Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Who should you invite to participate in an innovation strategy workshop?

We’ve written about three important strategic perspectives (general management, functional expertise, and people with creative energy) and three types of voices (traditional, challenger, and emerging) to include in any type of strategy workshop.

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Working with a client to identify potential participants for an innovation strategy workshop, we identified five other participant profiles to expand the workshop diversity:

1. Unafraid People – Individuals that don’t care about what other people think, say, or do relative to their ideas.

2. The Voices of the Organization – People who will be able to share what the organization thinks – whether easy or challenging to hear. These are the individuals that everyone in the organization talks to about their aspirations and concerns.

3. Organizational Reactors – These are the people who, whenever an announcement is made or big news happens, everyone watches to see their expressions and the intensity of whatever emotions they display.

4. Entitled Owners – Individuals within the organization that only support implementation of their own idea and programs. You invite these individuals (in a reasonable numbers) so they feel as if the innovative ideas emerging are their own.

Adding individuals in each of these four groups, we grew the list of potential participants. We still hadn’t accounted for every department or tenure group that needed representation in the innovation strategy workshop. But they were out of people who would provide an innovative perspective.So, we added another potential group of participants:

5. People who won’t do any harm. These are individuals who might not contribute much to new thinking but won’t detract from the innovative thinking of others.

Identifying these five groups pushed us to the diversity we needed to move forward with the innovation strategy workshop.

Which leads to a question YOU will need to answer: Who is in your YOUR innovation strategy workshop?  – Mike Brown

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  • Organizational structures and processes
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  • Industry and market dynamics
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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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Idea Magnets and Creative Thinking Formulas - "As soon as he becomes comfortable with something, he invents something else to be nervous about."

“As soon as he becomes comfortable with something, he invents something else to be nervous about.”

– Bill Berry on Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (circa 1995)

Are you too comfortable to generate new creative ideas?

Would inventing something to make you nervous align with your creative thinking formula and attract more creative ideas? If so, what do you need to invent to make you nervous?

  1. ________________________________________
  2. ________________________________________
  3. ________________________________________
  4. ________________________________________
  5. ________________________________________

You don’t have to stop at 5 things that make you nervous. You can keep adding to the list.

Here’s my list of what I could invent to make me nervous.

  1. Thinking that what I have been doing is growing old.
  2. Imagining that I have forgotten how to do what I have previously done.
  3. Reading my bad reviews.
  4. Asking people what they think about my creative ideas.
  5. Inviting my imposter syndrome in for a long night of hanging out.
  6. Staring in the mirror.
  7. Trying to figure out what I should be doing six months or a year from now.
  8. Taking away my most important creative resources.
  9. Putting myself into a completely new situation.
  10. Volunteering for something I don’t know how to do.
  11. Agreeing to teach other people about something I do without thought right now.
  12. Eating my own dog food.
  13. Throwing away all my creative crutches.
  14. Believing that anyone that says nice things to me is lying.
  15. Letting someone talk me into something I know I have no business doing.
  16. Deciding to quit going along with the crowd.
  17. Comparing myself to others that (seem they) are doing better than I am.
  18. Convincing myself that everything is about to crumble.
  19. Comparing where I am to where I thought I would be by this point.
  20. Picking up and going someplace totally new.
  21. Telling someone that thing I’ve needed to tell them forever but just haven’t been able to bring myself to do.
  22. Committing more time, dollars, or energy than I have.
  23. Saying no to a bunch of things that I would have agreed to before.
  24. Stop reframing the current situation to make things feel like tiny victories.
  25. Giving up on everything that’s worked before.
  26. Blowing up my archives of idea snippets, creative tools, and inspiration notebooks and files.
  27. Starting over from scratch.
  28. Tearing up my plans and going down a different path.
  29. Not giving myself enough time or attention to get anything done.

I understand that new creativity comes from being nervous.

I’ve experienced it.

