Today’s guest blogger, Meghan Biro, Founder of TalentCulture, calls me the most patient person on Twitter. One day earlier in 2009 when back home with my parents, I saw Meghan tweeting with someone in my network, checked out her intriguing profile, and had a short Twitter conversation with her. Not sure if it was then or later, but I asked (maybe begged) her to do a guest post for Brainzooming.
She said she would, and I began my patient waiting. I’d reach out about once a month to see if she was still considering it, and each time she said she was. That was good enough for me!
In the meantime, we’ve talked by phone, paving the way for another great business relationship initiated on Twitter. So without further delay, here’s Meghan’s take on creativity + innovation in business (it’s well worth the wait!):
We are a generation raised to believe we are creative. Some of us actually are lucky enough to be employed as creatives; the rest of us, who received colored markers and sketchbooks in kindergarten, must look for ways to draw out the sparks of creativity we secretly nurture while working as accountants, engineers, administrators or in other career paths not known for rewarding creativity.
The dirty little secret many people live with is that creativity is not usually rewarded in the workaday world. So how can we nurture creativity in our work? What are the warning signs that someone we work with is trying to sabotage our creativity, and what can we do to counter resistance?
First, let’s look at some quick creativity-boosters.
- Take time for someone else. The conventional wisdom is to take time for yourself, but turn that around, reach out of yourself and set aside 15 minutes a day to think about someone else, and how they are creative. Contemplate the different point of view this person presents; talk to them and ask questions about what they like, not what they do.
- Try something really new. Listen to music you think you don’t like. Commit to buying a CD or checking out live music– don’t just download a song – and listen to the whole thing. Sample new sounds and accept the challenge of something you wouldn’t normally choose.
- Ask a question. Then commit to listening to the answer and allowing what the other person says to influence your thoughts. Too often we have the answer we want to hear formulated before we ask a question.
- Learn something new every day. Commit to learning – and using – a new word every day. Or read history instead of a novel. Teach yourself to dance. Try something new and expand your perceptions, physical coordination and mental agility.
All of these things can be done easily, and all can make you a more creative person.
But what if you work with someone who seems to suck the creativity out of every situation? You know the signs: this person interrupts others or pushes away from a conference table with crossed arms when they hear something they don’t agree with. This person can kill creativity by walking into a room – if you let it happen.
Here are a few ways to work with that person creatively and collaboratively:
- Look outside your context. Your experience of a person may be that he or she is not creative. Try to look at that person from his or her context – manager, colleague or employee – and open yourself to his or her experience of your comments.
- Use active listening. Listen to the person speak, restate what they said as a query, and add a comment of your own that brings in a new idea. Open up a closed mind by reassuring the person that you heard them – before you add your comments or ideas.
- Engage the person by taking the time to learn what he likes, and acknowledging that bit of humanity. Maybe this person reads a lot, or has a beloved dog, or loves to ski. These are cues to that person’s creativity, and acknowledging them gives you an emotional bargaining chip in your next attempt to infuse the workplace with creativity.
- Work incrementally. Someone who is uncomfortable with creative ideas may respond better to small changes than big, bold ideas. Keep your creative goal in mind but break it down into components and advance your position slowly. It’s worth the effort to see creativity bloom.
Dare to take every action with a spark of creativity and you’ll feed your soul and lift the mood of your workplace. What are your creativity-builders? - Meghan M. Biro
I first connected with Sage Bray when she was nice enough to do a tweet pointing her Twitter followers to Brainzooming as a great blog for creative inspiration. Her Twitter name (@aSageInRealLife) and profile were both tremendously intriguing. Sage is involved in a very cool blend of freelance writing, art, and consulting with small businesses and solopreneurs. Her published work has appeared with Inc. Magazine, The Poor Chef, Examiner.com, and a myriad of other online periodicals. She blogs about making a living from creative endeavors on aSageInRealLife.com.
In today’s guest blog, Sage shares her perspectives on the benefits of placing creative thinking at the heart of planning:
Creativity isn’t really about random inspiration although it does seem that way sometimes. What it is really about is exploring options. Instead of falling into the “It’s done that way because that’s always how it’s been done” mode of thinking, you step outside the box, break new ground, push the limits, or get radical. Those are acts of true creativity – an essential, but often overlooked, component for a growing, vibrant business.
