Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2
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I participated in the City Partnership Workshop yesterday at the 2018 Gigabit City Summit. Talking with one city’s representatives about strategies to sell-in a broadband recommendation with voters, they asked whether it is okay to engage its citizens after city leadership develops a recommendation.

My answer?

Engage your audience in collaborative strategic planning earlier than later. If you haven’t engaged them earlier, then do it right now, even if it’s later than what’s ideal.

Aaron Deacon of KC Digital Drive at #GCS18

Here’s the difference between the two options.

If you engage your audience early in the collaborative strategic planning process, you can make a legitimate claim to creating a collaborative vision. You can involve audience members in shaping the vision. You gain insights your leadership group does not possess. You can understand language your audience uses and incorporate it into messaging. Most importantly, you can shape strategies based on integrating audience input during the earliest stages. This opens the door for making strategy creation an experience that many people actively participate in doing versus just learning about after-the-fact.

If you broadly engage your primary audiences AFTER you’ve developed the strategic plan, the nature of the collaboration is very different. It involves more constraints. At that point, you don’t want to create a collaboration environment that needlessly derails solid work leading to the plan recommendation. That means the range of collaboration opportunities narrows. You don’t want to ask extremely open questions that might lead to input that goes beyond the strategy. Instead, you start asking questions about HOW to implement the direction, what might have been MISSED, and what things are CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS. There are other questions you can ask, but once the strategy recommendation is complete, you don’t want to waste time opening doors to non-productive strategy options.

That’s why it’s better to start engaging your audience EARLIER than LATER in collaborative strategic planning, even though later is STILL better than never. – 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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“The more bad ideas the better. If you work really hard on coming up with bad ideas, sooner or later, some good ideas are going to slip through.” – Seth Godin (June 19, 2018)

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk (Sometime before June 19, 2018)

You’ve heard it, and maybe even said it, or wished it. Who wouldn’t want to have explicit permission, even encouragement, to routinely make mistakes with your innovation strategy?

An article in The Wall Street Journal addressed this issue relative to baseball and how the strategies many major league baseball teams are using to improve player performance translate to typical office settings. The article focused on dissecting mistakes to learn valuable lessons, similar to the oft-cited trade-off benefit in making more business mistakes: you will learn more things, faster.

3 Ways a Productive Out Benefits Your Innovation Strategy

One section addressed making productive outs: the idea that when making an out, a batter tries to create a benefit for the team in exchange for not reaching base. Digging further, an article from redlegnation.com makes an important point tied also making more business mistakes: “Some [baseball] players, seemingly, are attempting to record a productive out rather than just attempting to get on base and avoid an out at all costs . . . productive outs should be something that happen at random . . . they should not be something a player strives for, except in very fringe cases.”

Since we are now in the thick of summer, let’s go with this baseball backdrop to explore how some types of productive outs in baseball shed light on your innovation strategy and potential beneficial impacts:

#1 – Helping Other Good Things to Happen

Baseball Situation: A sacrifice fly involves a batter hitting a ball in the air (with fewer than two outs) and so deep in the outfield that a base runner can safely advance after the ball is caught. The team trades one of three outs for the opportunity to move a runner ahead, creating a score (if the runner is starting from third base) or increasing the likelihood of the runner scoring on a subsequent play.

Generalized Impact: A sacrifice fly creates time and space for other positive actions to take place, even though an important objective (the batter reaching base) is never achieved.

Actionable Learning: A comparable business situation involves regularly employing moonshot projects to boost innovation. A moonshot project is one with a large, far-reaching, and overarching objective that may never be fully realized or expected to directly contribute near-term revenue and profit impact. While ultimate success would be beneficial, it’s not essential. What a moonshot project yields, ideally, are near-term benefits through collaboration and smaller discoveries and innovations along the way. These will enhance revenue, reduce costs, and/or otherwise improve profitability and other business prospects.

Business Impact: How many moonshot projects has your organization attempted in the past year? The past few years? If innovation is lagging, purposefully use this concept to get your team thinking bigger while it throws off smaller, innovative benefits along the way.

#2 – Wearing out the Competition

Baseball Situation: Major league teams go to extremes to control how many pitches a starting pitcher throws in any game. One hundred pitches are a frequent limit. That means that the more pitches an opposing team forces an overpowering starting pitcher to throw, the sooner that pitcher will leave the game.

Generalized Impact: Long-at-bats involving multiple foul balls and/or not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone prematurely exhaust one of the opposition’s scarcest resources. You can hit the first pitch and let the pitcher off easy or battle through ten or twelve pitches and wear him down faster.

Actionable Learning: Translating this idea to business means focusing on what your stance is toward competitive strategies and implementation. This upends the strategy of simply trying to beat out the competition on features and benefits. You can purposefully use promotions, market pilots, and the concentration of your resources in niche markets to attempt to divert a competitor’s attention from its pre-planned strategy and force them to follow you. In some cases, your actions may drive a competitor to expend unplanned focus and resources (both at a premium in most organizations) to match your agenda.

