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I’m in Las Vegas this week, speaking at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas. There are 60,000+ attendees and exhibitors. This is my third year speaking during the educational sessions. In 2016, I invited one person to sit on the stage as all the other presentation attendees helped generate new marketing ideas for the retail store she represented.

During this year’s presentations, I’ll be covering both brand strategy (Thursday) and social-first stories (Friday).

9 Areas to Tune-Up Your Brand Strategy for Peak Performance

The branding presentation features a nine-point brand tune-up any business can use to evaluate a variety of the most important aspects of your brand strategy and performance. As a resource for both the attendees and for all of you, here are links for each of the nine checkpoints.

Expressing Clear Brand Benefits

Creating a Compelling Brand Promise

Using Your Brand to Shape Daily Decisions

Listening to & Learning from Customers

Establishing a Clear Market Position

Exploiting a Robust Brand Vocabulary

Identifying Custom Branding Tools

Sharing Social-First Stories

Maximizing Brand Popularity

Enjoy the links, and if you have questions on strengthening your brand strategy, contact us, and let’s talk about how you can do it effectively and efficiently. – Mike Brown

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Download the Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy. In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we share actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises to:

 

  • Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  • Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Start using Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content to boost your content marketing strategy success today!

 

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

 

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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We have been discussing strategic planning process approaches for next year with multiple people. While they are all considering different ideas, there is one common element to the conversations. They all want to spend less time planning, making it more productive and beneficial than in the past.

3 Strategic Planning Process Tweaks to Make Right Away!

There is no one answer for every organization to improve its strategic planning process. We can share some important fundamentals, however, to improve planning productively in significant ways.

1. Adapting the Strategic Planning Process for Your Organization

Make sure your strategic planning approach fits how your organization addresses:

  • Developing information and insights
  • Exploring opportunities
  • Making decisions
  • Implementing successfully

While you may want to change planning, recognize you are doing so relative to what creates the highest likelihood of success. Against what will work best for your team, consider these ideas to shape specific planning activities.
11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

2. Capture Current Ideas and Imagine New Ones

The most important strategic planning activities are those that help participants think about capitalizing innovatively on opportunities and addressing challenges. Don’t forget, however, to begin by asking everyone to identify their starting lists of opportunities and threats along with sharing their best current ideas to address them. Documenting these starting points acknowledges current thinking and typically frees participants to consider new ideas.

To accelerate thinking about new opportunities and approaches, ask unconventional strategic planning questions. You can try these five hypothetical situations we find valuable to spur innovative thinking:

  • Suppose we have the same goal we have now, but severely constrained resources. What can we do differently?
  • If our goal were two times greater than what is now with the same resources, what would we do differently to hit it?
  • Select some of the starting ideas we shared to accomplish our goals. What are completely opposite ways we might be able to try that have a chance of working?
  • If another company outside our industry were addressing these opportunities and challenges, what would they do to achieve success?
  • If a non-traditional, emerging competitor were trying to disrupt our market position, what would it do? How can we adopt those same moves to protect and improve what we do now?

These types of scenarios set the stage for dramatically different strategic thinking and innovative possibilities.

3. Deciding on Strategies and Writing the Plan

Relative to making decisions about which strategies to incorporate into the plan, we recommend soliciting input from the planning participants while recognizing who owns the ultimate decisions. Specify upfront which individual or group will prioritize the ideas to form the final plan.

When it comes to documenting the actual plan, spare participants the chore of writing it during the workshop. Identify who in your organization is strong at shaping project management plans; those people are likely the best equipped to efficiently translate all the input into a plan people will use.

Customize to Make It Work for Your Organization

Incorporating even a few of these suggest will make your planning more productive this year. If you want help to identify which ideas will work best in your organization, contact us, and let’s talk about what our experience suggests for your situation! – Mike Brown

Want to Avoid Typical Boring Strategic Planning Process Meetings?

Here is your answer. These 11 not stuffy for work techniques will spice up strategic planning with new thinking on:

  • How to move out of long-established comfort zones that limit strategic thinking
  • Livening up strategic discussions with exercises designed to generate disruptive ideas
  • Capturing the benefits of an offsite meeting right in your office

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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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Are you in the midst of boring strategic planning meetings?

Lots of people are right now enduring dreadful strategy meetings with all the same people, issues, and annoying behaviors they have been putting up with year after year. One executive facing the prospect of another round of boring strategic planning meetings asked what ideas we had for putting some fun into strategic planning?

Beyond sharing how we’d use insights from a broader employee group to shake up the group’s stale old interactions, the question got me thinking about other ideas. How else could we create fun strategic planning meetings for the group?

I started looking at ideas for how to get the spark back in a romantic relationship. Amazingly, the advice for couples falling into dreadful patterns with the same boring conversations and daily routines was easily adaptable to changing how senior executives engage in strategic planning. Yes, amazingly, there are many similarities in adding spark to tired, old relationships, no matter whether they are taking place personally or professionally.

Want to put the sizzle back into your senior team’s strategic planning?

