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Working on a creating strategic impact exercise the other day, I typed the words “Challenge” and “Change” on a Powerpoint slide.

Suddenly, it struck me that the only difference between challenge and change is the “lle” in the middle of challenge. Take the “lle” out and you get “change.” Add the “lle” to change, and you get “challenge.”

I think it was late at night (or some other time I was mentally exhausted), so I put messages out on Twitter and Facebook calling out the three-letter difference in challenge and change, commenting, “. . . Not sure what to do with that quite yet.”

By the next morning, I had several replies on Facebook and Twitter about what “lle” could represent. The most compelling answer came via Vince Tobias on Twitter, who suggested the acronym could stand for “lots of little excuses.”

What a brilliant answer, suggesting the potential for creating strategic impact and change if you can pull out all the “lle” or “lots of little excuses.”

While I took a little liberty in turning “lots of little excuses” into “lotsa little excuses,” the collaborative quote stands as a great reminder that excuses are all too convenient ways to avoid challenges and to stay stuck in the status quo with what we’ve always done.

 

Challenge-Change

Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Applause is a wonderful part of any conference event. Applause makes the speakers feel better. Applause signals the attendees are enjoying the event. Applause keeps things lively.

None of that means applause always happens spontaneously, however.

How many conference events have you been to where speakers start or finish with no applause?

I’ve been to plenty.

Sometimes there’s no applause because of the audience. Often, though, it’s because event organizers aren’t actively enabling applause as part of the event strategy.

5 Event Strategy Ideas for Generating Applause When You Need It

Want to make sure your event strategy maximizes its applause opportunities? Here are five ideas for doing the most with applause at your event, whether it’s a big conference or a small association luncheon or dinner.

Applause

1. Identify upfront where you want applause.

It’s easy to know you want applause when someone takes or leaves the stage. What are other places where you want applause? After videos? Following a certain big statement a speaker makes? When the event ends and people are prone to wander off? Create a list of all the places where applause will pump up the program and make it part of your event strategy.

2. Make sure there is always an applause starter in the audience.

This Individual (or potentially multiple individuals), is stationed off to the side in an inconspicuous spot. Your applause starter will do what the title suggests. This person is ready to start applauding at every point you want applause. Hand the applause starter the list you’ve developed, brief them on what will be happening throughout the event, and turn the applause starter loose to applaud in all the right places. The great thing an applause starter (trust me on this) is the audience will join in and readily applaud once someone takes the lead.

3. Invite the audience to applaud.

This may seem crass, but it needn’t be. When writing intros for speakers, add a line that says, “Please welcome,” “Help me welcome,” or “Let’s have a warm welcome for our speaker.” A line as simple as that along with the person doing the introducing actually starting light applause will ensure there is applause for a new speaker.

4. Keep presenters close to the stage.

It’s awkward when a speaker takes the stage from so far away that the audience’s applause dies long before the speaker arrives on stage. Position speakers close to the stage so they get where they need to be before the applause ends. If need be, make sure your speakers understand to move quickly and can reap all the benefits of the applause you are instigating for them.

5. If you’re a speaker, pause at your applause line.

Some speakers deliver applause lines (big messages that elicit audience affirmation) right and left. Other speakers do it occasionally. Either way, an effective applause line should be followed by a hard stop and a sufficient pause to allow the audience time to respond. If you’re a speaker who only occasionally has applause lines, take an applause line-type pause at other points in your presentation. With this, your real applause line pause doesn’t appear to be too needy. You may also want to arrange your own personal applause starter who knows where your applause lines are coming and gets things going.

Can we get some applause for these event strategy ideas?

I apologize if these five ideas seem basic. Based on the number of events I attend where there is far less applause than there should be, however, I suspect even these basic ideas are overlooked. – Mike Brown

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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.

Library-Mike

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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You’ve heard the strategy. You’ve heard the strategy’s promise. Heck, you may be knee-deep or even waist-deep in the strategy.

What’s the strategy?

Giving away what you do for free in the hope of building an audience that will eventually pay you for what you do.

Strategic Thinking Question – When Does Free Become Getting Paid?

A lunch discussion the other day, however, was when and how do you start getting paid?

money-money-money

One intriguing answer to this strategic thinking question came via Jonathan Field as he addressed moving from free speaking to paid speaking. He tied the getting paid or speaking for free question to the size of the speaker’s “brand hand” relative to the event sponsor’s brand hand. In effect, whoever has the stronger brand sets the stage for how value (i.e., money) is divided, shared, and flows between the parties.

My answer to the strategic thinking question was you start getting paid when you are more willing and able to say, “No.”

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect things for free, you start setting boundaries about what’s free (i.e., maybe the first hour of consultation and listening is free before the meter starts running).

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect things for free, you address the “getting paid” conversation right away regarding how you’re delivering value with what you know and can share.

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect you to do things for far less than they are worth, you become much more explicit about what things cost. That applies to both what you charge and the costs to potential clients of not using someone as knowledgeable, proficient, and reliable as you.

What puts you in the position to say, “No,” to doing things for free?

It comes from addressing whatever weaknesses exist in your business.

That could mean, you have more than enough prospects or cash to sustain NOT doing business with the next potential client that comes along.

It might be you have reduced your overall business risk so you can take on the risk of saying NO.

It could also mean you really do have a better brand hand than the other party that wants you to do things for free or for much less than they are worth.

Or it may be something else.

Whatever it is that makes you say, “Yes, I’ll do that for free,” or give away things without ever having the conversation about free or paid, figure out what you need more of so you can say, “No,” to all the free work requests that are toxic for your success. – Mike Brown

 

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

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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It is always fascinating how business professionals approach business networking.

This is particularly true when you get to see how business professionals set themselves apart through smart business networking techniques.

