5

Here’s another great post from frequent Brainzooming guest blogger Woody Bendle. When we were together for #Ideachat last weekend, Woody mentioned that he was working up this piece on exceptional customer experience. Given Woody’s extensive experience in the retail industry, it’s great to get his perspective on what it takes to be able to successfully deliver an exceptional customer experience through these important six steps.

When was the last time you had an exceptionally terrific experience as a customer?

I’m not talking about the type of experience that was pretty good – as it should have been.  You know what I’m talking about here… these are the types of experiences where you were greeted and thanked for your business in a pleasant manner; or maybe someone actually helped you find something you were looking for in a store.

Or maybe, there wasn’t even a person involved, but perhaps there was a self-help process that was so well-designed, that you were surprised by how smoothly it actually went.  These types of experiences and interactions should be the norm.  But increasingly is it more and more difficult to even come up with these types of examples.

However, what I’d like for us to think about is:

I’m guessing you had to spend more than just a few minutes thinking about the last time you had an experience like this.  Still haven’t come up with one?  Guess what, you’re not alone, so I’ll give you a few more seconds…

Now think about how this exceptional experience made you feel as a customer.  Did you feel special?  Did you feel appreciated?  Did you feel valued?  Did you feel important?  Did you feel just a little bit more loyal to that business?  I’m betting you felt all of these things and possibly even more.

The thing is, very few companies consistently deliver truly exceptional customer experiences.  Why is this this the case?  Is it really so hard for an organization to consistently deliver extraordinary customer experiences?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes – and no.

An exceptional customer experiences don’t just happen on its own.  The very best customer experiences are very well thought-out, designed, and orchestrated interactions.  Customer experience-focused organizations have cultures and strategies that are completely aligned in order to consistently deliver exceptional experiences.  In turn, these organizations gain an incredible (nearly impenetrable) competitive advantage known as fiercely loyal customers and brand evangelists.

If you have any doubts about this just think about how loyal the guy is who passes you later this afternoon on his Harley.  You know, that 40-something ER doctor with the HUGE Harley Davidson tattoo on his right shoulder?  Suppose you’re going to see him riding a Honda anytime soon?

OK, you’re convinced. But now what?

Six Steps to an Exceptional Customer Experience

In order to become a stand-out organization recognized for consistently delivering exceptional customer experiences, you need to follow and employ these six steps:

1. Know what you stand for (or at least what you want to stand for) and what you expect.

That is, what is your organization’s Vision, Mission and Customer Promise?  What is it that you are guaranteeing your customers each and every time they choose to interact with you?  How do your customers want to feel each time they engage with you?  How do you want your customers to feel?

2. Understand the expectations and desired outcomes from each customer interaction point – from both your, and your customer’s perspective.

What is it that your customer is trying to accomplish at each interaction point?  What benefits does your company expect from each interaction point?  How do you expect each interaction point to benefit your organization and brand?  Ask, “How does this interaction live up to my customer promise and help build my brand?”

3. Identify all of the customer interaction points that occur with your organization.

Are there ways that your consumer interacts with (or attempts to) that you are unaware of? You’ll be surprised by this one.

4. Establish goals and objectives for each and every interaction point.

What is it that you want this interaction point to do for your customer, your business and your brand?

5. Develop and employ ways to capture metrics about each of your customer interaction points and establish targets.

What gets measured gets improved.

6. Commit to being one of the rare organizations that continually delivers exceptional customer experiences and hold everyone in your organization accountable.

Walk the talk.

And as for Customer Experiences that Aren’t Exceptional?

So as you are contemplating the pros and cons of designing, planning for, orchestrating, and monitoring each and every one of your organization’s customer interactions through these six steps, I’ll leave you with the following four questions:

1. When was the last time you had an absolutely horrible customer experience?

2. Did you tell anyone about it?

3. Have you been back?

4. How much of your money are they never going to see again?  Woody Bendle

 

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You hear people ask, “Why does time fly so much faster than it used to?”  It feels like time is running past so quickly. Holidays and major life events seem as if they arrive right on top of each other. Yet as fast as it seems time flies, some recent events (i.e. meeting IRL with Woody Bendle for #Ideachat last month and again this past weekend) seem as if they happened a year ago.

Why does time fly so much faster in your estimation?

Considering this question, I came up with three possible ideas:

1. Information Overload

There is so much more information that comes at us now, we’re processing what used to be a year’s worth of information in a relatively short time One study from a few years ago said information was coming at us 5 times faster than 20 years before. Right now, with the further proliferation of social media participation, the five times faster figure seems low. Regardless, what used to be a year’s worth of information hits you so much faster – in just a couple of months now. This phenomenon has to be a big factor in disorienting our perception of time passing.

2. Seasonal Marketing Is Out of Whack

To get in front of the message glut and to try and cut through the message clutter, marketers (especially retailers) begin seasonal messaging so much earlier than the calendar suggests. Retailers time shift the entire year. The Christmas retail season goes from July to December 26 (contrast that with a liturgical view of the Christmas season which runs from the evening of December 24 to early January). The Halloween retail season starts in early September and is on closeout before October 31. Back-to-school seems to overlap with “just barely leaving” school. The result is it feels like time is running out and nearly completely disassociated from what the calendar says.

