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I spotted a Bloomberg Businessweek story the other day that was a corporate case study, in effect, of the Radio Shack business strategy and the brand’s upward and then long downward trajectory.

One sentence in the Radio Shack case study article says volumes about corporate leadership and how corporate success and failure stories turn into history.

Here is the sentence:

“When asked to pinpoint when everything went wrong, they fell into two main groups: those who argue it had happened right after they left, and those who say the damage had already been done when they arrived.”

That is how the big lie ALWAYS works!

You see so many cases where what really happened in a corporation is reimagined, reinterpreted, and re-reported to suit the personal business storyline that best advances someone’s own career.

Little-Liars

One classic example of the corporate case study big lie in action that I witnessed multiple times involves a celebrity CMO on the speaking circuit who had a several year run at a brand headed for extinction. While he was still at the troubled brand, his keynote presentations consisted of talking about how screwed up the business strategy was before he got there, but that under his incredible CMO guidance, EVERYTHING was turning around masterfully.

That was the story only until he left the still-collapsing brand, however.

THEN his keynotes changed to focus on how screwed up the business strategy was before he got there and how it returned to being completely screwed up immediately AFTER he left!

Well OF COURSE that’s what happened!

NOT!

Would a business celebrity misrepresent the truth?

Yes, ALL DAY LONG!

The lesson?

Be careful whenever an executive shares a corporate case study about a troubled brand where he or she was previously employed. If all the big problems are timed for either before the person got there or right after the person left, go ahead and make the leap . . . that person is telling the big lie of very failed corporate case study! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


 

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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“What’s after Facebook?”

That’s the question a non-profit executive director asked. The non-profit has been using Facebook very successfully for specific fund raising purposes. Her very valid concern is what happens when Facebook finally changes its algorithm to the point where her organization’s updates get no attention without paying for it?

It’s an important social media strategy question for any brand linking elements of its organizational success to a social networking platform performing in a certain way. You might as well go ahead and figure that if your strategy’s success is tied to some other organization’s Terms of Service, your strategy’s future success is at risk.

Given that, the question isn’t so much about what happens after Facebook as it is, “Why is what the organization is doing on Facebook currently working so well?”

  • Is it the audience?
  • The type of requests?
  • The way the specific requests are delivered?
  • The level and type of engagement this audience group has with the organization?
  • The ease with which the audience can respond?

Or, is it really something about Facebook that makes it all work?

A Social Media Strategy for Right Now

With solid strategic answers to these questions, it’s vital, as soon as possible, to start engaging the audience in new ways. The objective is to replicate, as best possible, the role Facebook (or some other platform) plays in the successful engagement the organization has cultivated.

That may mean growing its ability to use email, text, or other “owned” communication channels to reach its audience at critical times with comparable requests.

How to Think About Social Networks

New-House

One of our most popular social media strategy posts features a variety of offline analogies to focus your strategic thinking on various aspects of social media. Here’s another analogy to add to the list. It pertains to social networks in general:

“If you aren’t creating the terms of service for a social network, think about the platform like you would a college apartment. You might invest a few dollars and a little bit of time to spruce it up. You would never sink real money into fixing up the apartment and making it better, however, because somebody else owns it, you may only be there for a short period of time, and while you’re there, you’ll probably throw some wild parties and trash the place. Plus, ultimately, you’ll want to have a place that’s really your own. That’s where you’re safe investing to build it out and make sure it’s exactly what you want.”

So if you have been investing most of your social emphasis on social networks, consider yourself warned. Start thinking about how to fix up and take better advantage of your long-term home – not your college apartment! – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social business strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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 getting ready to present Taking the NO Out of InNOvation for a client’s all-team dinner event. My client contact was wonderful in supplying lots of information on the organization and its people. Additionally, we had already conducted a survey among the next day’s workshop participants on creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking readiness.

Yet for all that prep, there’s nothing like seeing the organization in person – both its people and its physical location place – to shape last minute thinking about specifically tailoring a presentation in the last hours before you deliver it.

In fact, having lunch and talking over the course of the afternoon with my client contact was very productive in identifying several last-minute tweaks to make the Taking the NO Out of InNOvation presentation closely fit the audiences’ needs. The changes, which included changing the order of content I’d delivered in the same order for years, also made delivering Taking the NO Out of InNOvation a very fresh experience for me.

At one point, I told our client how much I appreciated that she wasn’t freaking out. She was sitting through me creating completely new slides and moving things around on a presentation that nearly her whole company was going to see in two hours. She said she couldn’t imagine making these types of last minute changes and still being ready to talk about things in a different order than originally planned. Yet she told me all the references they checked told her I had very effective presentation skills and could basically handle whatever was thrown my way and could customize a session to exactly what they’d want.

