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“You need to train people for their next jobs, not the ones they’re in right now.”

A participant shared that in an experience strategy workshop. 

His comment got me thinking: How much of what we do is based around right now, when it REALLY should be oriented toward getting ready for whatever is next?

The next . . . 

While you want to importantly make sure what’s going on right now is working well, you HAVE to carve off investment resources (focus, time, money, effort) to make sure you are ready for whatever is next.

Look at where you are giving your attention and other investment resources. Are they setting you up for future success? Or are they merely keeping you paddling in place for right now?

Depending on the answer, an Idea Magnet realizes you may need to make a big change to ever make progress. And that change starts right now!  – 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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Nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises.

I’d never thought of this term previously. Yet, they are vital. They help groups (or an individual) efficiently explore many more opportunities and ideas than they otherwise might.

The nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises term popped into my head during a Brainzooming client workshop. Three groups rotated through posters focused on their shared services organization’s internal branding. We had already identified its experience promise to internal clients. This new exercise translated its internal brand promise into specific behaviors its five-hundred employees will use to create the experience.

Each strategic thinking exercise poster had four or five brand dimensions on the Y-axis. The x-axis labels along the poster’s top featured three specific opportunities to deliver the attributes: at the initial engagement with internal clients, throughout ongoing work, and as a project wraps up.

You do the math with this strategic thinking exercise.

Five rows times three columns presented fifteen different opportunities within a matrix for participants in each of three groups to explore different phases of the experience promise. That meant more than forty perspectives from which to generate ideas for potential behaviors.

Someone asked if, after the small groups completed all the idea generation, we would leave them with all these cells worth of ideas.

My answer was, “No.”

The point of creating so many possible ways to think about brand behaviors WAS NOT to develop a bunch of answers pointing in varied directions.

Our objective? Use the forty-plus cells to push the team into exploring the nooks and crannies of brand behaviors. We will report back the summarized list of important behaviors to successfully bring the promise to life. The focused behaviors lead to implementing a robust, focused, and consistent experience for internal clients.

Whether it’s a bunch of cells, many different prompts for ideas, or questions that extend from incremental to extreme change, nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises are trying to do the same thing: create an efficient way to look at an opportunity from as many different perspectives as relevant and possible within a brief amount of time.

Want to make sure your team is looking at all the nooks and crannies of your strategy?

Contact us, and let’s adapt the concept to your specific organizational, brand, or innovation strategies. You’ll quickly see why we love the productivity of nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises so much! – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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Suppose you’re trying to come up with innovative ideas to introduce a new marketing program. You want to avoid doing the same old things you do for THAT type of marketing program every time you do that type of marketing program.

Want a quick idea for how to stretch your creative thinking to imagine many more marketing strategies to approach this opportunity in new ways?

Easily Rethink Your Status Quo Marketing Strategies

Here’s an answer to the question of innovating your marketing strategies: look at the opportunity as if it were any number of DIFFERENT types of marketing opportunities.

For instance, if you’re introducing a new B2B product by having your business development team making sales calls on current clients, you have a whole variety of other marketing strategies at your disposal.

Here are a few of the other ways to think about the launch: you could imagine the new product introduction as if it were:

  • An event
  • A campaign
  • An offer or a promotion
  • A content marketing strategy
  • A direct marketing program
  • A social and online engagement outreach strategy
  • An online presence
  • A sponsorship
  • A contest or game

Using this list of alternative ways to think about the product launch will yield many new marketing strategies. You might imagine:

  • A live launch webinar (event)
  • Integrating email and white papers to support the launch (campaign)
  • Providing a trial version of the product for a limited time (offer or promotion)
  • Introducing a series of articles discussing how customers helped shape the product development (content marketing strategy)
  • Teaser emails to targeted, high-potential customers (direct marketing program)
  • Videos demonstrating the new product sent in advance of every business development call (social engagement strategy)
  • A dedicated section of your website with early testimonials and more detailed information (online presence)
  • Introducing the product at an industry conference where you are a major partner (sponsorship)
  • A contest for early purchasers to compete for an incredible trip (contest or game)

See the possibilities?

