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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is getting all crazy innovative in today’s guest post as he shares how to push for extreme innovation when you need it. Take it away Woody!

 

Creative Thinking Exercise for Extreme Innovation by Woody Bendle

One of the most exciting things to me in the innovation process is generating an array of possible ideas for uniquely solving unmet or underserved consumer needs.

i3-generate-ideas

As you see in the i3 Continuous Innovation Process map above, generating ideas happens AFTER the consumer needs have been identified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you generate new product and/or service ideas before you fully understand all of your consumers’ needs, there is a high likelihood you will waste time, effort and money chasing a cool idea destined to fail.
  2. It is easier to come up with possible solutions to a problem once you actually know what the problem is!

Assume we’ve done our homework and have clearly identified and prioritized all our consumers’ needs based on the magnitude of the opportunity.  The next step in the Continuous Innovation Process is to come up with as many possible ideas or solutions (regardless of feasibility), that might create meaningful new value for our target consumers.

I like starting idea generation sessions with a set of exercises I’ve developed called “Going to Extremes.”  The objective is to break the ice quickly and get the craziest, coolest, far-reaching things you can come up with on the table to start. The more absurd, extreme or ridiculous the idea the better!

go-extremes-exercises

As you begin working with these tools, it is important to frame each exercise in the context of exploring possibilities for addressing only one or two unmet (or underserved) consumer needs.  Narrowing your focus actually works in your favor when you are Brainzooming!

It is important to emphasize you really want to try to come up with 100 (or more) ideas for each exercise.  All ideas are welcome – as long as they are crazy, cool, extreme, ridiculous or even absurd!

In my experience, the best and most innovative ideas tend to be closer to the 100th idea than the first, so keep generating as many ideas as you can.  And don’t judge them, because the next step of the i3 Continuous Innovation Process is where we weed out the ideas that don’t make economic sense.

The Value of Going for Extreme Innovation

After working with these creative thinking exercises for several years, I’ve found them effective for several reasons:

  1. They explicitly make it okay to say something a little (or a lot) crazy. Everyone has a little “crazy” in them, and they now have permission to let it out!  And, Column C reinforces that we’re looking for stuff that is really really crazy, cool and way out there! As a side note, how many times do you suppose Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs or the Wright brothers heard, “That’s crazy!” – only later to hear “This is awesome!” or “This is amazing!”
  2. Because you are going for quantity in addition to the extreme, participants tend not to overthink their ideas in search of that spectacular idea – they just let them rip!
  3. Thinking about the why and the what (column B) highlights functional and emotional benefits which often lead naturally to new, even better ideas for Column C. (Remember that breakthrough innovations tend to be much closer to the extremes than where we currently are. )
  4. Lastly, these exercises are a ton of fun!  Now, who doesn’t need more fun in their life?!

So here is a crazy idea; the next time you are planning an idea generation session, why don’t you give these Going to Extremes Exercises a shot?

And if you need a little added encouragement, let’s give a listen to what Seal has to say about getting a little Crazy.  Better yet!  Play this tune in the background during your next idea generation session! – Woody Bendle

 

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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.

 

 

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4

Social-network-iconsIf you have failed at explaining social media strategy opportunities to executives who just do not get it, it is time to quit speaking CMO and social media speak to them.

CMO speak is not going to cut it.

In my social media strategy workshops, I translate social networks from CMO speak to real life situations executives understand. I have had people from multiple brands at multiple social media strategy workshops say these comparisons are very helpful in communicating to executives.

8 Social Media Strategy Comparisons

So, if you’re looking for a better way to explain social networks as part of your social media strategy, try these descriptions on for size:

Your company blog is like a campfire.

Multiple people tell scary, fun, exciting, emotional, and personal stories around a campfire. They don’t tell boring stories about quality process improvements that are integral to driving best-in-class global satisfaction.

Facebook is like TV.

People spend extended time in front of the screen consuming content from a variety of sources. You need to program way more content than commercials, and increasingly, if a brand wants to get attention for its “commericals,” it has to pay for exposure.

Twitter is like a networking event.

You wouldn’t walk into a networking happy hour and just begin shouting a message to no one in particular. You find individuals and groups, start and join conversations, and demonstrate that you are happy to be there, actively listen to others, and respond to what they say.

LinkedIn is like a professional conference and trade show.

There are a lot of business professionals there and a wide variety of learning and networking experiences, including groups with comparable interests, job boards, trade show booths, seminars, learning materials, etc. Additionally, some people there act as if they know you even though you have never met them before.

YouTube is like a home movie.

It’s informal and spontaneous. Sometimes there’s a lot of talking and sometimes there isn’t. It’s okay that the movies are of varying quality. What matters is that you care about the people and the experiences shared in the movies.

Instagram is like a photo album from a wedding.

There are posed photos, candid photos, and behind the scenes photos. Some are dramatic; others are goofy, fun, heartfelt, and life changing. There are usually people depicted although some photos include buildings, scenery, and other inanimate objects.

