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How big of a deal is creating an innovative workplace culture?

That question opened one of two Brainzooming workshops I facilitated at the Construction Financial Management Association Heartland Conference.

Consider these factoids on the importance of creativity and an innovative workplace culture pulled from various studies:

  • “Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to CEOs.” IBM Global CEO Study, “The Enterprise of the Future”
  • “Seventy‐eight percent of Millennials were strongly influenced by how innovative a company was when deciding if they wanted to work there.” The Deloitte Millennial Survey, 2014
  • “Employing a worker in a creative occupation is an innovation input in a similar manner to employing a scientist.” The Creative Economy Report, London School of Economics, 2008

Not surprisingly, we also think an innovative workplace culture is a pretty big deal, and we’re glad we’re not alone on that.

Innovative-Workplace-Cultur

7 Keys to Creating an Innovative Workplace Culture

What constitutes an innovative workplace culture, i.e., one where people are able that to readily create fundamental, valuable improvements relative to the status quo?

Here are seven characteristics of innovative workplace cultures. They:

1. Provide Direction

Company leadership points the way and lets team members throughout the organization run with opportunities to innovate.

2. Invite Broad Participation

Diverse participants from varied levels and areas of the company, plus customers, outside experts, and other relevant parties are included in innovation efforts.

3. Meaningfully Engage and Involve Employees

Innovation team members receive training, structure, and access to opportunities that take best advantage of their knowledge and expertise to innovate.

4. Encourage Change

There’s a continual push to challenge past strategies and anticipate what the future holds to increase the value delivered to important audiences.

5. Pursue Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

6. Stay Agile

Despite a quickly changing environment, there is a focus on what’s most important for the organization’s success while embracing a willingness to change direction rapidly when necessary.

7. Celebrate Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

What would you add to or subtract from this list based on innovative workplace culture successes you’ve seen?

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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Does it matter if your business has a blog or not?

And if your business does have a blog, does it matter how often you update it?

While you’re thinking about the answers to those questions, peruse these dates and see if you can spot a pattern?

  • November 23, 2013 and November 8, 2013
  • September 29, 2014 and August 5, 2014
  • June 30, 2013 and January 31,2013
  • May 16, 2013 and May 16, 2013
  • September 3, 2014 and July 25, 2014

Can you guess what connects these dates? Read on.

Brand Experience Strategy – From Online to In Real Life

I was invited to a networking event the other evening. The organizers for the event were so well organized, they provided an Excel workbook in advance listing all confirmed invitees with an email address and a LinkedIn profile. I took advantage of the organizers’ beneficial jump start and reviewed the websites for most attendees.

Going through the various websites, the state of their blogs was quite surprising and signaled multiple brand strategy mistakes.

Networking-Event

Brand Experience Strategy Mistake #1

I was surprised at how many of the networking event participants didn’t have company blogs on their websites.

Not having a blog translates to less website traffic, fewer situations to connect with and deliver value to customers and prospects, and multiple missed sales opportunities.

Brand Experience Strategy Mistakes #2

Of those networking event participants that did have company blogs, most of them were sporadically updated. In fact the list of dates above is the most recent and second most recent blog update for a number of companies present at the networking event.

If your business is going to introduce a blog, the blog becomes part of your brand experience, whether YOU act like it is or not. Yup, it’s part of your brand experience strategy along with all the other elements that have comprised a brand for a long time.

Think about what these dates might mean for other brand experience elements:

  • Imagine not handling a customer service call since November 23, 2013.
  • Imagine not making a sales call since June 30, 2013.
  • Imagine going from early August to late September of this year without ever monitoring the quality of your product or service.

Yet, when you put a blog on your website, you are making it a very visible part of your brand experience. And if you hardly ever update it, it says volumes about your brand experience, especially to prospects that don’t have any REAL experience to judge your brand.

  • If you mainly share valuable info on your blog, sporadic updates convey you don’t have much of value to share.
  • If you mainly share your CEO’s ideas, sporadic updates convey your CEO doesn’t have many ideas.
  • If you mainly share company news, sporadic updates convey there’s not much going on at your company.

And so it goes.

A Brand Experience Strategy Gift

So rather than connecting on LinkedIn or meeting for coffee, the best thing I have to offer my fellow networking event attendees is this:

If you’re going to have a company blog, update it regularly and with valuable content. If you aren’t going to do that, delete your blog so you just look like a brand that’s behind the times and not one that ignores its brand experience! Or better yet, let’s get together for coffee and talk about how to fix your blog strategy!!! – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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What are you doing to use surprise and confusing competitive strategy and implementation in your market?

