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Over the weekend, our cat Coco (or “my cat” as she was known), passed away. She had a rare tumor, and for a number of months, we knew it wouldn’t be that much longer before this happened.

I won’t get maudlin, but the story of Coco’s adoption holds a couple of solid lessons.

Cyndi had wanted a black cat for some time. While waiting for her to finish at a store in our nearby shopping center, I saw, in the car’s rear view mirror, a Humane Society volunteer carry a caged black cat toward the early Saturday morning pet adoption just down the way.

When Cyndi returned, we decided to see about adopting the black cat. She was sitting rather forlornly in her cage when we found her. In talking with the volunteer, we discovered she was a Manx kitten, i.e. she had no tail. The volunteer explained how this caused potential problems and made these cats more difficult to care for than the typical cat. She asked us whether we had other cats and if they went out doors. After answering a few more questions, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to adopt this kitten.

We were surprised but went on our way. Later, we figured that beyond the fact we told them our two cats went out in the back yard, the fact we had gone over to the shopping center before getting all spruced up in the morning may have been a factor. Granted, we probably looked pretty scruffy, but I’d never known being unshaven to be grounds for being denied the opportunity to adopt a pet.

Running errands that afternoon, we decided to go back and see if the cat were still there. Sure enough she was, and now, nicely dressed, we got none of the questions we’d received in the morning. Instead, we were welcomed and within a very short time, were headed home with Coco.

That was nearly fourteen years ago.  We talk often about how in a world where people increasingly look disheveled, the way we looked that Saturday really did matter in how we were judged. We also remind ourselves about all the joy we’d have missed in our lives if we’d have taken the first “no” as the final answer.

To close, here’s a quirky moment from Sunday night. I was looking at a video I’d shot of Coco earlier this year when Clementine, our last remaining cat, hopped up on the desk, as she so frequently does. It’s an unstaged, double video goodbye between the two of them. One in January and one today.

I’ll admit this post was kind of light on strategy and innovation. Thanks for reading it anyway though, because I just had to write it – 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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If you sell a product that was the driving force behind much of world exploration, you might choose to leave well enough alone when it comes to innovative packaging strategy. I noticed recently, however, that category leader McCormick & Co. isn’t doing any such thing as it introduces some new creativity to its packaging strategy.

We all get that herbs and spices really improve the taste of our favorite dishes and make our not so favorite, but healthier, dishes more palatable. But many of us don’t cook enough to use up the traditional bottle of spice in 2 or 3 years before the contents lose their punch. If your kitchen is like ours, you have bottles of spices that have been there since before there was such a thing as a blog, much less a tweet.

McCormick is displaying new creativity in this area through a new Recipe Inspiration that is an innovative packaging strategy doing away with the bottle altogether. In an innovative way, it also does away with problem of not having the right spices for a recipe or having those spices be stale. They give you the recipe and the spices you need in the quantity you need them. It’s a fantastic example of creating value by giving you less product, but delivering the product with creativity in a more convenient and usable configuration.

I don’t know if this new packaging innovation strategy will be a success, but it surely won’t be because McCormick kept its packaging creativity bottled up. – Barrett Sydnor

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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Introducing a coordinated, vibrant social media effort into an organization depends on more than an “official” group creating content. Ideally multiple and varied people throughout an organization are functioning almost as beat reporters and sharing their individual perspectives on topics relevant to targeted audiences.

How do you get do-it-yourself (DIY) social media support from people already contending with more than full job responsibilities?

Here are 15 tactics you can use to pave the way for success in implementing your social media strategy:

  • Develop a role description for what a social media team member does in your company.
  • Provide realistic estimates of how much or how little time a team member will have to use to participate on the team.
  • Develop and share a social media policy for your company.
  • Create an internship and recruit a university student to participate in the effort.
  • Ask people what their talents and areas of interest in social media are and give them appropriate assignments.
  • Provide step-by-step instructions or basic guidelines to encourage new social media participants.
  • Have more experienced social media practitioners mentor those just getting started.
  • Develop your own wiki, blog, or social network community to post reference materials, FAQs, and other relevant information for the team.
  • Offer some type of simple, fun give-away to team members to incent active participation.
  • Provide a team list with contact information, areas of expertise and focus for each member, and who to call to report on successes and challenges.
  • Offer in-person or webinar training on effectively using social media applications and your brand standards.
  • Provide a thorough list of articles on how to excel at various aspects of social media.
  • Share links to free webinars focused on social media how to’s.
  • Brainstorm and share a list of suggested blog topics.
  • Use an approach that allows participants to smoothly rotate on and off the social media team at reasonable intervals.

What innovative strategies have worked for you to generate broader participation in social media within your business or organization?  – 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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2

In social media ranks, there are lots of people who portray themselves as bigger than they are and incredibly cool in what they think and know. And with all the readily available tools for self-promotion, it’s never been easier to draw attention to oneself than right now.

For wannabes and immature business people, all the apparently easy possibilities for creating attention are a very attractive nuisance. It can appear highly desirable to vie for attention from social media rock stars. A retweet or brief exchange can feel as if you’ve made a personal connection with one of them. A cause gaining attention via social media can easily take on the appearance of an important or broadly popular issue. That’s the case even when it’s grounded on a shaky premise without any strategic thought.

So right now, despite suggestions that social media will change everything around us, one important fundamental hasn’t budged even a little: GENUINE is MORE important than ever.

By genuine, I don’t mean the standard “be transparent online and reach out to your followers” line that’s in every social media overview presentation (including my own).

Instead, I mean real people who have a rich life offline. People who are morally centered. People who truly care about serving others and their ultimate welfare.

