Branding | The Brainzooming Group - Part 56 – page 56

Not having written a book of my own yet, I end up using great books that others have written as give-aways at my presentations. While I’m planning to correct the “I haven’t written a book” problem in 2008, the holiday season provides an opportunity to recommend some wonderful books that have dramatically shaped my thinking on careers, branding, innovation, and strategy.

“Radical Careering – 100 Truths to Jumpstart Your Job, Your Career, and Your Life” by Sally Hogshead, Gotham Books, ISBN: 1-592-40150-3.
100 brain jolts to change your behavior and drive dramatic change. I’ve spoken on the same program as Sally several times, and the audience conclusion is always that “SALLY ROCKS!” It’s true – her first book uses a unique format with 100 self-contained lessons to challenge you to invest your precious energy & time on creating a meaningful difference in life. Beyond the book check out Sally’s website and podcasts.

“The Marketer’s Visual Toolkit” by Terry Richey, AMACOM, ASIN: 0814402135.
I only worked directly with Terry one time many years ago, but his book has been an important part of shaping how we’ve tried to incorporate visual representations in strategic planning efforts. It’s tough to find, but well worth the effort for its help in translating complex ideas into tools that people can work with more successfully.

“75 Cage Rattling Questions” by Dick Whitney & Melissa Giovagnoli, McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 0070700192.
This is a great source of challenging questions to stimulate strategic thinking. On page after page, you’ll find questions to incorporate into creative and planning sessions. They’ll spur discussions on difficult topics. I mean really, what would your organization be like if your mother ran it?

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide” by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky, Free Press, ISBN: 0-7432-6909-8.
I hate the word “leverage” as a substitute for “use.” I hate using “around” instead of “on” (i.e. “he’s doing some work around that topic.”) And I hate that I didn’t write this manifesto for eliminating business language that’s intended to obscure meaning. If you communicate in business (okay that’s probably everybody who’ll ever read this), get this book and share it with your co-workers.

“Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Random House, ISBN-10: 1400064287.
I’ve given away a number of copies of this book this year since it’s another one that I wish I’d written. In driving a major brand turnaround, we’ve incorporated many of its concepts on using simple messages, surprise, and emotion to help ideas live on and become part of a company’s cultural fabric. It packages all the concepts in one place with great insights on making your own ideas take off and thrive. This book has received a lot of well-deserved attention.

“The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Harvard Business School Press, ISBN: 0-87584-770-6.
It’s been a blessing to have seen Benjamin Zander present twice – at a retail conference in Dallas, followed 4 months later by his closing appearance at the Transformation Business & Logistics conference that I produced in 2001. He was wonderful in Dallas (as he forced my co-worker and me to come from the back of the room to live life in the front row). He was incredible at Transformation – we learned to love classical music in 7 minutes, 2000 people serenaded an audience member with “Happy Birthday” as if we really meant it, and at the end, we all sang Beethoven’s 9th in German while standing on our chairs. It still makes my eyes well up with joy. If you can’t see him in person, get this book by he and his partner Rosamund and at least read their wonderful stories. How Fascinating!

There’s the list. Make sure to order early for delivery before the holidays (and peruse them before heading back to work on January 2)!

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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“If you invent your own instrument, you’re automatically one of the top three musicians in the world on that instrument.” – Matt Goldman, Co-Founder of the Blue Man Group (August 2008 “Inc.”)

Reinvestning your way into a position of advantage is a strategic concept any of us can apply personally or in business. What is an instrument, tool, process, or category that you can invent which creates a new area where you are, by definition, one of the best performers in the world?

Here are some exercises to answer that question.

Identifying Your Distinctive Talents

Distinctive talents are skills closely associated with you where you continually improve as you do them, you benefit others, and you create a spark that attracts people to be a part of the energy you’re radiating. Building your list of distinctive talents begins with answering these questions openly & honestly:

  • What things motivate you to get up every morning?
  • How are you of the greatest service to others?
  • What activities bring you the most happiness and contentment?
  • What functions, talents, and skills do you (or have you) used that give you the most fulfillment in your professional life, family relationships / duties, spiritual life, and personal interests / hobbies?
  • How would you spend your time, talents, and attention if you didn’t have to work?

Hint – Stumped for answers in some areas? Ask a few acquaintances what they think your distinctive talents are.

After answering all the questions, go back and circle the 5 or 10 or 15 answers that truly fit the distinctive talents definition. Since these areas are likely to be the most intuitive for you, you think less about the mechanics of doing them and simply perform them really well. This makes them ideal to incorporate into creating a new “category” where you’ll be the best in the world.

Look and Ask Around

A 360 degree survey can be scary, but it’s a great tool to get a sense of how others perceive you. It can be tremendously instructive and beneficial. I did one through a leadership class several years ago that really helped me redefine some of my behaviors. There are various ones available online.

Another fast way to get some sense of potential areas you can use to define “your category” is to ask yourself and others three value-related questions:

  • What are the TOP 3 things I do that ADD INCREDIBLE VALUE for others?
  • What are the TOP 3 things I do that DON’T DELIVER INCREDIBLE VALUE for others because we can’t/don’t focus enough time, attention, and/or resources on them?
  • What are the TOP 3 things I do that ADD LITTLE OR NO VALUE for others?

Look for themes among the answers and consider using areas of incredible value as potential category definers. Areas where you could deliver value but don’t are potential opportunities for more concentrated effort. Areas where you’re delivering little value could be areas to attempt to eliminate from your routine.

Soliciting reactions about yourself from others may feel intimidating, but assessing and using the responses wisely gives you an advantage most people are unwilling to pursue.

Identifying Ways to Transform Yourself

Yet another way to ideate on a strong “personal” category is to use your current personal strengths and deliberately transform them to identify new and distinctive possibilities. Here’s a relatively quick approach:

  1. State your objective as “Building a distinct personal category to define and differentiate my value to others.”
  2. List 8-10 of your distinctive talents and areas of incredible value as Attributes in the left column in the grid below.
  3. Using the objective from Step 1, take each talent and value area in Step 2 and transform them in the various ways suggested below, always asking: “To create a new personal category how can I (INSERT TRANSFORMER FROM BELOW) to / of (INSERT STRENGTH OR TALENT)?

Potential Transformers include Make It Bigger / Do More of It, Make It Smaller / Do Less of It, Replace It, Turn It Around, Remove It, Standardize It, Customize It, Make It More Complex, Simplify It, Eliminate It

Run through as many combinations as you can, trying to generate 2 or 3 new ideas form each pairing. Don’t settle for fewer than 60 possibilities that could fit into your personal brand category definition.

Next, we’ll narrow all the possibilities to get close to defining your category.

Prioritization and Creating the New You!

After working through the previous three exercises, you should have a wide variety of potential possibilities as input into your distinctive personal brand category.

So what are some steps to dramatically narrow the list of ideas? Here’s a flashback to some previous posts you can use to narrow your possibilities:

Try to narrow to 10-15% of your original ideas, and then begin looking for elements that you can put together to create a new category with which to describe your talents.

Ideally your personal category should be distinctive and defined in a way that you become the only answer to, “Who are the best people who can do this?”    – Mike Brown

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 or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help make your strategic thinking and planning more productive, even when you’re not on a plane!

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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