Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 322 – page 322

Just as with a chemical periodic table, go ahead and use this handy reference to determine the “corporate behavior formulas” of both good co-workers (the An2PoFCr who is a regular blog reader) and bad (the PFl4 that’s like a bad penny). Simply click on the chart to get a full sized version. Feel free to post your intriguing combinations as comments or suggest new behaviors as your encounter them. And thanks to Sally for her help in rounding out the initial list!

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I’ve known John Burton for a long time, and we’ve worked together closely during various phases in our careers. He’s a strong, multi-dimensional strategic thinker, and it was great to see him at the BMA presentation last week. Here are his thoughts on the reluctance companies demonstrate in hiring a mix to people to spur diversity in strategic thinking:

I had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s strategic perspective presentation last week. One point he made struck a cord with an idea I have been thinking about in recent weeks – Do companies make hiring decisions to be complimentary or complementary?

Mike mentioned that an aspect of “awakening strategic thinking” is a having good blend of participants. You need some that have experience, some with strong functional knowledge and a few with dynamic, creative energy. This is just like basketball, where you need to blend a point guard with shooters and big men. In both cases, the key to success is to have people play complementary roles in the process, creating a bigger whole than any one aspect can bring on its own.

However, a business sometimes forgets this point when putting together its leadership team, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.

A business was recently going from small company to major player in a fragmented business service segment after a number of acquisitions. Leadership knew it needed to add strategic marketing and sales resources to help position the company for continued growth. After defining a senior position and recruiting candidates that fit the bill, they backtracked and decided to hire someone whose primary background was sales management.

Why? They felt they had to have someone the new person’s most important direct reports (regional sales VP’s) would respect and feel comfortable with. In essence, they went for the candidate that would get “compliments” for being familiar versus someone that would “complement” the organization by bringing new skills and insights.

Sometimes, success comes not from creating a comfortable, “complimentary” environment, but putting a team together that forces everyone to live with a little discomfort. – John Burton

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Several folks from our creative thinking team were at John Pepper’s Baker University marketing classes for an ideation session on their class project: brand extension ideas for the Apple “iBrand.”

There was a lot of energy from the students in the two classes as we did three creative thinking exercises (based on analogies, randomness, and transformation) and a round of prioritization in less than 50 minutes to generate lots of brand extension ideas!

We used a “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercise to look at how prominent marketers use brand extensions, then had the students apply the ideas to Apple.
If you’re faced with a brand extension challenge, you too can turn to these brands and this creative thinking exercise too, generating three possible ideas for each of the brand extension ideas below:
  • New products allow you to experience the brand in different places (Starbucks)
  • Licenses the brand to various companies (Martha Stewart)
  • Introduces smaller versions of its products (Oreo)
  • Offers related merchandise for users of its main product (Harley-Davidson)
  • Finds new uses for its product & introduces brand extensions (Arm & Hammer)
  • Lends its name to subsidiaries serving different market segments (Marriott)
  • Extends its brand with a fee-based online presence (NASCAR)
  • Lets you experience new products free & then sells them to you (Starbucks)
  • Offers slimmed down versions of its main products (Special K)
  • Offers products complementary to its main line (Fruit of the Loom)
  • Changes certain visible “ingredients” of its product (Oreo)
  • Takes a piece of intellectual capital & uses its theme in other product & service categories (Jimmy Buffett)

Thanks again to John for allowing us to come work with his students! I learn something new every year that we’re able to incorporate right into our planning efforts, and this year was no exception. We’ll be back!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 or call us at 816-509-5320    to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.



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The title question arose at the Business Marketing Association presentation Thursday. It’s usually preceded by, “Why do you wear orange socks?” The answer speaks to three principles important for a creative perspective:

Accepting Contradictions

I’m proud my name is “Brown,” but the color has never been prominent in my life, despite saying & hearing the color’s name every day.

