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I’m in the midst of developing new themes for the Idea Magnets webcast I’m hosting for the American Marketing Association next week (And btw, have you signed up for the webcast yet? If not, here’s where you can register for Idea Magnets).

One theme from an earlier blog post is unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experiences. What got me thinking about these creative thinking experiences was our involvement assembling more than one hundred diverse people at the Kansas City Library for a large-scale brainstorming session. It struck me that this particular group would likely never convene again for creative thinking. As a result, we had great responsibility for making this unique creative experience a success.

Creative Thinking and Unique Experiences

Looking back through my career, I recognized many more unique creative thinking experiences than I’d ever imagined. It doesn’t require one hundred new people brainstorming to create something that’s once-in-a-lifetime.

Orange-Crowd

Consider any of these eleven possibilities:

  1. Invite a well-known speaker or sports figure kick-off a creative thinking session
  2. Have a less well known speaker or expert new to the group to participate
  3. Hold the creative thinking session in place that you’ll likely never be able to go to again
  4. Never have a creative thinking meeting in the same place twice
  5. Create a completely new creative thinking project for the group to tackle
  6. Take on a project that seems too big for the group to pull-off (but it does anyway)
  7. Devise a never-to-be-duplicated series of creative thinking events
  8. Take your creative thinking interactions on the road visiting and including customers
  9. Use sponsorships your organization has to see if they might provide access to unique venues or people
  10. Secure new tools and resources to develop the group’s creative ideas
  11. Turn a wild idea into a reality for your creative team

Amazingly, one of my strategic mentors (and a true example of an idea magnet), whose birthday is today, brought all these unique creative thinking experiences to life during the time I worked with him. While I appreciated them all as they happened, it never struck me until just the past few days that it’s possible that none of them will be repeated again.

Idea Magnets Create Unique Experiences

So in order to better emulate how an idea magnet approaches creativity, I’ll start asking in our client interactions, “What can we do to make this is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime creative thinking experience?” – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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You can get six months of work done in a day or you can get a day’s worth of work done over six months. There’s much to be said for getting the work done quickly . . . If you blink too long, you won’t even realize how many creative opportunities you miss. That’s why it’s good to be around people who will make you open your eyes  . . . If you’ve been beating up on someone in person, texting to say, “You’re sorry” is not appropriate. If you’ve been talking with a client by phone, and they email you to give you bad news, that’s not appropriate. You have to match your primary communication channel for the apology or bad news. It’s called “manners” people.

Creative Thinking Thoughts

f-BombDon’t rule out the success formula that involves going to where you want to be and sticking it out longer than anybody else does . . . I bought this paperweight at our local art fair. I carried it all the way home without dropping it even one time . . . Things happen for a reason. Things DON’T happen for a reason, too. They’re just harder to spot as life goes by . . . Thinking of issuing a new policy that Brainzooming is closed between 11 pm and 5 am.

Imagine an x-y chart where the x-axis is “Level of Precision” and the y-axis is “How Particular You Are.” If you’re in the “Very Imprecise” and “Very Particular” quadrant, you’re in for a miserable life, as are the people around you . . . Who put the “Gives Free Advice” sticker on my back?

Success Reflections

A scary “closed blog” test for bloggers? Give them a list of their own titles containing numbered lists and see how many of the lists they can reproduce from memory. I myself would completely fail that test . . . When an attractive divorced woman posts pictures of her ugly kids on Facebook, it’s clear the baby daddy was not living up to his end of the bargain in the looks department . . . If at first you don’t succeed, try plugging the device into a different USB port.

Flattery may get you everywhere, but when you plug it into Google Maps, it doesn’t know what the hell to do with it . . . I don’t plan that far ahead . . . It’s the imperfections that make it seem like people were involved.

Sometimes making the next move is the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s the wrong thing to do. You gotta be the judge . . . History can be a lot more interesting as history than trying to modernize it and pawn it off as nostalgia . . . #IfIWere22, I’d try to be a lot wilder than I was then, but I’m still not sure I’d have it in me. I’d also meet my potential neighbors before renting an apartment and certainly before buying a house . . . That’s all I got. – Mike Brown

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If you start anything important without an objective and a strategy, you’ll wind up SSA.

