0

My natural inclination when it comes to business strategy is to identify what is MOST IMPORTANT and build everything around that. Tie the objectives, priorities, and strategies to a very tight focus for an organization. Mass the resources and the organization’s attention on that single area and put everything toward implementing it successfully.

My most memorable example of this goes back to early in my career.  There was a nearly month-long labor strike at the transportation company where I worked. During that time when we were laying off people on a weekly basis as the strike drug on, it was clear to everyone that the single focus for us as a marketing organization was to win back customers for the day we started our operation back up – whenever that might be. I inherited leadership of our department about a week into the strike, and we pointed EVERYONE toward understanding current customer sentiment and developing the plan to incent them to use our brand again even though we had let them down.

THAT was a singular focus.

Granted, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk about a single, focused business strategy than it is to actually create one.

There always seem to be multiple important things or varied priorities among senior leaders or business units that do not line up in a neat and clean rank order. I’m sure you’ve experienced one of those “our three most important objectives” situations. Yes we have a priority; in fact, we have THREE priorities that are ALL EQUAL.

That’s the MUCH MORE TYPICAL business strategy scenario.

When we started developing our varied extreme creativity questions and exercises to drive bolder business strategy, however, one of the approaches was to actively consider that an organization isn’t going to make choices. It would deliberately and actively pursue multiple big strategies with all available resources.

fork-in-road-quickie

So instead of taking ONE business strategy path and wondering about the other, how about taking BOTH PATHS and doing more? What would the business strategy look like if you did it deliberately instead of by accident? – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for 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 compared to what’s currently available.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking skills! – Mike Brown

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

Faux-Call-to-Action

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

When something has to give, what strategic priorities will you give up?

When it is crunch time, what will emerge as your real strategic priorities? And are the priorities you pick the same strategic priorities you said you’d emphasize when it was time earlier in the year for strategic thinking?

Those questions are front and center for me.

Nearing last year’s close, I thought we knew specific changes in the make-up of The Brainzooming Group. Looking ahead, I planned to shift my activities toward organizing our content (and increasing its value) and to streamline our internal processes to boost capacity.

Then things changed.

A key person planning to join The Brainzooming Group delayed the decision. Marianne Carr took another role. In a complete surprise, Barb Murphy returned as part of the team. A speculative business opportunity occupying a good portion of my time went away. A new referral client materialized, leading to multiple opportunities. All the while, demand for Brainzooming workshops on innovation, strategic thinking, and content marketing increased.

It would have been easy to decide the best thing to do was sticking with what we’ve been doing. That would suggest pushing off changes we’d been considering until some future date.

Crunch-Time

The best option, however, was ramping up marketing and business development activities, building out our own content marketing strategy to work harder, and migrating more of the doing to core and extended team members of Brainzooming.

That’s what we’ve done, with both successes and sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the sacrifices involve important personal priorities for me – prayer and spiritual time, being with family, fitness, and time to explore new creative ideas. Sleep has also been a victim during this change.

That’s not a sustainable combination.

And even more recently, I actually blew up over a business situation; that’s something that hasn’t happened for a LOOOOOOOOOONG time.

Suffice it to say, it feels like crunch time.

Another victim during this crunch time is regularly publishing this blog.

I’ve been a proponent for regular, if not daily, blogging as vital for successful content marketing. We’re off our schedule, however. While I’m creating a tremendous amount of new content (workshops and presentations, eBooks, and client deliverables), it’s not transferring to blog content as readily as it has in the past. As a result, my strategic priority of maintaining an aggressive publishing schedule isn’t happening. When you finish working on that day’s workshop at 1:30 in the morning, sleep wins out over staying up another hour to write a blog post to publish at 4:50 the next morning. That’s especially true when you know the alarm is set for 5 a. m., no matter WHEN you go to bed. The night after that, however, I did stay up until 3 a.m. to get a second blog post published that week.  It was not easy rolling out of bed at 5:25 a.m., however, to make it to mass before diving in again to get ready for multiple trips that week.

All in all, for those that notice when there isn’t a Brainzooming blog published each day, I wanted to let you know what is happening.

I’m still here.

I’m still trying to create valuable content for you.

