Implementation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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In nearly every instance, we spend time with a prospective client discussing three aspects of their strategic planning process needs:

  • What they think they want to achieve
  • What they need to achieve
  • The best way to make it happen using our collaborative process.

Do you see your organization in any of these three current conversations we are having with prospective clients?

Conducting a Strategic Planning Process with a Certain Framework

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We’ve sold-in a specific strategic planning process methodology, so that’s the approach we need to take.”

What they need to achieve: They need to deliver a plan with the framework their leadership has approved, but still make sure it’s collaborative and engaging in a way their strategic planning process never has been previously.

The best way to make it happen: We’re proposing arranging our strategic planning exercises within the framework they have already advanced. Rather than having a Brainzooming stamp on the steps, we’ll morph our approach to work within what they client wants to see happen.

A Small Innovation Team Is the Way to Introduce Innovation

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We think the answer is to get an innovation team together and have them come up with new ideas.”

What they need to achieve: Instead of innovation seeming like a disconnected initiative, we recommend they integrate innovation with:

  • Successful new service lines they already introduced
  • Existing ideas that haven’t advanced
  • Current strategic initiatives already underway

The best way to make it happen: We’re early in the conversation, but we suggested casting a wide net to incorporate work they’ve already done into innovation. Rather than looking at innovation as a “team,” we expect the success they want will come from greater collaboration, a team to move it forward, and a process that makes innovation sustainable for years ahead.

The Struggle Between Major Decisions and Collaboration

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We have some major decisions to make about the company’s future, so we need to limit the planning to just the immediate leadership team.”

What they need to achieve: They clearly need to wrestle with major issues only appropriate for a small top management group. Yet, to advance in a way that sets them up for success with the big decisions, they need to involve a broader team of employees in strategic planning and implementation.

The best way to make it happen: We recommended a two-pass strategic planning process. The first pass will only include the senior team and vary the steps to create a closely-held implementation strategy for the biggest strategic issues. We would then make a second, more typical looking collaborative planning sweep across a much larger part of the organization.

Are any of these situations familiar?

We tackle these and whole host of other issues as we work with each prospective client to identify the most effective and efficient way to introduce a strategic planning process into an organization.

If you’re looking at boosting the impact of your organizational strategy, let’s get on the phone and discuss the best way to make it happen for your brand! – 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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Short Story: Look for specifics and things that people can actually do or perform to move creative thinking into action.

How do you move from creative thinking into action?

That was a persistent question during a recent Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop that also included a heavy dose of content on creative thinking. Two of the client’s senior staff members said this was a question they expected us to answer during the strategic thinking workshop. They also wanted a sense of when and why you should think creatively. Specifically, one wondered whether a problem is necessary as a precursor to creative thinking.

I loved the questions. They signaled these two guys had likely been through similar workshops touching on creative thinking that were big on creativity and light on applying the ideas to daily work.

Their qualms about applying creative thinking are familiar. Working in a B2B marketing environment, I had to develop a knack for applying creativity quickly directly to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities. We did not work in an environment with tolerance for a fun creative path that didn’t deliver real world answers expeditiously.

Does there have to be a problem to justify creative thinking in a work setting?

BROKEN?

The workshop participant asking about creativity and problems was persistent. I changed the workshop’s flow to answer his question early, using a chart we previously published and regularly use with clients. It helps assess how broadly an organization perceives a need for improved results compared to its frustration with the status quo.

Placing your organization on the chart helps identify how you apply creativity and the related expectations for your efforts. In the lower right quadrant, creativity is likely first applied to helping the organization realize the need for change. As you build that understanding and hope for improvement, you shift creativity toward exploring what it will take for a better future. If your organization is starting in the upper right though, you can apply bigger creative thinking right away toward transformative ideas for bringing about dramatic change.

Turning Creative Thinking  into Action

GO NOW!

When it comes to shifting from ideas into action, that’s where everything we’ve published over the last several years about implementation, project management, and creating strategic impact comes into play. That work is oriented toward preparing and activating an organization to act on creative ideas.

Addressing the specific workshop query about how to move creative thinking into action, I shared five questions you can use to push a group more fascinated with ideas than acting toward specific tactics:

  • What will it take to accomplish this?
  • What are the first actions it will take to move forward?
  • Can you identify a specific individual that will have responsibility for implementing this?
  • What would you walk out here and do based on what we’ve talked about here?
  • What verbs (that demonstrate what people will do) are the first words for the tactics to make this happen?

These and comparable questions help curb coming up with more questions to push for the specifics leading to action.

And in case you were wondering, my action-oriented friends walked away from the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop satisfied we gave them the types of help they were looking for at the start! – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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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Short Story: With strategic thinking tools, you want dependable ones that deliver help to move forward in a smart fashion – no matter how unusual the tool may seem.

We share many Brainzooming strategy, innovation, and branding tools. The range is eclectic because their inspirations come from everywhere. In fact, one of the funniest questions I’ve been asked was whether I went to a training program, took the material, and called it Brainzooming?

The answer: NO!

The Brainzooming methodology continually emerges, refreshes, and grows from myriad sources and ongoing application with real-life clients and workshop participants.

One vital business strategy tool for me personally that I rarely mention directly in workshops is prayer. Prayer (and the humility in asking God for help) are an integral part of my business strategy tool repertoire. I try to dedicate a half-hour to prayer each morning after mass with other times sprinkled throughout the day. People seeing me in church probably think I have a deep, peaceful prayer life. The truth? Silencing my mind to pray and listen for answers from God is INCREDIBLY difficult. I spend much of the time on my knees or sitting quietly struggling to quiet and focus my mind.

Nonetheless, prayer and asking God for answers regularly helps me in business. The most fruitful prayers involve bringing a conundrum to God, admitting I have no clue about it, and asking for assistance consistent with God’s will.

Doubtful about this?

I’m sure some are. I cultivate enough friendships among avowed atheists and others that are skeptical that I know some of you must wonder how I look to prayer as a dependable part of shaping business strategy.

Here are two recent examples.

I was struggling to develop a sales call script and bemoaning that my dad (who was the quintessential sales guy) was gone when I needed his sales expertise. Frustrated, I went to bed after midnight, asked God to help me come up with something, and added that if my dad could hear me, I could use his help. Within a few minutes, before falling asleep, it was as if the sales script started to dictate into my mind. I wrote it out the next morning and had exactly what I needed.

In another instance, I needed to communicate about a potentially awkward situation to a client (awkward, that is, if it were poorly communicated). Wrapping up work for the evening, I didn’t know what to put in the email. I went to bed and prayed for the words because I could not see a way to explain it. Either during the night (because a close friend was texting me at 2 a.m.) or the next morning, the right words were in my mind.

Those are just two instances. There are many more.

Yes, prayer works as a business strategy tool. And for that, I am very thankful! – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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Short Story: When it comes to creativity, start with and return to the underlying strategy; that’s the most important piece of creative advice I have to offer.

I’ve been trying to let go of some creative reins on the Brainzooming brand. This is a matter of necessity: too little time, too many other things to do, reaching the limits of my execution talents, needing fresh perspectives on things I have been looking at for years.

This transition forces me to formally communicate aspects of the Brainzooming brand, including strategic assumptions and brand personality, vocabulary, design standards, and other elements that have only been in my head until now.

It also reinforces something I’ve known for a long time: I’m both a great client and a horrible client.

I’m a great client because of all the creative thinking background and experience communicating with creative people. I’m horrible because I have just enough creative chops to do many things myself, which I’m not reluctant to do if a project isn’t quite working.

8 Pieces of Creative Advice from a Great and Horrible Client

While collaborating with others on the Brainzooming brand, I’ve doled out plenty of advice. Here are eight creative advice tidbits that are more broadly applicable beyond our growing creative team:

  • Sometimes they hire you for how you’ll bring your personal creative vision to a project. Sometimes they hire you to put your creative vision to the side and perform work that sounds/looks like the brand. Know which type of gig you are working on right now.
  • Get the strategy down before you move to creative ideas. Return to the brand strategy and the creative strategy frequently. Nailing the strategy exactly is more important than delivering the most stellar creative idea.
  • Make sure you get a creative brief in place so there’s some type of objective way to assess the work when you’re done.
  • If you’re strong on big creative ideas, you can probably slide on some of the fine points. If you’re very strong at creative details, that can make up for not having the biggest ideas. You can’t fall short on both big ideas and details, however, and think you’re going to thrive creatively.
  • If you are struggling with both the big ideas AND the detail, make sure you under-promise and over-deliver. Work quickly to allow time to recover from dead ends. Most importantly, be a person of your word: hit the deadlines you agree on with the client.
  • Push yourself to explore lots of creative ideas; more creative ideas than you can imagine you need. You WILL need all those creative ideas to uncover the winning idea.
  • Don’t throw your creative work over the transom with no explanation. Push for the opportunity to explain your bold creative choices. Once you get that hearing, be ready to tie your bold creative choices to the underlying strategy.
  • If your usual jobs or projects don’t allow you to regularly go for big creative ideas, cultivate something else creatively that allows you to grow and develop your big creative thinking.

That’s my creative advice. Do with it what you will. Mike Brown

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Short Story: Instead of voting on strategic priorities, use exercises incorporating individual perspectives and strategic conversations to make fact-based decisions on where to focus your company’s attention.

How do you approach prioritizing strategic opportunities?

There is no one way that’s right for deciding among competing initiatives. In fact, we don’t even use just one way to prioritize them.

Prioritizing Strategic Opportunities

One frequent prioritization approach works well when we have tons of ideas in a strategy workshop and need to quickly (and spontaneously) narrow them to a manageable number.

We get there by estimating how many ideas we have, taking 1/5 of that number of ideas (assuming that 20% of the ideas at most have near-term applicability). We divide the number of participants into that number. The result is how many ideas each person can select for prioritization. They don’t need to get agreement from anyone to select an idea. Only one individual must believe in an idea for the group to consider it. Everyone then places their ideas on a large x-y grid based on an individual assessment. After every idea is placed, the group engages in a strategic conversation about each idea’s placement. The group discussion determines the ultimate location for each idea on the grid.

With more time, we frequently develop a decision support tool for a client to use in prioritizing strategic opportunities.

This involves working with the organization’s leadership team to identify important factors shaping strategic decisions. After selecting the factors, we work with them to describe very attractive, attractive, and unattractive options for each factor. We then create a decision support tool allowing each team member to assess an opportunity individually. After everyone is done with the ratings, we aggregate the results. The subsequent conversation focuses not on where everyone agrees, but on areas of disagreement. We look for differences in information, assumptions, and/or perspectives and work at resolving them. These conversations are typically efficient so we can quickly reach decisions across multiple initiatives.

2 Things in Common

Notice what is similar with the two methods? Each one involves individual assessment followed by group conversation.

Starting with people offering individual perspectives without influence from others taps greater diversity in thinking. The group’s strategic conversation creates the opportunity to challenge individual perspectives that may be off the mark.

Even though we don’t have only one method for prioritizing strategic opportunities, pairing individual perspectives and strategic conversation among a group works well to focus on the smartest alternatives.  – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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.

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Short Story: If a group of experts struggles with innovation, provide an opportunity to look at the situation from the outside to discover mental space to innovate.

I was talking with an engineer at a company that primarily employs engineers. The company focuses on materials testing.

He told me how difficult it is for the organization to consider an innovation strategy. The reason why? The engineers are so accustomed to testing EVERYTHING, they routinely shoot down any innovative ideas. That’s what they are used to doing. When the whole business is built on trying to prove something doesn’t work, I guess it takes you out of the “let’s try something new and innovative and see what happens” game.

I suggested looking at a version of one of our extreme creativity questions: How can we innovate our processes to test things faster than all our competitors? Specifically, how can we test ten products in the time our competitors test two things?

I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, but they’d be better off if they did.

2 Ways to Take a Fresh Look at Outside-In Innovation Strategy

They could also take the outside-in innovation strategy approach we wrote about recently: look at other testing situations ripe for speeding up and solve those. They could then take those ideas and apply them to what they do. It always seems easier and more fun to work on somebody else’s problems and fix them. That is especially true when your expertise is tearing apart what others overlooked in their work!

Additionally, our conversation suggested an intriguing innovation strategy role. He told me how the company had its annual meeting at the same venue two years in a row. At the most recent annual meeting, the bartender was the same as the year earlier. The bartender remarked that all the engineers were sitting in EXACTLY the same seats as at the previous year’s meeting!

While the engineers obviously remembered where they sat (and returned to the same seats), it took an outside observer to point out the bigger message: YOU GUYS DON’T EVER DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY! That story got me thinking: beyond an outside facilitator, who else is witnessing your innovation strategy development over time and can point to what those closest to it will never see, or at least never mention?

If thinking about doing things in new ways is tough for your organization, start looking at an outside-in innovation strategy!  – Mike Brown

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Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured a piece called “Two Cheers for Failure in a Tough Drug Industry,” by Jonathan D. Rockoff. The article highlighted innovation strategy options that drug companies are using to instill and support risk-taking behaviors. These companies are trying to motivate researchers facing daunting odds for bringing a drug successfully to market. Rockoff cites odds of 1 in 10,000 for drug compounds to ultimately gain regulatory approval.

The innovation strategy options include cultivating company culture, celebrating failures with parties and awards, and making sure they are failing as fast as possible with sufficient learnings.

