I’ve been promising myself I’d write about incorporating visual thinking skills into work meetings since last summer when a client asked me for some ideas on visual thinking resources. He wanted to enhance his ability to facilitate meetings and capture meeting notes where he was a participant.

Visual Thinking Resources

My initial recommendation to him was checking out several books on visual thinking skills that have been helpful for me:

A more recent visual thinking skills book that may have put the topic of visualization (back) on the map is “The Back of the Napkin – Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures,” by Dan Roam. The issue for me with this book is that the original edition has really small type and really small diagrams, so it does not really help convey the message nearly as strongly as it should.

Getting Over the “I Can’t Draw” Visual Thinking Skills Hurdle

When it comes to using drawing and visualization on the fly in meetings, people often become bogged down with drawing something in front of people out of concern it will not look right (or even look like anything). In reality, the ability to draw something is simply selecting and sketching shapes that SUGGEST what we want to depict.

We all understand and can re-create the shapes of letters. I have taken people who do not think they can draw and helped them see that they can “draw” simply by putting together a bunch of letters to create bigger, more complex shapes. Take letters, throw in a few geometric shapes, and realize all you are doing is trying to SUGGEST something (not create a photo-realistic depiction of it), and you’ve got a lot of what you need to visualize.

It’s All about Shapes

Shapes also come into play in note taking as a way to highlight certain types of information: ideas, conclusions, action items, etc.  Some things might get stars beside them; others might always be written in circles. Grids can really help capture notes in an organized fashion as a meeting flows.

We also still use post-it notes in our strategy and creative thinking exercises because ideas on post-it notes can be re-arranged and grouped in new ways (i.e., put into shapes) to provide stronger understanding. Meeting notes tend to be captured chronologically, when notes really need to be presented afterward based on a logic flow, not a time flow.

The Missing Piece for Visual Thinking

What’s stopped this post from appearing before today was not getting the graphic drawn to put shapes and letters to common situations that present themselves in meetings. Then lo and behold, my Twitter friend and visual problem solving expert, Dean Meyers  tweeted a link to this PowerPoint which does a really wonderful job of covering visual thinking skills. It has a valuable discussion on the necessary resolution for your drawings in addition to an approach for stronger visual thinking. And slide 28 contains the type of graphic I was planning on drawing relating shapes to objects.

“Yea” for waiting things out, and “yea” for people sharing great presentations on PowerPoint.  - Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 innovation 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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One question near the end of my “Making Big Ideas Happen” presentation at the Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference was on how to handle people who try to say no to challenging thinking and plans because of potential risks.

My answer was people who say no to a big idea are doing so out of some type of fear. It could be fear of change, failure, or the unknown. It could be fear of any number of other things.

There’s no single answer for addressing innovation fears across organizations. Your best strategy depends on the people and circumstances standing in the way of your big ideas. That’s what all the work we’ve done on Taking the NO Out of InNOvation is all about.

Here are nine initial possibilities for conquering risk-related innovation fears within your organization when you’re the one who is pushing for making big ideas happen.

  1. Work to redirect fears about your big idea toward one or more threats that could loom even larger if your innovation doesn’t come to fruition.
  2. Mitigate the fear of risk by breaking the steps to accomplish your idea into small phases. Then sell-in only a few steps at a time.
  3. After determining what is critical to your big idea’s success, compromise on elements that are not essential but whose absence could lower potential fears or perceived risk with big innovation.
  4. Involve the naysayer directly in developing your big idea to attempt to get them invested in your innovation effort.
  5. Create a stealth innovation effort. Only reveal the innovation effort’s existence after it has moved down the road to being realized.
  6. Provide case studies of organizations or people who have overcome the same fear of a new idea.
  7. Share case studies of comparable situations where an idea similar to yours brought about favorable improvements for another organization.
  8. Get the fears out in the open and innovate around them.
  9. Present facts and logic (along with some emotional impact) to refute the fears.

