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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter focused on an intriguing article from Inc. online. The article identified reasons why major companies invest significant, seemingly unjustified amounts on startup businesses with scant revenues and no discernible business models.

Big-Idea-Dollars

The original article from Inc. by Dev Aujla claims major companies use these acquisitions as a new variation on research and development. A major corporation may be able to pick up a whole startup for many millions of dollars. Despite seeming like an excessive figure, the purchase price could still put the major corporation dollars ahead versus developing whatever the startup offers on its own.

Aujla highlights three reasons major companies target these acquisitions. They are typically looking for:

1) New learnings and research
2) The opportunity to more easily plug a hole in their product or market portfolio
3) Talent that moves them ahead in new areas

AEIB-GraphicThe folks at the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief used Aujla’s three items and offered strategic thinking questions for each of the three areas.

The strategic thinking questions provide a way for companies, even ones far beyond startup status, to develop strategies boosting their chances for acquisition or spin-off opportunities. Armada agreed to let us share the questions here for each of the three areas.

The remainder of this post with the strategic thinking questions comes directly from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter and its “Inside the Executive Suite” edition.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Crafting Startup Strategy in Any Business

1. Developing New Learnings and Research

Many companies claim to be learning organizations. This is often professional development jargon for “educating the staff.” While education is important, it won’t prompt another company to pay a premium simply because your employees have current training.

Try this strategic flip, though. Instead of characterizing your company as a learning organization, characterize it as a “discovering” organization. With that change in strategic perspective, evaluate where you stand today and where you would like to be a year from now:

  • What is our organization discovering that no other party knows?
  • How many people inside our organization are hell-bent on discovering new technologies, capabilities, and possibilities to bring to market?
  • Who are the people and organizations outside our own that we are collaborating with on major discovery efforts?
  • What discoveries can we make happen at lower cost, with less risk and red tape, and at a markedly faster pace than bigger firms can?

These answers should stretch your organization to move beyond learning what everyone else knows into discovering breakthrough knowledge with real value to outside parties.

2. Filling Holes in Markets, Audiences, or Product Portfolios

Aggressively examine market, audience, and product strategy gaps at other organizations to discover missing elements you can fill through your own exploration.

  • Which organizations have bigger, more sweeping product visions than ours? What gaps exist in their product portfolios we might be able to supplement through our narrower focus on product and market development?
  • What markets adjacent to ones we serve include competitors with missing elements in their market, audience, or product mixes?
  • Are there companies in related or even far removed categories lacking strong platforms for innovation that our discovery strategy could readily address?

Don’t think about fixing everything with these discovery efforts. Focus on the minimum standard product or market development allowing another organization to readily fill a gap by eventually acquiring what you are doing.

3. Gaining New Talent

Consider how your organization pursues new talent. Is there a deliberate attempt to hire the types and caliber of people most ready to help your organization discover and grow along a valuable path?

While you may be hiring to clear standards, evaluate – if you haven’t already – who will be the “explorers” you need to discover the knowledge, markets, audiences, and products with the greatest potential value. Think about these questions:

  • What deliberate actions are we taking to bring on extraordinary discoverers?
  • What steps are we taking to identify and target emerging talent, i.e., people who aren’t as well known, but are about to become rock star talents?
  • What relationships are in place (or can we develop) with educational institutions that are doing new work and introducing new programs in areas of discovery for our organization? (BTW, you may need to be looking at grade schools, middle schools, and even home schooling programs.)

It’s clear that answering these questions won’t lead to simply placing online ads and waiting for your email inbox to fill with too many resumes! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

 

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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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“That was a big focus group.”

This comment was from Nancy Rosenow, executive director of Nature Explore, about a large-scale Brainzooming creative thinking session we designed and facilitated for its annual Leadership Institute.

A new type of focus group was what the large-scale creative thinking session was, even though it took place in the midst of a professional development conference.

The Case for a New Type of Focus Group

If you think about a traditional focus group, it’s an odd environment.

You bring individual groups of recruited strangers together who share some common characteristics (usually including geography) to react to pre-developed ideas or concepts. While they may engage in a brief group activity about the concepts, the main communication is usually one person reacting to what the focus group moderator or another participant has said. That result is a lot of one-person talking, everyone else listening, and relatively inefficient learning experience.

