4

What we call something has a significant impact on our perceptions.

If you don’t start a project when you or someone else thinks you should, labeling it “procrastination” places a lot of negativity squarely on your shoulders. “Procrastination” can suggest laziness, hesitation, lack of responsibility, and indifference. Any of these individually (or collectively) represent a heavy burden; this burden makes it even more difficult to be creative and productive when you need to be.

While in school, and beating myself up more than I do now, I would have readily labeled myself a procrastinator. Many nights I wrote papers for next-day classes or began intense studying for tests right before they were to be given. Doing this never hurt the results though, since I earned strong grades throughout school.

With experience, however, it’s clear making progress on every project won’t begin right away.

Many really important projects will seem as if they should take a lot of effort over a prolonged period of time. Despite their importance, your approach to these projects may not unfold until very close to the deadlines they carry. Nearly every time though, what has to happen to make the project great comes into clearer view at the RIGHT TIME, the necessary creativity and productivity begin to flow, and the project gets done successfully.

What in my earlier life I’d have thought of as procrastinating, I now consider to be an integral part of managing the creative process. Through using creativity-instigating techniques which are shared here frequently, there’s now a high degree of confidence that when it makes sense to turn attention to a project (even if it seems really late in the game), the creative spark will be there to deliver what and when it’s ultimately needed.

I don’t pin the procrastination label on myself much at all anymore. Trust me – if you still think of yourself as a procrastinator, you should stop using the term too. You’ll be a lot happier, creative, and more fulfilled when you do. – 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.  To learn how we can facilitate the best innovative strategic thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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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6

I was talking with BlogTalkRadio maven Tachelle Daniels about strategies to help identify innovative business ideas to stay in front of customers. The topic is intriguing and sent me back into the Brainzooming blog for these 6 strategies which contribute toward achieving a compelling, innovative marketplace edge:

1. Listening to Customers in New Places and Buying Stages with Social Media – Social media provides unprecedented access into customer thinking. Two examples:

  • Use social media monitoring to see where and how customers talk about your brand. Listen for challenges to help solve, issues with your own and competitive offerings, and customer-developed innovative adaptations.
  • Make it easy for customers to share perspectives through social media-based contests, incenting them to share ideas, register complaints, and react to new ideas.

2. Talk with Lead UsersThis Monday’s post discussed a market research strategy we use to talk in-depth with customers and industry experts on the forefront of strategic thinking and implementation. These discussions with people 3 to 5 years ahead of everyone else in an industry help identify what will keep you ahead of the rest of the market.

3. Small but Strategic Unconventional Moves – In many industries, leaders aren’t doing dramatically different things. Strategic insights into subtle (often unarticulated) customer needs and flawless execution in addressing them can be enough to stay ahead of customers and competitors. To generate strategic insights, establish listening posts to monitor customers requests no one is addressing along with both customer and employee-precipitated innovative workarounds in your product or service.

4. Think about Your Business in General Terms – One fundamental in strategic thinking is detaching from day-to-day details of your business to view it in abstract, general terms. Focusing on business models, the broad assets your company possesses, and where/how you create value, put you in a position to unlock innovative opportunities more literal thinkers won’t notice until too late.

5. Move into Adjacent Markets – Nobody has done this better than Apple, with its disruption of multiple markets (video stores, cell phones, record companies, CD players, broadcasting, etc.) that on the surface looked nothing like its traditional computer market.  Anticipate new value you can bring to customers through strategically examining the benefits your company delivers. Then ask which players in other markets could deliver those same benefits. Not only will this signal new potential competitors, it can also point out markets you can disrupt to create innovative value for your customers.

6. Protect and Prioritize Challenging Ideas – Even after identifying moves to keep you in front of what your customers are looking for, you’ll likely have a lot of work to keep decidedly non-status quo, uncomfortable ideas from getting killed inside your business! If your company is reluctant to move forward with game-changing ideas, work to understand potential issues and create a sense of comfort for ideas you’re valiantly working to keep dramatic in the market.

If you have time, click on the links for these six ideas to get a little more strategic background on how to adapt and implement them to better anticipate (and not simply react to) your customers’ needs with innovative business ideas. – 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 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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3

I’m always on the look out for people displaying creativity in work situations you wouldn’t expect.

This is a great example of this creative strategy from a Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis where we stayed several weeks ago while on client project. I was told later that this particular application of creativity is common on cruise ships, but I’ve never seen it in a business hotel. Because of that, Marcela from the housekeeping staff at the hotel gets a big Brainzooming shout out for making a routine business trip creative, fun, and interactive! What a great way to shape a customer experience for the better!

Here’s your question: Are the front line employees in your business also actively shaping customer experiences for interactivity and engagement? – Mike Brown

When it comes to strategy and innovation for customer experiences, The Brainzooming Group is expert at helping businesses shape the right strategy and implementation to create unique experiences that set them apart from competitors. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help your brand stand out through experience marketing!

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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5

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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2

A looooong time ago, an MTV special with Hall and Oates talked about how they produced their studio recordings. They shared a recording studio strategy with broad strategic applicability in business that’s always stuck with me:

When you mix a recording, listen to it on the worst speakers.
If it sounds good there, it will sound good everywhere.

In case you need that translated from musician speak, it means when you’re developing and converting your creative output into its final form, make sure it works in the worst possible conditions.

That’s advice absolutely worth heeding. If you’re . . .

  • Creating a fantastic Powerpoint, look at it with a crappy LCD projector on a too-small screen in a poorly lit room to see if it pops.
  • Assembling a document with lots of beautifully-colored graphs and charts, print it out in black and white and photocopy it a few times to see if the analytical points behind all your graphics are clear.
  • Writing an incredibly detailed memo, have someone who hasn’t been involved in it read only the first and last paragraph to see if they understand what you’re communicating.
  • Putting together a video for a big meeting, watch it without the sound and listen to it without the video to see if it works both ways, just in case the AV doesn’t completely work.
  • Designing an unbelievable new website with lots to look at, try to navigate it on a 2-year old pda.

Sure this step takes time, but as a co-worker once said to me, “It’s always going to be raining.” So go ahead and plan your creative efforts to be rained on and still look good wet.   – 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.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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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2

Building on yesterday’s post on branding warning signals, in the Brainzooming world view, creativity and creative exploration are integral to developing successful strategy. Yet in the last few years, I’ve run across many marketers gravitating toward incredibly literal – not lateral – thinking.  This may reflect a crappy economy and job market where people want to follow exactly what they’re told or pick the safest path to minimize the perceived risk of being fired for pushing beyond the status quo or implementing a strategy with some room for maneuver (and potential risk) in it.

The real downsides to literal thinking arise in ho-hum strategies and uninspired customers.  It’s my firm belief literal thinking also results in inferior financial performance. Outside of direct marketing strategies, however, it can be tough to demonstrate the financial downside of play-it-safe marketing.

There’s been a recent example on TV though where, at least hypothetically, it’s possible to speculate on the financial impact of less literal and more creatively strategic thinking. There’s just one caveat: I have no idea whether my imagined back-story really happened or not, and that uncertainty is why I don’t do a lot of marketing case studies on Brainzooming. Even though it’s hypothetical, the strategic decision scenario is completely accurate, because I’ve seen too many times where unfortunately it didn’t play out as successfully.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a promotional discount offer. A literally-oriented marketer (if they’re at least somewhat strategic), would be thinking about, “What can we do with 70 in a promotion?” 70 pieces of chicken? 70% discount? 70 cents off? None of those really work.