But I’m not sure this creative thinking formula and would boost my creativity. It seems like it would trample creativity for this Michael (Brown instead of Stipe).

How would making yourself nervous fit your creative thinking formula? Let us know your thoughts over at our Facebook page! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make Planning Strategy More Fun!

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A potential client reached out to us. He was a client team member on a customer experience strategy engagement several years ago. He has moved to a new role leading marketing for an organization shifting from the B2C to B2B market. They need a compelling brand position, messaging, and a content marketing strategy that grows their volume of interested prospects and leads to strong growth to satisfy the global company that just acquired the brand.

We created a proposal for rapidly updating and developing its B2B brand strategy while leaving everything in place the founder and CEO loves about the brand and doesn’t want to tinker with right now. The focus was on getting the best, actionable brand strategy foundation elements in place ASAP so they can implement.

We exchanged emails right before the holiday that they are leaning toward going with a different outside partner that does both brand strategy and execution. We responded with a message on why a client-side Marketing VP should be very cautious of an outside partner or agency that rushes to promise both branding strategy AND execution.

1 Big Reason Why You Don’t Want Brand Strategy and Execution from the Same Partner

Are you familiar with the pitfalls of picking one partner to both develop brand strategy and execute the strategy? Here, from experience we’ve had on the client side, are the pitfalls we spelled out for this client side marketer:

Dear Potential Client,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your candor, and want to be just as candid in my response. 

First and foremost, it was clear from our discussions that you need something that is on target strategically and not just interesting creatively.

The pitfall of picking someone who’s going to do strategy and tactics and slam it together right away is that they recommend a strategy that best fits what they do, and not what’s right for the client. I saw that time and time again as a corporate marketing VP. That’s why The Brainzooming Group comes at it in a very aggressive way to tailor the strategy for your organization and needs, independent of looking for opportunities to sell-in additional services.

As it seems everyone in your senior management team recognizes, your brand and messaging is tailored currently to a narrower audience. The messaging and audience strategy must change and be immediately on target to make rapid headway in the broad B2B market you are beginning to target. 

If there’s an organization that can come to the table and do strategy and tactics with previous experience in your industry, and do it all for the same price, that’s great. They’d be the smart choice over us.

It’s worth making sure, however, that they understand–both strategically and from a content standpoint–what you need to be successful, and not simply what fits their business model. If they’re pitching you on their ability to help you on the B2B side, look at their website and see that they’re using those same ideas themselves to target B2B decision makers. If not, as a client, I’d be suspect of how they make it work for others in a B2B market, but not for themselves.

Short story, on the client side, I found that getting the right strategy consistently led to getting the creative right. Our approach and experience will deliver solid strategy. Plus, we integrate well and collaborate openly with organizations that do focus on implementation.

If you’re open to it, we’re eager to make sure you get the on-target strategy you need, collaborate with your other partner, and make the process fast and economical for you. We’ll make sure they’re getting everything these need to quickly implement the strategy that’s going to yield business results for you.

Again, I appreciate your candor and your time. We’d love to work with you. Feel free to reach out for any clarification or to get us moving on next steps.

Thanks,

Mike

Are you facing the same question about brand strategy and execution?

We’ll see what the potential client does. My suspicion is they’ll go with the other partner, and get a seamless plan that the outside partner positions as solid brand strategy. The problem is the brand strategy will look like a page from the partner’s capabilities page. So, the seamless strategy will work well for the outside provider – at least until it is implemented – but fall short for the end client.

Are you facing the same type of decision about developing your brand strategy?

Contact us, and let’s develop the best strategy for YOU. Then get the right partners to implement it. Because the promise to do everything will get you almost nothing that works. – Mike Brown

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Looking ahead to transitioning from planning to doing and wanting to maximize success?

Try these 5 implementation strategy steps for launching a big initiative properly so the initial implementation leads to outstanding results later.

