1

We’re with a client today, delivering a strategic and creative thinking skills for sales workshop. We’re scheduled to have more than 120 of the client’s sales team members participate in an interactive, half-day Brainzooming workshop in the Chicago area.

As an outgrowth of the workshop, here is a strategic and creative thinking skills compilation comprised of articles that support the Brainzooming workshop we’re delivering. We developed this specific list of topics based on feedback from participants on a pre-workshop survey. This is an approach we always take to ensure the specific areas we cover most closely address the audience’s self-identified needs.

Grid-and-Exercises

In fact, the graphic above shows how the exercises and tools we’ll cover help attendees get out of their comfort zones. This was an issue high on their list of learning objectives and prompted writing a Brainzooming blog post about this matrix just before the workshop.

See, we really do both listen and act on attendees’ desired learning objectives.

If you’d like to talk about how we can customize a strategic and creative thinking skills workshop for your organization, let us know at info@brainzooming.com or 816-509-5320. We’d love to customize Brainzooming content to strengthen your team’s performance throughout the year!

Setting the Stage for Creative Thinking Skills for Sales

Embracing a Strategic Sales Perspective

Expanding Creative Thinking Skills for Sales

Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

Continue Reading

2

We facilitated a two-day innovation strategy workshop for an industrial company. The company wants to make significant changes to a major production process. During the innovation strategy discussions, we addressed the production process changes from five different perspectives. In each of the five mini-innovation strategy workshops, we had a group of core team members, plus people familiar with each perspective. The overall group sizes for each innovation strategy workshop varied from fourteen to more than twenty-five people, depending on the topic.

From a facilitation standpoint, it was the most arduous couple of days of going through strategic thinking exercises I recall.

With groups changing out every few hours, there was a continual, tight window to get all the input we’d need to build out a strategic plan and timeline for our client’s strategic initiative.

As I described it to an associate, facilitation may look easy. You stand there, ask some questions, and crack a few jokes to keep things light.

11 Things Running through a Facilitator’s Head

Strategic-Thinking-Brain

In reality, I shared these eleven things going through my head at all times relative to the strategic thinking exercises we were using with the group:

  1. How quickly can I read the dynamics of this new group, even though I don’t have time for them to do meaningful self-introductions?
  2. Who are going to be the active participants?
  3. Am I able to keep up in writing down all their ideas on sticky notes?
  4. As we progress, is everyone participating? If not, what can I do to get laggards to actively participate?
  5. If I become the bottleneck on recording ideas, at what point do I split them into smaller groups to work independently?
  6. If we split into smaller groups, what structure can I put around each small group to help them perform successfully even though I have no time to manage the group composition to maximize their input on innovation strategy?
  7. Are we on schedule, and if not, what do I need to do to adjust?
  8. What questions or exercises can I eliminate to save time while still getting enough input in all the areas we are covering for each innovation strategy?
  9. Are the people having fun with the strategic planning activities, or do I need to do more funny stuff to keep their heads in the game?
  10. Do I have time and room to experiment with the group to take them into new areas of innovation strategy?
  11. Are we done yet? And how much time do I have to get ready before the next workshop?

Yup, those questions were all running through my head nearly continually. Add to that the constant headache I could not shake, and it was a two-day mental crunch, without a doubt.

But when we look back and see how we pushed the thinking on the initiative, it’s clear all the challenges were all worth it!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

Continue Reading

0

The “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence profiled an intriguing innovation strategy example within a regulated industry.

The feature looked at JetBlue Airways and its plan to introduce an internal training program for pilots. The basis for the strategy is to parallel the typical FAA requirements for pilots flying 1,500 hours with other training on decision making, handling a flight crew, and other particulars of real world flying situations. It is also expanding the use of flight simulators in training. While meeting all the particulars of FAA regulations, JetBlue Airways hopes to demonstrate there is a faster and better way to train pilots that could lead to the 1,500 flying hour hurdle being modified at some point.

The Armada article highlights six ways to formulate innovation strategy in a regulated environment, including the approach JetBlue is taking. Here is what they had to say on the topic.

Innovation Strategy – 6 Possibilities with Regulatory Constraints

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

There’s Always a Possible Innovation Strategy

Innovation-Strategy-Regulat

What can other regulated businesses learn from the JetBlue example that they can adapt?

JetBlue is pushing the envelope in its approach, but is trying to do so within existing regulations. As the Journal article states, “The fledging aviators in the JetBlue program would still have to meet this requirement (1,500 hours of flying), but by assessing students at various intervals short of 1,500 hours, the airline seeks to show that its curriculum can produce outstanding pilots who have spent fewer hours in actual aircraft.”