What do you do about making big ideas happen when you’re behind them? – Mike Brown

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


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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Long plane flights are my most-prized creative times. With the opportunity to be free from the many distractions that drain creative energy, long plane flights always lead to many new ideas. Last Saturday’s flight back from New Jersey and #BigIdeas12 was no exception. I finally had the chance to look at the Adobe “State of Create Study” issued recently. The study polled 5,000 people across the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan regarding their perspectives on creativity across multiple dimensions of society.

There are enough intriguing insights on creativity in the Adobe “State of Create Study” for multiple Brainzooming blog posts, but the last slide really struck me. The headline read, “Social media plays a minor role, if any, in motivating people to create.” Across the global study, only 11% of respondents said social media plays a “great deal” of a role in their creative motivation.


If that’s the case, people around the globe are really missing out on the incredible new opportunities for creative motivation presented by online and social media resources. This disconnect was fodder for generating a list of sixty-one ways you can use online and social media sources for creative motivation. I KNOW there are more than sixty-one ways, but I decided to constrain myself to only ideas jotted down on the plane.

If you can read through this list and NOT think there are a great many online and social media resources for motivating people to create, let me know. We’ll expand the list beyond these first sixty-one ideas!

1. Find people who trigger creative ideas for you

2. Find people who support and cheer your efforts

3. Find people who you disagree with and want to sway to your point of view

4. Find people who disagree with you and cause you to explore new topics

5. Allow yourself to be pointed to creative places online based on others’ social media links

6. Use an online exchange with someone as creative inspiration

7. Identify new creative experiences to try

8. Connect with people you meet at conferences more frequently than you would if not for social media channels

9. See what other people are saying about creative topics of interest to you

10. Request creative input from someone half a world away

11. Virtually visit creative places

12. Go to museums you might not be able to visit in person

13. Ask an online friend who has visited a creative place to share the experience

14. Track content coming out of creativity-oriented conferences and events

15. Share a creative experience you’ve had with people around the world

16. Try to talk to a famously creative person you’d never expect to meet in person

17. Share your works of creativity online

18. Use online images, video, and conversations as creative fodder for your work

19. Hang out with creative people online

20. Closely follow what other creative people are interested in

21. Closely follow what other creative people are talking about

22. Build an outpost for creativity where others can congregate online

23. Give away your creativity for others to build upon with their ideas

24. Sell your creative output

25. Showcase the creative output of IRL and online friends

26. Learn new tools to express creativity

27. Find a new job or project that allows you more time for creativity

28. Sponsor a place for ideas to solve world problems

29. Issue a creativity manifesto

30. Help online friends become more creative

31. Create original social media content (instead of simply lurking)

32. Share your creative stories

33. Download the Adobe “State of Create” study

34. Learn productivity or time-saving techniques to free up your time for creativity

35. Learn artistic skills

36. Change the educational system

37. Become a risk mitigation expert (to address people who see risk in creativity)

38. Encourage others to live up to their potential for creativity

39. Increase the diversity of your creative interests as you get older

40. Find people online in Japan and help them understand creativity isn’t just for the arts community (78% of respondents in Japan think this)

41. Collect the facts to build a case for more creativity at work

42. Learn more about creativity in Tokyo, New York, Paris, London, and Berlin (They were rated as the top five creative cities in the “State of Create Study”)

43. Explore creative environments and adapt your environment to better foster creativity

44. Source new creative tools

45. Find a creativity-oriented music list to listen to (This one is courtesy of #BigIdeas12 attendee Matt James @TheMJames)

46. Share examples of overlooked creativity in your world

47. Download Taking the NO Out of InNOvation eBook for free

48. Express your ideas – express a lot of ideas – for the world to see

49. Read / skim creativity-oriented blogs

50. Read / skim design-oriented blogs

51. Point out why things people think are boundaries to creativity really aren’t

52. Become more childlike and open to wonder

53. Take a virtual museum tour

54. Curate your own museum of the greatest works of creativity in the world

55. Perform a crit and share it online

56. Connect with a local artist in your community

57. Write about what you’re going to do in place of the time you spend complaining about not having time to be creative

58. Learn ways to vary someone else’s creativity

59. Start planning now for next year’s World Creativity and Innovation Week

60. Find free creativity tools

61. Find even more creativity tools

That’s my long plane flight list of online and social media resources for motivating people to create. What links or ideas do you want to add to the list? - Mike Brown


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 innovation 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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What a first day at The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference (#BigIdeas12)!

