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Between working with smart consultants at A.T. Kearney and spending time at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership on multiple occasions, I became immersed in the concept of “high performing customers.”

As shared in a previous post, I obviously had some notion of making others “high performing” early in life. These later influences, however, provided a way to envision and define the concept more formally. You can think about creating high performing customers as anticipating what people taking part in a process might need to learn, know, or do, as well as how they need to adapt and behave so the process owner can deliver the greatest value.

Think about the vocabulary and process Starbucks uses to keeps its lines moving as smoothly as possible; that’s what we’re talking about with this concept.

7 Questions for Creating High Performing Customers

High performing customers have been at the forefront of my thinking while developing a new stream of Creating Strategic Impact content for a client workshop. While the workshop is rooted in strategic thinking, the focus is heavy on how to adapt a strategic planning process so the Marketing team can better facilitate annual planning.

impact-kauffman

If you have responsibility for designing, developing, or improving a process (especially related to strategic planning), here are seven questions to explore before you begin your task:

  1. What do participants know right now, and what do we need them to know?
  2. What strengths do they already have that will boost their success?
  3. How can we compensate for their weaknesses by changing the process or bringing other resources to them?
  4. How should the process be designed to keep them engaged (mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, etc.) as long as needed?
  5. Are the participants pretty much the same, or do some of them have materially greater or lesser likelihoods of success?
  6. In what ways can we involve participants with the highest likelihood of success to shape and/or help carry out the process for others?
  7. In what ways will other processes they are involved with affect their success?

The answers to these questions are tremendously helpful in thinking about processes from a user’s perspective to help design something that sets them up for success.

How We Apply these Questions to Strategic Planning Process Design

When I tell people we design planning processes to suit a client’s situation, as opposed to introducing a standard process, they must wonder what that means exactly.

Our strategic view is it’s easier to change what we do to help participants perform as needed, than deal with the frustration and challenges of putting them through a strategic planning process that is ideal for us, but doesn’t work for them. This distinction is at the heart of how we approach strategic planning.

If you’re up for it, let’s talk about what this concept might mean for planning at your organization. – 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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This really is a creative thinking lesson years in the making, and it couldn’t have happened any faster.

A Creative Thinking Lesson Years in the Making

tabletopFifteen years ago I saw someone fifteen years older than me do something I thought was highly unusual. In fact, I thought it was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.

Looking back on it . . .

Twelve years ago, it seemed silly.
Nine years ago, it seemed pathetic.
Six years ago, it seemed sad.
Three years ago, it seemed clueless.
One year ago, it seemed understandable.
Six months ago, it seemed reasonable.
Three months ago, it seemed ingenious.
Two weeks ago, it seemed like I should give it a try.
One week ago, it seemed fortunate I had seen someone do this or I’d have never thought of it.

Now, I do it daily.

If anyone younger ever sees me, they’re going to think it’s the most bizarre thing they’ve ever seen.

Before you judge something good, bad, or indifferent, attempt to understand another individual’s perspective, if you can. The challenging thing is sometimes you can’t understand their perspective, at least right now.

That’s why a creative thinking lesson may take years, so be open-minded and be patient. – 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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As we mentioned recently, we’re on the lookout everywhere for strategic thinking exercises to share.

AEIB-GraphicWe spotted a recent “Inside the Executive Suite” feature from the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing featuring a thirteen-question checklist for strategic change management. The origin for the strategic change management list was two stories in the Wall Street Journal. One story covered Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon and the other Apple CEO, Tim Cook.  Both CEOs are in the midst of trying to change what have been very successful companies over the long-term.

While issues (some major) exist for both Wal-Mart and Apple, the Inside the Executive Suite piece offered the strategic change management checklist as an example of introducing more aggressive innovation and change management when a company doesn’t exactly seem to need radical change.

A 13-Point Checklist for Strategic Change Management

If you’re contemplating (or even in the midst of) making dramatic changes within your own organization, this list is helpful as a strategic thinking exercise to make sure you’re considering the breadth and depth of changes two pretty successful companies are undertaking.