While the JetBlue example is an actual case study in the making, don’t limit your organization in thinking that’s the only strategy for innovating around regulations. Here are multiple possibilities to consider:

1. A shadow innovation strategy

The JetBlue Airways pilot training innovation strategy is an example of “running a shadow operation.” In these cases, an organization follows the regulations, but creates an innovative approach running parallel to the area that’s regulated. The shadow operation exceeds regulatory mandates, or, at the very least, does no damage to regulatory requirements or intent. The JetBlue training program fulfills the regulations along with extra training and measurement steps designed to (JetBlue hopes) demonstrate the greater efficacy of its alternatives approach to standard training.

2. Innovating in another place, with an eye toward a regulated area

Evaluate if there’s a non-regulated aspect of your business, industry, or market that’s a close analogy to what’s regulated. If there is, can you introduce innovation in non-regulated areas with a very deliberate path to testing and building a case for how successful innovations would translate to your regulated activities? This strategy can provide more latitude for a testing environment while still developing learning that applies to regulated activities.

3. Go underneath regulated levels

Not all regulations apply in all cases. Perhaps operations under a certain employee, revenue, or asset level are exempt from regulations targeting larger operations. Could you carve out a deliberately smaller part of your business (or perhaps create a joint venture or subsidiary) where you have more latitude to innovate? If so, your organization can introduce new ideas and get a handle on how they might need to be adapted when transferred to a regulated part of your organization.

4. Manage permissions by lobbying and negotiating

When there’s an opportunity to innovate and improve what you deliver to the marketplace, but current regulations preclude it, your first step might be a lobbying and negotiating strategy with the appropriate regulatory agency to make the case for innovation. Depending on the situation, it may even be advisable to create an industry coalition to do the lobbying. While doing so might tip your hand about aspects of your innovation direction, this strategy can help establish a role as an industry leader since your organization is building the coalition and shaping the agenda for greater innovation.

5. Push boundaries and ask for forgiveness later

This is the riskiest strategy, but your best path might be to push innovation boundaries in what you view as relatively benign regulated areas and ask for forgiveness later if called on the carpet for the innovative approach. This may be advisable where there’s general agreement a regulation has outlived its usefulness and is being ignored or very lightly enforced. If the potential downsides are extremely minimal for the audience you serve (no material harm is possible) and for your brand (i.e., the penalty might only be to cease and desist a business practice), the best approach may be to introduce the innovation and risk the consequences if a regulatory body swings into action to address the innovation.

6. Devising a combo strategy

Your path to innovation may involve combining multiple strategies above. For instance you may be able to take a shadow operation approach while also building the case for negotiating a new regulatory approach in the future. That seems to be the combo strategy JetBlue Airways is pursuing.

One Additional Thought on Innovation Strategy

Creating-Change

Reading this article made me think of our change management strategy matrix. Based on the frustration JetBlue has with the status quo and the lower perceived need of the FAA for dramatically different results, the change management strategy matrix would suggest an experimental strategy. That’s exactly what JetBlue is undertaking. Glad to see the matrix working!

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

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




Continue Reading

1

When I was still in my corporate job, I not only was writing Brainzooming, but also did a five-day a week business humor blog called Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy.

I’m not sure how I created all that content, but when you’re not responsible for sales, it must clear up some extra time and brain cells for creating more content. One of the my favorite features from the Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy blog was called, “Economist’s Corner.” It was based off of an economist I worked with who, while he didn’t diagram things in Venn diagrams, inspired me to see things he said in that format. That perspective extended to Christmas music. I would sit in meetings this time of year and wonder how to diagram popular Christmas music as if he were explaining it to a university class.

On a lighter note for today, here are some of those cartoons, just in time for the onslaught of Christmas music in EVERY store you’ll visit!

Enjoy, have a few laughs, or at least see if you can figure out what these Venn diagrams are conveying!

Economist’s Corner – Christmas Music Meets Venn Diagrams

Blue-Christmas

Jingle-Bells

Jingle-Bells-Two

Please-Come-Home-Christmas

Rudolph-Reindeer-Grandma

Santa-Claus-Coming-to-Town

Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

Continue Reading

0

Here’s a Blogapalooza post from Max Utsler’s class at the University of Kansas. Kayla Foley, a Marketing Communications Specialist at P1 Group, Inc., shares ideas on shaping a successful innovation strategy through exploiting two-dimensional diversity in an organization.

