Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 332 – page 332

I was struggling recently to pull together slides for a branding presentation – an effort requiring only a little strategic thought and creativity. But several attempts at starting were relatively fruitless. Even though I’d set aside focused time to do the project, it was impossible to progress.

At the same time, another project was pending; it had to be completed so that the next person in the process could begin. With that project lingering, I forced myself into the mode of answering questions, closing down potential options, and repeating the mantra, “Better done than perfect.” After a day’s worth of work, there was tremendous relief in finally signing off on that project and emailing it to the person looking for the results.

Then with a brief mental break from the computer, selecting the slides for the presentation became a snap; it was finished in 90 minutes!

As much as I thought that I had the creative depth to move both efforts ahead virtually simultaneously, I couldn’t. The creative reserves necessary for the project didn’t leave enough free space in my mind to work on the presentation.

So the next time the strategic and creative juices aren’t there for a project, ask yourself, “Is there something else hanging over my head?” If there is, see if you can take the steps to get the “something else” completed or delegated to someone else so that you have the max headroom for creativity.

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Too many research reports are a jumble of charts, arrows, and statements that simply play back what’s on the graphic (or worse, just regurgitate a chart’s methodology). For senior executives, that translates into a confusing (and at best, boring) jumble of information – pointing in all kinds of directions without really telling them anything.

If you have research responsibility, apply this maxim for great strategic thinking from Gary Singer, a wonderful strategist and the Chief Strategy Officer at Interbrand. His comment to me was:

  • Good researchers go to the edge of the data and step back – to be cautious & statistically sound.
  • Good consultants go to the edge of the data and stop – to be sure they’re on solid footing & that the client will buy off.
  • Great strategic thinkers go to the edge of the data, formulate a sound next set of assumptions that the audience can comment on & agree to, and then keep going to expand understanding & get to revealing insights.

It’s a simple statement and hard to do, but done successfully, it promises incredible business results. Use it as your new strategic hurdle to clear!

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The end of the year used to be a rather slack time at work. That changed about a dozen years ago, and ever since, December has been one of the most frantic times of the year. Add to that the holiday rush, and it all adds up to a lot of to-do’s that need prioritization.

Here’s an alternative that’s helpful when you have many other people depending directly on the completion of your to-do’s so that they can take action.

Instead of using the typical importance vs. urgency prioritization, create a grid that pairs urgency (how soon the to-do needs to get done) with the degree to which someone else is depending on the to-do as a next step for them (great dependency to little dependency). Now place each of your to-do items on this grid, thinking about near-term items that others are really depending on as a first priority.

Using this approach will give you a little different picture of your priorities, as you orient your to-do list to the importance of helping others first. And that’s what the holidays are all about!

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Dear Kids,

Just like your management team at work, Santa’s very busy this time of year, and while he’d love to spend time with each letter, there are only so many hours in the work day.

Want to make sure Santa gets the point of your request so that you’re not disappointed this holiday season? Take a tip from “Winning with the P&G 99: 99 Principles and Practices of Procter Gambles Success” by Charles Decker and send him a brief (one-page at most) recommendation making it clear very quickly to Santa how good you’ve been and what you’d like. Here’s the 4-section recommendation format to use:

  1. Brief Background – Provide a quick overview of the issue that your recommendation is addressing so that your boss (I mean Santa) knows what you’re covering.
  2. Recommendation – Clearly & succinctly state what you think should be done.
  3. Rationale – List the reasons that support why the thing that you think should happen should happen.
  4. Next Actions – If the recommendation’s accepted, list out the next things that have to take place.

Let’s apply the approach (sans the headers that you’d use in a business memo) to our holiday letter:

Dear Santa,

I just wanted to update you on what a good boy I’ve been this year and suggest a gift that would truly be appreciated.

This Christmas, I recommend that you bring me a new tablet computer.

This gift is warranted because I’ve really tried to help my wife more around the house this year, including yard work (which I really don’t like). The tablet computer would allow me the flexibility to work on this blog while away from home, to stay in contact with friends and loved ones, to get work done on airplanes more easily, and to draw cartoons for my presentations.

If you agree that a tablet computer makes sense as a gift, please deliver it on the evening of December 24 in Hays, KS, where we’ll be celebrating Christmas with my family. Thank you, and please let me know if you have any questions.


So there you have it kids. In fewer than a dozen lines, we’ve made our recommendation and laid out the best case. Try it with Santa AND try it at the office. It really works in cutting through the clutter and getting to decisions faster.