Even if you ask for innovative thinking from your employees or yourself, it can still be a fairly rare occurrence. That’s because it’s too easy to jump at the first viable idea that comes along. I have a rule: I must come up with an absolute minimum of three solutions to any business problem—although I try for at least 10. This means lots of wacky, crazy ideas which are fun and do result in some really interesting ideas. But it’s having choices that forces me to compare the pros and cons and really analyze what is possible.
For instance, if you want to get the word out about, say, your new casino style gaming site, you may think it’s innovative to start a campaign on Facebook, get fans, and start networking on gaming forums. And you could, and probably should. But what else could you do? There is traditional print advertising, which is becoming the rare thing to do these days. Under certain circumstances though, that could be the best choice to direct your funds, especially if you have a very targeted market. How about getting someone to dress up as Elvis and pass out coupons for free trials at local festivals? Or offer free life-long subscriptions to a couple big entertainment bloggers? Are these viable solutions for your marketing? You may laugh at the idea of some guy dressed up as Elvis promoting your business, but I know several businesses that do exactly that and they have seen significant measurable increases from this kind of promotion. No solution is too crazy – not if it works.
However, being creative and innovative does not mean just doing it differently. It means doing it well, in the best way possible, using the ingenuity you draw from others and from your experiences. Keep up your reservoir of ideas by reading plenty of blogs and newsletters, attending trade shows and local meet-up groups, and brainstorming with colleagues.
Don’t limit your exposure to things related to your specific industry either. You can glean fantastic ideas from both related and unrelated industries by simply asking yourself how their innovative ideas can relate to what you do.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel (although that sometimes happens) to keep your business growing and flexible. But you do have to be prepared to do things differently and look for creative solutions to even the most common problems. Keep in mind, the objective is to do whatever you do well. Sometimes the answer you need will be something completely ordinary and what you’ve been doing all along. The thing is, you won’t know if it’s the best solution without thinking creatively about it. – Sage Bray
I presented on “Getting Ready for This” at the Fort Hays State University Business and Leadership Symposium. The talk focused on six strategic success skills vital in today’s workplace amid a dramatically changing business world. The premise is it’s fundamental to possess strategic success skills in co-creating, contorting, and abandoning ideas and strategies based on what’s relevant at any time. It’s not so much “what” you know, as “how” to continually deconstruct and reassemble your knowledge in dramatically new and relevant ways throughout your career.
It starts with several amazing factoids from the video “Do You Know 3.0?” recounting dramatic demographic, technology, and information-based changes worldwide. It’s been viewed millions of times, and in the event you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch it.
As a brief overview and reference for the presentation, here are the six strategic success skills to more concertedly embrace:
1. Knowing Answers Is Good – Knowing How to Find Answers Is Vital
Since facts change and information deteriorates, it’s vital to be able to know how to seek and vet potential answers since no one can be expected to have a full command of all available knowledge.
2. Balanced Thinking Allows You to Be More Strategic
USA Today featured an article in July on retraining a left brained orientation to a right brained one in order to cope with a changing job environment. We talk plenty about the importance of knowing your thinking orientation, surrounding yourself with a complementary team, and the strategic impact of being able to work with contradictory points of view.
3. Possibilities and Emotion are Important in Business
From someone whose more natural orientation centers on facts and logic, this has been the most challenging of the 6 areas to retrain my own view. The best place to go on this topic is Benjamin Zander, who has been mentioned frequently here. As a homework assignment for attendees at the FHSU presentation, I asked them to watch these two Zander videos and get a genuine sense of the importance of emotion and possibilities thinking:
4. You Have to Be Able to Communicate in Multiple Ways
Communication is in the top 10 topics addressed on Brainzooming so far because it’s so critical to successful creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking. Students need to be pushed to go beyond the typical team presentation that summarizes a semester-long project. They need to be adept at using formats of varying lengths (simple recommendations, elevator speeches, tweets, etc.) and mediums (songs, video, acting, etc.).
5. Leadership Starts Day One on the Job
Leadership is about service, not titles. That means day one is the time for new graduates to start leading on the job. Taking on a strategic leadership role can be simple. You just have to be willing to do something about it!
