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“You need to train people for their next jobs, not the ones they’re in right now.”

A participant shared that in an experience strategy workshop. 

His comment got me thinking: How much of what we do is based around right now, when it REALLY should be oriented toward getting ready for whatever is next?

The next . . . 

While you want to importantly make sure what’s going on right now is working well, you HAVE to carve off investment resources (focus, time, money, effort) to make sure you are ready for whatever is next.

Look at where you are giving your attention and other investment resources. Are they setting you up for future success? Or are they merely keeping you paddling in place for right now?

Depending on the answer, an Idea Magnet realizes you may need to make a big change to ever make progress. And that change starts right now!  – 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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So far, 2018 has been a year of so much progress…along with a sizable dose of healthy frustration. Progress, in that we’re pushing multiple new brands (including Idea Magnets) to market. Frustration, because it’s 2018 and not 2011 or 2012, at the latest.

Here is the ultra-honest admission: I didn’t have all the business model stuff and entrepreneurial lessons figured out when I started The Brainzooming Group.

While I’d spent TONS of time and effort on developing our methodology, I thought all the people who told me that they wanted to work with me when I left the corporate world would come running to work with Brainzooming. The rest would be history.

I was wrong.

It’s taken until this year to feel like we’re putting important parts of the business model in place, and while that’s great and all, I wish it had happened years ago. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s entirely possible you might start getting all your ducks (or even just a few important basics) in a row AFTER you’ve jumped into the entrepreneurial pool with both feet.

And, you know, if you keep surviving to do business another day, maybe it’s okay if you don’t have the entire business model solved immediately.

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Wish I’d Figured Out Earlier

While I usually save my entrepreneurial lessons for an annual-ish article, here’s a head start on what I’ve learned during the last year about the best advice people have shared with me that I wish I’d fully grasped before starting Brainzooming :

  1. The best advice? You have to find opportunities for leverage in your business. Without this type of opportunity, no one will want to invest in it. Without this type of opportunity, YOU should question your own investment in your own business.
  2. The next-best advice? Figure out what you can sell to all the visitors to your website that fall outside the target for your main business. Someone pointed out this incredible truism in 2012 or 2013. We’re only now starting to capitalize on it.
  3. The best advice after that? You need to have products to sell globally if you hope to generate revenue when you sleep (or even just sit on your ass and do nothing at some point in your life).
  4. Then? If you’re ultimately going to have something to sell to everyone that comes to your website, you need to engage and reach out to them along the way. It’s a mistake to overlook them until you have products ready for them. Find early opportunities to deliver value to them.
  5. Finally? Build your database EARLY. Spend time with your database. Continually explore and learn new ways for your database to shape and grow your business.

Looking at this list, it seems to comprise mainly things that I, as a marketer, should have instinctively known.

Alas, it’s taken time. And there’s still more learning ahead.

I just wanted those of you who more recently made the jump to the entrepreneurial life (and those of you in corporate life who think it sounds great to be your own boss), to know that you don’t have to know everything at once.

Despite what all the gurus say: it takes time, my friend. It takes time to learn the entrepreneurial lessons. – 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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We can all use a butt kicking occasionally that provides a wake up call to dramatically improve our own confidence levels and performance.

I got one of those butt kickings last Tuesday morning via an opening keynote presentation by Amber Selking, PhD, at the International Thermprocess Summit. Dr. Selking is a Performance Consultant who focuses on “Building Championship Mindsets.”

It feels like I’ve been running on fumes for weeks (months?), and I was in Atlanta on too little sleep to close out the conference that afternoon with a talk on transitioning businesses and their intellectual capital from one generation of Idea Magnets to the next. Before the Tuesday session opened, I took a seat at the very back table, hoping to strike a balance between conserving energy, walking through the slides in this new talk, and identifying ideas and themes from other speakers’ talks to weave into the closing.Order Idea Magnets
That’s when Amber brought the message, the energy, and the call-to action that made everyone stop and think about what they are personally doing to improve themselves and their teams. Everyone walked away with a new and improved mindset.

I told her later how her talk challenged and scared me.  As I sat there needing to deliver the same energy and passion as Dr. Selking brought to her talk, I feared there was noooooooo waaaaayyyyyyy I could muster half of the enthusiasm she did. At one point later in the morning, I returned to my room to get my stuff and wondered aloud WHAT I was going to do in the next two hours to energize myself.

My concerns were heightened when the conference organizer told me right before I started my talk that she was looking for me to deliver the same impact as Amber had earlier in the day.

I guess Dr. Selking’s message really did land with me, because I found much more energy than I’d had that morning. The closing talk was interactive, had some fun moments, and challenged the audience to return home and make room for millennials to actively engage in sharing and learning new and conventional knowledge to take their companies forward.

Enough about me. Amber Selking, PhD has a podcast you need to check out, and a TEDx Talk that will give you a sense of the impact of her message.

Go find out about Amber Selking, PhD. She’s an Idea Magnet!

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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 memory serves me, I saw actress Sally Field say one time on Inside the Actor’s Studio that performers must be skilled at applying mental sandpaper to themselves to quickly trigger the necessary emotion for a role or scene.

For whatever reason, as someone who has never had any hint of the acting bug, her comment stuck with me. It is probably because the idea of being able to instantly reach something important that is difficult for most to do is at the heart of the structures Brainzooming uses. All the strategic thinking exercises we’ve developed are focused on helping non-strategists become adept at strategy with very little preparation. All we ask is that anyone bring his or her knowledge, expertise and an open mind.

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6 Ways to Help Experts Realize What They Know

I’ve been thinking about this idea of mental sandpaper relative to a talk I’m giving this week on transitioning a business to the next generation of Idea Magnets.

