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The other day, in an article on quickly creating 100+ cool product names, I mentioned a bad/great customer experience story. It happened while trying to catch an earlier flight from Baltimore to Kansas City.

(And BTW, if you didn’t grab your copy of the FREE naming tool we developed for you, there’s still time. It’s one of the easiest, most productive marketing resources we’ve ever offered.)

Running My Tail Off

Back to the story: I was able to hustle to this early flight possibility out of Baltimore because of wrapping up an all-day client meeting early. I asked the Southwest gate agent, after looking at storms over the Midwest on radar, whether a flight through Chicago would get me home earlier than 9:40 p.m. That was the arrival time for my direct flight to Kansas City departing several hours later. Without saying much, he re-booked me, mentioning that while he couldn’t confirm me on the Chicago flight, the available seats looked fine. I said, “Fantastic,” bought the A7 boarding position, and was looking forward to getting home early after a week away.

I also thought about giving the gate agent one of the Thank You for Kicking Tail coupons Southwest had just sent me. The coupons are to easily facilitate frequent passengers in recognizing Southwest employees who excel at delivering a great customer experience. What a fantastic idea for prompting stronger customer-employee engagement. In the short time between the gate agent re-booking me and boarding the plane, though, I hadn’t dug out the Kicking Tail coupons. I regretted that omission, at least until I boarded the plane.

Great customer experience - Southwest tries to kick tail

Southwest Can Kiss My Tail!

After settling in my seat and responding to Mess Wright about naming ideas, I checked my flight connection in Chicago on the Southwest app. That’s when I realized the gate agent booked me on a flight scheduled to leave Chicago at 9 p.m. That night, it was projecting an even later departure: 10:30 p.m. He knowingly booked me on a flight combination arriving in Kansas City about 3 1/2 hours AFTER my original flight.

WTH???

The app showed the original flight combination I had envisioned would still reach KC at 8:30 p.m. After arriving in Chicago, I’d have to run to the gate for the 7:00 p.m. flight to Kansas City. That was the plan.

After landing at Midway, the KC flight’s gate was close by. The Southwest gate agent there put me on standby. She couldn’t confirm an upgraded boarding position immediately, though. She told me to return in 15 minutes. At that point, she said she could make it work. I tore off one of the Kicking Tail coupons and handed it to her with my thanks. That left a few minutes to grab a quick to-go dinner and hurry back.

Upon returning, the system wouldn’t upgrade the seat. I don’t know the impact the coupon had, but when it didn’t work right away, she became tenacious. There was no way this wasn’t going to work. She tried multiple ways to get the upgrade to take. She called another gate agent to handle the growing line of passengers. She contacted a supervisor to assist her. Suffice it to say, she wasn’t going to stop until she got me on THAT Kansas City flight.

Because of her efforts, I arrived home an hour early!

Southwest Kicks Tail with a Great Customer Experience Recovery

Thank you, Southwest, for providing a way to both recognize her and motivate her to REALLY kick tail. It turned my crappy customer experience into a great customer experience win – maybe because she KNEW it would bring favorable notice! – 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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I was standing in line at the Baltimore airport, about to board an earlier-than-planned Southwest Airlines flight through Chicago on my way back home. I was trying to shake a lingering stress headache, while feeling good about getting home an hour earlier, even though I’d passed up my direct flight to be able to do it.

Suddenly, Facebook Messenger buzzed. It was a message from my buddy, Mess Wright: “Hello. Are you there?”

I responded, saying I was about to board a plane, but had a minute. Mess let me know that she’s working on a new idea, had a variety of potential names, and wondered if I’d review them. I asked for more background information to determine how well the names were working to convey her brand. Mess sent a few paragraphs plus photos of the list of possible names.

