Implementation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – 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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Mess Wright, who just recently opened Mess Labs in Dallas, has been an online friend for many years, and an in-person friend since August 2016.  

Invariably, Mess puts words to ideas that rattle around in my head in a half-formed state. Mess not only pulls ideas together; she puts herself out there by articulating them. Here’s the most recent example of this, with Mess weighing in on business mentoring and the importance of protecting your time and attention when you are trying to make things happen.

Trust me: Mess is a person that makes things happen! – Mike

Business Mentoring – Be Careful of Who Promises You Help by Mess Wright

Abe Nadimi and Mess Wright of Mess Labs

You can go ahead and file this one under, “Things You Aren’t Supposed to Say but Mess Says Anyway.” Oh, well, here goes:

It seems there is some sort of incubator, accelerator, or entrepreneurial center popping up everywhere lately.

I think this is supposed to (and can) be a good thing, but I have to tell you something.

I’ve been in this startup world for nearly a year, and I’ve found the majority of the “entrepreneurs” and “mentors” I’ve met are actually either hacks, delusional liars, con-artists, or people who are otherwise lost or unemployable.

It takes a minute to decipher the people who are actually “in business.” That minute is long and hard, but my advice is to take the time to really vet people you might let into your life.

I’ve taken a lot of hits (mostly inside my co-working space) for pointing out the people who are time and money sucks. I’ve been told it’s rude or impolite. I’ve been told “community” means “supporting” people, even people who are clearly trying to take whilst offering nothing.

I say all this because I think a lot of people romanticize self-employment or entrepreneurship. My advice for them is if you take that jump, be very selective about who gets time with you. You don’t have to say Yes to every invitation, every introduction or entertain every opinion. It’s way okay to be exclusive in some ways – don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.

Just because someone is older, more experienced, more educated, or did the thing you want to do, that does not make them mentor material. Gravitate to people who lift you up, listen to you, and help you grow. Don’t worry if those people aren’t marketing themselves as leaders or guides. The ones who do aren’t always the support you are seeking and needing anyway.

Everyone who is in a position to refer mentors to mentees needs to also vet people better. Let’s hold anyone we call “mentor” to a higher standard and drop the assumption that “accomplished” or “perceived as accomplished” translates to “can mentor.” It’s a horrible assumption, if you think about it. And a bad mentor figure can do amazing harm to a mentee.

Finally, if you feel you want to mentor someone ask yourself if you have the time, you have the inclination, and if you truly hold the mentee’s best interests as a priority.

If you’re doing business mentoring to feed your own ego, stop. Just stop! – Mess Wright

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Chatting with a mid-career professional who is at the height of job frustration, she placed a career strategy challenge on the table:

  • “A résumé is supposed to have metrics, but I have no real metrics I can own for my contributions at my day job.
  • “What I’m doing in my day job isn’t the kind of work I want to do in my next job – at least under the same circumstances. I need to find something more fulfilling.
  • “I’ve done outside work at various times, but it’s not a consistent work history. Plus, I can’t jump back into entrepreneurship with its lack of stability.
  • “I have some starting points describing myself that have potential to go on a résumé, but they seem fluffy and lack concrete accomplishments.”

With all that backdrop, the question was, “What should I put on my résumé that is going to help me attract an employer’s attention when I email or post my résumé?”

I know this isn’t an isolated career strategy challenge.

Parts of it feel a lot like what I was facing at various points in my corporate career. When you are part of a big organizational machine, it is often difficult to isolate what you do to create metrics. And if you tend toward under-selling yourself, you freeze when faced with touting your own capabilities and accomplishments.

5 Career Strategy Challenge Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

What’s the answer to this career strategy challenge?

