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Suppose you’re thinking about a personal branding strategy of speaking to groups or writing to showcase your expertise more broadly. Yet you haven’t done anything about implementing the strategy because you’re concerned about whether your expertise stands up well against all the other speakers and writers out there. So you do nothing.

That’s a shame.

Want to get around your self-imposed expertise hurdle?

Tell your own version of your story, with your own perspectives.

When you tell somebody else’s story (i.e., by reading even compelling news stories or case studies and regurgitating them), you always run the risk of someone else challenging your expertise based on your third-hand knowledge of a situation. That’s not a bad thing, but if your fear of those kinds of challenges stops you from pursuing your personal branding strategy, then it’s tragic.

Instead of telling someone else’s story, look at your own experience, expertise, and perspectives, and speak or write about them from your personal point of view:

All of a sudden your concerns about someone else being an expert go away since no one can be a more credible expert on your own experiences than you are. Now you’re the expert. So get started implementing your personal branding strategy and sharing your version of your own story. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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Talk about a great use of social media listening to engage customers! The evening before last week’s BMA Minnesota innovation training presentation on Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation, I went to dinner at Crave in the Mall of America with good friends and Brainzooming blog readers Brian and Alison Wenck.

After parting ways with the Wencks, I walked into a store called Sox Appeal looking for orange socks to add to my collection. Lo and behold, they had multiple orange sock styles, and I bought 3 pairs of new orange socks.

Back at my hotel room later, I turned on Tweetdeck to catch up with happenings in the Twitter world. I tweeted about going to Mall of America and finding orange socks to give away at the next morning’s presentation.

In part, I mention brands in social media channels to see if they are listening and responding as part of their social media strategies. Not many responses come my way.

Within a very short time though, I had a reply from @MallOfAmerica wishing me well on the presentation. The tweet ended with “-lg,” which when I clicked on the @MallOfAmerica profile, told me Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) was handling the @MallOfAmerica account Wednesday night.

Lisa and I had a brief chat about Mall of America and its social media listening strategy. After bemoaning my four visits to MOA without getting to ride any rides, she invited me to stop by next time in town and definitely ride the rides! I invited Lisa to the presentation since she’d mentioned seeing info about it, but things were getting too crazy at work with the pending holiday season.

Granted, the Mall of America is a big operation, but think how smartly this brief personal encounter shows it is approaching its social media listening strategy. The Mall of America is:

  • Listening – Later in the evening (beyond typical business hours), they were listening when people were talking, not just when Mall of America was in full operating mode.
  • Reaching Out – I wasn’t looking to initiate a conversation with MOA since the orange socks were bought at a particular store. But because I mentioned the mall in the tweet, they took the opportunity to start a conversation.
  • Personalizing the Interaction – Even though it’s a business account, putting the tweeter’s initials on the tweet and the Twitter identities in the profile created both a business AND a personal connection. Although my haste caused me to take several times to get her name right, I’ve had a couple more conversations with Lisa on Twitter since then.
  • Inviting Future Engagement Online and IRL – The conversation about both the roller coasters and my interest in learning more about the Mall’s social media strategy led to the invite from Lisa to reach out to them next time I’m in town.

This is far and away the strongest social media listening and outreach integration I’ve experienced with any brand on Twitter. It’s a great standard for other organizations to emulate in social media listening strategy implementation! – 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

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Typing up the results from a planning session the other day, I found myself going to just about any length possible to thwart my own progress. A wandering mind plus having Twitter on in the background naturally translates to more time wasting. In this case, it led to this list of Top 10 Time Wasters.

I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these. What time wasters do you wrestle with when you’re working, but you’re deadline seems very far off?

10. Lose stuff in your messy office, and then get really determined about taking time to find what you’ve lost.

9. Come up with a goofy #Top10TimeWasters Twitter hashtag and see if anyone plays along.

8. Spend time going through Gmail contacts to see if they’re out of date.

7. Check Twitter after every 23 words you type on the report you need to get done.

6. See if the mail has come 2 hours early with the check you’ve been waiting for.

5. Create a new seasonal personal Twitter avatar.

4. Go to the fridge and eat more Famous Amos vanilla cookies.

3. Offer to answer questions for anybody on Twitter, including performing extensive research on questions in areas where you have no expertise.