3. The Challenge in Scheduling Meetings

Since in so many organizations there are fewer people to do more work than there used to be, there is a challenge in scheduling meetings and other events. As a result, you wind up scheduling meetings far in advance. On a routine, longer-term project for us, it is common to be scheduling meetings three months in advance. When it comes to a bigger event, the scheduling window is even longer. When you are operating like that, the challenge in scheduling meetings forces you to be thinking many months ahead and acting as if the future is now.

What to do?

If you buy those three reasons for why time seems to fly by so quickly, you can try to manage your information intake as much as you can and do your best to maintain a perspective and a schedule more firmly rooted in the actual calendar than in seasonal marketing messages.

Will this help? What do you think? – Mike Brown

 

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Challenged at finding the time to think about strategy? If you CAN find the time, do you need to get your strategy work done so quickly it’s not very effective? If that sounds like you,  The Brainzooming Group is your perfect answer. Our name says it all: we’ll get your brain thinking strategically so quickly, it will feel like more than time is zooming. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 for a free consultation on how to get started.

 

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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At the end of yesterday’s post, I mentioned today’s topic would be recapping a project case study we’ve been involved with the past few months. Because of client confidentiality on strategic plans, it’s not often we can openly discuss learnings from what we do to help clients. In this case, we can.

Bring More Insights back from Boston

The Brainzooming Group has been working since earlier this year with the Centurions Leadership Program for future Kansas City leaders. The two-year program with more than 70 active members conducts an annual trip to another city for a learning and listening tour to meet with its leaders and bring back lessons for strategic plans and actions in Kansas City.

Before this year’s Centurions trip to Boston, Jake Jacobson of Garmin, one of the trip’s organizers, reached out to us based on his experience with The Brainzooming Group process at the Google Fiber brainstorming session. Jake wanted to see if we could help the Centurions do a thorough job of capturing and building upon learnings during the Boston trip to bring them back to Kansas City.

A Mobile-Based Brainzooming Approach Is the Answer

After talking further with Jake and Shawn Hickey of Perceptive Software, we designed a targeted mobile-based approach to capture reactions among the Centurions as each half-day of the April trip was completed. We also designed a more comprehensive wrap-up survey to gauge reactions to the trip overall. Through this effort, the Centurions identified a robust base of real-time reactions on a variety of pertinent topics including education, innovation, entrepreneurship, arts and entertainment, infrastructure, and biotechnology.

This approach allowed Jake and Shawn to have an interim recap of major learnings to close out the Boston sessions. It also set up our activity today, where we will be working with the Centurions during their Wild Card community service day to turn the concepts they highlighted into the start of strategic plans and actions.

Sticky Notes? We Don’t Need No Sticky Notes!

One of the important aspects of The Brainzooming Group process is flexibility, and we’ll be demonstrating that for today’s session.

We’d typically facilitate plan-building with a multiple strategic thinking exercise approach and lots of sticky notes. The venue for the Centurions session (a small restaurant with little available wall space, about 35 minutes of working time, and mostly tiny tables) won’t support our typical approach. Since we don’t have the time to adapt the venue, we’re adapting our process to fit the client need.

During lunch, we’ve designed a single strategic thinking exercise for the Centurions to tackle high-level strategic plans and actions on thirteen concepts from the Boston trip. The initial strategic plans and actions the Centurions will be working on will involve describing desired outcomes, important resources, and initial steps for each concept. It will be a lively discussion with much progress over this short luncheon planning session. Right after we’re done, the Centurions will be off to more community service activities around Kansas City.

A Real Impact for the Future of Kansas City

We look forward to how the Centurions will ultimately prioritize and move forward with these concepts from the Boston learning and listening tour. There is a real opportunity for this fantastic organization to make a real impact and improve the Kansas City community with their efforts! – 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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There was an American Restoration marathon on the History Channel recently, so I bought in for multiple hours of the Pawn Stars spin-off. American Restoration features Las Vegas’ Rick Dale and the crew at his business, Rick’s Restorationsn. They specialize in restoring classic objects that time has not treated very well, turning them into show pieces by hammering out dents, repainting, and tracking down all the missing parts and pieces that used to be there.

Photo by: ohNe22 | Source: Photocase.com

When you think about it, the restoration strategy principles on the American Restoration television show (affiliate link) are similar to what we face in business when a product, program, or process that was once shiny and new isn’t anymore, but it’s too valuable, for whatever reason, to eliminate. These types of business restoration situations aren’t pure turnarounds since you can’t apply the same type of scorched earth strategy a turnaround often requires.

Working from that rationale, here are five product, program, or process business restoration strategy principles to implement:

1. Understand expectations for authenticity and the restoration’s ultimate vision.

Before launching into a restoration, Rick Dale asks a customer about the ultimate vision for what the restoration looks like. There’s a different restoration strategy if they want it like brand new versus improving it but leaving the look and feel of an object that’s clearly been used. With a business restoration strategy, you similarly need to understand customer and management expectations upfront. Are you going for a complete refurbishment to take it back to day one, or are you trying to refresh and make it more valuable, even if it only suggests what it used to be?

2. Document where you are starting from so you have a reference point.

On American Restoration, they take multiple photos of an item coming into Rick’s Restorations before the restorers start working. These photos provide an important reference point for how the item looked originally, the placement and nature of specific features, and a measure to benchmark results. When beginning a business restoration, documenting your starting point (through various means) plays a similar role as a comparison point throughout the restoration and to measure your progress.

