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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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Our neighbor has a huge maple tree which turns vibrant colors in the fall before dropping nearly every single leaf into our yard. When that happens, our lawn turns to vibrant colors, and on the way back from church last Sunday, these three leaves stood out for how creatively inspirational and striking they were.

While I’m not a big nature person, today’s idea is simple: look at the beauty in these leaves for creative inspiration, and spend more time regularly experiencing nature’s creative inspiration if you haven’t lately.  – 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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Monday’s post was about the importance of paying enough attention to customers that you talk to them when they’re already thinking about your brand. That very day, I had a first-time airline-related customer service situation which highlighted another basic and important service concept: thinking about service delivery in a strategic way from the customer’s point of view.

On a Continental Express plane (the jets so small there’s only one flight attendant), pre-flight instructions are recorded. This allows the flight attendant to demonstrate the various instructions without having to bounce back and forth between the intercom and the demonstration. Since I actually do try and pay attention, I noticed the flight attendant was mouthing the pre-recorded instructions’ words. Given how gregarious she had been on an earlier announcement, I laughed, thinking she had to be a former Southwest employee who was mocking the pre-recorded voice.

When she came by later for the beverage service, I mentioned noticing she was having fun with the recording. She surprised me by saying the reason she mouthed the words was for hearing-impaired passengers. By her reckoning, maybe if they couldn’t hear the recording, they might at least be able to read her lips to get the safety instructions.

I’ve been on a lot of other Continental Express flights (including one the day before) and have never seen this happen. I can only credit the great insight and modification to the standard process to her strategic thinking ability and mentally observing service delivery from the customer’s perspective to modify it for a minority audience segment’s benefit.

We should all be that perceptive and adept at strategic thinking! –  Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategy 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 help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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