Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 351 – page 351

You ask, “What’s a Morphfiend?”

You’ve come across them at work; maybe in your personal life as well. A “morphfiend” is someone who continuously changes strategies for the pure pleasure of changing strategy. While they may use this trait to appear adaptable, it’s clear that they’re so willing to change strategies because they have no real strategic underpinning from which to make decisions.

Suspect you may be working with a morphfiend? See how many of these questions you can answer “YES” to for the suspect. Are they always:

  • Quoting from the latest fad management book…until the next fad management book comes along from which to quote?
  • Claiming sole responsibility for strategy – as in, “I don’t need anyone else focusing on strategy; I just need them to execute”?
  • Making ­absolute pronouncements about what they WILL or WON’T do. Except they usually soon STOP what they were DOING, and DO the things that they’d NEVER DO.
  • In continual “hurry up, then slow down” mode, issuing poorly though-out directives that are rescinded when it’s quickly clear that they won’t work?
  • Expecting subordinates to be order takers on their strategic directives, while in turn being an order taker for their own boss’ directives?

If you could answer YES to three or more characteristics, you have enough evidence to convict – you’re working with a morphfiend. The punishment, unfortunately, is done by you and others around the morphfiend. What can you do for the good of the business to combat the negative implications of a morphfiend? Here’s a possible approach:

  • Build an informal affiliation with others who share concerns about your strategic direction’s stability.
  • Hypothesize on what the business’ most successful strategic foundation likely is/should be.
  • Stay a step ahead – read the newest fad management book, identifying how you can tie the book’s principles to the strategic hypotheses you’ve formulated.
  • Engage the morphfiend with as many people as possible sharing a consistent strategic message couched in fad management speak. Do this to try to “own” the morphfiend’s strategic perspective through sheer volume of consistent messaging that sounds like it fits with their own strategic view.

Will it work? Sometimes – I’ve seen it both work and fail depending on the circumstances. But short of resigning yourself to faux strategy that continues to ping pong, it’s likely your best shot.

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One more tip for presentations (and for everyday business speak) is to avoid business cliches. An email last week from Dow Jones pointed to its recent review of the most overused phrases by continent. There are interesting similarities among the cliches used around the world, and it’s well worth checking out the pdf.

My thought? At the end of the day…go home, spend time with your family, say your prayers, and go to bed!

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I’ve seen a variety of presenters at conferences lately – both good (a few) and bad (mostly). Based on what most bad presenters do, here are four pieces of (apparently) unconventional advice that can lead to dramatic improvements:

  1. Use fewer words on slides. Don’t show every word you plan to say; it’s not that effective of a crutch. Fewer words (or only images) help maintain audience attention & cover your flubs because the audience can’t compare what you’re saying to everything on the screen.
  2. Practice less – and listen more. Record your presentation and listen to it. Hear what isn’t working, and fix it before you present. Reading your presentation over and over without listening to it causes you to miss obvious gaffes that listeners will readily hear.
  3. Cut back on multimedia & animation. Using various sounds, moving images, and videos won’t fix a poor presenter. It just puts more pressure on you to hit cues – the last thing you should have to be thinking about while presenting.
  4. Have fun – but if you’re scared or not funny, don’t throw one joke in to lighten things up. One funny comment reminds the audience how unamusing the rest of it is. A better strategy: smile throughout and quit trying to be funny if you aren’t in real life. Audiences are more forgiving of an underdog who looks genuine and friendly than somebody who is trying to be slick but isn’t.

All of these should save prep time that you can use to ensure you know the content and can talk about it conversationally, even without PowerPoint. If you can do that, you’ll deliver a lot better presentation!

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In the movie “Groundhog Day,” an alarm clock starred in several scenes. Since it’s that time of the year, let’s take 90 seconds to extol the virtues of a well-used kitchen timer.

We use a digital kitchen timer extensively in planning sessions, setting time constraints for our exercises. While people may grumble at first, they usually come to appreciate the efficiencies a timer creates. What are the advantages to time constraining strategy generation or ideation? Using a kitchen timer:

  • Shows people that you value their time – setting a time limit helps you get what you want done promptly, thus avoiding running late or coming up short relative to your session objectives.
  • Creates a sense of urgency – a time constraint and an aggressive goal on the number of ideas identified creates healthy pressure to generate, and not debate, new ideas.
  • Sets up the opportunity to look at a situation in multiple ways – it’s much more productive to divide 28 minutes into four different 7-minute exercises than a single effort. Doing so allows you to vary the perspectives from which you’re addressing your challenge, yielding a stronger set of possibilities.
  • Forces decisions during an evaluation phase – even if you’re discussing ideas to be prioritized, timing the activity precludes endless, unproductive debate that won’t materially change the group’s outcomes.