3. Be willing to do short term harm in the interests of a stronger end result.

When restoring a valuable item that is damaged, the experts on American Restoration may take steps which seem extreme, i.e. using a pickle bath of acid to loosen rust. This potentially harmful move, however, is necessary to remove the negative effects and potentially ongoing damage being done to the item. Taking on a business restoration, you will have to come to grips with the possibility of destroying particular elements of the current product, program, or process to revive performance. Rigorous analysis, an innovative perspective, tough decision making, and rapid implementation make up one formula for the “acid” needed to start a business restoration.

4. Be willing to completely redo something to make it seem more like the original.

Someone brought a really old baseball arcade game in horrible shape into Rick’s Restorations. The images on the game’s backdrop – which depicted the upper decks of a baseball stadium filled with fans – were barely visible. Rather than trying to rehabilitate the old backdrop to maintain authenticity, Rick Dale and his crew created a new backdrop. This freed them to use the old backdrop as a model to paint a new one that looked exactly like the original when it was new. The same principle can apply in business restorations: ditching an old component process or system can lead to a better result, even if it isn’t completely authentic.

5. Infuse the final restoration with emotion.

Rick Dale adds a special flair unveiling the shop’s work to customers. At a minimum, restored items are usually draped or behind some type of moveable surface to create a synchronized reveal. After restoring a toy wagon, they wrapped it as the original Christmas present it was originally. While there may be natural emotional components to the projects on American Restoration, these examples are good reminders to incorporate the right emotional experience when you’re ready to reveal the results of your business restoration effort.

What works for you?

What are your go-to strategies when you have a business restoration project ahead of you? At The Brainzooming Group, we help direct a lot of business restoration efforts for clients, so if you’d like to learn more about specific steps we find valuable, let’s talk!

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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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17

This is the final installment of creative ideas from the June 2012 issue of Fast Company featuring its list of The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012. These final thirty-six creative storytelling and creative process tips, as with the other from earlier ones, were all inspired by individual profiles on on the Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business list.

I hope this slightly different take on The Most Creative People in Business list profiles has been helpful now and in the future. For me personally, I pulled away perhaps five big idea possibilities for The Brainzooming Group. They tied specifically to business development and user experience ideas. Quite frankly, I’d hoped for a more, but the shortfall may be because of the abbreviated nature of the profiles Fast Company features on each person listed.

Now that our coverage on the creative people list wraps with these thirty-six creative storytelling and creative process tips, I guess it’s up to all of us now to get on with our creative work to try and make the list in 2013!

Creative Storytelling

What’s your story? Write your story. Then share it. Over and over.  - Bradford Shellhammer – Cofounder, Chief Creative Officer, Fab.com (#50)

Make stories. Tie together important touch points and create stories from them.  – Steve Porter – Viral Video Producer (#60)

When you develop your own material you can create it in the way you want, with the people you admire, and end up with creative output that works for you.  - Aziz Ansari – Comedian, Actor, “Parks and Rec” (#87)

Curation isn’t exclusively selection. It’s about playing out a perspective that connects to the audience.  - Maria Popova – Editor, Brainpickings.org (#51)

In conveying information (whether infographics or not), start with analysis, followed by determining the size and breadth of the insights, and finish with making it accessible.  - Eddie Opara – Partner, Pentagram (#52)

Introduce new content to your audience every day wrapped in great creative storytelling with strong characters, plot twists, surprising resolutions and a hint at what happens next.  - Andrew Wilson – Executive Vice President, EA Sports (#40)

In what ways does every piece of new content you create build on your amazing story?  – Jeremy Heimans – Founder, Purpose (#11)

Dress the creative part. It’s your obligation to wear jeans if it allows others to see you in the proper light.  - Cyrus Massoumi – Cofounder, ZocDoc (#57)

Creative Process Tips

It’s harder to sustain your creativity than it is to work to get your creative break. Focus on only doing what counts to make or keep your creative break. Don’t let yourself become distracted.  - Ceelo Green – Entertainer (#5)

You can’t sit still and expect ideas will just pop out of your head. Go do something!  - Elvis Chau – Executive Creative Director, JWT Shanghai (#84)

How much nonsense stuff are you doing? Is it good nonsense (that spurs creativity) or bad nonsense (it saps creativity)?  - Andrew Yang – Founder, Venture for America (#27)

If you’re the creative force in your organization can you afford to personally “touch” everything your organization produces? Can you afford not to?  - Pamela Love – Founder, Pamela Lover N.Y.C. (#93)

Make every square inch of your work space creative and fill it with people who have both the creative and technical talents to create through your entire process.  - Tony Haile – CEO, Chartbeat (#64)

Hold a weekly “Inspiration Friday,” event to share anything that’s been a creative inspiration in the past 7 days.  - Neil Blumenthal – Confounder, Warby Parker (#92)

Try a “walking meeting” to talk and walk and solve.  - Andrew Hsu – Founder, Airy Labs (#68)

Spit out as many ideas as fast as you can to get them out and captured. Then think about the connections and context among them.  - Greg Gunn – Entrepreneur in Residence, City Light Central (#85)

Take an experimental view and put together unconnected things to find the strategic connections- Masashi Kawamura – Cofounder, Creative Director, Party (#47)

