AEIB-GraphicAs we do occasionally, we’re featuring an excerpt today from the Armada Corporate Intelligence publication,  “Inside the Executive Suite.” This article was about succession planning best practices IF your organization has no formal succession planning and a team member resigns.

Based on surveys suggesting many organizations lack formal succession planning or don’t follow it closely, their informal strategy for succession planning best practices is a good stop gap. This is especially true early in the year when some people resign after staying around long enough to qualify for year-end bonuses.

These four quick steps for an informal strategy for succession planning could be just what you need to do this week!

Succession Planning Best Practices – 4 Quick Steps for an Informal Strategy

(From Armada Corporate Intelligence – “Inside the Executive Suite”)

Based on the particular survey you find in a quick online search, perhaps 1/3 of organizations don’t have succession planning in place – although the number could be much higher, or slightly lower!

Suffice it to say, even if succession planning is completed, the same surveys report many organizations don’t employ the individuals they would need to implement the succession plans they have.

This absence of succession planning best practices can be a particular issue right after the New Year. Employees that have stuck around only to satisfy the date for an annual bonus often turn in their resignations immediately afterward. Seeing this happen many times, it’s worthwhile to share these steps to take right now, just in case you lack succession plans.


1. Start your informal succession planning by compiling a very short list of employees you’ll fight to keep

If you do nothing else toward succession planning before January 1, decide which employees you’d make a concerted effort to keep should they announce they are departing.

We recommend making a VERY short list because when most people resign, they have made a mental break they’ll never completely mend – even if they stay because you countered successfully. As a result, the only names on the list should be those absolutely critical to current operations or whose specialized knowledge or expertise would leave a gaping hole.

Also jot down names of employees you’d be happy to see leave, should they do so. Everyone else falls into the, “Not looking to lose them, but it might happen” category.

With this list, you’re in a much better position to implement step 2 if someone announces he or she is leaving.

2. If someone resigns, stay calm, ask questions, and listen

Suppose, it’s January 2nd or February 1st (or whatever date after which bonuses are set) and a key employee resigns. You need to stay calm since this is your opportunity to ask smart questions and listen intently. If the person resigning is on your “fight to keep” list, ask:

  • Are you willing to reconsider?
  • Have you thought about what might make you reconsider?
  • What timing commitments have you made to the new organization?

Understanding these answers begins framing your response for an employee you’re trying to keep since you should have a better idea of what a counter-offer will have to include.

Even for employees on the “not looking to lose them” list, however, asking the last question leads to Step 3

3. Negotiate more transition time if you think it is valuable

For employees not on your “fight to keep” list you’d like in place longer than the two weeks typically offered as a transition period, ask what types of flexibility they have to alter start dates with new employers.

If you think an individual would handle a longer transition period in a constructive, productive way, you may want to negotiate for three or four weeks instead of two. In so doing, you’re not trying to keep them for an extended period; you are, however, trying to buy more time to advance your succession planning and implementation.

4. Find a confidant to vent, then use alone time to think and plan

After asking questions and listening, conclude your meeting. Then go ahead and vent, if you need to do that. Contact a confidant to vent privately without concern for your venting getting back to the office. If you’re frustrated, apprehensive, or even excited, none of these are appropriate emotions to display publicly. Get them out, and return to your calm state quickly.

At that point, begin thinking about what moves you could make to replace the person leaving from among internal candidates. Even if you don’t have someone completely prepared for the job, do you have someone ready for an opportunity that challenges them in dramatically different or more significant ways? If so, there might be no better time to grow them than through stepping into a much bigger role.

Are you ready for people changes with an informal strategy for succession planning?

These steps certainly don’t constitute a full succession planning strategy. If you don’t have one, however, it’s a solid checklist to work through should any staff members announce their departures after the first of the year. - Armada Corporate Intelligence


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.




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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After compiling yesterday’s list of your Top 10 favorite (i.e., most-viewed) new Brainzooming posts from 2014, here are my favorites.

