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If you are in charge of developing innovation strategy, you have to answer the question, “What are our next big innovation opportunities?”

Being responsible for developing innovation strategy also means reaching out beyond your innovation team to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to gather valuable input.

When your outreach consists of asking stakeholders what your next big innovation opportunities are, however, you are missing the mark.

Delegating the Wrong Question to the Right People

Quesiton-Mark-Puzzle

Photo by: Leung Cho Pan

When answering the question about big innovation opportunities, your answer will likely come after significant exploration, ideation, concept development, prioritization, and prototyping. With that work out of the way, you are ready to speculate about the future opportunities.

Thinking you can delegate to others your job of developing innovation strategy and answering the important question you must address will not work. You cannot expect others to answer in one-step the question you might work months to address.

Yet, companies try to do just that.

Innovation Strategy that Has a Chance to Work

Talking with someone inside a big company recently, what they have tried to ask various stakeholders what they think the next innovation should be. First, it was through an employee “idea box.” When that did not work, it was through talking to customers, asking them what the company should innovate. That was not successful either.

No surprise in either case.

When taking the right step to reach out to employees and customers, do not expect them to develop your strategy. Instead, solicit input and help them articulate insights they have to help shape the innovation strategy.

  • Employees know about challenges and lost opportunities with customers. They know about problems with processes that restrict delivering value.
  • Customers know why they don’ use your product more. They know the problems or challenges they have with your product and what they wish you did more of or better.

Talk to your stakeholders about topics they can address. Give them information and the strategic thinking structures they can use to better articulate their thoughts.

Then, get back to the work you should be doing to turn that information, along with the other work you are doing, into answers about what your next big innovation opportunities are.

If you’d like to learn very productive ways to explore and identify your innovation opportunities, we invite you to download our FREE “Outside-In Innovation” edition of the Strategic Thinking Facebook. It’s waiting for you below, and will jump start answering the innovation questions you need to answer!

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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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“At what point do you trust a creative genius who comes in as your new boss?”

That was a fantastic, completely new question at a recent creative thinking workshop.

What prompted it was discussing Greg Reid when he joined Yellow Corporation as our new CMO during my Fortune 500 days. With a consumer marketing background, Greg arrived at our business-to-business transportation company during a major turnaround. Everything was already topsy-turvy, and he added to it with a completely different mode of extreme creative than any of us had previously encountered.

He was the archetypical creative genius. I was the person who “got” his creative ideas and turned many of them into reality, and we started working well together in a short time.

Trust Me on This?

I will admit being skeptical of some of Greg’s extreme creativity.

GAR-Balance-the-world

About six months after arriving, he wanted to fly the entire corporate and field marketing and sales team to Phoenix for a kickoff meeting and retreat at a golf resort. As part of the event, he decided to bring in Earl Monroe, the former New York Knicks great, to speak and do a meet and greet with our internal team.

The whole thing smelled like a boondoggle WAY beyond the boundaries of acceptability at our extremely cost conscious company. I KNEW it might go okay, but figured the field VPs and our senior management would be in an uproar when they discovered the meeting retreat.

I was COMPLETELY wrong.

The event was fantastic, the field people were very excited to be involved and share their perspectives, and it created a strong bond among all the attendees. And no one in senior management said a word about the cost. The fact we held it in Phoenix in June when the temperatures were higher than the room rates likely helped.

Greg pretty much had my complete trust in his creative genius at that point.

Trust My Extreme Creativity?

I will admit, however, being a vocal naysayer of one other early extreme creativity idea from Greg’s early days.

The next year after our overwhelmingly successful inaugural company-wide meeting, Greg proposed another completely outlandish idea. He wanted to open the next company-wide meeting with a film of our entire senior leadership team meeting when they were kids. The video would feature a doppelganger kid for each executive. The kids would behave like the executives did as adults, with the addition of child-like bickering, poking, and hitting one another.