I flew in from Kansas City Thursday morning and arrived at Rutgers University just as the first presentation was about to begin.  And in keeping with what happens at church if you arrive late, I was placed in the front row, first seat – about 6 feet from the interviewing area. For someone who usually hangs back, it put me right in the heart of great presentations on social networking, disruption (particular of higher education), innovation, and incredible stories of the triumph of the human spirit.

Suffice it to say there will likely be multiple recap posts from The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference on the Brainzooming blog.

I’m doing an innovation workshop today called “Making Big Ideas Happen.” My charge is to integrate all fifteen #BigIdeas12 presentations from today and make strategic connections to help attendees of The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference to apply the lessons from an eclectic group of TED-like presentations into their work and personal lives. While I tried to make some guesses upfront about what presenters would talk about relative to innovation and strategic connections, there were definitely late night adjustments to the “Making Big Ideas Happen” session to ensure it reflected all the incredible content from the opening session.

To support “Making Big Ideas Happen,” here are links to a variety to articles supporting topics we’ll be talking about in today’s workshop. And once again, while this is targeted for workshop attendees, the concepts are of benefit to a much broader audience:

Capturing Big Ideas and Strategic Connections: Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference – This setup post for The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference lends itself to looking for strategic connections in any situation where you’re processing content

Did You Know Video: Although a few years old at this point, this video gets your attention with a compelling presentation of the demographic and technological realities of modern education.

6 Strategic Success Skills for Today’s WorkplaceRecaps some of the educational and attitudinal changes needed to prepare students with the success skills needed to enter today’s workplace.

Brainzooming – First Questions – A short and sweet article on the fundamental strategic question to ask.

Strategic Connections – 3 Tips for Identifying More OpportunitiesThese 3 steps provide a strong way to look for many more and richer strategic connections.

Extending Brainstorming Ground Rules to Everyday Business Life – There are typical approaches to brainstorming that can benefit coming up with ideas in brainstorming sessions. If you work at it, you can extend this approach to every day work life too.

Look Inside for Distinctive Talents – 5 questions to identify your distinctive talents as a first step to taking better advantage of them to shape your creative pursuits.

Why strategic thinking doesn’t happen, part 3 – Somebody’s missing – A brief case for the value of incorporating individuals with different thinking and implementation styles to get more innovative thinking.

Crowdsourcing Diverse Input – 3 Ways to Make Crowdsourcing Work Harder – Crowdsourcing for input is great, but if you want it to be fruitful for the crowd and the requesting organization, providing appropriate structure is important.

6 Ways Social Networking Platforms Can Boost Creative Thinking -  Social networking platforms can be an outstanding source to boost creative thinking – if you use them well.

Benjamin Zander and the Art of Possibilities - A small snippet of the wonderful Benjamin Zander presentation where he lets us in on the Art of Possibilities with the vital admonition: It’s all invented!

A Poor Question for Valentine’s Day: “Can You Change Your Look?” - If you’re always looking at the same situation from the same place, you’ll see the same things. Change how you look at the status quo and find incredible new ideas.

15 Ways Whoever Is Going to Disrupt Your Market Isn’t Like You- Trust me, higher education played the part of a big fire hydrant during day one, and there was a lot of peeing going on around it. The forces that disrupt higher education aren’t going to have pretty quads and columned buildings!

11 Strategic Questions for Disruptive Innovation in Markets - If higher education professionals (or any of us) are up for truly disruptive innovation, here are 1 strategic questions you can use to start identifying opportunities.

We’ve Seen the Enemy & They Don’t Look Anything Like Us - More questions to begin understanding who might be the surprising disruptive forces in a market. One critical element is to generalize and understand what is like your current situation.

