Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 335 – page 335
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A comment on Jan Harness’ Creative Instigation blog struck me as interesting: “Creativity is the art of forgetting your sources.” In the age of the remix culture, that’s very true, and I’ve been accused of it in presentations. While I try to credit sources of inspiration, you don’t often get to explain why something inspired you.

Saturday, I did “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”for a great conference audience. Since that presentation is all about creativity, I thought I’d try to RECOGNIZE some of the inspirations behind that material over the next two posts. Here’s part 1 – check these out and see if they can help remove some NOs from your InNOvation efforts.

    • Max Utsler – In 2004, Max asked me to talk to his Kansas University class about innovation in marketing communications. That was the start – no Max, no presentation.

 

 

 

  • Chuck Dymer – I met Chuck in the mid 1990’s, and he’s been an incredible strategic & innovation mentor to me ever since. He’s a Master Trainer of Edward de Bono (the father of lateral thinking) methods who continually opens my eyes to new ways to think creatively. You name it – trait transformation, themed exercises, using toys, prioritization grids, plus-minus-interesting…I learned it all from Chuck!

 

 

  • James Lipton – As a collector of great questions, I love James Lipton’s segment on Inside The Actor’s Studio where he asks his guests the same questions about themselves eac show. His references to Bernard Pivot using the questions on French TV prompted some background research. There’s an interesting little history to the questionnaire that highlights that great questions always have a place.
  • Greenhousing – Chuck Dymer gave me a book from ?What If!, a UK-based innovation company. In it, they address greenhousing ideas, i.e. creating an environment that allows new ideas to grow & develop when they are at their most vulnerable. It’s includes questions to ask about new ideas that are certainly more productive than what I had typically been asking, “Why the *#!% do you want to do that?” Hey, we can all change!
  • Diet Dr. Pepper – My mom drank Dr. Pepper when I was growing up, setting the stage for me loving Dr. Pepper (now Diet Dr. Pepper). We never knew why, but when I was little, Dr. Pepper bottles were always sticky on the outside. Years later, the economist at work told me that he had previously worked at a Dr. Pepper bottling plant. Their method to control the volume in the bottles was to tap those on the bottling line that had too much liquid so that they would foam over. Mystery Solved! In any event, Diet Dr. Pepper has become my creative catalyst drink of choice.

 

 

  • “Get Out of the Mental Doldrums NOW!” Card – My Uncle Jerry was the most incredible Monopoly savant that I’ve ever played against. He had the distances memorized between properties, knew all the rents for each number of houses, and frequently bankrupted his competitors within 30 minutes. Suffice it to say, at that rate, we played a lot of Monopoly games over the course of an afternoon. This fueled my love for the game, and when trying to come up with a leave behind for the InNOvation presentation, the Get out of Jail Free card came right to mind.

 

In part 2, you’ll learn more about the creative inspirations behind “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.”

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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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At the start of a recent conference call for an upcoming strategy planning project, it was clear I was expected to facilitate the discussion. That was my suspicion coming in, but with other responsibilities, there wasn’t a chance to prepare as much as I typically would. So after a brief introduction, all eyes and ears turned to me to start talking – gulp.

Here’s Your ChallengeWhat do you do when you’re not ready to speak or don’t know what to say?

Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” How about a middle ground? Next time you’re in a similar situation, think for a moment, open your mouth, and ASK a great question.

Doing this provides three clear, immediate strategic benefits:

  • You shift the focus from your lack of preparation and give the floor back to the other participants.
  • The other people feel better because they’re able to provide input.
  • By actively listening, you can pick out cues from their comments that can shape your next move – to talk, to change course, or to ask another question.

The strategic key is asking the right type of question.

Be ready by developing a quick list of 8 to 10 questions that you can rely upon with ease. Here are a few to get you started (along with when to use them):

  • Can you elaborate? (If someone has provided information, but you’re not clear what it means.)
  • How have you approached this before? (If people have previous experience they could share.)
  • What are your initial thoughts for how to approach it? (When participants have pre-conceived notions about what to do.)
  • Can you tell me more? (When someone has a wealth of information that hasn’t been shared yet.)
  • What’s most important for you to accomplish? (To understand the other parties’ motivations – and what matters in this situation.)

In this example, I chose the last question, allowing participants an opportunity to share their individual and collective objectives for the upcoming planning session. Their initial comments set up a follow-up question (What percent of the plan should be devoted to each of the 3 sections you’ve mentioned?), creating the opportunity to start capturing topic areas. A productive meeting was thus snatched from the jaws of unpreparedness with two great, simple questions.

So what questions will you be better prepared to ask next time this happens to you? – 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Doctors are trained in asking questions, making observations, and using tests to identify possible infirmities that patients are suffering. Their techniques can be adapted within the Change Your Character exercise to help find new ways to diagnose business issues also. Doctors’ approaches that can be used for your brainstorming include:

  • Figuring out who / how services will be paid for
  • Having you fill out paperwork on yourself
  • Asking how you’ve been feeling
  • Having someone do a quick vitals check before seeing you
  • Checking vital signs
  • Reviewing your previous treatment history
  • Following a standard diagnostic procedure
  • Prescribing a treatment
  • Referring you to a specialist
  • Scheduling a follow-up appointment

Remember, strive to identify three potential ways that each of bulleted points above can be generalized to address & resolve your situation. It’s easier than taking two (make that three) aspirins and calling me in the morning.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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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“If there is nothing very special about your work, no matter how hard you apply yourself, you won’t get noticed and that increasingly means you won’t get paid much, either.”
Michael Goldhaber, Wired

Here’s Your Challenge -This quote from Michael Goldhaber in Wired magazine is several years old, but it remains absolutely true. So what is special about your work? If you don’t have an immediate answer to the question, figure out which of the statements below best describes your situation and take action right away:

“There is something very special about my work, but I just haven’t found the words to describe it in a concise way.” Remedy – Craft, edit, rewrite, re-edit, and memorize the elevator speech for your “very special” work aspects immediately.

