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I was talking with an organization’s leader the other day about how the boss can participate in the process of strategy planning and managing for change without compromising the team’s results. In his case, he was concerned that if he sat back and let his team take the lead in the process of strategy planning, they wouldn’t push for enough change. If, however, he talked first to demonstrate how far the organization needs to go in managing for change, he feared the team would agree with his comments without challenging ideas “the boss” shares.

He asked me what I’d recommend to help mitigate this particular challenge of the boss dominating in the process of strategy planning.

In this case my recommendation was based on a quick assessment that he legitimately wants his organization to undergo dramatic changes. My answer would differ if the question were coming from a leader who talks about change yet every obvious action suggests change isn’t a good thing.

With that backdrop, my first recommendation was to bring in an outside strategic facilitator (i.e., The Brainzooming Group!) so he isn’t in the dual role of trying to both participate and facilitate at the same time. Unless it’s a very rare situation, a leader has to pick one role or the other. Trying to facilitate and also participate is a recipe for problems.

Five Ways to Keep the Boss from Dominating Strategy Planning

Beyond that important recommendation, here are five other ways to deal with this challenge:

  • Incorporate anonymous responses from the team so they can say their peace and suggest ideas without being identified.
  • Reduce the leader’s presence in the strategy planning process so they are not “visibly” participating in front of all team members at all times.
  • Vary the leader’s participation so the leader isn’t always talking first, but is talking first when it makes sense to do so.
  • Use different strategy questions than the organization typically asks so employees won’t know as readily what answers to expect from the boss.
  • Use a new or clearly neutral location for the planning session so the boss can’t sit in the usual power position in a room where the team typically meets.

Those are a few of the general techniques we use to get the broadest and most balanced participation during the process of strategy planning.

Are You Facing this Same Challenge?

What things have you done successfully to ensure the boss doesn’t overly-sway a team when it’s trying to be effective at managing for change? Are there things you do that haven’t worked as well? Let’s hear them!

And if you’re facing this same challenge, give us a call so YOU can do the most and get the most from your team’s planning effort.  – 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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Is your organization challenged in identifying robust social media topics to share, especially via blogging? If you are struggling with this, I’ll bet you aren’t taking advantage of an outside-in blogging strategy.

The Challenge of Creating Robust Social Media Topics

That was the challenge for someone I talked with recently who is blogging for an Alzheimer’s care facility. Because of patient privacy restrictions and the fact that people would probably rather not have to think about life in a long-term, senior care facility, the organization was struggling with what they could write about regarding the center. She asked what ideas I had for alternative blog topics.

As with so many organizations, I pointed out the primary problem was with the organization’s writing perspective.

We generally find organizations of all types just moving into social media approach it as they would other corporate communications efforts, i.e. starting with a list of topics the organization wants its audiences to know about on an ongoing basis.

While that might work (maybe) in traditional communication channels, this type of inside-out blogging approach is tremendously limiting.

Unless you have rabid brand fanatics who are consumed by your brand, you probably occupy a pretty small share of even a great customer’s interest. They have lives outside of what you do for them. They think about and are really interested in what’s going on with their lives, not what’s going on with your organization. So when you try and wedge what you care about into the relatively tiny mind share they have for you, there just aren’t that many compelling topics you can successfully cover.

Creating An Outside-In Blogging Strategy

When your organization moves into social media, you need to adopt an outside-in blogging strategy.

An outside-in blogging strategy implies you start identifying topics based on what your audience is interested in and then identifying how you can credibly address those topics. With an outside-in blogging strategy, you need to begin with a strong audience persona (or perhaps multiple ones) that describe a typical reader, their lifestyle, and their interests. As a generalized portrayal of a blog reader, the persona can be formed from market research, audience profile information, and insights from internal staff. We often create personas for our clients through a 10 question interactive exercise to create an initial persona for use in social media.

Once you have an audience persona developed, you’re in a fantastic position to start thinking about what your audience cares about and seeing which of their concerns you can address.

Getting back to the Alzheimer’s care center blogger, in our brief conversation, we described her target audience member as Joan, a married woman in her late forties with a mother exhibiting early stage Alzheimer’s. She is caring for her mother in her home, along with a couple of older kids. From that background, we generated five new topic ideas within a minute:

  • Managing financial issue for older parents
  • Meals that are fast to prepare
  • Providing full-time care without losing yourself
  • What to do when you can’t do any more than you are doing right now
  • How to make sure your parents are getting the best care

You can easily imagine all of these topics being of very high interest for Joan. While none are specifically related to the Alzheimer’s care center, it has a basis to address them, either with its own experts or through reaching out to others as guest contributors.

