Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2

An efficient AND effective innovation strategy adapts to a company’s business objectives, strategic priorities, and team. It doesn’t start with getting everyone together in a room for a creative thinking workshop and expecting innovative ideas to happen spontaneously. Analysis, outreach, and design thinking combine to make in-person innovation productive and ROI-driven – after completing the pre-work.

Before holding innovation strategy workshops, we take advantage of best practices, stakeholder input, & upfront analysis to surface high-impact innovation opportunities.

5 Ways to Boost Your Innovation Strategy’s Efficiency

Here’s an example from a Brainzooming engagement to help a client’s finance team lead an innovation strategy initiative. The objective was to reduce the company’s working capital levels on an ongoing basis. We employed five techniques in advance of an in-person innovation workshop to focus the work and boost success.

#1. Identifying innovation across industries

Brainzooming identified relevant best practices and innovative strategies across industries. This work provided an external checklist of innovation opportunities to shape further analysis and to design the online surveys.

#2. Aggressive data mining and analysis to create focus

Brainzooming conducted internal analysis to highlight 80-20 opportunities. This helps focus innovation efforts. As is typical, this step uncovered powerful improvement-related insights hidden within summarized data.

#3. Online input and collaboration for greater access

We employed an online survey to reach stakeholders who are highly relevant to the innovation initiative’s success but might otherwise have been overlooked. Viewing the financially-driven working capital initiative as business innovation pointed to the need for sales, customer service, and other areas to participate actively.

#4. Engaging atypical stakeholders and experts for input

Rather than assuming that the department responsible for the innovation strategy has all the answers, we actively included other groups. We sought to reach out to sales, customer service, and other departments focused on customer and business relationships with significant accounts payable levels.

#5. Workshop design capitalizes on findings

The in-person innovation workshop design and implementation benefits from all the activities up to that point. The early input shapes the strategic priorities, innovation exercises, and additional deliverables to foster successful implementation.

Want to maximize innovation AND efficiency?

Is your management team looking for collaboration and innovation, but concerned about how it will impact the focus on efficient daily operations? Contact us, and let’s talk about how to deploy an efficient innovation strategy initiative in your organization to maximize your results and impact. – Mike Brown

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It’s important that a brand strategy lead to displaying your brand personality in a way that fosters affiliation among customers and creates interest with prospects.

That sounds like a mouthful. It also sounds expensive and complicated to do. It definitely can be, but it most certainly doesn’t require an expensive or complicated brand strategy.

Here is a prime example from the grocery store over the weekend.

Among the four pancake mixes, which one stands out?

The three with the flavor variations and the predictable photos of pancake stacks? Or the one with the predictable flavor and the pancake stack that uses bananas, blueberries, and chocolate to make a smiley face on the pancakes?

For me, Bisquick won. It stood out because its stack of pancakes displayed personality.

Think about it. All of the boxes feature a stack of pancakes. All of them required a food photo shoot. Yet only Bisquick made a brand personality statement with its photo. It’s not symmetrical. It’s not the best of the photos. But it’s the only one that brought fun and brand personality to the grocery store aisle.

Which raises the real question for you: How is your brand strategy exploiting every opportunity to add fun and brand personality to boost the attention your brand garners? Well? – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

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Struggling with spending your time on what’s most important? Do you do things, but it feels like you’re wasting time and distracting yourself from tackling the big activities you SHOULD be doing?

Maybe I’m the only one that struggles with this, but I doubt it.

I typically manage my time based on what I can mentally work on productively right now. If one work activity isn’t flowing creatively or productively, I’ll simply switch to another task. That’s true even if it’s not the next task on the priority list. The key is finding the activity that I can successfully work on right then.

This strategy works pretty well for me, until I find myself putting off important tasks (typically administrative activities with the business) that aren’t the next most productive thing I can do. That’s when I have to stop and create a block of focused time to work on the important things I dislike doing.