Change Your Character - One of the easiest ways to come up with new ideas is to delegate your innovation challenge to someone else. Here’s a creative thinking exercise that does just that.

Creating Memorable Experiences - There are three keys to creating memorable experiences for any event – whether it’s a special event or an event that happens every day.

Creating Intriguing Social Media Content – 3 Fundamental Steps - There are also three keys to identifying and creating intriguing social media content. Get these right, and you’ll have much stronger content.

Social Media Content Ideation: Think – Know – Do - Sure you get to talk about topics of interest to your business. But you only get to talk about them after you’ve thought about what your audience really wants to hear about in their lives. Then you can fit what you think, know, and do to into their expectations.

Five Innovation Lessons from Improv Comedy – by Woody Bendle - A whole lot of improvisation is based on fantastic planning and anticipation. It’s ironic, but it’s the truth.

Creating Change and Change Management – 4 Strategy Options - Some change can be incremental, but often an incremental approach to change won’t do. In those cases, here are three other strategy options to consider for creating change.

Being Perceived as an Innovative Leader - Not all innovative leaders are doing outrageous things (sorry if you think otherwise, but it’s true). Many times, being an innovative leader means innovating processes to allow innovation to happen.

Share the Credit! - Give more credit for successes to others, and don’t take much (or any at all) for yourself.

Strategic Thinking – Do Your Own and Let Us Know What You Think - You don’t have to simply spit out what you hear form business experts. Consider what they have to say, then do your own strategic thinking and share it.

Outsmarting Fears about Your “Inferior” Expertise - Nobody is better at telling your own story than you. So start telling it in multiple channels! - 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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Last week, frequent Brainzooming guest blogger Woody Bendle was tweeting some interesting thinking about innovation for higher education. Knowing I’d be at The Big Ideas in Higher Education conference today, I asked Woody to write up his full perspective to share with you (especially if you have children in or on their ways to college) and conference attendees as well. 

Continuous Innovation for Higher Education by Woody Bendle

I was on the way into my office last week listening to NPR, and a story discussed the daunting employment and debt challenges of many recent college graduates. The statistics are frankly staggering!

I’m guessing I am not the only person amazed by these statistics. And, I honestly shouldn’t be entirely amazed as I am currently supporting two students who attend public university. But these figures definitely caught my attention!

Well… so what?!

A Process for Continuous Innovation for Higher Education

Photo by: Saimen | Source: photocase dot com

I look at the above data and acknowledge the magnitude of the challenge, yet think to myself, what an incredible opportunity for innovation!

Rather than jumping in and offering a bunch of ideas (opinions) about ways Higher Education institutions might do things differently, it is important to step back and think about this innovation challenge in a more methodical, proven manner.

Innovation isn’t just about coming up with a bunch of new “cool ideas” and tossing the proverbial spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.  It is commonly accepted that the failure rate of this approach to innovation is typically between 70-90%. Innovation is a process, and following a process, the odds of coming up with and implementing successful innovations can be greatly enhanced.

In a prior Brainzooming article, Continuous Innovation and Continuous Improvement, I introduced a three-stage process for continuous innovation – i3 Continuous Innovation:

1. Identify – Opportunities for new products or services

2. Innovate – And create new products or services

3. Implement – And scale

Let’s focus on the first stage, Identify as we think about Innovation in Higher Education.  I’ll leave Stages 2 and 3 – Innovate, and Implement, for a later discussion.

The Identify stage of the i3 Continuous Innovation process is comprised of three sequential steps:

1. Identify the need

2. Come up with ideas

3. Evaluate the ideas

OK, so I’ve already offered up my opinion that there is a likely need for innovating Higher Education, but that isn’t exactly what Identify the need actually means in the i3 Continuous Innovation process.

Identify the Need through “Jobs to Be Done”

The i3 Continuous Innovation process purposefully starts with Identify the need.

