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In years past years I’ve watched the Super Bowl advertising extravaganza with a tight focus on evaluating each ad and the tools of persuasion used by their creators through rankings, analysis, etc.

This year–not so much. I watched with interruptions, people talking around me, showing me dog YouTube videos and Peyton Manning related tweets. In other words, how real consumers see the ads.

Something Old, Little New, and Lots of Red, White, and Blue

So, I won’t try “best” and “worst.” But certain ad themes do seem to show up every year so I picked a couple that stood out this year to me among the Super Bowl Advertising.

Super Bowl Advertising Theme 1: Didn’t You Used to Be Famous?

Again, a Super Bowl perennial. Appearances here included Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Bud Light Skankmobile, Bruce Willis for Honda safety, and everybody they could dredge up from the 80s for Radio Shack. Arnold and Bud Light should have been embarrassed and I wasn’t sure the Honda ad was ever going to end. But I just might go to Radio Shack and see what’s changed. Not because the ad was funny or beautiful or made both laugh and cry in 30 seconds, but because it got across the desired message: we’ve changed and we think it’s worth your time to see how. I also liked the Oikos ad. Not sure I ever watched a full episode of Full House, but this ad balanced the product, the actors and the inside baseball jokes in just the right way.

Super Bowl Advertising Theme 2: Patriotism

A perennial theme of Super Bowl ads. This year’s the efforts ranged from Chrysler’s return to Detroit only this time with Bob Dylan rather than Eminem, to Budweiser’s Hero Parade with the Clydesdales to Coke’s multilingual “America, the Beautiful.” The Chrysler and Bud ads were more replay than original. Coke broke some new ground, however, and apparently, riled up a few folks who thing “American” is a language. The patriotism themed ad I liked best was the one from WeatherTech. It hit right chords on buy Buy-American without being over produced or jingoistic. A relatively small company making a cut through the clutter message.

Other Super Bowl Advertising Stand Outs

Outside of those themes, there were four other ads I thought particularly good. Microsoft did a great job making technology seem human, General Mills made Cheerios seem timeless rather than old fashioned, Jaguar did much the same for its new F-Type, and Nestle put peanut butter inside chocolate in a whole new way. – Barrett Sydnor


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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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It is said that when the legendary college football coach Woody Hayes was asked why he preferred to run the football ball rather than pass it, Hayes replied, “Only three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad.”

As the Dilbert cartoon helps illustrate, you encounter much the same odds when your business strategy is developed exclusively by senior management.

Dilbert.com

Much like with a forward pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad.

  1. As in the case of Dilbert, the business strategy has a huge defect that the group that developed either it could not see or, because of groupthink or confirmation bias, would not see.
  2. The business strategy is sound, but because it is both unfamiliar to and lacks buy-in from anyone outside senior management, implementation fails.
  3. You get lucky, the business strategy is sound—even though it lacks diverse perspectives—and your organization is strong enough at implementation so you wind up creating strategic impact.

But why depend upon luck and extraordinary implementation for your business strategy to succeed?

By involving diverse participants in your strategic planning process, you can flip those odds. Involving the right people, and even the right groups of people, beyond senior management contributes toward creating strategic impact in three very important ways:

  1. It increases, sometimes exponentially, the number of ideas and strategies you develop and consider. And it greatly increases the variety and scope of those ideas and strategies.
  2. It helps those ideas and strategies be more thoroughly and critically refined and analyzed.
  3. It helps with implementation. A strategic planning process involving diverse participants comes with built in buy-in from the types of people that will have to understand and believe in the business strategy to implement it successfully.

It is, of course, possible to mess up a strategic plan developed through involving a broader base of people. If you lack strong strategic planning tools or if you choose or use participants inappropriately, bad things can still happen. But those two challenges can be dealt with by employing effective and tested planning processes and methods.

They do not rely upon luck and individual or small group brilliance. – Barrett Sydnor


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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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Gigabit-GraphicWhat do Lafayette, Louisiana, the south side of Chicago, Google, Cleveland, the Texas hill country north of San Antonio, and a chunk of rural Missouri and Iowa bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island have in common?

Each leads in delivering a faster, more reliable, and more innovative internet experience. And you would know that if you had attended—and paid attention—during the first day of the Fiber To The Home Council’s conference on From Gigabit Envy to Gigabit Deployed: A Community Toolkit for Building Ultra High-Speed Networks being held this week in Kansas City.

