Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Since The Brainzooming Group launched, we have developed many strategic thinking exercises and models applying our methodology to diverse clients and business situations.

The result? We are further along and can even more easily customize these strategic thinking exercises to your needs if you face comparable situations. That is a major benefit if you want an outside, strategic perspective and need to start right now!

16 Strategic Thinking Exercises Ready to Go Right Now!

Review this list and identify the business opportunities or challenges that are incorporated in your strategic plans – or not. If any of these are on your agenda for this year, contact us. We can customize the strategic thinking exercises specifically for your organization and start moving even faster than normal!

We are trying to develop new strategies and strengthen our organization’s strategic perspective.

We know we need to use content marketing, but we’re struggling to connect the content to our brand and audience while generating real business returns.

Our focus is on innovation, and we need to bring it to life and create results before we lose interest and move on to the next big strategy.

Any of these opportunities and challenges familiar to you?

Are you under pressure to make one or more of these happen right now?

You owe it to yourself: contact us so we can talk through what you need to accomplish and see if it makes sense to work together.

We can get moving with the strategic thinking exercises and workshop implementation that will deliver results for you faster than you have ever imagined! – 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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Vickie Howell is a broadcast personality, producer, author, designer, and instructor in the DIY world. Her online series, The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (YouTube) is the first studio produced, community funded, internationally accessible knitting and crochet streaming series. With the help of over 1200 individual and company backers, Vickie successfully raised $83k in 30 days on Kickstarter to fund the project. As of December 2017, The Knit Show has had over a quarter of a million views in at least 19 countries.

Photo: Harper Point Photography

For the sake of transparency, I note that Vickie also played bass in the imaginary band that she and I co-founded (I was the singer; the band was called Why Barbie’s Bad) as college theater students in the mid-90s, talking our way into (and out of) any number of ridiculous situations with our over-plucked brows, dark burgundy lipstick, and matching GIRLS KICK ASS t-shirts. Later, we worked for the same film and television production company while living in the same apartment building in West Los Angeles, and briefly had a side business selling light switches lovingly decoupaged by our own hands.

Those were, as Lou Reed sang, different times.

But some things remain constant. Vickie’s drive to strategize, revise, and improvise in the name of extreme creativity and productivity is as fierce and inspiring as ever, making her a natural choice for an interview on the Brainzooming blog.

Now Streaming: Extreme Creativity and Vickie Howell

Emma Alvarez Gibson (EAG): When your show was first available on YouTube, I told Mike about it, and I didn’t think he would watch it. Because he doesn’t watch anything, really. I’m always sending him videos and stuff and he’s like, Oh…yeah…I kind of clicked on it…

Vickie Howell (VH): I mean, but it’s knitting, soooo…

EAG: Exactly!

VH: Seems like it’s a given. Of course, he’s going to watch it. No? That’s not where you were going with this?

EAG: Well, two days later, he says, By the way, I watched most of the episode! I’m like, WHAT?! He says, It was really good! I was so impressed!

VH: Why? Why did he do that?

EAG: I think it’s the fact that when you saw that the market wasn’t doing what it had been doing, you took things into your own hands and found a way to do it anyway. Without getting too precious about it, those qualities in you really kind of embody what Brainzooming is about.

So, maybe tell me about how you got to where you are now and what your thoughts are about moving forward. There was a little period when there was a ton of DIY and craft shows on and that’s where you found your niche.

VH: Do you want a little background on why that went away?

EAG: Yeah.

VH: Ad dollars. There’s no money in crafts. And basically, Home Depot and Lowes are better ad buy-ins for [networks like DIY, the home of Vickie’s first show, Knitty Gritty]. We don’t have that kind of money in crafting, so it was a much more viable model to just move over to home improvement and home decorating.

DIY programming in social media has been easy. Anybody can post videos. People were getting their projects everywhere, all over the interwebs, and then they were getting the education on how to make their projects through sites like Craftsy and CreativeLive, and now Brit + Co., and Creativebug — there’s tons of them. So, the programming industry has had to completely hustle like the rest of us. Time is ticking. Cable stations are going to turn into streaming stations. So, everybody’s going big. They’re not going to go for the “there’s no ad dollars in it” show.

