Devising and implementing an innovation strategy seems as if it SHOULD be easier in certain business environments. For instance, companies depending on innovative products and services as a main driver of customer brand value might give innovation strategy a higher priority. One might also suspect the change management related to innovation strategy would be easier at a place such as Disney; heck, Disney has Imagineers!

A recent Fast Company article suggests, however, that the innovation strategy and change management struggles for the new guest experience at Disney are similar to those at less glitzy brands. Our friends at Armada Executive Intelligence recapped the Fast Company article in their “Inside the Executive Suite” weekly feature, highlighting four change management struggles with a major guest experience innovation strategy at Disney. Here’s the “Inside the Executive Suite” recap:

Innovation Strategy – 4 Change Management Struggles at Disney

The new Fast Company (May 2015) covers the challenge of devising, developing, and implementing a transformational customer experience for a brand. As is typical, upending long-standing processes entrenched employees have created and used to build successful careers stirs up significant resistance.

There’s something atypical about the situation described in, “The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness,” though. The story plays out inside a major division of a corporation whose R&D staff members are known by the seemingly change-embracing title of “Imagineers!”

Yes, even Disney faces innovation-related change management issues.


Photo by: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

Realities of Dramatic Change

We recommend reading business magazine case studies with skepticism. The article on the $1 billion Disney investment in MyMagic+, which PROMISES to remake the guest experience at Disney parks, however, rings true. It addresses innovation and change management twists and turns comparable articles often neglect.

We’re highlighting quotes from Fast Company that represent issues most brands face during periods of significant change. Each reinforces important innovation and change management principles.

1. Don’t Look Only Inside and Expect Breakthrough Thinking

Quote: “Flipping through a SkyMall catalog, he (John Padgett, VP of business development) landed on a page featuring the Trion:Z, a magnetic wristband that promised to reduce muscle soreness while simultaneously improving one’s golf swing. The team started to consider whether Disney could create an electronic band that could digitally carry everything a guest might need.”

Situation: Metrics on guest expectations for returning to Disney World were declining. The culprits were high ticket prices, protracted wait times, and a variety of other inconveniences. While guests were identifying significant issues, they couldn’t describe the fixes. Additionally, management team members wedded to the reality of current systems often aren’t able to see breakthrough remedies either.

The MagicBand bracelet, the central piece of the Disney Next Generation Experience (NGE) project, addresses multiple functions, including serving as a digital ticket, money, ride photo organizer, and coupon holder. It also shares information helping dynamically manage the guest experience.

Principle: Your business breakthrough could be what’s new (or even traditional) in another industry. Innovators must continually scan outside inspirations from unlikely places and industries.

2. Knowing “What Matters” Is Vital to Innovation

Quote: “This kind of traffic management wouldn’t just be a service to customers – it could also help Disney fit more guests inside its parks.”

Situation: From an initial visit to the Disney World parks decades ago, one thing was apparent. Nearly everything in the Disney customer experience strategy links to how it keeps guests in the parks for more hours each day for as many days as possible.

Pricing (relatively expensive soft drinks, inexpensive rain slickers plus multi-day pricing packages tied to the number of hotel stay days), access policies (on-property guests receiving preferential early park access), managing time expectations (starting ride experiences many minutes before actually reaching the actual ride), and service niceties (transporting purchases to your hotel room) all made sense for keeping you IN THE PARK longer.

Principle: Even amid dramatic innovation, certain aspects of an organization’s underlying business model may remain sound. Successful innovation strategies benefit from starting with a clear understanding of what needs changing and what needs reinforcement.

3. Not Every Group Thinks the Same Things Matter

Quote: “’You had operations pushback, security and fraud pushback, creative pushback.’ They faced opposition from a powerful corporate force: Disney’s Imagineers…Imagineers argued that the uniformity of the access points (where MagicBands were to be scanned) would disrupt the spirit of their uniquely stylized attractions.”

Situation: Despite the importance of maximizing guest time in the parks, other views of “what matters” exist within Disney. For Imagineers, what matters is immersing park guests in another world of delight that brings them back multiple times. When seamless immersion is “what matters,” even innovative ideas that might disrupt a guest’s experience or could grow stale quickly deteriorate what they are trying to create. Trendy change isn’t good; it’s seen, in fact, as dangerous.

Principle: While a company with a strong strategy creates understanding of its strategy throughout the company, “what matters” DOES differ as multiple levels and parts of the organization implement it. The internal tension in determining the best combination of initiatives to bring the overall strategy to life is why strategy setting isn’t a one-time endeavor. Strategy is lived out daily and employees need support in interpreting and shaping it.

