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Ten years ago today, I led our internal communications team in a variety of creative thinking exercises to develop ideas for our upcoming two-thousand person employee and customer Transformation conference that January in Las Vegas.

The session had both high and lows, as I recall.

Creative-Group

Creative Thinking Exercises – Ten Valuable Lessons

I recently found ten lessons I wrote down at the Transformation Conference creative session’s conclusion that pertain to group facilitation.

Beyond the Transformation conference ideas the group identified, the session was important since it:

Some group facilitation lessons were very specific to the session (including giving Becky’s real name), so they are generalized here.

In their more general format, they are valuable lessons for anyone trying to facilitate a diverse and unruly group of people through creative thinking exercises!

  1. Take a minute at the start and explain to people why we’d do something where you don’t have to consider logistical or budgetary reality when saying ideas (this environment is what made Becky shut down).
  2. Tell people it’s okay that they haven’t experienced the thing that you’re innovating. It actually makes them strong innovators because they’re looking at it with completely fresh eyes.
  3. At a minimum, identify someone to help when facilitating a session by yourself. They are invaluable for gathering ideas and moving things around in the room when you are facilitating.
  4. Make sure if you have people select good ideas that you don’t fail to get them categorized as “better” ideas. If not, ideas people picked out as “special” might be merged back in with all the other ideas (and you lose the valuable input on stronger ideas).
  5. Trait Transformation is a great group exercise and a wonderful place to start a session. It really works to think through which cells you’ll likely go to ahead of time; it makes the exercise flow better.
  6. Set an expectation on the number of ideas generated for each of the creative thinking exercises. It gets people to generate more ideas and puts more pressure on them to just say ideas and not assess them.
  7. Watch for people who are bogging down groups and move them into other groups.
  8. If you have enough naysayers for a small group, put them all together and don’t let them mess up anyone else’s creative experience.
  9. Make sure opportunities are stated broadly enough to yield ideas. If you are too specific about an opportunity’s description, you wind up limiting ideas.
  10. Get more creative thinking exercises in place to be ready for new types of opportunities you may encounter.

It’s amazing to me to read through this list of ten lessons in group facilitation. While I remember certain aspects of the session, these lessons make it clear how pivotal these few hours were in shaping how we still work with creative thinking exercises ten years later! – Mike Brown

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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.

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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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Suppose you need to reduce, simplify, or streamline a project. That seems to be an easily enough understood strategic thinking objective requiring basic strategic thinking skills.

Yet, how many times do you see an attempt to simplify a project lead to more complication?

Don’t Rube Goldberg Your Way to Simple

It’s sort of a Rube Goldberg phenomenon. Rube Goldberg was the cartoonist that would concoct elaborate sequences of complex steps all intended to perform some task or achieve a result that could have been simply done in one step…if someone had just done it.

Rube-Goldberg-Cartoon

Having seen this Rube Goldberg phenomenon play out any number of times in big corporations (and, admittedly, having been a part of creating some of them), it typically follows a familiar pattern.

  • Everyone acknowledges the need to cut time, cost, or some other resources required for a project.
  • Instead of also agreeing to a commensurate modification in the project’s objective (or what it is trying to achieve), a group starts coming up with ideas to begin cutting things.
  • One or more participants in the group “agree” to reducing things, but all ideas are filtered against how they can still deliver the original objective.

The result is a new series of steps that seem small and less significant, but that really add complexity, non-standard activities, and multiple hoops to the process. Those translate to more time, costs, and other resources that you were trying to reduce in the first place.

Focusing Strategic Thinking Skills on Simplifying Expectations

If you need to do something more simply, make sure you target your strategic thinking skills to simplify the expectations for your strategic thinking objective BEFORE you start trying to simplify anything else. – Mike Brown

 

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

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Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

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  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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Luncheon-Graphic

I’m in Carbondale, Illinois today delivering a talk at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on “Envisioning the Gigabit City – Collaboration and the Creative Power of Diversity.” It is an honor to return to Southern Illinois University, since I received an MBA from SIU.

At today’s luncheon, there will be an opportunity to meet and talk about community visioning with leaders working to turn Carbondale into a Gigabit City. Two Carbondale leaders, Gary Williams, the Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Carbondale and Steve Mitchell with Connect SI, participated in the Gigabit City Summit that The Brainzooming Group co-developed in January 2015. They had the opportunity to hear, via a Brainzooming workshop at the event, how we help foster community visioning for cities, organizations, and institutions.