I was watching this all develop over the course of about eight years. I saw it happening again and again as I was working, as I was pitching, as I was trying different things. And I was still getting these messages almost daily saying that Knitty Gritty was still impactful, still had a space in people’s lives. I wanted to recreate that essence, but for now, meaning the digital aspect, which obviously wasn’t a thing back then, and the social media aspect, which was really the most exciting part for me. I started doing Facebook Live videos the first day they were available for verified users. And I noticed how many people were watching from different countries, like Turkey, Canada, Australia, Brazil–I didn’t expect that kind of community to be out there.

And for me, now, that’s the goal today. Your community is no longer in your own neighborhood, or your own state, or even your own country. As far as you can reach, and anybody can reach that far, from the comfort of their own homes — that reach is the limitation of your community, and community is the very base of marketing.

So, there were those two components, plus a third one. However you’re creative, whether it’s picking up a Fender Strat, or a paintbrush, or knitting needles, that is how you channel your creativity. And creativity is openness, and when you’re open, that allows you to see the world on a broader scope than what you would otherwise. I wanted to encapsulate that essence. It’s about people’s communities, it’s about connection of people, it’s about choosing it for stress reduction or for coping, or because you’re putting something beautiful out in the world, or for socialization, or whatever. So that was really important to me, and the only way that I could do that and make it look cool, without it being watered down heavily, was just to do it myself.

EAG: And from there, the wheels started turning and you started thinking, What would I need to start getting together so that I could produce this myself?

VH: Yeah. So, when I worked on a PBS show, I had co-executive produced it, and also produced it with my friend Karin Strom. We picked the guests, we picked the content, we figured it out. And so that experience gave me that final bit of confidence. And because I’d been in the entertainment industry, as you know, since I was 18 or 19, on and off, I knew a lot of it. But the actual nuts and bolts–that was sort of the final piece, just to see if I was a truly competent producer, and I found out that I was. And I loved it, and I still love it. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. That had been percolating for a couple of years. I worked for about a year’s time with Scripps [Scripps Networks Interactive], which owns the DIY Network, to license the Knitty Gritty name. It got pretty close, but we just couldn’t make it work, which was in hindsight a blessing, because I own The Knit Show, together with ProductionFor, outright. So, we don’t have to get approval for anything. It would have been nice to have that name recognition, but it’s so exciting, when I put on my marketing hat, that I don’t have the limitations that I would if I owed anything to anyone.

EAG: Absolutely.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

VH: I can work with people for sponsorships or partnerships in really interesting and innovative ways. Many companies don’t have the actual capital to invest, but they have the email newslists, or they have some kind of asset that is a viable barter, and so they get to put their name on what they think is a cool and innovative project, and we get whatever asset they have, whether it’s an e-newsblast to 250,000 people, which are eyes that we need, or it’s furniture for the set, or even wardrobe for me to wear to an appearance. And then what happens is that the backer page grows larger and larger and larger, so that when future investors look at it, they can see that a village built this. And there’s a village behind it.

So, I started building that, and then I went to my ex-husband Clint, because he owns a production company, ProductionFor. I went to him with the big piece that I didn’t know anything about, which was how to create a budget for a show. We went back and forth and I told him what amount I felt comfortable raising. As a side note, I’ve never felt comfortable asking for money. I sucked at selling Girl Scout Cookies. It’s just never been my wheelhouse. But because I could sort of see this as a service–people wanted this–I kind of worked it out. We found a number that we could at least try and raise together. We created a partnership with this company that normally produces interstitials, commercials, and the like, but really wanted to get into episodics. And I really needed a production company behind me for the technical side of it. So, we just sort of jumped in together. It was a huge learning curve, and there are a lot of lessons still being learned. But it was a pretty exciting adventure.

EAG: Once you got all the funding you needed, how quickly was the first season completed?

