Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 346 – page 346

When you don’t have anything interesting to say about thinking and research, step aside and let people who do have something to say take the floor:

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Something happens to take you off plan. Sometimes it can’t be avoided…the first time.

But how do you avoid getting your plan derailed a second or third time? One way is by revisiting an implementation effort that went awry and addressing questions such as those below, turning the answers into lessons that you and your team can use in the future to guide your actions:

  • What happened to cause these implementation effort problems?
  • What was the root cause – really?
  • Was there a backup implementation strategy in place? Yes or No? Did the backup implementation strategy fail as well?
  • What were the indicators that there would be a problem? Did we notice or ignore them? Will the signals likely be there next time in a comparable situation?
  • Was available information not gathered or processed?
  • How did we deal with missing information?
  • In what ways might the implementation effort differ next time?
  • If we think it was “bad luck,” how do we create “good luck” in the future?

These few questions will go a long way toward providing a foundation to improve your performance next time. For an insightful, more in-depth look at various types of mistakes and the personal perspective and processes to address them, check out this essay from Scott Berkun. And while you’re doing so, poke around on his website. I just started, and it looks like there are a lot of cool ideas to discover!

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Today is Leap Day, an extra day on the calendar. Use it well, because there are no guarantees on how long our important relationships will last, whether they’re in our business or personal lives. So take advantage of every opportunity daily to grow the people around you and to learn from them in turn.

Ask yourself several questions. Are you giving enough of yourself to these important people? Can you see your positive influence on them? Have you helped prepare them to pass on to others the lessons you’ve shared? Do these people know how much they mean to you? Are you ready to let them go?

To judge whether you are doing this successfully or not, try this. Imagine one of your most important relationships is drawing to a close, but you get one extra day with that person. Would you do anything differently on that special day? If the answer is yes, you have some more giving to do.

One of my most important business relationships isn’t ending today, but it is certainly entering a new phase as someone who is a wonderful friend and a tremendously talented and important member of the team takes the leap to the next exciting phase of her career.

And as sad as this type of transition can be, it’s among the most gratifying things in business to see some of the very special, talented researchers I’ve worked with go on to be so successful in their careers. As that group grows by one today, they all make me so proud to have learned from them and to have been a part of their professional growth.

P.S. To learn directly from one of them, check out next Friday’s blog with our first guest blogger, as Brad Barash at Decision Insight throws up some ideas on communicating research more effectively.

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There’s a great article by Dan and Chip Heath in this month’s Fast Company about the value of simple, straight forward checklists to improve performance. It’s a reminder of the value of checklists as strategic tools to help ensure that you’re thinking through both routine and new situations in structured ways. Problems on a recent trip underscored that point along with the realization that effective checklists don’t always have to be written.

During a “major winter weather event” (KC television weather jargon for “snow”), I was monitoring the weather by looking out the window and watching The Weather Channel. I was unaware that our airport had been closed for hours until my traveling companion called to ask when I was going to the airport and what my alternatives were.

It was suddenly essential to develop a checklist to evaluate viable options so that our trip didn’t fall apart. The resulting checklist works in many instances where a plan looks as if it’s in jeopardy of not succeeding:

  • Identify critical plan priorities that can’t be compromised. (We had to arrive Sunday night; all else could be adjusted on the road.)
  • Increase flexibility / options right away to be able to still achieve the priorities. (That meant downsizing my checked bag to a carry-on in 5 minutes and getting to the airport ASAP to have the opportunity to make more flight options.)
  • Secure access to the necessary information flow. (We determined that on the ground info was our best source – first at the counter, then at the gate.)
  • Develop likely scenarios and their implications. (Since it was an airport-wide delay, we had to get as early a flight as possible, while being prepared to catch the latest connecting flight possible.)
  • Secure the resources to operate in the most likely scenarios. (Our important resources were charged phones, water and food to take along, and each other – splitting up & teaming as necessary to get to the front of the customer service line ASAP.)

