Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 186 – page 186
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My wife and I see the need for home repairs very differently. She’s more attuned to subtle defects, noticing many I don’t. It’s not surprising. She spends more time at home and views things more closely. We also look from different perspectives – different chairs, bathrooms, even heights, since I’m taller. Yet with my more distant perspective, I notice certain items needing attention that she doesn’t. It usually occurs when I’m doing an unfamiliar activity – putting things away, cleaning, yard work, etc.

This same phenomenon happens in business even with things such as opportunities, challenges, and processes. You look at something very closely, maybe because you have responsibility for it. Since you spend so much time with it, you may view it from several perspectives, but all of them VERY close. Still you’re likely missing things that are obvious to others who see what you see from a different vantage point.

The key is to be able to actively look at a situation from blatantly different viewpoints. So if I may, here are a few great suggestions for changing how you “look”:

Move Further Away

  • Have someone completely unfamiliar with the situation observe it, and ask them, “What are your impressions of what took place?”
  • Change your seat – physically or virtually – and take a few steps back from where you usually “sit” while viewing a situation. What do you see differently?

Look Closer

  • Look at only one aspect of a process – repeat “how” and “why” questions (i.e., How is this working? Why does this happen?) until you’ve explored many possibilities for new insights.

Look from a Different Height

  • Spend a day on the front lines with sales, manufacturing, or customer service – what do they see about the process or opportunity that you don’t?
  • Spend time directly with a customer as they interact with your business – how does it look to them?
  • Shadow a senior executive (maybe a mentor) – what regularly makes its way to their level?

Look from a Different Perspective

  • Have someone else carry out the process – what’s different?

Several of these techniques helped diagnose what wasn’t working with a new planning process recently. By having new participants review it, sitting in different seats to observe interaction, and using different facilitators to lead the process, we’ve cut the initial time for the process by 50% and created more-tailored exercises. And we got these results by simply changing how we look – without plastic surgery or having to address the worst Valentine’s Day “look” question of all, “Does this make me look heavy?”

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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Notice something about the ritual of pulling petals from a flower and saying, “she loves me, she loves me not?” There are only two choices – yes or no, one or the other. Makes decision making pretty simple. You can force this technique on yourself when you’ve got lots of things to prioritize and are struggling in your decision making.

Say you’re writing a Poweroint presentation for your senior management and have 15 points you feel you have to make. But you know that there’s no way you’ll get to cover more than 3 of them. Here’s how you can use a forced comparison model to help in your decision making about narrowing the list:

  • Write all 15 key messages on individual sticky notes and place them on a wall or desk.
  • Select two messages and compare them, asking, “If I could only make one of these points, which one is more important?” Place the one you pick at the top of the wall or desk, with the other below it.
  • Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is more important, it goes on top, and the others move down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

When you’re done using this simple decision making model, you should have a fairly quick prioritization, getting you out of the decision making trap that everything is equally important. The technique works well either individually or with a group that’s trying to do decision making in a whole variety of situations. So try it, or try it not…try it! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can provide as-needed assistance to challenge and refine your strategic thinking 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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Visiting Disney World in the mid 1990’s, a rule was communicated several times while waiting in long, unwieldy lines for rides: Move up and fill all available space. That was much more easily done for an adult couple (such as my wife and me) than for a large group. Following this guidance created a great benefit as we shaved at least an hour or two off our wait times over the course of several days (and created only one small incident with a father at It’s a Small World).

It strikes me that the same opportunity is true in business – smaller, more nimble players should be better able to identify market gaps and move into them than their bigger competitors.

I was in Orlando recently, but didn’t get a chance to go the parks. Nevertheless, this photo taken at an Orlando Airport Burger King rekindled the lesson and prompts a question – how many artificial “lines” do we wait in all the time without seeing or sensing the opportunity to step to the right or left and move up?

So next time you or your business feel stymied and tired of looking at the back of heads, ask yourself, “How can I move up and fill all available space?” You’ll be surprised at how often the only thing keeping you waiting in line is 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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Today is Ash Wednesday; this marks the beginning of Lent, a time for, among other things, more intense prayer. In light of that, rather than the typical Wednesday feature on Changing Your Character, here’s a link to a creativity prayer.

Invest a few moments today to ask for a potentially new source of help for you to use your creativity to enliven and inspire others.

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 the movie “Groundhog Day,” an alarm clock starred in several scenes. Since it’s that time of the year, let’s take 90 seconds to extol the virtues of a well-used kitchen timer.

