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Like all other Kansas City Chiefs fans (and much of the sports world), I’m fascinated by the team’s new quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. His amazing run of touchdown passes along with the unusual formations and unique details of their plays (such as a left-handed throw by the right-handed Mahomes) make the Kansas City Chiefs very fun to watch.

I picked up a copy of the “Future Issue” from Sports Illustrated because of the topic and Mahomes’ prominent cover image. The SI article focused primarily on Andy Reid, the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. It highlighted how he has built this intriguing and explosive offense by looking everywhere for innovative ideas.

Where does Andy Reid find innovative ideas?

Check out these quotes about Reid’s sources for innovative ideas:

“He set up an R&D unit for offensive football, scouring film and tinkering with new play designs . . . (coach Brad) Childress would sort the Pro Football Focus database for every NFL play run out of an empty formation, looking for anything worth pilfering.”

“He dug back into (Alex) Smith’s college tape from Utah, where Smith ran Urban Meyer’s spread-option offense . . . Then, on opening night in 2017, Reid’s Chiefs roughed up the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots with an offence that looked like nothing the league had ever seen.”

“In the end, it all worked exactly as the Chiefs staff had seen it play out before . . . on North Dakota State’s film.”

Yes, Andy Reid and his staff are looking EVERYWHERE for innovative ideas they can lift and adapt for the Kansas City Chiefs offense. They are open to discovering innovative ideas for NFL plays no matter the level of football. By borrowing ideas from elsewhere, they can see ahead of time how they are working.

As one receiver, Chris Conley, put it, “The plays in our playbook could be from any year, anywhere. They just seamlessly come together. There’s the conglomerate of good plays [Reid] has accumulated over time. That’s what makes up this offense.”

Where are you finding innovative ideas?

This quote made me think of how we have created the Brainzooming methodology over the years: through pure inspiration and artful adaptation from far-flung sources. The inspirations include reality TV, improv comedy, business consulting, Dennis the Menace cartoon books, magazine ads, and obscure behavioral laws, just to name a few!

Borrow innovative ideas from everywhere

Here is something to reflect on as one calendar year winds down and the next one approaches:

  • How many big starter ideas did you lift from somewhere else this year?

  • How many different places did you lift innovative ideas from?

We’re not talking stealing trade secrets. Just review how broad your inspiration field is. Think about ways to expand your sources of innovative ideas in the year ahead! – Mike Brown

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

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I was standing in line at the Baltimore airport, about to board an earlier-than-planned Southwest Airlines flight through Chicago on my way back home. I was trying to shake a lingering stress headache, while feeling good about getting home an hour earlier, even though I’d passed up my direct flight to be able to do it.

Suddenly, Facebook Messenger buzzed. It was a message from my buddy, Mess Wright: “Hello. Are you there?”

I responded, saying I was about to board a plane, but had a minute. Mess let me know that she’s working on a new idea, had a variety of potential names, and wondered if I’d review them. I asked for more background information to determine how well the names were working to convey her brand. Mess sent a few paragraphs plus photos of the list of possible names.

On the plane, I decided, based on the headache, to generate other possible names versus trying to concentrate and read the one from Mess. Without an available list of our Brainzooming cool product name questions, I used the descriptions Mess sent to identify strategic starting points. I began imagining what words might pertain to the new brand’s:

  • Personality
  • Benefits
  • Customers
  • Business Category
  • Other Audiences

I also left myself some mental white space to riff on any other names that came to mind.

When we reached Chicago, I forwarded a list of 106 potential names generated before landing at Midway. Mess responded later that several of the cool product names were resonating, along with others from her original list.

This past Friday and Saturday, Mess sent possible logo executions incorporating suggested name number eighty-three from my list. By this weekend, she’s using our online branding lab tools to further explore brand positioning, content, visuals, and product ideas.

How to Generate 100+ Cool Product Names in a Hurry!

I see three take-aways from this story:

  1. The benefit of creative structure to generate LOTS of ideas, because the winner may be cool product name number eighty-three
  2. The power of strategy-focused creative thinking questions to help generate a high proportion of on-target ideas
  3. The speed with which you can move from idea to prototype when you are determined and use resources from around the world

This mini-cool product names project was a welcome distraction during the BWI-MDW flight. Without it, I’d have had a full-on head explosion from the detail I discovered about my Chicago connection AFTER I was on the plane. More about that customer experience fail.

In the meantime, if you want help generating names, we have a FREE infographic that features 7 inspiring creative thinking questions to create cool product names! Download your copy today! – 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 Friday night, I forced myself to leave the office. (This is more impressive than it might seem, at first: you entrepreneurs will know what I’m talking about.) I’d made my way to the couch and was parked there, watching Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Wembley or Bust on Showtime.