On the plane, I decided, based on the headache, to generate other possible names versus trying to concentrate and read the one from Mess. Without an available list of our Brainzooming cool product name questions, I used the descriptions Mess sent to identify strategic starting points. I began imagining what words might pertain to the new brand’s:

  • Personality
  • Benefits
  • Customers
  • Business Category
  • Other Audiences

I also left myself some mental white space to riff on any other names that came to mind.

When we reached Chicago, I forwarded a list of 106 potential names generated before landing at Midway. Mess responded later that several of the cool product names were resonating, along with others from her original list.

This past Friday and Saturday, Mess sent possible logo executions incorporating suggested name number eighty-three from my list. By this weekend, she’s using our online branding lab tools to further explore brand positioning, content, visuals, and product ideas.

How to Generate 100+ Cool Product Names in a Hurry!

I see three take-aways from this story:

  1. The benefit of creative structure to generate LOTS of ideas, because the winner may be cool product name number eighty-three
  2. The power of strategy-focused creative thinking questions to help generate a high proportion of on-target ideas
  3. The speed with which you can move from idea to prototype when you are determined and use resources from around the world

This mini-cool product names project was a welcome distraction during the BWI-MDW flight. Without it, I’d have had a full-on head explosion from the detail I discovered about my Chicago connection AFTER I was on the plane. More about that customer experience fail.

In the meantime, if you want help generating names, we have a FREE infographic that features 7 inspiring creative thinking questions to create cool product names! Download your copy today! – 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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If you’re creating a successful business strategy, you need at least two vital ingredients to complete it:

Some people are incredible at sharing the vision. They have big ideas, see exciting possibilities, and can paint a picture of how the future will look. At the same time, they struggle to translate their vision into specifics that others can interpret and execute.

Other people focus on doing stuff. They want clear direction, so they can begin the doing part. Or maybe they don’t really want the direction; they just want to start doing what they know because they know it and it’s familiar. Asking them the big picture of where all the activity is headed, though, stumps them.

Review the business strategy you are developing.

  • Does it share a vision?
  • Does it offer tangibles that clearly communicate what the vision means and what strong performance looks like?

Can you answer YES to both questions? Then you are ready to exploit this formula:

Vision + Tangibles = The Basis for Implementing a Successful Business Strategy

If you want to go deeper to make sure you have the right combination of vision and tangibles to implement a successful business strategy, our Fast Forward: Successfully Implementing Your Strategic Plan eBook covers moving your plan from messaging to action. Plus, it’s FREE!  – Mike Brown

Download Fast Forward Today!

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 things go wrong, how do you handle it?

Do you bemoan that things were not perfect? Do you become dejected? Do you dig in and try to quickly recover?

Or do you look at it as positive opportunity to learn, change, re-innovate, and grow?

Create Your Own Creative Inspiration Word for When Things Go Wrong

During an Idea Magnets workshop, we invited each participant to make up a positive-sounding word to say whenever something goes wrong. The idea is to address what may seem like a disaster with creative inspiration. Then we practiced saying their words LOUDLY  and BOLDLY!

When I put the question above to Facebook friends before the Idea Magnets workshop, two people from very different parts of my life quickly shared ideas. I went to high school with David Gabler; he suggested, “SMAILURE!” Dennis Smith is an amazing design thinking expert we met through a client engagement. Dennis developed, “FABTASTROPHE!” Those are two fantastic new words for an Idea Magnet’s vocabulary.

My initial idea was, “BRAVANEESIMO!”

What word would you add to your Idea Magnets lexicon to head off negative feelings about things going wrong and encourage a bold, positive confirmation of the new opportunity to learn? – 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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As you look ahead to implementing new strategic initiatives, how actively are you engaging with the senior leaders of your organization to let them know what’s coming? 

This piece from Inside the Executive Suite lays out a number of questions you should be asking to understand what, who, and how you should be communicating to pave the way for successful implementation.

Gaining Leadership Buy-In for New Strategic Initiatives without Selling-Out

This series of questions provides a helpful road map for initiating change and gaining upward support for new strategic initiatives.

