Implementation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2
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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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I’m heading a team at church with responsibility for evangelization and conversion. Our responsibilities include ensuring our church creates an inviting and welcoming experience for both parishioners and visitors.

Our team gathered before the last Sunday mass this weekend to conduct a visual and experience audit. We used a worksheet supplied by our local archdiocese to perform what they called a visual hospitality audit. We informally extended the audit to include the entire experience, not just the visual cues.

The worksheet was tremendously helpful. It kept our team aligned AND provided a way to see our parish experience with fresh eyes.

Even before we successfully used the worksheet to conduct the audit, we planned to adapt the idea to develop a new Brainzooming branding exercise. It will help brands effectively and efficiently look at their in-person customer experiences.

If you want to adapt the concept to your brand’s in-person customer experience, here are the steps we’re taking to modify it:

To set up our team’s exercise, I prepared a cover sheet advising people to be as much in the background as possible (to minimize the impact of our presence on the observations). It also suggested trying, as best possible, to take on the eyes of specific audiences that need accommodation beyond the typical experience.

Our next step is compiling all the results. It is clear already that the audit form led all of us to new insights. One team member noticed a massive mosaic on the front of the church for the first time, even though he’s been in and around the church for fifty years! That shows the value of this type of customer experience audit approach to allow you to find fresh eyes, even if you have decade of exposure to a customer experience situation. – Mike Brown

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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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The idea of personal branding seems like it’s been around forever. Many people credit author Tom Peters for popularizing the concept of personal branding strategies in a late ‘90s Fast Company article. If you are unfamiliar with the term, personal branding simply means building awareness and a reputation for your business self through strategies used to develop and market product or service brands.

I talk to many senior business people who think the idea of developing personal branding strategies is nonsense. That opinion tends to soften, though, once they are trying to change careers or reinvent themselves. Then, they suddenly get the personal branding religion and reach out for ideas and advice on how to successfully (and uber-quickly) develop their personal brands.

6 Personal Branding Strategies for Senior Executives

Someone in my LinkedIn network reached out recently with news that he has left the corporate world and looking for ideas on personal brand strategies to increase his online presence. To start answering his question, and get you thinking about the concept now, before you need it, here are six personal branding strategies we suggest for senior executives in career transitions. These are fundamental and important steps to build a personal brand online (and offline) as quickly as possible:

#1 Get Started by Repackaging Content

If you have ever created any content about your chosen profession that’s still relatively current, track it down. Your potential content stash could include non-proprietary presentations, articles, reports, and industry overviews. Edit these into a 300-to-500-word format. Review the pieces for tone, grammar, punctuation, and spelling (one more time never hurts), and then publish your article on LinkedIn. Two weeks later, publish another one, and keep on doing it.

#2 Share Content Online Regularly and Frequently

As you publish articles in your professional area, share links to all of them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Yes, if you don’t already have presences on these social networks, you’ll need to create them and start growing your network on each one.

Besides links to the articles you publish, you should also share ideas and engaging tidbits about things going on in your professional life. Potential topics include your business experiences, travel updates, info on intriguing people that you meet, new information you learn, and insights you recently gained. All these social media posts help in creating the perception that you are active and in-demand. You will be amazed at how even a handful of regular posts prompt people you meet in real life to remark about how they see you doing things. That’s all positive for building your personal brand.

#3 Adapt What You Share Online

As you create and share content online, continue to refine your strategy. You can do this based on how people engage with your content and the reactions they share. Rethink what you want people to know about you. What do you want them to tell someone that they are referring you to in a professional setting? As you home in on this vision, share more of the content that corresponds with it. While we would ordinarily make that a first step before creating and sharing content, at this stage it is more important to get started than to waste weeks or months figuring out exactly what you should share.

#4 Reach Out to People Regularly without Asking for Anything

Begin emailing people with ideas, tips, insights, and other content that will be helpful to them. Don’t email someone you haven’t talked to forever with a request to help you. Email them multiple times with beneficial ideas before you ever ask for anything, especially networking help. If your first outreach is to interrupt a valuable contact to help you, you know you aren’t starting out well.

#5 Upgrade Your Personal Presence

If you don’t have one already, hire a professional photographer to take great photos of you. Make sure the pictures are natural and highlight what you look like at your best. Now replace all the bad, amateurish photos of you on your social presences with these new, great photos.

Also, make an investment in Moo business cards. I’m continually surprised by how many people (even ones I’d consider business hip), don’t know about Moo cards. They are pricier, but they’re of a heavier card stock; they come in striking shapes, and they can showcase multiple bold messages. Since I began using Moo cards, people repeatedly remark about them to me. They will set you apart, too, when you hand out your business card to someone.