At the Brainzooming sessions we designed and facilitated the Leadership Institute (and for a similar one the previous day for KC Digital Drive), we created a different experience for participants with varied strategic thinking exercises designed specifically for them.

While we had geographically diverse individuals working together in four-to-six person groups, there were nearly twenty of those groups active simultaneously. With no dedicated facilitators for the groups, we had had staff from the organization walking among the tables to answer questions and provide creative encouragement.

Nature-Explore-Session

We accomplished this with a poster-based set of strategic thinking exercises. Participants could weigh in on three topics of interest to event organizers:

  1. What opportunities and challenges the attendees foresaw in creating and maintaining outdoor classrooms (the focus of the Institute)
  2. Attendee reactions nearly forty potential topics for educational modules
  3. Ways attendees would change their selected modules to make them more helpful

The net result a tremendous volume of input from the diverse participants, and all it took was approximately 45 minutes of event time for participants.

Strategic Thinking Exercises Designed for Broad Input

If you have a large group of your target audience members assembled, this about the value of a new type of focus group. You’ll get more people (who are both fundamental similarities and stark differences) working together, generating ample content through multiple periods of intense, collaborative interaction as they work on new ideas.

Sound intriguing?

Give me a call or email, and let’s discuss how we can make it happen for your organization! – Mike Brown

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

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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A linkbait article showed up on Facebook the other day about an atheist (who called himself, “Not gonna pray”) writing to Andrew W.K., the advice columnist at the Village Voice. The letter was about the foolishness of praying for his brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer.

The linkbait part of the headline focused on the columnist’s response which was, of course, labeled “EPIC.”

Andrew W.K.’s response focused, in part, on the humility prayer requires and the importance of understanding our place in creation. He pointed out that getting on your knees to pray is “about showing respect for the size and grandeur of what we call existence — it’s about being humble in the presence of the vastness of life, space, and sensation, and acknowledging our extremely limited understanding of what it all really means.”

Prayer-Atheist

He went on to suggest to “Not gonna pray” that out of respect for his grandmother’s request for prayer, he should get down on his knees and think about his brother (part of creation) as hard as he can. Think about him more than he ever had before. Think about all the wonderful aspects of him and “tell him” how much the letter writer loves him.

The article concluded by mentioning how powerful the response from Andrew W.K. was. This was required to reinforce how “EPIC” it was, and simply good form since about 90% of the linkbait article was lifted directly from the Village Voice (a great example of really poor content curation). Hundreds of comments followed and ads for articles on miracle pills, drunken celebrity moments, and important laws I need to know about in Overland, KS rounded out the article. (All that is why I’m not including a link to the linkbait article; you have enough details to search for it if you want to read it.)

The Linkbait Article on Prayer Got ONE Part Right

Since this is an example of prayer being discussed in social media, I’m jumping on it as a strategic thinking topic ideal for Brainzooming that needn’t be relegated to my long-dormant spirituality blog.

Andrew W.K. DID make an EPIC point in his response about prayer: the absolute importance of humility and the realization that no matter how much we want to think, believe, and fool ourselves, we AREN’T in control of the bigger picture. From trying in fits and starts to develop my own prayer life, that’s an unmistakable conclusion.

The unfortunate part of the response is that he suggests “Not gonna pray” should pray to “creation” (which can do nothing about prayer) instead of the “creator.” He wants “Not gonna pray” to be humbled next to a creation that, quite frankly, as a human being with incredible abilities to think, to reason, to understand his place in creation, and to participate in a spiritual life, he is SUPERIOR to in the most important ways.

It’s one thing to think you are “praying” to your brother, and essentially sending him good thoughts. And I guess that’s become the popular, watered-down version of what prayer is since people are allowed to talk about it without being too offensive or triggering a lawsuit from someone who doesn’t believe in prayer and feels his or her sensibilities are being trampled by others praying.

It’s one thing, but it’s a little tiny portion of prayer.