  • The parish of Lafayette built its own fiber network after fighting off the legal challenges of incumbent cable and internet providers. Now Hollywood special effects firms are opening offices and engineering firms from Boston are relocating their headquarters there.
  • Gigabit Squared is soon to start construction on a new fiber network in and around the University of Chicago neighborhood and already there is more than $100 million dollars in new investment and developers are working to make their projects gig ready.
  • Google is offering Kansas City residents gigabit speed internet, and 1 terabyte of cloud storage, and 100+ channels of cable television, and a DVR with 500 hour of storage (in HD), and a Nexus tablet remote control, and a fast home Wi-Fi—all for $120 a month.
  • Northeast Ohio’s One Community fiber network is allowing neurosurgeons to virtually rehearse the operation before they crack open your skull.
  • The foresight of the GVTC telephone cooperative ten years ago in deploying a fiber to the home network has allowed it to weather the storm of reduced landline usage and move into internet, cable, security, long-distance and advanced data.
  • Grand River Mutual has used USDA grants and loans to build a fiber network that brings fast, reliable, reasonably priced telephone and internet services—and economic development opportunities.

When it comes to blazing a trail—even in something as technically involved as telecommunications—the experience of these organizations shows that vision, creativity, and perseverance can be more important than size, financial resources, or the zip code of your headquarters.  – Barrett Sydnor


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Building-Gigabit-City

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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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Most of the time the Brainzooming blog shares strategy, innovation, and creativity ideas while consciously trying not to tout what we do at The Brainzooming Group. Our hope is by sharing intriguing and insightful content on strategy, innovation, and creativity, you will want to explore more deeply how The Brainzooming Group can improve your organization’s performance. Suffice it to say, we do not toot our own horn too much. (Did you like the way I got both “tout” and “toot” into the same paragraph? That will make the SEO grading apps crazy.)

Why Change Is Hard and 3 Ideas for Making Change Easy

Recently I was reading (okay, listening) to, Switch (affiliate link), the book on change by Chip and Dan Heath. I was struck by how The Brainzooming Group successfully addresses what Chip and Dan Heath identify as three of the main points from Switch addressing why change is hard:

Why Change Is Hard #1: Organizations resist planning for change because it is too complex or too hard

Group-Strategic-ConnectionOur Approach for Making Change Easy: At The Brainzooming Group, we refer to this challenge of planning for change as the “can’t get over the hump” problem. We see it repeatedly. Smart organizations with solid people get only so far with developing implementing strategy, but cannot get any further.  Sometimes the answer is strategic thinking tools; sometimes it is resources; sometimes it is strategic focus.

In the Brainzooming process, we analyze what the sticking point is and apply the correct “lubricant” to move the process forward. When you have built up the arsenal of strategic thinking tools and successful creativity approaches we have over the years, finding the answer to move a strategy toward implementation is quick.

Why Change Is Hard #2: People have a fear of failure, so they won’t even try to think about what should be changed, much less make the effort to change it

Our Approach for Making Change Easy: We account for the probability of failure as we design our strategy thinking process. As a result, we inoculate you against being afraid of change. The Brainzooming Group helps you generate a significant number of ideas and concepts as we temper the natural inclination to censor or needlessly debate whether ideas or concepts are good during the early stages of strategic thinking.

We don’t leave you with a pile of uncategorized and unusable ideas, though. We have tested strategic thinking tools to help organize, categorize, and evaluate the new you generate. Knowing the chaff is going to be thrown away helps people not be afraid to generate the kernels of wheat (or nuggets of gold) that lead to successful change.

Why Change Is Hard #3: There is too little attention paid to building upon success and too much attention placed on solving problems

Our Approach for Making Change Easy: The Brainzooming process helps you solve problems. Just as important though, we also help organizations better recognize what they are doing right and provide them the structure and options for building upon that success.

Would You Like to Make Change Easy? At Least Easier than It Has Been?

Thank for indulging this exploration on how the Brainzooming process accomplishes relative to making change easy. We’d love to talk with you about the opportunities and issues in your organization where you are finding change is hard. We’ll return tomorrow to our usual focus on less self-referential issues of strategy, innovation and creativity. Today though, I wanted to point out specific ways we help smart organization make successful change easy. – Barrett Sydnor


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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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In the U.S. nearly twenty cents out of every dollar we spend goes to healthcare. It’s the biggest driver of future budget deficits, the source of most personal bankruptcies, and attempts to reform the system have driven much of the political dialogue—and theater—over the past four years.

Hackovate-HealthHealthcare should be an area ripe for innovation, creativity, and new ways of approaching problems. This past week ten groups presented their best hacks for healthcare innovation at the Hackovate Health Innovation Competition presented by Think Big Partners, sponsored by H&R Block, and hosted by Kansas City’s own Ramsey Moshen. Presenters were vying for a $15,000 grand prize as well as the attention of H&R Block as the company contemplates how it might play in the healthcare arena.

Held in the historic and creatively inspiring Union Station in Kansas City, the finale included presenters from Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, Ireland, and Pakistan as well as from the Kansas City area.

Five Ways to Hack the Affordable Care Act

Below, are quick slice synopsis of the five presentations I found most compelling, including what I saw as the most interesting healthcare innovation by each and what I think could come between them and success.

OkCopay, Inc.

What it does: Makes health care pricing more readily available to uninsured and underinsured.

Interesting innovation: Makes health care pricing in the elective areas—dental, vision, cosmetic—truly transparent to people that have little experience or comfort in that arena, particularly the uninsured.

What could go wrong: The revenue comes from provider promotions. That is a labor intensive sell and also might raise credibility issues with users.

Naya Jeevan Rejuvenate

What it does: Provides low-cost health care insurance and care management to traditionally uninsured consumers.

Interesting innovation: Model was developed in Pakistan, now being applied to U.S. market with coming of ACA and health insurance exchanges. Gets companies with big stake in their supply/distribution chain viability, e.g. P&G, to provide subsidies. Uses holistic approach including Nike Fuel band-like device and ePharmacy benefit.

What could go wrong: May not work in the much higher cost U.S. system. Companies may not be as willing to provide subsidies here are they are in developing markets.

SHHADE – Supplying Home Healthcare Alternatives and Dedicated Education

What it does: Takes advantage of the ground-breaking work done by Dr. Jeffrey Brenner in identifying healthcare cost “hotspots.” Brenner’s work in New Jersey found that not only did 20% of patients produce 80% of the costs, but that there was also a geographic component.

Interesting innovation: Uses an intense managed care approach to working with hotspot patients, including mobile primary care service, remote patient monitoring, health coaching, and care coordination. Their geopod approach seems extremely scalable.

What could go wrong: Only get paid if they can reduce cost to insurance companies of the hotspot patients. What if savings aren’t as great as business model predicts?

Aavya Health

What it does: Makes biometric data—which drives more than 70% of healthcare decisions—more useful and understandable for the layman.

Interesting innovation: Can use data ranging from simple height and weight to complex lab results. Translates them into meaningful results, e.g. “Your heart age is X,” and then provides ideas and solutions for making health better.

What could go wrong: Could be hard to get people to input the data. Who provides the revenue stream is somewhat uncertain.

GetHealth

What it does: Provides users both a mobile and web platform to keep track of their healthy and unhealthy activities and compare themselves to friends and family

Interesting innovation: Simple, well-designed and branded approach to making being healthy a friendly, collaborative competition with yourself and those important to you.

What could go wrong: Does it end up being just another seldom used app among the dozens on everyone’s smartphone.

Healthcare Innovation – Is your organization involved?

Major themes of the other presentations revolved around helping people understand and navigate through their insurance options—including the coming health care insurance exchanges—and different ways the health care market can be made more efficient and transparent..

One other important takeaway: there is a striking diversity of organizations working at healthcare innovation. They range from the usual suspects, such as medical groups and healthcare IT suppliers, to the less expected, ranging from experts in customer experience to young college grads from Ireland who decided they and others can use smartphones to be healthier.

And that raises the question: should your organization be part of healthcare innovation, even if you don’t currently think of yourself as being in that space? – Barrett Sydnor


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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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Kansas City was blessed with two significant architectural design innovation breakthrough project in the last third of the 20th century, with both coming from the same architectural tree—the firm of Kivett and Myers.

One design innovation was Kauffman Stadium (nee Royals Stadium) and its fraternal twin at the Truman Sports Complex, Arrowhead Stadium, set the standard for modern sports design. The Kansas City firms attached to Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium made Kansas City ground zero for architectural design innovation in sports stadiums, ballparks, and arenas. Hardly a major sports stadium or arena gets built globally without a Kansas City architecture firm being involved or being the benchmark against which other firms are judged.

