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If you want to improve your organization’s innovation successes, how about going to school on your competitors?

Skeptical? Don’t be!

7 Things Competitors Can Teach You about Innovation

Here are 7 areas your competitors can teach you about innovation. You can answer these questions to better understand the pros and cons, whys and wherefores of how competitors in your industry are addressing innovation and what it means for your brand.

School-Zone

1. Where have competitors traditionally beat us to market with innovative ideas?

Based on the answer, look for reasons why competitors are beating your brand to market. Is your brand ruling out certain strategic moves, missing opportunities for innovation, or lagging during implementation? What do the answers suggest about innovating differently in the future?

2. Which innovations have come from traditional competitors versus newer players?

Generate a list from the past several years of significant innovations in your industry. Do this by asking various people in your business (or even your industry) for their recollections. Consolidate the lists into a timeline. Review the results to see which players are pursuing a competitive strategy based on innovation to drive change in your industry.

3. What signals did competitors make before introducing recent innovations?

Use your list from question 2 to look backward to recent innovations. What were competitors doing and saying prior to introducing these innovations. While you won’t find them in every case, it’s worthwhile to identify whether competitors have any corporate “tells” that signal their innovation moves before they reach the marketplace.

4. How would our competitors develop and introduce our brand’s newest innovation differently?

On one hand, if there are dramatically different innovation strategies competitors are using relative to yours, that could be VERY good. Alternatively, these differences could signal your brand is missing strategic opportunities. You need to look at the situation and judge which it is.

5. How long do competitors stick with an innovation that’s not working?

Can you identify a pattern for how much time competitors allow newly-introduced innovations to thrive, survive, or die? Look for relationships (cost, visibility, etc.) that explain any pattern that might exist.

6. Are competitors introducing innovations we couldn’t profitably produce and sell at comparable prices?

It’s vital to assess whether your brand’s inability to match the price of a competitor’s recently-introduced innovation is because of its cost advantages, a difference in cost structure or allocations, a deliberately aggressive / share-gaining price, strategic brilliance, or stupidity. Any one or a combination of these suggests competitive strategy problems.

7. Have competitors introduced successful innovations with inferior features to ours?

If a competitor can introduce a successful innovation with seemingly fewer features than your offerings and still be successful, the competitor may have figured out customers are looking for something different. That difference may be a preference for simpler, cheaper, or easier to use innovations.

Competitive Strategy Lessons about Innovation

See what we mean?

Your competitors could be the best source you have to learn a lot more about how to improve your innovation successes in the future.  – Mike Brown

 

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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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As mentioned in our article on integrating spiritual and business lives, Stephen Lahey (of SmallBusinessTalent.com) and I recorded a podcast conversation on the topic. We discussed motivations, benefits, and occasional challenges to having one’s spiritual life placed front and center as you make business decisions and chart your course as an entrepreneur. I think of it as strategic living.

Stephen has published the podcast, and I’d invite you to both listen and respond to our conversation on integrating spiritual and business lives as an entrepreneur.

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You should also subscribe to his SmallBusinessTalent.com updates. You’ll receive notification each Wednesday about Stephen’s featured guest on that week’s podcast, plus a brief Sunday update with a business tip, suggested content to peruse, or a personal reflection.

I really appreciate Stephen’s support for Brainzooming. He has shared multiple strategic ideas for us from his vantage point as a reader and entrepreneur. Additionally, his recommendations on business development and client relations approaches have translated into thousands of dollars of new revenue and profit we’d have otherwise not captured.

That’s pretty incredible ROI!

Given those impacts, if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business, I’d encourage you to reach out to Stephen about the consultation he offers to entrepreneurs. He has the experience (having been an entrepreneur for well over a decade), and he is very efficient and accurate at sizing up business situations. Stephen translates those insights into actionable strategies with tools he’s used to grow and cultivate his own entrepreneurial ventures.

So take a break from Brainzooming today, visit SmallBusinessTalent.com to engage in the conversation on strategic living, and think hard about whether Stephen could help you with a new, trusted, and veteran perspective to gain more ideal clients, profitability, and fulfillment. - Mike Brown

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. 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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I find it surprising when someone discusses the advantages of entrepreneurship and mentions, “You don’t have to work for somebody else.”

This sentiment seems incredibly naive.

Amid this second round of entrepreneurship in my career, it’s clear you certainly DO work for somebody else

In fact, if you serve multiple and varied clients, an entrepreneur works for more somebody elses than is ever typical in a corporate job.  That’s been the case for me without exception. Despite a variety of competing interests and priorities in the corporate world, it was easy to separate the one or two people I was working for versus all the other people who thought I was working for them.