As is often the case, there are stories behind these posts. Sometimes the stories are contained in the posts, sometimes they are not. Nevertheless, there are some overlooked gems in this list (if I do say so myself), that you will enjoy if you didn’t catch hem the first time around in 2014!

Strategy and Creative Thinking – My Favorite Brainzooming Posts for 2014

Strategic Planning Exercises – Have you tried a Zoomference yet? 

This recounts a fun content marketing success story. The original story covering how we use our online collaboration platform to work with teams spread out across multiple locations prompted a two-year Brainzooming reader to contact us. Over a few hours, we put together a strategic plan for her organization that set the stage for 2015.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Identifying Left Field Competitors

I love when questions during workshops turn into blog posts. This competitive strategy post was the answer to a question at the Compete through Service Symposium on how you can push your organization to better imagine surprising competitors.


What to Blog About – 11 Buying Process Questions for Blog Topics

Some blog posts are written to share what we’re trying to improve upon in our own business. While content marketing has been a significant part of expanding The Brainzooming Group, we have work to do on linking our content to the steps potential clients are going through in selecting strategy and innovation partners.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Taking Risks with a Live Audience

This post recounts a live experiment that showed why using different types of strategic thinking questions changes what types of answers you’ll get. While I was confident the experiment would work, the possibility that I could have failed is what made it exciting to throw in to a live presentation as an unplanned exercise!

Creating Strategic Impact – Challenge and Change

It seems like there are a few posts similar to this every year, where someone on Facebook or Twitter supplies the missing piece to turn a random idea into a fully realized thought. This was my favorite example from this year, as we teamed up to define what “lle” stands for when it comes to positive change.

Strategic Planning – 10 Signs of a Strategic Planning Meeting Nightmare

I love this Halloween-oriented GEICO ad because it skewers the improbability of horror films. At the same time, though, it’s a great analogy for the bad judgment you find in organizations that stick with the same old strategic planning approaches instead of trying something new – such as how The Brainzooming Group approaches developing strategy!

Strategic Thinking Questions – 3 Questions for New Website Design

This strategic thinking exercise to help in designing a new website went from being used in a meeting on a project we were working on to a blog post in less than twenty-four hours. I love when that happens!

Strategic Thinking – Andy Warhol and Practicing What You Preach

I’ve been carrying this Andy Warhol quote around with me since writing a paper on him for a high school “Modern Thought” class with Fr. Gilmary Tallman. I couldn’t believe it had taken this long to share it in the blog post. There just aren’t that many ideas I still have kicking around from back then that haven’t found a way into the blog yet.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – A New Type of Big Focus Group

This one is a favorite because of the event, the event’s co-sponsor (Nature Explore, an organization where I’m on the board), and the opportunity to create a self-facilitated focus group of well over one hundred people. And what’s even better is we just reached an agreement to close the 2015 Leadership Institute with another full-audience, self-facilitated strategic thinking exercise.


Brand Strategy, Airplane Talk and Rolling in the Aisles

The story of the funniest plane flight I’ve had in years, courtesy of my new friend, Ahava Leibtag. By the time I’d try to explain it, this would be as long as the post. Just click and read it!

Strategic Thinking – Using Caution with Business Content

This post with a recommended disclaimer that should go on all (or at least most) business blog posts is perhaps the truest post ever on the Brainzooming blog.

Strategic Thinking – When to Fix a Business Process that’s Never Failed?

This is a favorite because of the photo. I took a photo of an automated trashcan at the Atlanta airport thinking it would come in handy one day for a blog post about throwing something away. There is the big lesson: Always be taking photos that might fit into future blog posts. ALL THE TIME.

Creative Thinking – The 25 Stages in Creating a New Presentation

Okay, maybe THIS is the truest Brainzooming post ever. Even though I KNOW these steps, I cannot seem to avoid them EVERY TIME I prepare a new presentation.

Creative Thinking Exercises – Change and Grow Constantly

I like this post because it reminds me of things we did during live workshops that, if not for the post, would have been lost to me even just a few months later. A reminder to take better notes on what we do rather than just committing it to memory!

