2

Amid recent news stories about people and companies failing to live up to early and prolonged hype (Exhibit A and Exhibit B), I’ve been thinking about a former co-worker who used to revel in skepticism. As an economist with a long track record of understanding the fundamentals of our business and industry, he would sit back and listen to people selling ideas and plans designed to beat (or maybe simply ignore) well-established industry trends. He’d hear the grand plans out and then skewer them with history.

Sometimes he was wrong, but he was all too frequently right. This typically put him at odds with those selling ideas who depended more on hope in the hype surrounding their ill-conceived ideas than a solid dose of fact-based reality.

Having worked closely with him for years, I guess a little of his skepticism rubbed off on me over time.

The more I hear about how great something is even though it is completely detached from strategic logic and learnings past events suggest, the more skepticism rears its head. Even though I’m a big proponent of creativity and innovation, skepticism becomes the handy counterbalance as you move from divergent to convergent thinking.

What’s a Real Skeptic Like?

If you’re charged with selling an idea to somebody who takes pride in professional skepticism, it’s important to understand what it will be like. If you plan for how you can address these ten perspectives, you’ll be better off since Skepticism:

  • Will always bet on “Too good to be true.”
  • Has an order of magnitude more strategic patience than hopeful enthusiasm.
  • Has an immunity to peer pressure.
  • Checks for consistency between words and deeds.
  • Expects a noticeable, viable track record.
  • Won’t lightly abandon what’s worked before or ignore what hasn’t ever worked.
  • Acknowledges the unexpected while waiting for the predictable to happen.
  • Sits back (way back) to avoid being trampled by the masses stampeding from the new wearing off yesterday’s fad.
  • Is more than happy to be proven wrong when it proves personally beneficial.
  • Will always insist, “The trend is your friend.”

Professional skepticism may be more complex than this ten-item list, but if you’re selling ideas to convince a skeptic, this is a pretty decent starting point on the general objections and resistance you may hear.

What’s your experience dishing out or receiving skepticism?

Are you a skeptic? Do you know one? What would you add to this list to help an idea selling hopeful better prepare to win over a skeptic? – 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.

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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2

We received some client feedback the other day regarding an online survey and a variety of proposed changes. While the survey was fine as it was, we tried to implement as many proposed changes as possible from one of the client team members. The result of those changes was an online survey that was clearly tighter and better than it had been before. The key was starting with a listening attitude instead of a defensive attitude.
Look for Agreement in Adversarial Conversations

Find Agreement Amid Differing Opinions

A big part of being able to find agreement with someone you expect will have a different opinion than yours, at least in my experience, is your attitude even before you begin what might be an adversarial conversation.

Before you begin talking is the time for strategic thinking –  not about what you will be saying – but about what you will be listening for in the conversation.

By adopting an open and positive strategic listening approach in a potentially adversarial conversation, you can be attuned to ways to start building understanding rather than picking out arguments to refute.

10 Things to Listen for in an Adversarial Conversation

What should your strategic listening approach predispose you to listen for with the other party? Here are ten things you will want to be listening for to build agreement:

1. A little snippet of an idea you can agree with to get started.
2. An opinion you used to agree with and can use as a point of departure.
3. A situation with which you have experience or empathy.
4. An accomplishment from the other person you respect.
5. Experience the other person has that warrants consideration.
6. Ideas you can implement without any issues.
7. Points on which you are willing to compromise your position.
8. Differences of opinion where you are willing to concede.
9. Perspectives you had not previously considered that will make your effort better.
10. Principles that are not worth arguing about to try and change in the other person.

This list of ten things to listen for in an adversarial conversation is pretty obvious. Yet how often do you see people going into a challenging situation looking for a fight instead of looking for things to agree with right off the bat?

If you can find  agreement, no matter how small it is, you have a place to start talking productively. And that is the start of bigger, more complete agreement.

Do you agree? – 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.

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

Not enough ice creamComplaining on Facebook reagarding not being inspired to blog prompted an anecdote from Jan Harness about asking friends for 10 ideas she could share in a mentoring session she was conducting. One person provided 11 tips instead of 10; she included a tip to ALWAYS over deliver on what others expect. Jan related it to when she had asked me for a single cartoon for a presentation, but I drew an entire comic strip about Jan’s creative experience with a really bad art teacher, Mr. O’Neill.

