Archive for the ‘brainstorming’ Category

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The MBA Accelerator

April 15, 2011

The MBA degree has become more and more commonplace, with thousands of students looking forward to graduation in a very short time this spring. Academic institutions concentrate on learning, delivering the academic fundamentals that create a foundation within the workplace.

For one Dallas-based institution, “higher learning” has turned into higher program rankings – and an improved student experience as well.
Professional Development Coaching

The New York Times reports that academic rigor has changed, particularly in the undergraduate environment. The “new rigor” ain’t all that rigorous, as seen here in “The Default Major – Skating through B-School” in the New York Times. Consider this quotation:

    • Business programs also attract more than their share of students who approach college in purely instrumental terms, as a plausible path to a job, not out of curiosity about, say, Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm. “Business education has come to be defined in the minds of students as a place for developing elite social networks and getting access to corporate recruiters,” says Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard Business School who is a prominent critic of the field. It’s an attitude that Dr. Khurana first saw in M.B.A. programs but has migrated, he says, to the undergraduate level.

    One school that seems to “get it”, and understands that the MBA degree is more than just an instrument (or means to an end) is Dallas’ own Southern Methodist University. Founded in 1911, the school celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, as well as a longstanding tradition of academic excellence, particularly in the Edwin L. Cox School of Business. But what’s most impressive is the school’s commitment to expansive teaching, from the Dallas business community. Spearheaded by Dean Al Niemi, the Business Leadership Center is led by Paula Strasser, a twenty-year SMU veteran with close ties to the Dallas marketplace. Paula has assembled a team of 67 experts from the DFW area, to assist in the real-world learning of SMU MBA students.

    While other schools feature impressive boards, and invite CEOs to speak on a regular basis, SMU has taken an approach that adds significantly to the traditional path. While the university attracts nationally-recognized business leaders, local practicioners provide actionable and compelling insights into the day-to-day world of finance, communications, customer innovation, project management and more.

    “The Edwin L. Cox Business Leadership Center (BLC) develops strong leadership skills that are fundamental in the world of business”, according to the BLC brochure. I’m proud to be a part of this organization, and join an elite group of 67 business pro’s who care about SMU, the MBA degree, and the greater Dallas business community. For other schools that aspire to improve their rankings (and the student experience), they must consider the role of the greater business community within the academic environment. What distinguishes the SMU degree is that community connection, and the powerful and tangible networking experience that creates a truly unique learning experience.

    Approximately 92% of Cox graduate students actively participate in the BLC elective programs – meaning, MBA students invest their time with no grade or credit hours as a ‘reward’. The learning and exposure is, in itself, the value equation – and students report that the experience is impactful, and necessary. The students see the value, and make a real investment in their education – an education that is enhanced outside of the classroom. For many students who choose SMU, the BLC is a deciding factor in their choice, since the BLC is unique among graduate business schools and MBA programs.

    Congratulations to Paula Strasser and her team at SMU. And, to Dean Al Niemi, who continues to support this valuable program (now in its 20th year) – I am honored to be a part of this outstanding organization.
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    Chris Westfall is an award-winning instructor at the Business Leadership Center (BLC) at SMU. He regularly speaks on leadership issues in his MBA seminar, “Pick a Team and Win.” He was recently recognized by MBA students with the top teaching award from the Cox School of Business. An alumni of SMU, Chris graduated with a BFA degree from the Meadows School of the Arts. Additionally, he speaks and consults on career management issues, personal branding, management strategies and sales techniques. Other colleges include:

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Ideas Wanted: What’s Yours?

October 11, 2010

The average adult has as many as 50,000 thoughts per day – these are unique ideas, that range from “what do I want for dinner?” to “what’s my carbon footprint?”  (FYI: Studies show that your footprint increases, if you eat fried food and cupcakes for dinner).  With 1.3 million people in Dallas, the entire city is generating over 65 Billion thoughts per day, on average.  What if we could harness that cloud of concepts, decisions, and imagination, for business innovation, or social change?

That’s the big idea behind Idea Week, a series of sponsored events leading up to TEDx SMU.  (websites to follow at the end of the post…).  On Monday, October 11, a series of six locations will conduct sessions in “Speed Ideating” – a structured brainstorming, featuring “man-in-the -street” interviews, videos, and more.  (Should that read, “person-in-the-street”? Hopefully you follow my meaning..)

 

SMU logo

TEDx Happens Here

 

Speed Ideating is a method for generating new ideas on a product, issue or situation.  Think of it as structured brainstorming, with each idea building on the last.  It’s all guided by a moderator, whose job is to get you thinking, talking, and ideating.  The five topics to be addressed on Monday are:

1. Mainstreaming eco-transportation

2. Improving public education in North Texas

3. Changing the automobile

4. Preventing bullying in schools

5. Reducing waste

Do you have a few ideas?  Come on out and share your thoughts, with the team at Idea Week.  Can’t make it out? Send your thoughts to ideaweek@gmail.com.  If you can, come out and meet some of the local business celebrities onsite, at the various sites.  Here are the locations for the sessions, starting at noon today:

 

Jeremy Gregg

 

1.  Meet Jeremy Gregg – Executive Director of Executives in Action

  • Preston Center – NW Hwy and Preston Road, near Sprinkles and Taco Diner

2.  Fair Park DART Station, Perry and Exposition (Entrance to Texas State Fair)

3. Meet Gabriella Draney, Founder of Tech Wildcatters, in Deep Ellum (2615 Commerce Street)

4.  Downtown Dallas, corner of Ross and St. Paul

5.  Thanksgiving Square – Back Beat Cafe, 300 N. Akard

 

Lori Darley

 

6.  Meet Lori Darley, top executive coach

Bishop Arts – in front of Hattie’s, in the Bishop Arts center in Oak Cliff

Why not come on out, and share some thoughts – or, send an email to the address below with your ideas.  It only takes a moment to offer something that could make a difference.  And, look at it this way: even if you share 3 new ideas, you still have 49,997 left for the rest of the day.

