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Last Sunday, Diane Stafford’s column in the Kansas City Star discussed the role of “Synergists,” as described by Lee McKeown, within teams. Synergists bring together team members with varied perspectives, pull the talents together collaboratively, and make things happen within business teams. Lee McKeown noted that from his experience, there are few natural synergists. Most people need to grow into the collaborative skills synergists employ.

March Madness Point GuardSince we’re in the midst of March Madness, Diane Stafford’s column about synergists made me think about basketball point guards. As with synergists, basketball point guards play vital roles in pulling basketball teams together and making things happen, especially during March Madness basketball games.

Across all the March Madness basketball games, there will be ample opportunities to see the best college point guards in action. As you watch March Madness basketball games, look for these comparisons between outstanding point guards and business team members who excel at making things happen within business teams.

Nine Common Characteristics Shared by Outstanding Point Guards and Business Team Leaders

These nine characteristics are important for both point guards and synergists to display:

1. An unselfish, team-oriented mentality requiring stepping back or stepping up (whichever is appropriate) to make the whole team most successful.

2. Multi-dimensional skills and versatility – not just being okay at several skills, but being an outstanding performer in multiple important areas for success.

3. Dependability and an ability to build trust among team members through consistent outstanding performance and a focus on making the whole team work well together.

4. Enabling teammates to be more productive by knowing how their individual and collective strengths will create wins.

5. Leadership among both peers and organizational leaders by being on strategy even while looking for new opportunities to exploit when modifying the strategy makes sense.

6. Efficiency and effectiveness as a communicator among the team and its leaders so there are no detrimental surprises.

7. Command of situations a team faces through understanding team member roles, emerging opportunities, environmental and resource variables, and the team’s past performance history.

8. A talent for real-time analysis and being a “scenario implementer,” creating success by connecting current activities to scenarios the team has rehearsed.

9. Poise and a tremendous work ethic to lead by example and help appropriately balance successes and failures the team will experience.

What do you think? Are you a point guard on your business teams? Do you work with an outstanding business point guard? What characteristics do they display that let them excel?

It’s Not Just March Madness that Has Us Thinking About This

Beyond March Madness, we’ve been thinking about this a lot because these skills are absolutely vital in successfully implementing the type of collaborative, multi-functional strategic plans we help organizations develop. It’s becoming clearer that unless business leaders display these nine skills outstanding basketball point guards must possess, they are going to struggle in successfully implementing collaboratively, even with collaboratively-developed strategic plans.

Look for more on this topic here – well after March Madness is over – as we take on helping managers better learn and use these skills. – 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 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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If The Brainzooming Group has worked with your organization or you have read our blog for any length of time, you know we are big believers in the value of using creative thinking exercises for brainstorming new ideas. Typically, the creative thinking exercises use multiple probes to yield ideas in a variety of areas within a single exercise.

Source: http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/IMAGES/MEDIUM/0601073.jpg

When Creative Thinking Exercise Provide Value

Beyond their help in brainstorming new ideas, creative thinking exercises also provide context as we document ideas from a Brainzooming session. If the description of an idea written during a fast-paced Brainzooming session lacks specificity or leaves a lot to the imagination, knowing the creative thinking exercise the idea is associated with can provide context to fill in missing details.

For some time, we used to both document the exercises for their value in providing context for ideas and as a way to organize brainstorming output from sessions. We would create elaborate spreadsheets with thousands of ideas in a database format. Sorting, analyzing, and grouping these spreadsheets with all their fields, however could quickly become mind numbing and counter-productive. Ultimately, we wound up putting a lot of time into organizing ideas that never made it out of a spreadsheet.

This issue came up as a client was working with several hundred blog topic ideas generated during a Brainzooming session several weeks ago. As she got everything entered, the number of ideas along with all the categories and sub-categories associated with the ideas became unwieldy.

When They Aren’t Providing Value

As we talked about dealing with all the information from the session, it dawned on me the creative thinking exercises function like the rocket boosters on a spaceship. The rocket boosters are essential to launch the astronauts and the main vehicle into space, but once they have performed that function, they are jettisoned. They are not pulled along on the entire space mission after they have served their purpose and quit providing value.

It is the same with creative thinking exercises and ideas they trigger.

Creative thinking exercises get you started brainstorming with incredible creativity, but once an idea takes life, which exercise triggered the idea is of little importance.

