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Want a great strategy to improve your likelihood of getting more business (and by “business,” I mean doing more of what you do for external customers or internal clients)?

Here’s a simple, yet creative and under-used strategy: Be genuinely enthusiastic about doing what you do to help other people.

Talking recently with a potential service provider, I was struck by her contagious enthusiasm. Spending time on the phone with her made me more enthusiastic, increasing my interest in working with her tremendously.

Yes, she has talent. Yes, she has ideas. But most importantly, she has an overt, infectious attitude which right away puts her ahead of anybody else I might consider. It’s clear – she LOVES what she does!

What are you doing to show your enthusiasm for the people you want to serve?Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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This video is from “Social Media Will Neither Save Nor End the World as We Know It,” a presentation I did last Monday for Barrett Sydnor’s integrated marketing communications class. The class is made up primarily of young business professionals working on degrees at the University of Kansas.

My comments address a discussion on getting involved in social media when your employer isn’t supportive. One student managing a really comprehensive social media presence for a non-profit organization said he had more latitude because of his employer’s non-profit status.

That may be true. There are several other ways (personal branding, guerrilla marketing, and donating time to organizations) available though to deepen your social media understanding and be prepared when your employer is ready. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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6

I listened / watched / tweeted / chatted / multitasked my way through yesterday’s American Marketing Association “Social Media: Cracking the Code for Business Marketers” virtual event.

There was so much great content throughout (which is available on demand until May 2010), but one comment near the end hit home relative to recent conversations. James Clark of Room 214 wrapped up his social media ROI presentation with a slide referencing great work by his company’s “competitors.” As he put it, the subject area is moving and changing so quickly, you have to acknowledge and learn from competitors.

What a refreshing perspective.

In the transportation/ logistics industry, where I spent years, it’s nearly impossible for a company to possess every capability a customer might need in processing, storing, and moving their goods. With increased supply chain complexity, it’s become typical for your most vicious competitor in one business segment to be a valued customer, supplier, or strategic partner in another. If a transportation company can’t figure out how to work and compete at the same time with someone else, they’re destined to be relevant only for customers with very basic needs.

So it was a surprise recently, shortly after going full time with Brainzooming, when two people specifically said, “I think you’re a competitor of mine.”

How remarkable.

With so many companies needing to think more strategically and innovatively and then be able to implement their ideas, my concern isn’t competitors but simply sharing the value of what we can do to help potential clients be more strategic, innovative, and successful.

Can others address these potential clients’ same needs? Certainly. And as I regularly interact with other strategy and innovation providers in person or via social media channels, I hope to learn from them as well. At the same time, nearly everything I’ve produced on strategy, creativity, and innovation approaches is readily available here at no cost for others to use and learn from too.

So what’s the basis of competition for my two “competitors”?

How about fear? Or maybe, as someone said the other day when discussing this, it’s about being a dinosaur clinging to a business model destined to only fulfill very basic needs.

Sure, it’s early in the history I hope Brainzooming will have. We’ll definitely lose out on some opportunities where we have the best answer to help someone. But if we don’t think we really can best deliver on a potential client’s needs, we’ll reach out to folks like my “competitor” friends to see how we might work together. Or if it’s the best answer, we’ll point a potential client to someone who can provide better performance and value for them. I already did it earlier this week.

That’s our model, and we believe it’s the right one to genuinely serve and benefit the cool people we work with at Brainzooming.

Are you with us on this? - Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When you get an email saying you have a direct message from Liz Taylor, you pay attention!

No, not THAT Liz Taylor. THE Liz Taylor who is still doing innovative, creative work. This Liz Taylor, based in Oxford, England, runs Wow@work helping businesses develop their creative potential.  She has spent over 20 years working with clients on marketing and innovation projects in the UK, Europe and the USA.  Liz is currently studying for her Masters in Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, (University of London) and is researching creativity in organizations. You can follow Liz on Twitter: @wowatwork.

Today, Liz shares her perspective on the strategy for achieving the right balance between diversity and familiarity in fostering a creative culture:

Creating a culture in which people are constantly fizzing with imagination and ideas is one of the many innovation challenges we all face.   When a team becomes well-established with a track-record of success, there is always the risk that things will get too cozy.  When we start to feel comfortable it’s a sign that “groupthink” and risk aversion might have started to creep in.  Not good for creativity! 