4. Bring Innovation to Life As Soon as Possible

Quote: “The NGE team built out its advanced R&D lab, or what (Executive VP, Nick) Franklin calls a ‘living blueprint’ that would ‘sell the vision.’ With typical Disney flair, the soundstage became a storyboard brought to life, with a full-scale living room…where the archetypal family would book their Disney vacation…(plus) a flight-arrival stage of the set…the hotel set…(and) mock-ups of the in-park experience.”

Situation: It’s one thing to discuss an innovative concept matter-of-factly. It’s another to share compelling stories about it. It’s off the charts to create an immersive prototype to help strategists, executives, and team members experience and react to the concept. As Disney-knowledgeable sources put it, the “’theater’ of selling an idea is more important than the idea itself.’”

Principle: Most organizations don’t have a movie set to prototype a new concept with an immersive experience. Every organization does, however, have prototyping resources. If the innovation is a new product concept, go to the manufacturing floor to demo it. If you are imagining ways to interact with a B2B customer, mock up the customer’s environment in a meeting room. We saw a trucking company do this to re-create a traffic manager’s office. Suddenly innovation opportunities were readily apparent. – Armada Executive Intelligence


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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

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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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Almost daily, people are looking at the Brainzooming blog for ideas for cool product names.

Since time has passed since we shared an updated list of creative thinking questions for creating cool product names, here are twenty-one additional questions.

These creative thinking questions are representative of those we use with clients to explore ideas for cool product names. Using questions such as these creates an efficient and very productive naming process. During a recent naming exercise for a client, we generated seven hundred naming ideas and four hundred naming possibilities using questions comparable to this during a two hour online collaboration session.

Yes, you read that right. 700 naming possibilities and 400 specific name ideas in 2 hours!!!


21 Creative Thinking Questions for Cool Product Names

Ask these questions and imagine as many possibilities as you can for each question. The mega-list of names that results from that exercise will provide the basis for forming a variety of actual name possibilities.

  1. Is there a fictional person’s name associated with the product?
  2. Is there a real person’s name associated with the product?
  3. What animal represents the product?
  4. What are descriptive names for the geographic area from which the product originates?
  5. What are descriptive names for the geographic area that the product is associated with?
  6. What are nicknames for people who will use the product?
  7. What does the product most remind you of in another product?
  8. What emotional words describe the reactions people have when using your product?
  9. What made up word or words would does the product suggest?
  10. What names do people call the product after they’ve seen or used it for some time?
  11. What names do people call the product when they first see it?
  12. What words describe the product’s most prominent features?
  13. What words describe the product’s most prominent benefits?
  14. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used as intended?
  15. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used in a mistaken way?
  16. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used in a very naughty way?
  17. What words or phrases would people use to describe the product when it works exceptionally well?
  18. How about when it works well over an extended period of time?
  19. What words would make users of the product proud or excited about their participation with it?
  20. What’s the most matter of fact name that describes the product?
  21. What’s the strongest description of the product?

If your team is dispersed, call us to find out how an online Zoomference collaboration allows many more of your team members to participate in naming exercises.

And if you’d like us to run with the project and generate the list of names, we’re happy to make it happen using a customized list of creative thinking questions tailored to your naming assignment.

And if you’re a few steps away from a name because you’re still searching for new product ideas, our Outside-In Innovation eBook is a must download resource. Get yours today using the download button below! – 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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In some ways, it’s easier to change a brand strategy than to implement the strategy you already have in place.

Why is that?

Because it is possible for one executive or a small leadership team group to decide to change the brand strategy, and it’s done. Implementing the strategy that’s already in place, however, depends on the entire organization and the positive reaction and participation of key audiences to be successful.

See what we mean?

Just because it’s easier to change your brand strategy than implement the current one does not mean it is a good idea. In fact, it could be a horrendous idea.


10 Bad Reasons to Change Strategy

And as we were thinking about situations were a brand strategy get changed without solid, strategic reasons, we came up with these 10 bad reasons to change strategy:

  1. There was solid work behind the current strategy, but there’s impatience with how long it’s taking to get results.
  2. An executive (or perhaps the whole organization) is bored with the current strategy because it’s been in place so long.
  3. An executive is new to the organization and immediately adopting a new brand strategy seems like a sign of meaningful change.
  4. Because there has been a sudden blip in performance that no one seems to be able to explain.
  5. There’s an ill-founded public outcry about the current strategy as it’s implemented or becomes more visible to key audiences.
  6. When a competitor implements a new strategy that doesn’t make sense for you organization based on your target audience, cost structure, etc.
  7. When a well-known company in another industry implements a highly publicized strategy with no strategic connection to your brand or industry.
  8. Because everyone on the executive team has read the latest business strategy book that’s getting a lot of buzz.
  9. When you’re business is highly dependent on the external environment (i.e., commodities-based businesses), and wild external swings are challenging but are likely short-lived.
  10. Because of one conversation with one customer, supplier, or analyst that thinks you should change strategy.