But it’s crunch time, and right now, that’s getting in the way. – Mike Brown

 

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

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Based on several stories last week extolling the benefits of being “lazy” when it comes to innovation strategy, you would think the LAZY days of summer are here a few weeks early (at least in the northern hemisphere).

Lazy is hardly a sentiment you typically associate with innovation strategy, which is why these articles caught my eye.

Execution, a bias for action, and trying lots of things and failing fast are all descriptors you are much more likely to employ when describing a successful innovation strategy.

Yet, consider these stories. In one way or another, each suggests the advantages of laziness when it comes to trying new things, especially acquisitions.

4 Examples Where NOT Acting Might Be a Smarter Innovation Strategy

Stop-Sign

“Dollar General’s Buck Goes Far” by Steven Russolillo in the Wall Street Journal highlights how Dollar General seems to have come out the stronger player for being on the outside looking in as competitor Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar Stores in a $9 billion deal. The story recounts typical post-acquisition issues (integration takes longer than planned, cultures and business styles don’t match up, risks are more significant than expected) to explain while Dollar General is stronger for not making a major acquisition.

Another Wall Street Journal article from Dan Gallagher, “Focus Is In, Scale Is Out for Tech Giants” recounts how tech giants Microsoft and HP are both unwinding acquisitions. The individual deals were originally characterized for each company as an important part of its growth and innovation strategy. Microsoft is shuttering most of its $7 billion Nokia acquisition as it lays off more than 1,800 people from its smartphone division. HP is merging its service business with Computer Sciences Corp., as it gets out of the $13.9 billion business it acquired from EDS. Within the fast moving tech sector, these deals once looked critical for scale, but now are seen as inhibiting agility and the flexibility to move with the market.

Finally, in a seemingly far afield example, George Varga interviewed musician, Billy Joel for the San Diego Union Tribune. The thrust of the article was that Joel, who hasn’t released a recording of new pop songs since 1993, has little interest in writing or recording new songs. This extends to the classically-oriented pieces he finds more creatively intriguing. Joel is hardly hurting from his blatant strategy to NOT create new material. Instead, he’s using his catalog of hit songs as a cash cow, grossing $31.7 in concert revenue in 2015 from playing just 30 shows. Twelve of those were in New York at Madison Square Garden.

You generally think of a successful innovation strategy as leading to doing new things and pushing boundaries.

Maybe when developing an innovation strategy, however, it’s worth a quick check to see if doing nothing MIGHT be the best answer after all. – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard business people say and then try to explain why their particular companies are unique. By this, they typically mean there is no possibility any other company faces the same types of challenges and operational issues they deal with daily.

While that might be a comforting perspective if you’re fond of business isolationism, it’s rarely true once you start to explore the business strategically.

Maze

We were working recently with a company that, based on its competitive and business situation, could certainly lay some claim to having a unique business situation. But given our unwillingness to settle for that easy answer, we created a rapid fire strategic thinking exercise to push for ideas.

Our immediate need was to identify potential innovation case studies to discover how other companies and industries are innovating in relevant ways.

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 17 Questions to Find Innovation Case Studies

Within about ten minutes, using the seventeen questions in this strategic thinking exercise, a group of nine or ten people generated more than seventy possible companies and industries to explore for comparable innovation case studies.

If you are facing a similar challenge to generate relevant strategic connections to your business, here is your starting point for a comparable Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise:

  1. What companies have similar sizes and org structures to ours?
  2. Who are our strategic partners?
  3. Who are our primary competitors?
  4. What companies provide substitutes for what we offer to customers?
  5. What other companies serve the same customers we do?
  6. What other companies have similar strategies to ours?
  7. What industries have similar operations or sales structures to ours?
  8. What companies have similar cost structures to ours?
  9. What companies employ similar processes to the ones we use?
  10. What companies are trying to innovate in similar ways to ours?
  11. What companies of our size have similar ownership and/or financial structures?
  12. What companies that do the same general things we do have comparable business situations?
  13. What other companies that share our general business category are most similar to us?
  14. What other companies are facing comparable competitive dynamics?
  15. What other companies are facing comparable cost pressures?
  16. What industries look / behave like ours? Why/how?
  17. What companies look / behave like ours? Why/how?