(And yes, most of the songs were, in fact, from the soundtrack of my youth.)

For the closing song, the group played their version of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over, Beethoven. Truth be told, the result was rather pedestrian-sounding. But here’s the beauty of Chuck Berry’s guitar licks: when you put them into a song, no matter how lame the performer, they create excitement.

As I watched, something occurred to me for the first time.

When I started playing guitar, back in high school, I ordered a guide featuring the blues scale. The incredible thing—at least to a very inexperienced guitarist who’d had years of piano lessons, where wrong notes were violently evident—was that with a blues scale, I could play any note after another note, and it would sound great.

Imagine the freedom: here’s your instrument; go. Know that anything you choose, anything at all, will work. It was a perfectionist and an innovator’s dream: I WILL BE MISTAKE-FREE NO MATTER WHAT I DO!

I’m guessing that this all came together for me right then because I had been pitching a new client in partnership with an advertising agency. I explained to them that no matter who we bring into an in-person Brainzooming workshop, we design the questions and exercises so that EVERYONE will be successful participating. There’s pretty much no way they can make a mistake, so long as they’re participating.

Brainzooming as the blues scale of strategy, innovation, and branding? It’s like the secret to creative success for everyone! I like the concept, a lot. It’s the perfect analogy for what we do—and what we teach our clients to do.

If you want to collaboratively engage your team (or multiple teams) in a strategic and creative thinking process in which any of them can discover the secret to creative success, then it’s time to contact us. We’d love to work with you so each of your team members can contribute and all work well together!

And if you want to get your team members going within days on enhancing  their creative success, get them copies of our book: Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders. It’s the guidebook for immediately generating inspiration and encouraging people and ideas! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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At an Idea Magnets workshop, we shared a strategic thinking exercise we call Rock-Paper-Scissors. We employ it to categorize what your company or department is currently offering based on:

  • Things that add incredible value for your audience
  • Things that don’t add incredible value, but could if they received more attention and resources
  • Things that once created incredible value, but no longer do, and are ripe for major modifications or for being eliminated

In the post-workshop evaluation, one attendee asked about extending this strategic thinking exercise to identify things you aren’t currently doing that you should be doing. The individual asking the question suggested it as a fourth element of the Rock-Paper-Scissors strategic thinking exercise (perhaps as Rock Number 2).

Picking up on the suggestion, here is a starting list of questions that could start to answer this important fourth question about what’s missing within your offerings:

  • What have customers been asking about forever that no one will deliver for them?
  • If you weren’t constrained by whatever you think your current constraint is, what would you provide to customers because it’s the right thing to do?
  • If you moved backward in your product/service delivery process, what would you start to do to create stronger benefits for customers?
  • If you moved forward in your product/service delivery process, what would to begin offering to customers to enhance how you deliver benefits to them?
  • Ask a client: If you were running our company / department, what would you be doing? (You may get lucky on this one, but don’t bet on it. Customers aren’t paid to do your thinking for you.)

This one is definitely in the Brainzooming R&D Lab! We’ve used most of these questions in other settings, but not integrated as a fourth part of Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’ll try it out soon and see how it works to complement what is an already-proven strategic thinking exercise for Brainzooming clients. – Mike Brown

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

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swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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“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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Nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises.

I’d never thought of this term previously. Yet, they are vital. They help groups (or an individual) efficiently explore many more opportunities and ideas than they otherwise might.

The nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises term popped into my head during a Brainzooming client workshop. Three groups rotated through posters focused on their shared services organization’s internal branding. We had already identified its experience promise to internal clients. This new exercise translated its internal brand promise into specific behaviors its five-hundred employees will use to create the experience.

Each strategic thinking exercise poster had four or five brand dimensions on the Y-axis. The x-axis labels along the poster’s top featured three specific opportunities to deliver the attributes: at the initial engagement with internal clients, throughout ongoing work, and as a project wraps up.

You do the math with this strategic thinking exercise.

Five rows times three columns presented fifteen different opportunities within a matrix for participants in each of three groups to explore different phases of the experience promise. That meant more than forty perspectives from which to generate ideas for potential behaviors.

Someone asked if, after the small groups completed all the idea generation, we would leave them with all these cells worth of ideas.

My answer was, “No.”

The point of creating so many possible ways to think about brand behaviors WAS NOT to develop a bunch of answers pointing in varied directions.

Our objective? Use the forty-plus cells to push the team into exploring the nooks and crannies of brand behaviors. We will report back the summarized list of important behaviors to successfully bring the promise to life. The focused behaviors lead to implementing a robust, focused, and consistent experience for internal clients.

Whether it’s a bunch of cells, many different prompts for ideas, or questions that extend from incremental to extreme change, nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises are trying to do the same thing: create an efficient way to look at an opportunity from as many different perspectives as relevant and possible within a brief amount of time.