Life Lesson – Living Your Life and Dying Exactly the Same

This one is very personal. It started life as a blog post about a former co-worker’s life (and death). When I actually wove the story into a presentation about Aligning Your Life’s Work, I wasn’t sure I’d get through the story without crying. Emotions are a challenge for me. To have a story that forces me to deal with emotions during a presentation says it’s an important message.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – A Sex Tip to Boost Strategic Thinking

It’s about sex. And what about that photo?

The 4-Step Career Advice Nearly Everyone Ignores

This is the best, most widely applicable advice I have to offer. And yes, it is also the most-ignored advice I offer when people ask for career advice. That alone puts it on this list of my favorite posts: it’s full of unrealized value just waiting for you to do something about it!

Creative Idea: Jimmy Fallon Turns Brian Williams into a Rapper’s Delight

This one required very little creativity from me, but it’s likely my most-viewed Brainzooming post from the year because Brian Williams doing Rapper’s Delight is a scream!

Social Media Disclaimer: Coming Clean on Humble Brag Social Sharing

This one isn’t a favorite for the written story as much as the untold story behind the two pictures of Kate Jackson and me snuggled up. I always liked the smartest Angel best, I have to admit.

Here’s hoping you enjoy some of these favorites from 2014!

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 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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Next time someone tells you how crazy busy they are or you tell someone how crazy busy you are, remember that crazy busy isn’t necessarily:

  • Productive
  • Profitable
  • Cash flow positive
  • Strategically smart
  • Smart in any way at all
  • Truthful
  • Organized
  • Intentional
  • Leading to growth
  • Anything more than excuse
  • A good idea
  • Creative
  • The real objective

Yes, crazy busy may be a ploy to avoid layoffs in a corporate environment . . .

080816 A Personal Strategy for Avoiding Layoffs

But being crazy busy for the sake of being able to say you’re crazy busy is bad strategy. – Mike Brown




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A quote from actress, Julianne Moore in Entertainment Weekly (Oct. 31, 2014), is important from a strategic thinking perspective.

“Every actor you talk to, unless they’re fooling themselves, will tell you that you’re at the mercy of who will hire you next. The only control we have is saying yes or no.”

While Julianne Moore applies the quote to actors, the strategic thinking perspective relates to anyone in a role where what’s next after whatever you’re doing now isn’t routinely known.


Framed that way, the quote extends to entrepreneurs, major brands making strategic decisions, and even employees inside companies who have some flexibility on navigating their projects and responsibilities.

Beyond extending the strategic thinking perspective to other fields, turning it into a strategic thinking question adds even more power. Ask yourself, “What am I saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to?”

Are you saying “yes” and “no” deliberately and strategically?

Or are you doing so out of instinct, feelings, boredom, or something else?

It’s not that being less deliberate about saying “yes” or “no” to what’s next is wrong. It might simply mean it’s going to be more challenging for you to learn from and build on past successes and failures to move forward in a specific direction.

No right or wrong answers today. Simply the strategic thinking question you can use as a daily reflection if you so choose: “What am I saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to?”  – 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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It seems that everyone you meet has creative job titles that include a C-level designation these days, even if it’s just a “for show” title.

You quickly learn this when a business card also lists a person’s REAL title, which is more around a manager level. So they get to say they are a C-something or other, but still get paid at an M-level.

And everybody is happy, sort of.

7 New Creative Job Titles for the C-Level

In the interests of adding to the list creative job title around the real or imagined C-suite, here are seven C-titles we’d like to throw into the mix.


CRO – Chief Recreation Officer

In charge of video games, bean bags, and all other apparatus critical to a positive corporate activity vibe.

CVO – Chief Viral Officer

Responsible for both creating engaging social media content AND dispensing antibiotics during cold and flu season.

CPO – Chief Pet Officer

Makes sure all office environments are safe, comfortable, and accommodating for four-, two-, and no-footed friends who accompany their owners to work.

CIO – Chief Indignation Officer

The senior executive who is even more pissed off about how things are going than you are.

CMO – Chief Matrix Officer

Stands at the intersection of line and functional organizations and decides who wins in their ongoing disputes about which is more important.