  1. Are you getting as close as possible to the customer to understand what’s working (or isn’t working) for them?
  2. Are you challenging yourself and the organization by strengthening your leadership team?
  3. Have you looked beyond your immediate organization chart to identify people with important perspectives to fuel innovation and change?
  4. Are you taking steps to invite external parties to help fuel more innovation and improved customer experiences for your brand?
  5. Are you open to matching smart competitive moves you’ve been slow to previously adopt?
  6. Are you learning from the new competitors who are beating your company in new ways?
  7. Are you pushing prototypes, trials, and pilots to dramatically increase the pace of innovation?
  8. Are you making the small internal changes necessary to pave the way for bigger, higher-profile moves?
  9. Have you been willing to go against what brought you earlier success when it might not work in the future?
  10. Is your organization investing in vital areas where competition is going to be waged now and in the future?
  11. Can you stomach making longer-term investments that are critical to growth?
  12. While advocating innovation, are you still emphasizing the fundamentals that haven’t changed?
  13. Are you willing to be a different type of leader at a different type of company?

Using this Strategic Thinking Exercise to Creating Strategic Impact

The “Inside the Executive Suite” article acknowledged that since the list was just developed, there’s no specific number of “Yes” answers to suggest your organization is definitely on the right track or not for creating strategic impact.

Instead, you can use this strategic thinking exercise as a great way to frame up your strategic change management agenda and push for appropriate innovation levels well before you’re in a “must-change now” situation. – 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 brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

Mike Brown

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

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I was in Dallas delivering the closing keynote presentation on Creating Strategic Impact for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA) annual conference.

Based on previous experiences speaking at TMSA conferences, my plan was to avoid the stage and speak from the floor to be as close to the audience as possible.

Setting up for the Creating Strategic Impact presentation several hours early, I placed my laptop on a chair on the floor, rearranged cables, and made sure everything worked. I then unplugged the laptop to head to a breakout session.

Fake-Books

Returning later, someone had returned the cables to the stage. I pulled the cables back to the floor, hooked everything up, did a final test, and went next door to watch the awards presentation.

Returning twenty minutes later, someone had moved the entire setup back to the stage. As I finished moving the laptop back on a chair on the floor, one of the AV techs appeared. He asked why everything kept getting moved to the floor. Explaining the plan to deliver the talk, he asked if I would prefer the laptop be on a table on the floor. I said that would be great if it were not too much trouble. He said it was not; he was sure we could find a table in the service hallway.

As we were about to track down a table in the few moments before the closing keynote was to start, a female tech arrived and asked what we were doing. The male tech explained the plan and said we were going to go find a table instead of the chair I was using.

She turned around to the stage and casually asked, “Why don’t you use the table already on the stage for laptops?”

Well, that was certainly the OBVIOUS answer, but it NEVER occurred to either of us to simply move the table.

That’s because my focus was on the floor. The male AV tech’s focus was on not using the chair.

Neither of us stopped long enough to take in the whole situation and see there was a table right there – behind us. Yet someone with a completely fresh and different perspective of the situation could see the easy answer instantly.

Creating Strategic Impact if Experience Gets in the Way

What a great reminder of how an outsider can see obvious answers that insiders – those most steeped in an issue or opportunity – might never see, no matter how long they look.

Is’ an easy trap for any of us, even those of us who know better, to fall into if we miss viable options our experience prevents us from seeing.

That is why we do what we do, and one big way we add value and specialize in creating strategic impact for our clients.

Could we be of help to you as well? – Mike Brown

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If you start anything important without an objective and a strategy, you’ll wind up SSA.

And you know what SSA means. Or if you don’t know what SSA means, download The Brainzooming Group “Don’t Wind Up SSA” strategic thinking mini-poster.

Keep it nearby whenever you are starting the strategic thinking for something important.

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Do Not Wind Up SSA – The Brainzooming Group Strategic Thinking Mini-Poster

 

 

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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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Are you an idea magnet?