I don’t know that there is one answer, but here are the ideas I shared:

  • You can always go to a professional to help prepare your résumé. Here is one I’d recommend if you pursue this idea. A professional creates compelling stories for job seekers all the time, and there’s tremendous value in both that experience and the objectivity of someone else looking at your great capabilities.
  • Create your own metrics. Every organization wants to improve what it does and do it more efficiently. If you’ve struggled to compile metrics for your personal contribution to the organization, create a performance improvement project in your department. Go to your internal customers under the banner of bettering your department’s contributions. Ask them for specifics on where your contributions improve good things, reduce bad things, accomplish results with fewer resources, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in any other quantitative ways. Collect success stories, too, even if they aren’t metrics-based. All this work will improve your day job while giving you ample résumé material.
  • Reach back out to your outside clients and ask them comparable questions about performance improvements, cost efficiencies, and customer successes they can attribute to the work you did for them. Those could be easier, more compelling metrics to establish.
  • Beyond the success stories you are collecting, ask several people close to you to create a recommendation letter for you that highlights at least five key characteristics, talents, work accomplishments, and selling points that they would use to communicate about you positively to others. They will likely share things you don’t see in yourself that you should be communicating in your résumé.
  • Network like crazy! Start now, and continue for the rest of your career. If you are a unique talent who is hard to adequately and differentially describe in a couple of pages, why limit yourself to selling yourself in a couple of pages? My advice to this job seeker was that her next position is going to come from someone that sees and gets her talents and finds the right role. By meeting hiring decision makers personally through an aggressive networking effort, the résumé becomes less important. Then, instead of selling you sight unseen, it becomes a crutch for the decision maker to better describe you and what they see in you to others in the organization.

Those are my ideas.

They helped get her thinking about new possibilities. Ultimately, these ideas are all about action, and doing the hard work to bring them to life! – Mike Brown

 

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Learning what participants in an upcoming big meeting know, think, and believe before they come together in a large group is one tactic to strengthen team collaboration.

14 Team Collaboration Benefits from Pre-Meeting Outreach

Depending on the nature of the pre-meeting outreach you conduct with participants, it can promote team collaboration and help:

  • Get to know participants better and figure out how to best work with them
  • Gain a sense of what people already think
  • Learn what insights the participants already have and don’t have
  • Find out what you need to figure out or research ahead of time
  • Look for areas where you agree so you can make it seem like your ideas are theirs, creating greater ownership
  • Identify strong ideas upfront so you are ready to listen for and act on them in the larger group meeting
  • Understand the nature of disagreements or contrarian points of view, especially how accurate, deeply held, and unchanging they are.
  • Better strategize how to introduce challenging points of view
  • Determine how interested people are in developing a beneficial solution
  • Prioritize topics based on their criticality
  • Uncover time saving and efficiency opportunities, knowing you can spend less time on topics where people agree and more on where they disagree
  • Identify which people should and shouldn’t be in small groups together
  • Discover perspectives you will need to introduce in a larger group setting that individuals may be reluctant to voice
  • Make it more difficult for someone to play games in a large group (by espousing a point of view they don’t hold privately)

Gaining these team collaboration insights can come through various pre-meeting outreach formats. You can use individual conversations, online surveys, online collaborations, and review previous documentation. The method you choose obviously depends on how available and near people are, along with the importance of anonymity in their responses.

No matter the approach don’t go into a big meeting and expect the strongest team collaboration if you haven’t done your pre-meeting groundwork to make it happen. – Mike Brown

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  • 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!

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In Brainzooming presentations and workshops, attendees want case studies and the answers somebody else has used.

Why?

Because that seems easy.

You show up, put in your forty-five or sixty minutes, and walk away with the answers that you haven’t been able to come up with back at the office. Or you receive confirmation from a speaker that what you have been thinking is right (or pretty close to right), and you can take that back to the office and tell the boss.

A Strategic Thinking Framework Is Better than an Answer, Really!

Despite this desire for case studies and answers, I rarely include them when I speak. Or if I do, I incorporate examples from audience members so THEY can talk about everything they tried, what worked and didn’t, and the things they learned.

