2

My Strategic Thinking about What’s Hard

Before you launch, create a backstop for the parts of your business that will be HARDEST. It is important for longevity.

Its-Hard-The-WhoBeing able to calm yourself through the HARD parts of what you do is a vital business skill to develop in yourself.

HARD is relative, but ideally, your relatives make the HARD stuff you do easier through their love and support.

Even if you cannot nail the HARD tasks in front of you right now, don’t lose sight of them. The day will come when you conquer them.

It’s the HARD stuff you do that makes the breakthroughs incredible. That’s why you HAVE TO celebrate the breakthroughs.

For me, prayer makes the HARD parts of entrepreneurship frustrating and just distractions. Without prayer, they would be fatal . . . in a business sense.

Hard Thoughts from The Who

“Anyone can do anything if they hold the right card. So I’m thinking about my life now; I’m thinking very HARD.” – Pete Townshend

Mike Brown

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5

Dan Schmidt tweeted a question this weekend about the challenges of introducing financial, accounting, and other analytical people (sometimes called “left brained”) into strategic thinking sessions. Dan’s comment was analytical people tend to naturally violate some of the basic strategic thinking behaviors we identified in an earlier Brainzooming article.

I responded that analytical people definitely have a role in strategic thinking. They can be tremendously valuable contributors. The key, as with ANY person involved in a group strategic thinking exercise, is to find the right role for each person to allow them to maximize their contributions.

5 Strategic Thinking Roles for Left Brained People

With a left brained / quantitative / analytical person, what are some of the best opportunities to make them strategic thinking rock stars?

Here are five roles in which these folks shine on strategic thinking teams:
Calculator

1. Involve analytical people upfront to shape a strategy thinking process

Take advantage of an orientation toward narrowing and decision making to have left brained thinkers help shape the analytical, target setting, and prioritization steps in a strategic thinking process.

2. Uncover the math and music people

Even if you can’t spot them beforehand, once you have a team assembled for strategic thinking, identify the people who have strengths in both quantitative and musical areas (or “math and music people” as I call  them). These folks are out there, and they bring a great mixture of number and creativity to any strategic thinking effort.

3. Create roles designed for quantitative people to excel (no pun intended)

We’ve had incredible contributions from analytically-oriented people when we’ve asked them to track the cumulative impact of revenue-generating ideas, perform on-the-spot analysis, and facilitate prioritization exercises. The key is taking advantage of all the talents you have on a team.

4. Intersperse analytical people across small groups

Manage your team members and their talents so that both an overall group and any smaller groups you create have a productive balance of people. Put the people together who are more comfortable with blue sky thinking and those more comfortable with determining whether new ideas will put you in the red or black. You will appreciate the results.

5. Encourage number crunchers to stretch out and have some fun

You might be surprised at how many people who appear very numbers focused are creative talents just waiting to emerge. The only thing they lack is someone to give them the permission to let their inner creative spirits run wild. Give them permission and stand back.

Have new hope for using left brained people for creative thinking?

Don’t ever let a great thinker go to waste. If someone is smart and motivated, there’s ALWAYS a role they can play to contribute to stronger strategic thinking in your organization. You simply need to create the right spot to let them go to town. – Mike Brown

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1

Thinking-DoingAlways question yourself on anything you think you have to do.

You should also always question yourself on anything you don’t think you have to do, but simply want to do very much.

What you believe and what you do both matter; don’t fool yourself into thinking you can hide behind either one and be okay.

All people have faith, in that we believe things we can’t absolutely prove.

Right and wrong isn’t a question determined by what the majority thinks.

Not every good or bad aftermath of our actions shows up in time to affect our original action; you have to imagine and think ahead.

Practicing what you preach is just part of the equation; you also have to practice what you expect to do. –  Mike Brown

 

 

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4

In July, Sean Ryan, Director – Social and Mobile at J.C. Penney spoke to the Social Media Club of Kansas City about the company’s social media efforts during a topsy-turvy period that’s been rocky again the past few weeks (but more on that tomorrow).

7 Success Factors from the J.C. Penney Social Media Strategy

Sean presented an insightful overview with real world examples of strategic concepts we view as integral to a brand’s successful social networking and content effort.

1. Create an audience persona as a focal point for social media content.

The audience persona of the “new” J.C. Penney (modeled after Tina Fey and others) helped focus the personality, voice, and editorial content decisions for the brand’s social media implementation. In Sean’s words, the Fey Roniston (as the persona was named) personality represented who the brand is, her voice is how the brand talks, and her sensibilities shape what subjects and events the brand covers.