VH: I had my pitch meeting with ProductionFor in February. The Kickstarter began the third week in March and ended in April. I don’t know if you know this, but with Kickstarter, you get 30 days to raise all of it or you get none of it. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then I had my content producer Karin on a plane within maybe two weeks, and we started planning the grid. So, we went right into it. The actual studio production was the first week of August, it was five days and we shot ten episodes.

EAG: Where are you now in the process? What do you have happening next? If I know you there’s a long, long, long-term strategy.

VH: There is. The great thing about having streaming content is that there’s no shelf life for it. So now, I’ll go back and on a granular level, dissect it and see what I can do as far as marketing goes for external pieces. I’ve just received all the transcripts needed to get every episode captioned. Since we have 19 countries’ worth of ownership, I’d like to start experimenting with subtitles. I’m going to start with German and then probably Spanish. What I’d also like to do is investigate: can we sell this to an airline? Are there ways that we can sell pieces of it without it having to be pulled down from YouTube? And I don’t know the answer to that. So that’s something that I really want to investigate right now. And then I’ll break down each individual piece for additional cross-promotional opportunities.

We chose to put the whole season up at once to compete with other binge-worthy series in the digital market. That choice, though, means working harder to keep word circulating so new viewers find us. If I can offer screenshots and direct video links to snippets of the show that give a glimpse of even the smallest of products or locations, then I’ll ask the respective companies to feature us on social. This project is made for and by the community–so I’ll continue to ask that community to pitch in to make it a success.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

EAG: Blue-sky, no-holds-barred, what do you see happening?

VH: Here’s my pie in the sky: I didn’t produce this just to be a one-off. I want to continue producing the show and providing great content for the people in my community. That could be either on my own, through private investors, and just create my own thing, or it could be ultimately selling it to an Amazon or a Netflix or whatever–I think all networks are going to have streaming options soon. I have a feeling that NBC Universal will be one of the first, because they bought Craftsy, and they have Amy Poehler’s Handmade show. It could be any one of those, or it could be something I haven’t even thought of, because everything’s changing. Ultimately, I would like to produce DIY programming in all different craft realms so that I can help other designers and hosts rise. I would executive produce them. Quilting, jewelry, sewing, maybe baking, that type of thing. So that’s sort of the big picture.

EAG: A lot of people at any given point along this journey that you’ve just described would have gone, Well, I guess that’s it. What is it that keeps you pushing?

VH: I mean, but, when do you say that’s it? Like when you make your goal on Kickstarter? Or when you actually get the show produced? Or…?

EAG: I guess I’m talking more about the challenges, you know, the, Well, I have this great show, I was on this other show, but that didn’t

VH: Oh! Because I’m totally unhireable. That’s easy. Sorry, I misunderstood the question. No, I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I’ve always, always sparkle-fingered my way through life, you know? I’ve always talked my way in and figured it out. And I guess the fear is just having to get a regular job, maybe. And also, I’ve had some really amazing experiences of people coming up to me and sharing really powerful stories involving one of my projects. And there’s something about that that helps propel you forward when you feel like pulling the covers over your head. Knowing that even if it’s just one person, or two people, or a handful of people, that you’re making a difference in someone’s life. And, you know, I’m not curing cancer. But if I can help a mom who’s sitting in a hospital room while her baby has leukemia–this woman just told me this story last week, so it’s fresh in my mind–and my projects, columns I’ve written, whatever, helped her get through something because it gave her purpose? That’s good enough for me, man. That’s good enough for me.

EAG: Thanks, Vickie! We can’t wait to see what you do next.  – Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! 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. Contact 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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Who should you invite to participate in an innovation strategy workshop?

We’ve written about three important strategic perspectives (general management, functional expertise, and people with creative energy) and three types of voices (traditional, challenger, and emerging) to include in any type of strategy workshop.

Via Shutterstock

Working with a client to identify potential participants for an innovation strategy workshop, we identified five other participant profiles to expand the workshop diversity:

1. Unafraid People – Individuals that don’t care about what other people think, say, or do relative to their ideas.

2. The Voices of the Organization – People who will be able to share what the organization thinks – whether easy or challenging to hear. These are the individuals that everyone in the organization talks to about their aspirations and concerns.

