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Are you involved with the strategic planning process for your organization?

That could involve leading it, participating in it, or trying to influence the strategic planning process so it delivers more value and better results for the organization?

7 Strategic Planning Process Challenges You Can Fix!

Typical complaints about a strategic planning process

If you have a role in strategic planning, do any of these describe your situation?

  • You have a strategic plan completed by a small senior leadership team. Key leaders in the organization now won’t embrace the strategic plan because they weren’t involved in developing it.
  • You are a board member of a non-profit that’s doing great work, yet the board is apprehensive about whether the dynamic executive director has a plan and is grooming successors. The executive director, on the other hand, is not inclined to want to complete a strategic plan.
  • You have just taken over leadership of a company. You are starting to see where you most need to make progress. Your next challenge is communicating the vision and getting your new, senior team onboard.
  • Your organization is pursuing lots of good ideas. All the good ideas are getting in the way of the game-changing idea you need to develop and successfully implement.
  • You have a major strategic move to make with the company. You need to ensure you are considering every potential option to ensure you’re pursuing the smartest possible direction.
  • You have the okay for a more robust strategic planning process. You don’t have the expertise or experience for delivering on the expectations you’ve created. And now you’re scared.
  • Your senior leadership team held a meeting to develop a strategic plan. You had tons of great conversation, but no one wrote anything down that you can now implement.

These are just a few of the situations where we have helped organizations embrace a different type of collaborative strategic planning process.

If you find yourself on this list, contact us and let’s talk before this year’s strategic planning season starts. We’d love to share ideas with you on how to derive more results from the time investment you will be making in planning your organization’s future!  – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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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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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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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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Mess Wright, who just recently opened Mess Labs in Dallas, has been an online friend for many years, and an in-person friend since August 2016.  

Invariably, Mess puts words to ideas that rattle around in my head in a half-formed state. Mess not only pulls ideas together; she puts herself out there by articulating them. Here’s the most recent example of this, with Mess weighing in on business mentoring and the importance of protecting your time and attention when you are trying to make things happen.

Trust me: Mess is a person that makes things happen! – Mike

Business Mentoring – Be Careful of Who Promises You Help by Mess Wright

Abe Nadimi and Mess Wright of Mess Labs

You can go ahead and file this one under, “Things You Aren’t Supposed to Say but Mess Says Anyway.” Oh, well, here goes:

It seems there is some sort of incubator, accelerator, or entrepreneurial center popping up everywhere lately.

I think this is supposed to (and can) be a good thing, but I have to tell you something.

I’ve been in this startup world for nearly a year, and I’ve found the majority of the “entrepreneurs” and “mentors” I’ve met are actually either hacks, delusional liars, con-artists, or people who are otherwise lost or unemployable.

It takes a minute to decipher the people who are actually “in business.” That minute is long and hard, but my advice is to take the time to really vet people you might let into your life.

I’ve taken a lot of hits (mostly inside my co-working space) for pointing out the people who are time and money sucks. I’ve been told it’s rude or impolite. I’ve been told “community” means “supporting” people, even people who are clearly trying to take whilst offering nothing.

I say all this because I think a lot of people romanticize self-employment or entrepreneurship. My advice for them is if you take that jump, be very selective about who gets time with you. You don’t have to say Yes to every invitation, every introduction or entertain every opinion. It’s way okay to be exclusive in some ways – don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.

Just because someone is older, more experienced, more educated, or did the thing you want to do, that does not make them mentor material. Gravitate to people who lift you up, listen to you, and help you grow. Don’t worry if those people aren’t marketing themselves as leaders or guides. The ones who do aren’t always the support you are seeking and needing anyway.

Everyone who is in a position to refer mentors to mentees needs to also vet people better. Let’s hold anyone we call “mentor” to a higher standard and drop the assumption that “accomplished” or “perceived as accomplished” translates to “can mentor.” It’s a horrible assumption, if you think about it. And a bad mentor figure can do amazing harm to a mentee.

Finally, if you feel you want to mentor someone ask yourself if you have the time, you have the inclination, and if you truly hold the mentee’s best interests as a priority.