6. People All Around You Are Making Decisions Based on Personal Branding
Personal branding isn’t a meaningless concept authors dreamed up to sell more books. It’s truly the driver behind why anyone gets hired, advances, and has intriguing opportunities develop. Step one is understanding your talents and exploiting them. Here are two great books to read on how to further develop and sustain a personal brand:
I look forward to comments from those in attendance (and non-attendees as well) with thoughts on the topic since it applies to all of us as dizzying changes occur around us. Stay close to the Brainzooming blog for more on change and dealing with it in the near future! – Mike Brown
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 email@example.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can get your Brainzooming!
I’m chairing the American Marketing Association Marketing Research Conference October 4 – 7. It’s going to be a great event, with three educational tracks all tied back to theme, “Making Business Sense of What’s Next.”
Our main programming objective for the conference is providing ideas, tools, and networking to help researchers approach business more broadly and with a clear means to help lead their companies successfully into the future. Through the conference social media effort, you’ll be able to track the conference’s progress using the hashtag #amamrc on Twitter and on the conference website, where I’ll be blogging along with others next week.
To give you an early sense of the conference tone and content, today’s guest Brainzooming columnist is presenting a workshop this Sunday at the conference’s start. Sean Buvala is an award-winning trainer who teaches businesses and nonprofit organizations how to improve their business results through the power of storytelling. You learn more about his work at www.seantells.net.
In this piece, Sean challenges researchers (and really anyone communicating in business) to better incorporate framing to fully realize the impact of great storytelling.
The more esoteric your work, the more you need storytelling in your job. Those of you in research, I am talking to you.
Sometimes it is hard for others to understand the ins, outs, and mysteries of research. By using the power of storytelling in your communications, you can create “frames” to highlight, carry, and explain bigger concepts.
Every house I have ever been in has place filled with pictures of family and friends. Rather than just glue these pictures to the wall, the pictures are placed in frames that help draw the eye to the subjects within. In the most artistic homes, frames surrounding pictures have been carefully chosen to emphasize the content of the pictures. More important pictures (the “everybody in the family” type) have the most expensive and sturdy frames. Done well, frames are an extension of the pictures.
Just like picture frames in someone’s home, framing complicated and important data in the context of a memorable story protects and carries your message to your listeners. Here’s an example.
You could talk about the collection methods used to complete a survey and how that proves the validity of the data. However, folks want results first. So, instead of talking first about how the data means you must completely drop an ingrained and “sacred cow” program from your company, you could start with the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” (JATBS) emphasizing how Jack’s mother was furious with Jack for trading her sacred cow for a few magic beans. In the end, however, Jack ends up with a goose that lays golden eggs, giving Jack and his mother more than they ever dreamt.
You’ll still present your data, but after you tell your version of JATBS, showing the data that correlates to your conclusion. Then, you might lead a discussion based on the data asking, “Just like the mother in JATBS, what do we fear in what the data tells us? In what ways is this data like magic beans for our company’s future?” Finally, end your presentation with a recap of JATBS.
Now, you have framed your data (which is important and needed) in the center of a very familiar and comfortable story. I can assure you the first time you do this you will wade through some discomfort and come out with a presentation that will cement the conclusions into the minds of your listeners.
Here are three things you should know about story and narrative as framing tools:
1. People just want to know, “What’s in it for me?”
Co-workers aren’t as interested in you job’s mechanics as you are. I know you have gone to school to learn how statistics work. However, the people you work with haven’t. For most of them, how you collected the data is not nearly as important as what the data means for their work. Storytelling lets you talk about benefits of research, not just mechanics.
2. Stories remind you to speak in the language of the people: your fellow employees.
Although stereotypes of overly detailed researchers may seem unfair, there are those in your company still slightly afraid of you. When they know you will speak understandably, they are more open to hear what you have to say. When you share the story of how others have benefited by what you are proposing, they will feel better about providing tools and time to fulfill your projects. It’s far better to talk to others about how Susan at the other office was twice as successful after incorporating research results you reported. In a sense, storytelling allows others to know you are “on their side.”
3. Your CFO approves funds for results not information.
Most people hate the process of change. Results are better than promises. Stories are frames that carry results. You will get much more support for a project when folks know how others have benefited from your proposals. How the office across the city became so successful that they now have doubled sales is 100% more effective in getting results than any presentation mired in how the research was conducted.
Your work in research and statistics is vital. Even more vital is your ability to communicate the benefits of your work to the rest of your company. Information framed in the context of story, information carried by understandable narratives, will stick with your fellow staff members much longer than data alone. Take a chance and frame your next presentation in a story. - Sean Buvala