Innovation Strategy and Exploiting 2-D Diversity by Kayla Foley

Kayla-Foley-KUOnce upon a time a group of people established an entity called Swissair. Together they ruled the skies. Swissair was deemed so financially stable in fact, it earned the moniker the “Flying Bank.” Then egos got the best of them, and they fell into the trap of groupthink. The result was eventually bankruptcy for Swissair. In hindsight, you can bet they wish they followed the advice of ancient philosopher Socrates: “Think not those faithful who praise thy words and actions, but those who kindly reprove thy faults.”

The question inevitably arises, “How can we avoid this insidious groupthink crippling our innovation strategy?”

The answer is diversity. Let’s say you need a problem within your company fixed. Half the solution could be floating around in one employee’s head. The other half of the idea that would complete and transform it into a game changing innovation may exist in the mind of someone else with an entirely different outlook on the problem. Until you get them in a room together to combine their puzzle pieces, your solution will never be born.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies should look at diversity in two ways: inherent and acquired.  Inherent diversity includes demographics such as gender, age, and ethnicity. Acquired diversity focuses on experience related traits such as working with niche markets, or overseas experience. Companies that exhibit at least three traits in each category attain two-dimensional diversity. From a numbers standpoint alone, the impacts of 2-D diversity on innovation speak volumes. One study cited in the Harvard Business Review article found that 2-D companies are 45 percent more likely to show growth in market share and an astounding 70 percent more likely to capture a new market.

Examples of companies successfully utilizing diversity as part of an innovation strategy include:

  • Google – A Google R&D center in India with over 1,100 employees speaking different languages and practicing separate religions are to thank for the creation of Google Finance.
  • Pepsico – With a 50 percent hiring requirement for women and minorities, PepsiCo doesn’t play around when it comes to diversity. They claim that one percent (around $250 million) of their 7.4 percent revenue growth is directly related to their diversity efforts.
  • Procter & Gamble – In the last decade, P&G delivered an average of 6 percent organic sales growth due to innovation from diverse teams.

Analysts at Ernst & Young (EY) have stated that, “Most large corporations today have a diverse workforce that is scattered all over the world, and the enormous diversity of culture and viewpoints is fertile ground for innovation.”

When companies encourage diversity within their organizations, they dispel the negative effects of groupthink. Diversity does so much more than that though. It empowers employees to share and create new ideas. It pushes people past their comfort zones to go places they otherwise would not. It paves the way for innovation to occur. – Kayla Foley

 

Continue Reading

0

Today’s Blogapalooza article from a student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas comes via Allison Dollar. Allison is a Local Business Account Executive at The Kansas City Star Media Company. Her article for today on personal leadership lays out 10 keys to hustle . . . every day.

Personal Leadership – 10 Keys to Hustle . . . Every Day by Allison Dollar

Allison-DollarIn the words of Mos Def, “Focused. I’m a hustler. And my hustle is trying to figure out the best ways to do what I like without having to do much else.”

Well-said Mos Def. Well said.

A hustler is defined by Merriam Webster as, “An enterprising person determined to succeed; go getter.”

Are you a hustler?

You don’t have to be in sales to be one but you do have to commit to the following ten steps if you want to be successful. While I consider myself a hustler in constant training these are 10 keys to hustle, every day. You have to practice them daily, get better at them, and enjoy.

  1. Love your Hustle

Whatever it is, love it. And I mean with all of your heart. If you don’t enjoy what you spend most of your life doing then it’s a waste of time; time is the one thing we can’t get more of so…again I say, Love your hustle.

  1. Listen

Most people like to talk sometimes, no, most of the time, and they talk too much. Listen more, and speak less, I promise you will hear something that will lead to a business lead, idea or relevant knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation where listening is difficult, leave. It’s not worth your time. This brings me to my next point.

  1. If it’s dead, leave it on the ground and walk away

This could refer to anything, a client that will never be happy and who takes too much time, a peer who complains all the time about the same old things, or my favorite, a manager who has no idea what he/she is doing or saying the majority of the time. If you run into any of these situations leave them immediately and do not look back, it’s not worth it.

  1. Swagger

Confidence is a non-negotiable for any professional hustler, you better be able to own whatever it is you need to own. The presentation you just gave to high-level decision makers, the smart-ass comment you dealt to a high performance peer or the stare down you delivered in the boardroom full of talented professionals just like yourself trying to get ahead. Whatever you do, get and keep your swagger. Without it, you are just like every other professional “insert your title of choice here” working day in and day out. Your swagger is just that Your Swagger. It is as unique as you are, use it to your advantage.

