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Suppose you see a new opportunity in front of a live audience where there are high expectations.

Do you risk trying something you’ve never done before in front of the audience, or do you go safe and file it away to try in a more familiar venue later?

That was a question at several points during the Transportation Sales & Marketing Association Bootcamp I did this week on “Shoestring Marketing – Doing New with Less.” We covered a wide variety of Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises during the workshop and had the extra time to consider trying some new things.

A Different Test for a Strategic Thinking Exercise

To demonstrate the value of using targeted creative questions to point groups in different creative directions, each row of attendees received a different modifier to explore ideas for how to do more with social media on a limited budget. Two rows received modifiers to “narrow” ideas (simpler, more focused). One of the rows had a “broadening” word (sophisticated), and the other received a “modifying” word (extreme).

Each row had four minutes to generate ten ideas using the assigned modifier. I then asked each row to share the favorite ideas to emerge.

Sure enough, each row had a different favorite answer. More importantly, the only rows that generated the same answer as another row’s favorite were the two rows that were both working with narrowing modifiers.

Modifiers

While I’d never used this test previously to demonstrate why it’s valuable to provide structure to generate ideas (vs. starting with the proverbial “clean sheet of paper”), this experiment was a great validation of the point for attendees.

Issuing a New Challenge to Marketers

In one of the strategic exercises, I asked the marketers to list their companies’ five most demanding customers and prospects as typified by those who:

  • Push for new products and services
  • Have higher expectations
  • Are more complex
  • Are eager to pilot new offerings

I introduced this completely new in-workshop strategic thinking exercise as a pre-cursor to sharing a research approach to stay in front of market trends.

Audience

As I watched the audience work on their answers, however, it was clear some participants were struggling to come up with five customer names.

In the spur of the moment, I told the group I wouldn’t ask them to report who could come up with five names and who couldn’t. But I cautioned those who couldn’t come up with five names that this signaled they, as marketers, were too far away from sales. A strategic marketer should be, if nothing else, in conversations with sales management and sales people that regularly surface the names of both positive and challenging accounts.

Taking the Risks and Getting the Returns

So, in answer to the opening question, I took the risk on both of these brand new twists on strategic thinking exercises. Both paid off successfully.

The learning for the workshop attendees, and hopefully for you, is two-fold:

  • Avoid starting to generate ideas with a clean sheet of paper, absent structure and direction to help your creative thinkers
  • If you’re in marketing, stay close to sales and learn, learn, learn about customers

And the learning for us is that both of these drop-in trial balloons have a high probability of showing up in future strategic thinking workshops. – 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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Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, taught me years ago about the difference between chickens and eggs when it comes to creative thinking exercises.

In the world of creative thinking, Chuck shared how you can equate a chicken with a concept and an egg with an idea.

Just as a chicken lays many eggs, exploring a concept with various creative thinking exercises yields many ideas. Based on the breadth and variety of creative thinking exercises you use, the ideas a concept produces may be radically different.

One great benefit of the chicken and egg approach is this: If you have a single idea, you can morph the idea into a concept by asking questions about what things the idea represents. And once you turn the idea into a solid concept, you can use the concept to generate a whole new set of ideas using other creative thinking exercises.

chicken-eggs

I’ve been thinking about this while updating our “Doing New with Less” material for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association boot camp this week. When we deliver one of our Brainzooming creating strategic impact workshops, there are definitely a lot more chickens than eggs.

Instead of telling participants to simply return to their companies and do what some other “best practices” company has done, as so many speakers and workshop facilitators do, we deliver strategic and creative thinking exercises linked to frequent business situations. In this way, we’re looking to maximize the value attendees gain through having real tools that will serve them for years.

Most attendees appreciate this strategy of sharing strategic and creative thinking exercises during our workshops.

A few attendees, however, simply want to be told what to do. Those attendees, although few in number, are likely to be disappointed. That’s why we always both probe on attendee expectations at a workshop’s start and set expectations about how they can use what they’ll learn in multiple ways and situations.