And most importantly, this list was generated in a minute using an outside-in blogging strategy. If we’d have kept going, this list of ideas would have grown to 100 within 15 minutes.

Getting Started

If you haven’t adopted an outside-in blogging strategy for your organization, now is the time to start. And if you need assistance getting an outside-in blogging strategy started, call The Brainzooming Group. We’ll get you going on it very quickly! – 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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Last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal “Books” section featured an article called, “The Agony of Writing” by Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen. With a not very hopeful opening sentence (“I hate to write”) matching the title, Quindlen shared her approach to the creative performance secrets of her craft in “The Agony of Writing.”

Her strategy can be generalized into to the seven following steps to deal with creative blocks and sustain creative performance. Most are comparable to creativity instigators we’ve discussed, but she introduced some intriguing creative strategy twists along the way:

1. Force yourself to start creating

Even if your particular pursuit for creativity is a dreaded struggle, put yourself in a position to start. Whatever the motivation (i.e., intense fear, important obligations, pending financial doom, etc.), motivate yourself to stop procrastinating and start creating.

2. THINK creative; DO something else

Quindlen uses a variation of the phenomenon of coming up with great ideas in the shower to her advantage daily. She begins each day with a one-hour walk where she works on the story flow for her current work. While this isn’t a new creative strategy, until reading her description, I’d never simplified it to, “THINK creative; DO something else.”

3. Remove quality as a hurdle for getting started

Anna Quindlen says she doesn’t “believe in writer’s block.” Her attitude is to start writing, even if it isn’t great writing. She has found anything that feels close to creativity (even if it’s lacking) can lead to better output later. Essentially, crappy is better than nothing when it comes to working through creative blocks.

4. Identify something to put you in your creativity zone

One way to instigate creativity is with a physical object or setting that establishes your mood. Anna Quindlen uses a physical article that puts her into the world about which she is currently writing. I really like the idea of anchoring a cerebral creative process with a physical object. That helps me explain the toys and squeeze balls on my desk.

5. Identify and protect a scheduled creative time that works for you and your creativity rhythms

Your focused creative time has to consistently and predictably support your creative efforts. Quindlen calls her creative time the “elementary school schedule,” since it runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., or the time the kids are away from the house. She even shuns lunches out to avoid breaking her creativity rhythms during the day.

6. Direct your creativity and creative energy to production

Author Truman Capote was noted for talking about his work a lot. Talking about writing isn’t writing, just as talking about ideas isn’t the same as doing something with ideas. Quindlen cautions against using mental energy to talk about your creative task without ever working on it. She also advises individuals to not take on additional jobs or pursue hobbies tapping your primary creative energy. She believes she has only a certain number of words available per day and tweets, emails, and writing for some other purpose use up those precious words.

7. Quit midstream

Anna Quindlen always ends her writing for the day in mid-sentence. Because she hasn’t finished up the day with a completed sentence, she has a natural place (and a head start) in getting started the next day. This was a different take for me, and I suspect for most people. It seems people usually try to stop at a “natural stopping place,” which is a point of completion, even if it’s an interim one. I’ll definitely try to quit midstream and see how it works.

Well?

That’s what a Pulitzer Prize winnder does to sustain creative performance. Can you see yourself incorporating these ideas into your creativity regimen? Are there other creative strategies working better for you?  – Mike Brown

 

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creativity 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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8

To follow-up a recent post on business branding, we wanted to offer another brand compilation featuring articles from The Brainzooming Group related to customer experience. Examining your brand through a customer experience perspective is vital when considering brand strategy modifications you hope will solidify relationships with current and future customers.

These twenty-two articles on multiple aspects of brand strategy and customer experience can help you strengthen how you’re considering and evaluating your branding approach. This is especially important if you’re losing customers unexpectedly, being attacked by competitors disrupting the marketplace, or considering expanding into new markets. If you have efforts such as these under consideration or underway, call or email The Brainzooming Group for a free check-in consultation to make sure you’ve framed up your brand strategy efforts to maximize success.