I’m talking about genuine people; not people who excel at attempting to appear genuine online.

If you find yourself repeatedly sucked in by the prospect of chasing social media stars, do yourself a favor. Find some real people you can actually meet and know in real life. Talk with them in real life. Share your experiences to try and benefit them. Treat them with kindness. Be a genuine friend to them.

Trust me; you’ll be a lot better off for having done it. – 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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It’s always interesting to learn about what you do through someone else’s eyes. When there’s an opportunity for candid feedback, use it to refine your business strategy and look more innovatively at your performance.

The Brainzooming™ Group had a wonderful opportunity to get reactions to our strategic planning process last week from Nate Riggs. Nate started Social Business Strategies to help mid-sized & large organizations develop social media strategies and build internalized Human Business Teams.

Last Tuesday, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a large (35 person) social media strategic planning session for a four-year university. Nate Riggs was invaluable for his experience in working with other higher educational institutions on social media approaches.

We modified several Brainzooming strategy-building exercises to facilitate the large group and came away with great learnings. Nate’s first-time reactions to how we efficiently and effectively manage strategic conversations were also helpful in continuing to refine our process. You can get a quick sense of Nate’s views in this video and in his follow-up blog post on the strategic planning session.

Take a look, and let us know any questions you have on the approach, either for large groups or for developing social media strategy. – 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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4

The Free State Social took place in Lawrence, KS, April 27-28, 2010. The program featured a great line-up of social media luminaries from both the national and regional scene. Based on a prior client commitment developing its social media strategy (the topic for tomorrow’s post), it wasn’t practical to be able to attend the Free State Social. Based on all the great tweets and video coming from the conference, however, it was clearly a innovative environment at the new Oread Hotel in Lawrence.

Tara Saylor Litzenberger was one of the attendees, and from the enthusiasm of her tweets, I asked her to recap her take-aways for Brainzooming readers. Tara describes herself as an “easily-amused web nerd who writes about farm equipment for a living.” She readily cops to shameless addictions to coffee, Twizzlers, and Lolcats. And although Tara says she seldom leaves comments on blogs (something she plans to remedy), I’m glad she decided to guest post and share her highlights from the Free State Social:

I love, love, LOVED the Free State Social. I freely admit I’m the biggest nerd in my department, possibly the entire office, so it was a real treat to spend time with like-minded nerds to talk about the state of the social internet– and its future.

Archives of the presentations will be online soon- watch @FreeStateSocial for updates- and there are tons of great tweets summarizing the event.

Some of my big take-aways:

  • It’s just another channel - Chris Brogan started the day by refusing to even talk about Twitter, and Jeremiah Owyang closed by reminding everyone not to fall in love with the tools you use. It was refreshing to hear because social media is the shiny new buzzword in corporate America, but the principles of using it effectively are the same marketing principles as we’ve been using for years.
  • Have a strategy before you start - Jeremiah went so far as to say that if your company doesn’t have support systems in place, don’t even engage. Again, it sounds perfectly logical, but it gets lost in all the “you gotta get a twitter account” hype.
  • Real time is not fast enough – Companies need to have a plan to deal with ugly situations before they happen. Letting something sit overnight- or worse, for an entire weekend- simply isn’t an option.

There were a few other topics that came up that really got me thinking, too:

Bloggers as Journalists

There was a lot of discussion around bloggers as journalists, which makes a lot of sense considering the event was sponsored by a news organization and the whole Gizmodo iPhone case was a current event in the online community.

But do all bloggers need to be counted as journalists? I blog, but I tend to post funny stories about daily life, not news. I don’t worry about citing my sources because my source is almost always me.

Then again, there are some basic tenets to content creation I’m following. I’m using my own pictures. I don’t try to pass off someone else’s work as mine. I give credit (and links) where credit is due. They’re the same rules I’ve been following in my professional life as a copywriter, but they’re also ingrained into journalism.

Vocal Critics

The second area I’d have like to talk about more was vocal minorities and backlash. There was a brief discussion around the Motrin Mom debacle, but it was largely around response times. We all know that there are passionate influencers out there, and as marketers, we try to reach them.

But is there a point when a vocal minority starts taking a brand hostage, along the lines of Green Peace and Nestle? Does an angry YouTube video become the digital equivalent of rappelling into a shareholders meeting?

We’ve come to accept that there are audiences that will never be happy with your company, no matter what it does, but where are the lines? Especially if you work for a company that people love to hate, like Monsanto?

The best part of an event like the Free State Social? Thanks to all the tools we use (Twitter, Facebook, even email and Google Buzz), the conversation isn’t going to stop just because the event is over.  – Tara Saylor Litzenberger

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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Whether telling a story personally or in business, the natural inclination is probably to include all the information perceived as relevant. Conveying complete information is truthful and also can make you feel as if you’re doing everything possible to create understanding.

But while sharing complete information may make it seem as if you’re doing your part to convey a message, it’s not necessarily the case. Sharing the complete story might really be undermining the impact of your message.

In “Made to Stick,” both “Simplicity” and “Unexpectedness” are discussed among six fundamental strategic characteristics for helping an idea take hold and remain in a listener’s mind.

Not constraining yourself to telling a complete story (as defined by including every detail) can simplify the audience’s listening experience. And inserting previously omitted details for dramatic effect can allow you to strategically improve how memorable your tale will be.

Want an outstanding example? This short video by Fr. Larry Richards contains one of the most memorable stories I’ve ever heard. Its simplicity and sense of the unexpected make it truly memorable. Take a look and think about how you can create the same sense of drama in some of your most familiar stories. - 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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