Idea magnets come up with great creative ideas. And just as importantly, through encouraging and motivating others, idea magnets attract other innovators and creative leaders with incredible ideas into their circles. Idea magnets make work and life more exciting, fulfilling, and successful!

Idea Magnets – 7 Keys for Creative Leadership Skills

Idea-MagnetsWould you like to boost your creative leadership skills to become a stronger idea magnet?

Then you need to join me for the LeadOn Webcast: “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders.”

This exclusive webcast, sponsored by the American Marketing Association on June 23, 2014, springs from a popular Brainzooming article highlighting lessons from idea magnets I’ve worked with during my career.

The webcast features a wide array of new Brainzooming creative leadership skills content not covered in our other innovation and creativity workshops. We’ll talk about:

  • ​Strengthening your creative leadership impact with a diverse team
  • Identifying unique connections to maximize new thinking and creative leadership impact
  • Translating creative thinking into effective change, progress, and results​

I would love to have you join us for this webcast! You’ll learn great techniques you can start using right away, plus “Idea Magnets” represents a first-time collaboration that is creating a new look and tone to our Brainzooming content.

Idea Magnets – A New Collaboration

This exciting new collaboration is with long-time friend Leslie Adams who is creating the visuals for the Idea Magnets webinar.

Leslie-Adams-CrownMany people know Leslie as a writer. Over the past few years though, she’s been showcasing her creativity online with her wonderful photography. She has become very active on Instagram and in the Instagram community in Kansas City.

While reviewing Leslie’s Instagram and Flickr portfolios for images to incorporate in the webcast, I was reminded of a unique aspect to Leslie’s work that integrates two areas of her creative talents: you have to look at her photos AND read the captions she creates for them. It’s easy enough to glide through virtual contact sheets and not notice what’s written about the photos. In Leslie’s case, you’ll want to do both because her words contribute so much to pointing out the subtle details and motivations for her photos!

In fact, many of the captions and quotes Leslie has included with her photos are inspiring ways to expand and add new texture to the webcast’s content.

We’re hoping our collaboration will turn into an eBook to accompany this new Idea Magnets content.

Register Today for “Idea Magnets – 7 Keys to Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders”

Step one is for you to join us for the Webcast on June 23, 2014. Register today for the webcast, which is open to both members and non-members of the American Marketing Association, on the AMA website.

We’ll see you on June 23 as we attract all kinds of new ideas to develop your creative leadership skills! – 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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Having written the eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation,” it is obvious I take issue with “NOs” standing in the way of generating creative ideas and turning them into innovations that benefit others.

Recently though, I ran smack dab into a NO I hadn’t considered for a long time.

Creative Snobbery

This NO was a comment about what creative tools are appropriate and cool and which aren’t: : “NO, you can’t use THAT to be creative!”

My creative tools were labeled (without hesitation) as not appropriate and not cool. Even though the comments were delivered humorously within a fun conversation, this NO to creative ideas bugged me into the next morning (as I’m writing this).

Hmphhh

What’s interesting is amid the various NOs to innovation I encountered growing up, this NO (which I call “creative snobbery”), was definitely NOT present.

In fact, the attitude at our house was the quality, newness, and sometimes even presence of traditional creative tools, shouldn’t matter. The expectation was you work at what you want to do with what you have, and then maybe when you’ve demonstrated you’re actually sticking to it and improving, THEN maybe you might get better creative tools.

This is really another NO in disguise. It did lead, however, to appreciating folk art, found materials, and individuals and groups creating wonderful work beyond mainstream tools and techniques.

Creative Ideas However You Can Create Them

If you’re figuring out how to create and innovate with whatever tools you have? Fantastic!

Embrace whatever creative tools you or anyone else has. Sure, better tools WILL enhance your talent and may make creativity easier, but don’t overlook (or ostracize for heaven’s sake) the person who is using and compensating with creative tools other think inappropriate or uncool.

So here’s a creative NO you should embrace: NO creative snobbery! – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success 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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