Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 112 – page 112
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While concentrating on avoiding all the exquisite strategic mistakes you might make in the sales process, don’t overlook the bread and butter sales screw ups, such as:

  • Not ensuring you’re speaking with the decision maker or someone who can at least get you to them
  • Neglecting to fully explore the decision criteria by which the selection will be made
  • Not knowing upfront whether and when the potential client will look to outside providers
  • Over extending resources when preparing your proposal in what is (or what might become) a competitive bid situation
  • Failing to get a sense of what type of proposal makes the most sense and the depth to which the client expects it to go
  • Not fully explaining why you’ll provide the greatest benefit and value among all the choices a client could make

On these, I speak from experience; it feels like we’ve made all these miscues in the past few weeks. I figure once we learn from these, we’ll be ready to screw up (and learn from) some of the finer points of sales mistakes. – 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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Several years ago, I was working with efficiency expert Maynard Rolston. While Maynard’s main strategy is helping you get organized and working from a clean desk, I’ve learned so much more about business from him over the years. Maynard’s question to me that day was, “What’s your hourly rate?”

Since I was working inside a company and paid a salary, I told him I didn’t have one. Maybe not a surprising answer if you are in the same situation.

He reminded me, however, that to my employers, I definitely had an hourly cost. Moreover, he said it was important to think about my hourly rate as a multiple of 2 to 4 times my hourly cost. This was the value I needed to be creating for the business.

His pointed question prompted me recall a strategy consultant who I’d worked with at a peer level when his consulting organization was active in our business. One night, somebody on his team left a laptop wide open with a spreadsheet showing all the consultants’ daily rates. Using his rate as a very large benchmark to determine my hourly value target, I now had a much better sense of what I should be contributing with each hour of my time.

With an hourly rate now in mind, it became much easier to make strategic decisions about:

  • Projects where my expertise was best used. Suddenly big group drilldown meetings on highly technical details of our business which had no impact on customers became much easier to decline.
  • Quickly resolving department issues on trivial matters where it was clear we were “spending” thousands of dollars debating the impact of hundreds of dollars.
  • Delegating tasks I might enjoy doing (i.e., creating spreadsheets) that could easily be done by others.

Maynard’s one question and its answer freed my time and attention to be focused on more strategic topics with less pressure to attend to everything coming my way.

So here are two to do’s to act on:

  • If you’re in a salaried position, calculate your hourly rate. Have the value you should be creating per hour in your mind constantly. Use this figure to strategically prioritize how you use your time.
  • If you struggle with clutter or staying organized, get Maynard to help you. At a minimum, order his book. Trust me. It will make a material difference in your productivity and the value you deliver to your clients, be they internal or external to your company. – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you focus your brand strategy to improve on  the things which really matter for your business.

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 sat through a poorly managed, business-wide meeting to allegedly solicit perspectives for an organization’s vision statement. Rather than using creative thinking exercises to help collectively form a strong vision, however, the leader directly asked the entire team what the vision should be.  Participants then sat quietly as only a few people spoke (one-at-a-time) to offer opinion-filled perspectives.

Beyond being incredibly boring for everyone, think about this: What was the cost of 40 or 50 well-paid people sitting around mostly twiddling their thumbs for 3 hours, as perhaps 10 of them actively participated at any point?

What a way to waste time, creativity, and goodwill for future strategic planning.

Strategic Planning Doesn’t Have to Kill Creativity

Do yourself a favor. Bookmark this article, and if you find yourself in an organization trying to develop a vision statement, PLEASE don’t take the same approach I endured! Here’s what to do:

  • Break into small groups where multiple people can actively participate at the same time to stretch the group’s thinking and share creative ideas.
  • DON’T ASK the obvious question, “What should our vision be?” Going right to this question won’t save time or improve results. People don’t talk in ready-made “vision statements.” This one-question approach simply draws out monologues doing little to coalesce a group’s collective perspective.
  • Instead, ask strong strategic planning questions to get participants to share the important words, phrases, and ideas that shape a vision. Such questions include:
    • What is our organization passionate about doing for our people and our customers?
    • What are we best at and where can we continue to excel?
    • Who will our customers be five years from now? What do we think will be important for us to deliver in best serving them?
    • What are capabilities we want to put in place to stretch our organization and better serve our audiences?
    • What are the things we need to concentrate on to dramatically exceed our goals and objectives?
  • Have small groups report their answers to these questions. Listen intently and write down ALL the ideas the group shares.

From this treasure trove of input, you’ll be ready to construct an overarching statement born from active participation and the hopes and language of your organization. Plus people will actually be excited about participating the next time you need them to do strategic thinking.

Oh, and by the way: The Brainzooming Group is great at facilitating these types of discussions so you get maximum participation. We actually generate creativity and enthusiasm through how we approach a team’s strategic conversations. Email me at info@brainzooming.com, and let’s talk about how we can help you deliver great results for your organization. – Mike Brown

Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative 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 worked with Scott Frederick for several years and was excited to see him tweeting recently about his business tenets. The ideas seemed like a natural for a guest post. I think you’ll enjoy them and find, as I have, that Scott has a variety of talents and interests. Some are obvious (marketing professional), but as he notes in today’s guest post, you have to dig to find out about some of the others (Hollywood Dad/video producer, sports enthusiast), because he won’t hit you over the head talking about them!

As a humble marketing professional and Hollywood dad, it’s not my nature to be overtly outspoken regarding my values or beliefs. Growing up in Michigan, I admired Detroit sports icons Al Kaline, Barry Sanders and Steve Yzerman. The trait shared by these three successful competitors is that, although they spoke softly, their actions resounded loudly.

Much like Al, Barry and Steve, I prefer not to overtly proselytize others to my professional and personal (and religious) beliefs. Normally I prefer leading by example and letting my actions speak on my behalf. The past couple weeks though, I have tweeted twelve of Scott’s Business Tenets representing opinions formed across a 20-plus year career as a participant in corporate America. These tenets represent the good, the bad and the ugly of my professional experiences.

I was humbled when Mike asked me to provide a guest article based on the tenets for Brainzooming.  On the other hand, it’s absolutely fitting since I would probably not have forced myself to write down my business philosophies had it not been for Mike’s inspiration and accomplishments with Brainzooming.

Let me start by underlining that these are my own personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect those of the organization for which I work. This caveat is appropriately reinforced by a simple review of the word “tenet” itself:

ten·et n. An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or organization.

I submit these twelve tenets for your consideration as you think about your own experiences, philosophies and values.

  • There is no “I” in “SUCCESS” (but there is in EGOTIST). I learned this tenet early (from a family member no less). Nothing’s more annoying than to have someone talk about the miraculous feats THEY accomplished for their company. Name any successful corporate project, and there’s more than one individual who made it happen (even though corporate compensation doesn’t always reflect this).
  • Create a vision of the end result and you will sell the means to get there. My experience has been it’s very difficult to get executive endorsement on projects they can’t “visualize.” However, if you can create a clear vision of what the project will provide (e.g., pictures, facts, financials, etc.), obtaining executive approval becomes much easier.
  • A great attitude is more important than great aptitude. Show me someone with a great attitude, and I can teach them to do anything. Show me a disgruntled employee with all the skill in the world, and I’ll show you an empty office (eventually).
  • The personal brand must not supersede the company brand. This one is tricky because everyone should work on improving their personal brand. This is particularly important when the company doesn’t seem committed to its own brand. However, I have observed cases where an individual’s personal brand seems to take precedence over the company brand. Ultimately, this sends the wrong signal to employees working very hard to build the company brand.
  • The most effective marketing managers are multi-dimensional professionals – not narrow specialists. This tenet stems from working for a company that often had very few marketing resources compared to its industry peers. Even if I were running my own company, however, I would much prefer to have marketing professionals who can perform a variety of tasks, rather than one-trick-ponies who are only good at shuffling work back and forth.
  • Working hard and working smart are the best combination. I value a strong work ethic almost as much as integrity and attitude. But working hard is not a substitute for working smart – rather it’s the perfect complement.
  • Democracy is good, but responsibility without authority is not. When employees are given a tremendous amount of responsibility but no authority to get the work done, it leads to frustration and wasted time and resources. Differing opinions, ideas, and perspectives are always welcomed. At the end of the day, though, people must be empowered to make final decisions individually. 
  • Repeat, repeat, and repeat your message, and people will finally get it. This is perhaps the most self-evident of the tenets. But experience suggests time and time again that repetition really does work.
  • Dry humor is better than no humor at all. This tenet is a little narcissistic since my humor is as dry as it comes. But in all seriousness, working in an environment lacking any humor at all is never fun for anyone.   
  • Every employee should end the work day feeling as if they made a contribution to the success of the organization. This is a very obvious tenet. The hard part is actually making it so. Organizations and managers that don’t believe this tenet are really missing out on the power of their people (or they need to recruit Brainzooming to help them define success and prioritize their goals).
  • Nothing and no one is perfect, but that’s no reason not to attempt it. Ask anyone that’s ever worked for me and they’ll probably tell you I’m too much of a perfectionist. The funny thing is I am as imperfect as they come. However, I try not to use this as an excuse for not trying to make all of my work as perfect as it can be. That is the only expectation I have of others as well. Don’t be perfect – just try.
  • Reality Therapy: What do you want? Is what you’re doing getting what you want? What should you be doing to get what you want? Saved the best for last. I actually learned this from one of the most capable training professionals I have ever known. If you are ever faced with a conflict, these are three of the most powerful questions you can possibly ask. And that’s not fiction, its reality!

With new experiences and learnings, I am sure there will be more tenets along the way – and some may even change with new perspective. My humble advice is you consider reflecting on your own experiences and attempt to write down lessons you have learned. Who knows – someone you know might ask you to be their guest blogger for the day!  – Scott G. Frederick

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I used to ask weekly on Twitter what strategic or innovation topics people would like to see addressed in Brainzooming articles. One request from back then was to write about how not to over think business strategy. Having been in a business where it seemed you’d hear “don’t over think it” five times a day, the topic hit a little too close to home, and I didn’t ever do a post on it.

Time's Running OUtNow, with a little distance, I offer some strategic thinking questions to ask your team when you need to quickly move into convergent thinking mode during business planning:

  • Does this issue really matter for our business opportunity? Will it materially change any important business results?
  • What if we could only implement one innovative strategy in this situation? What would it be?
  • If we had only 25% of the time (or resources), would we concentrate our efforts on this business opportunity?
  • Without any additional information, what does our experience suggest as the most successful potential business option?
  • If we had to halt our business planning and make a decision in the next five minutes, what would it be?

Couple any of these strategic questions with a fixed amount of time for dialogue (i.e., “We’ll talk about this for 10 minutes) and a required decision (i.e., “When time’s up, you have to briefly state what business decision you’d recommend or the course of action you’d take right now).

You may not get the most rigorously vetted, innovative ideas, but using a strategic thinking exercise and a limited amount of discussion time will help quickly catalyze your strategy decision so you can move to implementation. – 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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I had the opportunity to participate in a three-person gospel reading at Church yesterday. In going through the preparation workbook last week, it suggested rehearsing the entire reading aloud, not just your individual part.  It was an innovative idea and not something I would have thought to do; my typical strategy would be to practice only what I’d be responsible for reading at Church.

After reading the entire piece several times, the advantage of this holistic strategy became clear. My role was to be the “narrator,” providing verbal connections between a variety of spoken parts representing various characters. That means I had a lot of, “They said” and, “He replied” type lines. Rehearsing the whole piece made me very aware of the emotion and point of view of the next person I was leading up to, as well as of the person speaking right before me. It allowed me to vary my tone and be a better connector within our three-person team.

Only after Church did the broader lesson strike me. The strategy of “rehearsing the entire thing” applies to any type of team project.  While each team member may have a distinct role, the entire team’s success will improve if you think strategically about the holistic process:

  • Anticipate what you’ll be receiving from the person before you. What point of view, style, and expertise will this person put into the work product for which you’ll assume responsibility?
  • Also, consider the person to whom you’ll hand off your efforts. What will they be expecting from you? How can you anticipate what they may struggle with in order to help them get through challenging parts more successfully?

In any team project, (re)define your role as being a “strong connector.” Take the strategic view, planning for what comes before and after you in the process to catalyze your team’s success. – 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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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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