CDO – Chief Disruption Officer

Responsible for undermining currently successful business lines while hoping magic happens with some wild idea someone in marketing crowdsourced.

CMO – Chief Meme Officer

The position responsible for creating inventive crowdsourced meme apps at Bill Cosby’s fan club. In case you’re interested, this position is currently open.

Which of these creative job titles do you prefer?

If you see your job responsibilities match up to any of these creative job titles, you may want to see if you can get a C-level added to your business card, even IF your pay stays the same. – Mike Brown


Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic thinking and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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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Each year around this time, I’ve been running a post with twenty-five lessons learned from the past year away from full-time corporate life. With prompting from a Brainzooming blog reader who is a long-time friend and incredibly kind supporter, here’s this year’s edition of lessons from another year away from corporate life.

25 Lessons Learned in Year Five Away from Corporate Life


  1. Some things aren’t going to change. Lots of things will get worse; change the hell out of all those things.
  2. When it comes to business development, there’s a huge difference between enough business and enough possibilities to yield enough business exactly when you need it.
  3. You have to replenish the wind in your sails . . . you can’t afford to simply coast forever.
  4. It’s nice to have someone who will call B.S. on you in a constructive way.
  5. Someone new and unfamiliar with what you do may be exactly the right person to throw you the huge challenge you’ve been avoiding even considering.
  6. It’s fine to have a positive attitude and firmly believe you won’t deal with the same issues that other entrepreneurs do in their companies. When reality shows your positive attitude to be ill founded, get over it and learn quickly how others dealt with the issues now befalling you.
  7. Sometimes your family obligations are going to have to take a back seat to doing what you need to do for your business. Other times, family obligations will be so important that you’ll turn your back on business without even a thought. There’s no hard and fast rule (at least that I’ve found) for predicting in advance which will be which.
  8. When a future opportunity goes away for no apparent reason, be vigilant for the often subtle demonstration in the future that reveals exactly why the opportunity had to go away.
  9. Make very few statements about how you will ALWAYS do something or NEVER do something. Things will change. Then you’re left figuring out how to make a graceful change to what you’ve been proclaiming with such certainty.
  10. It’s vital to improve your skills at saying no to the right things.
  11. Maybe I can only write in less than 1,000 word chunks. And putting together one hundred 500 word chunks doesn’t seem yet like it’s a practical way to create a book. But, I did say, “Yet.”
  12. There have been many more opportunities this year to teach people how to do their own Brainzooming. Those experiences have been invaluable in shaping how we present the material and helping to realize “teaching” may be the important piece of the business that didn’t seem nearly as important when we started.
  13. If you would have ever asked me before we started, I don’t think I’d ever have included nonprofit organizations as an important client group for us. Yet, our relationships with the nonprofits we’ve worked with closely have been tremendously rewarding. It’s one thing to work with someone who is looking up two or three layers in an organization to get things done vs. an executive director who may have fewer resources, but can make things happen once the direction is created.
  14. I never thought it would get challenging to write either list posts or recaps from conferences I attend (considering I’m typically generating 100 or 200 tweets as a starting point). But for some reason, both of these forms became real blocks in the past year. It’s important to recognize, however, I’ve stuck with blogging as a form of creative form expression longer than I have probably any other form in my life. It seems as if it’s time to reinvent the boundaries and what’s within them.
  15. This is the year where I feel I’ve done less practicing what I preach than at any time since the business started. Thus, the renewed importance of surrounding myself with people who will keep me honest in doing for ourselves what we’d readily recommend to others.
  16. The coming year has to become the year of recasting content. There is value to deliver from the body of work in blogs, presentations, and workshop material. The job now is to create it.
  17. Feeling alone and not liking it isn’t a new lesson. In fact, it was one of my biggest concerns in starting the business five years ago. In several ways, however, this past year was the year of feeling alone.
  18. Easy answers and good answers aren’t going to be the same. When I wade into social media channels, it seems people are much more intrigued by easy answers than good answers. That leaves me focused on the smaller portion represented by where the two intersect. I just can’t pump out easy answers that aren’t good ones.
  19. I’d never considered the possibility that the golden egg may be golden inside and look plain outside. If that’s common, how many golden eggs have I walked by in my career?
  20. If you want to learn things you would never suspect about your business, categorize and re-categorize information about what you do. Simply putting different labels and different sorts on even skeletal data can tell you volumes.
  21. As much as some people get excited about paying attention to things that are changing, I get excited about paying attention to things that aren’t changing.
  22. I wrote perhaps the most revealing post about myself ever this year. It was the one about the twenty-five steps I go through on every presentation. Now that all the steps are spelled out, I can actually tell where each presentation is and how far away it is from reaching a happy place.
  23. I never realized how often I’d be thankful for my ability to act oblivious when I’m really not oblivious to what’s going on around me.
  24. When you’re getting four hours of sleep on a consistent basis, it’s harder to shift mental gears whenever you need to do so.
  25. It only takes one reader writing a very sweet and completely humbling email to get me to do just about anything differently. This one’s for you, Jennifer Nelson! – Mike BrownMike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