Sean-Ryan-Visual-Resume2. Strong social media people represent a combination of business person and reporter.

Sean was a reporter in the first half of his career before transitioning to Target and then J.C. Penney. His career path suggests a strong social media profile: a reporter’s ability to ask questions and distill information along with a business person’s knowledge and sensibilities. Sean highlighted the two halves of his career with an intriguing concept: a one-slide, visual resume.

3. Reach into the organization to develop a social media editorial calendar.

Since many people outside Sean’s team (i.e., buyers for one) have early visibility and potential content on stories of interest to the brand’s fans, regularly reaching out for leads (as a reporter would) helps ensure timely, meaningful content on its social media editorial calendar.

4. Conduct weekly meetings with anyone touching the social strategy.

No one department “controls” all aspects of the social strategy so planned checkpoints among stakeholders enhance integration, provide visibility to developing stories, and ensure people with responsibility for key touchpoints are well-coordinated.

jcp-facebook5. Be willing to pick up your strategy and move it.

The original J.C. Penney Facebook page was mired in a seemingly unrecoverable Facebook Edgerank situation, savaged by fans complaining about the retailer and its Facebook content (which was being recycled from other media).  It was typical for negative Facebook fan actions (marking posts as spam, hiding some or all of the brand’s posts) to surpass positive actions (likes, shares, comments) on a regular basis. Rather than try to reverse the Facebook Edgerank perspective on its page, J.C. Penney moved its presence to a new Facebook page built around its updated strategy. The new Facebook page started demonstrating positive results immediately.

6. Build the trust needed to operate in social time.

When asked about differences in the review process for day-to-day vs. crisis communication-oriented social media, Sean said former CEO Ron Johnson commented that he trusted Sean’s team to edit and make solid decisions about what to share. This reflects a previous Brainzooming post on social networking critical success factors: real-time social media response depends on a level of trust from senior management in the judgment of those running the operation.

7. Produce weekly social media metrics linked to business performance.

If social media wants to be taken seriously as a business function, it has to deliver metrics at the pace the line organization does. It’s also imperative to provide a bridge to how social media contributes to making the numbers that move the business. One regular feedback loop among the J.C. Penney social media metrics involves reporting trending topics for marketing & merchandising to see what customers are talking about online. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

 

 

 

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1

I’ll admit to being hopeful about the strategic planning benefits an organization can realize. But not from the typical strategic planning – the kind with too many boring meetings, too few real insights, lots of forms to fill out, takes forever with little real world impact.

Instead, my hopefulness is tied to the type of strategic planning we facilitate with:

When it comes to that kind of strategic planning, there are plenty of benefits for an organization.

18 Ways Strategic Planning Benefits Your Organization

When an organization engages in real strategic thinking-based planning with broad participation, an organization and its people should be:

  1. Brainzooming Strategic Thinking ExercisesSmarter
  2. More results-driven
  3. More confident of attaining performance goals
  4. Able to more successfully take on stretch objectives
  5. Very focused on high impact strategic initiatives
  6. More actively thinking and implementing strategically
  7. Better able to accommodate rapid change
  8. Prepared to better handle uncertainty
  9. Aligned more tightly to key objectives
  10. Able to readily identify and close knowledge gaps
  11. Experiencing stronger affiliation for the brand
  12. Displaying greater alignment within the senior management team
  13. Achieving stronger alignment within teams throughout the organization
  14. Gaining greater visibility for the senior leadership
  15. Engaged in more honest, strategic conversations
  16. More successfully tackling challenging strategic issues
  17. Experiencing a richer, actionable understanding of the strategic direction
  18. Interested in participating in future strategic planning

Not all these benefits may come right away, but over time, vibrant strategic planning will deliver on these benefits.

Wonder how all those strategic planning benefits are possible?

2014 is just around the corner. Email or call me and let’s talk about how these strategic planning benefits can become reality for your organization. – Mike Brown

 

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6

Customer experience and innovation expert Woody Bendle  is back today with his big, big, big, big strategic insights on big data analytics. Here’s Woody!

Strategic Insights – Much Ado about Big Data Analytics by Woody Bendle

Big Data is HOT!

Look at this Google Trends search on “Big Data” from this past Saturday (August 08, 2013).  You don’t have to be a statistician or a Nobel Prize winning macro economist to see Big Data has been on an AMAZING upward trajectory since 2011!