During a period like that recently, I drew the graph below. The objective was to analyze the gap between what I should be doing (x-axis) and what I really am doing (y-axis).

When I did that, the less critical activities that I work on because they are easy and productive jumped out (upper left). The lower right was filled with the financial, compliance, and administrative tasks that are important but seem like huge time drains. A few things did fall along the green line, which means I am spending the right amount of time on them. In these cases, I’ve been looking for strategies to handle these differently. That might be regularly assigned times or finding other people who can take them on and do them more productively than I can.

This might be a good activity to spend a few minutes on today.

Are you aligning your time management with what you SHOULD be doing? Or are you filling your time with activities that you PREFER to do, and wind up getting too much of your time and attention? – Mike Brown


Fast Forward: Successfully Implementing Your Plan! 

In the FREE eBook, Fast Forward, we highlight ideas, tips, and checklists you can quickly use for implementation success:

  • 10 ways to simplify and strengthen the language you use to communicate strategic priorities
  • 9 ideas for introducing your strategic plan with style and impact to engage your organization
  • 4 keys for selecting the right collaborative leaders during implementation
  • 12 questions to better launch your successful strategy implementation process
  • 4 strategies to navigate typical execution challenges
  • Using mini-plans to increase implementation flexibility

If you’re on the hook to move your organization from strategy to implementation ASAP, Fast Forward is for you! Download it TODAY!
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The general manager at an industrial manufacturer wondered about how to effectively engage the hourly workforce as innovation strategy participants? He is hoping to figure out a practical way to include hourly employees in innovation activities comparable to those management has undertaken.

His question reflects legitimate senior executive interest in engaging the entire workforce to drive innovation and ROI through far-reaching process improvements. He was wrestling with a common challenge executives face when thinking about engaging an hourly workforce: How can I pull people off the line, shop floor, phones, or wherever else they are producing or serving customers to participate in this non-productive activity?

via Shutterstock

Whether that concern surfaces immediately or later, it is always present. It frequently represents a deal-breaker for engaging hourly employees in any type of process improvement, business engagement, or training opportunity. Because they are paid by the hour and work on activities that directly impact the organization’s output or productivity, they seem to be off limits when it comes to participating in strategic activities to improve the business.

What about the financial hurdle of engaging hourly employees in innovation strategy?

My response to the general manager on the productivity and payment issue centered on two things:

  • He is paying managers and salaried team members when they are spending all or part of a day focused on generating ideas business improvement ideas.
  • Salaried team members are also, in theory, being pulled away from productive activities more directly related to their jobs when they participate in innovation workshops. It is just harder to see the productivity loss with a salaried employee. There is a tacit expectation that salaried workers will put in extra time to make up the difference, lowering their hourly cost to the point where it appears their focused innovation time is free.

That reasoning changes the business decision.

No matter who is participating in the innovation activities, leadership is signing up for a near-term financial hit. Strategic leaders look at this as an investment with an expected future return. Executives focused on short-term issues look at it as a cost and productivity loss that makes it harder to hit their plans.

Granted, the monetary impact is real. Starbucks closed its stores May 29, 2018 to hold workshops addressing racial biases among employees. Some news stories estimate the cost was $12 million: $7 million of foregone revenue at its 8,000 company-owned Starbucks stores and $5 million in wages for employees that weren’t serving customers during those hours. Commentators pointed out, however, that the investment in improved customer relations for Starbucks is minimal compared to the brand’s $24 billion annual revenue.

Run the comparable numbers for your organization. See what the real financial hurdle is in more widely and effectively engaging hourly employees to improve your operation.

If more effectively engaging your hourly workforce is on your senior team’s to-do list, contact us. We’d be happy to share details on how to move forward and dramatically improve your business through greater collaboration! – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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Wow, that unplanned blog vacation went on longer than expected.