All from deliberately thinking about a marketing program in ways that you never have before. Give it a try this week and reap the benefits!  – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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I love how many young professionals talk with me after keynotes and workshops seeking career advice about the challenges they are facing.

While the exchanges are typically brief, they are almost always with individuals who connected with the talk’s message and want to discuss what it means for them and where they are now, or where they would like to be in the future. Maybe it’s because I made such a dramatic career shift. Maybe it’s because they want to do what I do. Maybe it’s because NO ONE in their current organization’s is safe to talk with on career advice and pursuing their aspirations.

Whatever the reason, the challenge and opportunity of coming up with quick, on-the-spot career advice to answer their questions is exhilarating. It keeps me on my toes.

The most recent one, like so many others, was someone who wants to figure out the career plan B to make a big move away from her highly specialized job. She’s looking for something more fulfilling in her career.

3 Pieces of Career Advice to Begin Making a Career Change

Via ShutterStock

My suggestions for her, to the extent I can generalize and share them here:

  • Figure out a way to start sharing her expertise online, even if she must mask her current organization. It’s vital to build a repository of valuable content you can point people to for proof of your expertise, if not today, then in the future. Use the advantage of time to get started sooner than later.
  • Look for ways to start generalizing her specialized knowledge so she can apply it in other areas. This is especially true for people that want to make huge shifts in what they do. You can find ways to move much (if not all) that expertise with you to a future gig. There are always smart connections you can make between what you do now and what you want to do in the future. Figure them out and make all of them that make sense.
  • Get a copy of Idea Magnets. I know that sounds self-serving. Idea Magnets is the deepest long-form content we have on how to strengthen yourself as a creative business leader. And in this case, I told the person asking for advice that I’d send her a personal copy of Idea Magnets if she follows up with me.

For all the rest of you, here is my message: If you ever see me speak, please come up and say hello. Ask all the questions you want. I welcome the opportunity to offer more personalized advice than I ever can during a keynote talk. – Mike Brown

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So far, 2018 has been a year of so much progress…along with a sizable dose of healthy frustration. Progress, in that we’re pushing multiple new brands (including Idea Magnets) to market. Frustration, because it’s 2018 and not 2011 or 2012, at the latest.

Here is the ultra-honest admission: I didn’t have all the business model stuff and entrepreneurial lessons figured out when I started The Brainzooming Group.

While I’d spent TONS of time and effort on developing our methodology, I thought all the people who told me that they wanted to work with me when I left the corporate world would come running to work with Brainzooming. The rest would be history.

I was wrong.

It’s taken until this year to feel like we’re putting important parts of the business model in place, and while that’s great and all, I wish it had happened years ago. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s entirely possible you might start getting all your ducks (or even just a few important basics) in a row AFTER you’ve jumped into the entrepreneurial pool with both feet.

And, you know, if you keep surviving to do business another day, maybe it’s okay if you don’t have the entire business model solved immediately.

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Wish I’d Figured Out Earlier

While I usually save my entrepreneurial lessons for an annual-ish article, here’s a head start on what I’ve learned during the last year about the best advice people have shared with me that I wish I’d fully grasped before starting Brainzooming :

  1. The best advice? You have to find opportunities for leverage in your business. Without this type of opportunity, no one will want to invest in it. Without this type of opportunity, YOU should question your own investment in your own business.
  2. The next-best advice? Figure out what you can sell to all the visitors to your website that fall outside the target for your main business. Someone pointed out this incredible truism in 2012 or 2013. We’re only now starting to capitalize on it.
  3. The best advice after that? You need to have products to sell globally if you hope to generate revenue when you sleep (or even just sit on your ass and do nothing at some point in your life).
  4. Then? If you’re ultimately going to have something to sell to everyone that comes to your website, you need to engage and reach out to them along the way. It’s a mistake to overlook them until you have products ready for them. Find early opportunities to deliver value to them.
  5. Finally? Build your database EARLY. Spend time with your database. Continually explore and learn new ways for your database to shape and grow your business.

Looking at this list, it seems to comprise mainly things that I, as a marketer, should have instinctively known.

Alas, it’s taken time. And there’s still more learning ahead.