In the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute talk, we’ll cover some of the same themes on community visioning with a specific emphasis on what it means in trying to build a creative economy.

You can follow the conversation on Twitter today at #CarbondaleGigabit, plus dive deeper into the content incorporated into the talk via links below:

“Envisioning the Gigabit City – Collaboration and the Creative Power of Diversity”

SIU-Know-No-Bounrds

Appreciating Perspectives

Cultivating Diverse Ideas

Creating Collaboration

Exploiting Structure

Crowd-Friendly Communication

“Measuring” the Return on Creative Ideas

Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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 creating a scope of work for a Brainzooming creative thinking skills workshop targeted at a B2B salesforce, our client contact (who is a Brainzooming reader) asked for material on what it means to be a creatively supportive leader.

Great question!

4 Keys for Being a Creatively Supportive Leader

When it comes to a leader actively supporting a team’s creative thinking skills development, there are multiple ways to go from talk to tangible support. We typically see the following behaviors from a creatively supportive leader:

  • Actively and fully participating in the original creative thinking skills workshop learning
  • Modeling behaviors and conversations that support exploring new ideas
  • Reaching across organizational lines to include thinkers with diverse and valuable perspectives
  • Using strategic and creative thinking skills in daily interactions to develop and move ideas toward implementation

Brainstorming-wall

Beyond these four keys to being a creatively support leader, here are previous Brainzooming articles to provide additional ideas on the perspectives and behaviors of a leader that cultivates team creativity:

I figured we’d share this compilation on a Monday because there is AT LEAST a week’s worth of reading there to brush up on your skills in being a creatively supportive leader!   – Mike Brown

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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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A Note on these Creative Clicks by Gal Friday, Marianne Carr: Click on the Headlines to Get to the Creative Thinking Original Post. 

Marianne-Carr-Photo

 

Bounce Forward and Telling Not Showing from Seth Godin

150717-1-seth

Short and sweet creative thinking from Seth Godin about how to make ideas more powerful.

Qualitative Research and Innovation

150717-2-QualResearch

The most important question is usually WHY?

Throw Back Thursday — on Friday: Strategy defined in 1996

150717-3-WhatIsStrategy

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Four Trends to Learn More About Now

  1. Sympathetic Pricing
  2. Post-Demographic Consumerism
  3. Currencies of Change
  4. No Interface

An interesting creative thinking exercise would be to ideate, “In what ways do these trends impact our current offerings?” and “How might these offerings need to change to continue our current level of success?”

Considering Holacracy? Watch Out for These 6 Red Flags

  1. Top leaders may be the most resistant.
  2. Don’t discount the value of leadership.
  3. Power can’t stand a vacuum.
  4. Give it time to work.
  5. Walk the walk.
  6. Study the history.

Zappo’s is exploring Holacracy. Time will tell if it is a fad or will become Standard Operating Procedure.  My hope is that it encourages creative thinking and creativity at work.

Quotes Worth Sharing

150717-4-Tom-Peters

Internal customers are any stakeholder you deliver a product or service to in exchange for some kind of social/professional currency. We all have internal customers.

Nine Powerful Books of Elon Musk

150717-5-Elon-Musk

In this article you will also find links to books recommended by  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I am going to explore all three lists and learn something this summer.

Content Marketing Infographic of Infographics

150717-6-Infographic

This is kind of Meta – a map of maps. I am still trying to wrap my head around what really makes a good Infographic. This one is too big to fit on my computer screen all at once mainly because it is vertical and my computer screen is horizontal. On my mobile device, which is vertical, it’s just too darn small to be useful. So if I print it out, there goes the convenience of the links. Sigh.

Design Thinking in Your Next Project

150717-7-Design-Thinking

My favorite quote: “Design thinking” is really just another way of saying “problem-solving.”  But this IS a good primer for Design Thinking. Most important step is Define the Problem. Most important aspect of defining the problem is Empathy. – 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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I know, I know, I know. By all public accounts, Woody Allen isn’t an admirable person. Yet every time he releases a new movie and does an interview in the Wall Street Journal, there are great strategic and creative insights worth mentioning.

You can read my previous disclaimer on blogging about Woody Allen here, in an earlier Brainzooming post about his longevity-oriented, low-risk strategy.

