Creative Thinking

How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 4)

In this brief series on how to manage a "not my job" attitude, we've discovered that business leaders use this concept in four very practical ways in order to be sustainably successful.  (Check out the first three methods:  Think Like A CEO,  Inventory Workload & Priorities,  Dominate & Delegate.)  

The fourth method is the one practice that truly separates this leaders from all the rest.

Do What Others Are Not Willing To Do.  

I'm not referring to the tasks, duties that you've delegated.  I'm talking about a forward thinking, proactive behavior that focuses your attention on finding the extra things that create added value to your employees, customers and the company.  These are the things that are not in your job description, but will make a difference for those you serve.  When you have freed up your time by letting go of the things that you shouldn’t do, you will have discretionary time to focus on creation instead of reaction.

My friend, Stephen Shapiro is on a mission to work only one hour a day.  He wrote in his article for American Express Open Forum:

“If you spent only 20 percent of your time extracting 80 percent of the revenue from your existing business model, this gives you 80 percent of your time to do something different.”

What could you do that no one else is willing to do in that 80% of extra time?  All it takes is one meaningful action or one excellent idea to separate you from the crowd.  Your customers will be blown away by the results you provide.  Your employees will be excited to be part of a forward moving agenda.  You will have a new sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because you will no longer be working a job, you will be leading the way.

Go ahead, act like it's "not my job" by practicing these four methods for the next 30 days.  You're going to start getting better results.   

I'm looking forward to your comments about the experience.

--  Steven



Is Brainstorming Broken?

Innovation is the buzz word and expectation in every growing business today.  We are constantly striving to generate new ideas and spark creativity.  The most common method is to call for a brainstorming session.  Gather a group together, present the challenge and expect "earth shaking" results in an hour.  But sometimes brainstorming just doesn't work.  Could there be a better way?  

Dr. Tony MCCaffery suggests that there is no evidence that brainstorming works.  He offers a different approach that will generate hundreds more practical ideas in just minutes.  Check out his video. 

He suggests that the premise of talking through problems and ideas is not as effective as expecting people to write out their ideas, then submit them for others to consider.  The written form allows for all ideas to be considered and the introverted personalities gain an opportunity to have their suggestions presented.  His research indicates that the ideas are more practical and everyone involved is invested in the process.

I see his point, but disagree that the exercise of talking it out is the reason brainstorming doesn't work.  In my experience, talking through the challenges and hearing other perspectives often helps us gain understanding.  It also helps us generate greater levels of collaboration and cooperation.  

Brainstorming can be effective when you give people time to think, expect them to write out their ideas and read others ideas before they come to a brainstorming session.  The time for contemplation prior to the conversation is what makes the process more meaningful.  

Well, what do you think?


-- Steven Iwersen

No More Boring Presentations: 3 Quick Tips to Get You Focused

A man that I hold in high regard, because of his insights on leadership, gave a presentation at an event I attended.  My expectations were high, the experience was disappointedly low.

I discovered that he is a comma communicator. This prolific author and influencer seemed to be incapable of getting to the point.  The presentation was plagued by incomplete thoughts and detours of impulsiveness.  The repetition of ideas sounded like he was circling around the airport, but couldn’t find the runway to land.  

“Maybe it’s just me today and I’m having a hard time listening,” I thought.  “Or, he is just having a bad day.”

I ordered the transcript of the program, thinking that if I could read his thoughts I’d have a better understanding.  It did help my understanding.  It also revealed that he is without question a comma communicator.  To be fair, I downloaded two more scripts of different presentations and sadly found the same problem.  

What is a comma communicator?  A person who speaks in incomplete, rambling sentences often punctuated by multiple commas. 

Here is an example from the transcript: 

“Well here is a point that I think makes all the difference, and if you think about it carefully, and I’ve been thinking about how this applies to a lot of different areas in my life and our business, because the impact can be a big deal if we don’t consider how important this is, especially if we ignore the current trends that we are facing during the next few months, and that is putting this issue at the top of our agenda.”

What was the point? 

When you and I communicate it is imperative that we get to the point.  Our listeners want to know what we think.  They will get lost and frustrated if we fail to communicate with clarity.

Three specific ideas on how to avoid the trap of a comma induced coma:

  • Use the period.  Communicate your point in one concise sentence.  Brevity can improve your credibility.  
  • Edit your illustration/opinion.  Support your ideas with a clear example or a confident opinion.  The art of editing is removing what is unnecessary or repetitive.  Supporting the point clearly and quickly will help people to stay focused on your ideas.
  • Practice writing daily.  Take 10 minutes every day to write a specific thought out into one sentence.  The fewer the words the better.  The best presentations that I have heard were presented by people who were excellent writers.  Their spoken words were influenced by their understanding of sentence structure and language.  A great way to improve your presentation skills is to take a writing class.  

I do think that the leader I mentioned has some great ideas.  I’ll just wait for the book.

-- Steven Iwersen


Thinking Inside the Box Generates A One Million Dollar Result

Thinking inside the box can lead to out of the box results.  That is exactly what happened for Ryan Andersen.  He is the Doritos Super Bowl Commercial winner for 2014.   

