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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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A comment on Jan Harness’ Creative Instigation blog struck me as interesting: “Creativity is the art of forgetting your sources.” In the age of the remix culture, that’s very true, and I’ve been accused of it in presentations. While I try to credit sources of inspiration, you don’t often get to explain why something inspired you.

Saturday, I did “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”for a great conference audience. Since that presentation is all about creativity, I thought I’d try to RECOGNIZE some of the inspirations behind that material over the next two posts. Here’s part 1 – check these out and see if they can help remove some NOs from your InNOvation efforts.

    • Max Utsler – In 2004, Max asked me to talk to his Kansas University class about innovation in marketing communications. That was the start – no Max, no presentation.

 

 

 

  • Chuck Dymer – I met Chuck in the mid 1990’s, and he’s been an incredible strategic & innovation mentor to me ever since. He’s a Master Trainer of Edward de Bono (the father of lateral thinking) methods who continually opens my eyes to new ways to think creatively. You name it – trait transformation, themed exercises, using toys, prioritization grids, plus-minus-interesting…I learned it all from Chuck!

 

 

  • James Lipton – As a collector of great questions, I love James Lipton’s segment on Inside The Actor’s Studio where he asks his guests the same questions about themselves eac show. His references to Bernard Pivot using the questions on French TV prompted some background research. There’s an interesting little history to the questionnaire that highlights that great questions always have a place.
  • Greenhousing – Chuck Dymer gave me a book from ?What If!, a UK-based innovation company. In it, they address greenhousing ideas, i.e. creating an environment that allows new ideas to grow & develop when they are at their most vulnerable. It’s includes questions to ask about new ideas that are certainly more productive than what I had typically been asking, “Why the *#!% do you want to do that?” Hey, we can all change!
  • Diet Dr. Pepper – My mom drank Dr. Pepper when I was growing up, setting the stage for me loving Dr. Pepper (now Diet Dr. Pepper). We never knew why, but when I was little, Dr. Pepper bottles were always sticky on the outside. Years later, the economist at work told me that he had previously worked at a Dr. Pepper bottling plant. Their method to control the volume in the bottles was to tap those on the bottling line that had too much liquid so that they would foam over. Mystery Solved! In any event, Diet Dr. Pepper has become my creative catalyst drink of choice.

 

 

  • “Get Out of the Mental Doldrums NOW!” Card – My Uncle Jerry was the most incredible Monopoly savant that I’ve ever played against. He had the distances memorized between properties, knew all the rents for each number of houses, and frequently bankrupted his competitors within 30 minutes. Suffice it to say, at that rate, we played a lot of Monopoly games over the course of an afternoon. This fueled my love for the game, and when trying to come up with a leave behind for the InNOvation presentation, the Get out of Jail Free card came right to mind.

 

In part 2, you’ll learn more about the creative inspirations behind “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.”

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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