Maven, ninja, or guru. Which one are you?

Attention-grabbing Job Seekers…

You know the job market has become increasingly competitive. A standard resume or CV won’t really cut it these days. To stand out, there are ever-more random lengths people will go to in order to secure a job or even get noticed by potential employers. Take a look at some of the best job applications around.

Sticky Note Mind Maps

Need help solving a dilemma? Want ideas for a better way to do things? Got a new project that needs structure? Try Sticky Note Mind Mapping!

Psychologist Tony Buzan developed “Mind Mapping” as a tool for thinking ‘laterally’ – it’s a type of visual brainstorming that’s based on a central idea written in the center of a page (or wall), then related ideas are added on branches that radiate from this central idea. Because of this structure, it requires all ideas to be connected to the center and allows connection to one another, providing opportunity for convergent thinking, fitting ideas together, as well as thinking up new ideas. Sticky note Mind mapping allows you to ‘storm and sort’ your ideas.

1. Find a large section of blank wall or whiteboard and lots of sticky notes and markers. Using a variety of sticky note colors and sizes, simply jot down all your thoughts on the sticky notes – with each new thought or concept on a new sticky note.
2. As you write down your thoughts on the sticky notes, stick them up on the wall or whiteboard – you can group them into similar themes as you stick them up, but the best thing about using sticky notes for this map is that you can move them around as your thoughts develop.
3. Once you’ve jotted down all your thoughts and stuck them on the wall, look for branches and connections between the ideas. What’s missing? What are the recurring ideas? Where are the connections?
4. When you’ve sorted the sticky notes into a map that makes the most sense of your thoughts, you can either take a photo of it as your record, or draw it as a real mind map.

• Don’t think too much about structure as you’re preparing the map – just let it flow as you work through the process
• Work through it quickly to keep up the flow of ideas
• Keep the points brief – you can expand them later
• Use sketches, images and pictures (if you can) – it makes it easier to remember and more personal, but make sure it doesn’t slow down the brainstorming flow. ClipArt is great for this!
• Once you’ve got it all down, stand back and take a look. What’s missing? What are the recurring ideas? Where are the connections?
• Continue! This mind map is a work in progress.

Have you tried a sticky note mind map? If so, let us know how it helped you!

Creative Slump? Try Something, Anything New

Creative Slump? Try Something, Anything New

The Slump

As Spring 2010 settled in, I found myself in a creative rut. Not that I wasn’t coming up with some pretty good instructional design solutions. I just didn’t have the sparkly “kick” in my design step.

My first instinct in considering how to clear the innovation fog was to focus on learning something new about instructional design. “Surely there is some new technique or method out there that will inspire me back into my creative groove,” I told myself. Four hours of semi-conscious web surfing for articles on social networking, blogging, graphic design, and adult learning later, I was in no better creative place than when I first started this aimless journey.

“A good night’s sleep will do the trick,” I murmured to myself in lieu of clicking the Facebook link one last time before throwing the creative towel. Another half hour passed, and while I now was up to speed on my Facebook friends’ opinions on skirt lengths, parasailing, potty training, and bar hopping, I was no closer to sleep than to a creative revelation.

Defeated, I dragged myself to bed.

The Surge

Disarmed of my intellectual shortcomings by the start of my semi-conscious snooze, it came to me…

“Cake Pops!”

No, this was not some animated .gif I would create for a PowerPoint presentation. Nor was it a racy idea for an attention grabber at the beginning of a module. I had realized that my creative sparkle could be restored through an age-old domestic act. Baking.

I recalled seeing some Martha Stewart-y web article on “Cake Pops,” which showed fun bite-sized cake creatures perched firmly on a lollipop stick. “I’ll try it! Should be a piece of cake,” I chuckled to no one in particular, mildly amused by the metaphoric ease of my belief that the creation of these mini-masterpieces could be mastered in a single shot.

So, 67 dollars and one maddening pre-Easter Michael’s trip later, I had everything I needed to make cake pops. Or at least that’s what the “easy cake pop instructions” recipe at promised. What then ensued can only be described as a tortuous 12 hours of mixing, scraping, baking, shaping, smooshing, poking, and re-attaching nightmare. I kind of loved it, even though at one point I threw an unfrosted cake ball (a pre-cake pop iteration) against my refrigerator in disgust.

My first cake pops were disasterously, unmanageably bad. Think of ABC gum smashed under an old shoe, then jammed with two jelly beans and told to stand up straight and look presentable. Yuck.

Two batches later, the sugared semi-orbs actually started to look like they were intended to look – bunnies and chicks. I was getting my groove now. The bunnies were pink with googly eyes and the beaks of the chicks looked as cute as they did real. Almost unnoticeably, I began putting my own twist on the not-nearly-as-easy-as-they-promised recipe instructions.

Here’s a view of the final products:

Hendrich's Cake Pops

After the final bunny was built and the last chick was cast, I was both mentally exhausted and creatively invigorated. After saran wrapping the last of the munchable art, I flopped into bed and was asleep in seconds.

Getting out of my comfort zone for those 12 hours initiated a creative flow over the next week at work that shocked me. I was in the groove, coming up with innovative and simpler ways of training my customers. But what perhaps is even more exciting is the fact that I had a renewed verve for life in general. An extra spring in my step. And an almost constant feeling that I was just about to conjure another cool idea. Not because I’d attended a webinar in my field of study. Not because I’d read a book to enhance my expertise. But because I tried something utterly new.

Moral of the story: Getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new initiated a creative flow in all areas of my life, both personal and professional. The simple (okay, not exactly simple) act of learning to do something I had never done before restored my curiosity, my creative inspiration, and even my confidence. And the learning was not in my area of expertise. In fact, prior to that day, I would not call myself a baker of any kind.

 Perhaps the old saying is true…

You can create your cake and eat it, too.


Innovations don’t have to be major

Even the most mundane transactions can be turned into memorable experiences. Here’s an example:

Standard Parking of Chicago plays a signature song on each level of its parking garage at O’Hare Airport and decorates walls with icons of a local sports franchise-the Bulls on one floor, the White Sox on another, and so forth. As one Chicago resident said, “You never forget where you parked!”

What is your idea for a micro-innovation?