I just wanted those of you who more recently made the jump to the entrepreneurial life (and those of you in corporate life who think it sounds great to be your own boss), to know that you don’t have to know everything at once.

Despite what all the gurus say: it takes time, my friend. It takes time to learn the entrepreneurial lessons. – Mike Brown

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We can all use a butt kicking occasionally that provides a wake up call to dramatically improve our own confidence levels and performance.

I got one of those butt kickings last Tuesday morning via an opening keynote presentation by Amber Selking, PhD, at the International Thermprocess Summit. Dr. Selking is a Performance Consultant who focuses on “Building Championship Mindsets.”

It feels like I’ve been running on fumes for weeks (months?), and I was in Atlanta on too little sleep to close out the conference that afternoon with a talk on transitioning businesses and their intellectual capital from one generation of Idea Magnets to the next. Before the Tuesday session opened, I took a seat at the very back table, hoping to strike a balance between conserving energy, walking through the slides in this new talk, and identifying ideas and themes from other speakers’ talks to weave into the closing.Order Idea Magnets
That’s when Amber brought the message, the energy, and the call-to action that made everyone stop and think about what they are personally doing to improve themselves and their teams. Everyone walked away with a new and improved mindset.

I told her later how her talk challenged and scared me.  As I sat there needing to deliver the same energy and passion as Dr. Selking brought to her talk, I feared there was noooooooo waaaaayyyyyyy I could muster half of the enthusiasm she did. At one point later in the morning, I returned to my room to get my stuff and wondered aloud WHAT I was going to do in the next two hours to energize myself.

My concerns were heightened when the conference organizer told me right before I started my talk that she was looking for me to deliver the same impact as Amber had earlier in the day.

I guess Dr. Selking’s message really did land with me, because I found much more energy than I’d had that morning. The closing talk was interactive, had some fun moments, and challenged the audience to return home and make room for millennials to actively engage in sharing and learning new and conventional knowledge to take their companies forward.

Enough about me. Amber Selking, PhD has a podcast you need to check out, and a TEDx Talk that will give you a sense of the impact of her message.

Go find out about Amber Selking, PhD. She’s an Idea Magnet!

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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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When you decide to change your routine, you need to be prepared to make do. That can include bending the random into something strategic and on message.

Thus, the photo of the monkey, the cow, and the pig.

Heading to Chicago last week for a first in-person strategy workshop with a new client, I didn’t bring toys. Part of it was saving space. Part of it was being cautious working with a new client on a second-chance engagement and not wanting to start on the wrong foot. Part of it was wedging too many trips and separate client engagements into a seven-day period and neglecting to put toys on my travel checklist.

Dining with our client contact the night before, she mentioned her promise to the company’s CEO that the 1/2-day workshop would involve fun strategic planning. I told her I hadn’t brought any toys along, but that I would visit a store on the walk back to my hotel and buy some toys.

I mean, anything for fun strategic planning!

Fun Strategic Planning and 3 Stuffed Toys

This commitment to our client took me to Walgreens on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I scoured the store for squeeze balls that the executives could safely throw at each other. Finding none, I bought these three stuffed toys, all of which originally had “I Love Chicago” shirts.

The next morning, as we set things up for the strategic planning workshop, I told the clients that each of the stuffed toys had a special purpose that they could call on to guide the workshop:

  • The monkey was for situations where I was moving quickly, and they wanted to spend more time. They could pick up (or throw) the monkey to signal the need to monkey around with ideas a little longer.
  • The bovine was for when we hit a sacred cow issue that needed to be challenged and not simply accepted as imperative.
  • The pig was for wildly innovative ideas that we should consider at future workshops, but were bogging down our progress since, at least right now, these ideas would only happen when pigs fly.

The moral of this little fun strategic planning story?

I didn’t have all those roles figured out when I bought the three stuffed animals. As I was shopping, it occurred to me that they should have some reason for being at the workshop. Using one of our core analogy-finding questions provided the basis to turn these random stuffed toys into a part of a strategic planning workshop.

Those connections were, in this case, part of turning a regular meeting into fun strategic planning. That’s what Brainzooming does! – 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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