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I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard business people say and then try to explain why their particular companies are unique. By this, they typically mean there is no possibility any other company faces the same types of challenges and operational issues they deal with daily.

While that might be a comforting perspective if you’re fond of business isolationism, it’s rarely true once you start to explore the business strategically.

Maze

We were working recently with a company that, based on its competitive and business situation, could certainly lay some claim to having a unique business situation. But given our unwillingness to settle for that easy answer, we created a rapid fire strategic thinking exercise to push for ideas.

Our immediate need was to identify potential innovation case studies to discover how other companies and industries are innovating in relevant ways.

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 17 Questions to Find Innovation Case Studies

Within about ten minutes, using the seventeen questions in this strategic thinking exercise, a group of nine or ten people generated more than seventy possible companies and industries to explore for comparable innovation case studies.

If you are facing a similar challenge to generate relevant strategic connections to your business, here is your starting point for a comparable Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise:

  1. What companies have similar sizes and org structures to ours?
  2. Who are our strategic partners?
  3. Who are our primary competitors?
  4. What companies provide substitutes for what we offer to customers?
  5. What other companies serve the same customers we do?
  6. What other companies have similar strategies to ours?
  7. What industries have similar operations or sales structures to ours?
  8. What companies have similar cost structures to ours?
  9. What companies employ similar processes to the ones we use?
  10. What companies are trying to innovate in similar ways to ours?
  11. What companies of our size have similar ownership and/or financial structures?
  12. What companies that do the same general things we do have comparable business situations?
  13. What other companies that share our general business category are most similar to us?
  14. What other companies are facing comparable competitive dynamics?
  15. What other companies are facing comparable cost pressures?
  16. What industries look / behave like ours? Why/how?
  17. What companies look / behave like ours? Why/how?

See, with this strategic thinking exercise, there’s no reason your business has to feel so alone in its innovation challenge. There are definitely innovation case studies you can discover and explore for new ideas! – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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 have been traveling more recently for speaking than at any time during history of The Brainzooming Group.

While there’s more to come in the months ahead, here are highlights of a couple of innovation strategy presentations this week to very different groups.

Innovation Strategy in Your Organization – An Innovative Workplace Culture

Today, I’m in Cincinnati presenting to senior executives from multiple companies on cultivating an innovative workplace culture.

Cincinnati

The presentation incorporates  our “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation” work to focus on seven key innovation enablers. Senior leaders can address these focus areas to improve an organization’s receptiveness and motivation to generate new ideas and do something with them.

The seven recommendations for cultivating an innovative workplace culture include:

  1. Providing actionable strategic direction (beyond simply saying your organization needs to be more innovative)
  2. Inviting broad participation from employees throughout the organization
  3. Meaningfully engaging employees when inviting them to share ideas
  4. Encouraging and supporting organizational change
  5. Implementing smart, innovative possibilities
  6. Staying agile through focusing on what’s important for creating results
  7. Celebrating progress and success tied to innovative ideas

As questions and discussion with the attendees suggest new topics, look for us to explore them here.

Innovation Strategy across a Community – Forward to the Future

On Monday, I discussed the community collaboration process we facilitated for Carbondale, IL in September 2015. The panel discussion at the Gigabit City Summit also featured Gary Williams, the interim city manager of Carbondale, and Dave Sandel of Sandel & Associates. We’ve worked with Dave’s team on multiple community collaboration engagements related to broadband initiatives, economic development, and Smart Cities.

Carbondale-Group

To provide a feel for the community collaboration work in Carbondale (home of my grad school alma mater, Southern Illinois University), we developed a brief video. It shares how university students and community leaders participated to shape a future-looking view of Carbondale.

You can also review the results of the Carbondale playbook to see what lies ahead for the community.  Mike Brown

10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

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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We’ve said it before, experience its confirmation repeatedly, and will thus say it again: One of the best ways to learn more about what you know is to teach it to someone else.

The latest confirmation took place this week as we created and presented a new Brainzooming innovation workshop on how to develop insights to fuel innovation.  We’re several engagements into a relationship with a client implementing a sweeping innovation initiative across its organization. We developed this new Brainzooming innovation workshop for the management team within the department leading the innovation push.

We routinely present strategic thinking workshops on the exercises and tools The Brainzooming Group uses to develop and implement innovative ideas. This innovation workshop differed in that we taught the insights development techniques we use to prepare for a successful innovation strategy initiative. This required examining and documenting areas we almost always do without explaining to anyone outside our organization.

6 Keys to Facilitating Executive Interviews

innovation-workshop

One new content area involved how to get the most value from an executive interview. Reflecting on our current practices and a career’s worth of executive interviews, here are six keys to facilitating strategic conversations within executive interviews:

  • Show real enthusiasm for both the questions you are asking AND the answers the other person is sharing
  • Display supportive physical cues, such as leaning in toward the other person with an engaged posture, nodding in affirmation, and smiling
  • Take great notes to help recall specific statements and develop themes emerging from the strategic conversation
  • Share encouraging verbal cues through affirmations (i.e., “Great,” “That’s interesting,” “Thank you for sharing that”) and probes (i.e., “Please tell me more,” “Can you go deeper on that topic?”)
  • Don’t be afraid of silence – allow space in the discussion for the other person to think, form ideas, or even try harder to answer a question more thoroughly
  • Know where you want to go next with a question YET move based on the responses from the other person – the key here is having an interview plan that is adaptable to focus on the topic the respondent is ready to address at any given moment

Want to experience these six keys within a non-traditional setting?