And you know what SSA means. Or if you don’t know what SSA means, download The Brainzooming Group “Don’t Wind Up SSA” strategic thinking mini-poster.

Keep it nearby whenever you are starting the strategic thinking for something important.

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Do Not Wind Up SSA – The Brainzooming Group Strategic Thinking Mini-Poster

 

 

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Yesterday’s Brainzooming article discussed strategic analogs. These are organizations that perform comparable functions to your own brand, even if they are in far-removed industries. Strategic analogs are great sources of ideas and learnings to shape your organization’s strategic moves.

Here is a strategic thinking exercise we’ll be incorporating in an upcoming Creating Strategic Impact workshop to help a client identify strategic analogs. It is a two-step process. The first step involves describing what the organization does in a general fashion; the second connects those descriptions to other organizations.

Brainzooming Makes More and Faster Strategic ConnectionsStrategic Thinking Questions to Generalize What Your Organization Does

These questions for step one help generalize what you do to pave the way for identifying possible strategic analogs:.

  • What are the big drivers/buckets of cost in our organization? What are the big revenue sources for us?
  • List the major activities we do as an organization. How would we translate each of them into simple words a grandparent or parent unfamiliar with our company could easily understand?
  • What are the processes associated with why customers actually buy from us?
  • What are the titles of employees who interact directly with customers? What words in their titles provide a more general sense of what we do?
  • If we could see what we do from a low-flying airplane or a car driving by a building, what would be the big processes we’d be able to see and describe?

After using these strategic thinking questions to generalize an organization’s business functions, you’re ready to find other companies who perform one or more of the same activities.

Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify Strategic Analog Companies

Step two involves listing companies you can look at now and in the future for strategic ideas, cautions, and lessons. Simply by looking through functions you’ve identified in step one, companies you could be tracking for ideas may come to mind quickly. If not, these additional questions can spur new ideas:

  • If we were going to school about the important functions in our business, who (outside our own company) would we want teaching the course?
  • If we had to recreate what we do or completely outsource our operation, who would we ask to handle the most important parts?

Another approach is to use the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise, a standard in the Brainzooming repertoire. It integrates generalizing what you do with finding other comparable examples in one strategic thinking exercise.

Force Yourself to Identify Strategic Analogs

The important thing is not letting yourself off the hook with the old “we are unique, no one does what we do” excuse.

A set of strategic analogs can help you track is tremendously valuable, especially if they are in industries  developing ahead of your industry’s pace.

For example, within the portion of the transportation industry that moved goods, we looked at airlines and phone companies as examples of “formerly regulated, network dependent, yield-management oriented businesses” whose pace was faster. It was helpful to track what was happening because the same developments would come to our industry a few years later.

So get started now creating your own set of strategic analogs. – 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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Creating-a-Strategic-ImpactI’m in Dallas today delivering the closing keynote presentation on “Creating Strategic Impact” for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. This launches a string of Brainzooming presentations and workshops during the summer months focused on translating strategic thinking into business results.

Finding Your Brand’s Strategic Analogs

Prepping for one of these upcoming all-day, company-specific strategic thinking workshops, I was talking with our client on customizing the strategic thinking exercises we’ll teach the group.

She said participants could struggle identifying strategic analogs. By strategic analogs, we mean organizations that perform comparable functions to your brand, even in industries that seem far-removed. Our client’s people struggle with seeing connections between its own business and other industries, quickly dismissing external strategic analogs as irrelevant.

That’s not uncommon.

Since we all try differentiating our businesses, it’s easy to start believing your own messaging that NO ONE does what your organization does in the way you do it. That belief shouldn’t preclude you, however, from using strategic analogs. They are helpful in tracking how other businesses deal with comparable issues your brand may not have yet faced.

For example, at the corporate b2b transportation company where I worked, we spent time thinking about how Disneyworld manages time perceptions. Just as Disneyworld makes it seem as if a line moves faster than expected, we faced a similar task in managing transportation time perceptions.

To develop a strategic thinking exercise on identifying strategic analogs, we’ve collected various questions we’ve used to help business leaders think in new ways about what their organizations do. Look for the strategic thinking questions and the exercise in tomorrow’s Brainzooming article.