Pinterest is like a teenage girl’s bedroom.

It doesn’t take too long looking at a teenager’s room to discover what she’s interested in, whom she cares about, and the brands that matter to her. If she finds something visually interesting that she likes, it has a good shot at getting her attention and being passed along to her friends.

Western-KansasGoogle+ is like a rural area that’s wired for high speed Internet that has fancy windmills and a highway running through it.

It’s a wide-open space with lots of promise. New technology and other advances are going on and changing some things. It is definitely a unique environment, and lots of people are familiar with it because the highway takes them through the area whether they want to be there or not. Yet despite all that, there just aren’t that many people to be found.

And one more . . .

Finally, at the Social Media Strategy Summit, a presenter was talking about how a war room environment allows you to “get your content up right away.” That prompted another comparison: a Social Media Command Center is like Social Media Viagra . . . just thinkin’. –  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.”

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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3

Over the past month, we’ve been designing a 150-person brainstorming session for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund launch in Kansas City, Thursday, February 13, 2014.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will invest $150,000 in the Kansas City innovation community (with an equal amount in Chattanooga, TN) to support “development, experimentation, and deployment of learning experiences and workforce development opportunities enhanced by next gen networks.”

Brainstorming-FacilitationOur objective for the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 brainstorming session is to build community and imagine concepts for how technology can address needs and aspirations in multiple community segments. These segments include K-12 and higher education, workforce development, digital inclusion, seniors and lifelong learning, and digital making and storytelling.

The scope and detail behind designing and producing a brainstorming session for such a large group is exciting. It’s also something we’ve become known for doing very successfully at The Brainzooming Group, starting with the first Building the Gigabit City event in 2011.

5 Keys for Successful Brainstorming with Any Group

To produce the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of individuals from Kansas City and beyond to help facilitate the Brainzooming session we designed for Mozilla.

Creating the facilitator’s guide for Building the Gigabit City 2.0, I included five keys for successful facilitation. Whether your creative thinking group is just a few people or approaches multiple hundreds, these five keys to successful brainstorming and facilitation for our extended team apply to any group:

1. The facilitator is present to serve the group, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Far better to reach the desired result and be forgotten as a facilitator than to be remembered for being part of the reason a group wasn’t successful.

2. Facilitators should be managing the group for the outcomes, not all the interim steps.

There may be a pre-planned flow to a brainstorming session, but the specific activities are less important than reaching the expected outcomes and deliverables.

3. One of the facilitator’s chief roles is managing and respecting participant time.

By sticking as best possible to the timing guidelines and keeping the session moving, you help create energy, focus, and productivity within the group.

4. You have a unique opportunity to draw out once in a lifetime creative thinking.

This group may never come together again, so this is the only opportunity ever for exciting creative thinking from these individuals as a team. Actively push, prod, stimulate, and cajole the group for more ideas throughout this precious time they are working together.

5. A facilitator is more important for creating “white space” than for sharing ideas.

Depending on how the group is progressing toward answers, cheer a lot, suggest a little, and say what YOU think the answers is only as a LAST resort. Try to answer their questions with questions. The group will get to where it needs to be, only if you give them sufficient room to explore.

What else?

I know we have other facilitators in the audience. What would you add to or subtract from this list of keys to for successful facilitation? – Mike Brown

 

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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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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3

Vegas-BabyIt’s Vegas, Baby! And I’m presenting a social media strategy workshop at the Social Media Strategy Summit on 7 Lessons in Creating Fantastic, Creative Content for a group of incredible brands.

7 Lessons for Fantastic, Creative Content Marketing

The entire social media strategy workshop is created around the value of using models to make content marketing and social networking readily understandable and actionable within an organization.

As a resource for the workshop attendees and to give all of you a sense of the approach, here are the seven social media strategy lessons along with links to more detailed content throughout the Brainzooming blog.

Lesson 1: Imagine You’re a TV Executive

Lesson 2: Place the Audience First in Your Content Strategy

Lesson 3: You Need Lots of Topic Ideas

Lesson 4: Match Your Business Objective with the Social Network and Appropriate Content

Lesson 5: Be an Engaging Brand 24/7

Lesson 6: Balancing Content and Commercial Messages

Lesson 7: Design a Sustainable Content Strategy

And once the workshop is completed? Watch out New York, New York . . . I’m headed your way for roller coaster riding!  –  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.”

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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1

Read-Book-Gargoyle

For all the project managers out there – whether you managing project some of the time or all of the time – here are five comparisons to help you think about what you do toward creating greater strategic impact.

Strategic Options

Strategic options are a lot like water.

You can splash around and enjoy them when they are plentiful. You can also drown in them when you can’t prioritize and make decisions. Be safe when it comes to strategic options.

Negotiating a Deal

Negotiating a deal is a lot like a car trip.

