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I mentioned upcoming business collaboration opportunities for Brainzooming yesterday, including co-presentations, creating content, and developing new workshop and training offerings.

What to look for in a business collaboration?

Shame on me, but I’ve never put the criteria I look for from a business collaboration into the type of strategic decision making tool we develop for clients. The criteria are in my head. There is a time for everything, however.

Business-Collaboration-2

Here are criteria to evaluate when considering business collaborations:

  • There is a clear way we can be of help to the collaborator.
  • The collaborator brings something different (and complementary) to what we do and offer.
  • The other party shares comparable core business values to us.
  • There is a mutual commitment to learning from the business collaboration.
  • The collaboration will yield mutual benefits.
  • Beyond learning more from the collaboration’s outcomes, it should provide an opportunity to learn about each other and our brand.
  • The collaboration helps us grow in a new way.
  • The collaboration helps us reach a new audience.
  • With an event-based collaboration, it provides opportunities to extend it in strategically smart ways.
  • The other party is as enthusiastic about the possibilities from the collaboration as we are.
  • The collaboration doesn’t have to be completely aligned with what we are trying to do, but giving attention to the collaboration won’t become a distraction to important goals.
  • There is a clear motivation for both of us to invest in the collaboration to make it as successful as possible.
  • There is a mutual contribution from both parties toward the strategy and ideas.
  • There won’t be a big exit cost if the collaboration doesn’t develop successfully.
  • The investment and work to make the collaboration successful is spread among both parties, even if the types of investment in it are markedly different.

There may be more, but thinking back on business collaborations from the past few years, those items characterize the decision making and expected impacts of our varied collaborations.  Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

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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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We wrote recently about lowering the stakes for sharing creative ideas. Right after that article, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a small innovation strategy workshop with a client.

We discussed the approach for the client’s upcoming thirty-person new process innovation strategy workshop. The question emerged of how much prior thinking to share with the newly involved participants. Our client thought we shouldn’t bias them by initially reviewing the innovation work that had already been done. The concern was that it would limit potentially contrary thinking about ways to improve the internal process they’re seeking to improve. These concerns followed an extended conversation about the value and applicability of having participants complete a pre-workshop survey to gauge their initial thinking and reactions.

We pointed out that bringing a large group together with little preparation and information-sharing would make the workshop way more risky than it should be.

Innovation-Strategy-Workshop

For example, think about the salary cost (and associated risk) of having thirty people (many of them senior leaders) coming together for a day-long innovation strategy workshop without taking advantage of all the inputs we can.  We think lowering risks in these situations ALL THE TIME.

That’s why we never convene people for live, multi-hour innovation strategy workshops without pre-workshop input to understand:

  • What they are thinking
  • Where they see opportunities and challenges, and
  • How we can best organize the in-person time to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Upfront input lowers the risk of an unsuccessful meeting developing.

5 Ways to Lower Risk in an Innovation Strategy Workshop

Here are five ways we lower risks with an in-person workshop:

  1. Carefully selecting participants to get a sufficiently diverse group with as few people as possible.
  2. Reaching out to as big a group as makes sense with pre-workshop surveys or online collaboration sessions so we can introduce their voices and perspectives into the in-person meeting, even if they aren’t physically present.
  3. Sharing as much one-to-many information as we can before the in-person workshop (since it’s often low efficiency time when one person is talking and everyone else is sitting and listening).
  4. Customizing and sequencing exercises based on what participants are thinking and need to accomplish (instead of some standard arrangement that’s always the same).
  5. Creating open space within the meeting where we encourage participants to challenge thinking already advanced by the core team.

With that approach, we can move faster and make an in-person innovation strategy workshop tremendously productive.

If you’d like to learn more about doing the same for your innovation team, contact us! We’d love to fill you in on the approach and how it could look for your organization. – Mike Brown

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Ready to boost your innovation strategy?

New-10Barriers-Cover-BurstDo you need a quick evaluation to understand your organization’s innovation challenges so you can create a strategy to boost new ideas and successful implementation?

Download “The Ten Big Nos to InNOvating – Identifying the Barriers to Successful Business Innovation.”