The 3 Brand Strategy Questions and Woody Allen

In the WSJ interview for “Irrational Man,” Allen discusses the challenges of varying your brand. His brand situation plays out three important brand strategy questions we ask when a company is evaluating brand innovations:

  • What do your customers EXPECT from your brand?
  • What types of changes will customers ACCEPT from your brand?
  • What will customers REWARD your brand for doing?

Brand-Promise-Inputs

Answering a question about why people laugh during his dramatic films, Woody Allen discussed the back and forth between comedy and drama in his career. While he aspired to write dramatic works, his talents were in comedy. Based on his early comedic success, comedy is where his brand is based. In other words, it’s what customers EXPECT from the Woody Allen brand.

The more intriguing insight relative to these brand strategy questions addresses the ACCEPT and REWARD dimensions: even during his dramatic films, where there is ostensibly no humorous content, audiences still laugh.

As he notes, “People want comedy from me (what they ACCEPT) and still interpret things I do as comic when of course they’re not. I believe people laugh(ed) (what they REWARD) because they thought they would be missing something if they didn’t laugh…it will always get some laughs because people associate me with that.”

In another measure of how viewers reward his brand, the estimated inflation-adjusted gross revenue of Woody Allen’s films (from an analysis Buzzfeed published in 2013) shows his top films are skewed toward his comedies.

And it’s clear Woody Allen got this limitation in his brand early on in his career. In his 1980 film “Stardust Memories,” a fan tells Allen’s character, a movie director, that she likes his earlier funny films.

Allen’s response to his brand limitations appears to be to minimize risk and go ahead with whatever types of films he wants to do.

Your brand, however, may not have that luxury. If you don’t think it does, these three brand strategy questions should be front and center as you consider any innovation that pushes your brand in potentially new territory.   – Mike Brown

 

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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!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




 

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 a high school freshman, our religion class was preparing for an upcoming test on the 6th and 9th commandments. For those unfamiliar with the Ten Commandments, the 6th and 9th ones address the full gamut of sexual improprieties.

Moses-Ten-Commandments

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659) by Rembrandt. (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

Our teacher for the class, a priest who was also the school counselor, could not be present during homeroom. To cover, a senior nicknamed Bubba, who was a big defensive lineman for the football team, monitored our class.

As we reviewed our notes for the test, someone asked the football player, “Bubba, how do you prevent venereal disease?”

Bubba’s strategic advice?

“Keep your d!@% in your pants.”

Even though the phrasing of Bubba’s strategic advice would not earn maximum points on our upcoming test, I have never forgotten his answer.

Strategic Advice to Avoid Trouble

While for so many problems we try to deal with the AFTER effects of the root problem, Bubba’s strategic advice was to avoid the possibility of creating a problem you need to address later.

That’s a great thinking and strategic advice.

In the book, “America’s Pastor” by Grant Wacker, he addresses evangelist Billy Graham’s impact on society from the late 1940s through the early 2000s when he was a highly visible public fixture (affiliate link). Billy Graham’s reputation, while being challenged on some political alliances, opinions, and even religious points of view, remained untarnished in areas befalling many evangelists – especially those achieving prominence in the television age.

Why was Billy Graham able to rise above issues ruining so many prominent ministers?

One reason may be a 1948 meeting Billy Graham conducted with his staff. They identified downfalls plaguing other high-visibility ministers: “Misuse of money, exaggerated results, sexual misconduct, and criticism of other clergy.”

As with Bubba’s strategic advice, Billy Graham’s four factors all targeted avoiding potentially fatal problems before they could develop.

4 Keys to Remember

Danger-High-Voltage

Billy Graham’s team created its four-item list more than sixty-five years ago. With slight adaptations, however, it is a solid list categorizing many challenges cratering businesses, organizations, and leaders.

As you take on personal and organizational leadership roles, make sure you are doing whatever possible to avoid:

  • Misuses of money
  • Efforts to exaggerate, inflate, or misrepresent performance
  • Immoral, illegal, or unethical activities of any type
  • Activities focused on talking about or portraying a competitor as anything but a decent corporate citizen

It’s worth keeping the list nearby – whether physically, virtually, or simply as a heuristic for protecting any organization. Avoid these four “sins,” and you and your organization will be in a much better position to weather business challenges you might typically face in the normal course of events.

Or if you want an even shorter version of this strategic advice, remember Bubba’s comment, and you’ll avoid a wide array of problems you really don’t want to face! – Mike Brown

 

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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!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




 

 

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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