Download our FREE Brainzooming eBook: 11 NSFW* Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning!

11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

We reveal all the surprising ways to change your team’s boring strategy conversations to foster productive, fun strategic planning.

In case you worry about downloading something NSFW, DON’T WORRY. Our NSFW doesn’t stand for Not Safe For Work. It means, Not Stuffy For Work!

These proven ideas and techniques will lead to:

  • Creating openness to new techniques
  • Moving out of long-established comfort zones
  • Livening up strategic discussions with new exercises

This NSFW* Brainzooming eBook shares the techniques we use with new and old clients to make strategic planning fun while helping create innovative, successful business results!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

 

Download your copy of 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning today!

11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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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Yesterday marked a momentous day professionally, that seemed big on the day it happened, but not as life-changing as it has become.

On October 22, 1997, I wore orange socks for the first time.

Current Orange Socks

The occasion was presenting our first strategic market plan at Yellow Transportation (whose name was Yellow but whose color was orange) to the senior leadership team. The presentation took place at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play. Before the day was done, we debuted our new vision video on the Jumbotron followed by live actors from the video barging in to interrupt the proceedings.

In the vision video, the Yellow sales person wore orange socks. Before the big meeting with the senior executives, our boss, Greg Reid, asked Brenda Price (our department “mom”) to dye white socks orange so the entire Marketing department could sport orange socks.

After the meeting, I went on the hunt for more orange socks. Before we got them in our new company store, I found them at the Gap and started accumulating them.

Over time, another guy in the department and I got into an informal competition for who could have more orange stuff. Wearing orange socks was an easy way to make sure I always was wearing SOME orange daily.

Fast forward to last summer 2001: Chuck Salter of Fast Company was preparing an article on the turnaround at Yellow. Greg brought me along to a group interview with the senior executives to introduce me to Chuck as his internal fact checker. The orange socks came up in conversation, but they were tangential to the interviews with the top leaders. Chuck and I talked afterward by phone, and he asked about the socks and how long I had worn them.

When the Fast Company article appeared in January 2002, someone came to my office to ask if I’d seen it. I said I hadn’t. He let me know I was all over the article. I was horrified! I was the fact checker, and that was it.

In the article, Chuck Salter mentioned, “Without a doubt, vice president Mike Brown is the Cal Ripken Jr. of Yellow fashion. Brown has worn orange socks to work nearly every day — “99% of the time,” he says — since October 22, 1997.” With that statement – my entrée to Fast Company – there was no turning back on orange socks. The last day I didn’t wear orange socks at our Kansas City headquarters (after one of our cats died and I wasn’t in the mood), a co-worker went to the company store, bought me a new pair of orange socks, and insisted I change into them in the building’s main lobby.

Later, when Yellow bought companies whose colors differed, I’d wear blue, green, or orange / blue / green socks, as appropriate. At one point, I had five different types of orange / blue / green socks. When a senior sales VP with the company saw my multi-colored pair of argyles, he exclaimed, “I’m color blind, and I can tell those socks are ugly.”

Fast forward a few more years later. I got the go ahead to start speaking to external groups about what we were doing to involve large groups of employees and speeding up strategic planning. The restriction was, I couldn’t talk about Yellow, yet, I needed to wear the orange socks, because they are what got me into Fast Company. Googling “orange,” I discovered it is the color of creativity and innovation. Thus, even before The Brainzooming Group was emerged, it was obvious orange would be the brand’s color.

So, yes, I still wear orange socks daily.

At last count, my inventory of unworn orange socks was somewhere in the thirties. I’m not sure how many pairs of socks are in the currently worn mix; the number is probably comparable.

Orange Sock Inventory

Reflecting on the orange socks story, I still receive the question all the time, “Are you wearing orange socks?”

My response is always, “Yes, why in the world would I NOT wear orange socks?”  – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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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 delivered a Brainzooming workshop on “Budget-Extending Social Content Strategy” at the Social Media Strategies Summit this week. We had more than forty attendees, which is a lot for a three-hour, interactive workshop. We adjusted our approach to maximize the interaction among the participants. During the time together, we worked through various Brainzooming tools to develop and implement social content strategy that is smart online and drives results for a brand.

Little did I suspect that covering career strategy would become an offshoot topic during the workshop.

Several attendees during and after the workshop recounted how their senior executives (typically from an earlier generation), don’t want to talk about their brands online. The reasons range include a corporate stance to not talk about what they do, relationships with suppliers and customers, fears of violating regulations, and a general skepticism that anybody that follows a brand’s online content EVER buys anything.

Yes, these concerns are ALL still out there.

Taking with several attendees about strategies to change these opinions, and the roadblocks they continue to expect, I finally suggested, “Maybe it’s time to find another job?”

That comment led to at least one powerful set of conversations with a young woman who realized that her future likely doesn’t include the brand where she is now. We talked about the importance of developing the next thing while the current thing is still paying the bills. On the conference’s second day, we talked about her passion for learning from and helping to mentor and develop strong woman in business. It all started to come together that this passion is her platform for changing the world. She’s committed to start blogging about it. And it’s not hard to see her writing a book and speaking about this, beyond all the individuals she’ll help in person.