Behaviors

Customer Buying Cycle

Customer Involvement

Consumer Goods

Service Businesses

  • Delivering on the Brand Promise – Just Try Harder – A brand promise isn’t just a few words. If you aren’t going to carry out your brand promise, you should come up with a different one your brand can perform.
  • Branding Lessons with the Newlyweds at Elitch Gardens – A great brand lesson demonstrating that a brand isn’t a name. A brand is all about the customer experience, and you have to make sure the brand name IS aligned with all parts of the customer experience.
  • Helping People Help Themselves – Too often, brands go the self-service route purely out of cost savings with little regard for the impact on the customer experience. With just a little forethought, you can devise a self-service strategy that might even add value for your customers. Here are 26 potential self-service benefits to consider.
  • How Can You Reinforce Your Smelly Brand? – Just because you’re in a service business doesn’t mean you can’t use experience cues taken from physical attributes of your brand and integrate them more directly into your brand experience. Here’s proof it’s possible!
  • Strategic Thinking from the Customer’s Seat – Front line employees can generate great ideas to improve the customer experience, especially for niche customer groups who wouldn’t typically show up in the data. Are you listening to your front line employees to see what customer experience ideas they have?
  • Customize a Customer Brand Experience Very Simply – You don’t necessarily need loads of technology to provide customized customer experiences. A little forethought and some helpful suggestions (call it experience curation, if you must) can provide customized customer experiences as well.

Crisis Moments

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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Spend enough time on social media networks and you will see a variety of negative online behavior. During the last few years on Twitter, I have observed such bad social media practices as:

  • A live-in couple breaking up via back and forth tweets
  • An adult harassing a child as the child’s mother responded in a state of terror
  • An individual being targeted and antagonized repeatedly by multiple people with various troll-like behaviors

Beyond these two-way online attacks, there is another distinct strain of online vigilante attacks. This troll-like behavior involves certain individuals (usually an online expert) waging an attack against bad social media practices the online vigilante has labeled wrong, harmful, or disingenuous, all in the spirit of protecting (and supposedly educating) others.

Attacking Bad Social Media Practices?

I watched one of these play out recently.

A self-appointed online vigilante went after a competitor (and certain employees of the competitor) for disingenuous social media behavior. What started as a post bemoaning the competitor’s bad social media practices (supported by an uploaded screen grab of the competitor’s site) triggered supportive comments from the online vigilante’s followers. This was followed by the online vigilante’s more pointed invective. Finally, an employee at the competitor under attack responded with a mea culpa and a request to put a stop to the feeding frenzy underway.

While the original comment was a valid opinion about the competitor’s presence, it was a situation where the parties KNOW each other. Rather than pointing out a competitor’s weakness to the online vigilante’s large follower network (under the guise of being shocked by the competitor’s shortcomings), it could have been handled privately. Or even ignored completely. There was no compelling reason to call out a competitor’s bad social media practices – other than to belittle the competitor in the eyes of potential clients.

I might have believed the online vigilante’s claim that no harm was ever meant in the original post except I’ve seen the same type of attack in several venues. And each time, the same motivation is claimed: to simply point out something the online vigilante found surprising or incredulous about a competitor’s social media practices.

Acting on Our Behalf?

Looking at this situation and others, online vigilantes are characterized by a rather unsavory set of personality traits and behaviors, including:

  • Being disingenuous (which is why they like to call it out in others)
  • Sarcasm
  • Vindictiveness
  • A strong sense of personal superiority
  • Detraction
  • Narcissism

Sounds like someone you’d want to hang out with, doesn’t it?

There are certainly other and more appropriate ways to wage social duels and fight with some level of online etiquette. Yet in this case and others, online vigilantism seems to attract thousands of followers in spite of, or heaven forbid, because of their negative online behavior.

And to that, I guess all I can say is, if we’re following them (and I obviously am), then we, as an audience, get what we deserve.  – 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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3

1. The problem with beating yourself up is since you know all the best places to punch, it really hurts.

2. Minimizing a situation’s risk can be simply a personal mental challenge. Change your point of view and the risk evaporates so you can take action.

3. Why is it we so often become what we have scorned before we were in the other person’s shoes?

4. Respect your adversaries. Not everyone who disagrees with your ideas is an idiot.

5. Take the high road even when it feels as if you are the only one on that road…because you are not alone, even if no one is in sight.

6. You’re you. They’re them. You can’t control THEM, so if you want to change the situation, you had better start changing YOU.

7. We aren’t perfect. When we THINK we are perfect, we DO become perfectly wrong. So when a mistake or something wrong happens, ask, “How is this result better than what I had planned? What new ideas does this present?”