You heard it here. Don’t change your brand strategy for any of these reasons.


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  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
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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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The “Inside the Executive Suite” weekly feature from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter featured a branding strategy-focused article on developing messaging strategy. The central issue was an apparent lack of understanding among some seasoned executives about what “messaging a story” means. One belief was that messaging strategy implied a brand “lying” to make an audience members think what the brand wanted them to think.


AEIB-GraphicThe article described messaging strategy as making a conscious, strategic evaluation and decision to maximize the effectiveness of its communication. This takes place through considering the audience’s interests relative to the brand’s desired messages, and emphasizing the appropriate themes through communication channels that work best in reaching the audience.

11 Questions to Develop Your Messaging Strategy

One primary take-away from the article was a list of branding strategy questions to help in developing a messaging strategy more effectively.

We gained approval to share a version of question list with you. These eleven questions should be beneficial as you evaluate and develop messaging strategies for your own organization

Questions about the Brand’s Communication Objectives

  • What do we want audience members to believe and to do?
  • Are there certain message aspects we want to emphasize?
  • How can the message be broken into smaller chunks the audience will be more likely to consume?
  • How can we reinforce the message after we initially deliver it?

Questions about the Audience’s Receptivity

  • How predisposed are audience members to believe and act on what we communicate?
  • Do audience members have sufficient background about the topic to be able to understand the message?
  • What specific elements of our message will be most convincing and compelling to audience members?
  • How do audience members prefer to receive and process communications?

Questions about the Communication Approach

  • Of the multiple ways we can communicate with the audience, which channels (i.e., advertising, salespeople, social media, brochures, etc.) will best reach them in meaningful and complementary ways?
  • Is there a certain order or logic for the communication to maximize its impact?
  • How can we deliver the message to best gain (and hold) audience member attention against all the other messages they receive?

We suggest bookmarking this list to keep it handy whenever you are developing a messaging strategy for your brand.

And if you want to learn more about the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief system and get in on this great publication for an incredibly low monthly rate, please visit the Armada website.


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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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Before We Start

This isn’t an April Fool’s Day post; it’s an actual article. If you’d like to understand why we ignore April Fool’s Day prank posts, you can review our article on why we think they are generally a very bad practice.

Seriously Considering Customer Experience Strategy

What seems like eons ago, Stephen Lahey, the self-professed #1 Brainzooming fan, and I were discussing customer experience strategy and doing some strategic thinking on how to create a pre-purchase experience for an intangible service.

The point was with a product, a potential buyer can pick it up or demo it with minimal economic impact on the product’s delivered cost.

With an intangible service that has to be created to deliver the full experience, however, the economics and practicality of a full demo fail quickly. There typically has to be a huge upside and pretty firm assurance of some level of remuneration for a demo of any significance to make sense for an intangible service.

11 Ways to Demo an Intangible Service

Mike Brown Speaking at KVC Health Workshop

Despite this potential customer experience strategy limitation, there are possibilities. We did the strategic thinking to suggest these eleven possibilities:

  1. Describe the service experience in multiple ways from multiple perspectives
  2. Have someone else provide a descriptive testimonial about using your service
  3. Record (whether audio or video) you providing the service for a real customer
  4. Create a demonstration that many potential customers can experience at one time
  5. Develop a simulation of your service experience
  6. Offer samples of the service’s typical outputs or outcomes
  7. Sponsor a contest for a potential customer to receive the service free in for a large number of testimonials, reference conversations, etc.
  8. Offer the first step in your service free or at an introductory, low cost
  9. Demonstrate the service for someone else that will allow a prospect to become immersed in the service experience
  10. Create rich, easily-grasped comparisons to describe what the service experience will be like
  11. Align with an appropriate sponsorship and donate your in-kind service in exchange for inviting your prospective customers as guests

I’m certain this isn’t a comprehensive list, but they are ones our strategic thinking yielded that we have either considered or tried.

Specifically, we used number nine to help a local non-profit enhance its strategic planning. The mini-strategic planning session we designed and facilitated was designed around the organization’s objectives, but the objective for us was to create a real-life experience for a potential client who offered a large upside in actual business and referrals.

Additionally, the Building the Gigabit City event we created several years ago with Social Media Club of Kansas City was an example of number eleven. The large-scale Brainzooming event provided the opportunity to expose what we do to scores of potential clients as we sought to gain greater awareness and buzz within the city.

What customer experience strategy ideas do you think we missed?

