Creative thinking exercises suited for an historically successful group was the topic last week when I spoke to the Johnson County Sertoma. Thanks to an invitation from Marty Fahncke, president of the non-profit group, it was an opportunity to speak with them about group creativity exercises as they consider a significant new service project and fund raising strategies to support it. The inspiration for the presentation came from “Words of Inspiration” on the Sertoma website. Five words in particular tie directly to important creative thinking concepts:


Enthusiasm for ideas – lots of ideasis central to generating possibilities that create breakthrough results. The key isn’t about looking for a “big” idea though. Starting with looking for a “big idea” as your central objective results in people censoring potentially huge ideas. This happens when a person thinks their own idea doesn’t meet the “big idea” criteria. When looking for big results, it’s vital to display enthusiasm for lots of possible ideas to reach your objective.


Many Johnson County Sertoma projects involve children, especially a fantasy sports camp for hearing-impaired kids. I encouraged the organization members to look to children in their programs as a source for ideas. They can ask the kids for ideas about why they enjoy the activities, how they’d find people to help support a new project, and ways they would raise more money. Because they haven’t had creativity completely beaten out by the educational system and life experiences, kids are a wonderful source for ground-breaking possibilities.


The fact “brain” was one of the inspiration words was exciting for me! Yet for a successful organization, the knowledge members have about what’s worked and hasn’t can block considering new ideas more suitable for today’s challenges. I encouraged the group to critically examine past successes for ways to improve them and to set order of magnitude larger goals to stretch thinking on potential strategies to implement.

Helping Others

As a service-based organization, Johnson County Sertoma is all about helping others. An interesting twist is to think about how others can help them though. One way to do this is through a creative thinking exercise we call “Change Your Character.” In the exercise, you look for people who have experienced similar situations, consider how they’ve approached those situations, and then apply the techniques to your own opportunity. At the presentation, we picked Donald Trump to “help” given his knack for raising funds to implement new projects.


The words of inspiration mentioned fear as an inhibitor to progress. That’s certainly true when fears make people retreat from challenging ideas that would push them into unfamiliar and uncomfortable areas personally or organizationally. One way to get a group that gravitates toward comfortable ideas to consider something new is to specifically single out ideas viewed as having potential impact but which create discomfort. Isolating these ideas and talking about them individually can help figure out if concerns making these ideas seem uncomfortable are legitimate or whether they spring from reluctance to doing things in a very new ways.

It was a great group, and I look forward to spending some more time to help them in Brainzooming some more new ideas!Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.