Ryan’s “Time Machine” commercial was selected in the contest as one of the top five contenders.  During the game, the top two would be aired during a commercial break.  Based on AdMeter results, one of those commercials would be awarded the one million dollar prize on Monday, February 3rd, during the Good Morning America program.  Ryan’s efforts paid off and he is now a millionaire.

It all started because of a box!  Ryan said that he got the inspiration when his son asked him to make something out of a refrigerator box.  He collaborated with a couple of friends, spent $300 to create the ad, and captured the imagination of us all.  


I believe the ad sparked interest because most adults can remember creating something with a box when they were kids.  Take an ordinary box, imagine what it could be and with the collaboration of friends turn it into hours of fun! 

That child-like imagination is the key to innovation.  It is typically suppressed in our lives as we conform to the business world.  But there are ways to trigger it’s power and leverage those creative ideas to our advantage.  Ryan Andersen's experience reveals five ways that can help spark your best ideas:

1) Look at your challenge through the eyes of a child.

Often the best ideas are found in simplicity.  What questions would a kid have about the circumstances?  Don’t overthink things.

2) Find a way to develop an idea on a shoe string budget.

Limit yourself intentionally to a tight budget.  People who have little resources can become very resourceful.  (It’s the MacGyver concept.)

3) Have fun in the process.

Laughter attracts a crowd.  I believe that is partly what made this ad a winner, it made us laugh.  But, there is more to the point than that.  Creativity should trigger a natural sense of adventure within us.  A playful attitude and effort is a must.  So don’t take yourself too seriously. 

4) Include others in the process. 

5) Submit your efforts and see what other people think.

Ryan would’ve never won the prize money if he had decided to not submit the ad.  When you have developed your idea, put it out there for others to experience and to give you feedback.  A great idea will resonate with other people.  Let that idea have a chance to be seen.

Our “Thinking Inside the Box” training event is designed to help your employees rediscover the ability to creatively think through challenges and to work together.  Watch this short interview, then send us an email and we can explore some ideas to bring this training to you.  (Send your email to [email protected])  



7 Fascinating Blogs for Innovative Thinking

If you’re looking for something to disrupt the routine patterns in your head and to ignite some fresh thinking of your very own, check out these great blogs.  Each one has the potential of unlocking a great idea in your mind and creating a new opportunity for you to pursue.

Innovation Excellence

Creativity Central

The Idea Sandbox

Seth Godin’s Blog


Stephen Shapiro


Hey, while you're exploring blogs and websites about innovation - don't isolate yourself from the creative power of live discussions and shared thinking!  Come check out my new seminar: "Think Inside the Box."  I'll be on tour October 7th - 11th (Boston, Farmington, Parsippany, Melville, and NYC).  Also touring the Midwest in November.  For more details on the seminar, check out the video  or send me an email for dates and locations - [email protected]


The Balancing Act of Leadership: Commitments vs Compromise

The pressure is on!  Leaders are expected to get stellar results with fewer staff members, smaller budgets, and longer hours.  If the results fall short of the expectations, customers are unhappy and employers begin to question the leaders abilities or loyalty.  The tension increases and the fine line of compromise begins to encroach upon the finer quality of thoughtful leadership.

Thoughtful leadership is like walking on a tight rope.  Every step you take must be calculated and intentional; all while you balance a long pole in your hands - at one end your people and the other end your profitability.  That pole is always in motion.  At one moment you can feel the pull toward the actions that create profit.  The next moment the balance tips toward the needs of your team.  You cannot allow one end to have more influence over the other.  You need both ends to create a lower center of gravity that allows you to focus on the next goal.  Your success is the result of keeping the pole balanced and moving forward one step at a time.  

Leaders lose their balance and influence when they compromise.  I wrote years ago from my own experience:

“My greatest success is the result of keeping my commitments.  My greatest failures are the result of compromise.”

So how can a leader get the right results while walking that tightrope?  I read a blog this morning by friend Mark Sanborn that sparked my thinking on this issue.  I want you to consider a couple of ideas that he wrote: 

The ongoing question for any leader is “How can we obtain superior results the right way?” Short cuts can derail a leader’s career; they can also bring down entire organizations. Doing the expedient instead of the prudent can put both the leader and the organization at risk.

Best practices are good, but the better strategy is when you pioneer next practices: the kind of strategies and tactics that change the game.


Mark presents 5 outstanding questions that will help you be a thoughtful leader in his blog titled: For Leaders, Result Rule but Methods Matter.  

How are you doing at keeping this balance?  Where do you see compromise jeopardizing the forward motion of your company?  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

-Steven Iwersen


In my blog: Ingredients You Need for Personal Innovation (Part 2), I suggested that in order to enhance your potential for personal growth it is important to surround yourself with the right people.  But what then?

Here are some quick tips on how to spark the creative process by including others.