Business Impact: Executives typically think about current competitors and ways to outsmart them. How often do you engage your team in developing and implementing strategies to wear down your competitors’ resources to create new advantage for your brand?

#3 – Stacking the Odds with Controlled Failure

Baseball Situation: Hitting behind the runner is another type of productive out. As an example, if a base runner is going from first to second base, a runner tries to hit somewhere closer to first base. If they execute this well, it makes it more likely that the fielder will throw to first (which is easier), allowing the base runner to safely advance.

Generalized Impact: This play represents controlled failure: an experiment that is designed to yield positive results when it doesn’t work (e.g., produces an out), and even better results when it does (the fielder fumbles the ball and the batter is also safe).

Actionable Learning: In a business setting, you may have various unknowns or untested ideas. You can use this idea and design an innovation pilot, experiment, or test whose primary objective, rather than a market success, is a learning success. Gaining the right new insights is the focus, and if a near-term business success happens to result, all the better.

Business Impact: Is the idea of an experiment designed for learning success a new or a familiar concept in your organization? How can you apply it more frequently?

The Similarities Are Striking

Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, there are innovation strategy lessons galore throughout the game. And for the big fans: what strategy takeaways do you find in the intricacies of America’s favorite pastime? – Edited 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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An executive responsible for strategy planning who was downloading our eBook on 11 Fun Strategic Planning Ideas posed an important question: How can you successfully identify and try new ways to get internal groups working together on strategic planning?

We’re always thinking about increasing the strategically combustible human surface area engaged in strategic planning.

What?

In other words: Brainzooming wants as many smart, diverse people working together as we can effectively and efficiently accomplish on any fun strategic planning initiative.

We tend to find that our ambitions for this exceed that of our clients. (See previous Brainzooming article on the damaging lack of diversity in strategic planning workshops.)

7 Ways Groups Can Collaborate on Fun Strategic Planning

Nevertheless, in answer to this new reader’s question on getting internal groups working together, here are seven ideas we’ve either tried, or would in a minute, to maximize internal collaboration and promote fun strategic planning:

  1. Identify all the potential people involved in strategic planning upfront, nothing those who most need to collaborate
  2. Perform a skills, knowledge, and interests inventory of all your strategic planners, then pair people who complement each other based on the assessment
  3. Create a strategic planning event that includes people from multiple groups and features cross-group activities
  4. Employ an ice breaker where people reveal information they know that is helpful to strategic planning that others will be surprised they know
  5. Use assigned seating to nudge people who don’t work together to at least sit together
  6. Create strategy teams with members of various groups that will need to collaborate to complete their assignments
  7. Make sure each planning group identifies all the departments and people critical to success early on, then require that groups reach out to them BEFORE the planning is done

Implementing even a few of these ideas within a strategic planning process that values diversity and broad participation, will make an impact.

Want to talk more how you can translate this approach to strategic planning? Contact us, and we’ll discuss how we’d customize the process steps and participation opportunities to maximize the impact for your brand! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Create a Fun Strategic Planning Process!

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.”

Download Your 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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"Forty percent of business in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years." John Chambers, 2015

“Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years.”

Outgoing Cisco CEO, John Chambers, told the company’s customers that in 2015.

Three years hence, is your leadership team challenging itself to think, plan, and innovate strategically to land on the right side of future success?

If not, it is time right now to download your free copy of Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You!

These exercises will push a status quo-loving management team to zoom its markets, value delivery, and business model past obsolescence.Download Disrupting Thinking
Download your FREE copy of Disrupting Thinking. Start challenging your team’s thinking and strategies to rework your success‐‐before an unexpected competitor makes it too late!

 

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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An efficient AND effective innovation strategy adapts to a company’s business objectives, strategic priorities, and team. It doesn’t start with getting everyone together in a room for a creative thinking workshop and expecting innovative ideas to happen spontaneously. Analysis, outreach, and design thinking combine to make in-person innovation productive and ROI-driven – after completing the pre-work.

Before holding innovation strategy workshops, we take advantage of best practices, stakeholder input, & upfront analysis to surface high-impact innovation opportunities.

5 Ways to Boost Your Innovation Strategy’s Efficiency

Here’s an example from a Brainzooming engagement to help a client’s finance team lead an innovation strategy initiative. The objective was to reduce the company’s working capital levels on an ongoing basis. We employed five techniques in advance of an in-person innovation workshop to focus the work and boost success.

#1. Identifying innovation across industries

Brainzooming identified relevant best practices and innovative strategies across industries. This work provided an external checklist of innovation opportunities to shape further analysis and to design the online surveys.