This interview of comedian Jerry Lewis by Raymond Arroyo is an outstanding example. While it certainly isn’t a traditional executive interview, it’s a compelling a strategic conversation covering familiar and new ground in a productive and engaging way.

Additionally, at 54:00 Jerry Lewis compliments Raymond Arroyo on his interview approach, suggesting the first of these six keys for executive interviews: “You are articulate. You know what you’re going to talk about. You’re interested in the answer; that’s the key. You’re interested in everything you asked me to see what the answer is. And that draws from me, (making me) eager to do more for you.”

Here is to more productive strategic conversations daily in business.

And if you are developing an innovation initiative, contact us so The Brainzooming Group can have a strategic conversation with you on ways we can assist with an innovation workshop or strategy! – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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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“Let’s start with a clean sheet of paper to boost creativity.”

Talking with a potential client about an already-planned innovation strategy workshop, the going-in innovation strategy called for giving participants “a clean sheet of paper.”

We listened to the rationale for adopting an innovation strategy based on broad creative freedom.

In many ways, it seemed to make sense:

  • They are looking for new thinking from a diverse set of participants.
  • They have had success in other situations starting with minimal direction.
  • They are adapting and applying the same format used with the other successes in a new business area.

We countered with our experience-based recommendation: give everyone insights, direction, and structure to generate more possibilities and legitimately boost the workshop’s potential for innovation strategy impact.

The workshop is already planned, so postponing it to readjust the approach isn’t an option.

Putting Something on the Clean Sheet of Paper

Suppose you find yourself in a similar position. You’ve been thinking a clean sheet of paper innovation strategy maximizes creativity. Now, however, you are having second thoughts.

What are the options if you decide to insert some structure and avoid using a clean sheet of paper for your innovation strategy?

clean-sheet-paper

Here are six ways to strategically and productively fill up a LITTLE bit of that clean sheet of paper to maximize creativity:

Letting People Know What’s Important

Operating within Constraints

Sharing Your Innovation Strategy Decision Making

These ideas don’t even begin to address the innovation value of strategic thinking exercises and creative structures to spur innovation.

At least by using any of these six ideas though, you can give any co-creators involved with your innovation strategy just enough direction and structure to help them boost creativity. – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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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At the 2016 Brand Strategy Conference, Antonia Dean, Director – Marketing, Brand Development, & Strategy at The Estée Lauder Companies covered the strategic thinking ideas behind creating an entrepreneurial environment in a large company. In her role, Antonia Dean focuses on incubating acquisitions and top-secret new product concepts.

The charge for Dean’s organization at ELC Ventures is to develop ideas to shake up Estee Lauder and the cosmetics industry. Moving as fast as the company’s fastest competitor demanded an entrepreneurial approach. Her experience has uncovered multiple ideas for how to create newness and build an entrepreneurial culture and spirit within an established parent organization.

Antonia-Dean

16 Strategic Thinking Ideas for Creating an Entrepreneurial Environment Inside Your Company

Dean related her internal entrepreneurship (or “intrapreneurship”) lessons in three areas of strategic thinking: building the team, creating the culture, and defining success.

Building the Team

  • The first step in team building is identifying the rights tasks requiring entrepreneurism. Not all business areas need or want an entrepreneurial approach and the upsides (and challenges) that come along with a cultural force that can run counter to the rest of the organization. If there is not an overwhelming upside to intrapreneurism, do not try to bring those functions into the team.
  • Relative to specific team members, the successful entrepreneurs in an established organization are not necessarily the individuals the organization typically promotes because of following the rules. They are not the people achieving the longest tenure. The people you want in a start-up inside an established organization are always making up their own steps. They possess the talents, determination, and persistence that an organization cannot successfully constrain.
  • A great way to check for an entrepreneurial attitude is to ask prospective team members if they believe in the internal start-up’s cause and what attracts them to it. Ask them to provide concrete examples of when they devised creative solutions.
  • Intrapreneurs need their space in more ways than one. Not only do they need freedom from organizational policies and procedures, it is ideal to get them away physically from the rest of the organization. A separate office is ideal to provide greater latitude.
  • Mix people up across departments and functions. You need to get the right combinations of people working together, not isolated within an area of functional expertise.