If you’d like your team better prepared as strategic thinkers and implementers armed with many tools to enable your organization’s success, we should be talking about how we can customize a creating strategic impact workshop for your organization soon.

We’ll bring the chickens. – 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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Have you seen this commercial about bad decisions people make in horror movies? It reminds me of the typical strategic planning process, where people KNOW it’s not going to be productive, yet they approach a kickoff strategic planning meeting the same way every year and think things will be different.

10 Signs of a Strategic Planning Meeting Nightmare

If you’re invited to a strategic planning meeting to prepare for next year or you are doing the one inviting to this type of meeting, look at the materials sent to participants.

Want to know in advance if the strategic planning process is going to be a nightmare?

Spooky

See how many of the descriptions below apply to what’s being sent to participants to prepare for the strategic planning process:

  1. The organizer isn’t a strategic thinker
  2. People or whole areas of the company that SHOULD be included are absent from the invite list
  3. A bunch of blank pages were sent out for people to complete in advance about past performance and future strategies
  4. Invitees are expected to come up with ideas, issues, strategies, and/or forecasts outside their expertise that they are supposed to fit into complex templates and forms
  5. The first time anyone will see what everyone else is working on is when they show up at the first strategic planning meeting
  6. The meeting is too internally focused, with insufficient time to address customers, competitors, markets, and important external factors
  7. There are lots of presentations, but no time for the group to work collaboratively
  8. Not enough time is set aside (within the meeting or across the whole planning process) to create a plan that meaningfully (and not just incrementally) improves things
  9. The person leading the strategic planning meeting has too much authority over the participants and will sway their perspectives
  10. It’s not clear how decisions are going to be made about priorities and what to do for next year

Do any of these sound familiar?

I’m not sure how many of these descriptors completely tip the scales toward ensuring your strategic planning process is going to be a nightmare.

If more than four or five of them describe your upcoming strategic planning meeting, however, you can pretty much rest assured it’s going to be a nightmare.

Want to change your strategic planning process for the better?

Contact us (info@brainzooming.com or 816-509-5320).

There’s still time (yes, there is still time) to make a course correction and turn your strategic planning meeting into something productive and beneficial.

Think of us as the running car in the commercial, and you can leave all your horrors to the horror movies!

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 reponse to a re-share for a Brainzooming post on the negative impact on the creative process of 29 phrases used in business, Ying Ying Shi reached out to expand on the idea, mentioning the starkly different impacts of periods and commas on the creative process.

Her ideas expanding on the creative process impact of  punctuation intrigued the heck out of me, and I asked her to share her thinking for Brainzooming readers, which we’re featuring today.

Ying Ying Shi is a multilingual international manager currently working at Clueda AG, a big data start-up. Previously, she was an M&A and strategy advisor to small, medium and transnational companies. She shares her experiences and musings on leadership, business and self-improvement at www.yingyingshi.com

Here’s Ying Ying!

 

Creative Process – How Using Periods Harms You by Ying Ying Shi

Ying-Ying-ShiIn a previous Brainzooming post on the creative process, Mike listed 29 phrases blocking innovative ideas. The phrases listed are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to block our creativity. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging limitations or existing problems; this is part of life and the improvement process. It is how you deal with these observations subsequently that has an irrepressible consequence: either halting you from solutions or opening new roads and views.

Language is our main tool of thought. When you speak out loud or write things down, you organize your thoughts and bestow them with power. Care is, however, needed. The words you speak cannot be retrieved; there is no ctrl+z. The words you think and write have an impact on your brain; there is no escape from that.

Psychology has been telling us that positive words have a positive effect on us and that we can be primed by these. Some psychological studies even point out to the fact that our genes are modified by positive words.

The other language constituent (besides words) that is often neglected is punctuation marks. These are essential in our communication. Had I used not punctuation until now in this post, you would have probably had a hard time understanding it.