If you’re doing business mentoring to feed your own ego, stop. Just stop! – Mess Wright

Download Disrupting Thinking

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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Whenever we discuss using questions to foster disruptive innovation strategy, it prompts objections.

The objections center on the idea that questions do not create disruptive innovation.  The point these individuals (who are usually innovation experts that comment on other companies’ content without ever generating any innovation strategy content of their own) make is that a whole variety of factors contribute to disruptive innovation. They counter suggesting strategic thinking questions as a starting point over-promises and ignores all the other dynamics involved.

Our response? We never claim that questions alone will create disruptive innovation.
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Yet, we have seen many successful companies that cannot even imagine deliberately undermining the basket where they have placed all their eggs. For these types of established players, you have to disrupt their status quo thinking so they realize that brands not even in their consideration sets are aiming to render them pointless in the marketplace.

Examples? See Kodak, Border’s Books, unionized trucking companies, and every department store you ever visited, among others.

ANYTHING that gets leaders in these situations to imagine where they are vulnerable and how to disrupt themselves before someone else does is a HUGE HELP.

13 Exercises for Disruptive Innovation Strategy: Disrupting Thinking eBook

That’s why we’re releasing the innovation strategy eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

This FREE eBook, inspired by a popular Brainzooming post on how emerging competitors look nothing like your company, features question-based exercises to foster strategic conversations on disrupting your:

  • Brand benefits and value proposition
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational structure and processes
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Industry and market dynamics
  • New business initiatives

We do agree with our critics: imagining disruptive innovation scenarios is one step that must be coupled with develop the ideas and doing something about them. And as hard as imagining disruptive innovation is for established brands, acting can be even more of a challenge.

If you need to start the difficult strategic conversations on disruptive innovation strategy, Disrupting Thinking is for you!
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Download your FREE copy of Disrupting Thinking TODAY, before it’s too late!

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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Chatting with a mid-career professional who is at the height of job frustration, she placed a career strategy challenge on the table:

  • “A résumé is supposed to have metrics, but I have no real metrics I can own for my contributions at my day job.
  • “What I’m doing in my day job isn’t the kind of work I want to do in my next job – at least under the same circumstances. I need to find something more fulfilling.
  • “I’ve done outside work at various times, but it’s not a consistent work history. Plus, I can’t jump back into entrepreneurship with its lack of stability.
  • “I have some starting points describing myself that have potential to go on a résumé, but they seem fluffy and lack concrete accomplishments.”

With all that backdrop, the question was, “What should I put on my résumé that is going to help me attract an employer’s attention when I email or post my résumé?”

I know this isn’t an isolated career strategy challenge.

Parts of it feel a lot like what I was facing at various points in my corporate career. When you are part of a big organizational machine, it is often difficult to isolate what you do to create metrics. And if you tend toward under-selling yourself, you freeze when faced with touting your own capabilities and accomplishments.

5 Career Strategy Challenge Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

What’s the answer to this career strategy challenge?

I don’t know that there is one answer, but here are the ideas I shared:

  • You can always go to a professional to help prepare your résumé. Here is one I’d recommend if you pursue this idea. A professional creates compelling stories for job seekers all the time, and there’s tremendous value in both that experience and the objectivity of someone else looking at your great capabilities.
  • Create your own metrics. Every organization wants to improve what it does and do it more efficiently. If you’ve struggled to compile metrics for your personal contribution to the organization, create a performance improvement project in your department. Go to your internal customers under the banner of bettering your department’s contributions. Ask them for specifics on where your contributions improve good things, reduce bad things, accomplish results with fewer resources, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in any other quantitative ways. Collect success stories, too, even if they aren’t metrics-based. All this work will improve your day job while giving you ample résumé material.
  • Reach back out to your outside clients and ask them comparable questions about performance improvements, cost efficiencies, and customer successes they can attribute to the work you did for them. Those could be easier, more compelling metrics to establish.
  • Beyond the success stories you are collecting, ask several people close to you to create a recommendation letter for you that highlights at least five key characteristics, talents, work accomplishments, and selling points that they would use to communicate about you positively to others. They will likely share things you don’t see in yourself that you should be communicating in your résumé.
  • Network like crazy! Start now, and continue for the rest of your career. If you are a unique talent who is hard to adequately and differentially describe in a couple of pages, why limit yourself to selling yourself in a couple of pages? My advice to this job seeker was that her next position is going to come from someone that sees and gets her talents and finds the right role. By meeting hiring decision makers personally through an aggressive networking effort, the résumé becomes less important. Then, instead of selling you sight unseen, it becomes a crutch for the decision maker to better describe you and what they see in you to others in the organization.

