throat by the first morning. How did I not build up more immunity than THAT? A scratchy throat makes for a long week . . . While walking around downtown Boston in 20-degree weather, I had a great hoodie on under my coat. I felt like Bill Belichick . . . When I was frozen and finally ready to give up and get an Uber, my phone kept shutting off. Or maybe it was user error. Either way, THAT is bad timing . . . The restaurant one night featured a “Roasted Half Roasted Chicken.” Not sure if that is bad proof reading or that chicken is really snockered . . . I was pushing my luck on both legs of this trip. No crab cakes until I had some at the Baltimore airport. No lobster roll until I had one at the Boston airport. Gotta start getting my regional food needs covered on arrival.

Doing The Work

You know you have the right data set when a clear implication is that a corporate executive intrigued by “fun strategic planning” is destined to work with us . . . When someone is all-in to your movement, find every way to involve them. Then get out of the way and let them go . . . There really is an interesting bond with people born around the time you were. They always feel like home. Just discovered that two fave clients and I were all born within 3 months of each other . . . “Invest in people.” No truer words from a great guy that advises us on inbound marketing . . . Yes, in answer to your question, I do have one of those Facebook things. Brainzooming does too. Wanna come join us?

Getting There, Here, and Yon

This flight attendant’s favorite (and frequently repeated) phrase, “Go long.” Okay, sure. Whatever you say . . . I just got A-List status on Southwest Airlines. I need to learn the perks, and figure out how to take advantage of them. In the meantime, the soon-to-expire free drink tickets from a friend came in handy as anything . . . The guy across the aisle from me on the plane insists I am a character actor he’s seen on TV . . . I don’t have the need for speed. The need to have peed? Yeah, that’s what I need. It’s a long way from Boston to Kansas City . . . Uber drivers in many places seem to be wannabe entertainers. Not in Boston, though. They are surly enough to be actual cab drivers . . . For my first Uber on Monday, I was the driver’s FIRST Uber ride ever; she missed my house on the pickup and curb hopped once. On the last day, I was somewhere in the 19,000s of that driver’s rides. It must have been an even longer week for him than it was for me. – 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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Emma Alvarez Gibson is here today, as a Gen Xer, to get the multi-generational workforce on the same program. Well, maybe as a first step, to get the Baby Boomers and Millennials to understand there are options for them (beyond whining to the Gen Xers) to upgrade their own performance and make more sense to each other. Because the Gen Xers have their own work to get done, and translating for all of you is making it tough for them.

Short story, it’s a powder keg out there in the multi-generational workforce, so here is to making it a little safer!

Field Notes: A Gen Xer Speaks to the Multi-generational Workforce from Emma Alvarez Gibson

Hello, colleagues.

We have a pretty decent working relationship, don’t we? We are gracious and professional, we exchange pleasantries even when we don’t have to, and we weather the ups and downs of corporate life together, or anyway near one another. Things are fine! I think we probably all agree on that.

You may not be aware of it, but as the lifeblood of our organization, as a Gen Xer, I’m holding together two disparate worlds in the multi-generational workforce. Having one foot in Baby Boomer Biosphere and the other in Millennialandia, I translate all day long, you to me to them and back again. I tell the youngs what the olds want, and I tell the olds what the youngs mean. I switch gears so that the inhabitants of both worlds will understand that I know what I’m about and that I’m trustworthy. (It’s tiring, yes, and I imagine this is the sort of situation that led Atlas to shrug, but that way lies a discussion about Ayn Rand, which, frankly, I’m too worn out to consider at the moment.)

It is in the spirit of our mutual respect and collaboration, then, that I implore you to consider a simple upgrade to your modus operandus. Herein I shall recommend one upgrade for the Baby Boomers, and another for the Millennials. In both cases the goal is the same: greater productivity within our multi-generational workforce.

via Shutterstock

Millennials, I’m going to start with you.

You are much maligned, it’s true; but all of us could benefit from some improvement. (And hey, Gen Xers know from being maligned. Everything was our fault until you guys were in grade school, at which point everything magically became your fault.)