Such clarity isn’t necessarily there as an entrepreneur.

Serving a B2B market, I’ll admit that it’s not always clear what is going on inside a client’s four walls. It’s easy to be on the outside and NOT looking in as internal politics, cumbersome processes, and questionable motivations slow down what should seem to go more smoothly and quickly.

I realized the other day, however, what people are really talking about as the “not working for someone else” advantage entrepreneurs have.

Talking with someone who works for a company that provides services in the B2B market, she was reflecting on a recent client interaction. The client hadn’t provided solid planning information upfront. As a result, there was confusion about how vital processes and decisions would proceed. Her sense was that she, as the client contact for a relationship her employer held, couldn’t set the client straight. She wound up biting her tongue on multiple important issues because it was a client. The best she felt she could do in challenging the situation was to offer two strong suggestions to attempt to correct the situation.

Having my own business, however, I’d have been in a different position to act. If pushing back to the client resulted in losing the business, I would be in the position to fully understand that impact and shoulder the full ramifications of it. As an employee, she wasn’t in a position to do that.

If you have someone paying you, you are working for somebody else whether as an entrepreneur or as an employee. Maybe what people really mean about not working for somebody else is that an entrepreneur can talk back and take action against the whoever is paying more effectively than an employee.

In that case, I’d have to agree with them. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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When something bad happens that NEVER happens, and it screws up your time-tested business process, how much effort do you invest to make changes and minimize the chances of it ever happening again?

That was the strategic thinking topic for a recent dinner conversation.

Trash-Can

After sitting through another organization’s design process that went bad in a way it never had over many years of use, we were diagnosing what could have been done differently. And while I was sitting there observing the whole time, it wasn’t completely clear to me what I would have done differently:

  • Would I have isolated a problematic, unnecessarily detailed team member to try and salvage the effort of the participants who were being productive?
  • Would I have called time out to try to pin down the apparent leader of the effort on who the real decision maker was?
  • Would I have improvised a quick exercise to make the group prioritize the seemingly never ending and odd array of constraints the problematic team member kept introducing?

Or all three?

Fortunately, it wasn’t my deal so I didn’t have to decide.

In talking with the facilitators later, I learned that this design session’s arc was unlike any encountered in many years of using their process.

While I was quick to offer strategic thinking about what they could change in their business process, I ultimately called B.S. on myself. I told them they should dismiss my advice because I spend WAY TOO MUCH time fixing one-off bad facilitation situations that will never happen again. Doing that makes me feel better and more comfortable, but it may really be wasted effort that never delivers real benefit.

So, no strategic thinking answers today.

Only that nagging question: When is it worth the effort to fix the once in a lifetime crappy situation with a business, just in case it might happen again?

It’s a strategic thinking topic ‘m mulling over, as I’m sure they are.

What do you think? – Mike Brown

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It never fails.

If I am creating a new presentation, I go through the same tortured creative thinking stages EVERY TIME.

As I pass the various STAGES, they always feel familiar based on past experiences.

Yet no matter how much creative thinking I do or how much I recognize the stages and WANT to skip over those that cause the most frustration and anxiety, I repeat them every time while creating a new presentation.

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Creative Thinking Stages for a New Presentation

After seeing how my last new version of a presentation went, and in the midst of creating not one new presentation, but working on three new presentations this past week, I listed these twenty-five stages of creative thinking in the hopes of avoiding the most painful ones.

I am not sure that hope will ever come to fruition, but at least now, there is a road map to know where I am at in the twenty-fives stages of creating a new presentation.

  1. I’m tired of all the old presentations, so how about creating a new presentation?
  2. What have I gotten myself into here?
  3. This outline for the new presentation came together pretty easily.
  4. I have a lot of previous material I can reuse.
  5. There’s so much raw material here it’s tough to wade through and get it organized.
  6. I should perform some secondary research to test my ideas.
  7. There are a lot of other people already addressing this, and they’re probably smarter and have better experience than I do.
  8. I’ve got a mess on my hands and the original outline for the new presentation doesn’t make sense anymore.
  9. Maybe it would work to start over, do some more creative thinking, and develop a new outline in PowerPoint.
  10. The new presentation outline seems to work, of course, there isn’t a strong beginning or end, so now it’s just a matter of moving SOME of the big file of content into the new PowerPoint.
  11. I don’t have nearly enough material to fill the time.
  12. I’m going to have to develop a whole new handout, and who has time for that?
  13. I just got the attendee list, and EVERYBODY who’s coming to this session already knows WAY MORE than I do.
  14. This shorter version is finally starting to make some sense.
  15. With the beginning added, the new presentation feels good.
  16. Looking at it now, this new presentation is about 20% too long so I’m going to have to cut some slides.
  17. I really don’t have a lot of this content committed to memory, so I had better listen to recordings of similar content I’ve already presented.
  18. There are several stories from those recordings that should go into this presentation.
  19. The new presentation is close, but going back through the attendee list, I’m still not sure what they’re going to learn.
  20. I’ll work through the notes on the plane there.
  21. After hand writing my notes on the plane, this new presentation really clicks, especially after a few more tweaks.
  22. Sitting here the night before, it’s still way too long and the ideas aren’t meaty enough for these attendees.
  23. Going through the presentation last night, I fell asleep because it was so boring to me, so it’s going to be boring for the attendees.
  24. It’s time to give the new presentation, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.
  25. That went REALLY well.