Those are my ideas.

They helped get her thinking about new possibilities. Ultimately, these ideas are all about action, and doing the hard work to bring them to life! – Mike Brown

 

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“Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  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. Contact 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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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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Learning what participants in an upcoming big meeting know, think, and believe before they come together in a large group is one tactic to strengthen team collaboration.

14 Team Collaboration Benefits from Pre-Meeting Outreach

Depending on the nature of the pre-meeting outreach you conduct with participants, it can promote team collaboration and help:

  • Get to know participants better and figure out how to best work with them
  • Gain a sense of what people already think
  • Learn what insights the participants already have and don’t have
  • Find out what you need to figure out or research ahead of time
  • Look for areas where you agree so you can make it seem like your ideas are theirs, creating greater ownership
  • Identify strong ideas upfront so you are ready to listen for and act on them in the larger group meeting
  • Understand the nature of disagreements or contrarian points of view, especially how accurate, deeply held, and unchanging they are.
  • Better strategize how to introduce challenging points of view
  • Determine how interested people are in developing a beneficial solution
  • Prioritize topics based on their criticality
  • Uncover time saving and efficiency opportunities, knowing you can spend less time on topics where people agree and more on where they disagree
  • Identify which people should and shouldn’t be in small groups together
  • Discover perspectives you will need to introduce in a larger group setting that individuals may be reluctant to voice
  • Make it more difficult for someone to play games in a large group (by espousing a point of view they don’t hold privately)

Gaining these team collaboration insights can come through various pre-meeting outreach formats. You can use individual conversations, online surveys, online collaborations, and review previous documentation. The method you choose obviously depends on how available and near people are, along with the importance of anonymity in their responses.

No matter the approach don’t go into a big meeting and expect the strongest team collaboration if you haven’t done your pre-meeting groundwork to make it happen. – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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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In Brainzooming presentations and workshops, attendees want case studies and the answers somebody else has used.

Why?

Because that seems easy.

You show up, put in your forty-five or sixty minutes, and walk away with the answers that you haven’t been able to come up with back at the office. Or you receive confirmation from a speaker that what you have been thinking is right (or pretty close to right), and you can take that back to the office and tell the boss.

A Strategic Thinking Framework Is Better than an Answer, Really!

Despite this desire for case studies and answers, I rarely include them when I speak. Or if I do, I incorporate examples from audience members so THEY can talk about everything they tried, what worked and didn’t, and the things they learned.

Instead, I include lots of strategic thinking frameworks for decision making. While these strategic thinking frameworks aren’t answers, they allow you to quickly develop answers even in areas where you lack experience. That ability (and flexibility) is vital in business. It’s also essential as a presenter where you get questions and people wanting you to tell them what to do. As I remind people, however, I can’t tell them to do one thing or another within a couple of minutes at a conference. But I can give them a strategic thinking framework to analyze the question and decide for themselves.

Here is one example from a social media and content marketing workshop:

An attendee asked about the need to maintain separate Facebook pages in different languages. I pointed him to a brand-oriented strategic thinking framework I shared that focuses on what customers expect, accept, and will reward.

As we played it out, customers expect brands to interact in their own languages. They may or may not accept that one out of every few posts is in their language, and then they have to scroll. Maybe they will accept images with links to content in their own language? Maybe they will accept built-in translation as a viable option.

Then, depending on which approach they choose, they have to look at whether customers will reward it in some meaningful way. Will they select the brand over another? Select it more often? Pay more for a sense of personalization?

While I didn’t know the answer at that moment, the strategic thinking framework provides a way for them to consider the options and make a decision that works for the brand.

Bring the Questions!

If you are in the audience for a Brainzooming workshop, I love, love, love the questions. Please ask questions.

Just realize, your answer is probably going to be a way for YOU to think about your question and develop the answer you are seeking that works best for YOU, not somebody else! – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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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