This free Brainzooming eBook highlights ten common organizational innovation barriers. A one-page evaluation sets the stage to quickly self-diagnose where to focus your organization’s efforts in customizing a successful innovation initiative.

Download Your FREE eBook! 10 Big NOs to Innovating in Organizations

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 if you are a person that freezes up when you think you need to come up with or implement a creative idea?

What if even having someone TELL YOU that there are no wrong ideas doesn’t free you up to start sharing ideas in a group?

What if your fear of being wrong is so great that you can’t even start implementing creative ideas that are just for you for fear you’ll goof something up?

Is there hope?

Sure, there is hope.

Typically, the creative thinking exercises we teach and use are a huge source of hope to get past fears about self-judged “bad” ideas. Those creative thinking exercises don’t work for some people, however.

I had someone dealing with these concerns come up and talk with me the other day during a wonderful weekend I spent at the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites annual conference. She could be creative in other areas on her own time, by herself. Or she could express creativity when she patterned what she did creatively on someone else’s approach. While she wanted to contribute to the group creative thinking exercises we used, however, she “froze up.”

She was another “Becky,” a person we worked with that was miserable in group creative situations.

I told my new friend that she was also me. I can still be the person that doesn’t want to mess up a creative idea right from the start or expend creative energy on things I don’t think will lead to success or progress.

To help, I bought her a cheap sketchbook (not a nicely bound book that says “don’t mess up a page” to someone like my friend), a few Sharpies, and a couple of the Pilot pens I use to scribble notes. Inside the sketch book, I wrote this message for her.

Creative-Note

Finally, we talked about other ways to lower the stakes of imagining and doing something with new creative ideas:

  1. Write down ideas you are willing to throw away if they don’t turn into anything.
  2. Don’t plan to show anyone your ideas until you are happy with them.
  3. Get over it: if someone doesn’t get your creative idea right away, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
  4. Create something you can erase, adjust, or modify.
  5. If you are creating in a group, make it very easy for others to participate so their expectations for the creative output might not be so big.
  6. Share ideas that aren’t comfortable for you. Don’t judge them on whether you like them. Evaluate them later by whether they inspired someone else to come up with new ideas.
  7. Apply some creative ideas you like in one area to another area where you have less comfort with new ideas.
  8. Decide for yourself that your idea doesn’t have to be perfect and take a risk.

Are you a Becky? If you are, figure out which of these ideas (or others) will work to lower creative stakes for you.

Because the only creative mistake you are REALLY making is missing out on sharing your creativity with the world. – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

Innovation-Strategy-eBooks

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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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If you’re developing an innovation strategy initiative inside your company, is your primary focus on bringing executives together in a creative way to imagine new ideas?

That’s the focus some companies get enamored with based on innovation training that puts creativity front and center as the key to jump starting innovation.

From our experience, that’s far from the first step.

Strategic-Planning-Fun

Sure, the idea of getting everyone together for a creativity session is a sexy part of innovation.

But convening executives for a creativity session is the right step ONLY AFTER you’ve done a lot of decidedly non-sexy innovation strategy work. All the pre-work will suggest whether an in-person session even makes sense and how to make it successful if it does.


Download Your FREE eBook! 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization's Innovation Fears 

9 Critical Steps Before Your Innovation Strategy Gets Sexy

What are the non-sexy upfront steps in an innovation strategy?

Here’s a checklist:

  1. Setting appropriate objectives
  2. Gathering internal and external input
  3. Internal fact-finding
  4. Surveying external sources and environments for relevant ideas
  5. Conducting analysis
  6. Synthesizing pre-work into themes and directions to shape the innovation strategy (and workshop)
  7. Determining which parties will disproportionately contribute to an in-person innovation strategy workshop
  8. Designing the right type of workshop to help participants maximize their contributions
  9. Planning all the logistics and experience variables for the in-person workshop

Yes, those are all significant steps BEFORE you ever conduct a creativity session or in-person innovation strategy meeting.

