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There are a couple of different ways to apply structure to strategic planning exercises:

  1. You can enforce using templates and forms participants have to complete so their answers are uniformed and structured.
  2. You can provide people with strategic thinking exercises, creative thinking tools, strategy questions, and ways to collaborate with one another, using structure to help imagine better strategies.

Many consultants focus only on the first type of structure.

Templates make it easy to compile the work participants are left to their own devices to figure out and complete. The problem is many (most? nearly all?) people who aren’t full-time strategic planning fanatics don’t have efficient and effective ways to imagine the answers that fit in strategic planning templates. What’s worse is participants often resort to completing templates individually. This means there is no opportunity for productive collaboration to devise the plan.

Productive Structure for Strategic Planning Exercises

Structure

The second type of structure, however, is all about helping people use what they know and understand about an organization and its audiences to strategically, creatively, and efficiently develop smart business strategies. And not only does it help them develop the current strategy, using productive strategic planning exercises helps them learn to be more effective in future strategic planning.

After this strategic collaboration, a full-time strategic planner (i.e., such as The Brainzooming Group) can take the output from great strategic thinking exercises and shape it into templates.

If you’ve been through too many strategic planning exercises that feel like the first example of structure, we need to talk. The Brainzooming Group uses the second type of productive structure to create a lively, positive, and collaborative strategic planning process. It will pay dividends for your organization now and for years afterward. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

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Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We’ve had the occasional guest article, but for the most part, The Brainzooming Group runs with as a solo social media department.

Because of being a solo social media department, I’m always looking for productivity and efficiency tips to extend our content marketing success. Some are implemented right away, and others aren’t.

The 8 Smartest Solo Social Media Tips I’ve Yet to Try

Eight-Tips-Crop

Here are eight of the smartest solo social media tips I’ve yet to try, but should!

1. Weave presentation and workshop outlines into the content calendar

This would stimulate more content directly tied to presentations to keep them fresh. It would also quicken workshop and presentation updates.

Why haven’t I done this? Right now, writing to fit overall blog themes and audience targets is easier than writing to a comprehensive master content calendar.

2. Link blog content to presentation and workshop outlines afterward

Even without using presentation and workshop outlines as mini-editorial calendars, you can categorize blog content afterward.

Why haven’t I done this? Once content is published, I tend to look forward, not backward. Instead of regularly linking blog content to presentations and workshops right after it’s published, I search recent blog articles when it’s time to update a workshop.

3. Anticipate breaking longer content into multiple social formats

Author Pam Didner was the first content marketing expert (affiliate link) I heard talk about consciously creating an eBook’s content with an eye toward short form content (i.e., blog posts, tweets, images, Facebook status updates) it will yield.

Why haven’t I done this? I tend to be a content aggregator.  I typically generate short content and piece it together later into eBooks.

4. Heavily integrating major content launches

Hubspot emphasizes launching new content in a comprehensive, integrated way. When launching eBooks, we typically tie launches to major speaking engagements and publish related blog posts and landing pages, but that’s about it.

Why haven’t I done this? A lack of time and patience are barriers. Integrated launches take advanced planning and time. For some speaking engagements, I have created a new eBook the morning of the workshop. That doesn’t leave time for planning!

5. Hiring freelancers to handle some tasks

There are various ways to reach out to freelancers to complete some ideas mentioned here. That’s something we’ve only done sporadically.

Why haven’t I done this? I tend to handle editing and graphics in-house and save the dollar outlay. The downside is things happen more slowly or NEVER. I also spend valuable time doing lower-value tasks instead of activities to more aggressively grow the business. Pam Didner suggested Upwork as a potential resource for finding freelancers; the next task is picking a project.

6. Blog less and publish an email newsletter

I paid for a webinar where Chris Brogan covered blogging less and putting more emphasis on an email newsletter (affiliate link) as part of a business-building strategy. He shared how he varies content between the two; the blog is to attract search traffic, and the email newsletter is for sharing deeper information.

Why haven’t I done this? I’m trying to unwind my long-term thinking about the blog and its role for our business. Quite honestly, the blog is a professional diary and reference tool. I’m actively considering how to vary content within the current format and potentially more dramatically change its structure.

7. Not including “hows” in blog posts

This tip is years old. Experts say to write “whats” and “whys” in blogs, but not “how” to do what you do. I get it, but find it difficult to get away from “hows.”

Why haven’t I done this? Maybe my mentality is too teacher-like. It’s challenging for me to NOT share how to do things when our primary audience persona eschews fluff and seeks information on HOW to do things.

8. Hiring a Content Producer

This tip is front and center for me. A producer would take my ideas and shape them into more and varied types of content. I even know who my first choice to take on this role would be.

Why haven’t I done this? Our content generates indirect revenue. You can’t “pay” us for anything currently other than strategy, innovation, and content engagements, plus presentations and workshops. We don’t sell other content (i.e., books, on-demand training courses, merchandise, etc.) currently. It’s tough to justify the investment for a full- or part-time producer on an on-going basis without direct revenue impact.

Those are our smartest solo social media tips plus a little dirty laundry on why we haven’t tried them.