When you’re in a partnership, one person’s passion for an idea or approach trumps the other’s reticence.  - Anand Rajaraman & Venky Harinarayan – Coheads, Walmart Labs (#53)

When you’re creating a fantasy world, there still should be a solid internal logic to it.  – Thomas Tull – Founder, Chairman, CEO, Legendary Entertainment (#55)

Share a starting idea or piece of creative work with the crowd, and let the crowd edit, change, or rank it to create the final version.  - Roy Price – Director, Amazon Studios (#15)

Invest more time in the visualization of whatever you do or create.  – Miriah Meyer- Computer Scientist, University of Utah (#24)

Every creative effort has to incorporate time to consider its aesthetics.  - Janet Iwasa – Molecular Animator, Harvard University (#25)

If you have different strategic efforts focused on the same creative goal that are difficult to compare, come up with a new success metric that works for both.  - Stefan Olander – VP, Digital Sport, Nike (#7)

If you’re addressing multiple audiences and can’t play creative favorites among them, create a prototypical audience member who is both everyone and no one at the same time.  - Kibwe Tavares – Cofounder, Factor Fifteen (#91)

Turn teaching into an experience of a class creating something together.  - Michael Karnjanaprakorn – Founder, Skillshare (#18)

When education is the goal, contact and interaction is a fundamental aspect of the process.  – Anka Mulder – President, OpenCourseWare Consortium (#19)

If you don’t want to seem abrupt to your audience, signal what you’re planning to do before you do it.  - Leila Takayama – Research Scientist, Willow Garage (#30)

When signaling change, physically destroy a representation of the attitudes that are getting in the way (i.e., put negative culture characteristics on beer bottles and smash them).  – Jeff Charney – CMO, Progressive Insurance (#35)

Audiences are more accepting of new content being delivered without as much polish, allowing you more room for trial, error, and learning.  - T.J. Miller – Actor, Comedian (#58)

Personal relevancy and engagement drive not only why people open things online, but also why people want to interact with anything.  - Ron J. Williams – CEO, Cofounder, Knodes (#62)

Invest more of your creative time and energy on creating incredible transitions in your work.  - Danny Trinh – Designer, Path (#66)

Maybe literacy in the Arab world is bad because of bad typefaces. Great reminder to keep asking, “Why else could this be happening?” until you get to very surprising answers.  - Nadine Chahine – Type Designer, Linotype and Monotype Imaging (#69)

When thinking about creative executions for mobile applications, strip things down to their simplest, tiniest forms.  - Ethan Marcotte – Freelance Web Designed (#75)

When someone’s pushed to the breaking point in a process you discover what they REALLY believe vs. what they’re doing simply it seems like the right thing to do.  - Carrie Brownstein – Writer, Actor, Portlandia (#95)

If there’s a problem with even one part of your creative output, there’s a problem with all of your creative output.  - Robin Guenther – Principal, Perkins + Will (#61)

When there’s a problem, look at the things that are still working and rewind them until everything seems to function in an expected way. Then restart.  - Nina Tandon – Research Scientist, Columbia University (#26)  Mike Brown

 

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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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9

Following up the previous post on the June 2012 Fast Company list of The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012, today’s list of creative thinking ideas from the Fast Company issue focus on disruptive and divergent thinking along with suggestions for enhancing your creative perspective. As with the other lists in this series, these creative ideas were inspired by the profiles in Fast Company. My intent was to pull a single creative thinking idea or creative lesson from each of the 100 profiles.

One interesting note about the Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business list is that the numbered rankings don’t seem to have any real meaning. At least I draw that conclusion from how certain groups of people who have similar characteristics (i.e., apps developers, two-person teams, fashion industry leaders, etc.) are given consecutive numbered rankings. That would be just TOO much of a creative coincidence.

Despite this indication the numbered rankings are so much hooey, each of the thirty-three creative thinking ideas below references the person whose profile inspired it, along with the person’s number on the 100 Most Creative People in Business list.

Here’s hoping these creative ideas get you thinking and provide ideas for enhancing your own creative efforts.

Disruptive and Constraint-Based Thinking

What’s your creative imperative – the one thing that HAS to be part of your creative effort?  - Leslie Berland – SVP, Digital Partnerships and development, American Express (#6)

What in your past is like what you’re doing today? What did you learn that applies to what you’re doing now?  - Steven Zeitels – Director, MA General Hospital’s Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation (#14)

When evaluating data or an idea, challenge what’s being presented from the completely opposite point of view to determine how strong the strategic thinking is.  - Rebecca Van Duck – Head of Consumer Marketing, Facebook (#2)

What are multiple ways you can create more strategic connections than anyone else does?  – Garet Hil – Founder, National Kidney Registry (#9)

Compile and share information to connect separate audiences who don’t have any basis to talk to each other right now.  - Ma Jun, Director – Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (#1)

Take on creative initiatives that allow you to collect massive amounts of data you can mine to direct your own organization or sell to others. For Foursquare, it’s about connecting information on people, places, and time-specific actions.  - Alex Rainert – Head of Product, Foursquare (#77)

How can you substitute easier processes for the hard parts your audience deals with every day?  - Ben Horowitz – Cofounder, Andreesen Horowitz (#8)

For cool ideas and design to be successful, they can’t be embarrassing to wear or use.  - Steve Lee – Product Management Director, Google [X] (#20)