That is when they quit providing value, and it is time to let them go. – 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 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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I love seeing an integrated marketing communications effort (or any type of integrated program planning) play out successfully. When a program displays strategic integration, it makes it easier on the audience to get the message let alone its efficiency for the message sender in delivering the message successfully.

There’s a recent case in point, as newly ordained fashionista Jessica Simpson made an appearance on the NBC program “The Biggest Loser” last night, doing makeovers for a couple of contestants. “The Biggest Loser” episode was right before the new Jessica Simpson fashion-oriented NBC competition TV show, “Fashion Star.” While I didn’t get to see TBL, I heard a lot about it Monday night when Cyndi was watching “The Voice” and “Smash,” also on NBC. And on “Fashion Star,” the integration continued with Macys, Saks, and H&M buyers bidding on designs that are magically available in their stores today for the public to buy.

What an example of great strategic integration.

But how do you make sure you’re planning for all the steps you need to address to successfully integrate a marketing effort?

A 15-Step Checklist for Integrated Program Planning Success

Considering what might have had to happen to make sure Jessica Simpson appeared on “The Biggest Loser” as a lead in to her new “Fashion Star” reality TV show provides a great checklist any of us can use when developing an integrated plan. Here are fifteen steps for successful integrated program planning the people behind “Fashion Star” would have had to consider:

  • Evaluate the need for and benefits of an integrated effort.
  • Develop a preliminary plan with the flexibility to incorporate integration opportunities.
  • Sell-in integration’s value to stakeholders who may have to be convinced.
  • Develop a timeline so you can look for and plan seemingly far off integration opportunities.
  • Research what other efforts provide adjacencies (timing, geography, process, etc.) to your effort, in addition to thinking through other intriguing strategic integration possibilities.
  • Act with enough time to modify plans already in place within your own organization or with potential integration partners.
  • Reach out and build relationships with parties responsible for potential integration opportunities.
  • Secure agreement to integration activities with other partners.
  • Anticipate external situations and the context when the integrated program will roll out.
  • Create story lines to make the integration make sense to audiences.
  • Coordinate resources across all involved parties.
  • Take necessary steps with all partners to prepare to implement the integrated effort.
  • Manage the coordinated activities so any unforeseen challenges to the integration effort won’t derail it.
  • Promote the integrated program so all target audiences are aware of and understand it.
  • Implement the integration and perform any follow-up.

What do you think? What type of checklist do you use when developing and implementing an integrated marketing communications effort or managing other integrated program planning?

Fifteen steps might seem like a lot, but I’d invite you to use this checklist when you’re in the planning phase to make sure you maximize any integrated program planning opportunity. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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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Angela Dunn’s March #Ideachat focused on “How to Take an Idea from Concept to Execution” with Whitney Johnson, Francis Pedrazza, and Kevin Sakhuia as co-hosts. #Ideachat was its typical mega tweet-filled hour, but even more so than normal this month. As an indication of #Ideachat’s growing popularity, it seemed as if the greetings between participants went on for 10 minutes at the start. While that’s part of the fun, it just takes up time from the real creative interaction and information sharing that makes #Ideachat the one Twitter chat I really try to make each month.

Here are some of the paraquote highlights from the March #Ideachat Twitter stream:

March 2012 #Ideachat TweetersWhat does Personal Disruption Entail?

Personal disruption was the point of departure for #Ideachat to get a sense of what it takes to push yourself through fear into implementing ideas and launching significant new ventures.

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney: That’s the innovator’s dilemma: Die or die sooner. Disrupt yourself and you die later. I find that I need to walk in the direction of my fear. It is a signal that is exactly where I need to go.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: You have to feel lost before you can be found.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: Disrupt = unlearn = breaking rules = conversion = amazing results

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making the case.” – Ken Kesey

My Contribution: Personal disruption is knocking or allowing the footing to be knocked out from under what feels comfortable to you now.

Overcoming Fears of Failure to Get Personal Disruption Started

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: I consider most things “Nearly impossible” – that engages my curiosity and creativity.

My Contribution: If impossible is not a state of mind, then at least redefining the challenge to not be impossible is. At the TED 2012 Simulcast, Donald Sadoway talked about assigning his grad students projects he thought were impossible without telling them. They then go out and solve them because they don’t know they’re supposed to be impossible.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Learned a new phrase from @jasonwomack: “Practice makes comfortable.”  Applying it to get past fear of disrupting myself.

