Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 112 – page 112
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Raise your hand if you’re trying to hit plan with fewer marketing resources than you had last year or the year before. Okay, that looks like just about everybody; put your hands down.

Knowing what specific strategy works may be difficult to determine, but here are 12 strategies you should consider when facing limited marketing dollars and people:

  • Don’t make across the board cuts – it’s easy to do the math, but it leads to crappy results. Go all in on high potential, innovative strategies and cut others out completely.
  • Stop doing things that don’t add value for customers. Ask them what they don’t use or need, and especially find out what you do they’re not even aware of. All candidates for elimination.
  • Don’t eliminate your thinking time. It’s easy (and stupid) to think you can stop strategic thinking as a way to save time and get on with implementation. With fewer resources, you’ll need planning to make sure you get things right the first time. It’s painful and costly to fix screw-ups once you discover them in-market.
  • Set your goals higher to force radically re-considering how you deliver for customers.  It seems contradictory, but stiffer goals will push you to explore what really matters and what you’re willing to sacrifice today for potential success tomorrow.
  • Figure out who else in your organization has appropriate talents & might want to help grow the business.  A lot of times people are looking for new ways to contribute, grow, and develop strategically when there aren’t dollars for training.
  • Build on strategies you already have in place. Don’t needlessly create new messaging with no built-in awareness. Even something generally on strategy may work harder for you than the perfect strategy which requires starting from scratch in getting customers to understand it.
  • Beyond using what you already have in place, see if strategies that have worked previously might be right to pull out again. Chances are if a strategy resonated before, some part of your audience will remember it, making the sell-in easier.
  • Also test some innovative concepts you explored before but never used. Is now the time to try them out in a new market situation?
  • As you plan your marketing strategy, make sure everything you do is designed to create multiple impacts. You have to get more from what you do if you’re going to be successful. It’s too expensive to pursue strategies which will work in only one-off market situations.
  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of every customer contact to test, learn, and/or adjust your marketing mix. You may not have dollars for formal research, so you need to learn as much as you can every day, even if the learning methods are non-traditional. Adjust and learn what you can.
  • Stretch your team in new ways to make them stronger performers and better leaders. Muscles get stronger when you challenge them repeatedly. Same with people and teams.
  • Strengthening muscles also need time to recover if they’re going to get bigger. Same with people and teams. Make time to celebrate great contributions and the wins you deliver to help sustain and motivate your team.

Those are my twelve. What would you add to the list? – Mike Brown

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 invitation of Brainzooming email subscriber Terry Kincheloe, I attended the second 2010 meeting of KairosAnalytics, a Kansas City-based web analytics strategy forum last Thursday. Tony Fortner, Consumer Experience Strategist at Sprint, presented on “Social Engagement Strategy.”

In the course of laying out his perspective, Tony covered culture, values, economic theory, World of Warcraft, strategy creation, the challenges of measuring social community business impacts, plus a few anecdotes on the internal politics at Sprint. Needless to say, it was an evening full of stimulating strategy ideas!

Rather than trying to play back notes from all of Tony’s presentation, here are a few takeaways:

  • So much of creating a vibrant online community strategy goes back to culture, values, and much of what we were taught as children: decency, helping one another, the golden rule, keeping your “hands clean”, loyalty, trust, etc.
  • Tony commented about feeling ethically bound to “say something” when a decision was being considered which would harm a customer. This creates a clear distinction for me. I’d place the emphasis on being bound to protect customers by actually stopping a harmful action. “Saying something” can be a self-serving exercise (esp. when you walk away in frustration), when what’s really needed is creating a positive result from the discussion.
  • For many (most?) companies, embracing the idea of a real community goes beyond innovation and is a radical strategy. If you’re trying to introduce a new, visionary strategy such as this inside a company, be sure to match up with someone who excels at the steps it will take to make it happen. And if implementation is your strong suit, go out of your way to align with someone who can communicate the strong vision necessary for the organization to make strategic changes necessary to be successful with a community.
  • Despite all the discussion on best practices, real learnings often come from the ends of the spectrum, not the middle. To understand where things are headed, look toward the people and companies pushing the limits.
  • Not every brand is going to win with a social community strategy. Some pre-existing business models simply aren’t going to fit with the innovation imperatives a community-based strategy implies. It’s clear some businesses are going to lose because of social networking-driven strategic change.