Strategic Thinking Exercises in a Workshop for Entrepreneurs

If you’re in Kansas City and want to sharpen your strategy skills, I’m teaching a two-hour workshop on Creating Strategic Impact for Entrepreneurs at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County (ECJC). This Brainzooming workshop is Thursday, June 26,2014 from 11 am to 1 pm.

The workshop focus is how entrepreneurs can take advantage of strategic thinking exercises we use for large corporations to efficiently and effectively spend time working ON instead of only working IN their businesses.

We’ll feature ideas for creating strategic impact that work well even if an entrepreneur has to do the strategic thinking and implementation solo or with a very small, and perhaps less experienced, team.

You can learn more about session and register at the ECJC website. Hurry though; space is limited for the workshop. We’ve been fortunate that most previous Brainzooming workshops at ECHC (all focused on social media and content marketing) have sold out, so get your registration completed today! – Mike Brown

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Are you an idea magnet?

Idea magnets come up with great creative ideas. And just as importantly, through encouraging and motivating others, idea magnets attract other innovators and creative leaders with incredible ideas into their circles. Idea magnets make work and life more exciting, fulfilling, and successful!

Idea Magnets – 7 Keys for Creative Leadership Skills

Idea-MagnetsWould you like to boost your creative leadership skills to become a stronger idea magnet?

Then you need to join me for the LeadOn Webcast: “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders.”

This exclusive webcast, sponsored by the American Marketing Association on June 23, 2014, springs from a popular Brainzooming article highlighting lessons from idea magnets I’ve worked with during my career.

The webcast features a wide array of new Brainzooming creative leadership skills content not covered in our other innovation and creativity workshops. We’ll talk about:

  • ​Strengthening your creative leadership impact with a diverse team
  • Identifying unique connections to maximize new thinking and creative leadership impact
  • Translating creative thinking into effective change, progress, and results​

I would love to have you join us for this webcast! You’ll learn great techniques you can start using right away, plus “Idea Magnets” represents a first-time collaboration that is creating a new look and tone to our Brainzooming content.

Idea Magnets – A New Collaboration

This exciting new collaboration is with long-time friend Leslie Adams who is creating the visuals for the Idea Magnets webinar.

Leslie-Adams-CrownMany people know Leslie as a writer. Over the past few years though, she’s been showcasing her creativity online with her wonderful photography. She has become very active on Instagram and in the Instagram community in Kansas City.

While reviewing Leslie’s Instagram and Flickr portfolios for images to incorporate in the webcast, I was reminded of a unique aspect to Leslie’s work that integrates two areas of her creative talents: you have to look at her photos AND read the captions she creates for them. It’s easy enough to glide through virtual contact sheets and not notice what’s written about the photos. In Leslie’s case, you’ll want to do both because her words contribute so much to pointing out the subtle details and motivations for her photos!

In fact, many of the captions and quotes Leslie has included with her photos are inspiring ways to expand and add new texture to the webcast’s content.

We’re hoping our collaboration will turn into an eBook to accompany this new Idea Magnets content.

Register Today for “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders”

Step one is for you to join us for the Webcast on June 23, 2014. Register today for the webcast, which is open to both members and non-members of the American Marketing Association, on the AMA website.

We’ll see you on June 23 as we attract all kinds of new ideas to develop your creative leadership skills! – Mike Brown

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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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Data-savvy marketing & innovation expert, Woody Bendle takes a look in this guest post at the relationship between customer centricity and growth, or more specifically the lack of both among a select group of traditional retailers.

And just so you know, beyond being a fantastic resource on brand strategy and innovation, Woody has set a new high bar for guest contributors at Brainzooming. He delivered this most recent guest blog post along with a slab of his homebbqed ribs! So, for all the people who send us emails about wanting to guest post with “incredible, unique content,” the question is, “How good are you at grilling?”

Now, here’s Woody!  

 

Brand Strategy – Customer Centricity and Growth by Woody Bendle

Many of America’s largest retailers recently reported financial results falling short of analysts’ (and undoubtedly their own) expectations.  The table below recaps the highlights (or low lights) among select national retailers.