If you’re facing creative detractors, how can you create creative baby steps they’ll find more acceptable for getting started?  - Maelle Gavet – CEO, Ozon Holdings (#10)

Innovate with only things that already exist in your business. Put together new combinations from pre-existing elements.  - Adam Brotman – Chief Digital Officer, Starbucks (#3)

Invite people to exercise their creative talents . . . maybe no one has ever asked them about creativity before?  - Rosario Dawson & Maria Teresa Kumar – Founders, VotoLatino (#12)

Find a compelling motivation (and the associated process) to allow customers to commit to purchases earlier than they might now to make it practical to buy things that would never make it to market on spec.  - Aslaug Magnusdottir – Cofounder, CEO, Moda Operandi (#78)

Apply design and pleasing aesthetic principles to the most necessary, thankless, and joyless tasks humans have to do to raise the creative energy from them.  - Jessica Alba – Cofounder, The Honest Company (#17)

Consider every interaction as a performance and allow the audience to participate, shape the outcome, and leave with the results.  - Björk – Musician (#36)

Creative Thinking Perspectives

Design isn’t a liner process, so incorporating strategic thinking is vital to successfully handling a problem that doesn’t have a nice, neat structure.  - Matthew Schmidt – Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Advanced Military Studies (#22)

Be okay when the first examples of your creative work aren’t what you expected.  - Wes Anderson – Director, Moonrise Kingdom (#28)

Go do the equivalent of whatever “biking around the neighborhood” would be in your market and soak up the inspiration from a different perspective than you have before.  – Marcus Samuelsson – Chef, Owner, Red Rooster (#90)

Throw out how you usually categorize things and come up with a completely different categorization approach.  - Ron Johnson – CEO, JCPenney (#4)

Defy the creative rules of your world while still delivering a cohesive creative whole.  - Kin Ying Lee – Creative Director, Madewell (#31)

Don’t be afraid to call someone’s bluff and create what they say you can’t or shouldn’t do.  - Marvin Ammori – Lawyer, The Ammori Group (#32)

What incredibly worthwhile activities are hiding behind the “scary monsters” in your world?  – Tim Schafer – Founder, Double Fine Productions (#39)

Explicitly pick a time or point in your life and use it as a reference to solve creative or design problems faced now.  - Ken Parks – Chief Content Office, Spotify (#33)

Create so that what you’re creating is “stunning” to at least one of the senses.  - Diébédo Francis Kéré – Architect, Kéré Architecture (#34)

What would an experience look like that is destined to “disturb the universe”?  – Ross Martin – Executive VP, MTV Scratch (#46)

How can you use your creativity to add more serenity to your customers’ lives?  - Leah Busque – Founder, TaskRabbit (#42)

What would you change about your product to make it more inviting to people?  – Deborah Borda – CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic (#44)

How would Sesame Street (or Romper Room, if you’re old enough to remember it) teach new things to people who think they’re too old to learn new things?  – Bruktawit Tigabu – Founder, Director, Whiz Kids Workshop (#45)

Change the natural order that things happen to spark innovative ideas, i.e. What if you focused a picture after it’s taken?  - Ren Ng – Founder, CEO, Lytro (#70)

Get out of the office or conference room and go look around at people, places, and things both relevant and tangential to your creative objective.  – Rick Barrack – Chief Creative Officer, CBX (#79)

Not everyone that makes the “Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business” list has a strong enough profile to yield even one creative inspiration of substance.  – Chris Milk – Director (#83)

What are you doing today to make your product, business, or market wildly controversial? Are you doing enough?  - Rufus Griscom – Cofounder, General Manager, Babble Media (#88)

Think Africa. “There’s something really exciting about the word . . . It evokes an emotion in everyone.”  - Tal Dehtiar – Founder, Oliberte Footwear (#96)

Who would you fire if you fired co-workers or clients that aren’t good for your business?  - Jimmy Smith – Chairman, CEO, Chief Creative Officer, Amusement Park Entertainment (#43)  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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In its June 2012 issue, Fast Company singled out its list of The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012. The list is an intriguing compilation of people and teams applying creativity globally in both expected (entertainment, gaming), and unexpected (kidney donations, insurance) fields.

My take on the Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business List was to read the profiles for each of the creative people in business and capture 100 creative inspirations, ideas, lessons, and tips that stood out among the write-ups. The discipline of imposing the one creative inspiration limit presented an intriguing challenge. On some longer profiles, it wasn’t always easy to pick a single creative idea. On other profiles, however, I was scraping to find a creative idea worth sharing.

In any event, the objective with presenting my list of 100 creative inspirations, idea, lessons, and tips is to provide another layer of content over the Fast Company most creative people list. Although the content here was inspired by the Fast Company list, they represent my distillations and take-aways from the list. Additionally, rather than an apparently arbitrary numerical list (which is reflected in the link to each underlying profile), I’ve categorized the creative ideas into categories:

  • Creative Strategy
  • Disruptive and Constraint-Based Thinking
  • Creative Thinking Perspectives
  • Creative Storytelling
  • Creative Process

Creative Strategy

Surround yourself with people who have contrasting thinking styles . . . then hold on.  Flavio Pripas & Renato Steinberg – Cofounders, Fashion.me (#54)

Success and determining which of your efforts will be successful are for your audience to decide. It’s a numbers game, so launch and see which things will hit.  Julie Klausner – Comedy Writer (#59)