It was a great session. In July, I’m speaking to KAIROS on what could ostensibly be seen as the same topic Tony addressed – social media and strategy. Because there are so many ways to address the topic, it was reassuring to see our angles will be complementary, but different enough to have new things to say. – Mike Brown

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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Often, the challenge isn’t getting good, new ideas. It’s hanging on to them long enough to do something about them! Today’s guest article from Franis Engel addresses that very challenge.

Franis (@learncreativity on Twitter) thinks everyone is talented. She specializes in making complexities simple, innovating about how the Alexander Technique can be taught faster to groups. A high idea-producer, she can Twitter and tele-host simultaneously, and is planning a podcast series featuring the interesting secret geniuses she’s collected as friends. You can find out more about her multi-talented adventures from the Big Island of HI and beyond at http://www.franis.org.

So here are five of Franis’ great strategies for capturing more cool ideas before they simply disappear:

Why don’t more people preserve their ideas and do something with them? Turns out expressions of futility are many.

One reason is there’s a part of the brain that actively disregards what doesn’t match expectations. Another part of the brain deletes the anomalies, since they don’t match. What if these brain parts happen to be particularly active? Well, let’s just say most people have an average of 45 seconds to get a good idea down before it goes “poof.” That’s an average. Some people are on to the next thought much faster. So for them, it’s not particularly possible to catch these fleeting possibilities.

That’s where you come in. Someone who already knows the advantages of capturing great ideas can encourage a beginner at innovation to do the same for themselves by showing them how easy it is. For example:

  • To get ideas down more quickly, learn speed writing. EasyScript has only five rules, making it easy to learn and remember. Using it, I’m able to write, with pencil in hand, about as fast as someone can type. It’s so much less intimidating when you’re scribbling something while someone is talking. This means in a living room conversation, suddenly the person who’s eloquent (but gets “microphone fever”) has the evidence you wrote down that makes it so.
  • Often, there’s writing already going on; all that’s needed is compiling it. What about those chats with such interesting links you trade back and forth? Skype collects these chats in its history. Just copy and compile them into a blog. We know that blogging isn’t hard, but many people don’t. Make it a private blog and invite them to share the editing.
  • Every answering machine has a “memo” feature. Learn to use it and transcribe later. Google Voice also has this feature; it spits out WAV file that gets sent to you by email.
  • What about collecting words that you hear people use in new ways or words that you’ve never heard before? A friend of mine started keeping a book thirty years ago of quotes from the interesting, funny, and notable things people he knew personally were saying. It’s still amusing today. How much cooler it would be to tweet what your friends say than already published quotes! There are even services that compile your Twitter stream in various ways. You can start a #hashtag and Twapperkeeper will save them for you.
  • From a time when I rented a place from a misogynist landlord who used to regularly threaten me over the phone, I hit on the idea of collecting his insults. As I did, customer service departments found that collecting a list of complaints/excuses and celebrating the originals took the sting out of them, making them irreverently funny.

So, while you’re writing down your own brilliant ideas, take some time to sing the praises of others. Even if they drop the baton you’re passing, at least you’ve got another interesting collection to blog. – Franis Engel

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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Being introspective is a vital perspective that’s part of your personal innovation strategy and your innovative character. You have to know what your most creative talents are (and aren’t) along with being able to understand the natural perspectives you bring to any creative process.

Feel like you could know yourself better to improve your creative skills?

Here’s a creative approach to shed light on what might be your most effective personal innovation strategy:

  • List your 5 favorite movies (okay, if you’re like me and don’t see many movies, you can throw in a TV series or two).
  • Step back and ask, “What do these five movies have in common? What’s similar about the characters and their situations?”

The professional actor who shared this technique said it’s used by actors to help identify what types of characters and roles they should be seeking.

When I did the exercise originally, the common thread through my then favorite movies (including “Broadway Danny Rose,” “The Truman Show,” “The Sting,” and “Dead Poets Society”) was an underdog story with an outsider or someone overlooked trying to get on top against big odds.

This came up the other day talking with Alex Greenwood about careers.  I told him the underdog theme has characterized much of my life and career, and certainly infuses the perspectives in “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” Having to work hard to overcome situations where an innovative strategy wasn’t appreciated has led to my preference to have a diverse creative team around me. The team not only challenges and stimulates my creative juices, it adds impact to challenging the thinking of those who prefer the status quo without innovation.