While retelling the Mr. O’Neill creative instigation story didn’t excite me, considering motivations for people to over deliver or give too much was intriguing. Jan’s creative instigation inspired this post with 21 ideas for reasons to over deliver or not.

14 Reasons to Over Deliver

When you’re doing something for someone, here are 14 reasons you might want to over deliver versus what they expect:

  • It creates greater value for them (thinking about value as the relationship between “Benefits” relative to the “Cost to receive the benefits.”
  • They may not be asking for enough of what they need or should be considering.
  • You see bigger possibilities in the work and want to bring those to fruition.
  • Over delivering will (or at least has the possibility to) create greater affinity, loyalty, or even a sense of obligation on their part.
  • It stretches you to take on, learn, and accomplish new things.
  • It’s the “right” thing to do, for one or more reasons.
  • You’ve made a commitment along the way to do that much.
  • It’s what they want, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • It’s what they need, even if they didn’t ask for it directly.
  • You gain enjoyment and a sense of purpose from being able to over deliver.
  • You’re focused on future opportunities and over-delivering now is simply part of the next work you’re going to do for them.
  • You cannot “not” seem to over deliver.
  • You down-sold expectations (i.e. you sandbagged during negotiations) and are simply delivering what you knew you could anyway.
  • You’re trying to showcase new capabilities.

7 Reasons to Not Over Deliver

The question about whether to over deliver or not certainly isn’t one-sided. There are also reasons where you might rightly decide to not over deliver for someone:

  • They’re asking for the wrong thing or something they don’t need and giving them more of it won’t be beneficial to them.
  • They’re demanding or expecting too much already.
  • They’ve not acted in good faith in the relationship.
  • The relationship is on its last legs and doesn’t warrant investing any more in it.
  • What they’ve asked for keeps changing so much you can’t even be sure you’re delivering what they expected originally.
  • You’ve done everything you can.
  • They aren’t able to appreciate any more than what they asked for originally.

Do you have a tendency to give too much?

I didn’t go into creating this list with a target of 21 ideas, or making 2/3 of them reasons to over deliver and 1/3 reasons  not to do it. But in any event, there’s a certain numerical (and business) sense in those ratios, at least from my perspective. Makes sense that you might try to over deliver about 2/3 of the time.

How about you? What is your thinking when you consider whether or not to over deliver? – 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.

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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2

When it comes to brainstorming and divergent thinking time, we’re big on pushing for the impossible. During convergent thinking phases when the focus is prioritization and decision making, the focus shifts to narrowing choices, quick decisions, and determining the action steps for implementation.

Quick decisions have been on my mind lately. I tend to take time making a decision, but as you carry out more roles in an organization, the luxury of adequate time every time you’re making a decision just isn’t practical. As we’re growing and expanding The Brainzooming Group, I’m trying to be more disciplined about staying out of certain decisions and turning others into quick decisions.

Seven Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

Making a Decision - Quick DecisionThinking back to client situations over the past few years, here are seven types of decision making situations across three different categories where too much time often gets spent debating and considering actions.

Non-Strategic Decisions

1. Non-strategic issues – We talk about strategic issues as those that “matter” for an organization. If a decision making outcome won’t matter that much, don’t spend that much time on it.

2. Changes to processes customers won’t experience – For as much as we talk about the need for strategic change, invest more time deciding about changes customers will notice than background processes they won’t ever experience.

3. There’s a track record from previous decision making – Especially in big corporations with lots of administrative functions, it’s possible for employees to spend way too much time on decision making about simple issues primarily important to them. If your organization has a solid history or guidelines to shape decision making, use them and invest your efforts on newer, more speculative decisions.

There Are Multiple Options that Could Suffice

4. You can recover from making a decision that’s off the mark – If your environment is one where it’s relatively easy to try things, learn, and adapt, you’re in a lot better situation to make a quick decision and launch into implementation.

5. You’re making a decision from among multiple choices customers will accept – Don’t waste too much time debating changes to product or service features low on the list of things customers care about or notice. Invest the time saved into stronger implementation.

Limited Resource Are Available

6. You’ll spend more on making a decision than the decision costs – In a meeting-happy organizational culture, you can wind up with multiple meetings to consider and debate even small questions. If you’re spending $5,000 in employee time (yes in a staff role, you still have an hourly rate) to make a $1,000 decision, STOP!