Big-Data-Trend

 

There is no denying Big Data is in vogue right now. Some might even say it’s pretty darned sexy!  But, as someone whose been tackling ‘Big Data’ for more than 20 years, I have to ask, “What the heck’s the big deal?”  We’re just talking about data – albeit, more of it.

Look, Big is relative; and as long as you know what you’re doing, data size should not be an issue given the current state and price of computing technologies today.  This leads me to think there is something more to all of this ‘Big Data’ chatter than simply terabytes.

Perhaps all of the hoo-hah surrounding Big Data analytics has to do with the different types of data out there.

Big Data encapsulates A LOT of different data types ranging from good (accurate and reliable) to bad (wrong and inconsistent).  Big Data can also be structured (numbers, etc.) or unstructured (a video posted on YouTube with someone railing on your company).  Also, some Big Data reflect location (latitude and longitude or a check-in on FourSquare) as well as things happening over time.  WHEW!

And for good measure, I even have my own classification for the different types of data (Big or not) I regularly encounter – these are Woody’s data ABCs.

  1. Attitudinal – what people are thinking, feeling and saying (or trying to say)
  2. Behavioral – what people are doing, where, when, and how often
  3. Crap – no explanation needed here

So sure, I’ll admit it, Big Data can be pretty complicated and complex. But this is what data analysis has always been about – for years. This leads me to think there is still something more to this whole Big Data thing than just data size and data complexity.

This is something I’ve been thinking more about lately, and I tend to believe the big deal has to do with the confluence of a number of technological trends that surprisingly snuck up on a lot of people, as well as the fundamental laws of demand and supply.

Our New Hyper-Digital Era

On the technology side, we now live a new hyper-digital era where due to advancements in computing capacity and speed, data capture and storage in conjunction with rapidly decreasing costs, virtually every move we make throughout every living moment of our lives is registered digitally.  Billions of people all doing hundreds (or thousands) of different things every day – all captured and memorialized in some digital form in the cloud.

In addition, the Internet revolution has enabled all sorts of technological, consumer , and social innovations which now allow people to create and share more data in one day than many companies used to generate in a pre-digital era year!

Think about all of the data each of us create every day through emails, text messages, Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Yelp, WordPress, Blogger, etc.  And, not to mention the continual digital wake we leave behind with the GPS transmitters in our smartphones and cars.  All of these things individually and in combination generate more data than most of us can fathom – and certainly way more data than most in the business world are prepared to use.  And by use, I mean actually utilize in such a manner as to create new value for consumers, society, and businesses.

So, technological innovation is enabling the creation and storage of exponentially growing mountains of Big Data.  But this wouldn’t be happening if there weren’t market forces driving it.  That is, demand for Big Data led to the supply of it!

It always seems to come back to economics doesn’t it . . .

On the demand and supply side of things, we’re dealing with at least two different phenomena.  And this is where I think the real Big Data frenzy is stemming from.  The first is a case of being careful about what you wish for (because you just might eventually get it!); and the second is gross deficiency in the supply of analytical talent in the US.

You Asked for It

In terms of being careful about what you wish for, my sense is a lot of the Big Data issues many are living today probably involves a narrative similar to this:

1)     For years, the lack of data (or the costs associated with obtaining data) has been used as an excuse for not knowing (or being able to answer) something – if we only had more data

2)     Many, for whatever reason, erroneously believed that simply having more data would mean better and more valuable (insightful) data  –  these are probably the same people who believe you need to remove all of their blood in order to have a reliable blood test

3)     Over the past 15-20 years it has become amazingly cheap and easy to create and house A LOT of data.  As a result, there are now massive mountains of Big Data “out there” all over the place  – making the people using the old “if we only had more data” excuse pretty nervous

4)     Many (bosses, shareholders, government leaders, etc.) naïvely believe since Big Data is now relatively easy to capture and house, it also should be relatively easy and inexpensive to analyze  –  these are people who think Microsoft Excel is all anyone could ever possibly need to analyze anything – they also happen to be the same people who slept through their business calc and business stats courses and don’t know the difference between a T-Test and a T-Square (hint – one is used in carpentry)

5)     Very few people (in decision making capacities) have actually spent much any time thinking about the types of questions they want to be able to answer with Big Datalet alone how someone would actually go about answering them

6)     Even fewer people have spent much time thinking about how all of this Big Data should actually be configured.  That is, how it should be structured in order for it to be analyzed; thus enabling it to help answer all of these yet-to-be-defined business questions

7)     Many leaders are now nervously sitting on tons of Big Data and have come to the realization that they don’t have the right tools and/or the right talent within their organization to leverage their unwieldy Big Data asset

8)     Meanwhile senior leadership, boards and shareholders continue to wonder when all of the Big Data magic is going to begin! – I mean come on all ready would you! You’ve got all of this data that you’d been asking for; so do something with it already – and make us tons of money!  NOW!