Prayer to the Creator IS EPIC

At the heart of prayer is demonstrating our humility to the creator (and not aspects of creation) and becoming open, willing, and eager to understand and actively participate in what we CAN understand of God’s plan.

And that does require humility, and a complete sense that we don’t control things as we might like to believe.

While you might think this topic is far afield for Brainzooming, the original linkbait article showed up in my Facebook feed with a well-known social media expert saying it was a great example of why you might like prayer. Since he’s only about 25% right, as may be the case on many topics on which he purports to be an expert, it’s fair game for somebody out here to fill in the other 75% of the answer he missed.

And for my friends who have said to me, “I don’t understand how someone so analytical and so focused on strategic thinking can believe in prayer,” I have one thing to say. My belief doesn’t come from fuzzy feelings. My belief comes from demonstrated evidence on a daily basis: the more I surrender, the more I give up control, the more I look to the creator as the source of direction in my life, the more things make sense in the big picture.

It’s not a feeling for me. It’s a daily proof.

And, in my humility and inadequacies as a person, that proof is EPIC. – Mike Brown

 

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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It may simply be my reading habits, or the sources where I see articles on business and strategic thinking, but it seems so much business content you read touts “do this, do that, never do that thing.”

Reader-Cleveland-Library

While knowing dos and don’ts is helpful, articles written in that manner need to come with a huge red disclaimer reading:

“Remember your situation could be entirely different than the ones we’re talking about. You might need to do the things we say not to, and don’t do the things we recommend. Without knowing you and your situation, we really have no business thinking we can do your strategic thinking for you or saying what to do or don’t do as emphatically as this article implies.”

Hardly any dos and don’ts article EVER comes packaged with any such disclaimer, though.

In fact, most business articles that seem to get big attention from readers are the most strident in asserting that things are always or never a certain way the author addresses.

But it’s ridiculous to think an author, especially one whose experience and qualifications are sketchy, has any basis to speak as definitively as they do on what will and won’t work in your business.

So, please, please be careful with what your read and do your own strategic thinking.

Consider the ideas, but apply them with caution and depend on yourself for all the strategic thinking and decisions you need to make! – Mike Brown

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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Talk to B2B service or product providers and you’ll likely hear about solution selling.

Fair enough. You don’t want to buy something and still have the problem afterward. You want your problem to go away and never come back another day.

The challenge is there are often multiple problems and multiple solutions. If it’s unclear which problem and which solution the potential client and provider are trying to address, the provider’s proposed solution can be way off the mark. If multiple providers are competing for the opportunity, they may be trying to solve different problems. That further adds to the likelihood of problem-solution mismatches.

We had one recently.

A potential client had already identified a time window for a strategic thinking session, the senior management group to participate, and the expectation of having a productive conversation leading to greater brand strategy clarity.

The company had contacted another firm to facilitate the discussion. Due to schedule conflicts, the other potential provider referred the company to us at the last minute. With no actual direct conversation with the potential client, we created a strategic thinking session plan for answering the brand strategy questions and issues we identified based on skeletal information.

Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Session

A Brainzooming strategic thinking session. Photo courtesy of Jason Harper.

After multiple emails, we finally talked with the client two days before the planned discussion time. Everything was going well as we discussed our approach and the proposed end deliverable: a definitive, consensus-oriented, strategic roadmap for the company to address its brand situation.

Then we got to the price.

Our price was five times higher than what the other potential provider proposed.

Doh!

Discussing this with the potential client, the difference was clear.

The other provider’s solution was showing up to be a neutral, albeit knowledgeable party, who would “host” a discussion.

That was a solution, but only to a VERY narrow interpretation of the problem, i.e., managing the allotted time for a discussion with a little follow up.

We were addressing delivering the answer they needed to move forward with a brand strategy and implementation in the few months their management group is expecting. We’d proposed addressing the bigger problem the potential client was admittedly facing. The other provider had proposed (and set a price expectation) for a small solution to a much narrower problem.

The big learning was even though I don’t use the term, we are solution selling. We don’t just show up and facilitate. We identify, plan, manage, and deliver a strategic outcome. In other words, our focus is creating strategic impact. That’s why we ensure all the planning and meeting conditions lead to a real result. That’s why we create a definitive series of exercises leading to the desired strategic outcome.