I proclaimed the idea as crazy and too much of an inside joke; I was certain the comedy would fall flat with the audience of twelve hundred sales operations people from the field. I even refused to be onsite for shooting it, although I did help with the script, the casting, and coaching several kids on their executive imitations.

When the moment occurred to debut the video at the next meeting, I positioned myself behind our president and the senior leaders to gauge the reactions. As it became apparent Greg was about to introduce a big surprise, our president turned and said, “Danger. Danger, Will Robinson.”

WDZ-Kids-Video

The kids video was a HUGE hit with the audience. They roared with laughter, and people talked about it for years.

Trust My New Behavior?

My answer to the original question about trusting a creative genius was it took two times for me to believe in my boss’ creative genius.

In each instance, he painted a big vision of extreme creativity I thought would fail. Ultimately, each unfolded exactly as HE predicted.

After that, he had me; I was compelled to suspend any doubts about his future ideas for extreme creativity that didn’t square with my sensibilities.

In a subsequent Facebook conversation, a friend whose father has not been great during her life has suddenly changed; he has started being “GREAT” recently. She was grappling with how to trust the change.

I compared it to the situation with my creative genius.

There is probably a hurdle to clear in any situation where someone surprises you with different, positive behavior that is unfamiliar to you.

The guideline I offered her?

If the change is extreme (and from previously harmful behavior), the number of times they have to prove themselves is likely much greater than two. Ultimately, you must place someone’s previous track record against what they’re doing now, add a healthy dose of forgiveness and charity, and determine a realistic and reasonable hurdle is.

That’s my advice.

So what do you think…do you trust me on this? – Mike Brown

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Looking for Value-Added Innovations to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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Would you like to gain greater advantage from the expertise and experience of your employees as you craft your organization’s strategy?

If that’s a goal for your senior leadership team, today is the day to download our latest FREE mini-book, “Results!!! – Creating Strategic Impact throughout Your Organization.”

Executives worldwide are downloading the new Brainzooming strategy mini-book to gain insights into cultivating strategic thinking, developing strategic alignment, and fully engaging their employees in strategy.

Today, we want to ensure all our readers are aware of the value they can unlock by downloading “Results!!!”

25 Reasons You Need the “Results” Free mini-Book

Better-Business-Results

Here are twenty-five reasons you should download the free “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact throughout Your Organization” mini-book RIGHT NOW.

It offers senior executives:

  1. A way to approach “developing strategy very differently,” versus handing everyone cumbersome strategic planning templates to complete. (Page 1)
  2. Strategy development techniques that will work even in organizations without innovation-friendly cultures. (Page 2)
  3. Action steps for each of the ten lessons so you can begin implementing them right away. (Throughout)
  4. Techniques to demystify strategy and strategic planning. (Page 5)
  5. An approach to effectively align strategy the organization’s daily activities. (Page 7)
  6. A simple set of questions to use in focusing their teams on strategic issues that make a big impact on the business. (Page 8)
  7. The granddaddy of all strategy questions to create more innovative strategies, greater focus on priorities, and stronger growth leadership. (Page 9)
  8. A credible, realistic way to increase engagement through expanding employee involvement in the front end of innovation. (Page 11)
  9. Ways to better prepare employees to anticipate and respond to customer opportunities that don’t fit neatly into policies and procedures.  (Page 13)
  10. A case for how broader participation in strategy benefits (rather than slows) implementation.  (Page 12)
  11. Action steps focused on pushing the boundaries of how senior executives include emerging leaders in strategic planning discussions.  (Page 12)
  12. A proven way to identify which senior leaders and management team members match three vital strategic perspectives for creating strategic impact. (Page 14)
  13. Insight into the three types of voices to include in developing strong strategies and implementation plans. (Page 15)
  14. A four-question diagnostic to identify the right mix of “structure and space” enabling non-strategists to contribute to innovative growth strategies. (Pages 18)
  15. Ideas for a game plan encouraging reluctant and apprehensive employees to engage in strategic planning conversations. (Page 19)
  16. An equation to identify how many total ideas are needed to reach the number of high-impact ideas you are seeking. (Page 20)
  17. Five secrets to more efficiently generate on-target, strategic ideas. (Page 22)
  18. Ways a strategic detour completely changes the innovation impact of strategic conversations. (Page 23)
  19. Techniques to break the, “We’ve been there, tried that, and know better” attitude of experienced management teams. (Page 24)
  20. Seven questions to make strategy understandable for all employees (Page 26)
  21. A three-point checklist for gauging a strategy’s clarity and simplicity. (Page 27)
  22. Examples of how strategic conversations among employees trump strategic plans delivered in notebooks. (Page 28)
  23. Three ways to directly connect strategy planning conversations to how the resulting strategies will be implemented. (Page 29)
  24. The inside scoop on a no-cost daily resource to cultivate a fresh perspective on innovative strategy.
  25. The Results!!! mini-book is FREE!!!