Creating the Culture

  • Make it clear and entrepreneurial initiative within a bigger organization is completely different. It’s a great time to ask what about the parent organization was once positive but not persists without providing value or helping accelerate the entrepreneurial cause. Get rid of these things.
  • When creating the new culture, think “lowercase b.” This is not BIG business with the standard procedures. Cultivate a fail fast AND fail cheap attitude. You need to be able to come up with ideas and launch them with little overhead and investment so you do not stick with a bad idea too long because of sunk costs.
  • Enforce a VIP list, i.e., keep participation in the new venture exclusive. Do not let individuals from the main organization attach themselves or intrude unnecessarily, or you run the risk of slowing the entrepreneurial venture’s pace. Over-involving internal experts also leads to sanitizing ideas and adding unnecessary costs.
  • Do not automatically copy your boss on emails about the entrepreneurial venture, just to be safe. Doing so simply takes up time for others and invites unnecessary activities.
  • Extend and shape the culture by going out into the market to experience what is happening. It defeats the purpose to setup an intrapreneurial organization that does not bring in outside influences.
  • Expect turnover in the team. When you are protecting the culture, people that do not fit will become apparent and be gone soon.

Defining Success

  • Adopt the attitude of working “out of the basement.” A strong question to challenge significant resource requests is, “If we were starting this out of mom’s basement, would we spend this money?”
  • Make friends with failure. Accept the bare minimum to move forward and be ready to “fail cheap.” Do not expect or demand perfection when you only need directional answers to be able to keep advancing with an idea or concept.
  • Explicitly redefine success as something different from what success looks like in the parent organization. Put together the success recipe based on learning from failure and moving forward.
  • Repeat this mantra: “Rocky failed, but Rocky won. Embrace failure as a given. WE ARE GOING TO FAIL AT SOMETHING.”
  • Find and embrace the easy answers. You don’t know how to get a UPC code attached to a new product? Google for the answer instead of seeking out the internal expert. Not sure what the right marketing language is? Talk to your target consumers and see what words and phrases they use.

Antonia Dean’s strategic thinking ideas made it clear an entrepreneurial environment will not develop inside your company if you are too clingy to what has worked previously yet has grown stale and bloated. Start new, fresh, and lean, with a true appreciation for moving with speed, persistence, and a thick skin relative to failure!   Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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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Today at the Social Media Strategy Summit, along with Kaite Stover, Director of Readers’ Services at the Kansas City Public Library, I’m presenting a fun case study. The presentation is about how the Kansas City Public Library was able to “sponsor bomb” the 2015 Major League Baseball Playoffs and World Series with a book spine poetry campaign.

In short, the Library used images of multiple stacked books chosen so that the combined titles communicated messages to tweak the baseball teams (and the libraries in their communities) with pro-Kansas City Royals messages.

Sponsor-bomb-book-spine-poe

BTW, did I mention the Kansas City Royals are the 2015 World Champions? Just checking . . . wanted to make sure you knew that!

While The Brainzooming Group wasn’t involved in developing the social media strategy behind the World Series sponsor bomb, we’ve been working with the Library on branding and event strategy. Knowing how smart the social media strategy for the World Series sponsor bomb campaign was, we brought the story and the tremendous impact from the initiative to the attention of Breanna Jacobs, the Social Media Strategy Summit producer.

Kaite will cover the Kansas City Public Library social media strategy and implementation from start to finish. I’ll share lessons for other brands in how they might envision comparable sponsor bomb opportunities for their own brands.

Social Media Strategy – 5 Keys to Sponsor Bomb a High-Profile Event

If you aren’t with us in Chicago, here are the smart things the Kansas City Public Library did to make the strategy as effective as it was:

Here’s hoping the Royals go all the way again in 2016 so we can see what the Kansas City Public Library does with the next chapter of its book spine poetry sponsor bomb strategy!  – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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 debuted a presentation on “Results – Creating Strategic Impact,” our mini-book on employee engagement ideas to boost an organization’s strategic thinking. The mini-book focuses on the tremendous value when an organization finds ways to strategically solicit employee insights and perspectives to shape its strategic thinking.

Results-Presentation

One attendee stuck around after the “Results” presentation to ask about a situation his son is facing. He runs a restaurant whose employees are generally high-turnover, lower wage young people. He said his son needs to improve the restaurant’s performance and wants to involve the employees. The question was whether it makes sense to try and engage employees in the ways I discussed when they aren’t likely to be around for very long.

The answer was easy: Yes!

5 Employee Engagement Ideas for High-Turnover Employees

To me, the length of someone’s employment doesn’t have a bearing on whether it makes strategic sense to engage them and their perspectives. We’ve talked before about how one company even uses entry interviews (as opposed to exit interviews) to gain input from new employees before they’ve consumed too much of the incredible corporate Kool-Aid.

Quickly Brainzooming with the restaurateur’s father, here are five employee engagement ideas to get valuable strategic thinking even when turnover is high:

  1. Involve employees as frontline listener-reporters, playing back what they hear from customers.
  2. Solicit their input on problems they are experiencing with internal processes.
  3. Ask them what workarounds they have figured out to make things go more smoothly than they would otherwise.
  4. Have them share suggestions for things they would experiment with, change, or definitely keep as is.
  5. Ask them where you can find more individuals like them to recruit for the business.

No matter how much they are getting paid or how long they’ll be around, those are five employee engagement ideas where even high-turnover employees can contribute strategic thinking to help make an organization’s leaders smarter about business issues.

And who knows . . . by involving them right from the start, you may actually reduce the turnover rate!  Mike Brown

10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading