Are you a BJCP certified judge? How does it affect and influence your homebrewing?
I just took the test earlier this month, and I can say that it's a difficult bitch of an exam. Overall I don't brew towards the guidelines and I'm kind of an anti-style kind of person, but I think studying and taking the exam was definitely a worthwhile experience.
One of the main goals of the BJCP program is to improve beer literacy. Just because I don't brew for guidelines doesn't mean that as a judge I should be ignorant about Dusseldorf Alts, Roggenbiers or Biere de Garde! Knowing the history, ingredients, and special processes behind the creation of these beers can be of great value towards creating my next non-style creative beer. I also learned quite a bit in depth about yeast, mashing process, malting, water chemistry, and ingredient selection. I already knew the basics of these, but we took it much further in our study sessions. Knowing a lot more about beer can never hurt you... even if you don't brew to the style guidelines. I can just take my new knowledge and apply it in new and creative ways.
I use the BJCP guidelines when trying to determine what the start of my recipe is going to be, and sometimes what to call it. Past that, I make beer that I think will be awesome. Sometimes the end result fits in the style I was going for. Sometimes I'm way off and in another style. Sometimes I can't classify it at all. But if it tastes good, I'm happy.
I definitely understand, appreciate, and enjoy what guidelines can do for beer. It's mightily hard to compare a pale ale to an oatmeal stout, or a pilsner to a porter, especially if you can't classify them as such.
So, in answer, the BJCP influences some key components in my recipe, but my final product is not geared to match the guidelines.
What's most improved my brewing is actually judging in competitions. At a good comp you are paired off with a higher ranked judge (assuming you are a junior) and if they are also good s/he will give you a brain dump. I've learned a lot about where off-flavors come from and how to avoid them, and the beers usually aren't all that terrible. When I encounter an off-flavor in judging I always try to give the entrant a pointer on how to eliminate it.
I usually brew to-style, partly because of the BJCP. It helped me appreciate the history behind the beers I drink. Becoming certified made me much more literate and I speak with authority about myriad styles. Telling people you are a beer judge sounds impressive, too.