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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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Nearly five years after launching The Brainzooming Group as a full-time strategy and innovation firm, we are honored by the Brainzooming blog readership growth. We appreciate those of you who have been diving in to the Brainzooming blog mid-stream to join us. Based on new readers asking about the Brainzooming backstory when I’m out speaking, and the fact there are now nearly eighteen hundred articles on the Brainzooming blog, an “in case you just joined us” recap highlighting all the different perspectives woven into the Brainzooming backstory seems helpful.


A Left Brain and Right Brain Start

I grew up enjoying school, including both left- brain (math) and right-brain (writing, art) subjects out in Western Kansas. Along the way, there was an opportunity to get involved in music, producing concerts, and working as a DJ. All of those find their way into what we do now.

By the time graduate school was finished, however, I still was not sure what I wanted to do.

Hearing Bill McDonald on a Kansas City radio talk show discuss his firm doing research for other companies sounded like my dream career. It was the epitome of small business life, and a few years there were like earning a second MBA degree focused on business analysis, writing, and the realities of living on a business shoestring.

Corporate Life at a Fortune 500 – From Marketing Analyst to Marketing VP

When the small business route was not helping make ends meet sufficiently, I landed a job at a Fortune 500 B2B services company right around the corner, serving for most of the time as Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Marketing Communications.

Starting corporate life as a marketing analyst, I was fortunate to rise quickly and gain exposure to a variety of marketing and business disciplines, thanks to another important strategic mentor. How often does a market research guy get to take on marketing communications, NASCAR sponsorships, strategic planning, conference production, and online marketing (with a healthy dose of music, art, and public speaking) – all at the same time? Rarely, I’d guess.

In the midst of this, our corporation tripled in size (to $10 billion) through acquisitions within just thirty months. I was deployed to help our new subsidiaries improve marketing and strategy while being told I couldn’t tell them what to do. This intriguing challenge led to blending all the creative thinking exercises, strategy templates, and innovation tools I had created and gathered over the years into what became the Brainzooming methodology.

While that was happening, I started blogging and tweeting to share the lessons learned with both my team (at least the smart ones who subscribed to the blog) and others outside the company.

Starting The Brainzooming Group

After several years of honing this rapid, question-based planning methodology called Brainzooming, I had a “couldn’t pass it up” opportunity to leave corporate life and make the move to growing and sharing the methodology full-time as The Brainzooming Group.

The Brainzooming Group now serving clients in business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries, including public, private, and not for profit organizations. We help them quickly and innovatively expand their marketplace views and strategic options. Our work can entail developing and implementing business strategy, marketing strategy, branding initiatives, revenue building efforts, marketing communications campaigns, and social media launches.

And through all of it, we are still blogging on strategy, creativity, innovation, and social media.

Thanks for joining the Brainzooming journey. We would love to work with you! Let us know what business opportunities and challenges you are trying to better address. Across our core and extended team, we have broad experience and well-tested tools to get your business, improving, growing, and moving forward quickly.

Working with us will make you feel you are Brainzooming – guaranteed! – 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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