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I worked with Scott Frederick for several years and was excited to see him tweeting recently about his business tenets. The ideas seemed like a natural for a guest post. I think you’ll enjoy them and find, as I have, that Scott has a variety of talents and interests. Some are obvious (marketing professional), but as he notes in today’s guest post, you have to dig to find out about some of the others (Hollywood Dad/video producer, sports enthusiast), because he won’t hit you over the head talking about them!

As a humble marketing professional and Hollywood dad, it’s not my nature to be overtly outspoken regarding my values or beliefs. Growing up in Michigan, I admired Detroit sports icons Al Kaline, Barry Sanders and Steve Yzerman. The trait shared by these three successful competitors is that, although they spoke softly, their actions resounded loudly.

Much like Al, Barry and Steve, I prefer not to overtly proselytize others to my professional and personal (and religious) beliefs. Normally I prefer leading by example and letting my actions speak on my behalf. The past couple weeks though, I have tweeted twelve of Scott’s Business Tenets representing opinions formed across a 20-plus year career as a participant in corporate America. These tenets represent the good, the bad and the ugly of my professional experiences.

I was humbled when Mike asked me to provide a guest article based on the tenets for Brainzooming.  On the other hand, it’s absolutely fitting since I would probably not have forced myself to write down my business philosophies had it not been for Mike’s inspiration and accomplishments with Brainzooming.

Let me start by underlining that these are my own personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect those of the organization for which I work. This caveat is appropriately reinforced by a simple review of the word “tenet” itself:

ten·et n. An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or organization.

I submit these twelve tenets for your consideration as you think about your own experiences, philosophies and values.

  • There is no “I” in “SUCCESS” (but there is in EGOTIST). I learned this tenet early (from a family member no less). Nothing’s more annoying than to have someone talk about the miraculous feats THEY accomplished for their company. Name any successful corporate project, and there’s more than one individual who made it happen (even though corporate compensation doesn’t always reflect this).
  • Create a vision of the end result and you will sell the means to get there. My experience has been it’s very difficult to get executive endorsement on projects they can’t “visualize.” However, if you can create a clear vision of what the project will provide (e.g., pictures, facts, financials, etc.), obtaining executive approval becomes much easier.
  • A great attitude is more important than great aptitude. Show me someone with a great attitude, and I can teach them to do anything. Show me a disgruntled employee with all the skill in the world, and I’ll show you an empty office (eventually).
  • The personal brand must not supersede the company brand. This one is tricky because everyone should work on improving their personal brand. This is particularly important when the company doesn’t seem committed to its own brand. However, I have observed cases where an individual’s personal brand seems to take precedence over the company brand. Ultimately, this sends the wrong signal to employees working very hard to build the company brand.
  • The most effective marketing managers are multi-dimensional professionals – not narrow specialists. This tenet stems from working for a company that often had very few marketing resources compared to its industry peers. Even if I were running my own company, however, I would much prefer to have marketing professionals who can perform a variety of tasks, rather than one-trick-ponies who are only good at shuffling work back and forth.
  • Working hard and working smart are the best combination. I value a strong work ethic almost as much as integrity and attitude. But working hard is not a substitute for working smart – rather it’s the perfect complement.
  • Democracy is good, but responsibility without authority is not. When employees are given a tremendous amount of responsibility but no authority to get the work done, it leads to frustration and wasted time and resources. Differing opinions, ideas, and perspectives are always welcomed. At the end of the day, though, people must be empowered to make final decisions individually. 
  • Repeat, repeat, and repeat your message, and people will finally get it. This is perhaps the most self-evident of the tenets. But experience suggests time and time again that repetition really does work.
  • Dry humor is better than no humor at all. This tenet is a little narcissistic since my humor is as dry as it comes. But in all seriousness, working in an environment lacking any humor at all is never fun for anyone.   
  • Every employee should end the work day feeling as if they made a contribution to the success of the organization. This is a very obvious tenet. The hard part is actually making it so. Organizations and managers that don’t believe this tenet are really missing out on the power of their people (or they need to recruit Brainzooming to help them define success and prioritize their goals).
  • Nothing and no one is perfect, but that’s no reason not to attempt it. Ask anyone that’s ever worked for me and they’ll probably tell you I’m too much of a perfectionist. The funny thing is I am as imperfect as they come. However, I try not to use this as an excuse for not trying to make all of my work as perfect as it can be. That is the only expectation I have of others as well. Don’t be perfect – just try.
  • Reality Therapy: What do you want? Is what you’re doing getting what you want? What should you be doing to get what you want? Saved the best for last. I actually learned this from one of the most capable training professionals I have ever known. If you are ever faced with a conflict, these are three of the most powerful questions you can possibly ask. And that’s not fiction, its reality!

With new experiences and learnings, I am sure there will be more tenets along the way – and some may even change with new perspective. My humble advice is you consider reflecting on your own experiences and attempt to write down lessons you have learned. Who knows – someone you know might ask you to be their guest blogger for the day!  – Scott G. Frederick

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I used to ask weekly on Twitter what strategic or innovation topics people would like to see addressed in Brainzooming articles. One request from back then was to write about how not to over think business strategy. Having been in a business where it seemed you’d hear “don’t over think it” five times a day, the topic hit a little too close to home, and I didn’t ever do a post on it.

Time's Running OUtNow, with a little distance, I offer some strategic thinking questions to ask your team when you need to quickly move into convergent thinking mode during business planning:

  • Does this issue really matter for our business opportunity? Will it materially change any important business results?
  • What if we could only implement one innovative strategy in this situation? What would it be?
  • If we had only 25% of the time (or resources), would we concentrate our efforts on this business opportunity?
  • Without any additional information, what does our experience suggest as the most successful potential business option?
  • If we had to halt our business planning and make a decision in the next five minutes, what would it be?

Couple any of these strategic questions with a fixed amount of time for dialogue (i.e., “We’ll talk about this for 10 minutes) and a required decision (i.e., “When time’s up, you have to briefly state what business decision you’d recommend or the course of action you’d take right now).

You may not get the most rigorously vetted, innovative ideas, but using a strategic thinking exercise and a limited amount of discussion time will help quickly catalyze your strategy decision so you can move to implementation. – 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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I had the opportunity to participate in a three-person gospel reading at Church yesterday. In going through the preparation workbook last week, it suggested rehearsing the entire reading aloud, not just your individual part.  It was an innovative idea and not something I would have thought to do; my typical strategy would be to practice only what I’d be responsible for reading at Church.

After reading the entire piece several times, the advantage of this holistic strategy became clear. My role was to be the “narrator,” providing verbal connections between a variety of spoken parts representing various characters. That means I had a lot of, “They said” and, “He replied” type lines. Rehearsing the whole piece made me very aware of the emotion and point of view of the next person I was leading up to, as well as of the person speaking right before me. It allowed me to vary my tone and be a better connector within our three-person team.

Only after Church did the broader lesson strike me. The strategy of “rehearsing the entire thing” applies to any type of team project.  While each team member may have a distinct role, the entire team’s success will improve if you think strategically about the holistic process:

  • Anticipate what you’ll be receiving from the person before you. What point of view, style, and expertise will this person put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility?
  • Also, consider the person to whom you’ll hand off your efforts. What will they be expecting from you? How can you anticipate what they may struggle with in order to help them get through challenging parts more successfully?

In any team project, (re)define your role as being a “strong connector.” Take the strategic view, planning for what comes before and after you in the process to catalyze your team’s success. – 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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You may have heard about the Kansas City blizzard last weekend. So much for the first day of Spring! Shoveling the wet, heavy snow on Sunday prompted building a snowman for the first time in years. And of course, the experience turned into a quick video creativity lesson. – 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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Raise your hand if you’re trying to hit plan with fewer marketing resources than you had last year or the year before. Okay, that looks like just about everybody; put your hands down.

Knowing what specific strategy works may be difficult to determine, but here are 12 strategies you should consider when facing limited marketing dollars and people:

  • Don’t make across the board cuts – it’s easy to do the math, but it leads to crappy results. Go all in on high potential, innovative strategies and cut others out completely.
  • Stop doing things that don’t add value for customers. Ask them what they don’t use or need, and especially find out what you do they’re not even aware of. All candidates for elimination.
  • Don’t eliminate your thinking time. It’s easy (and stupid) to think you can stop strategic thinking as a way to save time and get on with implementation. With fewer resources, you’ll need planning to make sure you get things right the first time. It’s painful and costly to fix screw-ups once you discover them in-market.
  • Set your goals higher to force radically re-considering how you deliver for customers.  It seems contradictory, but stiffer goals will push you to explore what really matters and what you’re willing to sacrifice today for potential success tomorrow.
  • Figure out who else in your organization has appropriate talents & might want to help grow the business.  A lot of times people are looking for new ways to contribute, grow, and develop strategically when there aren’t dollars for training.
  • Build on strategies you already have in place. Don’t needlessly create new messaging with no built-in awareness. Even something generally on strategy may work harder for you than the perfect strategy which requires starting from scratch in getting customers to understand it.
  • Beyond using what you already have in place, see if strategies that have worked previously might be right to pull out again. Chances are if a strategy resonated before, some part of your audience will remember it, making the sell-in easier.
  • Also test some innovative concepts you explored before but never used. Is now the time to try them out in a new market situation?
  • As you plan your marketing strategy, make sure everything you do is designed to create multiple impacts. You have to get more from what you do if you’re going to be successful. It’s too expensive to pursue strategies which will work in only one-off market situations.
  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of every customer contact to test, learn, and/or adjust your marketing mix. You may not have dollars for formal research, so you need to learn as much as you can every day, even if the learning methods are non-traditional. Adjust and learn what you can.
  • Stretch your team in new ways to make them stronger performers and better leaders. Muscles get stronger when you challenge them repeatedly. Same with people and teams.
  • Strengthening muscles also need time to recover if they’re going to get bigger. Same with people and teams. Make time to celebrate great contributions and the wins you deliver to help sustain and motivate your team.

Those are my twelve. What would you add to the list? – 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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At the invitation of Brainzooming email subscriber Terry Kincheloe, I attended the second 2010 meeting of KairosAnalytics, a Kansas City-based web analytics strategy forum last Thursday. Tony Fortner, Consumer Experience Strategist at Sprint, presented on “Social Engagement Strategy.”

In the course of laying out his perspective, Tony covered culture, values, economic theory, World of Warcraft, strategy creation, the challenges of measuring social community business impacts, plus a few anecdotes on the internal politics at Sprint. Needless to say, it was an evening full of stimulating strategy ideas!

Rather than trying to play back notes from all of Tony’s presentation, here are a few takeaways:

  • So much of creating a vibrant online community strategy goes back to culture, values, and much of what we were taught as children: decency, helping one another, the golden rule, keeping your “hands clean”, loyalty, trust, etc.
  • Tony commented about feeling ethically bound to “say something” when a decision was being considered which would harm a customer. This creates a clear distinction for me. I’d place the emphasis on being bound to protect customers by actually stopping a harmful action. “Saying something” can be a self-serving exercise (esp. when you walk away in frustration), when what’s really needed is creating a positive result from the discussion.
  • For many (most?) companies, embracing the idea of a real community goes beyond innovation and is a radical strategy. If you’re trying to introduce a new, visionary strategy such as this inside a company, be sure to match up with someone who excels at the steps it will take to make it happen. And if implementation is your strong suit, go out of your way to align with someone who can communicate the strong vision necessary for the organization to make strategic changes necessary to be successful with a community.
  • Despite all the discussion on best practices, real learnings often come from the ends of the spectrum, not the middle. To understand where things are headed, look toward the people and companies pushing the limits.
  • Not every brand is going to win with a social community strategy. Some pre-existing business models simply aren’t going to fit with the innovation imperatives a community-based strategy implies. It’s clear some businesses are going to lose because of social networking-driven strategic change.

It was a great session. In July, I’m speaking to KAIROS on what could ostensibly be seen as the same topic Tony addressed – social media and strategy. Because there are so many ways to address the topic, it was reassuring to see our angles will be complementary, but different enough to have new things to say. – 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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Last Tuesday’s post was on using your five favorite movies to discover your innovative character. It received some great tweets and spurred fun exchanges on Twitter. Lesley Heizman, a Curriculum Technical Specialist for the Blue Valley School District in the Kansas City area, was nice enough to share her list of movies and what she learned about herself from the exercise:

The Brainzooming post on finding your own innovative character has me thinking – what would MY character be???

Lately I find myself unsatisfied with my career but not knowing what direction I want to head.  I’ve taken tests and read articles that talk about doing your best work at the current job you have to figure out what you love and what stimulates you, but it seems so long since I’ve been inspired by something I think to myself, “What do I like anymore? What challenges me? What are my strengths?”

I feel like I’m not sure!  I feel creatively blocked.  My mojo is gone.  So, I’m taking the Innovative Character challenge.

My 5 favorite movies:

  • “Old School” – Another comedy I love-seeing a pattern here? I think I have the movie taste of a high school boy.
  • “Ocean’s 11″ – I love the cast of characters in this movie and just the whole “feel” of the movie.

Looking at my movies and thinking about what they have in common, these things occur to me:

  • They all have teams of people working towards a specific goal. In “The Hangover,” they are trying to find their friend. In “Gone in 60 Seconds,” they are stealing a list of cars. In “Ocean’s 11,” it’s outsmarting a casino.
  • Humor. Oh, the characters! Basher in “Ocean’s 11,” Donny Astricky in “Gone in 60 Seconds,” Vince Vaughn as Bernie Campbell in “Old School.”  It takes quite an expert to outsmart a casino or steal a specific list of cars in 24 hours. They all get bonus points for doing it while having a sense of humor.
  • Each movie has a character who is bucking the traditional and doing what they want. In “Quantum of Solace,” Daniel Craig is taking down the thief in his own way, screw the MI5. In “Ocean’s 11″ they are stealing from a famous casino in which no one has been successful stealing from before.  In the “Hangover,” Zach Galifianakis sings to his own tune.

So, what does this tell me about myself?

When thinking about these qualities in relation to my current career, some of it does make sense. Often I am training people or doing projects where people might feel uncomfortable, using humor a lot to relieve some of that tension.  I love being the expert at a topic – give me something to learn, I will quickly pick up on it and be able to teach others how to do it.  I love working in teams.

Some things my characters taught me?

I don’t do well with vague situations or goals. I need specific goals to work toward or get frustrated.  I need to start looking at more non-traditional ways to do the work I’m doing.  Employers that let their staff to do their work on their own time or devise interesting ways to do old tasks fascinate me. As I get older and start a family, I want my work to be important. Anytime I’m working is taking time away from my family, and if it’s not something I love it simply doesn’t feel worth it.  Perhaps taking a non-traditional career path could help me out in this department?

Anyway, it was a very interesting exercise that got my creativity flowing for a bit!  Slowly I can feel it coming back….it’s been lost for too long. – Lesley Heizman

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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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