Instead, I include lots of strategic thinking frameworks for decision making. While these strategic thinking frameworks aren’t answers, they allow you to quickly develop answers even in areas where you lack experience. That ability (and flexibility) is vital in business. It’s also essential as a presenter where you get questions and people wanting you to tell them what to do. As I remind people, however, I can’t tell them to do one thing or another within a couple of minutes at a conference. But I can give them a strategic thinking framework to analyze the question and decide for themselves.

Here is one example from a social media and content marketing workshop:

An attendee asked about the need to maintain separate Facebook pages in different languages. I pointed him to a brand-oriented strategic thinking framework I shared that focuses on what customers expect, accept, and will reward.

As we played it out, customers expect brands to interact in their own languages. They may or may not accept that one out of every few posts is in their language, and then they have to scroll. Maybe they will accept images with links to content in their own language? Maybe they will accept built-in translation as a viable option.

Then, depending on which approach they choose, they have to look at whether customers will reward it in some meaningful way. Will they select the brand over another? Select it more often? Pay more for a sense of personalization?

While I didn’t know the answer at that moment, the strategic thinking framework provides a way for them to consider the options and make a decision that works for the brand.

Bring the Questions!

If you are in the audience for a Brainzooming workshop, I love, love, love the questions. Please ask questions.

Just realize, your answer is probably going to be a way for YOU to think about your question and develop the answer you are seeking that works best for YOU, not somebody else! – Mike Brown

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  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

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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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I’ll admit it upfront: I’m not a huge fan of highly-involved, fun strategic planning icebreaker activities that don’t provide direct value to the strategic thinking we need to do.

Granted, the contribution doesn’t have to be something that will go into the final strategic plan.

But if we’re going to invest any amount of time for fun strategic planning icebreaker activities, they need to directly contribute to a fun environment or help the group to network and collaborate more effectively during the day.

So, with the idea of sharing ideas that still leave you with lots of flexibility, here are strategic planning icebreaker activities you can develop to best suit your strategy group’s needs. You can use these idea starters and imagine what will be most effective in any setting.

8 Strategic Planning Ice Breaker Activities

  • Ask a question that even people that have worked together for a very long time would have never asked and discussed previously.
  • Have people quickly pair up (or multiple up) and create something they will need during later strategy activities.
  • Give everyone an individual question that fits them perfectly. Have them ask the question of everyone. During introductions, the group introduces each individual as they share all their answers about a specific person.
  • Ask a most, least, best, or worst question that everyone answers.
  • Ask a first question: What was your first friend? First love? First job? First thing you did this morning? The first thing you do in a new city?
  • Ask a last question: Last thing on your mind? Last time you felt like a kid? Last time you were shocked? Last time you did something that scared you?
  • Ask a never question: What are you never doing? Have never done but would like to? Never thought (when you were young) that you would (or wouldn’t) be doing this all the time? Something you never thought you’d admit this to a group of co-workers but here it is?
  • Create a laundry list of odd (but not necessarily embarrassing) activities. Have people select one to do when it is their turn to introduce themselves.

Do you see a starting point in these ideas? If so, let us know what you try and how it works. If not, try here, here, or here for even more fun strategic planning icebreaker activities you could try. – Mike Brown

 

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Here is Emma Alvarez Gibson’s report from a conference she recently attended. With a lot of suggestions and a little bit of arm-twisting, Emma implemented the ideas captured in our Introvert’s Guide: 23 Ideas to Meet New People at a Conference. She’s being very kind to share how she fared implementing the ideas to meet new people even though she was going solo at the conference!

Ways to Meet New People – Confessions of a Conference Newbie by Emma Alvarez Gibson

Make yourself socialize, he said. You need to meet new people, he said.

It’ll be fun, he said.

