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Taking The No Out Of InNOvation by Mike Brown


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All too often, in the midst of trying to create change, we hear:
- "NO breaking the rules!"
- "There's NO resources to do that!"
- "NO that won't work!"

This ebook from Mike Brown, author of the innovation and strategy blog Brainzooming (, unlocks 8 perspectives necessary to take away the “NO's” that stand in the way of InNOvation.

It addresses eight approaches, helping you to exploit the creativity you already possess, open up to a more creative perspective on life, and get started benefiting from creativity tools you can use right away.

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Published in: Education, Technology

Taking The No Out Of InNOvation by Mike Brown

  1. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 17 Taking the Out of InNOvation by Mike Brown a Brainzooming book
  2. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation Taking the NO Out of InNOvation By Mike Brown © 2008, Mike Brown Thank You Chuck Dymer for sharing the possibilities of innovation Greg Reid for introducing the impact of visionary thinking Jan Sokoloff Harness for instigating creativity daily Cyndi, my wife, for reintroducing me to the greatest creative force around
  3. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 1 We’re told “NO” so many times in life – don’t break the rules, don’t make mistakes, don’t express your opinion, don’t do things you’re not good at, don’t violate norms. While some NO’s are valid and well- intentioned, they can create a cumulative resistance to experimenting, pushing boundaries, and openness to learning from mistakes. That’s a problem when trying to be more innovative because innovation springs from experiments, going outside traditional boundaries, and often discovering what works by finding out what doesn’t. For those susceptible to being limited by this type of thinking, becoming more innovative depends on developing perspectives to enhance your innovativeness. Thankfully, these perspectives can be developed by using specific innovation techniques.
  4. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 2 “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” touches on eight perspectives and approaches to enhance innovativeness in you and your team through being: Introspective – understanding your creative strengths Diverse – building a creative team with complementary strengths Forgetful – refreshing your perspective A Borrower – putting a twist on existing ideas Open to Possibilities – finding new ways to look at business and life situations Inquisitive – collecting and using great questions to see situations in new ways A Creator – prioritizing possibilities and getting started bringing them to fruition Persistent – tenaciously pursuing possibilities
  5. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 3 Introspective A first step in enhancing innovation is understanding where you’re most and least creative. Talents of greatest interest and passion present the strongest opportunities for creativity. Identify your “distinctive talents” – those talents closely associated with you where you continually improve, you use them to benefit others, and there’s an electricity when you engage in them that attracts people. Use these questions to help identify your distinctive talents: • What things motivate me to get up every morning? • How am I of greatest service to others? • What functions, talents, & skills do I use (or have used) that provide the most fulfillment in my job, family relationships / duties, spiritual life, and personal interests / hobbies? • How would I spend my time and attention if I didn’t have to work? Look for opportunities to broadly apply distinctive talents in business and personal situations to increase your sense of innovation. Areas that don’t enliven you, and in fact drain energy from you, are ones in which it is more difficult to be creative. If you are looking for innovation in these areas, you’ll need other ways to address them. That’s where diversity comes into play. Hidden Talents Are there any of your distinctive talents that are hidden ones? If so, figure out how you could better benefit others by sharing these talents more frequently.
  6. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 4 Diverse There’s no single creative talent sufficient in and of itself to spur innovation; creativity is expressed in so many different dimensions. To bring your innovative perspective to life, complement your own talents with a great creative team that contributes various talents and points of view. Check to ensure you have a full range of creative personalities among your informal creative team’s members. It’s beneficial to have at least one person on your team displaying each of these characteristics: If there’s a talent missing, identify a new person for your creative team that expresses their innovative approach in that manner. And if you don’t have a creative team that you can reach out to, start building it! Just remember – first share your talents with your team before tapping into theirs. You’ll truly love the impact that this creative exchange will have on your ability to innovate! • Diverse • Quirky • Playful • Spontaneous • Curious • Pop-Cultured • Artistic • Funny • Inventive / Mechanical • Stylish • Adventurous • Well-Read Employ both left (analytical, quantitative) and right (creative, intuitive) brain thinking approaches within your creative team to get “whole brain” thinking.