So here’s to the basic, digital kitchen timer coming out from the shadows to gain its rightful place as a strategic planning tool. I’ve got mine babe!*

* Click here for our recommended timer – the Taylor 5806

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Throughout January, a number of posts have highlighted potential challenges to consider embracing in 2008 to improve your strategy skills. Here’s a recap of the challenges:

So have you selected one or two to pursue? If so, that’s great.

If not, you still have plenty to time to choose something to work on for the remainder of the year to expand your strategic impact. Best wishes, and please share how it’s going and what you’re learning.

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At the conference I presented at this weekend, we worked on the “Change Your Character” exercise for a customer service example. One suggestion was that an internal customer service rep is similar to a babysitter in that they both have to manage bosses (parents) and front line employees (kids).

Sounds close, so if your challenge is helping customer service providers improve their effectiveness, work through how a babysitter handles a new situation:

  • Shows she really likes kids & can get along with them
  • Demonstrates a professional attitude
  • Makes sure she has clear instructions from the parents
  • Establishes her role right away with the kids
  • Focuses on the kids
  • Has strong listening skills
  • Knows positive ways to help kids follow rules
  • Displays maturity in handling difficult situations
  • Acts with firmness, but understanding
  • Ensures that kids are fed and comfortable
  • Can be flexible when necessary

As always, try to generate 3 new ideas for your situation from each of the babysitter’s behaviors. And remember, my mother lets me stay up to watch Craig Ferguson all the time. She really does!

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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This is part 2 of highlighting some of the creative inspirations behind my presentation on “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” As the first reference below suggests, improving your creativity is linked to your ability to change, adapt, and customize various inspirations to address your opportunities.

  • The Remix Planet – My wife Cyndi wanted to go to Wired Magazine’s NextFest in Chicago in 2005. The admission included a free one-year subscription; one of the first issues featured the “Remix Planet.” This provided a nice way to talk about borrowing & morphing ideas for your own use!
  • Steve Farber – Steve is a great speaker that we’ve had for several executive management programs. He talked about reading magazines on the cutting edge (i.e. gaming, technology) to spot emerging trends headed for the general culture. We morphed the idea into taking any graphics-intensive magazine outside your field of expertise and looking through it page-by-page with a marker, writing down new ideas to address your challenges.
  • IDEO –A well-known design & innovation firm. One of the companies I work with did some brief exploration with IDEO. One of their approaches is prototyping – quickly doing something with an idea to make it more tangible and to be able to experience it. That’s been helpful in moving us beyond simply generating a bunch of ideas for a marketing manager and instead prioritizing them quickly and taking the first few steps with them.
  • “Made to Stick” – I’ve written about “Made to Stick” previously. Its six principles for making ideas take hold and flourish can benefit anyone trying to create change and implement new approaches.
  • Benjamin Zander – I’ve also written about Benjamin Zander earlier. Specific to “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation,” his discussion about simply replying “How Fascinating” to things that go wrong in life had a major impact. My natural personality is to become frustrated and complain when things don’t work. Zander’s challenge to identify what you’re learning from a bad situation has helped me to be calmer when things are frustrating and to genuinely look for the lessons God is trying to teach me when nothing seems to be going right. Click here for a blog post from PresentationZen with a quick overview of Zander’s key messages.
  • Serving Others & Helping to Make Them Successful – I’m an ardent believer in servant leadership. While the Bible is certainly the chief inspiration for that approach to life, the idea of improving your successfulness by figuring out how to make other people successful comes from Ziz Ziglar, an incredible speaker.

Which leads to a big thank you to Jessica Myers, a senior media relations specialist at Garmin, for the inspiration to start a blog. I saw her present at an IABC Communications Summit in October 2007 on how easy it is to get a blog started. I thought I’d check it out, and was launched into the blogosphere.

That’s how a presentation comes together, with a tremendous number of great inputs & ideas that get molded (ideally) into a cohesive message. Enjoy checking out the links as potential departure points for your own new inspirations. And realize – it’s actually more creative to REMEMBER your sources. That way you can go back and borrow from them again and again!

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