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This week’s guest post is from Twitter friend John McClung, who describes himself as having been, “a student, college debater, debate coach, manager, food consultant, builder marketer/home & community designer, and real estate agent with a mission of helping people make good decisions. I love my wife, wine, food, Kentucky basketball and traveling. I am currently working on new twists on food, and interpreting wine tastings on canvas using all appropriate shades of red. ” What a variety of interests and activities!

And John’s varied interests are further confirmation why it’s great to have guests bloggers with varied experiences: his post uses a Harry Chapin song as inspiration. Trust me folks, you’d have never gotten a Harry Chapin-related post from me. Yet, John’s take on it is a great example of how we can all try to get back to the creativity children so readily express:

Harry Chapin wrote a song about a young boy starting school, being told that “Flowers are red, and green leaves are green.” His response of seeing “so many colors in the rainbow” and using every one, was not well received and eventually gave way to the teacher’s criticism and philosophy of seeing things “the way they always have been seen.”

Want to be more creative? Let your inner child out.

If you feel that you aren’t as creative as you could be, there is a good chance you are looking at things through the rules and the “no’s” you have received over the years. We tend to apply things we are taught and have experienced to criticize ourselves. It is the self-critique that tends to kill our creativity faster than anything. The young boy above was not looking to criticize: he was in wonder of the possibilities. He wanted to incorporate all that he saw and started out not understanding “the rules.”

When I say “let your inner child out,” I’m suggesting you look at things with wonder. There is the sometimes overused command to think outside the box. I’m suggesting that you understand that there is no box to start. “The box” is an imaginary limit programmed into our psyche by others. Go back to the place where the programming doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t matter what you are trying to create: art, literature, a garden, a business, public policy, or perhaps a new dish for dinner. Look at the possibilities and not the tradition. After all being creative is no more than looking at and doing things in different ways.

Can’t release the inner child? Be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Let’s face it, most of us are not going to abandon the “traditions,” “rules”, and “deep seated attitudes” about what is and what is not appropriate. Change is hard, and creativity is change others have not thought about.

To be evolutionary, you simply look at what is and ask: How could I change it to be different in a way that works? Here’s an example of how evolutionary change can work.

We have friends who occasionally join us to drink some very nice wines and have dinner. One friend once told me he didn’t like grits. Ever since, grits have been on the menu!

First, they were cooked with chicken stock, cream and finished with smoked Gouda cheese and served as a side dish. The second time, they were used in place of rice, with prosciutto substituting for nori and rolled with pablano, roasted red pepper, and andouille sausage resembling sushi. Finally, I cooked the grits in peach nectar, and rolled with fruit, and served on sauce for dessert.

Each rendition was an evolutionary step leading to a new, no rules variation. Sort of like the little boy who simply saw all the colors of the rainbow and wanted to use every one. So go ahead and release your inner child! – John McClung


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Mike Brown

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So what do you think? Brainzenning started as a summer feature, and it’s now Labor Day weekend. Would you like to see more Brainzenning videos? Let me know via email or in the comment section.


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We’ve spent time on Brainzooming talking about recycling ideas, yet haven’t touched on recycling physical materials. That changes with today’s guest post from Nancy Martini. She’s an Art Director and EcoArtist (as she’s known on Twitter), working with reclaimed materials.

Nancy’s currently working on a collection called, “Lessons from the Dinner Table.” All the pieces contain environmental messages translated from simple lessons learned at the table. Her work consists of 95% upcycled materials: plastic bags, soda cans, coat hangers, plastic bottles, bottle caps, foil, wire, cereal boxes, egg cartons, tin cans, and gift wrap tissue. You can see her process through videos on her YouTube channel.

Today, Nancy provides her view on the need for creativity as the concept of upcycling expands:

Reduce, reuse and recycle are three words that haunt me everyday. How can I use less? What can I do to reuse what I already have? And, what more can be recycled? Now, the latest environmentally conscious word “upcycle” has proven to be even more of a challenge. It is easy to understand the process of recycling by means of breaking down a material then using that material to make something new. However, the idea of creating a second life for a package or product from its inception is a complex concept that needs more explaining and exploring.

