Brainzooming – All Posts | The Brainzooming Group - Part 334 – page 334
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I’m so excited to have Barrett Sydnor, president of Sydnor & Associates, as today’s guest author. We go back nearly 15 years, and I’ve always enjoyed his business writing tremendously. Today he addresses objectivity within strategic planning; he’ll also be back next month with a post on “invented second.”

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, quotes the father of modern consulting, Marvin Bower, as defining marketing as “objectivity.” If so, then objectivity is one of the most important qualities that any good strategic marketing planning process must have. But it is tough to do for two reasons.

One is that most people simply aren’t built that way. A few years ago I led a planning session for a company where I wanted people to think from the outside in (no big insight I know, but bear with me). To encourage that, they were not allowed to use first person references when speaking about the company – no “we” or “our.” It had to be third person, as an outsider would refer to it. To enforce it, we charged a quarter each time they referred to the company in first person. By the end of the session we had collected a very considerable sum for charity. One participant gave up about one-third of the way through, tossed a ten dollar bill in the pot, and said “I hope this gets me through the end of the day.”

These were smart people, good strategic thinkers, but they could not totally divorce themselves from thinking of the situation at hand in a first-person way.

The second reason that objectivity is tough is because often the objective person is seen as being negative or cynical. They are accused of not being a team player. And it is true that sometimes the approach and language of objectivity sounds negative and cynical when it is intended as skeptical or cautionary.

So how do you build objectivity into the planning process? One way is to encourage something I would call “passionate objectivity.” This is a quality or skill set that the best news reporters are heavily endowed with.

Those reporters approach stories with enthusiasm and an open mind, but they look for facts -verifiable facts – to back up or refute the opinions and subjectivity they encounter along the way.
An exercise that you can do to ensure that a planning recommendation is based in objectivity is to treat it the way a reporter would (should) treat a news story.

  • Write down the questions they would ask. Include the basic neutral, fact-collecting ones and the pointed ones that try to dig deeper.
  • Determine who they would go to as sources on the story, both inside the organization and outside sources—competitors, independent industry experts, academicians. Figure out what customers they would talk to.
  • What would they ask each of these sources and what would the answers be?

If you can answer those questions with good reliability and it still points favorably to your recommendation, you’ve had a good test of your processes objectivity. If you don’t know what the answers would be or the answers don’t square with the recommendation, maybe it’s time to go back and put some more passionate objectivity into the process. Barrett Sydnor

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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Amid too much jargon, the state of business communication isn’t stellar. We could all benefit from delegating a writing assignment to a great reporter to see how they’d approach it to ensure it’s as clear, concise, and memorable as possible. Here are some of the things a good reporter is going to concentrate on during a writing assignment:

  • Interview people directly involved in the story
  • Use multiple sources of information
  • Write in order to gain attention right away
  • Put the most important things at the start of the story, followed by supporting material, then background information
  • Address fundamental questions – who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • Use specific, concrete examples
  • Have an editor who reviews it and makes changes

In addition to identifying at least three new ways to incorporate each of a reporter’s approaches to improve your writing, here’s a bonus book recommendation – do yourself a favor and track down a copy of “How to Take the Fog Out of Business Writing” by Robert Gunning and Richard A. Kallan. It’s a precursor to “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide” and is a short, straight-forward guide to dramatically simplifying your business writing.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

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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.

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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In business, people typically spend time thinking about arguing and defending their own points of view. It’s rare though when someone spends time thinking about how they’d argue against themselves.

So next time you’re advocating a particularly contentious position, grab somebody who is less tied to your positions and swap sides – have them argue for your position while you challenge their pro arguments smartly and strongly. Seeing what new logic they develop to defend the position you really hold can help unlock new perspectives you can use later.

Debating against yourself (or at least your viewpoint) is a fantastic way to challenge and shore up your thinking before somebody else forces you to do it on the spot.

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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The title may seem harsh, but it’s a safe premise: NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU.

There are probably some exceptions (your parents, a loved one, a few altruistic souls), but unless you’ve EARNED the opportunity for someone’s sustained interest, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU! This reality is important because most brands have not created important enough relationships with customers for them to be more interested in the brand than themselves.

The questions to ask for any brand communication are:

  • How does this information benefit our audience? AND
  • Why should they care about it?

A brochure draft recently came to me for review. Technically it was written fine, but it contained mind-numbing details about the brand’s history, awards, and operational statistics. The questions above obviously weren’t considered. It was only about what WE wanted to say. There was no recognition of the utter lack of benefit for our customers, and the near certainty that they wouldn’t care about a history lesson on us.

Recently, I’ve received the other end of this treatment as well. A service provider repeatedly leaves me voice mails about his “concerns” about us. Remember, we’re paying his company money to provide us a service. Quite frankly, his concerns aren’t at the top of my list, i.e. I DON’T CARE ABOUT HIM! At least not until after he expresses interest in what benefits us.

Use these two questions liberally when providing information and building relationships. Think and act outside in, seeking first to understand and benefit others. In this way you can hope to win the coveted position in the minds and hearts of customers where they might genuinely care about you.

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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  • “Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.” – John Naisbitt
  • “A large number of execution problems are really direction problems.” – Geoffrey Moore
  • “What’s the use of running when you are not on the right road?” – Unknown
  • “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

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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Forecasts and size estimates shown with multiple decimal points are scary because they invariably imply a phony level of precision. When you’re estimating something, understand up front how precise the answer has to be, and present the result accordingly.

Doing a near-term estimate for a production forecast is one thing. But if the question relates to a market’s size to gauge relative market share or reasonable long-term growth expectations, it’s probably appropriate for your answer to be a range, and maybe a pretty wide one (2x or 3x differences between the low and high end may even be reasonable).

Also, rather than investing all your efforts in one estimate, approach it with multiple methodologies or sets of inputs to create credible boundaries for your estimated range. That’s “precision” that’s more valuable than any level of phony decimal places.

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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In terms of competitive strategy over the past thirty years, multiple villains have been able to create damage, wreak havoc, and end lives (all defined as success for them) by very often using non-traditional & apparently illogical techniques.

Despite how reprehensible their approaches are, they provide the basis for identifying potential competitive strategies in business. Here are potential approaches to plug into the character exercise to identify new competitive strategies:

  • Be very low profile
  • Conceal your appearance
  • Stay in hiding
  • Move around continuously to evade detection
  • Select an attention-getting target
  • Plan out all variables in the competitive attack
  • Work through a network of loyal followers
  • Patiently wait for the right moment to act
  • Do things differently each time to avoid detection
  • Conduct attention-getting attacks
  • Frighten large groups of people
  • Publicize your motives
  • Create the perception of future potential moves

Again, this isn’t advocating being a villain. But it is suggesting that variations on many of their planning techniques can be used legally to compete in business with a high degree of surprise and effectiveness.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

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

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.

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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