I doubted that last part. Very much. But I was going to a conference, alone, and it was clear I needed to do these things, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Mike Brown knows how to conference. (To be fair, I knew that long before he inadvertently wrote an entire post while gamely encouraging his slightly terrified, sometimes-misanthropic friend. That’s me, by the way.)

So I went with a select few of the items in that post, and remain surprised by the results. To wit:

Pack the clothing or jewelry you own that most often generates comments from others. Wear those as conversation starters.

This was the easiest step. I packed a big red statement necklace and a bigger silver statement necklace. And it worked. Both pieces garnered a ton of compliments, giving me many an opportunity to talk to people I might not otherwise have met.

Find out the conference hashtag(s) ahead of time, and begin monitoring them. Reach out to other attendees and speakers using the hashtag.

I was dreading this part. It felt forced and phony. But it worked. Within a few minutes my tweet (something about how I was packing for the conference) got favorited and had a couple of responses. This was when I started to think that maybe these steps would work for me.

Prepare a few open-ended, easy-to-answer multiple part questions to ask. Prepare to use them. Try, “Is this your first time at the conference?”

Well, it seemed a bit obvious. But–and I hope you’re sitting down–it worked. It got the shy people out of their shells, and it gave the outgoing people a willing participant. Bonus: I was relieved that no one seemed to think it was too obvious a question to ask.

Wear your nametag.

I’ll admit it: I loathe nametags. I feel like a jerk wearing a lanyard around my neck and a card that trumpets my name at everyone from behind a sheet of plastic. But of course it’s the only sensible thing to do at a conference. And Mike surely had a reason for spelling this one out. Can you guess what happened? Yeah. It worked. People repeatedly approached me, addressing me by name. (It’s almost like there’s a pattern, or something, here.)

Take advantage of social media to reach out and increase your visibility. Live tweet the sessions you attend.

This was fun as well as easy. The speakers and their presentations were engaging, informative, and often very funny. I live-tweeted speaker quotes and photos from their presentations, and used the conference hashtag. Several times this resulted in fun banter from attendees I’d previously connected with, as well as from those I hadn’t yet met.

Sign up for networking events and excursions. Make yourself go. Boost your confidence that you can enjoy these events on your own, while you look for opportunities to share experiences with others!

Here’s the thing: I dislike large groups. I dislike field trips with large groups. I particularly dislike field trips with large groups in which everyone seems to know someone and I’m on my own, and we have to eat dinner together. But off I went. It started disastrously. I had less time than I’d realized to get to the meeting point where we would climb aboard a handful of buses which would take us to the riverboat where we would spend three hours. My choices: hustle, and arrive sweaty and discombobulated, and possibly get there just in time to see the buses pull away and watch everyone point and laugh, or throw in the towel, find dinner on my own, and admit defeat. Conveniently, as I was deciding, two people from the conference hurried past, making jokes about being left behind. I asked if they were on their way to the dinner cruise, and that was that. They told me that if we missed the bus, I could hang out with them. Well, we didn’t miss the bus. And I felt so buoyed by the friendly exchange beforehand that it was much easier for me to talk to people for the rest of the evening.

Look for small groups at networking events, ideally with people you’ve seen at sessions during the day. Find a way to join them through proximity, listening, smiling, and shared interests (i.e., you all are at this event, were in some of the same sessions, and have drinks). Being around the crowd can be the right opening to start meeting other people on the edge of the crowd.

I was sitting on the boat by myself, near the end of the third hour, when I heard a group of people tipsily discussing the medicinal uses of the gin and tonic in days of old. One of them was earnestly trying to remember what element was important to those applications. “Why not?” I thought. I got up and approached them. “It was the quinine,” I said, and we had a rousing discussion practically all the way back to shore.

What I learned: a little bit of effort goes a very long way toward making the most out of a conference, especially when you’re on your own. Simple, straightforward tactics netted me great results, so much so that a few times I forgot to be self-conscious. (If that doesn’t sound shocking, I’m not telling it right.) In any case: thanks, Mike! – Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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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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