One of the most valuable ways I’ve found to think bout this is by leveraging the Jobs to be done approach to innovation.  Jobs to be done – first formally introduced by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor in their book The Innovator’s Solution – is “based on the notion that customers ‘hire’ products to do specific ‘jobs.’  The classic reference for this concept comes from Harvard professor, Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill.  They want a quarter-inch hole!”  In other words, people don’t need a drill, they need a hole; and the drill is the solution for their need.  With this in mind, the questions we need to ask are:

  • What ‘job’ does a college or university help a student ‘get done?’ (or What is it that a college ultimately helps a student do?)
  • What ‘job’ is a college being ‘hired’ for?

While Colleges and Universities serve many constituents beyond students and provide exceptionally valuable benefits for many different consumers’ needs, let’s focus on what students need from Colleges and Universities.

Tony Ulwick in What Customers Want provides instructive clarity to the Jobs to be Done approach for innovation.  Ulwick states: “To figure out what customers want and to successfully innovate, companies must think about customer requirements very differently.  Companies must be able to know, well in advance, what criteria customers are going to use to judge a products value and dutifully design a product that ensures those criteria are met.  These criteria must be predictive of success and not lagging indicators.”

Relative to Higher Education within Ulwick’s approach, think of:

  • Colleges and Universities as the Companies
  • Students as the Customer
  • Degrees (or education) as the Products.

In order for Colleges and Universities to develop new highly valued innovative degrees and/or education, they first have to deeply understand the core student need.

Why Do Students Hire Colleges or Universities?

So…why do students ‘hire’ Colleges or Universities and rack up so much debt? Fundamentally, I feel students hire them to obtain skills and capabilities valued by employers, that enable them to either get an intellectually, emotionally and/or financially rewarding job – or start a successful business. 

Maybe not every student thinks this way as they are entering or attending college, but I have to believe at some point, this is in fact the desired outcome from attending college and obtaining an education.

With this as our central job statement for Higher Education, we now have a solid foundation to begin the process of thinking about relevant innovation opportunities.  First, however, we have to identify all the things that prevent or get in the way of students getting the job done. Examples of this might include:

  • Not being able to pay for college
  • Not wanting to rack up a mountain of debt to get a college education
  • Not knowing what job / degree they really want
  • Not knowing what college would be ‘right’ for them
  • Missing classes
  • Not understanding the professor or TA
  • Not handing in assignments
  • Not being sufficiently prepared for a given class
  • Failing exams
  • Not having the ability to apply the class knowledge
  • Not having any relevant work experience
  • Not having a degree / education that is valued by employers
  • etc…

Typically, any given core ‘job’ will have between 75-150 challenges or obstacles that prevent the job executor (in this case, a student) from getting it done in a highly satisfactory way.  Once all of these are known and prioritized, based on the legitimate opportunity indicated by the market, we can move onto the next step which is:

Come up with Ideas

Let’s assume our Jobs to be done and opportunity evaluation identified two highly significant obstacles for successfully accomplishing the job:

  • Not having the ability to apply class knowledge
  • Not having any relevant work experience

By ‘significant’ I mean something deemed very important by a large portion of the market (students) and not presently perceived to be well satisfied by the market (institutions of Higher Education).

Reworded, these become the following ‘needs:’

  • Be able to apply class knowledge
  • Have relevant work experience

With these two primary needs identified, we can now focus on coming up with possible ideas for solving these two very specific problems.

There are many approaches for generating ideas for possible solutions; some good, some not so good.  Two references I particularly like for approaches to generating ideas are:

In addition, my good friends from The Brainzooming Group have an exceptionally good approach for helping organizations identify game changing innovative ideas and concepts.