The key point involves how an organization can prevent a huge part of its intellectual capital walk out the door as baby boomers retire in the next decade. One of the challenges in this knowledge transfer is that experts often lose sight of unique knowledge they know that others do not grasp. Working to identify ways to make experts realize other people don’t know things that they know is where the idea of mental sandpaper has been at the forefront of my mind for months.

What are some forms of mental sandpaper in this situation?

  • Having to teach what you know to someone else
  • Creating a presentation about your knowledge
  • Demonstrating what you do
  • Reviewing another expert’s perspective on what you know
  • Having the expert note gaps when someone with less experience explains the information or process at which they are expert
  • Starting over from scratch on a process that the expert typically only tweaks (as when a computer file you really need gets zapped)

Those are just a few ideas. If you have an expert Idea Magnet walking out the door soon and need to capture what they know, stock up on these variations on mental sandpaper and get to work! – 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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I was chatting with someone about what to do when someone asks you a question in a meeting. If you are fine with where everything is heading or you’re not sure what to ask, should you simply say you don’t have any questions?

That may seem like the natural answer.

I suggested another one: Go ahead and ask a great strategic thinking question.

It is always better to respond to a request for questions with a question versus saying you are completely set (whether you are or not) and have no need for more information.

In these situations, asking a positive, open-ended question:

  • Suggests that you’ve been listening very closely
  • Puts the attention back on the other person
  • Provides an opportunity for the other person to clarify

The next natural question in our conversation was about what types of strategic thinking questions to ask.

While I think there’s a Brainzooming blog post for this, it was almost faster to write a new, updated list of questions than to find the post. (That’s why having a book of Brainzooming creative leadership ideas all in one place will be so handy!)

21 Strategic Thinking Questions When You Have Nothing to Ask

via Shutterstick

Here are 21 updated strategic thinking questions with varied purposes you can use when someone asks you if you have any questions:

Create More Room to Elaborate

  • Can you talk about that more?
  • How will it work?
  • What is most intriguing to you about the idea?

Seek Additional Background

  • Is that a typical approach that you take?
  • What brought you to that conclusion?
  • What other ideas did you consider before arriving at that?

Explore Potential Impact

  • What are some upsides to this approach?
  • What types of impacts should / can we expect?
  • Did you look at this idea relative to others and their expected impacts?

Identify Opportunities

  • Are there other areas in which we can apply this?
  • What other initiatives could branch off from doing this?
  • What other initiatives could get new life when we introduce this initiative?

Identify Success Factors

  • What do we need to pave the way for success?
  • Who will need to be involved to make this successful?
  • Can we depend on existing capabilities or will we need new ones to make this work?

Understand Previous Experience

  • What does your experience tell you about how this will work in our situation?
  • How have you used this idea in other situations?
  • How does that differ from other things you’ve tried?

Push for More Innovation

  • Is that a new idea / approach?
  • What are other alternatives you considered (or are under consideration)?
  • How does this approach improve on what’s been done before?

Given all that, do you have any questions? – 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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I’m heading a team at church with responsibility for evangelization and conversion. Our responsibilities include ensuring our church creates an inviting and welcoming experience for both parishioners and visitors.

Our team gathered before the last Sunday mass this weekend to conduct a visual and experience audit. We used a worksheet supplied by our local archdiocese to perform what they called a visual hospitality audit. We informally extended the audit to include the entire experience, not just the visual cues.

The worksheet was tremendously helpful. It kept our team aligned AND provided a way to see our parish experience with fresh eyes.

Even before we successfully used the worksheet to conduct the audit, we planned to adapt the idea to develop a new Brainzooming branding exercise. It will help brands effectively and efficiently look at their in-person customer experiences.

If you want to adapt the concept to your brand’s in-person customer experience, here are the steps we’re taking to modify it:

To set up our team’s exercise, I prepared a cover sheet advising people to be as much in the background as possible (to minimize the impact of our presence on the observations). It also suggested trying, as best possible, to take on the eyes of specific audiences that need accommodation beyond the typical experience.

Our next step is compiling all the results. It is clear already that the audit form led all of us to new insights. One team member noticed a massive mosaic on the front of the church for the first time, even though he’s been in and around the church for fifty years! That shows the value of this type of customer experience audit approach to allow you to find fresh eyes, even if you have decade of exposure to a customer experience situation. – 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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The most popular statistic right now when it comes to knowledge transfer inside organizations?

Ten thousand baby boomers are reaching retirement age daily.

This statistic is used to light a fire under executives to hop on the knowledge management program. Many articles I’ve reviewed for an upcoming keynote presentation that I’ve informally called, Baby Boomers: Losing their Minds, paint the situation as totally dire.

While there’s a clear risk to losing intellectual capital, I see several potential upsides with the changing of the generational guard. We still see too many Brainzooming strategy workshops without enough women in senior roles, let alone healthy racial diversity. Given that, the baby boomer turnover has the potential to deliver multiple benefits, including:

That’s why the relevant number for your organization isn’t 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age daily. It is how much of your organization’s intellectual capital is subject to departure risk?

When identifying information to transfer in a strategic, coordinated fashion, I’m recommending to attendees that they prioritize several types of knowledge:

  • Information inside the heads and in the files of employees (irrespective of level in the company) who have influenced the organization’s body of intellectual capital, knowledge, and expertise
  • The details, keys to important communications flows, and histories within customer relationships integral to maintaining and growing revenue
  • Information on processes, procedures, and activities related to critical factors for organizational success
  • Successful structures and processes to transfer, embed, and ensure that the organization can act on vital knowledge

One other factor to narrow the knowledge you try to capture? Focus on capturing information that will be relevant in the future. While you may have a tremendous amount of information inside baby boomers’ heads, why waste time documenting things that won’t be important going forward? – 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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