Another number important to KFC is eleven – the number of herbs and spices in its original recipe. Less literal than 70 in the context of this offer, it’s still a strategically and creatively important number for the brand. A literal marketer might get to 11 pieces for $11 because it’s direct and straight-forward. Yet, that’s not the ultimate offer. Instead, it’s 11 pieces of chicken for $11.99. Sure 99 might not be connected to the KFC brand. A strategic, non-literal marketer, however, wouldn’t be stopped by that because adding the 99 cents to the price increases revenue per item by 9%

The real lesson in this hypothetical case study is the right mix of strategic and creative thinking on what’s important to the brand will generate more benefits than the prevalent, “don’t over think, just act” mentality. In this case, it translates to 9% greater revenue per purchase. That’s a great strategic benefit and a strong performance differential in a fear-filled, crappy economy!   - 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you devise a successful innovation strategy for your organization.

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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9

Several years ago I started doing a presentation on lessons in turnaround brand building. The presentation features strategic lessons in building a brand from the brink of collapse to tremendous success. The lessons are applicable to not only brands, but also to departments in companies, projects, and even personal life. With the subsequent dramatic economic meltdown, many once-stellar brands have disappeared for various reasons and a new niche has developed in predicting whether a brand will vanish in the near-term based on various warning signs.

In these cases, any type of attempted strategic brand turnaround has obviously failed. In my own corporate brand strategy experience, I witnessed a significant unraveling of the incredible turnaround and brand building work that had been done. As an early step in refreshing and re-orienting the turnaround branding content, here are five observations about what happens to strategic thinking when a brand is in distress. Consider these early warning signs for a potential brand collapse:

1. Detaching from the brand’s strategic foundation

When the economy is in crisis, it seems almost fashionable to abandon strategic efforts. That’s a dangerous strategy (or absence of one). I met with a CEO last year who said outright his business wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING strategic for at least six months. What a complete misunderstanding of the concept! The company was engaged in all kinds of financial maneuvers (which were strategic, albeit near-term) to survive while ignoring the very strategic upside opportunities it couldn’t afford to put off if it were going to turn around its fortunes.

2. Disdaining and compartmentalizing creativity

I know, the IBM CEO study said CEOs value and want more creativity to deal with uncertain times. Maybe so (although I’m skeptical as I wrote last week), but companies are full of left-brain senior managers who don’t appreciate creative problem solving. They may also start trying to compartmentalize creativity to certain functions or topics. That’s a warning sign, because creativity is broadly vital during challenging and ambiguous situations. Creativity isn’t simply for cooking up creative financing schemes to try and keep a business afloat.

3. Telling employees to not think but just act

A disdain for thinking certainly runs through the other items on the list. When senior executives are telling people to not over-think and just get on with stuff, it’s a clear warning sign. Maybe it is a slow-moving organization stalling innovation efforts which are ready to be implemented. But a “don’t think, do” motto is used frequently as an excuse to not consider an appropriate variety of fact-based strategic options or to avoid exposing flawed strategies when they should be modified or shot down. This warning sign is a harbinger of hearing the age old cop-out, “I was just following orders.”

4. Using policy in place of good decision making

Making decisions in a challenging business situation is hard, especially for a big corporation. It means having to think through the ripple effects of decisions or adapting decision making principles to many situations based on specific issues at hand. An alternative, which can be overused, is to take the easy way out and enforce strict policy to displace strategic decision making. For example, telling every department to cut its budget 25% when the smarter strategic approach is really understanding critical business areas and making strategic decisions to fit each situation. Leading with policy over decision making is fast, but it’s sloppy and potentially crippling when used too frequently.

5. Making decisions based on what you like, not on facts

When business decisions are being made based on what people like and don’t like, be very afraid. It’s impossible to completely remove personal preference from thinking and decision making, but business isn’t a Facebook page – liking and not liking (especially when the person speaking isn’t in the target market) isn’t a good starting place for strategic decisions.  If the early questions aren’t about what matters for the business and how customers will react (yes, even whether they’ll like the idea or not), big problems are looming.

What strategic thinking warning signs do you see in brands being challenged or teetering on the brink? I’d love to get your reactions to these five and others you have seen play out in your experience in the comments. – 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.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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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