With the new presentations I’ve been creating the last week, I’m at around stages ten through thirteen on all of them.

I have a long way and a short time to go until stage twenty-five.

Wish me the best! - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. 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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Opening a Can of Creative Thinking Worms

What’s the opposite of “opening up a can of worms”? Fishing? Closing the can of worms? Picking the best worms and doing something really incredible with them? Finishing what you start? I don’t know the right answer, but it seems like with a little creative thinking we should be able to figure it out . . . Social media is celebrated as a young person’s game, which maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t . . . There’s more value to having patience on your side than having time on your side, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

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Even if no one else cares, it’s wonderful to have a cat who cares about purring for you enthusiastically . . . If you are struggling for content ideas, write out a list of the untold stories in your life. There will be incredible content ideas in that list, guaranteed . . . When you meet someone entirely new who starts sharing the same points of view you have completely unprompted, you have to take notice and figure out how you should be working together . . . If you need a laugh today, watch “Word Crimes” from Weird Al Yankovic. It’s hilarious on the surface, and even better for some of the very subtle shots it takes at other performers.

It’s a sad statement about the times in which we live when dumb gets more attention than sensible. Social media isn’t completely to blame, bsocial media has allowed dumb stuff to be broadcast 24/7 . . . There’s great value in learning when you can and SHOULD simply “wing it” . . . If bizarre situations and people were really as common place and important as the media (including social media) would have you believe, the media wouldn’t be covering them . . . Even though I hear some people using them interchangeably, there’s a difference between “collaboration” and “corroboration.”

jump-orange-shoes

Might as well jump, but into what? . . . Going to bed with loud rain and thunder is like getting a recording filled with storm sounds completely free . . . I go through the same stages of anxiety in creating every new presentation or workshop. Still haven’t found the formula to break that creative pattern, but I’m working on it . . . We used to eat at restaurants with paper table coverings, and I’d show up with a Sharpie marker (and maybe even crayons) to illustrate our dinner. Somewhere along the line that stopped, and I miss that creative pursuit. That needs to change and soon! - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. 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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Talking with reader and number one Brainzooming fan Stephen Lahey recently, the conversation turned to the strategic thinking behind reasons to integrate one’s spirituality and business life.

I shared my personal strategic thinking and perspective with Stephen. That perspective has been heavily shaped by the seemingly rhetorical question, “If it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Relative to Stephen’s question, integrating my spiritual beliefs into my communication whether in person or online provides more evidence to “convict” me.

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5 Reasons to Integrate Spirituality and Business

Additionally, trying to be more direct about my religious beliefs in business also:

  1. Addresses the most important relationship and activities in my life.
  2. Creates accountability for me to live to the standards and ideals I communicate.
  3. Brings me into stronger alignment with my personal core purpose statement.
  4. Helps weed out potential clients who might see my spirituality as a stumbling block. This is helpful because us helping clients depends heavily on their ability to be open to ideas that do not completely match their own.
  5. Tries to make it clearer that any good I bring to a business relationship is not directly because of me, but because of the good flowing from the blessings of a deepening religious devotion.

That is where I am right now as I pray about and explore ways to make the importance of my religious beliefs more visible to more people.

Why do I want to do that?

It is not because it is good or bad for business. It is because it is invaluable for each of us to know that God loves us, and is incumbent on those that already know that love to share it with everyone else!

What’s your strategic thinking about this?

I always appreciate you sharing your perspective on blog topics, and if you have thoughts on integrating spirituality and business, it would be particularly helpful to know you strategic thinking about it. Stephen and I are scheduled to record a show for his Small Business Talent podcast, and it would be wonderful to bring your strategic thinking and perspectives to the conversation.

So, what DO you think? - Mike Brown

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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact TheBrainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us atinfo@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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