If people aren’t buying you based on your talents, maybe it’s because they don’t how your values and goals fit with their aspirations.  Shara Senderoff – Cofounder, CEO, Intern Sushi (#63)

Start with your life problems and think through how to solve one of them if you want to make better apps (or maybe anything else).  Lee Linden – Cofounder and CEO, Karma (#67)

Really hone what you do strategically by only addressing the most important part of your customer base and quit focusing on everyone else.  Sarah Robb O’Hagan – President, Gatorade (#23)

What opportunities exist for your organization to be a creative magnet to your audiences?  – Marci Harris – Founder, Popvox (#13)

To build connections online, start with asking questions and offering your knowledge to aid others.  Claire Diaz-Ortiz – Manager of Social Innovation, Twitter (#21)

Try presenting an all-or-nothing creative vision and strategy. No room for compromise. Take it or leave it, but don’t tweak it.  Celestine Maddy – Founder, Wilder (#99)

To make your creative pitch, play out the negative things that would happen to the potential client if they don’t follow your recommendation and embrace your creativity.  Laura Mather – Cofounder /  Chief Strategy Officer, Silver Tail Systems (#16)

Even though it’s easier to sponsor another organization’s event, create a sponsorship property specifically for your organization.  Abanti Sankaranarayanan – Deputy Manager Director for India, Diageo (#37)

“I don’t ever want to represent anybody. It’s my duty to enlighten people.”  Neil Degrasse Tyson – Host, PBS’s Cosmos and Radio Show StarTalk (#49)

When volunteers are able to use their natural talents and expertise (as opposed to donating time for something they’re not good at doing), you’re more likely to retain them.  Rachel Chong – Founder, CEO, Catchafire (#56)

Have a review board comprised entirely of your target market – even if that’s a group of grade school kids – to see if what you’re planning resonates with them.  Olajide Williams –  Founder, President, Hip Hop Public Health (#65)

When you’re getting started, be prepared to chase after possibilities and test cases you hadn’t imagined.  -Glenn Rink – Founder, AbTech Industries (#71)

If you had one thousand “followers, friends, and fans that meant something,” that’s better than 10 million unengaged people. (Really? In pure numbers, to get the same amount of participation from 100% of one thousand people, you’d only need 1/100 of 1% participation from 10 million people.) Jared Leto – Entrepreneur, Musician (#72)

Borrow (complete) strong design contexts from outside your industry and apply them to what you do to look different. (Example: Applying Heathrow airport signage to mobile phone interfaces.)  Jeff Fong – Design Lead for Windows Phone, Microsoft (#81)

Unlikely customers will stretch your organization’s creativity in finding new ways to solve their problems.  -Hannah Choi Granade – President, Advantix Systems U.S.A. (#73)

Give your team an assignment from a demanding fictional client to stretch its creativity beyond the marketplace’s expectations and extract your “creative aspirations from (y)our finances.”  – Mike Simonian, Maaike Evers – Designers, Mike and Maaike (#76)

“Seventy percent of an experience should be what consumers know and thirty percent should be surprise and delight.”  Rachel Shechtman – Founder, Story (#80)

What are you doing to make “eye contact” with potential customers virtually? And what are you doing to engage them (with their interests in mind) when they get really close?  Sam Mogannam – Owner, Bi-Rite Market (#86)

Find ways for your best customers to share their expertise and hacks with your new customers.  – Cindy Au – Community Director, Kickstarter (#82)

Head directly to where your audience is. Do not wait around at your online site. Share your content where they are and get something started.  Vivi Zigler – President, Digital Entertainment, NBC Universal (#89)

Manufacture greater scarcity in the experience you create over time to push more robust intensity, deeper interaction, and the possibility of greater participant leadership in shaping the experience.  Jerri Chou – Founder, The Feast Social Innovation Conference (#94)

What would your design process look like if the client specified every detail they wanted? Do you think that’s a level of involvement your clients are really seeking?  Edwin Neo – Founding Partner, Ed Et Al Shoemakers (#98)

Celebrate customers using your product in incredible ways. Make them the creative heroes of your brand.  -Sally Grimes – Global Vice President, Sharpie (#100)

Whether in traditional or new media, people spend time with and pass-on content they expect friends will enjoy.  Ben Smith – Editor, Buzzfeed (#29)

Great advice from Magic Johnson: “It’s okay to be famous and be well liked, but you got to start owning things.”  Shaq – C’mon. It’s Shaq. He doesn’t need a title. (#74)

When trying to signal your commitment to the market, there’s no short cut to the time advantage of starting now and sticking with it.  Lourenço Bustani – Founder, Brazil CEO, Mandalah (#48)

Celebrity still counts for something so find a way to borrow the authority of celebrities to gain attention and action.  Yael Cohen, Founder – F*ck Cancer (#38)

Look and create five years ahead. What creative inputs will be important then?  Carla Schmitzberger – President, Havalanas (#97)

Look for games as the high impact form of artistic expression for decades to come.  Chelsea Howe – Director of Design, SuperBetter Labs (#41)

Disruptive and Constraint-Based Thinking

What’s your creative imperative – the one thing that HAS to be part of your creative effort?  Leslie Berland – SVP, Digital Partnerships and development, American Express (#6)

What in your past is like what you’re doing today? What did you learn that applies to what you’re doing now?  Steven Zeitels – Director, MA General Hospital’s Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation (#14)