So, the answer is to bring in some new blood and mix things up a bit, right?   New people with fresh perspectives and different thinking should fire up creativity.  But, lots of new members can also create challenges.   In a dynamic group it can be hard to build the good relationships and develop the shared working patterns that promote creativity.  We have to continuously renegotiate and reinterpret what is going on, which increases the sense of uncertainty and reduces the psychologically safety of the group.

Psychological safety is one of the key facilitators of creativity.  It encourages us to speak out and is the bedrock of “soft” communications – all those informal, spontaneous interactions that really drive ingenuity and inventiveness!   Creativity needs an environment rich in openness, active listening and building behaviours.   With increased diversity we should all be aware that we can fall prey to stereotyping, attribution errors, and cultural misunderstandings which can affect our communication and decision making.   

So what can we do to balance benefits of diversity and “new blood” with our need for psychological safety?  

  • Make sure the new people feel truly welcome in the group and give everyone a chance to get to know each other (in my book, a good excuse for a few beers down at the pub but depends on your cultural leanings of course!).   It’s important to appreciate each other’s views, expertise and background.   This will ensure we stay open to new ideas and helps practical organization since people are familiar with each other’s capabilities.  
  • Be aware of and use active listening and building behaviors.   No “buts” anyone!   
  • Ask what you can do to reduce any status differentials between functions and hierarchies.  No parking privileges for senior people, and if you are the boss, make sure you get the coffee sometimes!   
  • Create space to experiment and improvise together to get used to working styles and expertise.   HAVE FUN!  Allow mistakes to happen and evaluate them without blame.   
  • If it’s going to be a virtual working environment for much of the time, it’s vital to create opportunities to meet up in the real world.  Without face-to-face contact you will compromise the creative potential of your group.  People create ideas, not processes! 
  • If you are an old-timer (like me!) check you are staying fresh and keep challenging yourself, mix with new people, take a sabbatical or work on a voluntary project to try something new! - Liz Taylor

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’ve frequently advocated going somewhere you don’t normally work to freshen your creative perspective. Lots of people, especially those networking, do this. Yet it seems like nearly all of them wind up (at least around here) at Starbucks or Panera. That’s understandable given the Wi-Fi access and how many of them are around.

But the popularity of these locations poses problems. There are scads of people, they can be incredibly noisy (especially when school gets out), and there’s “that smell” on your clothes when you leave. Maybe it’s from coffee or from whatever “cooking” takes place. Or maybe, as I’ve come to suspect after looking at the faces of people there, it’s the smell of desperation.

Here’s an alternative – meet in a hotel lobby. Scout out hotels in your area with significant lobby areas and consider whether they present a more innovative meeting location.

There’s one fantastic hotel lobby I’ve dubbed the Brainzooming “South American headquarters” because I use it so frequently even though it’s far south of where I usually work. I met Chris Reaburn there the other day to recap #BZBowl and chat on social media and personal branding strategy. While parking was tight and there were lots of people in the hotel’s meeting area, the lobby was essentially deserted, providing a great, comfortable (non-smelly) place to meet.

Scout out the empty hotel lobbies around you to add to your repertoire of meeting places. And while you’re at it, if you have an interest in services marketing in any of its forms, check out Chris’ blog: Service Encounters Onstage. - Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Many Brainzooming readers are way out in front on social media strategy. Others are still checking it out. No matter which group you’re in, there’s a great free opportunity Thursday, February 25 to participate in “Social Media: Cracking the Code for Business Marketers.” This is a free virtual event sponsored by the American Marketing Association. You don’t have to be an AMA member to participate.

You can participate in the all or part of the daylong learning event via computer, with access to some of the most innovative thinkers and strategists on social media including Andy Sernovitz (CEO of Gas Pedal & The Social Media Business Council) and Julien Smith (Co-Author, along with Chris Brogan, of Trust Agents). The event includes a mix of 9 general and concurrent sessions, including special chat opportunities for AMA members.  There’s still time to register and expand your understanding on social media.