If you sell and deliver intangible services, what do you think we missed on this list of potential ways to cost-effectively create a service experience demo for what you do? –  Mike Brown


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.



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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Some organizations do an incredible job of managing intellectual capital and brand messages. These organizations routinely manage messaging, delivery, and cataloging for a sales and executive presentation so there’s a thorough trail of the consistent market messages the brand displays across audiences.

Then there’s every other organization, which likely represents most organizations.

In these, some PowerPoints might be reused convenience’s sake. Too often, however, an executive presentation is a one-off. An assistant may have helped, or maybe the executive threw the presentation together on the way to a customer or industry presentation.

Content Marketing Efficiency

No matter the circumstances of a one-off PowerPoint, don’t squander the opportunity an executive presentation holds for tremendous content marketing possibilities.

Repurposed appropriately, a content creator can share them more broadly to extend the reach AND save salesperson and senior executive time generating additional new content.


14 Ideas to Repurpose an Executive Presentation

If you are managing content marketing for your brand, consider these possibilities to repurpose presentations senior executives and salespeople deliver:

  • Carve up PowerPoint presentations and share the parts in multiple ways on Slideshare.
  • Review the PowerPoint notes section for content (maybe across multiple slides) to create a blog post.
  • Determine if there enough factoids in the PowerPoint presentation to create one or more infographics.
  • The PowerPoint could work by itself (or in a more prose-oriented form) as a downloadable asset on your website.
  • Have someone record audio for all or part of the PowerPoint to create a video to share on YouTube.
  • Lists contained in the PowerPoint could be extracted and developed into a LinkedIn blog post.
  • Unique graphics within the PowerPoint can be shareable on Pinterest.
  • Multiple factoids and images might lend themselves to sharing over the course of a few days or a week on Facebook or Google+.
  • Any “word bites” (i.e., short memorable sentences or phrases) throughout the PowerPoint could become tweets.
  • Multiple slides can be used as images to illustrate a blog post that has too many words and not enough graphics.
  • Provide access to salespeople of any video used in the presentation in a format suitable for use in sales presentations.
  • The presentation could easily become the basis for a webinar.
  • Pin infographics within the PowerPoint to a specific Pinterest board and share the board with your audience.
  • Parts of the presentation might lend themselves to developing a survey to learn more about what your audience thinks about the topic.

Talk about repurposed content.

If you can invest a little bit of time upfront, you can pre-plan to turn new presentations into  days, weeks, and even months of content marketing materials for multiple brand channels online and in person. – Mike Brown


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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social business strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle got home from work the other day and received a great reminder on why you need to understand your customers, even the ones you don’t realize are trying to become your customers. Without waiting any longer, here’s Woody!

Customer Experience Strategy – Millennials Don’t Wait by Woody Bendle

Ranting-Woody-Bendle2One of my favorite expressions is, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look.”  The other evening, my millennial step-daughter reminded of just that.

I’d just gotten home from work, and she was at the kitchen counter with her laptop going through a packet of paperwork and looking frustrated.  I recognized the packet as “the stuff” she needed to get done prior to moving into her first apartment. You know, hooking up the electricity, gas, internet, etc.

I asked her if she’d been able to connect with our insurance agent to get her renter’s insurance set up. She gave me that millennial look that says, “You won’t believe this,” and replied, “I called this afternoon and got their voice mail. It said to leave a message, and someone would get back to me within 24 hours. I left them a message, but I haven’t heard anything from them yet.”

I told her, “They’ll get back with you tomorrow – just be patient.”

That’s when the, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look,” moment happened.

She shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes, and dispassionately said, “I don’t need to wait,” as she continued scrolling through an online insurance comparison site.



For those of you who don’t speak Millennial, IWWIWWAHIWI stands for “I want what I want, when and how I want it.” And therein lies my lesson from the other evening.

I “know” this is how Millennials think and feel from all of the stuff I’ve read over the years about them, but I guess I didn’t “really know” this until the other evening. That reality hit me when I saw how my step-daughter was dealing with not connecting with our insurance agent when SHE tried to connect with him.

With just a few taps on a keyboard, I watched our insurance agent lose business – just like that!

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of brands and businesses still operating out there assuming that they are fine by just focusing on satisfying the needs and expectations of their current customers (Boomers and Gen-Xrs). And, they don’t have a clue about what’s going to happen to them in a few more years.

My insight from observing a Millennial in the household is this: If you have a business partially dependent upon millennial consumers – either today or tomorrow – and you’re not operating in “now time”, you need to re-tool… now! If you don’t change your customer experience strategy, it’ll be game over before you even know what hit you.

Just remember, not only do Millennials instinctually feel they don’t need to wait; they won’t.

And by the way, the insurance agent still has never called back. - Woody Bendle


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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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