Want to make sure your team is looking at all the nooks and crannies of your strategy?

Contact us, and let’s adapt the concept to your specific organizational, brand, or innovation strategies. You’ll quickly see why we love the productivity of nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises so much! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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J.P. Morgan Chase has announced a new online brokerage platform called, You Invest. The app targets its more than 47 million customers with free brokerage services, including 100 free trades in the first year. Subsequent trades are $2.95, although customers with larger investment levels receive 100 free trades annually—or even unlimited trades.

Free trades from a brand charging $24.95 per trade a year ago?

The strategy change is dramatic and a disruptive business model, but hardly a surprise. Two years ago, the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, identified Amazon Prime as reference point for launching a platform offering free services. As Dimon said, “If you’re a good account, it’s no different than Jeff Bezos doing the $99 Prime and adding services to it.”

The tiered services levels, with additional free options beyond $15,000 and $100,000 in investments, suggest a blatant share growth strategy. Early tests suggest the app is drawing younger, newer traders.

Thinking about a Disruptive Business Model for Your Brand

via ShutterStock

How does a company without disruptive innovation in its corporate DNA imagine its own disruptive business model?

If this is your situation, here are thoughts on exploring the topic through incorporating varied perspectives and imperatives. These can help in taking the first steps toward disruption that will gain an early advantage.

If a Successful Brand Is Disrupting Successfully, Copy Its Disruptive Business Model

As is evident from Jamie Dimon’s comments, J.P. Morgan Chase looked to Amazon Prime as a disruptive business model for its own market. While not every disruptor is successful (and high-flying ones sometimes crash), you can look to those disruptive brands that are currently popular, such as Amazon, Apple, Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix, and see a pattern: create an inviting technology-based platform, provide people a place to behave, and generate seemingly endless data flows from their behaviors. Within the platform, invite other brands to contribute content, products, or other assets to speed the development of a full-fledged and attractive customer platform.

Using this model, explore where you’ll generate revenue. (It likely won’t be by charging current market rates for what your platform delivers.) Consider offering an attractive value package to maximize the amount of time, interest, and focus users devote to the platform. Possibilities include:

  • Offering additional services for free or at dramatic discounts (plus incentivizing pricing for those spending more time on your platform)
  • Providing a one-stop, never-have-to-go-anywhere else experience
  • Securing an upfront annual (or multi-year) financial or share commitment and dropping charges for ongoing activity
  • Extending more lenient, flexible customer service policies
  • Simplifying the engagement process to one step; two steps at most

Some of these offerings are explicitly price-based. Others simply lower costs for the brand to provide the service or reduce customer challenges. Both can contribute to greater value perceptions and reduce customer motivations to leave the platform for other options.

Where else can you generate revenue? To the extent that your platform is home to customer behaviors, you have data and insights with tremendous potential value. Consider everything Amazon knows about its customers’ search, shopping, and purchase behaviors. Or Facebook, about the personal networks, communication tendencies, and movement patterns of users. Or Uber, about the flow of people in major metropolitan areas. See the value there? That’s where you turn analysts (or data scientists) loose to identify:

  • The very best customers to secure with even greater value offerings
  • What else to offer customers individually and as a whole
  • Opportunities to sell access to other brands (even competitors) that want to market to the platform’s users

Generating additional value and revenue from data allows you to further subsidize the value of the platform’s consumer offering. This grows the platform’s attractiveness, making it tougher to leave.

It’s essentially the give-away-the-razor-and-sell-the-blades model, supercharged with data and technology.

Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Benefits, Capabilities, and Adjacent Markets

Another approach to imagining a disruptive business model is to consider the opportunity to innovate (and disrupt) based on customer benefits. The starting point for this exploration involves identifying your brand’s capabilities and the benefits you currently deliver. Ideally, you will have a healthy list of benefits from which to explore several paths:

  • How else can you deliver these benefits to your current customers with tremendously greater value? (This is a good opportunity to see how a platform model might fit.)
  • How can you break into a completely new market and deliver these benefits – whether it involves using current capabilities or new ones?
  • How can you imagine automating nearly everything you do to fundamentally change your cost dynamics, allowing you to super-size the benefits and value you deliver?

Each question can surface disruptive possibilities. This is especially true of the second question. Disruptors are often completely new to a market. They freely disrupt BECAUSE they have no vested interest in the industry’s status quo. They approach the market with completely new competitive dynamics.

Remember: These Are Thought Experiments

As mentioned earlier, these are thought experiments. We hope these questions pave the way to help your leadership team think sooner than later about the opportunities and threats involved in trying to adopt a disruptive business model for your brand. – From 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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