Mike-Brown-Speaking-at-KVC-

6 Keys to the Effective Presentation Skills for Making Last-Minute Changes

Suppose you need to make last-minute changes to a presentation. Maybe you won’t ever want to make the kind of changes I was doing, but these six keys will be valuable nonetheless.

1. Think of your presentation as modules.

Consider your presentation as if it were a series of independent pieces of content. Instead of trying to memorize all your content strung together in order, know each module of content (perhaps a few slides or one section) on its own, not in relation to what’s before or after it.

2. When using slides, take advantage of animation to deliver cues.

If you’re using slides in a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, take advantage of animation to tip you off to what is next. Only reveal part of a slide when you first click on it. This gives you an idea as to what to start talking about when the slide comes up. Then as you start talking, you can reveal the rest of the information on the slide.

3. Leave space in the presentation to interact.

If you pre-plan times when you’ll ask the audience questions and take advantage of other ways to directly interact, it will reduce your dependence on specific slides and talking points.

4. Develop multiple ways into and out of important pieces of content.

If you have a couple of different ways to launch into and exit important content modules, you will be able to improvise more readily. Through imagining various potential connections between specific sets of slides and the rest of the presentation, you set yourself up for tremendous flexibility.

5. Use slide cues to let you know what’s coming.

When changing things late in the game, it’s challenging to know in exactly what order every slide is and where all the key transitions are. In this situation, you can use subtle visual cues on slides. For instance, I’ll often hide The Brainzooming Group logo on a slide at the end of a particular presentation section. When the logo disappears, I know a content section is at its end. You can also use a barely noticeable shape or a different font for closing slides to signal you, but not the audience, that a change is coming.

6. Take advantage of hyperlinks within a presentation.

For several presentations, I allow the audience to select the specific content and the order that’s most beneficial for them. To deliver this customization, I use a slide with a menu of topics and hyperlinks to each presentation section. The same slide appears at the end of each section so there’s always a natural pause point integrated into each section. This lets me know it’s time for another topic and to give the audience a chance to pick what’s next.

Boosting Your Effective Presentation Skills

Again, maybe you’re not going to join me in doing this level of last-minute presentation customization. But even if you are often in a situation of having to make a few tweaks late in the game, these tips will definitely make them work better for you! – 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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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is back today taking another swipe at big data with help in thinking through how to monetize it (vs. just parking it in the cloud and praying for rain). Here’s Woody!

Strategic Insight – Monetization Is the Real Big Data Dilemma – Woody Bendle

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for several years, you’re aware Big Data is a big topic! Just look at this Google Trends graph depicting search volume for “Big Data” the past five years.

Woody1

That’s one incredible upward trajectory wouldn’t you say!

But have you ever wondered why this topic is so hot right now?

In my opinion, we’re hearing so much about Big Data because of several related factors:

However, I feel the primary reason we continue to hear more about Big Data is due to very few companies actually realizing the purported Big Data promise – or what I call the Big Data monetization dilemma.

If you were to listen all of the sensational Big Data spiel out there, you’d have to believe that by simply having Big Data, your organization would automatically (almost magically) be smarter, faster (agile), more competitive, and ultimately, more profitable. And that’s just not the case.

What many organizations are quickly realizing is not all data are created equal.  Having a lot of this digital Big Data stuff being captured and stored doesn’t mean you can readily access it, analyze it, or provide useful answers to meaningful questions.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for most Big Data out there in the cloud today – much of it simply is not configured in a manner that allows for analysis. And, there really are no magical short cuts; there is a tried and true (but not necessarily easy) approach that will help you to realize its promise, however.

Three Strategic Questions for Monetizing Big Data

Just because storing your Big Data is relatively inexpensive doesn’t mean your Big Data strategy should be “Fire, Ready, Aim!” Have you heard anyone say something like this? “Let’s keep pumping all of our Big Data into the cloud and we’ll figure it out as we go.” If this is your approach, you will find monetizing your Big Data to be very costly!

If you expect to monetize your Big Data asset, there are three fundamental questions to continually ask, answer and address:

  1. What questions do I want/need my Big Data to answer?
  2. What types of analysis will be needed to answer our questions?
  3. How do our data need to be structured in order to perform the required analysis?

These questions might feel like a blinding flash of the obvious, but you’d be surprised by how few organizations actually start here.

By first defining the questions you want your Big Data to answer, it will be easier to determine the most appropriate type(s) of analysis your organization will need to perform – and there is a wide range of analytical complexity that can be employed (see below).