Yet these steps may get insufficient attention in quickie innovation training classes because they:

  • Happen outside the organizational limelight
  • Can be ill-defined and cumbersome
  • Aren’t as sexy as facilitating a creative workshop

Here are two warnings:

  1. If the innovation training you’re attending goes right to how to have a creative workshop with executives, you’ve chosen the wrong training.
  2. If an outside company that is supposed to help with your innovation strategy goes right to the details of scheduling an in-person workshop, you’ve chosen the wrong partner.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, get creative about getting away FAST! – Mike Brown

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

Ready to boost innovation in a high-impact way?

New-10Barriers-Cover-BurstDo you need a quick evaluation to understand your organization’s innovation challenges so you can create a strategy to boost new ideas and successful implementation?

Download “The Ten Big Nos to InNOvating – Identifying the Barriers to Successful Business Innovation.”

This free Brainzooming eBook highlights ten common organizational innovation barriers. A one-page evaluation sets the stage to quickly self-diagnose where to focus your organization’s efforts in customizing a successful innovation initiative.

Download Your FREE eBook! 10 Big NOs to Innovating in Organizations

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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The Larry King Post View

Keep moving. At all costs . . . Since my flight was cancelled, I was going to hang on to my rental car while I went in to the airport to figure out my options. Then my standard mental travel checklist kicked in (which says she’d all things that will slow you down), and I dropped it off. If I’d have kept it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten home. #ChecklistsRule . . . Songs for an airport: Husbands, don’t let you wives bend over and show butt cracks.

Candy-crush

There is more than one way to get home by 10:30 at night . . .  If I weren’t in shape, I wouldn’t have made that connecting flight . . . The food service areas at LaGuardia are incredible compared to how they used to be. Sorry I had to run by them on this trip . . . In a future life, I’m changing my last name to Gatechek. Our family crest will be a pink tag . . . I don’t wear headphones on planes. I like to make sure the engines are still running. Just in case.

Let me be clear: I don’t want a clear drink, and I’ll whine until I get the right one . . . I don’t think it’s possible to drink enough in first class to make up for the cost differential, in case you are keeping score . . . Candy Crush? I don’t know from Candy Crush . . . I write on planes the way some people play games. Or listen to music. Or watch videos. Or snore . . . You may need exactly the right conditions to be able to engage in a mundane activity. Or maybe you don’t . . . Apparently not everyone is familiar with the concept of time zones. Because if they were, the woman next to me on the plane wouldn’t have had to try to explain them to the person who kept calling her even after she hung up on them.

Drinks

All this, and I still have to drive home.

What Made the Delta Customer Experience Work

I was trying to get back to Kansas City from the East Coast late Tuesday afternoon. Right before arriving at the airport, I discovered Delta cancelled my flight through Atlanta. After running to the Delta ticket counter, they directed me to the Special Services Line designated for those of us on cancelled flights. Starting out ten deep, I decided to try and get somebody from Delta on the phone and take my chances. I Googled and found a local Atlanta customer service number and called. Surprisingly, in almost no time at all, Tina answered the phone.

Manhattan

Tina was in an INCREDIDBLY good mood (despite the Delta system melting down this week), and I let her know that multiple times. After detailing my situation, Tina diligently went to work on my Tuesday options (beyond catching a flight at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning). She found a flight through LaGuardia, with a tight connection to Kansas City. We discussed the likelihood of making the connection given a potential delay on my initial flight. I said I thought it was worth the risk to be able to get home at the exact same time I was expected. Tina replied so charmingly, “I’m with you! I’m feeling this is going to work!”

I said let’s go.

Tina booked me in first class for both legs and checked me in for the flight. All by the time I made it up to the counter.

We’ll see how well Delta social listens. Because if they reach out to me about my Delta customer experience, I’d be happy to supply my confirmation number so they can track down Tina and do something incredible for her.

Amid what could have been a completely crappy situation, Tina put the Delta brand on her shoulders and delivered an exceptional customer experience. – 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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One way to deal with a common innovation strategy barrier – fear of change and new ideas – is to disguise new ideas as your team develops and implements them.

Yes, you got that right.