My Contribution:  Trying small, lower risk steps can help get over the initial fear of failure. It can also be done through taking a bigger risk on something that’s not “life” threatening.  Sometimes you can get over fear of failure by using the buddy system and having someone taking the same or a comparable risk along with you. One way of getting over fear can be letting someone or circumstances FORCE you in to what you fear. It’s all about letting yourself get thrown in the pool without resisting it!

What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart When It Comes to Personal Disruption

JoAnn Jordan / @JordanEM: Visionary, improvisational, rule benders.

Woody Bendle / @wbendle: Seeing things that nobody sees in the things that everyone sees. Commitment. Perseverance. Tenacity. Conviction. Focus. Resourcefulness. MacGyver with some business savvy.

Dean Meyers / @deanmeistr:  Entrepreneurs get bored easily.

Maureen Devlin / @lookforsun: I think for some entrepreneurs it’s about money, but others it’s passion for solving something. Money comes afterward.

Jose Baldaia / @Jabaldaia: A3 An entrepreneur is a full time volunteer with an unusual optimism and an extraordinary ability to see problems #ideachat

Steve Koss / @SteveKoss:  Triple play of integrity – thoughts, words, actions all in sync.

My Contribution:  Entrepreneurs have a confidence in “living” to see the next day. They instinctively see beyond any missteps or failures.

What Investors Expect in Attractive Ideas

Whitney Johnson / @johnsonwhitney:  The first question I ask: Is it disruptive? If so, is it low-end or new market? (Also) May bet on the founder if not sure of the idea. Won’t bet on the idea if they’re not comfortable with the founder.

Vala Afshar /@ValaAfshar: Ideas are of plenty. Its execution that bridges ideas to meaningful solutions.

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Create something disruptive. Product and metrics talk for itself. Surprisingly, investors are also searching for you.

Other Great Tidbits

Rich Rogers / @RichRogersHDS: Conventional wisdom is the most efficient path to ordinary.

Sandy Maxey / @sandymaxey: “Avoid being complicit in mindless incrementalism.” And “One person’s pain is another’s game?”

kevin sakhuja / @kevbook: Crowd funding works if 1) incentive is not monetary 2) u have a great story 3) u are a painkiller not a vitamin

The Harvard Business Review link to Whitney Johnson’s piece on procrastination being essential to innovation.

Final Thought: Any Twitter followers who leave you for all the #ideachat tweets you make in an hour are far outweighed by any #Ideachat participant kind enough to follow you!  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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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Saturday night, someone let go with a three-part Twitter rant admonishing people to share their personal experiences instead of simply recycling everyone else’s wisdom and passing it off as valuable content. His Twitter rant and the predilection of so many people to invest social media time sharing quotes from every long dead great thinker and popular experts of today got me thinking about why more individuals do not do their own great strategic thinking.

Maybe it is not as easy to take personal responsibility for great strategic thinking. You cannot simply just share what someone else has already thought and said. But how much more rewarding to do your own great thinking and develop personal conclusions and beliefs about what constitutes and leads to success.

Doing Great Strategic Thinking Is Not that Hard

Here are nine things to pave the way to sharing great thinking coming from personal experiences:

  • Write down the profound quotes you utter, even if you are the only one who happens to think they are profound quotes right now.
  • Instead of sharing a centuries old (or even year old) profound quote, share what the quote makes you think about that is relevant today.
  • View popular experts as a buffet instead of a full service restaurant. Sample from a bunch of popular experts to assemble your “great thinker meal,” rather than dining on only one great thinker all the time.
  • Cultivate an eclectic group of people to hang with in-person and online to lead you into unexpected strategic thinking adventures. This requires networking outside the typical group of online celebrities.
  • Digest sources outside the mainstream of your industry, business, and life to stimulate an intriguing and personal worldview.
  • Form your own worldview from every part of your personal experiences. Use your own worldview to guide you.
  • Recap and share what you have learned from your own experiences, not from what online celebrities say does or should work.
  • Turn your business and personal experiences into your own stories and lessons.

Remember though, these are simply suggestions. Part of being your own great thinker is taking the pieces that work for you from here and other places to create your own strategic thinking!  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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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I received an email recently about presenting to a technology marketing group on ideas for how to incorporate social media into your daily life. Thinking about the topic prompted this list of finding ideas on what to blog about in your daily life that is relevant for your social media audience.

