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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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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

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I’m a little sad this week because Fox Sports 1 canceled one of the few TV shows I watch outside of programming on EWTN.

“Crowd Goes Wild,” a very different take on sports programming didn’t even make it a year. The show (sometimes) featuring Regis Philbin, and a panel of much younger people than Regis with varied sports and media experience, was unequal parts:

  • CGW-PanelNews
  • Interviews
  • Game show
  • Social media monitoring
  • Comedy
  • Snark
  • Analysis
  • Live audience cheering
  • And whatever else they decided to try

You can imagine how this eclectic array of content meant you never knew what exactly was going to happen. You can also see why the eclectic content wound up dooming Crowd Goes Wild to a short run since it didn’t generate a big enough audience.

Big Strategic Change and the One Place You Better Be Looking for It

And yet, I predict (and I’m not a big predictor), time will demonstrate that Crowd Goes Wild is a noticeable influence on where boring, analysis-heavy, over-serious sports programming winds up heading in the next five years.

I’m basing my prediction on how much I enjoyed the eclecticism of the David Letterman morning show (which set the stage for Letterman’s later work and influence on talk shows) and “Breakfast Time” (which in its short run on FX in the 1990s introduced the hosts of nearly all of the most successful reality TV programs plus set the stage for the toned-down wackiness on today’s early morning TV).

For all three of these TV programs on the fringe, the absence of pre-cursors, sizable audiences, and standard formats led to truly exciting programming where you simply weren’t sure what might happen next.

And this potent combination leads to change – maybe not right away, and not for whoever goes first, but for the marketplace overall.

So when it comes to looking for big strategic change in your business, are you looking on the fringes where new things are happening outside of mainstream attention?

If you want to understand where the change is likely to come from in your marketplace, consider the equivalent spot where:

  • The audience is small
  • The stakes are low
  • The expectations are fluid

Go to school on the fringes and see what changes it suggests for your organization’s future. 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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A recent Dilbert comic strip where the boss has a meeting to request on employee ideas definitely falls into the “more pathetic and true than funny” Dilbert category. But then again, when Dilbert isn’t going for pure laughs, there is usually a bigger point to be made about what is messed up in business.

In this case, the boss opens up the meeting with the employees looking for “billion dollar productideas.”

By the time Dilbert and Wally point out that if they had billion dollar ideas they’d do them on their own, the boss winds up with the ideas his question deserves: “a phone with a wooden screen” and a “drone that attacks anyone who looks at it.”

Dilbert.com

Screwing Up How to Request Employee Ideas

If you REALLY want input from your employees to help your business, you obviously don’t ask for “billion dollar ideas.” But then again, you also shouldn’t describe the employee ideas you’re looking for as:

  • Big (or The Next Big)
  • Great
  • Implementable
  • Smart
  • High Impact
  • Strategic
  • New
  • Disruptive
  • Game-changing
  • Unique

Feel free to add to this list any other descriptor that causes your employees to “judge” their ideas before sharing them.

When you describe the types of ideas you want in a way that implies they need to be judged before they are shared, you’ve mingled divergent and convergent thinking into one. The result is you’ll miss ideas with tremendous potential because you forced employees to self-evaluate them properly and potentially hoard them because they’re too good.

Far better to simply ask for ideas.

Or even better, ask employees to share:

  • Challenges your customers are facing with what you offer
  • Challenges your employees are facing in delivering what you offer
  • Work arounds being used to make your organization’s processes more effective
  • Things your customers have been complaining about or asking for that have gone unaddressed

None of these involve any judgment, but any of them could have a major impact on your success if you address them successfully.

Be careful what you ask for when it comes to soliciting employees ideas. If you don’t request employee ideas in a way that opens to the door for participation, you’ll wind up with exactly the opposite of what you wanted in the first place. – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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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Not every lesson is a positive one.

Talking about careers with my niece, I mentioned the scariest boss I ever had, and how even that experience with a boss who said and did some pretty scary things led to valuable lessons. Fortunately or unfortunately, the lessons were all about how to never act when I got to be the boss!

The conversation got me thinking about other situations where scary comments turned into valuable business lessons

Scary-Stuff5 Scary Quotes about Strategic Planning

Since I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about gearing up for strategic planning, I jotted down these five scary quotes about strategic planning. Intriguingly, all five came from consultants at one consulting firm we worked with for several years during my corporate life.

Admittedly, I learned many positive lessons during that time about strategic planning. Yet these five scary quotes about strategic planning from our consultants profoundly shaped my thinking about how NOT to do strategic planning:

1. “We’ll put together the strategic planning process as we go.”