Here is the one weird trick to improving your reputation around the office: have good manners. That entails, for instance, making eye contact. It means that when someone greets you in the hallway, you say hello back, even if you don’t know the person who’s just spoken to you. (The odds of your needing to ask that person for permission in order to carry out various parts of your job repeatedly over the course of an average week will be high. Trust.) Don’t just waltz into someone’s office and say, “I’m supposed to get a folder from you?” Knock, even if the door is open, and introduce yourself. Say please. Say thank you. Respect the pecking order, or make the effort to appear as though you do. You’re probably way faster at what you do than the majority of the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers you work with. But we’ve got years on you, which translates into breadth, depth, context, and relationships. Relationships are everything. Remember that.

Baby Boomers, you’re up now.

You have that aforementioned breadth, depth, and context. You have the relationships. We rely on you for structure and order, for insight and reason. So please, please, please: learn how to use technology, already.

Stop spending so much time talking about the ways you used to be able to do your job without it. Stop finding clever ways to avoid doing tech-related things because you don’t want people to think you’re too old. Spoiler alert: it’s heartbreakingly obvious to us when you’re avoiding it. We can tell from the language you use whether or not you’re scared of technology. Avoid the mental calisthenics: admit what you don’t know, and then learn what you should know. Stop pretending you can be as good as you once were without it. Change is inconvenient for everyone. It’s just that your generation is the only one still in the workforce that’s ever had the luxury of stability. We understand the impulse to ignore this pesky quicksand atop which we all stand. But we know it’s futile at best and self-destructive at worst.

Manners, meet technology. Technology, say hello to manners.

And yea verily will the skies part and the hallelujah chorus sound. Well, anyway, things will get better for our multi-generational workforce: we will grease the wheels of both form and function, and the Gen Xers will get a little breathing room, which in turn will make us a whole lot less resentful and irritatingly prone to dramatic statements about what martyrs we are.

So, now it’s your turn. Because fair’s fair. What are Gen Xers doing to drive you nuts? How can we contribute to the good of the group? Let us know on the Brainzooming Facebook page. (Yes, Millennials, we know it’s for old people. Yes, Boomers, we know you don’t want your life all over the internet. But everyone else is using it, so…c’mon. Do it for the team.)

Change is not only possible; it’s inescapable. So let us go willingly. The only thing we stand to lose is a bad stereotype.

– Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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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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While we are whole-hearted proponents of fun strategic planning activities, that doesn’t mean every strategic planning workshop we design and facilitate has exactly the same type of fun. In fact, in some situations, we never get out the fun squeeze toys.

And we all know that toys are a universal signal that a strategy workshop is supposed to be fun.

Not really; just kidding.

There is a lot more to making a strategy workshop fun so that people want to participate the first time and in subsequent years. We detail all those ideas in 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.

4 Times to Avoid Toys during Fun Strategic Planning Activities

But back to strategy workshops and skipping the toys – here are four situations where we do not rush to put out toys:

1. The dynamic with the group doesn’t feel right

Sometimes, it is obvious that the participants are not jelling and funny is not the best thing to get them comfortable with each other.

2. It’s too cramped and cluttered in the room

We want a lot of square feet per person for a strategy workshop. Often, we wind up in a tiny room because it’s convenient, and everyone is on top of one another. In those situations, the last thing we need is to add to the clutter with toys.

3. The people may kill each other

Toys are meant to be fun. They are not meant to be weapons. When the strategy workshop participants are a little TOO aggressive with one another, someone could put an eye out by zinging a squeeze ball at a co-worker. If people can’t play nicely, NO TOYS.

4. We’re told “no funny stuff”

We have talked about situations where a client came to us before the workshop to say there was to be no funny stuff. In those cases, we don’t go to the toys – at least not right away!

Other than those four times

Beyond those four times, we’re all about the toys. And everything else that REALLY makes strategic planning a mentally stimulating experience! – 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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