  7. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 5 Forgetful While experience and conventional wisdom provide attractive guiding principles to help speed decision making, they also sit between you and potentially wonderful new insights. To be more innovative, you need to be able to selectively turn off conventional wisdom and functional knowledge to allow new, unconventional possibilities to emerge. How do you do that? Here’s some help. When you need an innovative approach to a common situation, use a few brainstorming guidelines and a 3-step approach to generate 100 new ideas. First – the guidelines: • Keep it fast, furious, and short – don’t spend hours looking at a situation from one perspective. Break the time into 20 minute segments, looking at a challenge from several angles. • Say what comes to mind – don’t self-censor or censor others when it comes to new possibilities. Encourage wild ideas. Emphasize quantity over quality. Rule out critical evaluation at this stage. • Say ideas aloud. Write them all down on sticky notes so you can work with them later. Conventional Wisdom is a little like the wrapping paper on a present. It is functional and may even be very attractive itself. But it stands between you and whatever cool new thing you’re being given. To get to the great new surprise inside, you have to first tear off the paper!
  8. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 6 Forgetful Now the three exercises where you can apply the guidelines: Exercise 1 – Explore Connections: Ask, “What’s this situation like?” Generalize your situation, select an analogous one to it, and then apply attributes, lessons, and possibilities from the analogous situation to your project. Set a goal of 35 possibilities. Exercise 2 – Look Randomly: Select random words, phrases, and images from a magazine and ask, “What does this word, phrase, or image suggest about possibilities for my situation?” Answer the question at least 35 times. Stuck for a good magazine to use? Try “Real Simple” or any other big, picture-rich magazine outside your field of expertise. Exercise 3 – Rewind & Pair-up: Go back through your 70 new possibilities and start pairing them up to generate at least 30 more of them. Pick: With your 100 new possibilities there could be up to 20 new ideas that you can select and innovatively apply to your situation. Beyond generating ideas on your own, look at other sources from which to borrow and improve upon ideas. 100 New Possibilities? + + yields 100 New Possibilities and Up to 20 Potential Ideas to Pursue!
  9. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 7 A Borrower In Hamlet, William Shakespeare wrote, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Sorry to break the news here, but he was wrong. That's not good advice for being more innovative! When it comes to innovation, it’s valuable to both borrow inspiration from others (making sure that you modify and improve it) and to share your ideas with others to see if they can enhance them in ways that you couldn’t. Here are four great ways to improve your borrowing skills: 1. Read material outside your industry and expertise to gain a fresh, new perspective. 2. Look for common things in other industries that are foreign to your market. How can they be tweaked and adapted for your business? 3. Go to a museum and look for ideas you can adapt to business. (If you work in a museum, go to an innovative business for ideas!) 4. Have someone completely unfamiliar with your situation observe it. Ask, “What works? What doesn’t work? What is surprising to you about this situation? What would you recommend in this situation?” Get out there and start borrowing and lending your way to more great innovations. And don’t rule out possibilities that might at first appear unusual – they could be the best answers available!
  10. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 8 Open to Possibilities It’s vital to become comfortable with considering more possibilities than you could ever implement. That includes embracing what you can learn from even apparently unworkable ideas. These are building blocks to innovation – an impossible idea could be just the trigger to envisioning a very possible reality. Actively cultivate your possibilities-generating skills in these three ways: • Use proven techniques and tools to bolster your innovation skills. Google innovation creativity techniques brainstorming tools to look for and test multiple techniques to stretch your thinking. • Things you think can’t be changed didn’t exist at some point in time. Ask: What was that time like? If you were put back at that time, how might you solve your challenge differently? • Let someone completely unusual solve your problem - maybe a famous person, a cartoon character, or another business. How? Pick a character. List 10 ways that they solve problems or similar situations to yours. Then for each of the approaches, apply them to your challenge, generating at least 3 new ideas for each one. Here’s another Google search to do – Edward de Bono. He’s the father of lateral thinking and searching on his name is a great starting point to check out thinking, techniques, and books designed to dramatically expand the questions you ask and possibilities you can imagine. What if pigs COULD fly?
  11. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 9 Inquisitive Asking great questions helps eliminate many “No’s” preventing innovation. Thought provoking questions allow people to see things in new ways. Here are several to generate fresh looks at familiar situations. • Ask questions that place situations in more extreme contexts, i.e. “How could we make this as . . . Dramatic as a Broadway opening? Cool as the design of Apple products? Exciting as an overtime game? Simple as a baby’s rattle? Fun as a blockbuster comedy movie? This question structure can be adapted, using descriptors suited to your situation. • Use these questions to think innovatively about future threats: What benefits does our company deliver? If we didn’t deliver them, who else currently would / could deliver them? What if our company or industry never existed – how would users satisfy their needs? Who are the niche players in our markets today that could grow in prominence? How might they be defining our business for us right now? These are just a few examples of innovation-prompting questions. Test these and others that yield lots of possibilities for you to create. A key to solid strategic thinking is identifying “what matters” & addressing the answers with insight & innovation. Here are questions to help identify what matters: • What does our brand stand for? • What do we most want to accomplish? • How do we describe our best customers? • What’s the biggest unknown in our business?