The end result? We made it on an earlier scheduled flight that left an hour after our original plane was supposed to depart. Our 2-hour Chicago layover was consumed by the delay; we walked off the plane in Chicago and went right to our original connecting flight. We had food because we’d planned ahead, so it wasn’t a big deal to miss eating at Midway. We arrived only 15 minutes late vs. the prospect of arriving 5 hours late. And the checklist made all the difference!

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Part 3 of delegating relationship issues to advice columnists in the Change Your Character exercise, has them providing thoughts on improving challenging and strained relationships. For each piece of personal relationship fixing advice, brainstorm three ways you can apply the advice to mending problematic business relationships.

  • Own up to your responsibility. Don’t judge the other person.
  • Don’t procrastinate – start the reconciliation process right away & work on it daily.
  • Don’t be an idiot and do something you’ll regret later.
  • Call on a higher power for help.
  • Make your intentions clear to each other.
  • Communicate – ask questions, listen, and seek to understand what’s wrong in the relationship.
  • (Re)establish trust.
  • Suggest several solutions that address both parties’ needs.
  • Be prepared to renegotiate the relationship structure.
  • Be prepared for uncomfortable moments.
  • Give the other person the space they may need.
  • Keep busy – don’t veg out.
  • Set up a schedule to communicate.

Along with the previous posts on building and maintaining relationships, you should have a full complement of ideas that you can consider for strengthening business relationships!

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

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I had a fascinating lunch recently with Jay Liebenguth who hosts two business-oriented radio programs on KCTE-1510 AM in Kansas City. Jay is also involved with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY ™, a very cool approach to teambuilding and innovation that centers on people working with LEGOS to express the stories and possibilities that they see within an organization. As Jay described facilitating the process, he mentioned that in many cases, this technique helps give a voice to people who might otherwise have difficulty communicating the depth of their feelings or perceptions of a situation.

His comment triggered me to draw the cartoon in the upper right on the tablecloth (don’t worry, it was a paper tablecloth). While there are a number of posts on this blog about finding your best thinking style, we haven’t addressed identifying your best communication style, so here’s a quick thought on the topic.

Broaden your thinking about what communication is. Don’t limit your perspective to simply writing a report or delivering a presentation. Think about communication as transferring information – knowledge, perceptions, feelings, emotions, talents, joys, accomplishments. And these can be transferred among people in a myriad of ways.

Making this switch will ideally open up your thinking about your best communication style. It may be making really cool cartoon character cakes for your kids. It may be sewing or pop culture or photography. Could be genealogy, collecting bobbleheads, or even building things with LEGOS.

The point (and the challenge) is to consider how you communicate well in potentially non-traditional formats and bring the passion and skill you have in those areas into your business communication. It may take some creative thought; it may take some courage. But be assured, the benefits of incorporating your strongest communication styles into more parts of your life will far outweigh the effort or risk!

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Here’s the second installment of one of my favorite posts – the Rules of Can’t Be Right. This edition is focused on written reports. Here are some important checks you can use to spot potential errors:

  • Ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” If you didn’t know what it was saying beforehand, could you really tell someone what your point is?
  • Look at written prose in a different font or format than you originally used to write it. Doing this freshens your eyes to spot mistakes in something that you’ve spent quite a bit of time working on. (It’s amazing how frequently I’ll miss a mistake while writing this blog that becomes readily apparent when it’s published in Blogger with a different look.)
  • When you have a bulleted list, check to see if the beginning words are of the same type (i.e., all verbs, all of the same tense, etc.) and if each line ends in the same way (period, no period).
  • Run the spelling and grammar checkers. Yes, it’s completely basic, but that doesn’t mean people always do it.
  • Print it and read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised to find how fractured something that looks right can sound when you’re speaking it.
  • Have someone else take a look at it. That’s another way to get a fresh set of eyes as a double check. If the person is unfamiliar with the topic, all the better since they won’t subconsciously fix problems that more experienced people might.
  • Ask yourself, “What knowledge am I assuming that the reader has on this topic?” Figure out how you can eliminate the need for the assumption to be necessary by providing the background to understand your material.

Please leave comments with tips you use to double check work and look for mistakes. We’ll run them in a future installment of the rules of CBR.

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