We use a digital kitchen timer extensively in planning sessions, setting time constraints for our exercises. While people may grumble at first, they usually come to appreciate the efficiencies a timer creates. What are the advantages to time constraining strategy generation or ideation? Using a kitchen timer:

  • Shows people that you value their time – setting a time limit helps you get what you want done promptly, thus avoiding running late or coming up short relative to your session objectives.
  • Creates a sense of urgency – a time constraint and an aggressive goal on the number of ideas identified creates healthy pressure to generate, and not debate, new ideas.
  • Sets up the opportunity to look at a situation in multiple ways – it’s much more productive to divide 28 minutes into four different 7-minute exercises than a single effort. Doing so allows you to vary the perspectives from which you’re addressing your challenge, yielding a stronger set of possibilities.
  • Forces decisions during an evaluation phase – even if you’re discussing ideas to be prioritized, timing the activity precludes endless, unproductive debate that won’t materially change the group’s outcomes.

So here’s to the basic, digital kitchen timer coming out from the shadows to gain its rightful place as a strategic planning tool. I’ve got mine babe!*

* Click here for our recommended timer – the Taylor 5806

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 conference I presented at this weekend, we worked on the “Change Your Character” exercise for a customer service example. One suggestion was that an internal customer service rep is similar to a babysitter in that they both have to manage bosses (parents) and front line employees (kids).

Sounds close, so if your challenge is helping customer service providers improve their effectiveness, work through how a babysitter handles a new situation:

  • Shows she really likes kids & can get along with them
  • Demonstrates a professional attitude
  • Makes sure she has clear instructions from the parents
  • Establishes her role right away with the kids
  • Focuses on the kids
  • Has strong listening skills
  • Knows positive ways to help kids follow rules
  • Displays maturity in handling difficult situations
  • Acts with firmness, but understanding
  • Ensures that kids are fed and comfortable
  • Can be flexible when necessary

As always, try to generate 3 new ideas for your situation from each of the babysitter’s behaviors. And remember, my mother lets me stay up to watch Craig Ferguson all the time. She really does!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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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This is part 2 of highlighting some of the creative inspirations behind my presentation on “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” As the first reference below suggests, improving your creativity is linked to your ability to change, adapt, and customize various inspirations to address your opportunities.

  • The Remix Planet – My wife Cyndi wanted to go to Wired Magazine’s NextFest in Chicago in 2005. The admission included a free one-year subscription; one of the first issues featured the “Remix Planet.” This provided a nice way to talk about borrowing & morphing ideas for your own use!
  • Steve Farber – Steve is a great speaker that we’ve had for several executive management programs. He talked about reading magazines on the cutting edge (i.e. gaming, technology) to spot emerging trends headed for the general culture. We morphed the idea into taking any graphics-intensive magazine outside your field of expertise and looking through it page-by-page with a marker, writing down new ideas to address your challenges.
  • IDEO –A well-known design & innovation firm. One of the companies I work with did some brief exploration with IDEO. One of their approaches is prototyping – quickly doing something with an idea to make it more tangible and to be able to experience it. That’s been helpful in moving us beyond simply generating a bunch of ideas for a marketing manager and instead prioritizing them quickly and taking the first few steps with them.
  • “Made to Stick” – I’ve written about “Made to Stick” previously. Its six principles for making ideas take hold and flourish can benefit anyone trying to create change and implement new approaches.
  • Benjamin Zander – I’ve also written about Benjamin Zander earlier. Specific to “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation,” his discussion about simply replying “How Fascinating” to things that go wrong in life had a major impact. My natural personality is to become frustrated and complain when things don’t work. Zander’s challenge to identify what you’re learning from a bad situation has helped me to be calmer when things are frustrating and to genuinely look for the lessons God is trying to teach me when nothing seems to be going right. Click here for a blog post from PresentationZen with a quick overview of Zander’s key messages.
  • Serving Others & Helping to Make Them Successful – I’m an ardent believer in servant leadership. While the Bible is certainly the chief inspiration for that approach to life, the idea of improving your successfulness by figuring out how to make other people successful comes from Ziz Ziglar, an incredible speaker.

Which leads to a big thank you to Jessica Myers, a senior media relations specialist at Garmin, for the inspiration to start a blog. I saw her present at an IABC Communications Summit in October 2007 on how easy it is to get a blog started. I thought I’d check it out, and was launched into the blogosphere.

That’s how a presentation comes together, with a tremendous number of great inputs & ideas that get molded (ideally) into a cohesive message. Enjoy checking out the links as potential departure points for your own new inspirations. And realize – it’s actually more creative to REMEMBER your sources. That way you can go back and borrow from them again and again!

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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