Not much, you say?

If you think the only viable end result of surprising competitive strategy is winning the sales competition in which you are engaged, you could be missing incredible strategic opportunities.

Surprising Competitive Strategy and Confusing Your Competitor

On Monday Night Football this week, the New England Patriots were playing our hometown Kansas City Chiefs. With a fourth down and short yardage situation, the Patriots sent the punt kicking team out on the field. Then, as the players neared the line of scrimmage and with the wave of a few hands, nearly the entire punting unit ran off the field as the “fourth down and go for it” players stormed onto the field.

Football-PLay2

At that point, facing a very surprising competitive strategy, there were several options for the Kansas City Chiefs:

  • Remain in utter confusion
  • Try to defend against the Patriots competitive strategy even though mismatched and misaligned
  • Take a time out to be able to regroup

The Kansas City Chiefs, as you can see in this brief video of the play, took a time out to be able to regroup.

While the New England Patriots went on to lose the game in a big way, this surprise competitive strategy could have created the confusion to let the Patriots change momentum in the game. As the alternative played out, it forced the Kansas City Chiefs to expend a precious resource (a time out) in the interests of defending the play more successfully.

So while the Patriots didn’t win the game, they did win this exchange by forcing the Chiefs to lose a time out.

Think about how this might apply to your company’s own competitive strategy.

Are there typical market situations where a surprise strategic move (perhaps a one-off service package, a highly-targeted promotional offer, a strategic price over-reach, etc.) could confuse a competitor and force them to either remain confused and lose business or expand precious resources addressing a unique move you have no intention replicating elsewhere in the market?

Remember, you don’t have to win the game to win the moment, so how might your company play a confusion strategy to win the NEXT play in a damaging way for your competitor? – 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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It’s time for a strategic thinking rant.

Who screwed up the thinking of so many business people who believe making strong, tough decisions on cutting costs and saving their companies from closing, ISN’T strategic?

Gator-Fighting

I’d like to meet the person responsible for messing up so many business people’s minds and set the person straight.

What Is Strategic and What Isn’t?

We covered this point last fall after a keynote presentation I delivered on Creating Strategic Impact. Last week, at the 10th annual CFMA annual Heartland Conference, the same point came up again during Q&A. Interestingly, both groups were comprised of financial leaders, but I don’t think that’s the issue.

So what is the origin of this mistaken belief about what’s strategic and what isn’t strategic?

I think it related to the mistaken thinking that “strategic” only pertains to:

  • Long-term issues, so anything addressing immediate survival isn’t strategic
  • Growth, so cost-cutting isn’t strategic
  • Innovation, so focusing and reducing what an organization does isn’t strategic
  • Operational and P&L issues, so when Finance takes the lead the business issues must not be strategic
  • Periods where a company has the flexibility to pursue new initiatives, so belt-tightening isn’t strategic
  • Situations where everyone is upbeat about a company’s prospects, so the dark days couldn’t be filled with strategic issues

Those are just six possibilities that come to mind.

All of these beliefs are incorrect.

As we tell clients and “Creating Strategic Impact” workshop participants, what determines what is strategic is whether it matters to the organization’s success and demands being addressed with insight and innovation.

And what matters for an organization can pertain to a variety of areas, including an organization’s core purpose, values, vision, brand, key audiences, ability to satisfy customers, financial prospects, resource /  raw material supplies, structure, or alignment.

Now, applying our standard for what’s strategic to the six mistaken strategic beliefs highlighted earlier, all of these are strategic:

  • Immediate decisions and implementation efforts to strengthen the brand and is performance
  • Vital cost-cutting efforts
  • Periods where an organization is having to make critical consolidation moves
  • Times when a staff area in the organization is best positioned to step up and lead change
  • Periods where a company has few options, requiring it be stellar in deciding and implementing
  • Situations where the future appears darkest and smart, dramatic decisions are vital

Now, don’t all of those seem like massively strategic situations?

You bet they do!

Creating Strategic Impact

If you feel as if your organization hasn’t been strategic the past few years, take a look back through our strategic lens. See if you don’t feel differently about what you’ve been facing and what fundamentals you’ve had to address.

If you’ve been fighting for survival, have made it through, and feel as if you’re ready to move form surviving to thriving, I’ll pretty much guarantee you’ve been strategic.

So cut yourself a break, and tell anyone who doesn’t think you’re on top of strategy to pound sand.

End of strategic thinking rant – for now! – Mike Brown

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If you’re inside an organization, see the need for change, and realize senior management isn’t leading innovation, what do you do?

Making Strategic Innovation Happen

I was talking with an attendee at the CFMA conference about this challenge. The session I presented on creating an innovative workplace culture prompted him to consider pushing the innovation possibilities his company SAYS it embraces, but really doesn’t (his perspective, not mine).

We talked after the session about initial first steps he might take to harness the expertise resident inside the organization to create change. His first inclination was gathering a group of predominantly creatively-strong co-workers, calling it the “innovation team,” and commencing brainstorming sessions.

4 Keys When Senior Management Isn’t Leading Innovation

Caution-TestHis idea makes sense on the surface.

And it certainly fits with my earlier advice to not wait around for your organization’s senior management to start innovating when you could start in your own area to get things moving.

But his strategy has some high-probability pitfalls. I suggested these fundamental modifications:

  1. Start by understanding where senior management has its biggest innovation priorities and focus on leading innovation to address those in significant way.
  2. Assemble a diverse team with creatively-strong individuals, but not too many of them.
  3. Don’t call it the “innovation team. “ That’s like putting a huge target on the initiative and everyone involved. Better to call it something less politically-charged, even if all the participants understand innovation is your objective.
  4. Reach out to someone expert at conducting these types of strategic innovation efforts to help design and facilitate the process.

I made it clear these weren’t self-serving recommendations, while acknowledging that given his description of the situation, we could definitely be of service in making this strategic innovation initiative successful.

Alternatively, I told him what I tell everyone. Nearly everything we’ve done is addressed on the Brainzooming blog.

But our expertise comes into play significantly in selecting the right exercises, knowing when they’ll work and won’t, designing the right environment, and filling the dual roles of being both vitally interested and disinterested – all at the same time.

If you’re facing a similar situation, reach out to us so we can help you accomplish your strategic innovation objectives, just as we hope to do for this firm.

It’s just one thing we do really well! – 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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Ever feel like this quote from Andy Warhol is your life motto?

I first read this Andy Warhol quote on practicing what you preach in high school, and I’ve used it to try keeping myself on (or moving toward) the program ever since.

While your preaching and practices need to match up, it can be so very hard to do.

Andy-Warhol-Practice-Preach

This is one of the things we’re talking about today in an updated workshop on “Aligning Your Life’s Work” I’m presenting for the Heartland Chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Annual Conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Among the topics we’re covering in Aligning Your Life’s Work are:

Today’s workshop, while more focused on a personal strategic thinking approach, is a wonderful complement to yesterday’s closing session I presented to the CFMA group on “7 Keys to Creating an Innovative Workplace Culture.” The innovative workplace culture presentation is a new one building on writing I’ve been doing the past several years on better inviting, adopting, and recognizing ideas and strategic thinking from employees to direct business strategy.

For a variety of reasons, much of that content hasn’t appeared on the blog yet. Given the response from the CFMA group, however, it may be time to start sharing it with all of you as well.

And if your company or association would benefit from strengthening your innovative workplace culture, let me know. We’d love to develop a comparable workshop to help address your opportunities for innovation and creating strategic impact. – 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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A big strategic statement (such as a core purpose, mission, or vision statement) shouldn’t simply be words on a plaque or page that don’t really shape day-to-day activities.

When you get a strategic statement right, you’ll use it on a daily basis to shape decisions, priorities, and approaches to what you do and how you do things.

For instance, your organization’s vision should make it clear what the bold promise is for its future. It should provide an attractive picture that helps employees better carry out their responsibilities to make the vision a reality.

Blue-Sky

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Testing Your Vision Statement Impact

How do you know if your vision statement is working as hard for you as it can?

Here’s one of our strategic thinking exercises to help you explore how well your big vision statement is suited to driving strategy and behaviors in your organization.

Ask these five questions:

  1. Is our vision statement primarily comprised of real, clear words people understand and use or is it primarily filled with business jargon?
  2. Is our vision statement one that could only describe your organization or could it apply to just about any organization?
  3. Does our vision statement sound like we talk inside our company or does it sound as if a consultant wrote it?
  4. Do employees know and understand our vision statement or is it generally a mystery to them?
  5. Does our vision statement shape big and small decisions or does it effectively sit on a shelf?

If your answers to the questions tend toward the first description in each question, you are on the right track. If your answers tend toward the latter description in each question, you should use additional strategic thinking exercises to explore how to better shape your vision statement. – Mike Brown

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