Business Networking Techniques that Created Results

Here are five recent business networking techniques that stood out:

1. When meeting someone new, call attention to your shared networks.

One way to highlight your common network is printing your shared list of LinkedIn connections. This simple business networking technique can move a conversation ahead in positive ways. At a recent meeting, the other individual handed me a hard copy list of shared LinkedIn connections; the list was surprisingly extensive. Scanning it, I discovered a childhood friend who SHOULD be a prospect for the other individual’s service, and I provided background on why he should follow up with my friend.

2. Don’t give up making a meeting happen, even if the introduction is months old.

Several people contacted me right before my wife, Cyndi, had surgery and my availability for non-essential meetings shrank dramatically. One individual followed up four months later before abandoning the possibility of making the meeting happen. His email and phone call combo instigated our in-person meeting months after the initial introduction occurred.

networking-guys

3. Follow up an informal first meeting with a second invitation right away.

At the closing Content Marketing World session, I sat next to someone new. We hit it off, had a wonderful conversation, and identified Pam Didner as a shared contact. Before parting company, he invited me to a dinner he was having with a client. Back at the hotel and planning to head to another event I had already paid to attend, he texted me with specifics on where they were headed. His invitation and follow up turned into a great dinner getting to know him better along with two of his clients.

4. Make your follow-up personal, not formulaic.

After the recent networking event prompting the “you have to keep up your blog current once you start it” post, one person I didn’t get to meet reached out via LinkedIn with more than the standard, “Join my network” message. He recounted leaving the event early to tend to a diabetic pet. Having had a diabetic pet ourselves, his personalized message created an instant connection.

5. Have a good memory (or good notes) of why you met originally met someone.

Right before Cyndi’s surgery, I did squeeze in a networking meeting with someone new instigated by friend and blog reader, Michael Irvin. With everything else on my mind, I remembered it was a great connection, but by the time we reconnected, I could not remember the specifics. The other individual came to our second meeting, however, with detail on why we were meeting again and what we hoped to accomplish. What a great boost to a productive second meeting.

What have you seen work with smart business networking techniques recently?

Mike Brown

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How big of a deal is creating an innovative workplace culture?

That question opened one of two Brainzooming workshops I facilitated at the Construction Financial Management Association Heartland Conference.

Consider these factoids on the importance of creativity and an innovative workplace culture pulled from various studies:

  • “Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to CEOs.” IBM Global CEO Study, “The Enterprise of the Future”
  • “Seventy‐eight percent of Millennials were strongly influenced by how innovative a company was when deciding if they wanted to work there.” The Deloitte Millennial Survey, 2014
  • “Employing a worker in a creative occupation is an innovation input in a similar manner to employing a scientist.” The Creative Economy Report, London School of Economics, 2008

Not surprisingly, we also think an innovative workplace culture is a pretty big deal, and we’re glad we’re not alone on that.

Innovative-Workplace-Cultur

7 Keys to Creating an Innovative Workplace Culture

What constitutes an innovative workplace culture, i.e., one where people are able that to readily create fundamental, valuable improvements relative to the status quo?

Here are seven characteristics of innovative workplace cultures. They:

1. Provide Direction

Company leadership points the way and lets team members throughout the organization run with opportunities to innovate.

2. Invite Broad Participation

Diverse participants from varied levels and areas of the company, plus customers, outside experts, and other relevant parties are included in innovation efforts.

3. Meaningfully Engage and Involve Employees

Innovation team members receive training, structure, and access to opportunities that take best advantage of their knowledge and expertise to innovate.

4. Encourage Change

There’s a continual push to challenge past strategies and anticipate what the future holds to increase the value delivered to important audiences.

5. Pursue Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

6. Stay Agile

Despite a quickly changing environment, there is a focus on what’s most important for the organization’s success while embracing a willingness to change direction rapidly when necessary.

7. Celebrate Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

What would you add to or subtract from this list based on innovative workplace culture successes you’ve seen?

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 and strategic thinking 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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What are you doing to use surprise and confusing competitive strategy and implementation in your market?

Not much, you say?

If you think the only viable end result of surprising competitive strategy is winning the sales competition in which you are engaged, you could be missing incredible strategic opportunities.

Surprising Competitive Strategy and Confusing Your Competitor

On Monday Night Football this week, the New England Patriots were playing our hometown Kansas City Chiefs. With a fourth down and short yardage situation, the Patriots sent the punt kicking team out on the field. Then, as the players neared the line of scrimmage and with the wave of a few hands, nearly the entire punting unit ran off the field as the “fourth down and go for it” players stormed onto the field.

Football-PLay2

At that point, facing a very surprising competitive strategy, there were several options for the Kansas City Chiefs:

  • Remain in utter confusion
  • Try to defend against the Patriots competitive strategy even though mismatched and misaligned
  • Take a time out to be able to regroup

The Kansas City Chiefs, as you can see in this brief video of the play, took a time out to be able to regroup.

While the New England Patriots went on to lose the game in a big way, this surprise competitive strategy could have created the confusion to let the Patriots change momentum in the game. As the alternative played out, it forced the Kansas City Chiefs to expend a precious resource (a time out) in the interests of defending the play more successfully.

So while the Patriots didn’t win the game, they did win this exchange by forcing the Chiefs to lose a time out.

Think about how this might apply to your company’s own competitive strategy.

Are there typical market situations where a surprise strategic move (perhaps a one-off service package, a highly-targeted promotional offer, a strategic price over-reach, etc.) could confuse a competitor and force them to either remain confused and lose business or expand precious resources addressing a unique move you have no intention replicating elsewhere in the market?

Remember, you don’t have to win the game to win the moment, so how might your company play a confusion strategy to win the NEXT play in a damaging way for your competitor? – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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