It has felt all throughout 2018 as if everything else going on in the Brainzooming world has been pulling attention away from the blog (and many other things in my work and personal lives). One of the significant pulls has been a two-year project to launch two new companion brands to Brainzooming.

The first companion brand involves developing and releasing a book on creative leadership. The book is completed, and after a few revisions, we’ll be ready to launch by early July. We did a soft-launch of the book last week at a customer event. Our preparation for that event, plus getting the book to an interim finishing point, drew more creative energy than I’d expected or suspected as we toiled away on it. The upside of the time away from everything else is that we created multiple book-related assets we have ready to go.

The second companion brand encompasses, in its initial version, an online offering targeted at emerging brands. It will provide an amazing range of brand strategy, customer experience, and content marketing assets to prepare owners and entrepreneurs within these brands to aggressively increase awareness, grow into new markets, and/or raise new money to take the brands to the next level. It’s nearly complete and will formally launch on the heels of the new book.

In addition, there is also a new innovation strategy diagnostic that needs tweaking before its broad launch, work on multiple new websites, client follow-ups, invoicing, changed travel plans, multiple road trips, and a few work crises sprinkled throughout the last few weeks away.

Put it all together, and, at least for the last few weeks, blogging has slipped down the list of what is getting attention.

Growing, morphing, and scrambling pains are WAY beyond what you might typically expect.

Our unplanned blog vacation will look less like a vacation and more like a sporadic blogging schedule for a bit, unfortunately.

That’s not what we want to do. But right now, it’s reality. – Mike Brown

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  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

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There’s a meme — perhaps you know it — in which two stick figures are trying very hard to make plans to get together. Reviewing their calendars, they trade offers and counteroffers until finally they embrace, tearfully, saying, “It was so nice knowing you!” and “I’ll never forget you!”

Adult friendships, it turns out, require a different level of care and persistence. They can be overwrought with complexity.  We’re not often completely sure about its boundaries or rules. We wonder, we worry. And yet we don’t talk about it much.

Enter Randi Buckley and Dyana Valentine.

Last Saturday, I joined forces with these two inimitable women to record episode 3 of their podcast series, The Challenges of Adult Friendships. It’s an ongoing conversation that explores “the terrain, confusion, gravity, importance, grieving, and nuances of adult friendships,” a topic I think about often, and one I was excited to discuss with these two fascinating and brilliant women. We talked about some of the things that happen around the question of, “What if they don’t want to be friends with me?” We also laughed. A lot.

We haven’t yet figured out how to solve the challenges inherent in adult friendships, but there’s something intensely freeing, and–I hope–helpful about this type of discussion. You can listen in to the podcast here — click on episode 3, far right. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Challenges of Adult Friendships! Emma Alvarez Gibson

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A participant at a Brainzooming creative leadership presentation stayed afterward.

He asked an intriguing question.

His department is about to undergo a reorganization. Currently, certain people are underutilized. While the reorganization isn’t intended to move them out of the department, he wondered how to best involve all the team members in re-imagining the department. He wanted ideas to do that without making the currently underutilized employees nervous. Additionally, he doesn’t want them to try to game answers to the questions to keep themselves fully employed and under-worked.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Engage Employees in Reorganization

I offered him five strategic thinking questions:

  • When is our organization at its best in performing the variety of activities we do?
  • What professional skills – whether used in your job currently or not – could you teach other department members to improve everyone’s effectiveness?
  • On what activities do our internal customers spend more time than they prefer (and that we can better address)?
  • What are our internal customers not able to accomplish because they are bogged down with other duties?
  • Where could we provide greater value if we were able to prioritize or focus more?

All five strategic thinking questions avoid anyone needing to game the answers to protect themselves or expose anyone else. I suggested that he ask the questions individually, compile the answers, and then use an edited version of the responses to shape the team discussion.

If you’re facing a similar situation: keep it neutral, simple, and focused to help your team constructively contribute to reorganizing in the smartest, most strategic way possible. – Mike Brown

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

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Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

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Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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