“There are very special things about my work, but nobody notices it.” OR “My work used to be very special, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore.” In both cases, there’s some mismatch between your work and the audience. Here are some possibilities behind one or both statements:

  • Possibility #1 – You’re kidding yourself; there’s really nothing very special about your work. Remedy – Change your work right away. Figure out a new audience, a new objective, a new approach, a new project, a new level of performance, or something (anything) to inject specialness into your work.
  • Possibility #2 – There is something special about your work, but your most important audiences, don’t get it because they lack either the sophistication, appreciation, or need for what you’re doing. Remedy – Decide if it’s worth trying to develop the audience you have, radically changing what you’re doing, or simply trying to find a new audience.
  • Possibility #3 – Maybe the work is (was) special, but it’s passed you by (you’ve failed to keep up) or you’ve passed it by (it just isn’t as motivating for you to excel as it used to be). Remedy – In either case, it’s time to transform your current situation (if that’s a possibility) or quit and transform elsewhere. (For more on this remedy, read this review of Seth Godin’s “The Dip” – the review is even shorter than the book and pretty much covers it.)

“There never has been anything very special about my work.” Remedy – Sorry – there’s no quick answer here. You’re not alive career-wise and probably never have been. But take heart, if you’re willing to put up with this situation, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever find your way to this blog.

“Let me briefly tell you (show you) what’s very special about my work!” Congratulations! That’s the right answer. Proceed immediately to starting your own blog on what’s special about your work and tell the world – or at least the 10 loyal friends who will read your blog! (P.S. For a great Seth Godin post about being passionate about your work – as opposed to being a workaholic – check this out. And no, despite the two references today, P.S. doesn’t stand for Pointing to Seth.)

Be more special this year (don’t just pretend) and deservedly earn some more of your audience’s attention.

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I’m on a panel today addressing “Global Branding Trends, Challenges, and Possible Solutions” at the HDMA Heavy Duty Dialogue ’08 conference. It’s being moderated by Sally Staab a VP at Weyforth-Haas Marketing in Overland Park, KS. The other participants are Walt Delevich from SKF and John Beering from Eaton Corporation.

From my segment on brand strategy in a full house of brands, here are a few keys for branding amid significant M&A activity:

  • Elegant brand architecture often isn’t in the cards with an M&A-based growth strategy – With significant M&A activity, a number of very real factors may confound attempts to create elegantly simple brand architecture. Among the potential issues: the relative strengths of brands in the family, customer loyalty to existing brands, management demands, deal structures, challenges in doing a large-scale conversion, required investment, and long cycles for replacing branded assets.
  • Work with experienced brand strategy partners – A brand is more than a logo and an ad; it’s the promise you make to your key audiences. It’s multi-dimensional and encompasses all customer contact points with the company – employees, products, service, visual and physical cues, and communications. Given this broad definition, few advertising agencies have the full range of capabilities to address all of your brand issues. Engage firms that specialize in branding across all these dimensions.
  • Invest in the necessary fact finding effort to determine your brand strategy – Facts need to be at the heart of any brand strategy decisions, and they should come from as many sources as possible – internally & externally. Inventory the key data sources and audiences whose perceptions you need to understand and project. Beyond analysis of available data, look to both qualitative and quantitative research techniques to bolster your understanding of what the market expects, accepts, and will ultimately reward from your brand.
  • Figure out where you want your brand to be in the future and then work your way back to the present through multiple scenarios – Hypothesize various scenarios on where you want the brand to be in the future relative to customers, products / services, markets, competitors, and the external environment. Pick a future point linked to the longest relevant decision cycles for your brand. Then, work your way back on how you expect to get there, recognizing likely decision points, operational issues, future M&A events, sales & marketing efforts, competitor activity, and the best and worst developments that could happen with your brand.
  • Look to others brands for lessons, even if their situations aren’t completely comparable – You can’t simply follow your industry’s branding conventions if your situation differs dramatically. In that case, find brands outside your industry that you can look to for insights. Ideally seek out brands in similar current situations and others that have brand architectures that resemble how you’d like yours to look. Go to school on what their brand migration paths look like, what rules or approaches they use, etc. Additionally, there’s great value in networking with them and being able to ask direct questions on their strategies.
  • Use in-country experts to assess how your brand will fit in global markets – Don’t depend on uninformed or remote perspectives for determining in-country brand strategy globally. Identify branding partners & key employees with on the ground experience that can provide knowledgeable input and reactions to global brand strategy development. Do the qualitative and quantitative fact finding work in-country or in-region as well. – 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. We draw on our varied strategy experience in defining new brands, jump starting lagging ones, and  rehabilitating battered brands. 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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