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Team

The big first implementation strategy step is assembling the right team with the skills, experience, and perspectives to make a big initiative happen. This begins with envisioning the initiative’s scope and reach. For those who’ve been blessed with skills as visual thinkers, this may be an easy step. These types of people can simply “watch” an initiative play out in their minds, almost as if it were a movie. They see the scenes and think about what happens and all the people that need to be in place.

For those less visually-inclined, it helps to get a couple of people you know will be on the team, the starting project timeline, and a white board. List the key steps for implementing the initiative. Then, for each step, list who is best prepared to implement it, whose work they will depend on before theirs so they can implement, and who will work with what they produce in the initiative. By exploring those three areas for each step, you’ll have a much more robust list of potential project team participants. With this expanded list, you can start to make sure you have all the types of people and necessary skills accounted for among your project team.

2. Share the Expected Impact and Experience from a Successful Initiative

Even if there is a stated objective or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound) goal created for the initiative upfront, it’s helpful to envision in a broader way what the initiative is supposed to deliver. You can frame the initiative’s expected impact in several concrete ways:

  • What will the team do to implement the initiative?
  • How will the initiative’s audiences react as it is implemented? How will they benefit from it?
  • What will be the business results from the initiative’s success?

Articulating this envisioned impact provides a more complete perspective of the experience and look of success at every step of the initiative’s implementation. This prepares a team to help you, as a leader, monitor and adjust to keep the initiative on track for its timely completion.

3. Provide a Broad Starting View to Your Team Members

Typically, an initiative’s leader has greater exposure to the plan based on the length of time you’ve been involved, your experience, and/or where you sit in the organization. If this is the case, it behooves you to share as much of what you know as possible with newly-involved initiative team members. To launch the team most successfully, the leader should bring together all the relevant information – including highlighting what isn’t known – to make team members as uniformly smart as possible on the initiative.

Offering this overview even before the team meets the first time provides an immediate confidence boost. It sends a clear message that the work is important (since you’ve taken time to prepare), strategic (through providing valuable context on how the initiative supports business objectives), and action-oriented (because you anticipated the initiative’s timeline and impact).

4. Set Boundaries for Change

While it might strike some people as odd to discuss setting ‘boundaries for change,’ this is an important element in a big initiative’s success. This implies letting your team know where they have more and less latitude for introducing new, creative, and untried solutions that can turn the initiative into reality.

Team members can determine where to best invest their time, ideas, and diligence most effectively when they know whether an initiative is viewed as needing to deliver incremental vs. transformative change. If the organization isn’t looking for major changes from an initiative, understanding that upfront helps team members develop more realistic strategies and timelines.

When, however, an organization expects significant transformation resulting from an initiative, team members can set targets appropriately. They can better identify how much personal and organizational creativity to bring to the implementation steps.

5. Embrace Moving Back and Forth between Strategy and Details

Think about implementing a major initiative implementation as an event. Using an event framework is helpful because successful event planners must move continually back and forth between a strategic perspective and tactical implementation. This implies, in practice, both identifying implementation steps that support overall strategy and being comfortable (while implementing) testing each step against how it supports the overall initiative strategy.

This ongoing back and forth movement between strategy and detail is integral to implementing a big initiative. It’s neither all about the thinking, nor all about the doing. Additionally, there aren’t necessarily exclusive times for separate thinking and doing. A great initiative leader has to be adept at moving back and forth between the two, while helping team members do the same.”

5 Implementation Strategy Steps and Future Success

We are firm believers that delivering a successful initiative is highly dependent on it starting properly rather than having to make major adjustments later when a poorly-planned launch creates performance gaps. Following these five implementation strategy steps sets the stage to launch a major initiative with the right team members having clear expectations on what they are expected to deliver and the change impact the organization needs.