#6 Get Out There and Meet People

Aggressively attend networking events. The key, again, is to not wait until you must network to find a new opportunity. Network when you can view it as a pure numbers game, one in which you aren’t under pressure to turn every meeting or event into a major win. When you aren’t desperately needing to network, outreaches that fall through won’t hurt nearly as badly — psychologically or career-wise. If you take the big networking meeting route, bring along a friend as your wing person. Two people networking together doubles the chances that you’ll know people there. You can also encourage one another when your reserves run low.

Start Now!

The challenge is to start and keep going on all these personal branding strategies. Don’t stop doing them once you land the next opportunity you’re seeking. That’s the time to increase your outreach, not retreat from it. – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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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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Looking for ways to keep strategic planning advancing before the rest of the company starts to actively think about next year?

If you’re involved in strategic planning, one valuable activity you can be doing right now is scouting out new venues in your community for offsite strategic planning meetings. Hit the web and phone, and then hit several new locations where you can potentially take the team for strategic planning this year. You may be amazed at the impact that fresh surroundings can have on enabling stronger strategic thinking.

5 Things Any Offsite Strategic Planning Venue Must Offer

During your site visits, look for these things to help decide which offsite strategic planning venue makes the most sense to use this year:

#1 Event Planner

Make sure that the event planner at the venue understands what you’re trying to accomplish during your offsite meeting. Invite the event planner into your meeting planning. Ask to see and/or hear about things they’ve done for other companies that might work for your team’s success. If they’re unwilling to engage in this type of exploration, that’s a strong sign you’re not in the right offsite venue for you.

#2 An Environment for Teams to Work

Look for lots of wall and floor space where you can create opportunities for small groups to collaborate, with enough space between them so that noise won’t be an issue. Make sure you can secure much more floor space than they might typically offer for meetings. You want people to be able to move around and not trip over one another.

#3 Flexible Furniture

Look for flexible furniture arrangements. Big conference room tables push people into sitting in familiar places and playing the same roles they usually do in your conference rooms back at the office. Look for modular furniture and a willingness from the venue to move things around so that they’re how you need them.

#4 Options for Multiple Settings

Within one facility, are there options for varied meeting rooms, environments, and team activities? While a facility with only one meeting room can work, it’s fantastic to have multiple settings within a venue to vary things during the one or more days you are there.

#5 Seamless Food Service

Find out about food service. You may think it’s important to be able to bring in your own food and beverages to better manage costs. For us, having to mess with these things the day of a strategic planning workshop is a major distraction from the most important work: breakthrough thinking. If the facility or a partner vendor can remove this distraction, it’s a smart investment.

That’s our typical list of important things we look for in an offsite strategic planning venue. When you can find all these things in one location, you have a winner. – Mike Brown

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The most popular statistic right now when it comes to knowledge transfer inside organizations?

Ten thousand baby boomers are reaching retirement age daily.

This statistic is used to light a fire under executives to hop on the knowledge management program. Many articles I’ve reviewed for an upcoming keynote presentation that I’ve informally called, Baby Boomers: Losing their Minds, paint the situation as totally dire.

While there’s a clear risk to losing intellectual capital, I see several potential upsides with the changing of the generational guard. We still see too many Brainzooming strategy workshops without enough women in senior roles, let alone healthy racial diversity. Given that, the baby boomer turnover has the potential to deliver multiple benefits, including:

That’s why the relevant number for your organization isn’t 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age daily. It is how much of your organization’s intellectual capital is subject to departure risk?

When identifying information to transfer in a strategic, coordinated fashion, I’m recommending to attendees that they prioritize several types of knowledge:

  • Information inside the heads and in the files of employees (irrespective of level in the company) who have influenced the organization’s body of intellectual capital, knowledge, and expertise
  • The details, keys to important communications flows, and histories within customer relationships integral to maintaining and growing revenue
  • Information on processes, procedures, and activities related to critical factors for organizational success
  • Successful structures and processes to transfer, embed, and ensure that the organization can act on vital knowledge

One other factor to narrow the knowledge you try to capture? Focus on capturing information that will be relevant in the future. While you may have a tremendous amount of information inside baby boomers’ heads, why waste time documenting things that won’t be important going forward? – Mike Brown

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Mid-year is that time where you look ahead to the year’s end while simultaneously reviewing this year’s plan and wondering how everything will get done by December 31. That leads to asking, “What would happen if we don’t get everything done? Didn’t we put too many things into the plan, anyway?”

Sound familiar?

5 Areas to Get Stalled Strategic Planning Initiatives Moving

I used to go through this routine repeatedly until I realized that I lacked a standard checklist of project assessment questions to use when a strategic planning initiative is behind schedule. I guess I was recreating the question set every time I needed it.

To spare yourself and everyone around you the hassles involved with not working from a standard set of questions, you can use the following routine this week, and in the years ahead, to standardize your diagnoses and approaches to floundering projects.