  1. Meet once a month for two hours with a group of 5 people (preferably of differing backgrounds/expertise) and discuss the most current innovations that are in the news.
  2. Share a relevant article with a few peers and ask for their thoughts about the subject.
  3. Interview a person from a different generation and ask them to describe what excites them and what causes them concern about the future.  (Interview someone older and someone younger and compare the perspectives.)
  4. Use a marker board and identify in one sentence a challenge that you are stuck on.  Post the challenge for one week. Invite people to write out in “key words” ideas that might help.
  5. Join a LinkedIn group within your industry and start a discussion.  No gimmicks.  Give a scenario and ask people how they would handle a situation.


I'd be interested in some of the ideas that you have found helpful for including others in the creative process!  Let me know what works for you.

- Steven Iwersen

Ingredients You Need for Personal Innovation (Part 2)

I mentioned in Part 1 of this article that a key ingredient for personal growth is having the right attitude within you.  Let’s look now at the second most important ingredient:

The Right People Around You

I know, this seems obvious!  Let me ask you, though - who comes to your mind when you think about the “right” people?  Would your list include people who are:

  • Positive
  • Open-minded
  • Smart
  • Thoughtful
  • Creative
  • Artistic

Of course, I’d want to have people like that on my team.  However, we have a tendency to surround ourselves with people that we like and agree with our ideas.  It could be beneficial to have others on your team that don’t always agree or see things your way.  The differing perspective may help to identify a blind spot or divert us from a potential crisis.  We may not like it, but we could learn to appreciate the insights.  (Note:  They may not be someone you would usually like, but they should be likable in their approach.)

The Right People could include:

  • Younger Generation
  • Older Generation
  • Experts in subjects/professions outside of your expertise.
  • Business leaders in different industries.
  • Mentors / Leaders in your industry.
  • A friend or family member who is not afraid to point out that you have something hanging from your nose.  Honest because they care.

Your potential for developing personal innovation is stymied by solitude.  Surround your self with people who have a passion to discuss ideas and avoid those who only want to gossip.  Learn from other learners. 

Ingredients You Need for Personal Innovation (Part 1)

IMG_0851Have you ever baked a recipe only to find out while eating it later that you left out an important ingredient?  You can tell almost immediately that you didn’t do something right.  The same thing can happen to you when attempting to try something new.  

There are two key ingredients that have to be included in any process of change:  

 The Right Attitude Within You & The Right People Around You


The Right Attitude Within You


“This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Those are mental limitations.  I know, we usually hear those expressions from other people; but have you slipped into a subtle resistance of your own? 

I have always been an early adopter and willing to trail blaze when needed.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I suddenly realized that a recent change caused my tolerance needle to bounce around in the “red zone” for a few minutes.  I did not like the “new way” and started wishing for the good old days.  

“Hit the brakes!  Does this mean I’m getting old?” 

No, I had just gotten comfortable with my preferences.  When we get too busy with life and work, we gravitate to patterns and systems that have familiarity in order to keep a sense of balance.  That’s natural.  It is also a dangerous, slippery slope that affects our attitudes toward change.  Learning something new takes time.  It means I have to let go something I’m good at, in order to take hold of something I’m not good at...yet.

Someone jokingly said: “Change will not kill you, the transitions might.”

We laugh, because we know that the growing and learning during the changes is the hard part.  But what we learn is what can make us better. 

The right attitude within you is evident when you are open to a new experience and willing to act on what you learn.

“Experiments are key to innovation because they rarely turn out as you expect and you learn so much" - Jeff Bezos

What have you learned lately about your openness to trying new things? 

Let me know.

- Steven Iwersen


Have you noticed a level of resistance from others when you suggest they get out of their comfort zone or think outside of the box?

Most people are comfortable where they are because they’re operating within their competence and personal confidence.  Encouraging them to be more creative or to change, is about as frightening to them as being pushed into the deep end of the pool before they’ve learned how to swim.  

A small percentage of people enjoy the thrill of exploring new ideas.  The majority are hesitant to take the risk for fear of failing.  They have also come to believe that they don’t have the skills to be innovative.  But that isn’t true.

Can everyone be creative?

I would say that the answer is an emphatic,YES!

That is why I’ve created our brand new seminar:


This program is designed to spark a process that helps the majority of employees to rediscover creativity and to embrace change.   What if we designed an approach to creative development and change management that was less threatening?  Here is a short interview about the seminar:


It is vital that leaders provide an environment for personal and professional growth in the arena of creative thinking.

Forbes Magazine published an article titled The Secret to Unleashing Genuis.  It highlights the importance of building the creative capabilities of others.  They interviewed Marc Benioff (founder of Saleforce) and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.  Both stated that the success of their companies is directly related to the expectations of creating a culture of creative thinking.

“I can’t do it all. I don’t have all the ideas. That isn’t my job. My job is to build a culture of innovation. That’s something that we try to enforce. We encourage it. We value it. We notice it. We compensate for it. We require it.” - Benioff 

In contrast, the article also highlighted that “10% to 15% of the most innovative leaders in the world don’t bother to encourage the people around them to innovate.... These leaders often believe their ideas are so much better than their colleagues’ that they see little value in building talent around them.”  That mindset is short sighted.  

Your goal as a leader should be to create the culture that inspires your employees to be a part of the next great idea!

For more information about bringing the "THINKING INSIDE THE BOX" seminar to your company, call 913-406-3824 or email [email protected]