Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 117 – page 117
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Look at your network now compared to last year. Have you dramatically expanded the number of people you can call or email and be reasonably sure you’ll get a response from them?

And that doesn’t mean from loading up on contacts inside your company using the “People You May Know” feature on LinkedIn. A network gains value through diversity – not from having 75% of your connections riding on the same economic train as you!

If your active network looks the same as it did last year, ACT NOW when ideally you don’t need your network’s benefits. Here are 12 potential ways to add not only numbers, but diversity to your network:

  • Join and actively participate in professional associations
  • Regularly attend (and even create) networking events and follow up on connections
  • Take on leadership roles in church, school, or alumni organizations
  • Deliberately try to network with other parents at kids’ activities
  • Write articles for publications within your industry
  • Speak publicly on topics of expertise for you (and if you’re reluctant to speak, join Toastmasters and get over your apprehensions)
  • Use Twitter to build a global network of people involved in topics of interest (Twitter Lists or WeFollow are great places to start)
  • Run for public office
  • Find and join groups focused on hobbies you enjoy
  • Share your expertise via social media – start a blog, comment on other blogs, record podcasts or video blogs
  • Start a second job where you interact more with the public
  • Strike up conversations with people you meet standing in line

And IMPORTANTLY, have business cards with you and introduce yourself to new people with your first and last names. I can’t believe how many people go to networking events and don’t have cards and/or introduce themselves by mumbling their first names.

Not all of these methods make sense for everyone. For my networking strategy, numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10 have all been very effective at meeting great new people both online and in IRL (in real life), especially by starting to attend and even organize tweet-ups.

There are certainly several of these that will work for you, so pick and get started adding diversity to your network!   – 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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Today’s guest post addressing preparing for 2010 comes from Barrett Sydnor, one of the first guest authors ever on Brainzooming back in early 2008. I’ve worked with Barrett on various strategic planning projects over the past 15 years, including quite a bit of quantitative industry analysis and supply/demand forecasting.

Today, he’s addressing the right marketing stance to have during and coming out of a recession:

Fortune Favors the Bold.

The Roman playwright Terence wrote that in the 2nd century BC, though Virgil often gets credit because a similar line later appears in the Aeneid. Terence was probably talking about the military strategy of some emperor, but it turns out that the sentiment applies to businesses—small and large—as they face figuring out how to plan for 2010.

A natural tendency when looking at bad or uncertain times is to hunker down, keep spending to a minimum, and stay with what you have done in the past. Natural, but maybe not smart.

A Hurwitz & Associates report found that 65% of small businesses that expected increased revenues during 2009 had raised or planned to increase marketing spending. Increased revenues were expected by only 30% of those who were keeping marketing spend flat, and almost half (41%) of those who were cutting marketing spend were expecting a decrease in revenue.

This correlates with a study done at Penn State after the 2000 recession. The authors say that using what they call “proactive marketing” can allow firms to improve both capital market and business performance during a recession. They cite increased marketing spending by P&G, Kellogg, Intel, and Wal-Mart during recessions—and depressions—as a way to grab or consolidate dominant market shares.

For sports fans, one way to restate “Fortune Favors the Bold,” is “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” You might ask, “How did that work out for Bill Belichick and the Patriots against the Colts?” While the execution lacked, he had the science—and the odds on his side (discussion here, here, and here).

In planning, as in coaching football, getting the odds on your side is really is what you are trying to do. Being more aggressive with your 2010 plan may be the way to tilt those odds in your favor. – Barrett Sydnor

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’m a proponent of spreading strategic thinking broadly in a company and not readily handing off strategy development to outside parties exclusively. Yet I’ve been a part of many examples where an outside perspective helped move strategic planning  development ahead much more quickly.

3 Real Life Strategic Planning Successes

Here are several examples you may be facing related to strategic planning where it’s good to get outside expertise:

Turning Talk Into Strategic Planning Progress

A small subsidiary’s three-person management team was told to get a strategic plan in place to show corporate management the company’s direction. They had no strategic planning process and only ten business days to deliver a comprehensive strategic plan. We brought in the Brainzooming process to develop an innovative strategic plan in one day. The output couldn’t be simply a bunch of ideas nor could it be only a rote plan with little strategic insight.

Structuring a day-long session using question-based exercises allowed the team to answer questions about the business, participate in exercises to stretch strategic perspectives on competition and opportunities, and come back the next morning to make people and timing decisions on a tight plan to share with the operating president.

As non-planners, they wouldn’t have been able to put together a coherent strategic planning document in ten days, but they did understand their business and the general direction they needed to head. We combined their deep knowledge with strategic thinking exercises and facilitation allowing us to challenge and create a strategic plan from their answers. We delivered the best of both worlds – a structured plan reflecting their intent for the business with sound strategic logic and more innovation than they’d have ever brought to it alone. This experience demonstrated the clear benefit of the emerging Brainzooming process.
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Stimulating a Management Team that Knows It All

We rolled into town to help a really experienced senior management team tackle annual strategic planning. Because of their tenure and smarts, they knew the company inside- out. This knowledge rendered them ill-suited to solving a long-term growth challenge: as every idea was uttered, they “knew” why it wouldn’t work for the brand.

During the course of a day-long planning session, I created a new exercise on the fly based on a brand in a very different industry sharing the same fundamental characteristics of our client. I asked the group to suggest how this other company could address the same challenge they were facing. All of a sudden ideas started flowing non-stop. We were able to take the concepts and strategically apply them to their business.

Left on its own to think strategically, the management team would never have reached an alternative look at its business. An outside perspective, unburdened by excessive detail was critical to identifying an analogous situation, providing an entree for innovative strategic thinking and implementation.

Doing the Thinking for a Distracted Management Team

We had a pre-scheduled planning follow-up with a management team who, since our initial session, had been charged with exploring a major brand contraction. Unable to convince them their new assignment should be the focus for our session, we instead spent time addressing the status quo scenario. Unfortunately, the status quo wasn’t likely or compelling enough to command much of their attention and strategic creativity.

Frustrated by the lack of intensity while addressing the status quo, we wrapped the effort early. We told them we’d work on the status quo scenario, delivering 200 prioritized, fleshed out ideas and concepts within 3 days. Using several creativity techniques during the flight home, we generated really strong creative concepts for the status quo or, with some modification, for the alternative scenario also.

This was a great example of the importance of a balanced group in doing the best strategic thinking. The client’s management team had business experience and functional knowledge, but was sapped of any creative energy it ever had. Bringing in outside talent for a creative spark was needed to turn lackluster thinking into vibrant, implementable ideas.  – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re struggling to lead a viable strategic planning effort, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call  816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around planning and implementation challenges.


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 participated in the Frost & Sullivan Marketing World 2009 event November 2 in Chicago, leading a round table on getting around innovation roadblocks. The next several days will highlight some of the many intriguing ideas shared during the day from great marketing practitioners.

Yesterday’s Creative Quickie mentioned the title “Chief Creatologist” which belongs to Joe Batista at HP, who spoke on “Creating New Market Revenues in a Down Economy.” I met Joe at a 2007 Frost & Sullivan event, and his case study-driven presentations at both events were tremendously thought provoking considering HP targets $3 billion in new growth quarterly from the approaches Joe shared.

He looks for business growth through discovering and exploring new areas to respond to clients’ needs. His efforts center on going beyond a closed innovation model and exploring the company’s research in new ways and looking beyond its boundaries for new opportunities:

  • Joe highlighted techniques to help identify new growth sources, including thinking broadly about the available assets a company has, generalizing what the assets (especially technology) can do, and connecting organizationally-dispersed assets inside a company. Comment – These all tie to fundamental lateral thinking principles, stressing the real-life importance of being able to apply abstract thinking skills in identifying opportunities that would otherwise be missed.
  • Look for pockets of knowledge and expertise inside your business and explore how they can be converted into new revenue streams. Comment – A great way to do this is to identify what BENEFITS your knowledge can provide and then think through what other parties are seeking these or related benefits.
  • One more potential growth source? Growth arises from examining currencies you have available inside your company (i.e., what flows through your value system) and by making the boundaries of your company porous so ideas from outside can flow through it. Comment – Joe’s remarks continually underscored the importance of being able to step away from detail and “get” the bigger, potentially underlying picture, whether it’s inside or outside your company.


There’s a lot behind these summarized comments. I look forward to trying to connect with Joe further and better understand the innovative approach he’s bringing to business growth! – Mike Brown

BTW -This is the second anniversary of the blog’s first post. No big deal in the posts this week, but it seemed like at least worth a mention. Look for the Brainzooming redesign and move to a WordPress format in the very near future!

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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Want to meet cool new people? Next time you’re at a public presentation, “live tweet” it. Live tweeting implies using Twitter to report:

  • What the speaker is communicating
  • Your own commentary
  • What others are tweeting about it (through retweets)

I live tweeted the Integrated Marketing Summit last week in Kansas City to further experiment with the process. Based on my tweets from a direct database marketing session, Doug Haslam switched breakouts and joined the session. This created the opportunity to chat, and after attending his session on PR and social media, later talk at the networking reception.

I wouldn’t have necessarily gone up and talked with someone new (ah, the curse of an introvert), but live tweeting opened the door to connect and meet a new, really smart person at the forefront of social media.

Beyond the in-person opportunity, live tweeting often opens the opportunity to attract and follow new people in your Twitter network as well.

Live tweeting – a whole new way for introverts to become social animals. – 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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Today’s guest blogger, Meghan Biro, Founder of TalentCulture, calls me the most patient person on Twitter. One day earlier in 2009 when back home with my parents, I saw Meghan tweeting with someone in my network, checked out her intriguing profile, and had a short Twitter conversation with her. Not sure if it was then or later, but I asked (maybe begged) her to do a guest post for Brainzooming.
 
She said she would, and I began my patient waiting. I’d reach out about once a month to see if she was still considering it, and each time she said she was. That was good enough for me!
 
In the meantime, we’ve talked by phone, paving the way for another great business relationship initiated on Twitter. So without further delay, here’s Meghan’s take on creativity + innovation in business (it’s well worth the wait!):

We are a generation raised to believe we are creative. Some of us actually are lucky enough to be employed as creatives; the rest of us, who received colored markers and sketchbooks in kindergarten, must look for ways to draw out the sparks of creativity we secretly nurture while working as accountants, engineers, administrators or in other career paths not known for rewarding creativity.

The dirty little secret many people live with is that creativity is not usually rewarded in the workaday world. So how can we nurture creativity in our work? What are the warning signs that someone we work with is trying to sabotage our creativity, and what can we do to counter resistance?

First, let’s look at some quick creativity-boosters.

  • Take time for someone else. The conventional wisdom is to take time for yourself, but turn that around, reach out of yourself and set aside 15 minutes a day to think about someone else, and how they are creative. Contemplate the different point of view this person presents; talk to them and ask questions about what they like, not what they do.
  • Try something really new. Listen to music you think you don’t like. Commit to buying a CD or checking out live music– don’t just download a song – and listen to the whole thing. Sample new sounds and accept the challenge of something you wouldn’t normally choose.
  • Ask a question. Then commit to listening to the answer and allowing what the other person says to influence your thoughts. Too often we have the answer we want to hear formulated before we ask a question.
  • Learn something new every day. Commit to learning – and using – a new word every day. Or read history instead of a novel. Teach yourself to dance. Try something new and expand your perceptions, physical coordination and mental agility.

All of these things can be done easily, and all can make you a more creative person.

But what if you work with someone who seems to suck the creativity out of every situation? You know the signs: this person interrupts others or pushes away from a conference table with crossed arms when they hear something they don’t agree with. This person can kill creativity by walking into a room – if you let it happen.

Here are a few ways to work with that person creatively and collaboratively:

  • Look outside your context. Your experience of a person may be that he or she is not creative. Try to look at that person from his or her context – manager, colleague or employee – and open yourself to his or her experience of your comments.
  • Use active listening. Listen to the person speak, restate what they said as a query, and add a comment of your own that brings in a new idea. Open up a closed mind by reassuring the person that you heard them – before you add your comments or ideas.
  • Engage the person by taking the time to learn what he likes, and acknowledging that bit of humanity. Maybe this person reads a lot, or has a beloved dog, or loves to ski. These are cues to that person’s creativity, and acknowledging them gives you an emotional bargaining chip in your next attempt to infuse the workplace with creativity.
  • Work incrementally. Someone who is uncomfortable with creative ideas may respond better to small changes than big, bold ideas. Keep your creative goal in mind but break it down into components and advance your position slowly. It’s worth the effort to see creativity bloom.

Dare to take every action with a spark of creativity and you’ll feed your soul and lift the mood of your workplace. What are your creativity-builders? Meghan M. Biro

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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Here are a few strategic thinking snippets on implementation. Yes, thinking does need to turn into actions and results:

  • On things that don’t really matter, it’s okay to conserve your effort & take the easy way out.
  • On something that DOES matter, do it when you’re ready to do it well. Don’t just fit it in when you’ll do it half-way (or worse).
  • When others are timid and worried about what the right next step is, decide to BE BOLD!
  • Attitude Check Question: Are you looking for and sharing good news with those around you? Please start….now!
  • Embrace the power of symbolism in communication. Not everything has to be literal.
  • Don’t ever let an opportunity slip away through failing to go back & ask for it one more time.
  • Keep ideas with great potential around even if you don’t use them now. They may be ideally suited for a future situation. – Mike Brown


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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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