That’s why we don’t simply stand in front of a whiteboard, ask a few questions, and capture some notes.

It’s all part of the difference between facilitating a meeting and creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

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

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

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’ve designed and delivered many creating strategic impact workshop sessions for clients this year. No two sessions have been identical because we design each workshop to the client’s specific learning objectives. Today, we’re delivering a strategic kickoff meeting workshop for an organization working to dramatically improve its strategic planning process for 2015.

Since 2015 planning is right around the corner for many companies, it’s the ideal time to look at the value of a 2015 strategic kickoff meeting and include one on your planning calendar.

Top 10 Reasons to Have a 2015 Strategic Kickoff Meeting Soon

Strategic-FakeBook-Workshop

Based on our clients’ various objectives, here are the top 10 reasons to have a 2015 strategic kickoff meeting:

  1. It’s the right time to boost everyone’s skills in strategic, creating thinking.
  2. There’s still time to tweak your annual planning process so it is more productive as you plan for next year’s success.
  3. It’s possible within a few days to organize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop closely aligned to your organization’s strategic direction and priorities.
  4. Having a strategic planning kickoff meeting allows you to address skills gaps with your team relative to strategic thinking and successful implementation.
  5. Whether your focus is a small team or dozens of line managers, we can adjust a strategic kickoff meeting to help everyone productively align on important objectives.
  6. You can customize your strategic kickoff meeting from hundreds of Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises so your business objectives dictate the activities your team learns and practices.
  7. It’s a fantastic way to let the organization’s leaders actively participate with the team instead of becoming bogged down in meeting details and trying to facilitate.
  8. If you are in an advertising agency, consulting, or service business, a strategic kickoff meeting serves as a professional development boost for your staff.
  9. A strategic kickoff is a fantastic way to involve your non-profit’s board of directors more actively in understanding and positively contributing to the organization’s future success.
  10. You’ll hear comments afterward from your team such as:

Yes, strategic thinking can be both engaging and clearly beneficial for your organization’s success. We don’t think there’s any other way to do it!

Are you ready to schedule your strategic kickoff meeting?

What do you think?

We have the capacity to develop and schedule your 2015 strategic kickoff meeting. Or if you’re well into planning already, we can orient the workshop content toward creating strategic impact and a focus on successful implementation for 2015.

Give us a call at 816-509-5320 or email at info@brainzooming.com, and let us get to work on your kickoff meeting! – Mike Brown

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

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’ve had several coaching conversations about career challenges with multiple individuals who thought their jobs might be in danger.

One theme through all of them was how to really figure out your career situation if you suspect your job is in danger. Sometimes it’s obvious you’re on the bubble. Some people seem to always miss the obvious, however, especially when the obvious is about them.

Last-Day-Mug

11 Questions to Ask If You Think Your Job Is In Danger

Those coaching conversations led to this list of eleven questions about an individual’s organizational impact. If you suspect your job is in danger (or even if you don’t), honestly ask yourself these questions. They range across a variety of ways individuals can make an organizational impact through the value they deliver

If I weren’t here, would the organization . . .

  1. Lose any customers?
  2. See a revenue decline?
  3. Be less profitable (or financially successful)?
  4. Be a less compelling investment?
  5. Suffer a negative impact in reputation?
  6. Lose out on an incredible brand ambassador?
  7. Suffer from a major loss of intellectual capital?
  8. Become less efficient?
  9. Experience a major loss in quality or effectiveness?
  10. Be asked why I was no longer there?
  11. Notice the difference two months after I’ve left?

This list of organizational impact questions is not tested, and it’s not necessarily comprehensive.

But if you can’t find at least one or two undisputable “Yes” answers amid the list (and “maybe” or “a little” aren’t “yes”), you are simply a cog in your organization – and a pretty expendable and easily replaced one at that.

What to do next to improve your career success?

Your inability to answer any of these career success questions affirmatively means it’s past time to decide how you’re going to change your career situation where you are. Alternatively, it’s time to find a new place where you can develop and play a critical role.

And if you do neither, you’re just living on borrowed time, which is no way to live your career. – Mike Brown

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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