Woody2

Once you know the types of analyses you need (or want) to perform, it will be easier to define how best to structure your Big Data.

When performing statistical analysis in particular, your data need to be (or need to become) numbers that represent meaning or measure (structure).  This frankly is one of the biggest challenges with Big Data – most of it is typically unstructured (e.g., text comments, videos, website browsing streams, etc.).  While nearly all unstructured data can be transformed into structured data (numbers), it is really important to understand that not all numbers are created equal either (see below).

Woody3

Numbers can have very different meaning depending upon the level of measure they represent. Different types of measures are also better suited for different types of analyses. Given this, you can see why it is important that your Big Data are transformed (structured) in a very thoughtful and purposeful manner.

Will you monetize your big data?

My intention with this discussion was not to provide a detailed playbook for monetizing your Big Data. Rather it is to acknowledge the real and increasing challenges many are currently dealing with and offer insight for addressing some of the more fundamental problems.

As you start/revamp/update/overhaul your Big Data strategy, remember to ask, answer and address these foundational questions:

  1. What questions do I want/need my Big Data to answer?
  2. What types of analysis will be needed to answer our questions?
  3. How do our data need to be structured in order to perform the required analysis?

If you do, you can be sure that you moving your Big Data strategy in the right direction.  If you don’t, just keep in mind what happens when you try to stand on quicksand! –  Woody Bendle

 

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This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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There are many factors that go into productive strategic thinking exercises and efficient group strategy development sessions. Here is an A to Z recap of some of what goes into how Brainzooming approaches strategy development:

Brainzooming-Wordle-Compreh

Appreciative Inquiry – Incorporate positive questions focused around when a group is at its strategic best.

Balance – The best strategic thinking emerges when you have people with a balance of different perspectives and strategic thinking exercises allowing them to work together productively.

Crowdsourcing – Include perspectives even from people not involved directly in strategic planning or setting strategy.

Design – Strategic thinking and conversations are more productive when they are anticipated ahead of time and you design a strategic session to lead the conversation where it needs to go.

EnergyFacilitators have to introduce energy into strategic conversations to spur them to be wider, deeper, and bolder than they might otherwise be.

Fun – Humor, toys, variety, and bright colors all make what can be the drudgery of strategic thinking into an enjoyable experience.

Group – Using small groups is typically a very efficient way to vary the working interactions within a strategic thinking session and maximize the number of people contributing ideas.

Homework – To maximize a group’s efficiency, use homework prior to the session to gather information and other inputs that don’t demand or benefit from creative group interaction.

Insights – Strategic thinking is most productive when based on robust insights about an organization’s markets, environment, and important objectives.

Jokes – There are very strong comparisons between the pattern for innovation and the pattern for something being funny, so using humor helps to get the innovation going.

Kudos – Throughout time a group spends on strategic thinking, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the group for its progress.

Limits – Setting time limits for how long a group spends on any one strategic thinking exercise before moving to another creates opportunities to look at situations from many different perspectives more efficiently.

Movement – One reason for recording ideas – whether on paper or electronically – is to allow you to make them portable and bring them closer to or further away from others ideas to create new concepts.

Numbers – Creativity and innovation are typically numbers games. The more ideas you generate, the greater the probability you’ll arrive at on-target answers to address your strategic opportunity.

Openness – An open conversation starts with having an open space for the conversation to take place so both people and ideas have an opportunity to move in and move away as needed.

Prioritization – While it may be confined to certain times or phases, it’s important to use the knowledge and expertise of the people imagining strategic possibilities to also provide input on the most attractive ones.

Questions – People genuinely try to answer robust questions tailored to their knowledge and expertise when they are asked them during a strategy session.

Rules – Establishing general rules for a strategic thinking session lets participants know upfront how the group will interact and the expectations for collaboration.

Serving – Facilitators have to have an attitude of serving the participants with a focus on helping them achieve their strategic objectives from a session.

Thinking – While taking action is the ultimate goal in developing strategy, the initial and ongoing time you spend thinking is critical to productive strategy formulation.

Unexpected – Strategic questions and exercises should take participants into new areas or help them see old areas in very new and different ways they hadn’t previously imagined.

Volume – The best thinking emerges from considering many different possible strategic situations, which leads to a much larger number of ideas to choose from when it’s appropriate to do so.

Waiting – As much as you may want strategic thinking to move ahead m ore quickly, it is important to be able to embrace waiting for new strategic ideas to emerge from a group’s interaction.

X-axis – Along with the y-axis, graphing strategic relationships helps participants imagine marketplace relationships and opportunities.