13 Career Strategy Articles to Help Develop Your Next Job

When I pointed her to some background articles on the Brainzooming blog, I realized they were not in one place and easily findable.

Maybe you are in a comparable career position, where your skills are stagnating because your current brand’s executives can’t be convinced there are new and better ways to do things. If so, you may want to start thinking about whether it’s time to find another job (and act on it if it is).

Here are thirteen career strategy articles to help your exploration:

Keeping Things Going in Your Job Right Now

9 Ways to Understand the Political Fray and Stay the Hell Out of It

3 Strategies for Navigating a Political Environment

Career Challenges – 6 Ideas when Losing the Love for What You Do

Career Success – 7 Ideas If You Don’t Care About What You Do Anymore

Strategic Thinking Exercise – Simply Making Big Decisions

Corporate Sociopaths and Horrible Bosses – 7 Ways to Survive Them

Doing the Work to Start Finding another Job

The 4-Step Career Advice Nearly Everyone Ignores

Career Change – 4 Career Tips for a Mid-Career Professional

Is Your Personal Brand Portable to Another Job?

The Strategy for Exploiting Your Mindless Job

Career Strategy: Dear Job, I Can’t Quit You

Career Success Strategies – 6 Steps When You’re Laid Off by Anonymous

Career Strategy Challenge – 5 Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s Brainzooming workshops can boost your success!

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 stopped by the grocery store to use the ATM the other morning before leaving for New York to deliver a content marketing strategy workshop today at the Social Media Strategies Summit.

I decided to walk around the store to find something for lunch before getting on the plane. Finding nothing even remotely appealing, I headed for the door, not expecting to witness a solid customer experience strategy lesson.

Passing by the checkout aisles, I noticed a customer starting to unload her cart. Based on the checkout area’s configuration, the checker couldn’t see where the customer was or that she was beginning to unload her groceries. Since the store was dead this early in the morning, the checker came around to the front of the lane to wait for customers. By this point, the customer had moved further into the lane, but after the checker left her post.

The result?

The customer had her groceries all out on the belt. She was ready to have them checked, pay, and get out. The entire time, the checker was at the front of the aisle looking for customers heading her way to see them early and run around to her station to provide quick service.

DOH!

Via Shutterstock

Watching this scene develop, I stopped by the front door to see how long it was going to take for either the customer or the checker to realize there was a problem! It took so long, and I was in a hurry, waiting thirty seconds wasn’t enough time to see how long it finally took to discover the mistake.

Is Your Brand Making this Customer Experience Strategy Mistake?

Turning to go, I realized I have been guilty of doing the same thing as the checker. Many a brand is guilty of this as well: so eagerly trying to track down a new customer that it is missing all kinds of opportunities to serve and accommodate the customers it has.

Poor visibility into customer interactions or faulty customer experience strategy design could both be issues. That was the case in the grocery store. Other times, it may be that there’s more thrill in the hunt for a new customer than in tending to those you already have.

No matter the reason, it’s a good idea to step back and ask: Are we treating our current customers with all the enthusiasm and attention we show to the new person that is just walking through the door!

Well, are you? – Mike Brown

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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 used to always ask the same question at the end of every job interview: Is there anything you want to talk about but didn’t based on the questions I asked that you want to talk about now?

The question helped create a focused opportunity for nervous, hesitant, or distracted candidates to say whatever they wanted that they thought was important in selling themselves.

I dropped a variation of the question into an online collaboration workshop for a client’s strategic planning process. Based on the results, it has a new role as a strategic planning question.

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

The organization is going through a major leadership transition. Based on our interactions up to this point, honest, open conversation in a group setting is a clear problem for many individuals throughout the organization. While you hear some issues in a group setting, you hear more of the issues and story in one-off conversations.

Since the online collaboration is anonymous and knowing that there were likely other issues that leaders STILL hadn’t felt comfortable introducing, I added this strategic planning question on the fly: Is there anything else we haven’t covered that we should address?

The question generated a healthy response and surfaced several of the “elephants in the room” that certain leaders within the organization typically clamor about and bemoan because they are never addressed.

While we didn’t tackle the elephants in the online collaboration, at a subsequent in-person strategic planning meeting, one leader voiced a hope and expectation that we would tackle the elephants in the room. During a break in the conversation, I returned to the online collaboration results and copied the elephant issues on a big easel pad. With that move, the elephants were visible. We used the list during the in-person strategic planning workshop to make sure we tackled all of them.

While tackling the issues led to some drawn out and uncomfortable moments (at least for facilitators focused on productivity and getting through a certain number of exercises), the leader most vocal about the elephants had to acknowledge at the end that we had addressed them all.

Using the “what didn’t we cover” strategic planning question in a subsequent online collaboration workshop identified many great questions that another organization’s CEO could address before we ended the online collaboration.

With that, “what didn’t we cover” is now in our regular portfolio as a very productive strategic planning question. We suggest tucking it into yours, too. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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