Ten years ago, you didn’t see many people bringing cloth totes to the grocery store. I remember having to explain my totes repeatedly to cashiers. Sometimes they would even pack my groceries in a paper sack and then put it in my cloth tote. Change does happen, but it takes time and education.

When I see people bringing their own totes to the grocery store now, I can’t help but wonder if they think about all the plastic in their purchases. What happens to the packaging after we use its contents? Recycling should be the last resort, not a justification to buy whatever we want because we can always toss it in the recycle bin.

Recently at the grocery store, the early morning staff was stocking shelves. Each worker had a few garbage bags filled with plastic shrink-wrap and cardboard from unpacking merchandise off wheeled crates. “All the shipping packaging is going to be thrown away,” I was told. Disheartened by this obvious disregard for the environment behind the backs of the consumer, I thought about products and their packaging and pondered:

  • What if containers were designed with an upcycled second life for the packaging so it wouldn’t go to the recycle plant or landfills?
  • What could we build or create with discarded packaging?
  • And, what if we could then change the way food companies produce packaging?

As I continue on my quest to upcycle packaging to create art, I encourage you to think of the possibilities that upcycling brings. I would love to hear your comments – the more creative collaboration, the greener the path. – Nancy Martini

Mike Brown

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It’s become clear over time that my strategic mentors tend to be visionaries who are actively pushing boundaries and seeing beyond what others anticipate. I match up well with these personalities because they stretch me also, and I help translate their visions into implementable steps necessary to realize new and big ideas.

So in keeping with the focus so far this week on Bill McDonald and Kansas City Infobank, Paula White’s guest column on renegades is right on the mark. As Paula describes herself on her blog, she’s a “grandma, an educator, a teacher, and a thinker.” She has numerous educational distinctions, and she’s on the forefront of actually applying social media in an educational setting (quick partial translation: I met her on Twitter!).

In today’s guest post, she shares her experience in encouraging students that it’s okay to think boldly and unusually because that thinking leads to great new things:

Think about people you know who have been considered renegades. WHY were they considered that? Did they do something different? Did they do something no one else would? Did they do something unexpected or unusual? Were they just out of the mainstream?

As a gifted resource teacher, I often see students who think there is something wrong with them because they ARE different. They recognize that they have thoughts others don’t—that they think more deeply about common things and that they look at the world differently than their peers. I sometimes have to work to help students accept who they are because they, too, are often out of the mainstream. They think differently, learn differently and may even try to lead or teach differently. That doesn’t mean that they are better or worse than others. They are just different. And all of us have to, at some point in our lives, learn to respect and honor differences to co-exist on this planet.

One way I begin the conversation with students is to show a film Apple produced in the 90s, called “Think Different.”

Misfits. . . rebels. . . troublemakers. . . and you can’t ignore them, because they push the human race forward. Students identify with these traits and by looking at the creative geniuses Apple chose to highlight, they begin to understand that learning differently, thinking differently, acting differently is okay.

Rebels, renegades, thinkers, doers, pushers, sometimes troublemakers. . . Does that describe anyone you know? Have you ever thought about how lonely that path might be?

Remember the renegades. . . and be their friend. Their creativity, their thinking, their pushing the envelope just may change the world. - Paula White

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I’m substitute hosting again for Kelly Scanlon on her Hot Talk 1510 AM “Eye on Small Business” radio show at 9 a.m. CDT Friday, August 21. The topic is “7 Ways to Better Understand Your Customers,” and the guest is long-time friend and colleague Barb Murphy, President of Strategic Spark.

We’ll discuss ways that small business owners can use both primary and secondary research to identify the changes taking place within their customer bases during these challenging economic times.
You can listen live on the internet, and if you want to tweet a question, use hashtag #kcsmallbiz. I’ll try to monitor any questions and incorporate them into the program.

BTW – Barb will also be doing an opening day seminar at the American Marketing Association Market Research conference October 4 – 7, 2009.

I’m chairing the conference, and it’s a great opportunity for those involved in the research field to develop professionally, expand your knowledge of new research techniques, and get set for the future.

Register by September 4 to get the early bird rate. And follow the conference on http://twitter.com/amamrc for market research updates from across the web!

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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