When evaluating data or an idea, challenge what’s being presented from the completely opposite point of view to determine how strong the strategic thinking is.  Rebecca Van Duck – Head of Consumer Marketing, Facebook (#2)

What are multiple ways you can create more strategic connections than anyone else does?  – Garet Hil – Founder, National Kidney Registry (#9)

Compile and share information to connect separate audiences who don’t have any basis to talk to each other right now.  Ma Jun, Director – Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (#1)

Take on creative initiatives that allow you to collect massive amounts of data you can mine to direct your own organization or sell to others. For Foursquare, it’s about connecting information on people, places, and time-specific actions.  Alex Rainert – Head of Product, Foursquare (#77)

How can you substitute easier processes for the hard parts your audience deals with every day?  Ben Horowitz – Cofounder, Andreesen Horowitz (#8)

For cool ideas and design to be successful, they can’t be embarrassing to wear or use.  Steve Lee – Product Management Director, Google [X] (#20)

If you’re facing creative detractors, how can you create creative baby steps they’ll find more acceptable for getting started?  Maelle Gavet – CEO, Ozon Holdings (#10)

Innovate with only things that already exist in your business. Put together new combinations from pre-existing elements.  Adam Brotman – Chief Digital Officer, Starbucks (#3)

Invite people to exercise their creative talents . . . maybe no one has ever asked them about creativity before?  Rosario Dawson & Maria Teresa Kumar – Founders, VotoLatino (#12)

Find a compelling motivation (and the associated process) to allow customers to commit to purchases earlier than they might now to make it practical to buy things that would never make it to market on spec.  -Aslaug Magnusdottir – Cofounder, CEO, Moda Operandi (#78)

Apply design and pleasing aesthetic principles to the most necessary, thankless, and joyless tasks humans have to do to raise the creative energy from them.  Jessica Alba – Cofounder, The Honest Company (#17)

Consider every interaction as a performance and allow the audience to participate, shape the outcome, and leave with the results.  Björk – Musician (#36)

Creative Thinking Perspectives

Design isn’t a liner process, so incorporatingstrategic thinking is vital to successfully handling a problem that doesn’t have a nice, neat structure.  -Matthew Schmidt – Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Advanced Military Studies (#22)

Be okay when the first examples of your creative work aren’t what you expected.  Wes Anderson – Director, Moonrise Kingdom (#28)

Go do the equivalent of whatever “biking around the neighborhood” would be in your market and soak up the inspiration from a different perspective than you have before.  – Marcus Samuelsson – Chef, Owner, Red Rooster (#90)

Throw out how you usually categorize things and come up with a completely different categorization approach.  Ron Johnson – CEO, JCPenney (#4)

Defy the creative rules of your world while still delivering a cohesive creative whole.  Kin Ying Lee – Creative Director, Madewell (#31)

Don’t be afraid to call someone’s bluff and create what they say you can’t or shouldn’t do.  Marvin Ammori – Lawyer, The Ammori Group (#32)

What incredibly worthwhile activities are hiding behind the “scary monsters” in your world?  – Tim Schafer – Founder, Double Fine Productions (#39)

Explicitly pick a time or point in your life and use it as a reference to solve creative or design problems faced now.  Ken Parks – Chief Content Office, Spotify (#33)

Create so that what you’re creating is “stunning” to at least one of the senses.  Diébédo Francis Kéré – Architect, Kéré Architecture (#34)

What would an experience look like that is destined to “disturb the universe”?  – Ross Martin – Executive VP, MTV Scratch (#46)

How can you use your creativity to add more serenity to your customers’ lives?  Leah Busque – Founder, TaskRabbit (#42)

What would you change about your product to make it more inviting to people?  – Deborah Borda – CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic (#44)

How would Sesame Street (or Romper Room, if you’re old enough to remember it) teach new things to people who think they’re too old to learn new things?  – Bruktawit Tigabu – Founder, Director, Whiz Kids Workshop (#45)

Change the natural order that things happen to spark innovative ideas, i.e. What if you focused a picture after it’s taken?  Ren Ng – Founder, CEO, Lytro (#70)

Get out of the office or conference room and go look around at people, places, and things both relevant and tangential to your creative objective.  – Rick Barrack – Chief Creative Officer, CBX (#79)

Not everyone that makes the “Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business” list has a strong enough profile to yield even one creative inspiration of substance.  – Chris Milk – Director (#83)

What are you doing today to make your product, business, or market wildly controversial? Are you doing enough?  Rufus Griscom – Cofounder, General Manager, Babble Media (#88)

Think Africa. “There’s something really exciting about the word . . . It evokes an emotion in everyone.”  Tal Dehtiar – Founder, Oliberte Footwear (#96)

Who would you fire if you fired co-workers or clients that aren’t good for your business?  Jimmy Smith – Chairman, CEO, Chief Creative Officer, Amusement Park Entertainment (#43) 

 

Creative Storytelling

What’s your story? Write your story. Then share it. Over and over.  Bradford Shellhammer – Cofounder, Chief Creative Officer, Fab.com (#50)

Make stories. Tie together important touch points and create stories from them.  – Steve Porter – Viral Video Producer (#60)

When you develop your own material you can create it in the way you want, with the people you admire, and end up with creative output that works for you.  Aziz Ansari – Comedian, Actor, “Parks and Rec” (#87)

Curation isn’t exclusively selection. It’s about playing out a perspective that connects to the audience.  -Maria Popova – Editor, Brainpickings.org (#51)

In conveying information (whether infographics or not), start with analysis, followed by determining the size and breadth of the insights, and finish with making it accessible.  Eddie Opara – Partner, Pentagram (#52)

Introduce new content to your audience every day wrapped in great creative storytelling with strong characters, plot twists, surprising resolutions and a hint at what happens next.  Andrew Wilson – Executive Vice President, EA Sports (#40)

In what ways does every piece of new content you create build on your amazing story?  – Jeremy Heimans – Founder, Purpose (#11)

Dress the creative part. It’s your obligation to wear jeans if it allows others to see you in the proper light.  -Cyrus Massoumi – Cofounder, ZocDoc (#57)

Creative Process Tips

It’s harder to sustain your creativity than it is to work to get your creative break. Focus on only doing what counts to make or keep your creative break. Don’t let yourself become distracted.  Ceelo Green – Entertainer (#5)

You can’t sit still and expect ideas will just pop out of your head. Go do something!  Elvis Chau – Executive Creative Director, JWT Shanghai (#84)

How much nonsense stuff are you doing? Is it good nonsense (that spurs creativity) or bad nonsense (it saps creativity)?  Andrew Yang – Founder, Venture for America (#27)

If you’re the creative force in your organization can you afford to personally “touch” everything your organization produces? Can you afford not to?  -Pamela Love – Founder, Pamela Lover N.Y.C. (#93)

Make every square inch of your work space creative and fill it with people who have both the creative and technical talents to create through your entire process.  Tony Haile – CEO, Chartbeat (#64)

Hold a weekly “Inspiration Friday,” event to share anything that’s been a creative inspiration in the past 7 days.  Neil Blumenthal – Confounder, Warby Parker (#92)

Try a “walking meeting” to talk and walk and solve.  Andrew Hsu – Founder, Airy Labs (#68)

Spit out as many ideas as fast as you can to get them out and captured. Then think about the connections and context among them.  Greg Gunn – Entrepreneur in Residence, City Light Central (#85)

Take an experimental view and put together unconnected things to find the strategic connections.  -Masashi Kawamura – Cofounder, Creative Director, Party (#47)

When you’re in a partnership, one person’s passion for an idea or approach trumps the other’s reticence.  Anand Rajaraman & Venky Harinarayan – Coheads, Walmart Labs (#53)

When you’re creating a fantasy world, there still should be a solid internal logic to it.  – Thomas Tull – Founder, Chairman, CEO, Legendary Entertainment (#55)

Share a starting idea or piece of creative work with the crowd, and let the crowd edit, change, or rank it to create the final version.  Roy Price – Director, Amazon Studios (#15)

Invest more time in the visualization of whatever you do or create.  – Miriah Meyer- Computer Scientist, University of Utah (#24)

Every creative effort has to incorporate time to consider its aesthetics.  Janet Iwasa – Molecular Animator, Harvard University (#25)

If you have different strategic efforts focused on the same creative goal that are difficult to compare, come up with a new success metric that works for both.  Stefan Olander – VP, Digital Sport, Nike (#7)

If you’re addressing multiple audiences and can’t play creative favorites among them, create a prototypical audience member who is both everyone and no one at the same time.  Kibwe Tavares – Cofounder, Factor Fifteen (#91)

Turn teaching into an experience of a class creating something together.  Michael Karnjanaprakorn – Founder, Skillshare (#18)

When education is the goal, contact and interaction is a fundamental aspect of the process.  – Anka Mulder – President, OpenCourseWare Consortium (#19)

If you don’t want to seem abrupt to your audience, signal what you’re planning to do before you do it.  -Leila Takayama – Research Scientist, Willow Garage (#30)

When signaling change, physically destroy a representation of the attitudes that are getting in the way (i.e., put negative culture characteristics on beer bottles and smash them).  – Jeff Charney – CMO, Progressive Insurance (#35)

Audiences are more accepting of new content being delivered without as much polish, allowing you more room for trial, error, and learning.  T.J. Miller – Actor, Comedian (#58)

Personal relevancy and engagement drive not only why people open things online, but also why people want to interact with anything.  Ron J. Williams – CEO, Cofounder, Knodes (#62)

Invest more of your creative time and energy on creating incredible transitions in your work.  Danny Trinh – Designer, Path (#66)

Maybe literacy in the Arab world is bad because of bad typefaces. Great reminder to keep asking, “Why else could this be happening?” until you get to very surprising answers.  Nadine Chahine – Type Designer, Linotype and Monotype Imaging (#69)

When thinking about creative executions for mobile applications, strip things down to their simplest, tiniest forms.  Ethan Marcotte – Freelance Web Designed (#75)

When someone’s pushed to the breaking point in a process you discover what they REALLY believe vs. what they’re doing simply it seems like the right thing to do.  Carrie Brownstein – Writer, Actor, Portlandia (#95)

If there’s a problem with even one part of your creative output, there’s a problem with all of your creative output.  Robin Guenther – Principal, Perkins + Will (#61)

When there’s a problem, look at the things that are still working and rewind them until everything seems to function in an expected way. Then restart.  Nina Tandon – Research Scientist, Columbia University (#26)   Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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