Those are the first twenty-five reasons you should download Results!!!

If you‘re a senior executive seeking dramatically different results for later this year and early 2016, today’s the day! Download Results!!! Right now!!!

10 Lessons for Engaging Your Employees to Create Stronger Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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It seems, at least based on our interactions, that it’s been a busy week already for people, with a fair amount of hair pulling and general business craziness.

That’s why it’s the right time for fewer words, and some creative inspiration for busting creativity barriers, no matter where they are coming from or how they are showing up at your door!

Use All the Keys to Creative Inspiration

1504-Keys

Stop OR Go Creativity

1504-Stop-Go

Creativity Barriers that Inspire You

1504-Graffitti-Wall

Creative Inspiration in an Idea Train Wreck

1504-Train-Wrecks

Red and Green Light Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Murphy

Looking for Value-Added Innovations to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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“Share more case studies” is a common request at Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops. Many people want to know what another brand did in a particular situation and the results the brand experienced, even if the case study brand has nothing to do with their own brand.

Whenever I receive this request, I’m reminded of Barrett Sydnor saying, as he often does when comparing two situations, “Your results may vary.”

Just because another brand experienced a certain result means almost nothing if your brand has fundamentally different characteristics.

Strategic Thinking Lessons You Can Use

I was recently talking with another speaker about her discomfort with her own presentation and the absence of case studies.

She did not present her brand’s experience with social media in a regulated environment as a case study. Instead, she presented principles other brands should consider for approaching social media in a regulated industry, whether in the same industry as hers or another one.

Despite what attendees may request, I told her she was absolutely on the right track with her presentation and how she shares strategic thinking lessons.

She presented attendees concepts and approaches based on her experience. By generalizing the content into strategic thinking lessons (instead of delivering an overly-specific and overly-individualized case study), her content was of much greater benefit for attendees as a strategic thinking resource – whether they appreciated that or not.

Why Recipes Are Better than Dinner Stories

Our-Family-Recipes2

Think about a great dinner someone else made. They could tell you all about the story of making the meal, how the guests ate and enjoyed the meal, and the wonderfully positive reactions the dinner guests shared.

But if you wanted to try to replicate the experience with your own dinner guests, you are pretty much out of luck. Unless, that is, you can pick apart the story for clues about the ingredients, how it was prepared, and the way the host created the great experience.

If the person shared the recipe, however, you would know HOW to prepare the great dinner yourself. Now you would be in the position to decide whether your dinner guests might like the meal prepared just as the recipe specifies. Or with some modifications. Or maybe they wouldn’t like it at all because there are ingredients your dinner guests can’t eat or wouldn’t enjoy.

Hearing only the story about dinner is like hearing a case study.

Receiving the recipe, however, is like getting the principles and strategic thinking lessons behind the business situation a speaker shares.

Armed with those, you are in a position to translate and adapt the ideas to make them work best for you, or decide whether they will even work in your situation. And that’s all irrespective of how they worked for the speaker.

Next time you’re at a conference, look for the speakers sharing their recipes and NOT just their dinner stories. That’s when you will really be getting your money’s worth.  – Mike Brown

Looking for Results?

When it comes to results, if you want to learn about the advantages of engaging more people with greater diversity in creating strategic impact, we have just the mini-book for you

“RESULTS!!!” is a quick read mini-book designed for busy executives who want to take the first step toward smarter strategy and greater market success. Get your FREE copy today.

Then let’s talk about how to make it happen for your organization.


Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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This weekend, I didn’t have the right crayons to get nearly as much work done as anticipated and hoped for before the weekend started.

Crayola-Label

Creative Skills and Crayons

What does it mean to not have the right crayons?

Remember as a kid how if you had a smaller box of crayons you might be missing the right color to make the picture you wanted to color?

Or maybe how the crayon color you wanted was broken and worn down? Or the coloring book wasn’t fun or the big piece of paper to color wasn’t right somehow?

That’s what this weekend was like.

Now, in my now adult world, the creative skills and tools available to me weren’t what the ones necessary to generate the creative ideas that could turn into creative output.

Too few connections, accomplishment, fresh creative tools, inspiration. Too little exercise, fun, prayer, spirituality, intimacy, motivation, peacefulness. Too much disappointment, fatigue, responsibility, indifference, anger, frustration, apprehension, anxiety, Word and PowerPoint. Too much stuck in one place with no opportunity to do something new.

But now, it’s time to create an opportunity to apply my own creative skills formulas to me.

To call time out and count on the creativity being there when I need it later. To prioritize what really needs to be done, and what can slide into this week. It’s time to see how to put the right crayons together from the broken pieces of crayons I have and move forward creatively. It’s time to move on creatively and look for fulfillment in new ways.

That’s what creative skills are all about in the adult world. – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoDownload the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


Download Your Free

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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Devising and implementing an innovation strategy seems as if it SHOULD be easier in certain business environments. For instance, companies depending on innovative products and services as a main driver of customer brand value might give innovation strategy a higher priority. One might also suspect the change management related to innovation strategy would be easier at a place such as Disney; heck, Disney has Imagineers!

A recent Fast Company article suggests, however, that the innovation strategy and change management struggles for the new guest experience at Disney are similar to those at less glitzy brands. Our friends at Armada Executive Intelligence recapped the Fast Company article in their “Inside the Executive Suite” weekly feature, highlighting four change management struggles with a major guest experience innovation strategy at Disney. Here’s the “Inside the Executive Suite” recap:

Innovation Strategy – 4 Change Management Struggles at Disney

The new Fast Company (May 2015) covers the challenge of devising, developing, and implementing a transformational customer experience for a brand. As is typical, upending long-standing processes entrenched employees have created and used to build successful careers stirs up significant resistance.

There’s something atypical about the situation described in, “The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness,” though. The story plays out inside a major division of a corporation whose R&D staff members are known by the seemingly change-embracing title of “Imagineers!”

Yes, even Disney faces innovation-related change management issues.

Disney-Castle-LeungChoPan

Photo by: Leung Cho Pan via Canva

Realities of Dramatic Change

We recommend reading business magazine case studies with skepticism. The article on the $1 billion Disney investment in MyMagic+, which PROMISES to remake the guest experience at Disney parks, however, rings true. It addresses innovation and change management twists and turns comparable articles often neglect.

We’re highlighting quotes from Fast Company that represent issues most brands face during periods of significant change. Each reinforces important innovation and change management principles.

1. Don’t Look Only Inside and Expect Breakthrough Thinking

Quote: “Flipping through a SkyMall catalog, he (John Padgett, VP of business development) landed on a page featuring the Trion:Z, a magnetic wristband that promised to reduce muscle soreness while simultaneously improving one’s golf swing. The team started to consider whether Disney could create an electronic band that could digitally carry everything a guest might need.”

Situation: Metrics on guest expectations for returning to Disney World were declining. The culprits were high ticket prices, protracted wait times, and a variety of other inconveniences. While guests were identifying significant issues, they couldn’t describe the fixes. Additionally, management team members wedded to the reality of current systems often aren’t able to see breakthrough remedies either.

The MagicBand bracelet, the central piece of the Disney Next Generation Experience (NGE) project, addresses multiple functions, including serving as a digital ticket, money, ride photo organizer, and coupon holder. It also shares information helping dynamically manage the guest experience.

Principle: Your business breakthrough could be what’s new (or even traditional) in another industry. Innovators must continually scan outside inspirations from unlikely places and industries.

2. Knowing “What Matters” Is Vital to Innovation

Quote: “This kind of traffic management wouldn’t just be a service to customers – it could also help Disney fit more guests inside its parks.”

Situation: From an initial visit to the Disney World parks decades ago, one thing was apparent. Nearly everything in the Disney customer experience strategy links to how it keeps guests in the parks for more hours each day for as many days as possible.

Pricing (relatively expensive soft drinks, inexpensive rain slickers plus multi-day pricing packages tied to the number of hotel stay days), access policies (on-property guests receiving preferential early park access), managing time expectations (starting ride experiences many minutes before actually reaching the actual ride), and service niceties (transporting purchases to your hotel room) all made sense for keeping you IN THE PARK longer.

Principle: Even amid dramatic innovation, certain aspects of an organization’s underlying business model may remain sound. Successful innovation strategies benefit from starting with a clear understanding of what needs changing and what needs reinforcement.

3. Not Every Group Thinks the Same Things Matter

Quote: “’You had operations pushback, security and fraud pushback, creative pushback.’ They faced opposition from a powerful corporate force: Disney’s Imagineers…Imagineers argued that the uniformity of the access points (where MagicBands were to be scanned) would disrupt the spirit of their uniquely stylized attractions.”

Situation: Despite the importance of maximizing guest time in the parks, other views of “what matters” exist within Disney. For Imagineers, what matters is immersing park guests in another world of delight that brings them back multiple times. When seamless immersion is “what matters,” even innovative ideas that might disrupt a guest’s experience or could grow stale quickly deteriorate what they are trying to create. Trendy change isn’t good; it’s seen, in fact, as dangerous.

Principle: While a company with a strong strategy creates understanding of its strategy throughout the company, “what matters” DOES differ as multiple levels and parts of the organization implement it. The internal tension in determining the best combination of initiatives to bring the overall strategy to life is why strategy setting isn’t a one-time endeavor. Strategy is lived out daily and employees need support in interpreting and shaping it.

4. Bring Innovation to Life As Soon as Possible

Quote: “The NGE team built out its advanced R&D lab, or what (Executive VP, Nick) Franklin calls a ‘living blueprint’ that would ‘sell the vision.’ With typical Disney flair, the soundstage became a storyboard brought to life, with a full-scale living room…where the archetypal family would book their Disney vacation…(plus) a flight-arrival stage of the set…the hotel set…(and) mock-ups of the in-park experience.”

Situation: It’s one thing to discuss an innovative concept matter-of-factly. It’s another to share compelling stories about it. It’s off the charts to create an immersive prototype to help strategists, executives, and team members experience and react to the concept. As Disney-knowledgeable sources put it, the “’theater’ of selling an idea is more important than the idea itself.’”

Principle: Most organizations don’t have a movie set to prototype a new concept with an immersive experience. Every organization does, however, have prototyping resources. If the innovation is a new product concept, go to the manufacturing floor to demo it. If you are imagining ways to interact with a B2B customer, mock up the customer’s environment in a meeting room. We saw a trucking company do this to re-create a traffic manager’s office. Suddenly innovation opportunities were readily apparent. – Armada Executive Intelligence

 

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

 

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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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