4 Ways to Celebrate Risk Taking

While an innovation strategy that suggests throwing a party to celebrate a failed idea seems outrageous, the message from the pharma companies is that it’s smart business. Even if your innovation success rate is dramatically higher, motivating employees to embrace risks vital for innovating can be challenging. It’s chic for gurus to extol embracing failure. Yet, most employees have no track record of seeing peers – or anyone else – fail repeatedly as a pathway to corporate success.

Let’s suspend judgement and see the innovation strategy decisions certain pharma players are introducing to motivate taking risks.

1. Cultivating a Resilient, Innovative Environment

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is targeting both learning and emotion to prompt engagement and risk taking among its nearly 700 employees. In business for nineteen years, it has only one drug in the marketplace; eight more are in advanced development stages. To create broader understanding among employees about embracing serial risk taking amid tough odds, it invites well-known pharmaceutical innovators to share their experiences and practices.

The company also depicts development paths of drugs that have successfully made it through the regulatory gauntlet. They display these case studies in the workplace. To further engage its team, Ironwood asks staff to submit clever early-stage names for products in development. They encourage temporary names that are inside jokes or reflect pop culture interests.

By involving employees beyond its research team, Ironwood personalizes for all staff the challenges of innovating when you expect to meet many setbacks and dead ends. Inviting everyone to name test drugs creates personal investment in products under development, even among non-researchers.

Something to Think about for Your Business: How does your organization create opportunities for all employees to invest in innovation, even if you are not looking for them to generate or develop new product ideas? Just as you might encourage every employee to find the connections between themselves and end customers, how can you encourage them to create closer connections to the innovation centers in your business?

2. Celebrating Risk-Taking Behaviors

The biotech units at AstraZeneca and at Bristol-Myers Squibb each award scientists and researchers for outstanding work. Their awards are independent of ultimate commercialization or lack of it. AstraZeneca hosts an annual event to recognize scientists. The awards, presented at a black-tie event (dubbed the “Science Oscars”) are based on promising work; results are not a factor. The “Bravo Awards” at Bristol-Myers Squibb are similarly granted based on research efforts.

When an organization singles out people for dedicated, positive effort AND successful results, it sends a powerful message. It says the organization realizes successful innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovation depends on ideas and exploration, development and testing, and ultimately, achieving some threshold rate of commercialization. Reinforcing a multi-dimensional innovation process view with incentives and rewards along all phases shows that the company understands the importance of cultivating all aspects of innovation.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Do your innovation metrics track performance from idea generation to R&D, and through business results? If not, what are some smart steps that will expand your innovation dashboard?

3. Letting Go when an Innovation Strategy Isn’t Working

Beyond ingenious names, Ironwood holds wakes for drugs it has tested but killed before reaching the market. The company introduced the idea of a drug wake to allay researchers’ fears related to its first failed drug. With research and development on the drug suspended, employees were dreading restarting their research efforts (at best) or losing their jobs (at worst).

The wakes salute development efforts that extend up to a decade without commercial success. Ironwood now has six in its history; the wakes are integral to helping employees move to new assignments with strong outlooks. Recalling personal experiences and memories conveys appreciation for each innovation journey, even if the desired destination proves elusive.

Organizational behaviors convey whether or not true appreciation exists for risk taking that doesn’t result in bankable ROI. The audacity of throwing a party for what could easily be classified as failures signals confidence in ultimate success, investment in valuing people (beyond exclusively ROI-based outcomes), and a relaxed environment. These send the clear message that support for innovation and risk taking exists independently from market success.

Something to Think about for Your Business: What do your organizational behaviors say about your organization’s risk tolerance? Do you back up communication about the value of risk taking with obvious support and encouragement when individuals and teams pursue new ideas that fail to come to fruition?

4. Failing and Learning

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is training employees to conduct thorough post-R&D analysis. It wants to ensure that scientists capitalize on every possible learning from failed innovation. Embedding the US Army’s “after-action reporting” technique provides a methodology for in-depth researcher interviews to identify themes behind successes and failures. The process turns personal learnings into organizational knowledge.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Are you using every innovation initiative, regardless of its success, to create learnings that make your organization smarter and better? How often are you prioritizing and green lighting higher-risk innovation initiatives that promise disproportionate new learning potential?

What ideas does this raise about your innovation strategy?

Could you identify a couple of areas where pharma companies are supporting risk-taking behavior that would benefit your organization’s innovation strategy? Maybe it’s not a wake for a dead idea, but what else can you mine for an innovation strategy boost? – Mike Brown

 

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3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
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  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

Download your FREE copy of 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears today!

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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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