8. What if you applied the energy required for thinking up ideas for how to blame someone for your mistakes and just worked on solving what went wrong?

9. When you get better, you’ll find, amazingly, that others get better.

10. Don’t think you’ll recognize the decisive when it happens. Tomorrow’s decisive probably looks like today’s happenstance. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I met Hillary Hopper on Twitter one night when she tweeted about a creative block. With a continual search in Tweetdeck for “creative block,” I try to reach out to people and share some ideas. Interestingly, very few respond. Hillary did though, and that started a fun Twitter correspondence through a move, career changes, and seeing her design work, particularly in online gaming. Recently we talked about Hillary doing a guest article for Brainzooming during World Creativity and Innovation Week. We decided on Hillary discussing how creativity shapes her work for mobile game design at Tinyco. Here’s Hillary Hopper!

Creativity in Mobile Game Design by Hillary Hopper

When I tell people that I am a mobile user interface/user experience (UI/UX) game designer, I think a lot of people either:

1. Don’t understand what responsibilities the role entails
2. Think that I am someone who makes stock assets (i.e. boxes and triangles) for games

Thankfully my job does not entail that; at least not all the time. Instead, my role is steeped in a world of color and imagination. My expertise is in social simulation games such as Tiny Village and Farm Ville. I love this sector of the industry because it has a lot of creativity available to it. While working on Tiny Village, I have been able to be creative with creating icons, and theme of the UI, along with being more analytical and thinking about the user experience and flow.

In the mobile gaming industry, there is a lot of ground to cover when it comes to creativity and UI design.  Mobile gaming has turned into a $12 billion dollar market and is growing over 50% per year. This has led people from all over the world to try their hand at creating mobile games of one kind or another.

Creating Harmony between UI and UX

The aesthetics of a game are critically important because that is the first thing a user will see. UI/UX designers have to not only identify the kind of feel that a game needs to have, but they also have to be critically aware of the artwork that is being created for the game. Examples of artwork for mobile games include the look and feel of buildings, landscapes, and characters. More often than not, gaming companies will have a separate group that creates these assets, so it’s possible for the teams to go on different paths.

Creating harmony between the user interface and the artwork is a fundamental design task and can be a very fun process. This process is actually much more complex than it sounds — the user interface should not overwhelm a game’s artwork or vice versa. Although there are several schools of thought about the synergy, I am a firm believer that UI should be secondary to the artwork and less noticeable. The best games today offer a user experience that helps the user navigate without being intrusive. For example, while working at TinyCo I have tried to create beautiful UI but have it not be distracting to the player. UI should not cover up, but should complement its surroundings and display information properly.

I’ve spoken about the user interface aspect but it’s important to mention what the user experience aspect entails. Designing a game’s user experience is an area that is extremely creative and stimulating. I spend a lot of time planning the flow of the game after a user interacts with game (i.e. tapping a UI button). This usually includes designing animations and modals. A strong user experience allows the user to navigate seamlessly through the game in a way that just feels natural.

Simple UX Design

A lot of people like to over think UX, but I view it as making the simplest solution possible. The simpler the process, the better it will be for the user and more intuitive. While working at TinyCo, some of the biggest UX questions have been solved by a simple solution. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be some complicated UX. Most times it’s designing a feature that is simple and makes sense.

Being creative about button placement and learning about the psychology of the human being helps a lot. During any UX project,  designers must remember that humans are creatures of habit. Thus the UX should be almost a habit to make the user tap without even thinking.

Mobile Game Design as a Career

If you are a designer and wondering what type of industries to consider, I would strongly suggest mobile game design. Opportunities are abundant in Silicon Valley, Los Angles, and New York.  But how do know if you’re a good fit? If the following bullet points describe you, then you should consider UX/UI game design:

  • You love games
  • You play mobile games on your own
  • You notice the interface on all types of games
  • You enjoy making icons and love pixel perfect designs
  • Color theory is a strong suit for you and you love putting themes together

Being responsible for the design of a game’s user interface and user experience is a challenging but rewarding opportunity. Because of the tight deadlines, the learning curve can be overwhelming at first. But once you learn its strengths and weaknesses it becomes a lot easier. You can see every pixel and color and making just one small mistake can be seen by everyone. I wouldn’t want to work in any other field and have found it to be such a wonderful career. – Hillary Hopper

 


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity 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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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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