Look for another free virtual event from the AMA in June. Its focus is on market research and will be tied to the 2010 national AMA Marketing Research Conference September 26-29 in Atlanta. Just so you know, I was the volunteer chairperson for the 2009 conference and will be again for the 2010 event. Be on the watch for more details here on both the June and September events. - Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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12

I watched the @ThatKevinSmith and @SouthwestAir brouhaha erupt live on Twitter but didn’t write about it last week. Bunches of tweeters and bloggers hashing out who was right and wrong based on second, third, or five hundredth-hand information simply wasn’t interesting enough to warrant adding to the noise. Getting ready for a social media presentation tonight though, I’ve been thinking about service defects and service recovery in the world of social networking. I sought an analogy to help think strategically about how a company prepares for an angry customer who wants to be heard and starts tweeting incessantly: handling a hostage situation is very comparable. Rather than a person though, it’s a brand’s reputation being kidnapped by a customer threatening irreparable harm unless demands are met. With the one-to-many communication capabilities of social media, this type of threat has never been more credible. 

Here are five hostage negotiation principles and related implications for preparing to handle when your brand’s good name is being kidnapped:

1. Have a negotiating team ready.

This means more than a single person monitoring Twitter and handling responses. In hostage negotiations, the primary negotiator, who is ideally the sole contact with the hostage taker, is joined by a coach/commander in charge of the situation and personnel along with a secondary negotiator to help monitor, listen, and offer input.

Strategic Questions – Does your company have a pre-identified team and protocols for how it will work together in a social media-based service recovery effort? And how would you incorporate front-line employees when you’re trying to recover from a service failure playing out both at one of your company’s locations and online?

2. Gather as much solid information as possible right away.

Beyond having standard questions to run through, there’s added complexity in a social media-based service recovery effort. Suppose the customer issue IS taking place in-person. With social media monitoring removed from the scene, it may not even be possible from a customer’s messages to determine where the issue is occurring. This creates an interesting implication for enacting rapid service recovery.

Strategic Questions – If it’s clear the issue is taking place in the presence of front line employees, what steps will you take to identify the location and establish communication with them immediately? Since multi-person communication with the angry customer is almost a given, how will you ensure your multiple contacts are speaking with one message?

3. Connect on a personal level.

Social media throws a whole new wrinkle into this, especially when you want to move interaction with the customer to a private messaging stream. If it’s even available, the company may have outdated phone information on the customer, making direct contact challenging to establish. A corporate tweeter may have to try to get a brand kidnapper to “follow” the company so direct messaging can take place. And typically, the corporate tweeter is communicating under a corporate account without a personal avatar. It makes establishing a personal tone of, “I’m here to try and fix the situation,” difficult when the customer is receiving tweets with the corporate logo.

Strategic Questions – Are you following your customers on social media? Do you have multiple ways to reach out to customers? Do your company social media people have work-related, personal accounts they can use to reach out specifically in these cases?

4. Communicate openly and actively listen.

When you have face-to-face contact, listening, and the silence that goes along with it, is easy to convey. It’s a little tougher via phone. But in a medium geared toward short, back-and-forth messages, a pause associated with listening or contemplation comes across as being distracted or ignoring the other person.

Strategic Question – Beyond having plans for migrating service recovery conversations to private channels, are you actively training your social media response team in dealing with the dynamics of these new service recovery situations?

5. Show empathy.

One way hostage negotiators demonstrate empathy is by delivering on aspects of the demands that have been made. Granting small, detailed requests is done in real-life hostage situations to slow and drag them out, which is desirable. In a service recovery situation (especially one playing out in public), the last thing you want to do is extend it.  

Strategic Questions – Who is on your social media service response team? Have you included your best customer service people – the ones with strong understanding of what you can do to solve customer problems and are best at understanding issues from a customer’s point of view?

No matter what your company is doing in social media, you have to address this reality. Even if your company doesn’t want a proactive social media presence, there’s a greater chance every day your customers will be talking about your brand via social media. When they do, and the discussion gets negative and brand threatening, you better have thought about your strategy, with a plan for what you’ll do. - Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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