See, with this strategic thinking exercise, there’s no reason your business has to feel so alone in its innovation challenge. There are definitely innovation case studies you can discover and explore for new ideas! – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

During a strategic thinking skills workshop for a client, we shared ideas for taking information from varied sources and identifying strategic themes.

One slide during the workshop focused on analysis styles and featured two contrasting images.

Plate-Thanksgiving-Sandwich

The image on the left is a divided plate (affiliate link) intended to keep all your food items separate from one another and in the places you originally placed them.

The image on the right may be harder to identify. It’s a “Thanksgiving Sandwich.” I had previously seen them on Diners, Drive-in, and Dives. I ate one for the first time at a sandwich shop at the Las Vegas airport. The one in the picture was made at home right after Thanksgiving. It includes turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce on a roll. My own special addition was a schmear of pumpkin spice cream cheese on the top bun, creating a true flavor explosion. In one bite, you taste the main course through the dessert of a Thanksgiving dinner.

The picture represents two approaches to strategic thinking skills that analysts I’ve met throughout my career display.

Most analysts from a quantitative research background tend to be like the image on the left. They focus so much on keeping data straight and linked to underlying sources, that they simply report what’s there with the numbers on the surface. They are grossed out by the idea of mucking around in all the data and putting multiple sources and analysis looks together to learn new things that aren’t apparent when information is kept separate.

While the link to source data and keeping everything straight is important, it only goes so far.

I’ve met far fewer analysts comfortable with the strategic thinking skills involved in smooshing everything on the “data plate” together to create something akin to the Thanksgiving sandwich. It’s only when you start experimenting and combining information, perhaps from very different sources, that you often begin creating explosive new insights. This type of analysis really is like the Thanksgiving Sandwich in that you recognize all the original flavors (i.e., the source data), but experience them in an entirely new and wonderful combination.

In answering the question about what kind of strategic thinking skills and analysis you’re comfortable with performing, the answer should be BOTH types. You need to like making sure you have knowledge and credibility behind the source information. At some point, however, you have to smash it all together and see what amazing things might happen.

If you find yourself in one strategic thinking skills camp or the other, you need to try how the other half eats data.

You’ll enjoy it! – Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

I have been traveling more recently for speaking than at any time during history of The Brainzooming Group.

While there’s more to come in the months ahead, here are highlights of a couple of innovation strategy presentations this week to very different groups.

Innovation Strategy in Your Organization – An Innovative Workplace Culture

Today, I’m in Cincinnati presenting to senior executives from multiple companies on cultivating an innovative workplace culture.

Cincinnati

The presentation incorporates  our “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation” work to focus on seven key innovation enablers. Senior leaders can address these focus areas to improve an organization’s receptiveness and motivation to generate new ideas and do something with them.

The seven recommendations for cultivating an innovative workplace culture include:

  1. Providing actionable strategic direction (beyond simply saying your organization needs to be more innovative)
  2. Inviting broad participation from employees throughout the organization
  3. Meaningfully engaging employees when inviting them to share ideas
  4. Encouraging and supporting organizational change
  5. Implementing smart, innovative possibilities
  6. Staying agile through focusing on what’s important for creating results
  7. Celebrating progress and success tied to innovative ideas

As questions and discussion with the attendees suggest new topics, look for us to explore them here.

Innovation Strategy across a Community – Forward to the Future

On Monday, I discussed the community collaboration process we facilitated for Carbondale, IL in September 2015. The panel discussion at the Gigabit City Summit also featured Gary Williams, the interim city manager of Carbondale, and Dave Sandel of Sandel & Associates. We’ve worked with Dave’s team on multiple community collaboration engagements related to broadband initiatives, economic development, and Smart Cities.

Carbondale-Group

To provide a feel for the community collaboration work in Carbondale (home of my grad school alma mater, Southern Illinois University), we developed a brief video. It shares how university students and community leaders participated to shape a future-looking view of Carbondale.

You can also review the results of the Carbondale playbook to see what lies ahead for the community.  Mike Brown

10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

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 stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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

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

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading