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First-time workshop questions always trigger blog posts. A new question from last week’s Outside-In Brand Innovation Brainzooming Workshop at the Brand Strategy Conference is no exception.

The intimate size of the brand innovation workshop afforded a rare opportunity. The participants decided to select one brand from among the attendees with everyone working together on outside-in innovation exercises for that brand. Using this approach with the strategic thinking questions, we created a tremendous jumpstart for a B2C brand whose brand manager admitted struggling with differentiating itself from its closest direct competitor.

The group’s responses to the strategic thinking questions and their brand innovation ideas filled many easel-sized Post-it pages.

Modifiers

7 Keys to Creating a Brand Toolkit for Brand Innovation

The voluminous poster-based output led one participant to ask what we do AFTER the strategic thinking questions and exercises to document the Brainzooming results.

That’s something I don’t typically cover in workshops, especially since most involve participants working on exercises individually.

After reviewing the poster photos to begin documenting a session, here are the next strategic thinking questions we ask ourselves to create actionable report outs:

  1. What big ideas jump off the page (or stand out in our memories) as natural big messages?
  2. What are big ideas people overlooked that should be brought to the forefront?
  3. Are there big themes that emerge when we aggregate multiple ideas from across exercises?
  4. How do we best call attention to the expected deliverables and outcomes from the workshop?
  5. If we are putting results into a table or matrix, are there obvious dimensions for organizing them? Are there less obvious dimensions to organize them in new ways?
  6. Were there any ideas that took my breath away when they were suggested? (From our Brand Strategy Conference workshop, one attendee shared an insight that could be a million dollar idea for a differentiated brand position. Those ideas make me gasp when they emerge.)
  7. Are there interesting parts of ideas that emerged during different exercises that need to be put together?

Asking and answering strategic thinking questions such as these helps develop what we characterize as a “strategic brand toolkit.” A brand toolkit (in electronic form) provides a brand manager so many possibilities for ongoing brand innovation.

Does that sound like what your brand needs?

Let’s talk about making it happen for your brand! – Mike Brown

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Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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 compare how we approach creating Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops to how a band develops a live music set list for a concert. For example, I read somewhere that when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band go out on tour, they have more than two hundred songs ready to slot into any one concert. They play some songs nearly all the time; other songs might only appear once.

That’s comparable to how we select specific strategic thinking questions and exercises from among our large (and always growing) repertoire for a client session. We include some exercises (in one form or another) in nearly every workshop. These are supplemented by less frequently used strategic thinking exercises serving a particular role to address a client’s needs.

Similarly, we select specific exercises to teach at conference workshops to best address a particular conference topic or learning objective. For the Brand Strategy Conference in San Francisco, we used the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book of Strategic Thinking Exercises as the basis for a brand innovation workshop. We concentrated on how companies can use customer, market, competitor, and other external, outside-in looks for brand innovation.

8 Strategic Thinking Exercises for Brand Innovation

Among the sixteen exercises in the Fake Book, we picked eight that were most relevant for brand innovators. Want to apply them to your own brand innovation needs? Here is the set list we used in the workshop (along with the Fake Book page numbers):

1. Looking at Your Brand as a Set of Benefits (Page 7)

This brand innovation exercise is central to most of the following benefits-based exercises that unlock innovation opportunities.

2. New Ways to Enhance Benefit Delivery (Page 8)

Using your audience’s needs, this exercise lets you imagine new ways to address them through the brand experience.

3. Innovating Brand Experience Proof Points (Page 12)

This exercise explores ways you currently deliver and could potentially strengthen your brand experience backstage and onstage.

Brand-Experience-Mapping

4. Determining Your Benefit-Based Competitors (Page 8)

Your competitive set looks dramatically different when you identify competitors based on brands delivering comparable benefits (instead of simply picking those that look like your brand).

5. Identifying New Markets (Page 10)

If your brand is seeking growth, where else can you deliver benefits central to your brand in new markets? This exercise yields the answers.

6. Messaging Benefits in New Ways (Page 9)

There may be many brands in diverse markets providing benefits comparable to yours. Go to school to discover new ways to sharpen and improve your messaging.

7. Deconstructing What Your Brand Does (Page 22)

One of our favorite exercises (What’s It Like?) provides multiple strategic and brand innovation ideas to change the game for your brand.

8. Disrupt or Be Disrupted (Page 20)

There’s no one way to disrupt your brand or others in the marketplace. These strategic thinking questions are a starting point, however, to imagine a range of potential disruptions.

 

If you have brand management responsibilities in your position, download the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book today (it’s still free to download!).

Then you can use this set of exercises to start thinking about your brand in a dramatically new way.

Chances are, there will be a million dollar idea in there for your brand too! – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

Mike Brown

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

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If you’re trying to create strategic change in an organization having a sense it knows the right way to do things and an even stronger perceived handle on which things are important to do and not do, what is the best change strategy?

Is it better to do a two-step sale or a one-step sale to get the go ahead for strategic change?

This strategic pondering emerged from several Brand Strategy Conference presentations this week.

BrandStratConf

Strategic Change Management in 1 or 2 steps?

There were discussions during various Brand Strategy Conference presentations about how you get an organization to understand branding, design thinking, or social media. The premise, understandably enough, is you need to win the organization over to a belief in the overarching concept before selling-in the related strategic change associated with embracing the concept.

This is what I’d call a two-step sell: sell the concept, then sell the specific strategic change.

A one-step sell would eliminate the separate first step of selling-in the overarching concept. Instead, you would simply start selling-in the strategic change that is needed by linking it, as best possible, to things the organization already believes in and supports. The idea is you may be far better off to not telegraph strategic change by either creating or acknowledging the hurdle of getting the organization to accept a big concept as a precursor to change.

For instance, if you’re trying to implement stronger and better branding in an organization that doesn’t get what brand is, you could start with aspects of brand building start where agreement to do something already exists. If product quality or customer engagement is something the company has been addressing even though it doesn’t completely understand branding, how about simply launching brand strengthening quality or customer engagement changes you align with more familiar initiative? You wouldn’t even have to mention the “B” word, especially if it were likely to just muddy the waters.

Think about this strategic thinking question this way: if you’re dealing with small minded people, are you better off to give them small ideas to consider rather than a huge, unfamiliar idea?

If you think you might be, a one-step strategic change cell may be exactly the approach to pursue.

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Innovative Perspective with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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You want input from your employees and partners on your branding strategy, but you cannot afford the risk of the input getting out of control.

Why the big risk?

DSCF6618

You are two-thirds of the way toward finishing your brand strategy development. And, while you are seeking input from others, you cannot afford the input to needlessly and non-strategically unwind the branding strategy work you have already finalized.

One option is to not seek any input. Another is to stipulate to certain topics are off limits. Another is to have a town hall type meeting (a few individual speakers with lots of listeners) so people have to acknowledge (if they’re being honest) they were in the room as the branding strategy was discussed, even if very few of them had a chance to offer ideas.

All of those options are weak.

Not soliciting input sets you up for multiple issues, including looking as if you are trying to hide something. Taking certain topics off the table makes it OBVIOUS you are hiding something. Holding a town hall meeting runs the risk of exposing your most negative and toxic audience members to the widest possible audience.

3 Ways to Invite Productive Branding Strategy Input

The far better alternative is bringing your larger audience together and maximizing the benefit of the input they provide through several techniques:

  • Have them work in small groups (which you assign or let naturally develop) so each person have a greater opportunity to contribute.
  • Give them specific questions to respond that focus on areas where you need input you can actually consider and incorporate.
  • Provide a way to capture their input and conversations in a way they can easily share it with you.

Using this type of approach, you can focus interested brand participants on topics that are additive to your branding strategy. And it ideas or other input surfaces that runs counter to your strategic direction, you can see it in the small group output and react in a sound strategic way – rather than having to field a hot question off-the-cuff in a big audience setting.

Want to learn more about the opportunity and value of incorporating more voices in developing strategy? Download our latest RESULTS!!! mini-book to learn more about the advantages of dramatically growing the perspectives shaping your strategy. Do you have many things you want your employees to understand about your corporate branding strategy, what they should be doing to carry it out, and how they should interact with customers to fulfill your brand promise? – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE   Results!!!  Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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It’s natural for engineers and operations people to be at odds with marketers over innovation strategy.

The engineering and operations view of the world typically focuses on internal perspectives and ensuring processes conform to standards, are efficient, and cost as little as possible. Success from this perspective is just enough performance relative to the costs incurred.

Marketers typically take a drastically different view.

As natural customer advocates, marketers are more likely to push for an innovation strategy that dramatically differentiates a brand’s customer experience. A marketer will focus on what will be different, attractive to the market, and sell strongly. After that’s solved, they figure out the rest. So instead of the threshold orientation operators advocate, marketers are looking to maximize and create significant advantages in the brand experience.

Spending many years in a B2B transportation and logistics company, I was usually standing in the middle of the street at the intersection of “do just enough” and “do everything possible.”

Trying to better our odds of innovation success and secure the help of the operations team, we used an approach one consultant originally called, “Operationally Smart Marketing.” At the concept’s heart is the idea that pushing for a more robust innovation strategy in an operationally-oriented environment requires being intimately familiar with the roadblocks operations might raise in order to innovate around them.

Closed-Road-Or-Not

This approach can appear counter to a customer-first, outside-in innovation strategy. From experience, however, this strategy is more productive than falling on the sword for innovations that WOULD maximize customer value IF they were ever implemented, but that you can NEVER get implemented.

An “Operationally Smart Marketing” Innovation Strategy

As a marketer, what are your starting points for operationally smart marketing?