2. Refuse to settle for only 9 #Top10TimeWasters.

1. Use a business card to clean out the lint and crumbs from your computer keyboard. – 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.  To learn how we don’t waste your time when we work with you, email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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I was asked recently what to do if, after achieving a certain level of seniority in your career, you suspect you are becoming the “NO” to innovative business ideas within your company and/or among your staff?

As in many situations, recognizing you may be part of the problem is a HUGE first step. If you don’t think it’s a major issue yet, here are some strategies you can use to destabilize your experience and force you and those around you to contribute with more innovative perspectives and to grow in new ways:

  • Tear Apart What You’ve Done in the Past – Go back to a seemingly successful past project and really tear it apart, looking for even subtle flaws you could improve upon next time. Doing this can be an important input into forcing you to raise some personal performance standards which may have naturally softened over the years.
  • Make It Harder on Yourself – When you’re experienced, it’s a lot easier to know what all the steps are on a project, along with all the necessary resources. Push yourself to perform differently by consciously and dramatically reducing resources available for a project. Shorten the time, reduce the size of the team deployed on it, or rule out use of certain tools you’d usually fall back on for routine success. With a different resource set, you’re going to have to think of innovative strategies to get an effort completed.
  • Change Something in a Big Way – Redefine or remove steps from a well-worn business process. Reorder the sequence of some process steps you’d usually do (i.e. prototype an outcome several steps earlier than you typically would to allow others to interact with and modify an earlier deliverable). Instead of doing familiar things yourself, delegate major parts (or the entire effort) to others on your team. Give them clear freedom to change what’s been done in the past with accountability only for the end result, not to how all the intermediate steps are performed.

Each of these strategies work much like what happens when a fitness trainer causes you to be off balance while you train. Having to modify how you handle yourself physically to move a weight works your muscles in different ways.

Using the three strategies above will similarly force you to develop new professional and intellectual muscles to strengthen you, your team, and your ability to look at things in new ways despite all your experience. – 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.  To learn how we can structure an innovative strategy to keep you ahead of your customers, email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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Holly Green is a fellow contributor to the Blogging Innovation website, and is currently the CEO and Managing Director of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. She’s the author of “More Than a Minute™ – How to be an Effective Leader & Manager in Today’s Changing World.” She blogs frequently on business leadership issues and is a columnist for the Worldwide Association of Business Coaching.

She’s guest blogging today on the differences between “creativity” and “innovation” and how ignoring the difference gets in the way of real marketplace success:

Does your organization come up with a lot of good ideas that never seem to make it to market as successful products or services?

If so, you may be confusing innovation with creativity.  Although the two are often synonymous in the minds of business leaders, they actually require very different processes and produce very different outcomes.

How are they different?

Creativity is the process of connecting previously unrelated concepts, ideas, or experiences into a new construct or idea.  It can spring from the mind of one individual.  Or it can be the end result of a formal group process, such as brainstorming sessions or simply bringing people together to exchange ideas.  Creativity contributes to the innovation process, but by itself does not constitute innovation.

Innovation involves more than just coming up with new ideas.  It takes those new ideas and transforms them into something of value.  Unlike creativity, innovation is almost always a group process.  It typically requires expertise from several different disciplines, and almost always includes a number of diverse contributors.

Innovation requires three essential ingredients to succeed: idea generation (creativity), idea evaluation, and implementation. Most companies do well in one or two of these areas.  Very few do well in all three.  Which is why we rarely see real innovation in today’s markets.

One of the biggest barriers to innovation occurs when companies confuse creativity with innovation.  They crank out plenty of new and creative ideas.  But they stop there, thinking they have accomplished the goal.  In reality, all they’ve done is complete the first step in the innovation recipe.  They’ve preheated the oven, rolled the dough and put the sauce and toppings on.  But they haven’t put the pizza in the oven.

I see many companies investing a lot of time and money in teaching employees to think “out of the box.”  But new ideas are a dime a dozen.  The hard part is turning those ideas into new products and services that customers will reach into their pocketbooks and pay for.  So true innovation requires not just creativity, but also knowledge about what your customers want and need, coupled with implementation.

To enhance your innovation efforts, start by recognizing that creativity and innovation require different skills sets.