Retail-Q1-2014

Many of them attributed this winter’s unusually cold weather and continuing economic struggles among core customers for their economic shortfalls.  But digging deeper into their numbers shows more to the story. Many of America’s largest retailers are finding it much harder to generate profitable growth in the traditional manner, which has been opening stores in new (domestic and international) markets, expanding product assortments, and becoming more effective and efficient through operational and executional improvements.  Or as I like to say, just getting bigger and better.

The graphic below, which I use when discussing business growth strategy, illustrates the concept of growing a business is pretty straight forward. As the businesses above demonstrated this past quarter, however, it isn’t always easy.

Growth-Framework

To grow any business, you have four options:

  1. Get existing customers to buy more of current products or services
  2. Get new customers (i.e., in different markets) to buy current products or services
  3. Develop or find new products or services for existing customers
  4. Develop or find new products or services for entirely new customers

For roughly fifty years, growth path for nearly all of the retailers above has focused on cells A, B, and to some extent C (i.e.,  Walmart and Target expansions into grocery).  For much of this time, most of these businesses have had incredible success, but growth has become harder the past several years.

What’s changed?

Two things that are fundamentally different about today’s business environment:

1. Market power has shifted away from many businesses to the consumer, due to radical decreases in the costs associated with information and geography.

The internet and mobile technologies have greatly improved the consumer’s ability to be better informed (about alternatives and competitive prices globally) and have enabled disruptive businesses to emerge (i.e., amazon.com – note its 26% growth in North America this past quarter). These have diminished the need for customers to travel to a physical store to make a purchase.

2. The great recession fundamentally changed the consumer mindset, resulting in a “new normal” in consumer behavior.

This is best summed up by The Future’s Company:“Consumers everywhere … are working from a new orientation about what they want and how they buy… [They] are now battle hardened, having found ways to survive and even thrive on the new opportunities a more competitive market has yielded.”

The result is the traditional path to growth – getting bigger and/or getting better – is nearing its limit for many businesses.  This necessitates businesses rethinking their growth strategies, with adopting customer-centric business practices as one avenue for new growth!

Growth through Customer Centricity

Something fascinating about the Strategic Business Growth Framework is the customer/consumer is actually present in every cell.  Through my own consumer experiences, however, it doesn’t often feel like many businesses realize this.  How many of you have heard a store associate say something like, “I don’t know how I’m going to get my job done with all of these customers in here”?

Many businesses are either product or operationally focused.  Nearly every decision they make starts with what they sell (or plan on selling), or how they go about doing what they do.  These businesses put what they do and how they do it in front of whom they do it for.

This is a primary reason why it has taken so long for many traditional businesses to embrace fully integrated multi-channel or omni-channel practices.  While most understand it makes sense to the consumer, they haven’t figured out how to make it make (financial) sense given what they already do, how they currently do it, and how they currently measure all of it.

A customer centric business, however, thinks exactly opposite.  Its decisions start with the customer. Activities (and incentives) are aligned to profitably deliver goods or services maximizing value for customers – and, in turn, their shareholders.  Once they identify an opportunity to create more net value over time, they systematically figure it out, sometimes at the expense (temporarily or permanently) of existing business.

It’s all about creating new customer and shareholder value!

The Next Customer Centricity Step Is Yours

My intent is to shine a light on a different path, not provide the playbook for becoming a customer centric organization.

If you want to become more customer centric, here are eleven questions to help decide if customer centricity is right for you and to help on your journey:

  1. Why do my customers come to us vs. the competition?
  2. What value do we provide to our customers today?
  3. What are all our customers’ needs?
  4. Have our customers’ needs changed? How and why?
  5. What customer needs do we currently meet / exceed today?
  6. How well are all of their needs being met by the marketplace today?
  7. Are there new competitors who are satisfying some of our customers’ needs in a different way?
  8. What can we do better (or differently) to uniquely meet and exceed those needs today and tomorrow?
  9. What else can we do to create even more value for our customers?
  10. Are we willing to put customer’s interests at the center of our decisions and processes?
  11. How much are we willing to change?  Really?

And as you answer question 11, don’t confuse how much change you are willing to undergo with how much that change is noticed by customers and whether they value it.

Those are three separate questions for all you operationally focused people. There’s no “extra credit for efficiency” in trying to answer them all together. To the contrary, you’ll definitely be penalized for thinking efficiency at the expense of thinking about your customer! Woody Bendle

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for 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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