Some consistent themes, however, for successful idea generation are:

  • Start with an objective, or a specific challenge
  • Utilize diverse perspectives and information, customer, market, industry, technology, etc
  • Include people in your idea sessions with diverse backgrounds and professions
  • In the beginning stages, all ideas are good – the more the better
  • Don’t shut down ideas – let them flow, keep them coming and encourage more
  • Don’t worry about viability at this point in the process

Thinking back to the needs we are assuming as significant opportunities for innovation in Higher Education, we can come up with dozens of ideas about how Colleges and Universities might uniquely provide solutions for these needs.  Examples include:

  • Integrate some institutions (or departments within some institutions) into corporations or organizations
  • Incorporate practical, hands-on internships throughout the entire degree program
  • Require a minimum of a six months internship with an applied, full scale project prior to graduating
  • Require more “real world” problem solving into the curriculum
  • Have Colleges and Universities function similarly to the farm leagues in baseball
  • Structure collections of courses within and across semesters designed to support teams of students working on collaborative projects with substantial goals
  • Organize academics more like college sports with regular academic competitions and championships
  • No up front tuition – have tuition be a small fixed proportion of a student’s post-college salary or income – for a set period of time (i.e., 20 years)
  • etc…

Evaluate the Ideas

You could likely have a hundred ideas ranging from ridiculous and naïve to very complicated and expensive, to simple and elegant.  The objective here is to group all ideas into themes and begin determining which ideas to discard and which ideas to retain for consideration.  A method I particularly like for this is NABR (pronounced, neighbor); which stands for Needs, Approach, Benefits, Risks.  NABR is my twist on the NABC (Needs, Approach, Benefits, Competition) approach introduced by Curtis Carlson and William Wilmot in their 2006 book Innovation.  NABR is an effective tool for quickly filtering ideas at a 30,000 foot level plus a solid framework for developing a full business case.

In terms of a high-level evaluation, I’ve found it useful to utilize the following NABR assessment template.

At this point in the innovation process, we’re only trying to determine which one or two ideas are worth moving forward to the next stage of the i3 Continuous Innovation process, which is Innovate.

We have not performed a rigorous business case analysis because we don’t even have a fully thought out solution to address the need. But, from diligently following the three steps of the Identify stage of the i3 Continuous Innovation process, we have confidence the proposed idea for innovating Higher Education will:

  • Address a legitimate need in the marketplace;
  • Which is currently perceived to be unmet or underserved; and
  • We are uniquely positioned to deliver a valuable solution to the market.

While I willingly admit I currently do not have the answers for what innovations might be most wanted or needed in Higher Education, I will enthusiastically be among the first for offer assistance should I receive a call from Education Secretary Duncan.  I’m truly passionate about both Innovation and Education and feel the application of the i3 Continuous Innovation process could help change the Higher Education game in extraordinary ways. Woody Bendle

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity 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.

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Photo by: IS2 | Source: photocase.com

Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal included multiple stories on recently ousted C-Level executives whose ethical missteps and poor judgment led to their departures:

And those were simply the highest profile stories about ousted C-level executives. There were others where it seems as if C-level executives and their egos have (or are in the midst of) leading to significant business disruptions.

Contrast these stories of C-level executives, ethical missteps, and poor judgment with a Saturday story, also in the Wall Street Journal, about a research study from Ontario’s Queens University which claims that individuals (okay, “students” – it was one of those studies) are much more successful at forsaking their personal desires when God was on their minds. When certain students were exposed to expressions referencing God, they demonstrated a greater ability to endure discomfort and forsake instant gratification. The results held whether the students were spiritual or professed agnostics or atheists.

The article closes by reporting how scientists are a bit stymied to explain the results. One suggestion was that thinking about God replenishes “psychological nutrients” similar to how Gatorade helps an athlete perform better. A rabbi compared God to the police car watching us which makes us drive more slowly. (I think maybe we’re hard-wired toward the right behaviors no matter how much we try and fight against it.)

The juxtaposition of these stories made me recall a slide in a spirituality presentation I give that includes just the letters:





You may ask what in the world these letters represent. The answer: What Would Whoever You Think You Answer to Higher than Your CEO Do?

The slide in the spirituality presentation is a reminder you can’t expect to look to a company’s top leadership as a moral compass. It’s too easy for them (or any of us for that matter) to fool ourselves into thinking that when no one is looking, a lot of things we should know better are wrong all of a sudden can be rationalized into being okay. You have to look higher for a moral compass to guide your actions. I can’t presume who or what it is for you, but the Queen’s University study seems to confirm the benefit of doing that.