If you’d like a valuable resource to help you ask the right questions as you launch new initiatives, download our FREE eBook, 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (or 10? as we call it). These questions will help your team perform better and lead to stronger results! – Mike Brown

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

 

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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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We were set to work with a client team exploring the customer experience strategy they’d introduce to their internal customers. As we thought about how many of them there were (about twenty), the two of us from The Brainzooming Group, and the value of having an inner circle of informal facilitators, we hit upon an idea: create roles for a small group of clients to play during our two-day branding workshop.

Each of the four roles were intended to help push the group’s thinking on its customer experience strategy in varied ways.

4 Roles to Push Bold Customer Experience Strategy Thinking

We met with them the afternoon before the branding workshop started to provide background information and answer questions. Rather than tromping on others’ ideas, we asked them to look for ways to build on and expand ideas the group was sharing in positive ways. We provided strategic thinking questions of their own to use, including:

  • “That’s great and how can we do that _____________?”
  • “What if that were ________________?”
  • “Oooh, can we enhance that by ______________?”
  • “What would it look like if we also _____________?”

We assigned four roles to shape the customer experience strategy thinking:

On the second day of the branding workshop, we added another role: The Queen of Intrigue. That role went to the group’s senior executive to focus us on transformative ideas during a strategic thinking exercise involving imagining Chick-fil-A designing their customer experience strategy. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate that one!

We asked the group to pick the roles they wanted to play without telling other participants or us.

Now, for two admissions:

  1. All the while as we were creating this, I was thinking of Chuck Dymer letting me know these roles were accounted for in Six Thinking Hats (affiliate link). That’s the problem of me never having taken one of Chuck’s Six Thinking Hats workshops. My mistake, definitely!
  2. Emma Alvarez Gibson and I consciously tried to forget who we talked to about the roles. We didn’t want to interact with them differently or rely on them unduly as we facilitated the small groups. The result? We can’t tell you definitively whether the role playing created greater success or not.

If nothing else, the customer experience strategy roles provided a handful of participants more to think about and something extra to do to make our branding workshop the success it was! – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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It’s that time. Organizations are reviewing budgets for the year ahead. While everyone hopes these meetings are smart, strategic, and have a meaningful impact on the business, that rarely seems to be the case.

 12 Reasons Budget Meetings Aren’t Strategic

Too often, budget meetings aren’t strategic. From personal experience, these twelve reasons all contribute to the disconnect:

  1. The meetings are adversarial, as if the people inside the company are trying to rip off the company by requesting money to run it.
  2. The focus is only on numbers, without any stories of success and aspirations for what the dollars are expected to do.
  3. They are handled out of context strategically, looking at the business by department instead of by initiative.
  4. General managers and non-financial executives are placed in unfamiliar and poorly-performed accounting roles.
  5. Budget meetings are not integrated with strategic planning and business strategy.
  6. Accounting and finance act as if they control the business and are integral to generating revenue and profit.
  7. Budget meetings solve for numbers and do not solve for business results.
  8. They prioritize overly precise discussions about inconsequential aspects of the business.
  9. Budget meeting length isn’t matched to the strategic complexity or importance of the area.
  10. They are awkward and challenging to prepare for to ensure they are as productive as possible.
  11. Since they only happen once a year, the formats and discussions are unfamiliar.
  12. Preparing for them creates an organizational drag on getting things done to drive the business forward.

Because of these factors, business and department leaders often focus on escaping budget meetings with some semblance of a budget that makes sense. This behavior obscures looking at their areas and the entire organization strategically, comprehensively, and with a smart investment perspective.

3 Ways to Fix Budget Meetings

Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities
If you’re interested in changing the strategic disconnect of budget meetings – whether you are in finance and accounting or not – we have a guide!

Download our FREE eBook, 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities.  In it, we share actionable ideas for turning tactical accounting reviews into strategic conversations balancing business results with the financial underpinning necessary to achieve them.

Get your copy of 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities and grow your strategic leadership to drive better business results!