One person – one idea- can make a difference.  What’s yours?

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Resources:

  • Twitter: @IdeaWeek
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Brainstorming for Results

September 7, 2010

Have you ever had a really good guided tour of the weeds, often called a “brainstorming session”?

As the ideas churn forward, each one less practical than the last, participants are rewarded and encouraged to dream large and often improbable solutions to real-world problems. How can these sessions be managed into an effective process, one that allows for the necessary freedom of thought but also the guidance that delivers real and tangible results?

Brainstorming About Acorns? Consult an Expert

Separating real accomplishment from group therapy requires a facilitator who is willing to set up clear communication on what is expected. (I will assume that “Six Thinking Hats” and other resources are already in play for the group leader). Often what is missing is a clear objective for the session, and necessary details about the business challenge at hand.

In a brainstorming session, CONTEXT trumps CONTENT.

In other words, participants need to know a clear objective and framework for what is about to be discussed. We CAN think of lots of things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The best ideas will be the ones that fit the context most appropriately. It is a delicate balance to create an environment of trust and openness within a framework of objectives and results. However, that is part of the clear communication that is required before anyone goes deep into the potential abyss of “brainstorming”.

Setting the ground rules is key for an effective session, and all participants (operative word: “ALL”) need to understand that they will be expected to offer ideas. Effective brainstorming takes courage, and that requires en_couragement from the facilitator. Oftentimes, the starting point is a version of “there are no bad ideas”…(ooh, I’ve had a few. There was the football bat, and the unicorn feeder…still convinced that all ideas are good ideas?) The key thing to remember is: Don’t get married to your ideas, but put them out there just the same. A good facilitator creates that environment and gets everyone to play in the sandbox.

Click Image to See on Amazon.com

If every idea is good, then none of them are. That’s why Edward de Bono’s book is so effective, because it breaks brainstorming into steps and facilitates cream rising to the top. For me, the first step is a clear and established context for ideas – only then can those ideas be shaped into results.

Judgments and comparisons must come after the brainstorming session, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The stack ranking of ideas and collation of valuable material must be handled with respect – but handled nonetheless. Brainstorming takes courage, a true willingness to bring your best ideas, and an ego-less attachment to the outcomes.

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Make Your Breaks – Thoughts on Serendipity

April 24, 2010

Serendipity is good – but can it be shaped?

The answer is yes, if you understand how to create the unexpected and turn it into opportunity. Serendipity means good luck in making fortunate unexpected discoveries; so how do we create the unexpected?

IU Logo here

Indiana University

My dad always told me, “You practice like you play”. As a former college quarterback, he knows a lot about the importance of practice. His logic goes like this: you practice your game, so that you can create unexpected events. Practice creates opportunity; skill allows you to capitalize on the unexpected. After all, the difference between “serendipity” and “surprise” is… results.

From Nathan Jamail’s “Sales Leaders Playbook”: Athletes spend 90% of their time practicing, and 10% on performance. In business, it’s more like 1% practice, 99% “just do it”, and hope for the best. Not a good strategy for serendipity, but it certainly can create a lot of surprises!

In the business world, effective practice means taking time to reflect on opportunities, to explore ideas (like this one!) with others, and exchange innovation with other thought leaders. By asking “What if…?” we can unlock the key to imagination – that’s the birthplace of new discoveries (IMHO). Creativity shapes serendipity. Put that idea into practice by exchanging new ideas; prepare for the unexpected by considering it with colleagues you trust.

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Brainstorming for Results

March 23, 2010

Have you ever had a really good guided tour of the weeds, often called a “brainstorming session”? As the ideas churn forward, each one less practical than the last, participants are rewarded and encouraged to dream large and often improbable solutions to real-world problems. How can these sessions be managed into an effective process, one that allows for the necessary freedom of thought but also the guidance that delivers real and tangible results?

Separating real accomplishment from group therapy requires a facilitator who is willing to set up clear communication on what is expected. (I will assume that “Six Thinking Hats” and other resources are already in play for the group leader). Often what is missing is a clear objective for the session, and necessary details about the business challenge at hand.

In a brainstorming session, CONTEXT trumps CONTENT. In other words, participants need to know a clear objective and framework for what is about to be discussed. We CAN think of lots of things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The best ideas will be the ones that fit the context most appropriately. It is a delicate balance to create an environment of trust and openness within a framework of objectives and results. However, that is part of the clear communication that is required before anyone goes deep into the potential abyss of “brainstorming”.

Setting the ground rules is key for an effective session, and all participants (operative word: “ALL”) need to understand that they will be expected to offer ideas. Effective brainstorming takes courage, and that requires en_couragement from the facilitator. Oftentimes, the starting point is a version of “there are no bad ideas”…(ooh, I’ve had a few. There was the football bat, and the unicorn feeder…still convinced that all ideas are good ideas?) The key thing to remember is: Don’t get married to your ideas, but put them out there just the same. A good facilitator creates that environment and gets everyone to play in the sandbox.

If every idea is good, then none of them are. That’s why Edward de Bono’s book is so effective, because it breaks brainstorming into steps and facilitates cream rising to the top. For me, the first step is a clear and established context for ideas – only then can those ideas be shaped into results.

Judgements and comparisons must come after the brainstorming session, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The stack ranking of ideas and collation of valuable material must be handled with respect – but handled nonetheless. Brainstorming takes courage, a true willingness to bring your best ideas, and an ego-less attachment to the outcomes.