Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 115 – page 115
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I presented on “Getting Ready for This” at the Fort Hays State University Business and Leadership Symposium. The talk focused on six strategic success skills vital  in today’s workplace amid a dramatically changing business world. The premise is it’s fundamental to possess strategic success skills in co-creating, contorting, and abandoning ideas and strategies based on what’s relevant at any time. It’s not so much “what” you know, as “how” to continually deconstruct and reassemble your  knowledge in dramatically new and relevant ways throughout your career.

It starts with several amazing factoids from the video “Do You Know 3.0?” recounting dramatic demographic, technology, and information-based changes worldwide. It’s been viewed millions of times, and in the event you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch it.

As a brief overview and reference for the presentation, here are the six strategic success skills to more concertedly embrace:

1. Knowing Answers Is Good – Knowing How to Find Answers Is Vital

Since facts change and information deteriorates, it’s vital to be able to know how to seek and vet potential answers since no one can be expected to have a full command of all available knowledge.

2. Balanced Thinking Allows You to Be More Strategic

USA Today featured an article in July on retraining a left brained orientation to a right brained one in order to cope with a changing job environment. We talk plenty about the importance of knowing your thinking orientation, surrounding yourself with a complementary team, and the strategic impact of being able to work with contradictory points of view.

3. Possibilities and Emotion are Important in Business

From someone whose more natural orientation centers on facts and logic, this has been the most challenging of the 6 areas to retrain my own view. The best place to go on this topic is Benjamin Zander, who has been mentioned frequently here. As a homework assignment for attendees at the FHSU presentation, I asked them to watch these two Zander videos and get a genuine sense of the importance of emotion and possibilities thinking:

4. You Have to Be Able to Communicate in Multiple Ways

Communication is in the top 10 topics addressed on Brainzooming so far because it’s so critical to successful creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking. Students need to be pushed to go beyond the typical team presentation that summarizes a semester-long project. They need to be adept at using formats of varying lengths (simple recommendations, elevator speeches, tweets, etc.) and mediums (songs, video, acting, etc.).

5. Leadership Starts Day One on the Job

Leadership is about service, not titles. That means day one is the time for new graduates to start leading on the job. Taking on a strategic leadership role can be simple. You just have to be willing to do something about it!

6. People All Around You Are Making Decisions Based on Personal Branding

Personal branding isn’t a meaningless concept authors dreamed up to sell more books. It’s truly the driver behind why anyone gets hired, advances, and has intriguing opportunities develop. Step one is understanding your talents and exploiting them. Here are two great books to read on how to further develop and sustain a personal brand:

I look forward to comments from those in attendance (and non-attendees as well) with thoughts on the topic since it applies to all of us as dizzying changes occur around us. Stay close to the Brainzooming blog for more on change and dealing with it in the near future!  – 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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can get your Brainzooming!

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’re all likely involved in relationships tied to coaching, mentoring, or just plain supporting one another. They’re tremendously helpful in personal and business growth, yet at times, these relationships can become stale.

What can you do if you find yourself in such a relationship? Here are a few options to spice things up:

  • Add a Person: I’ve been working out for more than three years with the same trainer. The results have been great, yet at times, we tend to fall into the same routines. When my niece was visiting last month, she went along as a guest trainee. The spirit of competition improved my effort and also created some new enthusiasm from my trainer.
  • Reverse Roles: I’ve got a great career coach who can amazingly have one meeting with me that creates about nine month’s worth of activity and progress. Recently we got together for lunch and turned the tables: I was able to provide some coaching for her on new possibilities she’s considering. It was of benefit to her, and it was really exciting for me to give something back to someone who has done so much to help me!
  • Schedule a Reunion: Early in my career, a group of us working as analysts for a challenging boss formed a tremendous bond as we tried to survive and figure out what we’d do with our careers. We don’t get together often anymore, but we met for a happy hour recently to renew our friendship and share perspectives on what each of us is doing now.
  • Take a break: If you find a once thriving coaching relationship has stalled, consider seeing other people. The break could be temporary or permanent, but may be just the thing to open up time to find other relationships that work better for both of you right now.

Give one or more of these a try so you can keep moving forward with renewed enthusiasm! – Mike Brown

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  • Be friendly to people who may not seem to “count.” Chances are they do count, and you simply don’t realize it yet.
  • Ask questions, or at least listen more than you talk. You’ll appear smarter, in part, because of all the things you’ll learn.
  • Say “please” and “thank you” very often. You’ll seem nicer than you probably are.
  • Be “quick” to apologize. That means both doing it sooner than later and getting it over with fast. Don’t dwell on the mistake.
  • Actually do and repeat the four previous ideas!!! 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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Say you have a conference call scheduled with geographically dispersed parties. You decide to email the multiple documents needed for the conference call 2 minutes before it begins.

Don’t assume:

  • I’m in my office.
  • I have a clue why this conference call with no agenda is being held.
  • The meeting before this didn’t put me behind schedule.
  • You have my undivided attention, especially when things are frantic.
  • There’s a computer in front of me – with current versions of the necessary software.
  • If there is a computer, it’s functioning properly.
  • Your email is the most important thing I’m dealing with right now.
  • There’s time for me to print the documents for the conference call.
  • Someone’s available to print and retrieve the documents if I’m running behind.
  • You won’t be sitting around waiting for me to open / save / print / retrieve documents for the conference call which could have been handled more efficiently with adequate prep time.

You know what? All these assumptions are manageable by sending the documents in adequate time.

So manage the situation, make sure we have the information, and are setup for strategic thinking and productive work.

Stop playing the “we don’t want you to look at the documents ahead of time” game. Please. – 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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Not sure where I learned this originally, but it’s a great, simple strategy for business meetings where you’re voicing a position contrary to someone else’s: never sit across from them.

Try sitting next to, or at least on the same side of the table as, whoever might be an adversary. The arrangement makes it so much harder to employ confrontational body language. Instead, you’re likely forced to discuss your differences strategically rather than posturing about them.

And while we’re at it, here’s one more strategy for arranging seating: if there are going to be two or more distinct “teams” represented in a meeting, consciously keep them from sitting in groups. Forcing group members to intermingle helps break up confrontational group body language.

These two strategies may sound silly, but I’ve seen them work too many times to not try and carry them out in every situation where they’re appropriate.

So come sit over here by me! – 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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Unreasonable time expectations or well-intentioned but unachievable deadlines are a fact of business life. As a two-person operation at Kansas City Infobank, we constantly battled the swings between trying to sell projects and then having too many to be able to meet every deadline we faced. This imbalance created the need to strategically negotiate project timing expectations with clients.

I learned you’ll always have a better shot at successfully negotiating more advantageous deadlines if your strategy is to present value trade-offs that go beyond simply asking for more time. Instead, talk about what more you can deliver with more time.

Step one is figuring out what you can deliver within the initial time expectation:

  • How complete can you be?
  • Are there critical elements you won’t get completed?
  • What impact might this gap have on the project outcome or business relationship?

Just as importantly though, understand and communicate other valuable elements you could deliver with an extended timeframe. Among the possibilities:

  • Greater completeness
  • Clearer organization of the information
  • Greater detail
  • Better summarization
  • Richer creativity or innovation
  • Deeper strategic insights

Your client may still need to stick with the original deadline, but presenting a valuable strategic alternative creates a much better likelihood of successfully negotiating for more time. 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’ve done several posts on strategic mentors who’ve fundamentally shaped my thinking and approach. In an early one, I mentioned multiple posts could be filled with lessons learned from Bill McDonald when I worked for him at Kansas City Infobank. The next few days will feature several great lessons I’m sure you’ll benefit from as much as I have.

Get on the Phone and Ask Your Question

Bill had an amazing ability to phone total strangers, chat with them, and prompt them to share incredible information through asking questions. Listening to these calls made a strong impression on me about the value of directly asking great questions of knowledgeable people. I’ve never matched Bill’s skills, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the gift he has for conversation and questioning.

Today, however, since it’s so easy to email someone a question – type a few lines, hit send, and wait for a reply – fewer people seem to phone directly when they need information or something resolved.

But just because you sent an email doesn’t mean you really asked a question. That implies the recipient actually read the question, and is in a position to adequately respond without ongoing dialogue.

Despite the apparent ease of email, it’s often a much better alternative to pick up the phone and call. If you can talk live, you’ll at least know they received the question, find out if your question prompts questions for them, clarify any confusion, and engage in a dialogue that could provide a much richer understanding.

So put down the Blackberry or push away from the keyboard and call with your question! Mike Brown


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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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