7. You’re trying to decide about things you’ll never be able to do – We definitely encourage thinking big and considering possibilities well beyond today. But when it gets down to prioritization and decision making time, it’s time to decide on things you will be able to implement and not just be able dream about for an extended period.

What would you decide to add or subtract from this list of quick decisions?

How do you handle quick decisions? Are there other decision making situations where you aggressively push for quick decisions?  – 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.

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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7

The favorable response to a post on visual thinking prompted me to share more about how visual thinking graphs fit into problem solving approaches within the strategic thinking and creative sessions we facilitate for clients.

X-Y Graphs – Simplicity in Visual Thinking

Perhaps the most resourceful of visual thinking graphs are the strategically humble, yet highly functional, X-Y graphs. With nothing more needed to begin than two perpendicular lines (or “axes”), getting started is within the drawing and creative skills of everyone. Even if the lines aren’t EXACTLY straight or at a perfect right angle, others will get the idea right away. (Heck, you can even click on the X-Y graph to your right, print it out, and use it!)

Starting with the X-Y graph’s simple shape, you can name the two lines, apply labels to describe what the names imply, and get going with a strategic thinking or creative exercise. What you put inside the X-Y graph can include shapes (lines, curves), labels (highlighting specific examples), or further subdivisions (additional perpendicular lines) to create a 4-box or other type of graph. That’s variety.

The Problem Solving Value of X-Y Graphs

Using X-Y graphs for problem solving lets you:

  • Visually test your strategic thinking to see if it yields productive insights.
  • Provide an opportunity for other people to react to your visualization of a strategic situation within the graph.
  • Explain why certain developments are happening.
  • Anticipate what developments may happen next.
  • Have multiple people participate in the strategic thinking when placing where individual examples should be on the graph.
  • Separate specific examples that could appear to be too close together.
  • Group specific examples that could appear to be too far apart.
  • Discover both positive and inverse relationships.
  • Change the scales on the axes to see different relationships.
  • Quickly explore potential relationships to see if the relationship is really meaningful.
  • Be very precise or very approximate.
  • Look for similarities and differences in various elements to suggest strategic steps to move from one group to another.
  • Give tangibility to your early strategic thinking so you can come back and look at it later.

How can you argue with that much problem solving versatility from two simple lines and a few labels?

What ways are you using X-Y graphs?

Again, X-Y graphs aren’t unusual or complicated visual thinking graphs, but they will work hard for you. when it comes to problem solving. How do you use X-Y graphs as visual thinking tools in what you do? – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis 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 your organizational 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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1

This back-to-school Old Navy television commercial caught my attention, but not because of Jason Priestly and Garbrielle Carteris of Beverly Hills 90210. What caught my attention was the little red-headed girl who feels left out and resentful as a “new” girl gains the positive attention of everybody in school.

Her on-target protestations throughout the Old Navy television commercial emphasize the “new” girl has been there since kindergarten. Old Navy makes the point that Old Navy made the familiar girl “new” with its back-to-school fashions.

Consistency vs. Intrigue – The Struggle for Positive Attention

If you’ve spent time in one place – with one group of people – the consistency of your personal brand and what you have done for so long (and by “so long,” I mean even a couple of months), can leave you feeling like you’re lacking positive attention from those around you. In fact, I mentioned to someone last week my concern he’s not getting appropriate positive attention and is being overlooked because of the consistency of his contributions to an organization he supports.

Maybe it comes down to the typically cyclical relationship in business between “Consistency” and “Intrigue.” Or as my friend author Sally Hogshead would talk about it relative to a personal brand, it’s a failure to Fascinate (affiliate link).

For the Consistent person, things are good when appreciation for:

Consistency > Intrigue

But when things flip? Then

Intrigue > Consistency

That’s when consistent people find what can be a positive personal brand attribute leaving them short on positive attention, just like the little girl in the Old Navy television commercial.

What creates the Intrigue phenomenon in organizations?