1. Determining the Organizational Latitude

The initial questions focus on determining how open an organization is to independent development of new strategic initiatives.

  • What types of new initiatives typically gain an okay / approval?
  • What types of new initiatives usually get more leeway, less oversight, and generous room for development and implementation?
  • What evidence exists to back up the answers to the previous two questions? Are there specific decision-making and support-building processes or oversight groups in place?
  • What has or hasn’t worked in the past to secure sufficient buy-in?

Asking these questions help you determine where you stand as well as your best options with a current initiative.

2. Assessing the Negotiating Position

The next set of questions pertains to understanding how to approach the conversations you need to have, and your best negotiating stance.

  • What must the final version of our initiative include so that the result is true to what we are trying to accomplish?
  • If executives are looking for changes, what potentially important areas are we willing to modify to get agreement to the overall initiative?
  • Are there aspects of the initiative that we are willing to give up or trade away to secure buy-in?

As a starting point, develop a short list of items that you see as must-have elements. This initial list could be based on what team members, the organization, and other internal participants have been told or have come to expect through their involvement in collaboratively developing a strategic initiative. The goal is to think ahead and consider the types of modifications that will be acceptable before executives ask for changes.

3. Identifying the Supporters and Dissenters

You also need to understand where the pockets of support for the new initiative lie within the organization. To further your sell-in strategy, determine:

  • Which individuals and / or groups must support this initiative for us to move forward to implementation?
  • What about it do they have to support, and how do they need to show their support (through a decision, funding, other resources, etc.)?
  • What will it take, individually and collectively, to secure their support?
  • Will any of the individuals or groups look to see if others are already supporting the initiative before they are willing to step up with their own support?

The second part of this exploration is more vital and higher-risk: identifying potential naysayers, especially the ones with enough power to do something about their dissent. Try to anticipate the potential challengers using these questions:

  • Who can kill this initiative outright (these are the aggressive dissenters)?
  • Who might kill this initiative indirectly through resistance, failing to deliver on commitments, or by using the corporate political landscape to create traps (these are the passive dissenters)?
  • What do people in each group believe right now? What do we need them to believe? What will get the dissenters to not try to kill the initiative?

The communication and buy-in path that emerges from these questions will suggest how much effort is ahead of us to gain buy-in. It will also provide clues as to whether it looks like you’ve started early enough to both secure the buy-in and launch the initiative on time.

Start Early to Gain Buy-In

No matter the approach you take to gain support for new strategic initiatives, the key is not putting off the selling step until later. Make this step happen early, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!
Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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Last week, Brainzooming, as an independent business, turned nine years old.

I’ll admit, I’m not good at honestly assessing what we’ve accomplished or haven’t since launching. Put that question to me and anyone else close to Brainzooming, and I’ll probably be the one with the shortest list of highlights, successes, and accomplishments.

That is the perennial challenge of a founder with big expectations. It’s never enough. The effort could have been greater, more targeted, better planned out, more thorough. It never happens as fast as you think it should. The results could have been WAY stronger. The long-term benefits should be more obvious and, well, long-term.

One learning over the past nine years? The importance of trying to keep this push for more in proper perspective. It needs to be just visible enough to motivate innovation and change. Yet is cannot be so big that it leads to extended frustration, depression, and shutting down emotionally and/or intellectually.

Jumping from a Corporate Job to Entrepreneurism

Thinking about my first career job plus the tenure with Brainzooming, I’ve now been in entrepreneurial ventures for more than half of the time I was in the corporate job. Each has its advantages; I’m definitely not a fan of one of these worlds to the exclusion of the other.

Despite frustrations in a big corporation, I enjoyed working with a big team, multi-million-dollar budgets, and other people tending to all the business development, accounting, finance, and other administrative areas it takes to run a business – even a small one.