Whenever you put together a strategic planning process while you’re doing it, you know something is wrong. Earlier in my career it felt edgy, but as a more experienced business person, it just seems pathetic. If you’re a consultant and selling your expertise at strategic planning you need to walk in the door ready to go with something that’s pretty close to working.

2. “There are 14 tasks to complete between these two steps in the process.”

Fourteen tasks to get from one step to another in the strategic planning process??? Talk about overkill!!! And even if it isn’t overkill and you actually NEED 14 tasks to move from one step to the next, NEVER admit to anyone you’re involving them in that much minutiae.

3. “This is better done than right.”

Really? REALLY? Yes, a consultant told me it was more important to get a presentation completed than address whether it was right. I’ve since stolen and revamped the quote not once, but twice. Even really bad ideas can be the seeds of strategic brilliance.

4. “My family’s important to me, so I make sure I’m home every night.”

On the surface this quote is not only NOT scary, it seems to be a wonderful sentiment considering the outrageously long hours consultants often work. The problem was the consultant saying it in Kansas City (where our company was headquartered) LIVED in Chicago. Yes, he flew back and forth every day between Chicago (first morning flight out) and Kansas City (last evening flight out). It was supposedly cheaper than a hotel room. Right.

5. “I did an interview with a reporter today about business prospects in (your) industry.”

Bad idea. VERY bad idea. When one consultant did this (and was quoted in print  questioning our earnings projections for the year), his firm was fired the next day within 90 minutes of our CFO seeing the article in a national industry newspaper. As a result, they lost a 7-figure annual consulting engagement. Yup, VERY BAD idea.

Do you have any scary consultant quotes about strategic planning or anything else?

If enough of you have scary quotes from consultants to share, maybe we’ll have enough for a regular feature, or the next Dilbert comic strip!  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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From the Road

From-The-RoadSome people have always had the EXACT same travel problem every time you see them. At some point, you realize it’s them, not the airline / car rental company / cabbie / hotel . . . I rented a car with 8 miles on it. That’s the runner up in my rental career next to a 3 miler in Orlando on the way to Daytona for a NASCAR race . . . At a sea food restaurant the other night, every painting in the place was of some boat, ocean, or river scene. And nearly everyone had lights behind the windows in the boat or lighthouse. You don’t see that every day . . . I’m not sure why it smells as if someone immediately behind me is eating a pot roast dinner on this plane.

Branding and Experience

I asked on the Delta Airlines Facebook page why they now call the Biscoff Cookies they serve simply “cookies.” They used to be called “Biscoff” by flight attendants. Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a response . . . An intriguing, but untrackable customer service metric? The percent of times your employees refer to your brand in the first person versus the third person . . . Every time I see a happy, fun, engaging flight attendant I automatically assume they started at Southwest Airlines.

Talking Business

It’s great to talk shop with someone who does what you do. It’s even better to “ask shop.” Then you can just sit back and listen, and that’s where you get some great learning and new ideas . . . A cramped room can bring out the best questions and conversations with a presentation audience. When a room is too big, there’s too much space for staying aloof. Just the reverse is true for a strategy session . . . One warm-up exercise we use asks who people say you look like. I had NASCAR driver Tony Stewart’s doppelganger in a workshop, but didn’t have time to do the exercise and see if he hears that all the time.

Blogging

Being able to keep writing this blog post on my iPad while we land is a new great part of flying . . . Trying to beat my personal best of writing ten blog posts on a business trip from the East Coast to Kansas City. We’ll see how that goes . . . I don’t generally connect on LinkedIn with people I don’t “know” in some way. After accepting an invitation from someone locally who immediately sent a message for me to make time to learn about what she is doing, I remember why . . . I don’t “get” game apps like other people don’t “get” Twitter. I just don’t have the time . . . I’m cranking on blog posts recently because I’m avoiding getting tax stuff organized . . . These columns are the intersection of “Too long for Twitter” and “Too many for Facebook.” Thanks for indulging me. Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

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We’ve covered how comparing apples and oranges in a variety of ways can spur creative thinking. Dilbert took up the identical topic in a Sunday comic strip. Dilbert and Wally double team the pointy-haired boss on appropriate and beneficial ways to compare apples and oranges. 

Dilbert.com

Although you might not completely get the point from Dilbert, it is definitely true that the better you become at finding insightful, intriguing comparisons, the more consistently strong your creative thinking will be.

Comparing Apples, Oranges and Anything Else

This Dilbert comic strip is a great introduction to a compilation of Brainzooming articles on creative thinking and making intriguing and valuable comparisons.

Here is wishing you all the fun and success of making better comparisons for learning, creative thinking, and implementation! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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