How to break through a creative block with Brainzooming

Struggling with creative block? Want to be more creative but you’re not feeling inspired?

We’ve all been there. Having creative block is a horrible feeling. Especially when you’re livelihood depends on it. What if I told you that I found a place to get you unstuck? The site is called Brainzooming.

Obviously, a website won’t solve your creative block, but it will give you the right tools to figure out a solution. I’m not going to lie, when I’m stuck, this is where I go. Mike Brown, the mastermind behind Brainzooming, has posted more than 1,600 articles on creative strategy and innovation.

Here are 5 of my favorite Brainzooming creative ideas when creativity is blocked:

  1. “Random Wikipedia – Random inputs help trigger innovative thinking, so here’s a quirky approach to try. Take a period of your life, pick a starting point (i.e. an actor or author you enjoyed then), and look it up on Wikipedia. Click on a random link in the first Wikipedia entry and keep surfing for semi-random inputs.You never know what cool creativity will be inspired via Wikiwaves.”
  2. Change Scenery By Changing Where You Are – Get as far away as you can from your creative block’s “home field.” At the office? Go to a museum or a hotel lobby. Spent too much time inside? Get outside as quickly as you can. Bored with your hometown? Start traveling. Whatever it takes, force yourself to change your physical surroundings for a creativity boost.
  3. Find Some Fresh Eyes – Ask a creative friend who doesn’t have any background in the area of your creative block how they’d approach your challenge. With a new set of eyes and fresh thinking, chances are the other person will see a creative key you’re missing.
  4. Take advantage of “Crowdspiration” – Go where there’s a crowd of people and use the looks, conversations, and buzz of the crowd to catalyze your creativity. Remember: the crowd can be in real life or virtual, because wading into the Twitter pool is another great source of random crowdspiration too!
  5. Finish Something – Maybe an obligation completely unrelated to your creative challenge is hanging over your head. Drop your creative project and focus on other nagging deadlines which may be affecting you subconsciously. Getting pesky non-creative deadlines out of the way can free you for a new perspective on creativity.

But lets be real. Can creativity be taught? That’s the question I asked Mike Brown of Brainzooming.

Is it possible to teach someone who is not creative to be creative?

Absolutely. We define creativity as looking at things with a new perspective. Anybody can have a point of view. Anyone can have a perspective. Yeah, some people, like musicians, great artists, etc, have creative gifts. That’s too easy of a cop-out for people to say, ‘They are creative and I’m not.’ The truth is, that when you ask people what they’re passionate about, they are always creative. You ask a fisherman and he says, ‘I’m not creative.’ ‘Well, what’s your secret when fishing?’ ‘I got these little things I do and this works.’ That’s creativity. What we try to do at Brainzooming is give people the structure to tap into that creative perspective. Giving people the permission to explore their creativity is something a lot of people don’t have.

I work in a creative industry and we struggle with giving ourselves permission to brainstorm and explore ideas. It almost feels like we’re wasting time. There are a lot of dead ends when brainstorming and it doesn’t feel productive.

That’s funny because, I worked with agencies all the time. I always assumed, that after we tasked them with a job, they went back to their shop and went through these creative processes. Increasingly, I found out, no. A lot of creative agencies depend upon the “magic”.

I’m a process person. I can’t depend on magic. I don’t have the magic I need. However, I can surround myself with the tools and exercises that simulates the magic. If you have the right tools, you can simulate the magic 24/7.   You don’t have to depend on “I‘ve got a creative idea but I may not have another one for 10 days.” You can’t afford to do that in business.

When I first stumbled upon Brainzooming, I thought the creator, Mike Brown, was in advertising. After all, he talks about things my colleagues and I do everyday – brainstorming.

It was months later that I realized he was not an ad man. He was a former corporate executive. But, it doesn’t matter. What Mike Brown does at Brainzooming can apply to anyone who is having trouble solving a problem.

I couldn’t figure out your background by reading your site. What’s the big secret?

I want people to see themselves and their own situation in everything we do. That’s part of the reason for the vagueness.

The other part is somewhat obscure intentionally – and that probably needs to change. I was at a Fortune 500 company for 18 years. When I left, 5 years ago, the company was in pretty dire straights. It wasn’t the best positioning in the world to say, ‘Hey, I’m a strategy guy for a company that’s basically going through public bankruptcy.’ I very much played that down and used the capabilities I had. I’m probably at the point now, where enough people know me as Brainzooming that it’s okay to bring that out. It provides some credibility that I didn’t just self appoint myself as this innovation person. There’s a lot of Fortune 500 experience that plays into what I do.

The idea for Brainzooming started when Mike figured out he can help companies roll out marketing plans.

We got a call from one of the companies we acquired and we were told that the president needed to have to have a business plan in two weeks. I saw an article on INC. Magazine, that said, ‘You can do a do a business plan in a day.’ After that, I grabbed a guy that I work with and said, ‘I think we have enough stuff here that we can do this.’ That was the start of Brainzooming.

Over the course of a few years, we did hundreds of these sessions for people who know the business but don’t know how to do a marketing plan. We would build their marketing plan in one night and hand it to them.

I knew I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing. I had been there my whole career. I wanted to do other things. I specifically built things that would work in other markets. We’ve done consumer package goods, industrial goods, non-profits, education, technology, you name it. The processes works anywhere. I describe it almost like a band, we’ve got this huge catalogue of songs. When we go out and play a concert, we play the hits that work very well. The rest of the set list is customized specifically for what that organization needs.

One of your recent posts on Facebook is very apologetic. You told your readers you were only going to post 4 times a week instead of 5. And that’s just on Facebook. On Twitter, you post a tweet every hour on the hour. How do you generate so much content?

It didn’t start out as a business strategy. The daily blogging came out of competition. I sent somebody an email and said, “You should start a blog.”  She said she didn’t have the time. By the next Wednesday, she was blogging every day. I wasn’t going to let her beat me. I started blogging every day, too.

For us, it serves a couple of purposes. One, I wanted to build an audience. The frequent blogging helped attract an audience. It also became a point of differentiation because there are a lot of people who do what I do, and probably do it very well. I wanted people, when they visit our site and see the thousands of posts, to know this is the place for creativity. You can’t BS your way through that much content. This is somebody who knows what he’s talking about as opposed to somebody who has 3 pages and claims to know creativity and innovation.

Brainzooming has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter. Including one guy, Yahya Al-Sharif, who is one of Mike Brown’s biggest retweeters. “He’ll retweet 12 things in a row. That has been one of the coolest things.”

How do you come up with this stuff? Are you almost out of ideas?

Every time I interact with somebody, I learn something new.  As long as I’m getting out and interacting with people, it helps. If I’m stuck in my office working, it’s tougher to do.

I have a lot of tricks that I’ve learned. I try to create exercises that help me breakthrough creative blocks because it doesn’t come natural to me. My former boss was a creative genius. He would come up with these wild ideas but that’s not me. I write a lot about extreme creativity because I don’t have that.

It was fine when I was in a corporate world because I was the “get it done” guy.  But, after I left, I realized that I also have to be the creative person, as well.

Mike Brown - TEDx Presentation

Comments are closed.