And as challenging as it is to sustain the organization’s energy when you know you’re not getting to EVERYTHING you should be doing, Brainzooming provides an opportunity I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE: being able to work with great organizations across vastly different industries. We are able to assemble a diverse group of smart people who are part of the close and further away Brainzooming family. Plus, even though I may gripe about it at times, there are opportunities to travel to many different places to deliver workshops and keynotes.

Maybe most importantly, publishing the Idea Magnets book in 2018 is a definite recent highlight. I don’t think that EVER would have happened while still working in a corporate job (because I tried multiple times, and it never worked).

One goal for 2018 that’s going to slide into 2019? Compiling a lessons-learned book for making the switch from a corporate job to entrepreneurism. I field many questions from executives asking about making that switch. I have a long list of lessons and tips I wish I’d known (and started to address) BEFORE I walked away from my corporate job on October 30, 2009. Also look for a new Brainzooming website and a new online-based offering for emerging businesses.

Thanks to all of you who read and use our Brainzooming content. If you were in that group in 2008 and 2009, you were integral to creating the confidence I needed to start Brainzooming. Without you, I’d still be trying to hang on to a corporate job. And from where I stand right now, I don’t see how THAT would ever have been a good option.

So, let’s get started on making all the progress in year ten! – Mike Brown 

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories

Developing and sharing extraordinary stories that resonate with your brand’s most important audiences is an important key to branding success.

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories puts ALL the powerful questions at your disposal to identify, develop, and share authentic stories. It introduces multiple strategies that Idea Magnets use to:

  • Make unexpected connections and generate story ideas
  • Encourage people to share experiences that lead to memorable stories
  • Tell stories through effective techniques that intrigue and engage audiences

Download Your FREE eBook! 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand's Extraordinary Stories!

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 speak to groups, you likely know the situation. You’re putting together a new talk, and there’s a big underlying question you should address early. Maybe it’s a big, overarching question implied in the presentation’s title. Yet, despite the question’s enormity, you are NOT sure what the answer is. Or at least what the answer isn’t built for a pithy, micro-bulleted list perfectly suited for delivery via a PowerPoint slide.

That situation plagued me with the new talk I did on attracting a brand’s extraordinary stories at the Social Media Strategies Summit in New York.

Developing ideas for using the seven Idea Magnets strategies to attract a brand’s extraordinary stories, there was a big question that seemed like I needed to answer: What’s a story?

The problem?

I didn’t have an elegant answer to the question. Under time pressure to get the workshop deck done, I figured I’d let the question slide. I mean really: WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHAT A STORY IS?

Can you guess the rest of the story?

We were about 17 seconds into the workshop’s first exercise, and someone asked: For the purposes of this workshop, what’s a story?

CRAP!

4 Characteristics of a Story

I told him what every speaker says when they get a question they didn’t want to answer (Great question!) and scrambled to the flip chart to begin writing my answer to what a story is. Along with tugging on Emma Alvarez Gibson’s perspective (and spelling chops), we shared the following list for what a story includes:

  • Relatable characters
  • Ample possibilities for development
  • Conflict and movement
  • An ability to invite the audience’s wonder and curiosity

This on-the-fly list of what defines a story worked to highlight a major point: a story isn’t only something that is written. These four characteristics can apply to images, videos, and various other communications formats that may not include ANY words.

Could I have answered this question ahead of time?

Sure.

Yet part of the excitement of the presentation was the conflict of personally wondering, CAN I FINALLY ANSWER WHAT A STORY IS? – Mike Brown

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories

Developing and sharing extraordinary stories that resonate with your brand’s most important audiences is an important key to branding success.

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories puts ALL the powerful questions at your disposal to identify, develop, and share authentic stories. It introduces multiple strategies that Idea Magnets use to:

  • Make unexpected connections and generate story ideas
  • Encourage people to share experiences that lead to memorable stories
  • Tell stories through effective techniques that intrigue and engage audiences

Download Your FREE eBook! 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand's Extraordinary Stories!

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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