Punctuation assigns a certain meaning to our expressions. Is this a question? Or perhaps just a wonderful example! You can know that this sentence hasn’t come to an end, unless you see a period.

As opposed to the mere grammatical function of punctuation marks, they can also trigger different thought channels. Periods define the end of our thought process, whereas commas or even ellipsis leave us open to different options and ideas.

The phrases on Mike’s creative process post were written without punctuation marks. It is up to you to decide which ones to use.

Compare the following (the original number of the phrase in parenthesis):

  • Initial observation (3): We don’t know how to do that
  • Period: We don’t know how to do that.
  • Comma: We don’t know how to do that, but we can hire an expert.
  • Initial observation (7): We’ve done something similar before
  • Period: We’ve done something similar before.
  • Comma: We’ve done something similar before, but the circumstances are different now, and we should try again.
  • Initial observation (13): I don’t know anything about that
  • Period: I don’t know anything about that.
  • Comma: I don’t know anything about that, and I am willing to take this challenge.
  • Initial observation (15): It’s too new for our market
  • Period: It’s too new for our market.
  • Comma: It’s too new for our market, and we know it’s a great opportunity.
  • Initial observation (29): We don’t have time for that
  • Period: We don’t have time for that.
  • Comma: We don’t have time for that, though we could prioritize it for the next period.

While the phrases with periods killed a creative thought process, blocking creativity, the commas have given way to limitless possibilities of which I have only written one.

Remember when you were disappointed or feeling down? You were most probably using a period. Maybe you thought: “I failed.” Yet it really should have been “I failed, I learned, and I moved forward.”

Try replacing periods more often in your thoughts, especially when you are identifying a problem.

While the correct punctuation usage might not yet modify your creative genius, it will certainly prevent your thoughts from being stopped by a period. With the right use of punctuation marks in life, your options can be infinite . . .

Ying Ying Shi

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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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It is always fascinating how business professionals approach business networking.

This is particularly true when you get to see how business professionals set themselves apart through smart business networking techniques.

Business Networking Techniques that Created Results

Here are five recent business networking techniques that stood out:

1. When meeting someone new, call attention to your shared networks.

One way to highlight your common network is printing your shared list of LinkedIn connections. This simple business networking technique can move a conversation ahead in positive ways. At a recent meeting, the other individual handed me a hard copy list of shared LinkedIn connections; the list was surprisingly extensive. Scanning it, I discovered a childhood friend who SHOULD be a prospect for the other individual’s service, and I provided background on why he should follow up with my friend.

2. Don’t give up making a meeting happen, even if the introduction is months old.

Several people contacted me right before my wife, Cyndi, had surgery and my availability for non-essential meetings shrank dramatically. One individual followed up four months later before abandoning the possibility of making the meeting happen. His email and phone call combo instigated our in-person meeting months after the initial introduction occurred.

networking-guys

3. Follow up an informal first meeting with a second invitation right away.

At the closing Content Marketing World session, I sat next to someone new. We hit it off, had a wonderful conversation, and identified Pam Didner as a shared contact. Before parting company, he invited me to a dinner he was having with a client. Back at the hotel and planning to head to another event I had already paid to attend, he texted me with specifics on where they were headed. His invitation and follow up turned into a great dinner getting to know him better along with two of his clients.

4. Make your follow-up personal, not formulaic.

After the recent networking event prompting the “you have to keep up your blog current once you start it” post, one person I didn’t get to meet reached out via LinkedIn with more than the standard, “Join my network” message. He recounted leaving the event early to tend to a diabetic pet. Having had a diabetic pet ourselves, his personalized message created an instant connection.

5. Have a good memory (or good notes) of why you met originally met someone.

Right before Cyndi’s surgery, I did squeeze in a networking meeting with someone new instigated by friend and blog reader, Michael Irvin. With everything else on my mind, I remembered it was a great connection, but by the time we reconnected, I could not remember the specifics. The other individual came to our second meeting, however, with detail on why we were meeting again and what we hoped to accomplish. What a great boost to a productive second meeting.