Yield – The best strategic thinking exercises are tried, tested, and tweaked to produce a sufficient number of new ideas and answers in an efficient fashion.

Zero – The value of having a very small, homogenous group as the only group to focus on strategy. – Mike Brown

 

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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization. This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

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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After my Brainzooming workshop on creating fantastic content at the Social Media Strategies Summit, one attendee took exception to it. His point of contention was the model we use that suggests brands think about content creation as if they were television networks. The point is television networks have been successfully creating and curating content for years; they have also historically found a balance between entertainment and commercial messages that still attracts audiences.

150223-TV-Exec

In our view, for brands struggling with creating a significant amount of audience-focused content, thinking about a television network is helpful. Nearly everyone is familiar with and sees comparable television network examples that stimulate new ideas and strategies.

He told me later (both in conversation and on the workshop review) that I’m the only speaker on content marketing or social media strategy he’s EVER heard make this case. I personally think that’s good considering all the me-too crap you hear at conferences.

The challenge to this apparently unique perspective on content marketing strategy focused on two areas:

  1. TV is losing viewership so what television networks do isn’t solid advice
  2. Social media held the promise of completely new ways of interacting with audiences, and the TV model is inconsistent with that promise

It’s true that television viewership is declining. It’s also true that social media is / was supposed to be different. Despite this, I still stand behind our recommendation for thinking about creating content as a TV network would.

Why?

TV networks have always had to:

  • Consider the audience and what it likes in making content decisions
  • Wade through many more content ideas than the audience will ever see just to fill its content calendar
  • Use entertainment value as a major factor in getting an audience to stick around for commercial messages (whether paid commercials or product placements)
  • Promote their programming to help build an audience
  • Package and repackage content in multiple places to attempt to cost-effectively reach targeted audiences

While these five point don’t account for an entire content marketing strategy (which is why we share other models in the workshop), most brands struggling with WHAT content to create and curate would be so much further ahead if they did just these five things better.

While I understand where the audience member was coming from and will acknowledge his perspective in future workshops, I’ll stand with our model for now as a big jump start for brands that simply don’t currently understand content marketing strategy. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social business strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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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Suppose you need to involve hundreds of engaged audience members to shape the strategic thinking for a significant issue your organization faces.

How do you create the opportunity for learning and community collaboration in this scenario?

Digital-Inclusion-Photo

The organizing group addressing digital inclusion in Kanas City presented The Brainzooming Group this situation. Having announced an all-day Digital Inclusion Summit and inviting any interested community members to participate, we designed the event’s community collaboration strategy.

There are challenges we don’t typically encounter. Because of the general invitation to the community, we didn’t have upfront insight into who would participate until that day. This meant there was no opportunity to ensure the right mix of people within all the educational sessions. Additionally, our digital inclusion community collaboration approach had to fit fifteen different pre-planned educational segments we wouldn’t have visibility to upfront.

Strategic Thinking and Community Collaboration

How did we design a community collaboration approach for the Digital Inclusion Summit within these constraints?

The simple story to our community collaboration approach is we:

  • Identified two topic tracks (best practices and strategy) to describe the education sessions in order to organize the collaboration approaches.
  • Developed strategic thinking worksheets for each topic track. Each had several related questions for the topic track that could be used both individually and in small groups.
  • Coached each education session presenter on taking fifteen minutes in the middle of his/her content. This time was for participants to react to the learning and complete the worksheet strategic thinking questions.
  • Deployed our team, along with Digital Inclusion Summit team members, to manage the community collaboration activities.

Additionally, we developed an experience-based activity. For this activity, we invited participants to turn off all their digital tools for the day to simulate being a part of the digital divide, i.e., citizens who lack access to the Internet on a day-to-day basis.

Community Collaboration Yields New Strategic Insights

From the community collaboration worksheets participants completed in small groups, we documented nine individual strategic themes. Within these Digital Inclusion Summit themes, participants suggested serious issues standing in the way of digital inclusion and new leadership groups needing seats at the table to effectively narrow the digital divide.

In a rare situation for us, we can fully share the final Digital Inclusion Summit report we created to give you a sense of the nine themes and all the individual comments. The Digital Inclusion Summit report is available for free to the public on a new website designed by the Kansas City Public Library. It is a great treat for us to be able to actually share the final work product we developed.

Community Collaboration – Engaging to Address Digital Inclusion from Mike Brown

Do you have a community of stakeholders you need to meaningfully engage?

Whether you are tackling city-wide issues needing community collaboration or have an organization that needs to better engage its diverse stakeholders, we’d love to talk with you about how we can turn your hopes for meaningful engagement into reality.  – Mike Brown

 

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization. This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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

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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