What do you say solo social media professionals? Are any of you using comparable tips to expand your organization’s content reach? – Mike Brown

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Each Lenten season, Christians are called to grow in a spirit of reflection, prayer, and sacrifice in order to create space between themselves and the attractive nuisances of daily living that separate us from our spiritual foundation.

Gods-Glorious-Firmament

Whether it’s an accurate self-perception or not, I fell more unsettled at the start of this Lent than I can remember in recent years. I need and want a good Lent, one that takes me into the “desert” where the distractions are fewer and the opportunity for prayer more apparent. Despite that aspiration, I’m unsure (at least as I write this the weekend before Ash Wednesday) of what my Lenten penances will be. Some years, it’s been about giving up many things and hoping I stay away from some of them for the entire season. Other times, I’ve tried to be very focused on specific actions. So far, weeks of prayer seeking clarity about this year’s Lenten journey have not yielded answers I’ve heard yet.

In any event, as we’ve done in past years, we are sharing a creativity prayer I wrote a number of years ago as a reminder to also seek out new creative inspirations from the reflection and quiet in the coming weeks.

A Creativity Prayer

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

 

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Super Bowl 50 featured the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos facing off against one another, with the Broncos coming out on top, 24 to 10. Despite NEVER being a Broncos fan, I was rooting for Peyton Manning to take the Denver Broncos to victory (although we did have a Panthers fan in the house) . . . Now, Cooper Manning will be the son at the Manning Thanksgiving table without two Super Bowl rings . . . . Maybe for the first time in many years, I was more excited about the football than the advertising. I am not sure if I am the only one but I am SO OVER all the hype for Super Bowl ads. In any event, here are my take aways from the Super Bowl (and we all know you have to have a good take away ratio to win the Super Bowl!

Panther-Fan

We had a Panther fan in the house.

Super Bowl 50 Winners

Lady Gaga set the new standard for singing the Star Spangled Banner, whether at the Super Bowl or ANYWHERE else. And to all the people going, “Remember Whitney Houston,” I say, Gaga Number 1, Whitney Number 2 . . . Hyundai scored early with Kevin Hart using the auto’s Car Finder technology to keep an eye on his daughter and her date to make sure the boyfriend stayed away from any precarious tunnels. I guess Car Finder is the modern father’s best substitute for a chastity belt . . . The Doritos crowdsourced Pregnancy ad introduced a new paternity test (the baby goes after Doritos just like dad does) and introduced (whether intentionally or not) a pro-life message.

The Skittles and Steven Tyler ad worked. I wanted to see it again, and I had already seen it . . . While there were various #SuperBowlEXP tweeters bashing it, I gave shout outs to Toyota for getting more product mentions in its Prius ad than all other Super Bowl ads combined. It was a smart use of repetition and tackling challenges to product perceptions. All that, plus it featured an OJ Simpson mini-series tie-in and was capped off by another ad after the game’s finish. Of course, as my wife asked, “Where is Jan from Toyota in all this?”

Super Bowl 50 Losers

Pizza Hut featured an early ad for its Garlic Knots. That product name perfectly sums up what my stomach would be like if I ate that stuff . . . There were questions about why the advertisers seem not to understand the value of integrating social media and digital with their $5 million thirty-second advertisements. A hashtag is easy to cook up (unless you are Bud, which put a space in a hashtag a few years ago on a Super Bowl ad), and a hashtag is just scratching the surface . . . I completely missed the PayPal ad. I then Googled it to watch it online and missed it again. PayPal should have featured PeyTon in its ad . . . By the way, did you see the Papa John guy catch up with Peyton as the game was ending?

Peyton-Kubiak

When it came to the Half Time Show, I’m not sure what connection Bruno Mars had to Coldplay, but Bruno Mars was actually enjoyable to listen to by comparison . . . By the second half, the ads seemed to be mostly snoozers. With commercials about constipation, diarrhea, and toe nail fungus, one #SuperBowlEXP tweeter asked, “When is this shit going to stop?”

Fun Facts from Super Bowl L

A word to the wise advertiser: there’s a place between no spoken copy (Acura, PayPal, Budweiser) and too freakin’ much spoken copy (RocketMortgage) where a $5 million Super Bowl ad actually works . . . Of all the Super Bowl MVPs, Joe Montana is the only one I have had a brush with greatness with previously. When he played for the Chiefs, we saw Joe and Jennifer eating at a local restaurant for a late lunch. One other time, Joe Montana came in for take-out at a restaurant where we were enjoying a Friday night happy hour . . . Thanks to all the tweeters who corrected me on thinking it was Denis Leary in the Snickers / Marilyn Monroe ad. Yeah, you were all right, it was Willem Dafoe. But I still contend it would have been funnier with Denis Leary . . . The whole Puppy-Monkey-Baby thing, contrary to what Mountain Dew would want you to believe, represents three things that need not have ever been combined in a Super Bowl ad. Same as with chronic pain, opioids, and constipation. And BTW, OIC missed a cool sponsorship opportunity. Constipation should have been the official NFL sponsor of all False Start penalties in the Super Bowl . . . It sounded like Peyton Manning changed his trigger call from “Omaha” to “WhatThe” at one point during the game . . . It took Avocados to get Scott Baio, cramped airplanes as torture chambers, and the infamous is it blue/black or gold/white dress into the Super Bowl. Good job.

blue-black-gold-white-dress

Finally, the Super Bowl Babies ad was interesting the first time, but I am not sure it had as many legs as the NFL tried to get out of it. Of course, that may be sour grapes because the sad fact is all the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Babies are 45 years old.

Well, there is always next year for the Chiefs, and for some better Super Bowl advertisements, with maybe a classic advertisement SOMEWHERE in the mix. Here’s to next year’s LinkedIn-sponsored, Super Bowl LI. – Mike Brown

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As you think about your career strategy, how do you see yourself?

Are you bigger than your job, or is your job bigger than you are?

job-bigger-than-you

I had not really considered this career strategy question until the end-of-season speculation about which NFL coaches would be fired immediately after the regular football season’s final weekend. The discussions seemed sad, as if NFL coaches at poor-performing teams could do nothing but sit around and wait to be ushered out the door. In those situations, it seemed clear these coaches’ jobs were bigger than they are.

Tom Coughlin was one striking contrast among departing NFL coaches.

In his final press conference as coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin demonstrated what it looks like when someone is bigger than the job. Coughlin “resigned” after fifteen years with the New York Giants, twelve of them as head coach. He led the team to two Super Bowl wins, and was on the coaching staff for another one.

Rather than playing back what Tom Coughlin had to say, you can read the transcript of his remarks.

I would encourage you, however, to watch the press conference video.

You will get a sense of someone who, while obviously devoting himself to his job, his organization, and his players, definitely realizes his job is not bigger than he is. – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help your career strategy as you embrace greater creativity and appreciation for ideas of the talented team members surrounding you! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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People frequently complain about how a strategic planning process, whether accidentally or on purpose, is disconnected from employees’ regular duties and priorities. Too often, employees see strategic planning exercises as separate from and unrelated to what they need to do to run a business. With this view, the natural reaction is to avoid the strategic planning process or hope it goes away soon, so someone can return to daily activities full-time and get work done.

What a waste for the employees and the companies using strategic planning exercises in ways that cultivate this experience!

Seeing this phenomenon multiple times in a corporate setting was one motivator for developing the Brainzooming planning approach.

Strategy-session

 4 Ways to Make a Strategic Planning Process Productive

What can you do to make strategic planning more productive before, during, and after? Here are four different approaches The Brainzooming Group employs with clients:

  1. Instead of using complex strategic exercises that aren’t beneficial outside planning, we use strategic thinking questions that fit how people think and work on a daily basis.
  2. Instead of including too few or too many people in strategic planning and not thinking about how to help them participate successfully, we specifically match participant perspectives, expertise, and interests so they can most efficiently and effectively share innovative ideas.
  3. Instead of requiring people complete complex strategic planning templates unrelated to daily business, we use productive interactions to change the strategic planning process from completing complex forms into conversations, events, and experiences people engage in and learn from as they participate.
  4. Instead of delivering a high-level, generalized strategy document, we deliver an implementation toolkit leaders can continue using to develop innovative ideas, tactics, and alternatives to implement the plan.

Long story short, there is no reason a strategic planning process has to be an energy-sucking, disconnected experience.

With The Brainzooming Group approach to strategic planning exercises, your company will have broader engagement, active involvement, and a path to apply the strategic plan and the work that went into creating it as part of your organization’s daily activities!

Contact us to discuss how your next strategic planning process can be energizing, productive, AND improve your business results. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Is it a good or bad career strategy if you do not have a job description?

And if you have to write one, what are good ideas for creating your own job description?

We tackled both questions recently in working with a nonprofit executive charged with crafting one for a newly expanded role.

Quite honestly, my initial career strategy advice was to avoid a formal job description for as long as possible. My preference was always to get a general understanding of what my boss wanted, but to avoid spelling out all the specifics. If I would have had strictly stated job descriptions, I am not sure I could have morphed my corporate job to be able to lay the groundwork for what became the Brainzooming methodology.

3 Career Strategy Questions for Creating Your Own Job Description

Since this executive was expected to devise a job description, we created a straightforward career strategy-oriented exercise to start. We suggested answering the following three questions:

  • What are ten things you WANT to accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten things you NEED / HAVE TO accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten VERBS you want to have associated with your impact in the organization?

Short of starting by developing a personal core purpose or branding statement, we suggested these three career straegy questions to balance aspirational activities and the “what has to get done” stuff that will not be as exciting. The verb question is to identify viable action words (other than “develop”) to incorporate into the job description.

After recording with these thirty ideas, we suggested picking the top three from each list to provide a starting point.

We will incorporate the input into a trial balloon job description that carves out a bigger role while stopping short of wrapping “world domination” into the job description.

We’re Throwing Orange Paint on the Wall

Throwing-Paint-Job-Description

As we often mention, this one is from the Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Lab. We will report the results as the job description comes together. – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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