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Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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Matt Britton, a millennial generation expert, spoke about the anticipating the Class of 2025 as the keynote speaker on the closing day of the October 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. His keynote got us thinking about how today’s ten-year-olds (the Class of 2025) will change the landscape for brands, following in the wake of the impact millennials have created.

A Future-Looking Strategic Thinking Experiment

Reviewing the copious notes, here are strategic thinking starters for thought experiments as you imagine your future organization and market.

A Radically Different Audience Base

Britton discussed the fact that younger millennials (born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and Generation Z (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) are the first generations to grow up with the internet in their households. Because of the lifelong availability of the web, Britton contends their brains are wired to think and consume differently.

For the class of 2025, it goes further: they were born with phones in their faces. They are developing collaborative projects online in grade school. The availability of learning outside traditional schooling structures will change the training and pool of employees, leading to greater diversity, fewer people with traditional college degrees, and a need for specialization vs. careers as generalists.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If none of our employees had college degrees and were instead DIY or technically-trained, how would our business model and processes change?
  • What could we do better in this scenario? What would we do differently?

Talking to Machines, Not People

Changes in how we interact with computers, robots, and other devices are already underway. Instead of typing, we’ll increase voice interaction – or mind control. Britton’s claim is “hardware is the final mile.” That’s why Amazon and Google are moving to hardware, because it will dramatically impact online search results.

Where people once might have viewed several search pages to find answers, now it is about a brand needing to be among the first ten recommendations on Google. With voice delivery, people won’t listen to more than one or two options. If the voice hardware doesn’t mention your brand, you are out of luck; thus the importance of shaping how the hardware works. With devices talking directly to devices, the dynamic changes even more.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What will it take to set up a marketing innovation team to understand how voice technology changes our marketing, sales, and customer service? Where should the team start exploring?
  • If we don’t have a team looking at the impact of the Internet of Things on our business, what do we need to do to get on it by early 2018?

Download Disrupting Thinking

Renting vs. Buying

Britton combined several trends to explain why millennials (and later, the class of 2025) will want to rent things instead of buying and owning them:

  • City and downtown living is a pull for millennials. As demand and prices rise, they can’t afford bigger places. The result is they won’t / don’t have room for as many things.
  • Parking is an issue. The greater density of amenities in downtown areas makes walking, biking, and public transit more attractive. Thus, there is no need to own a car.
  • In a gig-based economy, organizations will downsize offices. Gig workers will look increasingly to collaborative workspaces to rent a desk or place to congregate and work.
  • As having more things is less attractive, experiencing more things (and documenting the experience digitally in photos and videos) is all the rage. The goal becomes pursuing experiences just to be able to take a picture and show it to others, with the expectation that the experiences and images are life changing and defining.

There are numerous examples: massive valuations for Uber and WeWork, the popularity of Color Runs, and Get the Flight Out (GFTO offers last minute flights deals so going to exotic locales to take pictures is more affordable).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What changes in our business if most customers want our product or service on demand versus owning it?
  • How do we move faster to introduce a self-disruptive business model before another brand does?

Abandoning the Middle

Britton predicted a continued move toward a “barbell economy,” where the middle class and mid-range products are being “wiped out.” He points to a major potential brand implication: the best growth opportunities are for luxury and value brands. Luxury brands can create high-impact, premium-dollar (potentially convenience-rich) experiences (see the renting vs. buying impact) and value brands can uncover supply chain innovations, taking costs out, and maximizing simplicity (Brandless sells essentially generic, but “better” food products, all at $3).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If we have a middle-market product or service, what will be left of our business if it dries up?
  • What does the ultimate, premium, high-end version of what we produce look like? What does the generic, everything costs the same version of what we do look like?

Old Hat, Old Thinking, or Both?

Whether these predicted trends feel old hat or impossibly far off for your business, you should take Matt Britton up on one of his ideas: creating a shadow board of millennial employees to advise your Baby Boomer and Generation X senior leaders on what’s coming. Create this type of group, and spend time with them imagining what your brand and marketplace’s future looks like.

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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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