Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 128 – page 128
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This week’s Brainzooming posts are dedicated to one of my favorite all-time players, Wee Willie Keeler. You’ll learn more about him Wednesday, but the reason he’s a favorite is because of his famous strategic quote: when asked about his hitting approach, he replied, “I hit ’em where they ain’t.”

That strategy works in so many ways, we’ll use it as the inspiration for the posts all week. Today’s turns the quote around, concentrating on not getting hit where you ain’t looking.
I spoke a couple of years ago on the same program as the then-COO from Sprint. During his presentation, he highlighted the incredible number of photographs being taken and sent via cell phones on a monthly basis.

It would have been interesting to sit inside Kodak in the years leading up to the emergence & explosion of this capability to see if cell phones were ever considered as competitive threats. I suspect they weren’t, especially since a Kodak exec I saw presenting at a Frost & Sullivan conference in early 2007 couldn’t get beyond his focus on printing things. There wasn’t much recognition of alternative means of communicating and transmitting images and the impact on Kodak.

The scary implication for any business is that not all future (or even current) competitors will “look” like your company. Cell phones don’t look like cameras, and the images that they produce aren’t too conducive to printing. Yet, for capturing & sharing images, they’re a lot more functional than a traditional camera (or even an electronic one).

How can you begin to assess and project the nature of future competitive threats. Beyond cursory exploratory market research techniques, here are several questions to consider:

  • What benefits does your company deliver? If you didn’t deliver them, who else currently would / could deliver them?
  • What if your company never existedhow would customers satisfy their needs?
  • What if your industry never existedwhat alternatives might develop to satisfy needs?
  • Who are the niche players in your markets today that could grow in prominence? How might they be defining your business for you right now?

We used the first benefits-oriented set of strategic questions at a Kansas City Business Marketing Association in looking at how Apple had disrupted other markets, yet could be disrupted itself. The strategy exercise interestingly yielded Microsoft, Garmin, YouTube, and Louis Vuitton as all potential competitors to deliver the same benefits Apple does. That’s quite a wide-ranging list!

This type of strategy work is challenging and highly speculative. But it pays to consider, anticipate, and prepare for as many competitive possibilities as you can imagine.  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you develop a stronger competitor profile and create business building strategies to target big competitors more successfully.

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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Here’s one of our fun strategic planning activities: ice breaker questions for a moderately sized group (15 – 20 people) that doesn’t know each other that well. These ice breaker questions create interaction and put a new twist on the standard, boring personal introduction at meetings.

Give every attendee a sheet with a single, different question and a list of everyone in the meeting. As people gather, each person attempts to ask their question of as many other people as possible, recording the answers on the sheet.

Then during the introductions, instead of people telling about themselves, the entire group reports the one piece of information that they have on the person in a rapid fire format, providing a brief and varied introduction.

You can limit the introductions to 30 or 45 seconds to keep the report out moving; if not, it can take 90 to 120 seconds per introduction.

One key to the lighter side of these ice breaker questions is to mix up the types of questions and have some fun with them. There may some personal, but not too invasive questions (i.e., How far do you drive to work?) along with ice breaker questions that can tie to the person who is doing the asking. I once had a rather notorious beer drinker ask each person about favorite hangover remedies; he had a blast with it as did the people he was asking.

For a first hand account about fun strategic planning activities and an experience with using this one in particular, Jan Harness, the Chief Creative Instigator, reports on her participation in this ice breaker exercise at an event we led.

By the way, do you dream in color or black and white? – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for More Ideas to Make Strategic Planning More Fun?

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


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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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Speaking to a graduate level class on innovation several years ago, we covered the concept of borrowing ideas from other sources, looking for opportunities to change & incorporate them into your business.

One student, a communications professional at a major local company, said his department held “Plagiarism Fridays.” They were trying to upgrade their marketing effort, and Plagiarism Friday was a bit of a show-and-tell to get employees looking at strong creative from other industries, thinking about how their company could learn from it.

Here’s a way to take this approach and adapt it for your own business:

  • Schedule time and ask employees to look for examples of great ideas to share. The only rule – they have to be from outside your industry or competitive set.
  • Have participants present the selected ideas – perhaps 2 or 3 pieces per session.
  • Get each person to do a quick personal assessment. For each idea, identify what’s strong, what’s weak, what’s intriguing or unusual, and a recommendation for how your business could incorporate some learnings from it. Share the assessments as a group.
  • Select one of the sample ideas and using the input from the assessments, have the group apply it to one of your business challenges to see what possibilities arise.
  • Select at least one new possibility and do something to advance it.

Plagiarism Friday sounds like a great idea to me, so…go ahead, steal it and take it to work tomorrow (just be sure to change it and make it better)!

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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Many people struggle with selling intangible ideas, benefits, and points of view. If you have a discomfort with abstractions, it’s difficult to modify your communication style to create a picture in someone’s mind of something that doesn’t physically exist.

