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I was talking with an executive charged with implementing an innovation strategy for a new company initiative. While the business objectives and expectations are lofty, the budget available to fund the innovation strategy has disappeared. The company pulled the funding because of a soft business environment and quarterly earnings pressure.

I suspect this isn’t the only such case out there like this right now.

As many companies near the end of the quarter, discretionary budgets are often scrutinized much more closely than business objectives. Budget dollars disappear, but expectations for innovation and growth remain.

16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re facing a comparable situation, you’ll want our new Brainzooming eBook, 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy.

Accelerate-Cover

Accelerate features sixteen strategic thinking questions to expand your possibilities for finding ways to move ahead with your innovation strategy even if your available dollars have disappeared.

And another great thing about Accelerate, especially if you really have no budget? It’s a free Brainzooming eBook!

You can use the strategic thinking questions in Accelerate to identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy.

Accelerate is the first in a new series of eBooks we’ll be releasing in the coming months to help you work around common barriers to business innovation.

Download Accelerate today. You can use it to surprise your organization with your ability to keep things going with your innovation strategy EVEN IF people and dollars evaporate mid-year! – Mike Brown

 

Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

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My natural inclination when it comes to business strategy is to identify what is MOST IMPORTANT and build everything around that. Tie the objectives, priorities, and strategies to a very tight focus for an organization. Mass the resources and the organization’s attention on that single area and put everything toward implementing it successfully.

My most memorable example of this goes back to early in my career.  There was a nearly month-long labor strike at the transportation company where I worked. During that time when we were laying off people on a weekly basis as the strike drug on, it was clear to everyone that the single focus for us as a marketing organization was to win back customers for the day we started our operation back up – whenever that might be. I inherited leadership of our department about a week into the strike, and we pointed EVERYONE toward understanding current customer sentiment and developing the plan to incent them to use our brand again even though we had let them down.

THAT was a singular focus.

Granted, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk about a single, focused business strategy than it is to actually create one.

There always seem to be multiple important things or varied priorities among senior leaders or business units that do not line up in a neat and clean rank order. I’m sure you’ve experienced one of those “our three most important objectives” situations. Yes we have a priority; in fact, we have THREE priorities that are ALL EQUAL.

That’s the MUCH MORE TYPICAL business strategy scenario.

When we started developing our varied extreme creativity questions and exercises to drive bolder business strategy, however, one of the approaches was to actively consider that an organization isn’t going to make choices. It would deliberately and actively pursue multiple big strategies with all available resources.

fork-in-road-quickie

So instead of taking ONE business strategy path and wondering about the other, how about taking BOTH PATHS and doing more? What would the business strategy look like if you did it deliberately instead of by accident? – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – Mike Brown

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

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When something has to give, what strategic priorities will you give up?

When it is crunch time, what will emerge as your real strategic priorities? And are the priorities you pick the same strategic priorities you said you’d emphasize when it was time earlier in the year for strategic thinking?

Those questions are front and center for me.

Nearing last year’s close, I thought we knew specific changes in the make-up of The Brainzooming Group. Looking ahead, I planned to shift my activities toward organizing our content (and increasing its value) and to streamline our internal processes to boost capacity.

Then things changed.

A key person planning to join The Brainzooming Group delayed the decision. Marianne Carr took another role. In a complete surprise, Barb Murphy returned as part of the team. A speculative business opportunity occupying a good portion of my time went away. A new referral client materialized, leading to multiple opportunities. All the while, demand for Brainzooming workshops on innovation, strategic thinking, and content marketing increased.

It would have been easy to decide the best thing to do was sticking with what we’ve been doing. That would suggest pushing off changes we’d been considering until some future date.

Crunch-Time

The best option, however, was ramping up marketing and business development activities, building out our own content marketing strategy to work harder, and migrating more of the doing to core and extended team members of Brainzooming.

That’s what we’ve done, with both successes and sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the sacrifices involve important personal priorities for me – prayer and spiritual time, being with family, fitness, and time to explore new creative ideas. Sleep has also been a victim during this change.

That’s not a sustainable combination.

And even more recently, I actually blew up over a business situation; that’s something that hasn’t happened for a LOOOOOOOOOONG time.

Suffice it to say, it feels like crunch time.

Another victim during this crunch time is regularly publishing this blog.

I’ve been a proponent for regular, if not daily, blogging as vital for successful content marketing. We’re off our schedule, however. While I’m creating a tremendous amount of new content (workshops and presentations, eBooks, and client deliverables), it’s not transferring to blog content as readily as it has in the past. As a result, my strategic priority of maintaining an aggressive publishing schedule isn’t happening. When you finish working on that day’s workshop at 1:30 in the morning, sleep wins out over staying up another hour to write a blog post to publish at 4:50 the next morning. That’s especially true when you know the alarm is set for 5 a. m., no matter WHEN you go to bed. The night after that, however, I did stay up until 3 a.m. to get a second blog post published that week.  It was not easy rolling out of bed at 5:25 a.m., however, to make it to mass before diving in again to get ready for multiple trips that week.

All in all, for those that notice when there isn’t a Brainzooming blog published each day, I wanted to let you know what is happening.

I’m still here.

I’m still trying to create valuable content for you.

But it’s crunch time, and right now, that’s getting in the way. – Mike Brown

 

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Based on several stories last week extolling the benefits of being “lazy” when it comes to innovation strategy, you would think the LAZY days of summer are here a few weeks early (at least in the northern hemisphere).

Lazy is hardly a sentiment you typically associate with innovation strategy, which is why these articles caught my eye.

Execution, a bias for action, and trying lots of things and failing fast are all descriptors you are much more likely to employ when describing a successful innovation strategy.

Yet, consider these stories. In one way or another, each suggests the advantages of laziness when it comes to trying new things, especially acquisitions.

4 Examples Where NOT Acting Might Be a Smarter Innovation Strategy

Stop-Sign

“Dollar General’s Buck Goes Far” by Steven Russolillo in the Wall Street Journal highlights how Dollar General seems to have come out the stronger player for being on the outside looking in as competitor Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar Stores in a $9 billion deal. The story recounts typical post-acquisition issues (integration takes longer than planned, cultures and business styles don’t match up, risks are more significant than expected) to explain while Dollar General is stronger for not making a major acquisition.

Another Wall Street Journal article from Dan Gallagher, “Focus Is In, Scale Is Out for Tech Giants” recounts how tech giants Microsoft and HP are both unwinding acquisitions. The individual deals were originally characterized for each company as an important part of its growth and innovation strategy. Microsoft is shuttering most of its $7 billion Nokia acquisition as it lays off more than 1,800 people from its smartphone division. HP is merging its service business with Computer Sciences Corp., as it gets out of the $13.9 billion business it acquired from EDS. Within the fast moving tech sector, these deals once looked critical for scale, but now are seen as inhibiting agility and the flexibility to move with the market.

Finally, in a seemingly far afield example, George Varga interviewed musician, Billy Joel for the San Diego Union Tribune. The thrust of the article was that Joel, who hasn’t released a recording of new pop songs since 1993, has little interest in writing or recording new songs. This extends to the classically-oriented pieces he finds more creatively intriguing. Joel is hardly hurting from his blatant strategy to NOT create new material. Instead, he’s using his catalog of hit songs as a cash cow, grossing $31.7 in concert revenue in 2015 from playing just 30 shows. Twelve of those were in New York at Madison Square Garden.

You generally think of a successful innovation strategy as leading to doing new things and pushing boundaries.

Maybe when developing an innovation strategy, however, it’s worth a quick check to see if doing nothing MIGHT be the best answer after all. – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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I suspect many, if not most industries, know there’s an elusive brand promise customers have been requesting for a long time that no competitor has figured out yet.

Or maybe a competitor HAS figured out how to deliver the brand promise, but it can’t do it profitably, efficiently, or consistently.

One competitive response is to try to explain to customers why they don’t really need what they think they need. Alternatively, competitors may try to convince customers they don’t really want to buy the elusive brand promise they say they want to buy, no matter how vehemently the marketplace may say otherwise.

A bold competitor, however, will heavy up with tremendous intensity and deliver the incredible, elusive brand promise in a truly disruptive fashion.

10xMoreEffort

What type of competitor are you going to be?

One that drags its feet?

Or the competitor that drags all the other competitors kicking and screaming into a new market reality.

Of course, you know what the RIGHT answer is! – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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One of my favorite things is when clients, blog readers, and Brainzooming workshop attendees use our strategic thinking exercises to explore new ideas. They often end up creating new formats and adapting tools in ways we hadn’t envisioned!

The most recent example came our way this weekend.

Diane Bleck of Discovery Doodles  and I were tweeting each other a couple of times in the past few weeks about innovation.

Early yesterday, she alerted me to expect a custom drawing heading my way via Twitter later in the day.

Imagine my surprise when Diane’s drawing turned out to be a representation of an innovation strategy formula we shared on the Brainzooming blog a year earlier. Diane took the simple 5-step innovation strategy formula and brought it to life via this infographic.

Diane-Bleck-5-Innovation-St

What’s particularly cool is step number five. The original step was “Revel and Repeat.” This was meant to encourage celebrating successes and incorporating new learning into future innovation strategy.

Diane modified “Revel” to become “Reveal,” which creates an additive impact to the formula since you definitely have to let the world know about your innovation!

Thanks, Diane, for expanding the range of Brainzooming tools with your creativity and skill! – Mike Brown

 

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