Btw – if you’re still doing holiday shopping, Amazon lists copies of the “P&G 99” for $1.89. That’s less than 2 cents per principle or practice – you won’t find a cheaper gift that will so dramatically improve your staff’s performance this coming year! Order now!!!

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Several years ago, I was attending an adult religious education class because of my wife during a period where I had declared myself an agnostic – not really believing in much of anything spiritually.

During one class, participants were asked to share how they’d used prayer in their lives. One person talked about how he would pray for help in moments of crisis or confusion and that typically an idea would pop into his head. He credited God with providing the ideas. I turned to my wife and whispered, “Ideas pop into my head all the time. I just thought I was that good!”

Since then, I’ve gone through a re-conversion experience and have realized that the man in class was correct. It’s become clear to me that prayer makes a huge difference in creativity. It may be a prayer to be of service to a strategic thinking session’s participants or for their openness & positivity. It may be simply giving thanks for a tough session being over.

No matter what your creativity challenge, don’t be reluctant to communicate with the greatest creative force in the universe. Trust me; you can always use the help!

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Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of guerrilla marketing, the concept that businesses can reap greater rewards through the strategic use of low- and no-cost marketing tools. He says that there are at least 100 guerrilla marketing tools available to any business.

Beyond the standard tool list that Levinson uses, I’ve found it helpful to get marketing teams to work through a specific question-based exercise to identify marketing tools unique or at least specific to their own businesses.

Use the list below with your marketing team. One way is for a team member to identify as many answers to a specific question as possible within a 3 minute period, and then rotate the question to the next team member to build on the list:

  • What do we want to promote?
  • What are our features, benefits & competitive advantages? Which are most meaningful?
  • What communications vehicles are in place?
  • What ideas/words/phrases do we use?
  • Who are experts/partners? What’s notable about them?
  • Where do our audiences congregate (geographically or virtually) and/or receive our messages?
  • What motivates our audiences?
  • How can we get permission and the info to keep marketing to our audiences?
  • What business & personal relationships do we have that could be of assistance?
  • Who would like to be involved with us in growing our business?
  • Who could we help make more successful?
  • What interactions do we have with our audience?
  • What new interactions can we create?
  • What tools or ideas can we “steal”?

I’ve had a team of 8 to 10 people build a list of more than 200 tools (many of which they’d never thought of using) within a 25 minute period as everyone worked individually using the rotating question approach.

You can also check out a more focused set of areas to brainstorm and identify specific social media resources and tools your organization can use.

Give this exercise a try at your next staff meeting or planning session, and then go back through your marketing plan to make sure you’re using as many of the tools as possible that you’ve identified.  – Mike Brown

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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated, guerrilla marketing-oriented strategy for your brand.

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When receiving a holiday present, it’s usually very attractively wrapped. But to discover what wonderful new item awaits you requires tearing off the wrapping.

Think about traditional knowledge in your business and industry (its “conventional wisdom”) as the wrapping paper. While understanding conventional wisdom provides some attractive guiding principles to help speed decision making, it also sits between you and potentially wonderful new insights about your business.

So in the spirit of the holiday season, try this exercise to “unwrap” conventional knowledge that may be getting in the way of discovering shiny new possibilities:

  • Write down ten pieces of conventional wisdom in your business. These are the things that everybody who has been around the business knows and understands to be true (i.e., in the restaurant industry, it might be that you turn tables as quickly as possible to maximize the number of people served).
  • For each piece of conventional wisdom, remove it from your knowledge, in effect “unwrapping & discarding” your traditional view of the business.
  • Imagine that you never knew the conventional wisdom you’ve now discarded. Ask yourself – What are five new approaches to my innovation challenge that are different because of what I now don’t know?

In the restaurant example, the five possibilities might include:

  • A one price lunch with dessert included to increase the average check size.
  • Providing some more private meeting space for business lunches.
  • Not explicitly charging for the private meeting space; simply charge more for the food & beverages.
  • Having selected pre-made grab & go items from the sit-down menu for quick lunches on the run.
  • Give diners a signal to indicate that they’re leisurely settled and want the wait staff to take their order.

Try this approach before the holidays are over on an opportunity or problem that you’re presented. Remember though – don’t save all the bows and re-use them year after year, as some people do. Throw a little conventional wisdom out annually and replace it with new & better insights!

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