One person who does a wonderful job of that on a weekly basis is Garrison Keillor along with the cast of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio program. Every Saturday afternoon, they bring to life a whole host of situations, characters, and even products that are completely fictional. So for today’s Change Your Character exercise, let’s delegate our task of conveying intangible ideas to them and see how the cast would approach the task by:

  • Writing a script
  • Incorporating rich, vivid language
  • Featuring reoccurring characters
  • Employing a variety of entertainment formats
  • Telling stories
  • Acting out skits with multi-talented performers
  • Booking guests to help act out the stories
  • Interviewing guests
  • Intermixing real and imagined entities (sponsors, characters, etc.)
  • Mixing comedy and drama
  • Incorporating sound effects
  • Having a band play music and theme songs
  • Performing in front of a studio audience that provides real reactions to the material

Step right up to the microphone and share three new possibilities for helping your audience visualize intangible ideas based on each of the techniques above. If you need an additional push, try some Powdermilk Biscuits – they “give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

 

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

Mike Brown

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

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I’ve known John Burton for a long time, and we’ve worked together closely during various phases in our careers. He’s a strong, multi-dimensional strategic thinker, and it was great to see him at the BMA presentation last week. Here are his thoughts on the reluctance companies demonstrate in hiring a mix to people to spur diversity in strategic thinking:

I had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s strategic perspective presentation last week. One point he made struck a cord with an idea I have been thinking about in recent weeks – Do companies make hiring decisions to be complimentary or complementary?

Mike mentioned that an aspect of “awakening strategic thinking” is a having good blend of participants. You need some that have experience, some with strong functional knowledge and a few with dynamic, creative energy. This is just like basketball, where you need to blend a point guard with shooters and big men. In both cases, the key to success is to have people play complementary roles in the process, creating a bigger whole than any one aspect can bring on its own.

However, a business sometimes forgets this point when putting together its leadership team, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.

A business was recently going from small company to major player in a fragmented business service segment after a number of acquisitions. Leadership knew it needed to add strategic marketing and sales resources to help position the company for continued growth. After defining a senior position and recruiting candidates that fit the bill, they backtracked and decided to hire someone whose primary background was sales management.

Why? They felt they had to have someone the new person’s most important direct reports (regional sales VP’s) would respect and feel comfortable with. In essence, they went for the candidate that would get “compliments” for being familiar versus someone that would “complement” the organization by bringing new skills and insights.

Sometimes, success comes not from creating a comfortable, “complimentary” environment, but putting a team together that forces everyone to live with a little discomfort. – John Burton

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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Several folks from our creative thinking team were at John Pepper’s Baker University marketing classes for an ideation session on their class project: brand extension ideas for the Apple “iBrand.”

There was a lot of energy from the students in the two classes as we did three creative thinking exercises (based on analogies, randomness, and transformation) and a round of prioritization in less than 50 minutes to generate lots of brand extension ideas!

We used a “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercise to look at how prominent marketers use brand extensions, then had the students apply the ideas to Apple.
If you’re faced with a brand extension challenge, you too can turn to these brands and this creative thinking exercise too, generating three possible ideas for each of the brand extension ideas below:
  • New products allow you to experience the brand in different places (Starbucks)
  • Licenses the brand to various companies (Martha Stewart)
  • Introduces smaller versions of its products (Oreo)
  • Offers related merchandise for users of its main product (Harley-Davidson)
  • Finds new uses for its product & introduces brand extensions (Arm & Hammer)
  • Lends its name to subsidiaries serving different market segments (Marriott)
  • Extends its brand with a fee-based online presence (NASCAR)
  • Lets you experience new products free & then sells them to you (Starbucks)
  • Offers slimmed down versions of its main products (Special K)
  • Offers products complementary to its main line (Fruit of the Loom)
  • Changes certain visible “ingredients” of its product (Oreo)
  • Takes a piece of intellectual capital & uses its theme in other product & service categories (Jimmy Buffett)

Thanks again to John for allowing us to come work with his students! I learn something new every year that we’re able to incorporate right into our planning efforts, and this year was no exception. We’ll be back!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown

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

 

 

Mike Brown

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

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Doing a lot of presenting on “strategic thinking” has generated a number of interesting questions about the subject. Many of the questions have prompted posts on the blog.

To make it a little easier to track down answers, here are some of the most asked questions about strategic thinking with links to previous posts that address each topic; simply click on the original date to go to the post.

  • My boss wants me to be more “strategic”? How do I do that? (1/10/2008)
  • What are some characteristics of solid strategic thinkers? (12/1/2007)
  • How can I help myself to look at situations from different perspectives? (2/14/2008)
  • Our strategies sound really complicated and nobody knows what they mean/ Shouldn’t you be able to actually do something with a strategy? (12/26/2007)
  • People at my company are stuck in how we’ve always done things. How can we get past that? (12/5/2007)
  • People are busy on day-to-day responsibilities. How can I get them to make the effort to work on strategy? (3/12/2008)
  • I’ve got to come up with some new ideas at work. How do I go about it? (3/11/2008)
  • How do we get “bigger” ideas? (3/10/2008)
  • What are the reasons for timing strategic thinking exercises? (2/1/2008)
  • Once you have a good idea, how do you sell it to management? (12/10/2007)
  • What do you do if you ideas aren’t working out successfully? (2/28/2008)
  • If something doesn’t work, how do we make sure we improve next time? (3/3/2008)

Please let me know if you have additional questions that can be answered in future posts!

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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