#2. Aggressive data mining and analysis to create focus

Brainzooming conducted internal analysis to highlight 80-20 opportunities. This helps focus innovation efforts. As is typical, this step uncovered powerful improvement-related insights hidden within summarized data.

#3. Online input and collaboration for greater access

We employed an online survey to reach stakeholders who are highly relevant to the innovation initiative’s success but might otherwise have been overlooked. Viewing the financially-driven working capital initiative as business innovation pointed to the need for sales, customer service, and other areas to participate actively.

#4. Engaging atypical stakeholders and experts for input

Rather than assuming that the department responsible for the innovation strategy has all the answers, we actively included other groups. We sought to reach out to sales, customer service, and other departments focused on customer and business relationships with significant accounts payable levels.

#5. Workshop design capitalizes on findings

The in-person innovation workshop design and implementation benefits from all the activities up to that point. The early input shapes the strategic priorities, innovation exercises, and additional deliverables to foster successful implementation.

Want to maximize innovation AND efficiency?

Is your management team looking for collaboration and innovation, but concerned about how it will impact the focus on efficient daily operations? Contact us, and let’s talk about how to deploy an efficient innovation strategy initiative in your organization to maximize your results and impact. – Mike Brown

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The general manager at an industrial manufacturer wondered about how to effectively engage the hourly workforce as innovation strategy participants? He is hoping to figure out a practical way to include hourly employees in innovation activities comparable to those management has undertaken.

His question reflects legitimate senior executive interest in engaging the entire workforce to drive innovation and ROI through far-reaching process improvements. He was wrestling with a common challenge executives face when thinking about engaging an hourly workforce: How can I pull people off the line, shop floor, phones, or wherever else they are producing or serving customers to participate in this non-productive activity?

via Shutterstock

Whether that concern surfaces immediately or later, it is always present. It frequently represents a deal-breaker for engaging hourly employees in any type of process improvement, business engagement, or training opportunity. Because they are paid by the hour and work on activities that directly impact the organization’s output or productivity, they seem to be off limits when it comes to participating in strategic activities to improve the business.

What about the financial hurdle of engaging hourly employees in innovation strategy?

My response to the general manager on the productivity and payment issue centered on two things:

  • He is paying managers and salaried team members when they are spending all or part of a day focused on generating ideas business improvement ideas.
  • Salaried team members are also, in theory, being pulled away from productive activities more directly related to their jobs when they participate in innovation workshops. It is just harder to see the productivity loss with a salaried employee. There is a tacit expectation that salaried workers will put in extra time to make up the difference, lowering their hourly cost to the point where it appears their focused innovation time is free.

That reasoning changes the business decision.

No matter who is participating in the innovation activities, leadership is signing up for a near-term financial hit. Strategic leaders look at this as an investment with an expected future return. Executives focused on short-term issues look at it as a cost and productivity loss that makes it harder to hit their plans.

Granted, the monetary impact is real. Starbucks closed its stores May 29, 2018 to hold workshops addressing racial biases among employees. Some news stories estimate the cost was $12 million: $7 million of foregone revenue at its 8,000 company-owned Starbucks stores and $5 million in wages for employees that weren’t serving customers during those hours. Commentators pointed out, however, that the investment in improved customer relations for Starbucks is minimal compared to the brand’s $24 billion annual revenue.

Run the comparable numbers for your organization. See what the real financial hurdle is in more widely and effectively engaging hourly employees to improve your operation.

If more effectively engaging your hourly workforce is on your senior team’s to-do list, contact us. We’d be happy to share details on how to move forward and dramatically improve your business through greater collaboration! – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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Mike Brown

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A participant at a Brainzooming creative leadership presentation stayed afterward.

He asked an intriguing question.

His department is about to undergo a reorganization. Currently, certain people are underutilized. While the reorganization isn’t intended to move them out of the department, he wondered how to best involve all the team members in re-imagining the department. He wanted ideas to do that without making the currently underutilized employees nervous. Additionally, he doesn’t want them to try to game answers to the questions to keep themselves fully employed and under-worked.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Engage Employees in Reorganization

I offered him five strategic thinking questions:

  • When is our organization at its best in performing the variety of activities we do?
  • What professional skills – whether used in your job currently or not – could you teach other department members to improve everyone’s effectiveness?
  • On what activities do our internal customers spend more time than they prefer (and that we can better address)?
  • What are our internal customers not able to accomplish because they are bogged down with other duties?
  • Where could we provide greater value if we were able to prioritize or focus more?

All five strategic thinking questions avoid anyone needing to game the answers to protect themselves or expose anyone else. I suggested that he ask the questions individually, compile the answers, and then use an edited version of the responses to shape the team discussion.

If you’re facing a similar situation: keep it neutral, simple, and focused to help your team constructively contribute to reorganizing in the smartest, most strategic way possible. – Mike Brown

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

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“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

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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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