New consultants, new hires, new organization structures, new senior managers, new customers, new expectations – they can all be intriguing in an organization relative to what’s always been there with consistency. Almost any “new” event upsets the old order, and it becomes very difficult for people displaying consistency as part of their personal brand to get the positive attention needed to make things happen. At least that’s the case until the new wears off and consistency gets the upper hand again in this cyclical relationship struggle.

So if you’re the little girl in the ad (or my friend who is facing a similar personal brand situation), what can you do to not be overlooked as someone who displays consistency?

6 Ideas for Getting Attention When Your Personal Brand Highlights Consistency

Here are six ideas to consider if your reputation for consistency isn’t helping you beat the “intrigue” of whatever is new on the scene:

1. Freshen up your personal brand

Maybe you are in a rut, offering similar strategies, similar ideas, and similar implementation steps too often. That’s when it’s time to visit whatever looks like “Old Navy” in your world and freshen up your look to gain greater positive attention.

2. Play the Game Better

Develop a new advantage to heighten your level of intrigue. Create ways to engineer attention and favorable situations for what you’re trying to accomplish relative to whatever seems “new.”

3. Become a BFFN with whatever is “new”

The best approach may be to try and bask in the positive attention whatever is “new” is receiving. Become “Best Friends for Now” with the person who has a corner on Intrigue at the moment. Figure out their motivations and how to deliver what they (think they) need to be even better.

4. Stop being so dependable

Because you’re dependable, it’s easy to be taken for granted. Make your presence more apparent through making your absence felt. Stop being so dependable and let others feel the impact of you not being around as you always are.

5. Stay the Course

Continue your great work, step up your game, and wait for the new to wear off and intrigue to dissipate. If you go this route, though, you better be pretty sure you’ll come out okay on the other end of the Consistency– Intrigue cycle.

6. Be the New Person Someplace Else

There’s probably nothing that strong requiring you to stay where you are right now. Pick up and go elsewhere where you can be intriguing yourself because you are new to the situation.

What would you do to gain positive attention for consistency?

Have you found yourself in a situation resembling the Old Navy television commercial and losing positive attention because of your consistency? What have you done (or seen others do) to spice up an approach to recover positive attention for consistency?  – Mike Brown

 

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

 

If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis 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 your organizational challenges.

       (Affiliate link)

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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10

Yesterday I was asked about how, after having worked at one corporation a long time, I now go into a new client  and make a relatively quick assessment of the organizational culture and political dynamics.

What a fantastic question!

I’ve written about a variety of both bad business personalities and accomplished leaders, but I’ve never documented (even for myself) a mental checklist of things to observe when entering a new organizational culture.

We started compiling the questions right then (writing ideas on a paper napkin) and  continued growing the list back at  the office.

18 Organizational Culture Cues

Here are eighteen organizational culture cues I look for when trying to make a quick assessment about opportunities for best managing a project and establishing strong strategic relationships.

  • How long do you have to wait in the lobby for someone to ask if they can help you?
  • Does the organization run on-time?
  • How do people introduce themselves? What information is deemed pertinent enough to include when they tell you about themselves?
  • What type of diversity is evident, whether it’s people, environments, opinions, clothing styles, etc.?
  • What are people wearing?
  • What types of “manners” do employees show to “outsiders”? (And that’s not just to people outside the company; it could be people outside their department or work group but still inside the organization.)
  • Who talks first in multi-person meetings?
  • How do people treat each other? Is respect demonstrated among co-workers?
  • Is there a sense of emotional and interpersonal openness inside the organization? Are the physical surroundings more or less open than the people?
  • Do people demonstrate an understanding of the broader business or are they only given insight into their own little part of the operation? Do they have information they need from across the business?
  • Who appears to talk honestly – and who doesn’t?
  • What decision making style is evident? Do multiple people seem to share perspectives and participate or does decision making seem pretty centralized?
  • Are people fearful – of bosses, competitors, expectations, failure, or something else?
  • How do the senior leaders behave? How differently do they treat each other vs. everyone else?
  • How does everyone else behave in return with senior leaders?
  • What is the small talk like before, during, and after meetings?
  • Who are the apparent cultural outliers, and what sets them apart from the rest of the organization?
  • How much bad talking of others goes on when someone leaves the room or isn’t present?

What would you add to this list of organizational culture cues?

That’s my starting list of questions for seeking out organizational culture cues. What things do you look for when you’re dropped into a new organization?  – 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.

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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