Source: Kansas City Aviation Department

The other architectural design innovation breakthrough was Kansas City International Airport (KCI). After it opened (also in the early ‘70s), it became the model for airports from Dallas to Germany to France to South America. Kansas City International Airport was designed on a “drive to your gate” concept that allowed departing local passengers to have as little as a 75 foot walk from the vehicle depositing them on the terminal curb to the entrance to the airport jet way.

As a result, if you live in Kansas City, you love Kansas City International Airport. If, on the other hand, you have connected through Kansas City, you probably hate it. With the advent of enhanced security, what was once an architectural design innovation is now a struggle if you have to change planes—much less, airlines–or to find any amenities if you have to layover.

When Innovation Outlives Itself

In the case of the sports stadiums, when they began to show their age and fell behind the amenities offered at newer sports stadiums, the voters and the Kansas City sports teams decided to invest more than $500 million and update. But they stayed true to the original design innovation breakthrough concept.

Kansas City International Airport, however, faces a more difficult decision. Many Kansas City locals still love it, but it has too many buildings (and too many gates), an increasingly outmoded security system for passengers and baggage, significant environmental issues, and a challenge to offer the conveniences out-of-town flyers expect.

What KCI does have is the visionaries who built it in the first place being willing to call for another architectural design innovation, saying, “Do something different.”

At a roundtable discussion on KCI, Past, Present and Future, Bob Berkebile lead designer for KCI, and Hanan Kivett, nephew of Clarence Kivett and a former architect with Kivett and Myers during the construction of KCI, both said it was time for the city to move on.

Berkebile challenged the architects of the city to come up with something even better, even more innovative, “It’s a new opportunity to celebrate Kansas City.”

Looking Ahead for Another Innovation Breakthrough

That is likely the mark of a true innovator, someone who does not live in the past, but recognizes when it is necessary to search for the next defining innovation. – Barrett Sydnor


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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your customer service in a smart way without seeming as if you’re micro-managing the customer experience.

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Google Fiber recently held an event at the Kansas City Public Library exploring the state of Internet access in Kansas City, a.k.a. the digital divide. When I was signing in, a Google rep at the registration desk noticed that I was from The Brainzooming Group and said, “Brainzooming. We use that Gigabit City report you produced all the time.” She was referring to the “Building the Gigabit City” report that we produced with the Social Media Club of Kansas City after an intensive brainstorming session at the very same library last fall, which involved more than 90 community leaders and interested citizens from around the Kansas City metro.

That was a reminder how ideas build upon one another and that answers often must percolate a while—and be addressed from different perspectives—before they move forward toward implementation.

The Digital Divide in the Gigabit City

One focus of the “Building the Gigabit City” report was the urban core in Kansas City. Many of the participants in the urban core brainstorming session group were concerned about the digital divide. The question of whether urban core residents, particularly those who are older and with fewer economic resources, might be left even further behind once ultra-high speed Internet came to town was a particular focus in the brainstorming session. The digital divide has also been a recurrent theme in the work of the Mayors’ Bi-State Innovation Team and is reflected in its playbook.

The Google digital divide event provided additional data points, including an excellent take from John Horrigan of TechNet on why we should be concerned about the digital divide even if we are on the other side of it. In his talk, John Horrigan highlighted multiple impacts of the digital divide:

  • Increased costs to society of the digital divide
  • Greater challenges for people to gain access to jobs
  • Negative educational outcomes resulting from the digital divide
  • Limits on our ability to deal with the increasing cost of healthcare in the US.

Horrigan also made the point that while mobile access to the Internet via smartphones does bridge part of the digital divide gap, it falls short in both quality of experience (because of the limiting nature of the small screen) and in depth of experience (because of increasingly onerous data caps and throttle).

At the Google digital divide event, Google unveiled some excellent research that not only quantified the the size and the geography of the digital divide, but also drew some conclusions about why it exists, and offered insights into how the digital divide might be bridged.

Addressing the Digital Divide

The reality of the digital divide is a reminder that truly profound innovation and creativity carries not only the burden of producing breakthrough ideas, but also of producing the path by which people can use those ideas in a broad and sustainable manner.  –Barrett Sydnor


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How can ultra high-speed Internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, the digital divide, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed Internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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