So what do your favorite movies say about your creative perspective? And how can you use the insight to improve your innovation efforts? – Mike Brown

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 worked Saturday with a great company (and management team), collaborating on better defining their strategy initiatives.

One topic was how they finish projects for customers. While this step could be treated as an afterthought, it’s actually a critical stage on multiple dimensions. If it’s done thoroughly and promptly, it leads to greater success and satisfaction for clients and stronger profitability for the company. Done poorly (i.e., dragging on too long), it can trigger client dissatisfaction on an otherwise successful project and deteriorate profitability as project managers rack up uncompensated hours and can’t move to other projects.

Thinking about it later, finalizing a project is an important phase to have end really well for any project-based business, whether you’re serving external or internal clients.

From working with our client and thinking about this strategic, final step, here are questions we’re considering for Brainzooming™ that apply broadly:

  • Near project’s end, are we revisiting the deliverables and to-do lists, updating and aggressively managing open issues?
  • Are there clear cues signaling we’re done with the project?
  • Does the client fully understand its role in working with the output and implementing it successfully after the project is handed over?
  • What specific questions are we asking to gauge how well we delivered? Are we addressing any points of concern promptly and satisfactorily?
  • Are we asking for referrals?

These are just some questions any project-based professional needs to be answering. What items would you add to the list from your experience?Mike Brown

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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In a recent TalentZoo.com post called “Thirsting for Originality,” author Danny Goldgeiger addressed the perceived similarity of a Super Bowl ad for Coca-Cola and a nine-year old ad from Israel for a chocolate milk product. Danny G. wrestles with the possibility that wide access to media makes it more, rather than less, likely similar ideas may show up multiple places.

One strategy he suggests to minimize this occurrence is for agencies to push for original ideas, and clients to ask for unexpected things in ads (although in this case, the commercial is unexpected and still looks like a complete rip-off). All the while, he acknowledges it’s still likely ideas will get reprocessed in creative minds and used again.

So what can you do to challenge this tendency to reuse ideas more aggressively? One way is for people involved in creative pursuits to actively manage the media they regularly and deeply consume.

In the original article’s comments, I referenced a Conan O’Brien interview someone had tweeted where he was asked about his TV viewing habits. O’Brien recounted watching anything other than comedy for inspiration. His point was if he invested his time focusing on other late night talk shows, he’d drift over time toward what they were doing. The result? Losing his originality and failing to explore the comedic style most suited to him.

His comments provide a valuable lesson in managing media consumption.

If you want to minimize your own internal rehashing of ideas, think about consciously controlling the media you consume within your category. When seeking out creative inputs, do it more heavily from other industries or market segments. One way I address this is by using the Twitter feed to point me in new directions all the time (vs. working the same strategy, innovation, and creativity news and blog beat over and over).

If you’re in a creative role and you’re able, don’t immerse yourself in a direct competitors’ ads. That may seem radical (especially for a guy who has done a lot of competitive intelligence), but it could provide the right distance to keep your perspective fresh. – Mike Brown

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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There are various types of people when it comes to choosing a strategy to deal with the political environment in an organization:

  • One group is oblivious to politics. They are who they are in all situations, completely unfiltered – which is great. But if you have an extreme personality, being exactly who you are will run you needlessly into problems in some, if not many, business situations. I could give you quite a list of people I’ve worked with who went down in flames being incredibly true to their quirky, distracting, or downright obnoxious personalities.
  • There are individuals in another group who constantly change behavior to conform to what they think the particular political environment is in any situation. These people will abandon their opinions, beliefs, and even principles to go with the flow. The result is they are completely unpredictable. While you may want things to be easy, without a predictable foundation for others to know how to work with you, one of two things will happen. You’ll either find yourself working alone or completely surrendering yourself to domineering political personalities in your work environment.
  • A third group invests the time to understand themselves and what’s important to them personally and professionally. They also monitor the political environment and what matters in it – both now and for the longer-term. Armed with this understanding, they make strategic decisions to hold or maneuver their positions based on what’s best for the business (and themselves) to be successful.

The third group has to work the hardest since it’s more involved to maneuver strategically rather than never doing it or doing it all the time. Being in the third group also requires a lot more emotional intelligence, which you may have to work on developing.

Want my advice? Be in the third group. Mike Brown

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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