In Search of Big Data Ninjas

This leads me to the second, and more problematic demand and supply issue surrounding Big Data – There simply aren’t enough well-trained Big Data analysts in the US labor market do anything of any value with all of this Big Data!

According to the US Department of Education, only about 10% of the 1.6MM undergraduate degrees conferred in the 2009-2010 academic year were in areas such as Computer Sciences, Engineering, Math and Statistics, and the Physical Sciences & Technologies.

Tech-Undergrads

 

These are the types of degrees Big Data analysts will have; and unfortunately for organizations needing to hire Big Data analysts, this is down significantly from nearly 13.5% of all degrees awarded in the 1980-1981 academic year.  If you are on the demand side of this Big Data equation, this is not the sort of trend you want to see in the face of the surging Big Data Tidal Wave! (Affiliate Link)

While I’m spreading all sorts of sunshine on our Big Data parade, here’s something else to keep in mind.  Only a small fraction of those who have graduated with analytic or technical degrees in the past twenty or so years are actually in the Big Data analysis business, and very few of today’s technically-oriented undergrads are aspiring Big Data ninjas.  The bottom line is an interesting reality where we are dealing with the rapid growth in demand for competent Big Data analysts in the face of a woefully insufficient supply.  I suspect it will take a good number of years before natural market forces arrive at equilibrium – that is, when the supply of Big Data slayers will equal market demand.

The Path Forward

There is absolutely no doubt that Big Data is finally here, and that it is truly here to stay.  There is also no denying that there are a lot of Big Data challenges that need to be better understood and dealt with.  However, if we make the proper investments in Planning, Preparing and Organizing  for Big Data, we can begin to realize the value that is promises.  I, by no means intend to trivialize or undersell the time, effort, and resources that will be required along the way.  This will be a big effort – after all, we are talking about Big Data. However this dilemma is a bit like the question about when is the best time to plant a tree. The best answer of course is yesterday and the second best answer is today.  Regardless of your current Big Data state, better Planning, Preparation and Organization today will ensure a better Big Data tomorrow.

So what do you think?  Are we really in the midst of a Big Data dilemma?  Or, is all of this Big Data stuff much ado about nothing?

And hey – on the bright side of things, if you happen to be a budding Big Data ninja…  Your future’s so bright, you’d better get shades (cue up Timbuk3)– Woody Bendle

 

       (Affiliate Link)

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NoHaving written the eBook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and speaking on innovation and creativity topics for several years, I frequently hear about the impact of early NOs on people, especially those who tend to be perfectionists.

The Legacy of a NO to Creativity

When a perfectionist hears NOs about efforts where the rules used to judge an effort don’t really have any lasting significance or a performance was actually fine (if perhaps not perfect) yet they were told it fell short, it can have creatively devastating impacts. This is especially true when the NO comes from an authority figure or is heard repeatedly.

What are the legacies of the “no” messages kids hear?

When a kid gets one of these life-changing messages that runs completely counter to Taking the No Out of InNOvation, they can start:

  • Avoiding situations where there is potential for rejection.
  • Taking the “no” to mean they are bad, unskilled, or presumptuous to ever think of themselves as special.
  • Undercutting expectations of themselves rather than celebrating what they can do and risk failing to meet expectations.
  • Only giving slight hints to their capabilities and hoping someone will ask them to do more.
  • Not going out on a limb in situations where they might disappoint someone important.
  • Trying fewer things in life – perhaps only those things where they know they’ll be right.
  • Undervaluing their talents, causing them to wind up giving away too much of what they can do.
  • Delivering more than anyone can reasonably expect.
  • Remaining an “amateur” at many things because it’s safer than concentrating on one area and standing apart from others.
  • Depending on others to push them into new situations.

Taking the NO Out of InNOvation Later

It’s vital that parents, educators, and other authority figures in kids’ lives be tremendously careful: Make sure you aren’t doling out creative rejections or even imposing your own apprehensions about perfectionism and creative success on the kids in your lives.

Your “NO” today can have an impact on killing creativity for years to come. – 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 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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