  12. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 10 A Creator Something needs to result from innovation or it’s simply an interesting mental exercise – which is fine, but it makes it difficult to pay the bills if it doesn’t lead to results! If you’ve generated a large number and broad range of possibilities, it’s likely that up to 20% of them have real near-term potential. As a result, it’s important to systematically prioritize and narrow the list to those with the strongest potential. Here’s one way to do it – Have each person on your team select ideas that they feel strongly about pursuing. Use the formula below to approximate how many ideas each person can choose for prioritization: Approximate Number of Ideas in Total (5 * Number of Team Members Participating in Prioritization) Then use a 4-box grid to allow individuals to place their ideas relative to two dimensions: Potential Impact – From Minimal to Dramatic Implementation Ease – From Easy to Difficult
  13. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 11 A Creator Typically, this initial idea placement yields too many ideas judged to have dramatic impact while being easy to implement. If true, these ideas are very attractive! But often ideas will have less impact or may be more difficult to implement than originally suspected. This is a great opportunity to have group discussion on the initial placement of possibilities. Be willing to move an idea if it’s clearly viewed by the group as stronger or weaker than its original placement. The result of this exercise should be a much more refined set of ideas, with a good deal of input for selecting a few to further develop. From there, it’s important to get going and create an artifact soon! This allows you to see how an idea might function when developed. Ideally, you need to be persistent and learn quickly what might and what might not work as you create real change from your ideas. Before Discussion After Discussion
  14. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 12 Persistent Innovation is a numbers game. You’ve have to be resilient in generating lots of possibilities, narrowing the list, and learning from every one of them. An important aspect of that persistence is being able to embody the characteristics of “Brainzooming.” What’s Brainzooming? Beyond just supporting innovation, Brainzooming implies quickly helping a group innovatively address important issues by: • Being an energy source – using enthusiasm to spark excitement. • Providing approbation – reinforcing people for sharing ideas, creating a verbal reward that engenders more ideas. • Drawing out non-participants suffering from self- or group censorship – going out of the way to solicit input from reluctant group participants. • Making connections – listening to what people suggest and tying together things the group might miss in the throes of ideating. Through Brainzooming and being a cheerleader for creativity and change, you can ensure that both you and your team are at your innovative best!
  15. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 13 More Places to Explore There are lots of great sources on each of the topics in “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” Here are starting points for further reading on each of them: Introspective – “Radical Careering – 100 Truths to Jumpstart Your Job, Your Career, and Your Life” by Sally Hogshead, Gotham Books, ISBN: 1- 592-40150-3. Diverse – “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, Pocket, ISBN: 978-0671723651. Forgetful – “?What If!: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work” by Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin, and Daz Rudkin, Capstone Publishing Limited, ISBN: 1-84112-068-5 ( A Borrower – “The Marketer's Visual Toolkit” by Terry Richey, AMACOM, ASIN: 0814402135 Open to Possibilities – “The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Harvard Business School Press, ISBN: 0-87584-770-6.
  16. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 14 More Places to Explore Inquisitive – “75 Cage Rattling Questions” by Dick Whitney & Melissa Giovagnoli, McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 0070700192 A Creator – “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Random House, ISBN-10: 1400064287. Persistent – “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman, Doubleday, ISBN: 0-385-49984-1. ( And of course, visit – your one stop for checking out my BrainZooming blog with daily articles on strategy and innovation and the Creative Instigation blog from Jan Harness, my creative instigation partner, that features daily insights on creativity in all its forms. Embracing the attitudes and the associated approaches described in this e-book will help you to eliminate, walk around, or blow up all the NO’s that stand in the way of a more innovative approach in business and in your personal life. Have a blast innovating!
  17. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation 15 Mike Brown Mike Brown is a frequent keynote presenter and facilitator in the areas of marketing best practices, innovation, and strategic thinking. He shares his extensive experience in these fields through daily strategy and innovation articles on his website, Additionally, he’s co-authoring and illustrating an upcoming book titled “Creative Instigation” about spurring creativity in yourself and your team. Mike is Vice President – Market Strategy for a Fortune 500 transportation & logistics company based in the Kansas City area where he leads the research, business intelligence, marketing communications, and e-commerce efforts. His personal branding approach has been highlighted in Fast Company magazine and his material has been featured in publications for the Transportation Marketing & Communications Association, Frost & Sullivan, and the Business Marketing Association. Contact Mike –
  18. Taking the NO Out of InNOvation A Creativity Prayer • Lord, Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours. Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others. Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen. © 2008, Mike Brown