If your organization or other important audiences that will feel the impact of your new ideas truly fear change, it may be best to make your ideas appear less new, less frightening, and less like change than they might normally seem.

Innovation-Strategy-Disguise

Innovation Strategy in Disguise

For a quick innovation strategy inspiration along these lines, this video is an example of doing something that doesn’t fit, but making it seems as if it does.

An Innovator’s Prayer for Humility

As an innovation leader, pursuing an innovation strategy in disguise requires a different perspective. Thinking further about the leadership qualities it takes to successfully engage an innovation strategy in disguise reminded me of a litany of humility I read frequently. It seeks help relinquishing our desires for the things most of us want.

Using the litany of humility as an inspiration, here is an Innovator’s Prayer for Humility to gain the perspectives to make successful change happen without seeking the notoriety and credit for it.

  1. Give us the purity of motive that the new ideas and innovations we want to pursue are truly for the benefit of customers and the organization.
  2. Give us the ability to identify the people and resources we will need to create change.
  3. Reduce our need for credit for generating new ideas and moving them forward.
  4. Reduce our need for overt direction so we can imagine and improvise the needed changes without asking for permission or guidance.
  5. Give us the energy to work early and late hours when fewer people are liable to pay attention to our efforts.
  6. Reduce our organizational visibility to allow us to make progress without calling unnecessary attention to our work.
  7. Give us the foresight to move forward with needed changes that take a long time to implement because we are innovating unconventionally.
  8. Increase our skills in innovating through trial and error, real-time learning, and integrating our tough lessons into future success.
  9. Increase the opportunity for others to see the innovation as their own in order to take credit for and support its success.
  10. Give us patience to wait without comment if people never notice new ideas as their own.
  11. Reduce our need to call attention to and seek credit for the innovation our team accomplished.
  12. Give us a sense of personal consolation if people never notice that new ideas have changed things.

You may think this innovation strategy is nuts. Trust me though: it can work.

Sometimes the only way to make positive change happen is to make it happen WITHOUT calling attention to what you are doing. While we have done this successfully as an innovation strategy, it takes a different mindset to do it with honest motives and a willingness to abandon your need for others celebrating you for innovating once it is successful.

Call this a prayer or call it a checklist for an innovation strategy in disguise. Either way, if you are trying to hide innovation to be able to innovate, these are twelve things to pave the way for it happening!

Are you encountering innovation barriers in your organization? Here is help!

Innovation-Strategy-eBooks

If you are facing innovation barriers in your organization relative to the fear of change, scarce resources, limited perspectives, an overly-internal focus, or other innovation challenges, we have free Brainzooming eBooks available to help navigate around barriers to boost innovation! – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations innovate successfully by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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.

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Have you ever taken a moment to consider what gets in the way of your company fully embracing business innovation?

Do you suppose it is fear of change?

Cat-Eyes

We were leading a creative thinking workshop for a subsidiary of a German-owned, privately-held company. One of the executives (who was a fantastic participant and brought a double dose of creativity to any group in which he was in) said at one point, “All I can hear are the ‘rules’ and the ‘nos’ with every new idea!”

Whoa! What is that all about?

It is about an organization’s leaders being comfortable with whatever is in front of them and being fearful of the uncertainty of business innovation.

Business innovation is a numbers game. That means there are going to be misses. And failures. Maybe spectacular failures.

If you are smart in how the organization is pursuing its innovation strategy, however, there are going to be wins along the way. It just may not always be possible to know ahead of time with certainty what the big wins are going to be.

7 Strategies for Conquering Business Innovation Fears

Cover-Image

If your organization is routinely coming up against fears of change that slow (or undermine) innovation, the new Brainzooming eBook is for you. 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears looks at typical fears and offers solid ideas for how to best mitigate them to push forward with new ideas.

This eBook is the latest in a series of eBooks we’re releasing on successfully tackling business innovation barriers.

Download your copy of 7 Strategies for Conquering Business Innovation Fears today, and start devising your strategy to put fear in its place! – Mike Brown

 

Conquer Fears of Business Innovation!

FREE Download: “7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears”

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
  • When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
  • 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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