With this contradiction (being Brown, but not brown), it’s no wonder I wound up at a company named Yellow whose brand color is orange. The contradiction escaped me for several years. Senior management didn’t care for orange, so there was little evidence of it. And even though I was more oblivious than accepting of this contradiction, the result was the same!

Taking Advantage of the Unexpected

When Greg Reid took over as CMO and said, “If our most asked question is why’s the name Yellow if our color’s orange, let’s do something with it,” ORANGE start showing up everywhere. The marketing staff even wore orange socks to our strategic plan presentation.

That triggered a friendly competition with another employee to sport the most orange (socks, shirts, shoes, backpacks, cups, etc.). I became known for wearing orange socks daily. When “Fast Company” profiled us and called me the Cal Ripken, Jr. of orange clothes for the socks, the connection strengthened. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I co-opted the company’s brand as part of my own. ORANGEbecame MY color.

Look for Strategic Connections

Speaking on innovation, I researched what orange represents and found it matched my topics: creativity, balance & harmony, strength, enthusiasm, excitement, happiness, healing, vigor, and success. I used orange even more to link my personal brand and key presentation themes. An added bonus? I didn’t have to buy a new non-orange wardrobe & business accessories.

Now when asked about the color mismatch, I simply say, “I’m like an M&M – brown on the inside, orange on the outside!”

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  1. Don’t multi-task – focus on one project at a time with your full attention.
  2. Surround yourself with smart people who will challenge you.
  3. When someone tries to pass a problem or question to you, ask for their recommendation or point of view before you comment.
  4. Pray for wisdom that can be used to benefit others and pay attention when your prayer is answered.

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Doing a lot of presenting on “strategic thinking” has generated a number of interesting questions about the subject. Many of the questions have prompted posts on the blog.

To make it a little easier to track down answers, here are some of the most asked questions about strategic thinking with links to previous posts that address each topic; simply click on the original date to go to the post.

  • My boss wants me to be more “strategic”? How do I do that? (1/10/2008)
  • What are some characteristics of solid strategic thinkers? (12/1/2007)
  • How can I help myself to look at situations from different perspectives? (2/14/2008)
  • Our strategies sound really complicated and nobody knows what they mean/ Shouldn’t you be able to actually do something with a strategy? (12/26/2007)
  • People at my company are stuck in how we’ve always done things. How can we get past that? (12/5/2007)
  • People are busy on day-to-day responsibilities. How can I get them to make the effort to work on strategy? (3/12/2008)
  • I’ve got to come up with some new ideas at work. How do I go about it? (3/11/2008)
  • How do we get “bigger” ideas? (3/10/2008)
  • What are the reasons for timing strategic thinking exercises? (2/1/2008)
  • Once you have a good idea, how do you sell it to management? (12/10/2007)
  • What do you do if you ideas aren’t working out successfully? (2/28/2008)
  • If something doesn’t work, how do we make sure we improve next time? (3/3/2008)

Please let me know if you have additional questions that can be answered in future posts!

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We’re all faced with the need to perform seamlessly in unfamiliar situations. Who faces a similar challenge to come up with creative ideas with no opportunity to prepare ahead of time? An improv comic. An improv comic routinely deals with unfamiliar situations, accepting and working with information presented by the audience or other performers and, with no chance to prepare ahead of time, getting people to laugh.

So let’s apply an improv comic-based approach to help us do a better job in unfamiliar situations that require thinking on our feet. An improv comic:

  • Actively solicits input from the audience and others around them
  • Listens closely to other participants for information & clues
  • Quickly assesses the underlying structure of the situation
  • Becomes comfortable with not being able to figure things out ahead of time
  • Is open to spontaneity
  • Depends on instincts
  • Offers information and clues to others to help them co-participate successfully
  • Works with and builds on information supplied by others
  • Is able to employ a variety of talents to advance the situation
  • Refines the process as new information is determined

Identify three new ideas for each of the approaches an improv comic would employ to improve your own performance when you can’t prepare ahead of time for unfamiliar situations.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


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

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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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