Creativity uses a right-brained, non-linear process; innovation is more left-brain oriented. Getting people to become more creative involves teaching them how to notice, use, combine, and integrate diverse stimuli, to make connections where none exist.  Promoting innovation requires that people learn how to take new ideas and convert them into value for customers or other stakeholders.

Creativity asks people to think differently.  Innovation asks them to act differently.  Smart companies teach their people how to do both.

You can’t innovate without creativity.  And implementing the same old ideas faster and better does not produce much in the way of new value.  True innovation comes only when you combine new ideas and knowledge, and then implement to create new value. – Holly Green

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There’s a slide in my standard social media strategy presentation showing a young couple looking lovingly at one another. Okay, actually only the girl is looking lovingly. The boy’s face looks as if he’s brimming with ulterior motives!

The image is there to remind organizations considering social media that their strategies can’t resemble the teenage boy’s apparent dating strategy if they expect to build strong, lasting relationships.

The striking similarities between dating’s early stages and the first phases of implementing a successful social media strategy are a convenient way to gauge whether your organization’s social media strategy is likely be appropriate and successful.

With several Brainzooming presentations on social media strategy coming up, I wanted to share the specifics behind the slide’s message in more detail.

Here are 26 pieces of dating advice as valuable in trying to form a personal relationship as they are in creating successful social media-based relationships:

Preparing for Potential Relationships

As You Begin Pursuing Potential Relationships

In the Early Stages of a Relationship

  • Allow time to find out what’s interesting about the other person. What’s intriguing about someone else may not be readily apparent after a first meeting.
  • Make reasonable promises that you expect to keep on a timely basis.
  • Don’t place a lot of expectations on the relationship early on. Forget about demanding commitments right away or making someone change their behaviors as a precursor to continuing the relationship.
  • Don’t try to suffocate the person with too much communication.
  • Work to create positive, enjoyable time together without pressure to consummate the relationship right away.
  • Be available when the other person is interested. That means you have to commit to devoting the time to make a relationship work.
  • Small gestures are important and appropriate early on to show you’re interested in a relationship.

Follow all this advice faithfully, and your popularity and attractiveness is sure to rise both online and IRL. – 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

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It’s the time of year when companies turn attention to strategic and annual business planning. Several times while giving strategic thinking and innovation training presentations the past few weeks on “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation,” I’ve been asked:

“Who should participate in successful strategic thinking and planning efforts?”

My answer is always the same:

You need to have three types of people involved for successful strategic thinking and planning. Getting diverse perspectives involved is of primary importance in business success.

The three types of critical thinking perspectives vital to great strategic thinking, planning, and implementation are:

  • People with Frontline Business Experience – This includes operations, sales, customer service, and any other areas with P&L responsibility or close customer interaction. They provide a solid view of what’s going on in the business, what the business issues and opportunities are with customers and competitors, and what important strategy areas require attention.
  • People with Functional Expertise – Leaders in support areas of the business should bring insights into strengths, weaknesses, and key opportunities for important business processes including marketing, human resources, information technology, accounting, finance, etc.
  • People with a Creative / Innovative Orientation – These people, regardless of foreknowledge of a strategy effort’s focus or experience inside a company, are adept at looking at business, industry, and organizational situations in unconventional ways.

These three groups are all important to include because they tend to see and react to situations from very different perspectives. This intermingling of viewpoints is vital to the best strategic plans.

So what happens if you involve only people with one of these perspectives?

  • Frontline business people, left to their own in planning, tend to come up with more conventional and incremental strategies. Because they’re so close to a company’s operations, there can be a real reluctance to stretch capabilities adequately to address emerging marketplace issues.
  • If only functional experts are involved, you’re liable to get great process ideas and strategies which improve the internal workings of a business but may not have the necessary impact on the organization’s business results.
  • And involving only creative people in planning?  Trust me, you’ll generate really cool, incredible ideas, but too often, there is no way to actually bring them to the market successfully.

The net of all this is for the strongest strategic plan, you need to find ways to include people with each of these perspectives. The challenge is it’s very often difficult for these three groups to work together successfully and productively. That’s where we’ve designed and use The Brainzooming Group strategy development approach which allows people with each of these points of view to actively and quickly build on the ideas of others to create strong, implementable plans. – 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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