Try asking and answering these strategic thinking questions:

  • What drives profitability in the business?
  • How do important operational factors play into whether there is a bigger or smaller opportunity for a bold innovation strategy?
  • Are there certain parts of the business that provide disproportionately greater innovation opportunities?
  • What factors make for disproportionately outstanding efficiency and operational performance? Can they be aligned to increase customer value?
  • What are the critical success factors for the best quality performance your organization can deliver?
  • Are there things customers might be incented to do to enhance performance AND improve the customer experience?
  • Is there anything we didn’t ask about?

This last question is particularly important. I came across many cases where operations people would answer only the question asked without ever volunteering ideas to expand possibilities or introduce greater operational variations. That’s why you should always ask point blank about what else might be possible you didn’t anticipate.

Knowing the relevant constraints and possibilities from the operations side can be vital to turning the strategy approaches we discuss in our Outside-in Innovation eBook (which you can download below) into success within a strong operational environment.  – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Outside-In Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise Outside-In Innovation ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive growth!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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Bill Mullins followed-up last Friday’s article on “when” you trust a creative genius with a related “how” strategic thinking question. As I read (and answered) Bill’s email, it focused on how you build trust with (or as) a creative genius sharing a vision for broader community issues.

Inside a company, it took two instances of my creative genius boss proving the big vision was completely on target despite my initial doubts. Those two instances prompted me to trust his instincts all the other years we worked together.

How, though, does one build trust such as this?

His strategic thinking question is intriguing because there is more to building trust than proving others’ doubts wrong then expecting their blind allegiance to your vision going forward.

How do you build trust with a creative genius?

At the heart of building trust in a strategic relationship with someone espousing a big, challenging vision is a question (at least for me) of whether the apparent creative genius can deliver results.

What-Make-Happen

This doesn’t mean the creative genius has to be the one delivering the results. Carrying out the big vision may be beyond the creative genius’ ability because of the vision’s size or the absence of the skill set necessary to make it a reality. If the vision is compelling enough and attainable, at least in part, the question is whether the visionary creative genius can attract others to make the big vision a reality.

Another key to building trust is internal and external integration between the creative genus’ beliefs, words, and actions. If a creative genius or visionary hopes to build trust, all the pieces need to fit together. Even if the vision cannot be quantitatively proven as the right vision beforehand, it is vital to demonstrate a strong strategic logic and consistency in all that the creative genius says or does.

My insistence on integrated thinking, words, and actions is why I am skeptical of so many creative geniuses one sees making big claims online. There is no shortage of people of jumping up and down and pointing at themselves for attention. The pieces do not fit together to make their claims credible, however, in many (most?) instances.

My initial thought from Bill’s email was a local community visionary / agitator in the Kansas City community. After pushing Kansas City to act on multiple visionary initiatives the past two decades, he had made a name for himself here. In all that time pushing for visionary initiatives, though, almost nothing has happened. He MAY have an incredible vision of what should be, but he has never been able to bring it to reality. While he may have characteristics of a creative genius, the lack of integrity in all the pieces and his inability to do something productive make me doubt anything he says and does.

That is how I think about this strategic thinking question; what about you? – Mike Brown

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

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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If you are in charge of developing innovation strategy, you have to answer the question, “What are our next big innovation opportunities?”

Being responsible for developing innovation strategy also means reaching out beyond your innovation team to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to gather valuable input.

When your outreach consists of asking stakeholders what your next big innovation opportunities are, however, you are missing the mark.

Delegating the Wrong Question to the Right People

Quesiton-Mark-Puzzle

Photo by: Leung Cho Pan

When answering the question about big innovation opportunities, your answer will likely come after significant exploration, ideation, concept development, prioritization, and prototyping. With that work out of the way, you are ready to speculate about the future opportunities.

Thinking you can delegate to others your job of developing innovation strategy and answering the important question you must address will not work. You cannot expect others to answer in one-step the question you might work months to address.

Yet, companies try to do just that.

Innovation Strategy that Has a Chance to Work

Talking with someone inside a big company recently, what they have tried to ask various stakeholders what they think the next innovation should be. First, it was through an employee “idea box.” When that did not work, it was through talking to customers, asking them what the company should innovate. That was not successful either.

No surprise in either case.

When taking the right step to reach out to employees and customers, do not expect them to develop your strategy. Instead, solicit input and help them articulate insights they have to help shape the innovation strategy.

  • Employees know about challenges and lost opportunities with customers. They know about problems with processes that restrict delivering value.
  • Customers know why they don’ use your product more. They know the problems or challenges they have with your product and what they wish you did more of or better.

Talk to your stakeholders about topics they can address. Give them information and the strategic thinking structures they can use to better articulate their thoughts.

Then, get back to the work you should be doing to turn that information, along with the other work you are doing, into answers about what your next big innovation opportunities are.

If you’d like to learn very productive ways to explore and identify your innovation opportunities, we invite you to download our FREE “Outside-In Innovation” edition of the Strategic Thinking Facebook. It’s waiting for you below, and will jump start answering the innovation questions you need to answer!

Download Your Free

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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