  1. Learn Something

Learn something every day. It’s as easy as that. Each day approach it so you learn something new, no one can ever take your knowledge away from you. Believe in your abilities and reward yourself with the knowledge it takes to come out on top every day.

  1. Be the Expert

Ensure that whatever it is you know just as much if not more than the senior level manager/sales representative/vice president or whoever it is in the room. Be able to speak in a healthy fashion no matter what the topic. Set yourself apart by showing you have taken the time to educate yourself on the topic at hand.

  1. No Fear

Period. Fear paralyzes you and has no room in the mind of a true hustler. If you have it, do not show it. Get a plan together on how you can keep it to yourself then toss it away after your mind has processed the situation. Fear is a private thing that everyone experiences but a hustler never shows.

  1. Love yourself

No one can love you like you. Sounds weird but it’s true. No one knows you better than you. Give yourself the time to process demanding information; strategize your next move or whatever it is you need. Also take care of yourself, even a proper hustler needs to eat right, exercise, and get some sleep. Know when to shut it down and take care of you.

  1. Never ask Permission

A hustler just gets it done. Don’t ask permission, ask forgiveness. Like I said, a hustler gets it done, and anyone who knows a hustler realizes this from the moment they are introduced.

  1. Network

A hustler knows everyone. The new business owner around the corner, the new employee on the second floor and even the new CEO hired to work for the competition. You can’t be successful being a recluse. It just doesn’t happen. Know your people.

Think you got what it takes to hustle? Use your cane if you need to, but get your hustle on or at least get it started. – Allison Dollar

 

Continue Reading

0

When a brand strategy change is planned, what happens first?

An earlier “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed this important brand strategy question about how changes are rolled out to the public. The issue is this: When announcing a new brand promise, you need to give employees adequate time to understand and embrace the brand promise before announcing it to customers.

“Nearly simultaneously,” unless there are completely inescapable circumstances preventing advance notice, is not adequate time. Yet, discussions and presentations at a brand strategy conference indicate many brands act as if “nearly simultaneously” is sufficient.

You're-Gonna-Love-this-Plac

They’re wrong, and here’s an example included in the Armada piece. It’s a second-hand anecdote on the downside of not making sure employees know about branding announcement before customers, along with the fundamental differences in how brands are developed vs. implemented.

Brand Promises Are Developed and Communicated in Different Directions (From Armada Executive Intelligence “Inside the Executive Suite”)

“(There are) differing ‘directions’ in which smart brands develop and introduce their promises.

Many organizations first look inward to determine what they want the brand to be. They then develop related brand messages they launch with great fanfare in the marketplace. This is developing the brand promise ‘inside-out’ and communicating it ‘outside-in,’ implying employees are learning about the new big brand promise at the same time as customers.

“That approach is fraught with problems as evidenced by a story shared by a CMO we (worked with). He was flying on United Airlines as it introduced ‘United Rising.’ The brand campaign focused on United dramatically changing to deliver better service to customers. After enduring a day of cancellations and delays at O’Hare with no timely updates or apologies from United, passengers finally boarded a plane in the evening. One flight attendant welcomed passengers, acknowledged their long, frustrating day, apologized, and said the crew would have them home soon.

“The CMO told the flight attendant she was the ONLY person all day who displayed anything resembling United Rising-type behaviors. She asked what United Rising was. He explained it was the new United brand message. She replied, ‘Oh, they don’t tell us about those things. We’re always the last to know.’

“That highlights the problem with first communicating a brand promise in the marketplace. If the market learns about a new brand promise before employees, they aren’t in a good position to bring the brand promise to life for customers – and they may even wind up undermining it, as in the United Rising episode.

“The best brand promises are developed outside in. A brand starts by understanding what the market perceives about it and how much latitude it has to change. Brand promises are then communicated inside out. The communication process starts with employees before the market hears the message, making sure they understand it and are supported in delivering on it. Then, when the first customer comes through the door (whether a physical, figurative, or virtual one), employee behaviors and every other brand element can strongly align to what customers have heard.”

Even if there are regulatory or confidentiality issues involved, it behooves a brand to establish considerable groundwork with its employees in advance, perhaps over many months of time. This could come via broad employee involvement in providing input to the strategy. It could also include sharing foundational concepts that will support the eventual brand position. In that case, when the new brand is announced, brand management can link the new information on the brand to what has already been shared. That at least provides SOME context and preparation for employees to be able to communicate about and carry out a new brand promise more effectively.

Don’t mess this one up: Communicating your brand starts on the inside, NOT the outside!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

Continue Reading