Rank the Suspected Causes

The first step is to assess the potential reasons why a strategic planning initiative hasn’t started within the time frame you originally planned. We recommend making a quick assessment. Our approach is to rank potential factors based on which you think are the most-to-least significant in delaying launch. Some typical factors you may consider:

  • The initiative’s importance or fit within the plan is off or no longer relevant
  • The leader and/or team on the initiative isn’t the right one
  • There’s an issue with the structure of the approach the team is taking to the initiative
  • There’s an issue with the size or scope of the initiative
  • Resource availability or levels are a roadblock
  • Some other reason is creating the roadblock

Ranking these factors, 1 through 6, helps prioritize your starting place to address the initiative’s delay. One ground rule: there can be no ties in your ranking. Not EVERY item can be the #1 reason. Force quick priorities so you can begin addressing the important issue as quickly as possible.

After completing the assessment, work through question-based checklists on the most significant factors. These are our starting questions in each category:

#1. The Importance or Strategic Fit Is Off

If changes in the internal or external environment are now calling into question a delayed initiative’s importance, ask:

  • Are there ways to simplify or change the initiative’s direction to increase its relevance?
  • What has changed in the underlying business strategy that impacts the need or interest in moving forward? Will the strategy change back (or again) soon?
  • Are specific reasons for moving forward more important than others? If we focused only on those reasons, how would we adjust the initiative?
  • If we don’t move forward with the initiative this year, what material impact will it have on attaining important goals and objectives?
  • Would we be better to divert focus from this initiative to other initiatives? Would we benefit more from diverting focus from other initiatives to jump start this delayed one?

#2. Leadership or Team Issues

Maybe the leaders or team expected to develop an initiative aren’t the right fit. This scenario prompts a variety of questions:

  • Is the initiative under-staffed? If we put more people on it, what will that change?
  • Does the team have challenges working together? Who, among the team members, needs to change in order to fix those issues?
  • Are there parties critical to developing or launching the initiative who haven’t been included to this point? Will involving them now help address these delays?
  • Are there people whose participation would have an immediate impact on moving forward?
  • If a major change in the team is needed, who from the current team should remain, in order to provide the right degree of continuity?

#3. An Issue with the Approach

In some cases, a struggling initiative makes sense, but delays in getting started are impacting the effectiveness of the original approach. Consider:

  • Is there a smaller effort or pilot related to this initiative that we can use to get progress (and results) going as soon as possible?
  • If there are uncertainties with the approach or the current environment, can we start with a part of the initiative that we could easily change or adapt later?
  • Are there steps we can easily remove (with disproportionately less impact) to streamline the development time?
  • Did we miss the order of steps we identified to launch the initiative? If so, is that fixable?
  • What initiatives have we previously completed that we can repurpose to accelerate progress?
  • Have we exhausted all the leeway in the original schedule? Do we (or can we, even) negotiate for more time?

#4. The Size or Scope Is an Issue

The delay can mean that the original planned initiative is now too big or small for current needs. Ask:

  • What are the areas in which to naturally modify the initiative, so it makes smart, strategic sense?
  • Are there nice-to-haves within the initiative that we can easily eliminate?
  • If the initiative isn’t going to have a big enough impact at this point, what changes do we need to make in order to minimize the gap?

#5. Resource Availability

Another factor that can slow progress is resource mismatches. Scenarios to think about:

  • If we put more money or other resources at this initiative, what type of impact would it generate?
  • Can we couple this initiative with a different, active one, so that they can leverage common resources?
  • What resources can we grab or repurpose from other initiatives and work them into this one?

First Ask, then Answer about Strategic Planning Initiatives

We hope that you’ll find this list of questions helpful in conducting any mid-year initiative reviews you need to do to make sure you deliver the most important aspects of this year’s plan. – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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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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I was at a church vision council’s meeting recently. The relatively new group is overseeing implementation of the church’s strategic plan and progress on it updated mission. That evening, the group was discussing alternative strategies to improve the church building and grounds. Looking at various plans, their conversation focused on the building activities in each plan:

  • The number of meeting rooms
  • The number and sizes of offices
  • Minimum hallway widths for accessibility
  • The types of dividers and doors to provide flexible room sizes
  • Which buildings might be torn down to enable new construction

Their discussion turned to how parish members might react to the various options and whether they’d support a building initiative.

via Shutterstock

My caution to the group was that, from the first stages, members need to be careful about the language they use to discuss the building initiative.

The group faced the classic features-benefits trap; their building project discussion was only about features.

Customers Write Checks for Features, but Buy the Benefits

They were ignoring the benefits: how each plan would dramatically expand the parish’s ability to realize its mission of prayer and service. Beyond the numbers of rooms and wall finishes, THAT is the important benefit from the building initiative. While the parish (and its members) will write a check for buildings and infrastructure, they are buying an experience. They are buying the ability to better help parishioners and all those they will reach out to with assistance to realize a closer relationship with God.

It’s easy for any organization to fall into that same features-benefits trap with its marketing and sales messages: While customers pay for features, they are buying the benefits.

That is why it is so vital to make sure you identify and articulate benefits that are clear, vivid, and important for your potential customers. – 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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