As I always tell audiences, there are blog topic ideas in everything and every situation you encounter. While that is true, it is not as actionable as having a list to prompt you with specific situations to help you decide what to blog about in your daily life.

Today, you could consider these fifteen blogging topic ideas from:

  • Top stories from the morning news show you watched.
  • A novel idea that occurred to you in the shower.
  • Headlines in your newspaper or online feeds.
  • Topics customers are talking about during sales calls.
  • Questions being raised during customer service interactions.
  • Your opinion on today’s industry news.
  • Answering a question you received during a presentation.
  • A story you heard at lunch.
  • Insights gained from a conversation with a colleague.
  • Whatever the interesting person you met would like to cover in a guest blog post.
  • Information you shared in a capabilities presentation you delivered.
  • What you are doing for a customer today that provides tremendous value.
  • Sports analogies from the sports your kids are playing.
  • A perspective on a book you are currently reading.
  • Something you see on television this evening.

The moral of this blogging topic ideas story?

There are blogging topic ideas throughout your daily life, and it takes opening your perspective only slightly to find ideas for pages and pages of compelling blog content to share with your social media audience! – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download 6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!

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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Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, Dean of The University of Kansas School of Business, spoke about her work on customer brand expectations during “Moments of Truth: From Service Failure to Recovery” at the university’s Professional Edge speaker series yesterday. As expected by this customer/attendee, Neeli (she told us not to call her Dr. Bendapudi) did an outstanding job of engaging and entertaining the audience as she described how most organizations are like leaky buckets, with service failures and defecting customers represented by the holes where water escapes.

As an antidote to address failing to meet customer brand expectations and resulting customer defections, Neeli offered 7 steps to service recovery and fixing customer relationships:

Step 1 – Use TLC (as in The Lens of the Customer) to examine customer service.

In what Neeli described as often the hardest service performance step for companies, they have to get everyone within an organization asking how personal and organizational actions affect customers. This requires thinking about benefits (instead of attributes) and what a customer buys (vs. what a company sells). She provided an example contrasting the cosmetics a cosmetic company sells with the “hope in a jar” that consumers are really buying.

Setup 2 – Clarify customer brand expectations using multiple methods.

Photo by: Seleneos | Source: Photocase.com

While brands love asking customers what they expect or what they want from a product or service, customers aren’t in the best position to answer the question. That’s why it’s important to probe on customer brand expectations from multiple directions to really understand what expectations and opportunities are. Neeli offered several examples of getting customer expectations wrong, including pink hotel rooms for women business travelers and UPS tightening delivery driver schedules when customers said they wanted on-time service without articulating a desire for small talk with those same delivery drivers.

Step 3 – Translate customer expectations into both hard (objective) and soft (subjective) standards.

Similar to the whole brain metrics approach we recommend, Neeli points to the need for both objective and subjective standards to drive and monitor performance on customer expectations. While there can be a preference for the more easily measured objective metrics, subjective standards (i.e., being friendly to customers) are vital elements of customer expectations.

Step 4 – Ensure the people inside your company are living your brand.

Particularly when it comes to an organization’s service aspects, an organization’s people bring its brand promise to life on a daily basis. Organizations need to ARM their people for success as brand ambassadors, ensuring they have Ability, Role Clarity, and Motivation at all potential breaking points for the brand promise. Neeli identifies role clarity at the potential service breakdown point as the element most organizations never consider.

Step 5 – Know when you have failed.

It’s vital for an organization to know when it’s suffered a service failure. Having internal metrics and standards that signal service issues is only part of the equation. Since research has suggested only 3 – 4% of customers in the US complain to a company when they perceive a service failure, it’s also important for organizations to make it easier for customers to highlight service issues. British Airways once installed video booths by baggage claim to let passengers video their gripes when they were top-of-mind – before leaving the airport.

Step 6 – Break the silence – aggressively.

When customers complain, they are not ready to break the relationship with a brand. If they were ready to break the relationship, they’d simply walk away. Isolated complaints are rarely isolated; they represent the tip of the iceberg with many more similar complaints not being voiced. When a brand is trying to break the silence on service failures, however, it should only turn to customer surveys if it is prepared to act on the results.

Step 7  – Create (Customer) Apostles.

The end game in preventing, addressing, and recovering as quickly and effectively as possible from service failures is to cultivate customer apostles who go out of their way to tell others why they should be using your product or service.

If you ever get the opportunity to see Dr. Neeli Bendapudi speak on any of her work on services marketing, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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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