51UVVmyvuGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Just finished a remarkable little book which proved to me that the ability to innovate and thus build a brand – corporate, product, personal, etc. – comes down to processes that connect the dots.

That was the point of Madan Birla’s short book (149 pp.) Unleashing Creativity and Innovation. “Groundbreaking new ideas are the results of someone asking, ‘What if we combine this one existing idea/product with another existing idea/product to solve a problem?'” Birla says in the book’s opening pages, leading into what he terms the foundation of the mind’s creative thinking process – MINT (like the ability to forge or fabricate something valuable, like coins):

More Dots (Knowledge base): “Creativity is about connecting the dots. The more dots you have to work with, the more combinations available to help generate new ideas.”

Imagination (To connect dots): “Imagination is the right brain asking what if by connecting dots in imaginative ways.”

Nominal Stress (Creative tension): “Creative tension is the gap between where we are and where we want to be.”

Time (To think): “Creative problem solving requires time to engage the mind in expiring what if before locking into how to.”

Birla then spends an entire section showing how nature uses similar techniques to not only sustain itself, but to thrive in a constantly changing world. For example, fruits are the mark of a healthy and growing tree. Our creative ideas, then, are like fruits, and can only come about if we do things like stay curious, ask lots of questions and build our knowledge base.

All of this ladders up to his three-step innovation process: Generation (of ideas), acceptance and implementation. But the point he makes here is that it’s people who are doing the generating, accepting and implementing, and that only strong, astute leadership create and sustain a supportive environment that sparks the innovation process, “developing and unleashing employees’ natural creative potential at all levels of the organization.”

The bottom line: Creativity and innovation don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist in nature, and can exist in the enterprise if everyone – you and I included – apply processes that help connect the dots. The beneficiaries, then, are the enterprise itself and end user customers, but also the person applying those processes. In the end, I think, those processes become personal and corporate values.

Ask yourself: What is your process for driving creativity and innovation in your workplace? Let’s discuss below.


logo-bma15I just got my media credentials for the Business Marketing Association’s BMA15 B2B conference, slated for May 27-29 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, and I couldn’t be more excited. I guest-blogged at BMA14 and was amazed at how much I got out of the experience by simply by doing one thing:


Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Turn off your mind and let the knowledge soak in. Then apply copiously when you return to the office.

But it isn’t that easy. Consider our day-to-day work, where there are real, often immovable deadlines to meet, and customers, clients, etc. that aren’t always easily placated. We also exist in the digital world where emails, texts and yes, even calls, are a constant intrusion no matter where you are.

It seems that the sponsors of BMA15 want us to get to our zen place (which appeals to my sense of mindfulness), and I encourage you to make that your event strategy. Why?

I’m reading Madan Birla’s book Unleashing Creativity and Innovation, and he talks about the creative tension being the gap between where we are and where we want to be. “An overly stressed mind is not in creative mode,” Birla says. “When under stress the neurons take the path of least resistance: the known pathways. … An overly stressed mind says, ‘Don’t talk to me about the future. Let me get through today.'”

This is where BMA15 strategy comes in. The wide array of B2B sessions forces your mind to slow down, pay attention, take in information and work out new ways to solve marketing problems. I often said during BMA14, “Yeah, I can see where that would work” or “Wow, that makes total sense.” I filled a legal pad full of notes that doubled as source material for the posts I wrote last year.

And I had fun as well, connecting with old agency colleagues at Bader Rutter and CBD Marketing, and networking with new friends. I even got the chance to interview Jeffrey Hayzlett and David Meerman Scott, two guys I professionally look up to.

BMA14 was totally worth it. I learned because I listened.

Ergo, the call to action for BMA15 is simple.

Be there, both physically and mentally.

Let’s discuss: Take time to scan event agenda and tell me what sessions you’re planning to attend – and make a case for me to guest-blog there.

Image credit to Business Marketing Association BMA15


The Moral of Google+: Create Great Expectations

March 9, 2015

Gizmodo reported this week that it looks like Google+ is going to be split into two services, called Photos and Streams. So does that mean G+ is dead? Maybe not yet, the Gizmodo piece said, but “it does suggest that Google is moving away from the pure Plus branding, which suggests an overhaul may be […]

Read the full article →

Book Review: Being Tuned In Focuses Your Brand on the Buyer’s Problem

February 23, 2015

It’s rare these days that a book will stop me cold and challenge me to critically assess what I do every day. But that’s exactly what happened when I read Tuned In by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott. Tuned In’s premise is simple: It’s the buyer‘s problem that matters. Are you and […]

Read the full article →

What’s Really Authentic on Social Media?

January 26, 2015

From time to time I wonder if social media is burning out as a communications channel. I thought that again this week when I read a story in WSJ titled, Paid ‘Influencers’ Undercut Ads on Pinterest. The story noted that some brands are investing in Pinterest, not in advertising, but in paying the channel’s influencers […]

Read the full article →

Welcome to 2015: Starting Something New for Your Personal Brand

January 2, 2015

Kinda hard to believe we’re at the start of another year. Want to feel old? That whole Y2K thing came and went 15 YEARS ago. Remember how important that felt at the time … and maybe like me you felt a little silly when it passed with nary a problem? That story illustrates the whole […]

Read the full article →

Why is Your Brand’s Product or Service Newsworthy?

December 24, 2014

I love media relations. Hands down, it’s my favorite part of my job. See, I come from a journalism background, not pure PR, so I’ve got perhaps a little different approach toward media relations than colleagues of mine. Having been a journalist, I know what I would look for in a story topic that a […]

Read the full article →

What Does Change Mean for B2B Brands?

December 10, 2014

Seth Godin has been blogging about the concept of change a lot lately, including this gem from a couple of days ago, which got me to thinking. What exactly is change for B2B brands? To me, it’s the inevitability of movement from one state to the next. That, of course, could be a desired state, […]

Read the full article →

Take a Cue from Uber: B2B Brands Should Never Go ‘Off the Record’

November 24, 2014

Ragan.com had a piece this week that dove into the complicated waters of going “off the record” during a media interview. This is timely, of course, because of the unfortunate comments made by an Uber executive that he thought was off the record. This person basically said he would be for hiring researchers to target […]

Read the full article →

Twitter’s Struggle to Define its Vision a Cautionary Tale for B2B Brands

November 10, 2014

Friday’s story in the Wall Street Journal about Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s struggle to define the vision of the social media network is a cautionary tale for organizations of all sizes, including (and perhaps especially) of B2B companies. The story notes that, “Amid staff changes, Mr. Costolo has vacillated in defining Twitter, confusing investors betting […]

Read the full article →