What have you seen work with smart business networking techniques recently?

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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How big of a deal is creating an innovative workplace culture?

That question opened one of two Brainzooming workshops I facilitated at the Construction Financial Management Association Heartland Conference.

Consider these factoids on the importance of creativity and an innovative workplace culture pulled from various studies:

  • “Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to CEOs.” IBM Global CEO Study, “The Enterprise of the Future”
  • “Seventy‐eight percent of Millennials were strongly influenced by how innovative a company was when deciding if they wanted to work there.” The Deloitte Millennial Survey, 2014
  • “Employing a worker in a creative occupation is an innovation input in a similar manner to employing a scientist.” The Creative Economy Report, London School of Economics, 2008

Not surprisingly, we also think an innovative workplace culture is a pretty big deal, and we’re glad we’re not alone on that.

Innovative-Workplace-Cultur

7 Keys to Creating an Innovative Workplace Culture

What constitutes an innovative workplace culture, i.e., one where people are able that to readily create fundamental, valuable improvements relative to the status quo?

Here are seven characteristics of innovative workplace cultures. They:

1. Provide Direction

Company leadership points the way and lets team members throughout the organization run with opportunities to innovate.

2. Invite Broad Participation

Diverse participants from varied levels and areas of the company, plus customers, outside experts, and other relevant parties are included in innovation efforts.

3. Meaningfully Engage and Involve Employees

Innovation team members receive training, structure, and access to opportunities that take best advantage of their knowledge and expertise to innovate.

4. Encourage Change

There’s a continual push to challenge past strategies and anticipate what the future holds to increase the value delivered to important audiences.

5. Pursue Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

6. Stay Agile

Despite a quickly changing environment, there is a focus on what’s most important for the organization’s success while embracing a willingness to change direction rapidly when necessary.

7. Celebrate Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

What would you add to or subtract from this list based on innovative workplace culture successes you’ve seen?

Mike Brown

 

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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 and strategic thinking 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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“How to Brand a Company – 7 Types of Brand Language You Should Use” is one of the most popular Brainzooming articles of the past couple years. This branding strategy article looks at seven different types of language (Simple, Emotional, Aspirational, Unusual, Connectable, Open, and Twistable) a brand should be using to fully communicate its brand promise, benefits, and overall messaging.

I received a tweet the other day asking for successful examples to back up the seven types of brand language identified in the post. Since I was working on a presentation I needed to complete ASAP, I was more than happy to abandon the presentation deadline and throw together an immediate answer to the tweet.

Yes, I clearly have a “focus” issue, but that’s a topic for another day.

Brand Language Examples

I created a quick grid (of course), and started filling in examples of each type of language, from both my own recollection and a few listings of popular advertising slogans.

7 Brand Langauage Examples

While not going for an exhaustive list of brand language examples, I noticed after tweeting off the jpeg of the table that “Just do it” from Nike showed up in two areas – both Simple and Aspirational.

Nike-Just-Do-It

Going back through the list of seven types of brand language, however, it seems that “Just do it” could also fit in several others:

  • Emotional (There is definitely an emotional component depending on its use)
  • Open (The phrase can mean multiple things from both a brand and a consumer perspective)
  • Twistable (It could be used as an admonition to someone else, a personal pep talk, plus serving as a brand promise)

The leaves only Unusual and Connectable as gaps for “Just do it.” While it’s never going to be unusual, it COULD be used in a Connectable fashion. One example would be to insert sports actions (i.e., slug, slam, dunk, pass, hurdle, putt, etc.) in place of “do.”

The Best Brand Language

This exploration raised two questions:

  1. Are there any other examples of brand language that uses five of the brand language types, and are there any that use more?
  2. If no other slogan checks off five different types of brand language on its own, does that mean “Just do it” is the best brand language ever?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether any other brand’s language works harder than “Just do it” does for Nike?

Because if there is one, I can’t name it. – 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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