Depending on who you are doing it with, some of the biggest ones can breeze by, and some of the smallest ones can seem to take forever. Carefully choose who you take along on your trip.

Managing a Project

Managing a project is a lot like filming a movie.

There are many scenes that have to come together in just the right sequence for the movie to work. You may create those scenes, however, in a wildly non-chronological fashion. Become expert at putting the scenes back together in just the right order though.

Complexity

Complexity is a lot like an unexpected house guest.

It can show up like it’s no big deal. Once you’ve invited it in, however, it can seem as if it takes over and will never leave. Beware the first complexity you agree to that promises it will only be staying “just the one night.”

Kindred Spirits

Finding kindred spirits is a completely unexpected blessing.

Cherish every single one of them.  – 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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How do you handle project management issues when there’s a perceived problem with a client or internal customer that:

  1. You didn’t create,
  2. They did,
  3. But they think or claim you did create it?

Talking with one of our business owner coaching clients recently, he (let’s call him “John” for convenience) ran into this exact project management situation. His client called frantically saying the company president was upset over something John’s firm had done.

While the situation was bothersome and problematic, it wasn’t as big a deal as the company president made it out to be. And while John had precipitated the situation through his work for the client, the problem stemmed from his client not providing sufficient information for John’s firm to perform successfully.

Project Management Issues: A Turd on the Table Strategy

Table-Anger

Photo by: dommy.de | Source: photocase.com

Back to the original question: How do you handle this kind of project management situation – whether with a client or an internal customer?

The option John was considering when he called me was to apologize, rectify the situation as best possible, and wait to see whether he lost his biggest client.

I suggested a better project management technique was to employ a “we have a turd on the table” strategy.

He asked, “WHAT in the world is a ‘turd on the table’ strategy?”

I told him while it wasn’t smart to make his client appear culpable, there was no reason for John to fall on the sword and take full blame for a situation that arose through the client’s inattention and lack of active participation in an important process.

Instead, I suggested John act as if there was a turd on the table by acknowledging:

  • There’s a problem
  • Everyone wants to get rid of the problem
  • It really doesn’t matter right now how the problem got there.

The important project management outcome was getting it off the table and keeping it off the table in the future.

Instead of a mea culpa (or even a mea maxima culpa) and agonizing over losing a huge account, John crafted a couple of page response plan.

The project management plan went much lighter on the sword falling than he’d planned. Instead, it focused on two key sets of project management steps:

  • The first set of steps placed the current situation in the correct context along with appropriate tactics to rectify the minimal negative impact it had.
  • The more important set of project management steps spelled out a plan on what both he AND his client needed to do differently to follow the process they had not been following which led to this situation.

And what happened?

The client appreciated the strategic project management response, reviewed it internally for a few days, and John kept the account with the agreement to the proposed process changes. Success!

Do you ever need quick input on strategy and project management techniques?

No matter where you are globally, The Brainzooming Group is available to provide one-on-one  consultation such as we did with John. If you need a strategic sounding board to develop, vet, and improve ideas and strategies, we can help you quickly achieve the same type of success John did. All it takes is an email or phone call for us to get started. – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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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15

Is your organization lacking innovative ideas? Does it seem as if your employees are deficient in creative thinking skills?

If so, how frequently do you hear these phrases around your organization?

  1. It’s not my idea
  2. We’ve never thought of that before
  3. We don’t know how to do that
  4. Things are crazy busy right now
  5. We don’t have the right people on board
  6. It seems like it may get us in trouble
  7. We’ve done something similar before
  8. People could think it’s a boondoggle
  9. That will stretch us too thin
  10. I don’t see how we can pull it off
  11. Nobody in our industry has ever done anything like that
  12. They’re better at it than we are
  13. I don’t know anything about that
  14. We’ve got too many initiatives going on
  15. It’s too new for our market
  16. We already doing too much in that area
  17. They’re not expecting anyone to do that
  18. Our salespeople have too many things to sell already
  19. I know what the forecast numbers say
  20. It seems like such a small deal
  21. We’re already trying something else
  22. It seems too late to do anything about it
  23. We’ve never done anything about this
  24. I don’t understand why that’s necessary
  25. No customers are asking for that
  26. It seems impossible to pull off
  27. It’s not in the budget
  28. It seems like overkill
  29. We don’t have time for that

All these phrases could end with a period. A period is final. A period is definitive. A period says, “We’re done here,” like nobody’s business.

When you put a period at the end of any of these phrases, you are blocking potentially innovative ideas others are trying to share.

Making a change to this doesn’t require major creative thinking skills though.

If you really want to stimulate innovative ideas, instead of a period, put a comma after each of these phrases followed by, “but it could be a great idea.”

A comma says there are nuances to explore, possibilities to consider, and more ideas to come.

If one of your organizational goals is developing more innovative ideas this year, implement this simplest of creative thinking skills. You can even click this graphic, print it out, and put it up around your office.

We-Create-Innovative-Ideas-Brainzooming

How simple is that? – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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