So what’s the take-away on this story about C-level executives, ethical missteps, and poor judgment?

When deciding how you’ll conduct yourself, you could benefit from taking even a brief moment to ask: W W WYTYATHTYCEO D?

And if that question doesn’t fit with your belief structure, you’d still better at least ask what you’d do if everyone were watching you.

Because in an era of rampant social networking, an increasingly large contingent of social media journalists, and heightened expectations for authenticity and transparency, everybody really could be watching us when we have opportunities to make ethical missteps whether we’re C-level executives or not. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Emailus at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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 love Big Ideas.

That’s why I’m so excited about attending and speaking next week at The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference at Rutgers University.

And in a clear departure from other higher education conference programs, even though The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference (#BigIdeas12) is for educators, the TED-oriented and Inside the Actor’s Studio-style sessions will largely be delivered by non-educators. And having gone through the speaker bios in-depth to prepare my own session, there’s an incredible group of amazingly talented and accomplished people presenting at the two-day conference.

But Where Are the Educators at this Higher Education Conference?

Since there’s an expectation some attendees are going to struggle with the absence of a full slate of higher education presenters, my last-afternoon session is to help attendees in capturing big ideas and making strategic connections among the various sessions so they can start making things happen with The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference content.

As I said to The Big Ideas in Higher Education Conference organizers, it would be better to do my session near the start of the conference rather than at the end. Alas, it was too late to change things around.

Instead, here are some thoughts for attendees at any conference where there are going to be speakers who may seem to have little direct connection to what you do. Even if that’s the case, there are always going to be opportunities to learn, especially from someone who knows nothing about what you know.

Capturing All Your Big Ideas and Making them Happen

Here are 3 key steps for capturing big ideas at a conference where the presenters or material are outside your focus areas:

1. List what you want from the conference beforehand.

List a few opportunities, challenges, or issues you want to address from the information presented at the conference. This will help keep your most important objectives top-of-mind throughout the conference.

2. Don’t take notes. Capture ideas and thought starters – even challenging and apparently irrelevant ones.

It’s great to take notes at a conference. But in addition, capture and keep a separate list of ideas & comments from the presenters. These are the concepts that really get you thinking, even if you don’t know what to think about them. Maybe it’s an interesting statistic. It could very well be something that connects with you on emotional level (think: excited, stunned, energized, angered, stimulated, challenged, etc.), even if it’s apathy or boredom from wondering why the presenter is sharing information you don’t think connects with you.

Organize these ideas and thought starters relative to how much you relate to the information and how much the concepts intrigue you. The matrix below presents a way to organize your notes:

3. Start Making Strategic Connections

Some strategic connections between your list in number 1 and ideas / concepts shared at the conference will be naturals (“Lessons” should be directly applicable to your interests; ”Familiar” ideas may need a little creative sizzle).

Other strategic connections will be more challenging to identify, but those are often the most fruitful ones for innovation opportunities.

To help identify potential strategic connections look for the following relationships between your list and the conference ideas:

  • Similarities
  • Stark differences
  • Shared characteristics
  • Similar inputs and/or outputs among them
  • Sequential relationships between items on each list

After having identified these relationships, you should be able to more easily find “Big Ideas” within the “Ideas” quadrant. This will occur as you link your related to opportunities/challenges to ideas / concepts from the conference content.

Ideas in the “Huh?” category should provide relatively fertile ground for additional brainstorming to identify innovative connections you missed seeing the first time through.

What’s Next?

These first three steps will get you started in looking at ideas shared at an innovative business conference in new ways.

What’s next in terms of additional techniques for innovatively adapting ideas to your organizational situation is the topic of my presentation for The Big Ideas in Education Conference?

Coming out of my session (“Take all of your Big Ideas and Make them Happen, an Innovation Workshop”), I’ll share multiple strategic techniques exercises to derive even greater value from an innovative conference experience.

And if you want to follow along, track The Big Ideas Education Conference on Twitter at #BigIdeas12. - 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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