3. Organizational Reactors – These are the people who, whenever an announcement is made or big news happens, everyone watches to see their expressions and the intensity of whatever emotions they display.

4. Entitled Owners – Individuals within the organization that only support implementation of their own idea and programs. You invite these individuals (in a reasonable numbers) so they feel as if the innovative ideas emerging are their own.

Adding individuals in each of these four groups, we grew the list of potential participants. We still hadn’t accounted for every department or tenure group that needed representation in the innovation strategy workshop. But they were out of people who would provide an innovative perspective.So, we added another potential group of participants:

5. People who won’t do any harm. These are individuals who might not contribute much to new thinking but won’t detract from the innovative thinking of others.

Identifying these five groups pushed us to the diversity we needed to move forward with the innovation strategy workshop.

Which leads to a question YOU will need to answer: Who is in your YOUR innovation strategy workshop?  – Mike Brown

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FREE Download: 13 Exercises for Disruptive Innovation Strategy

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  • Brand benefits and value propositions
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational structures and processes
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Industry and market dynamics
  • New business initiatives

Disrupting Thinking is the answer to starting the conversations your leadership team needs to have about disrupting your own brand before unexpected competitors do it to you first!

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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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Make the year ahead the time when Too Bold, Never Tried never enters your mind.

To gain a big start on shaping your bold, innovative thinking for the year ahead, here are Brainzooming articles on making boldness a part of what you do every day of the year!

Here is to bold! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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We were set to work with a client team exploring the customer experience strategy they’d introduce to their internal customers. As we thought about how many of them there were (about twenty), the two of us from The Brainzooming Group, and the value of having an inner circle of informal facilitators, we hit upon an idea: create roles for a small group of clients to play during our two-day branding workshop.

Each of the four roles were intended to help push the group’s thinking on its customer experience strategy in varied ways.

4 Roles to Push Bold Customer Experience Strategy Thinking

We met with them the afternoon before the branding workshop started to provide background information and answer questions. Rather than tromping on others’ ideas, we asked them to look for ways to build on and expand ideas the group was sharing in positive ways. We provided strategic thinking questions of their own to use, including:

  • “That’s great and how can we do that _____________?”
  • “What if that were ________________?”
  • “Oooh, can we enhance that by ______________?”
  • “What would it look like if we also _____________?”

We assigned four roles to shape the customer experience strategy thinking:

On the second day of the branding workshop, we added another role: The Queen of Intrigue. That role went to the group’s senior executive to focus us on transformative ideas during a strategic thinking exercise involving imagining Chick-fil-A designing their customer experience strategy. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate that one!

We asked the group to pick the roles they wanted to play without telling other participants or us.

Now, for two admissions:

  1. All the while as we were creating this, I was thinking of Chuck Dymer letting me know these roles were accounted for in Six Thinking Hats (affiliate link). That’s the problem of me never having taken one of Chuck’s Six Thinking Hats workshops. My mistake, definitely!
  2. Emma Alvarez Gibson and I consciously tried to forget who we talked to about the roles. We didn’t want to interact with them differently or rely on them unduly as we facilitated the small groups. The result? We can’t tell you definitively whether the role playing created greater success or not.

If nothing else, the customer experience strategy roles provided a handful of participants more to think about and something extra to do to make our branding workshop the success it was! – Mike Brown

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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


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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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Matt Britton, a millennial generation expert, spoke about the anticipating the Class of 2025 as the keynote speaker on the closing day of the October 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. His keynote got us thinking about how today’s ten-year-olds (the Class of 2025) will change the landscape for brands, following in the wake of the impact millennials have created.

A Future-Looking Strategic Thinking Experiment

Reviewing the copious notes, here are strategic thinking starters for thought experiments as you imagine your future organization and market.

A Radically Different Audience Base

Britton discussed the fact that younger millennials (born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and Generation Z (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) are the first generations to grow up with the internet in their households. Because of the lifelong availability of the web, Britton contends their brains are wired to think and consume differently.

For the class of 2025, it goes further: they were born with phones in their faces. They are developing collaborative projects online in grade school. The availability of learning outside traditional schooling structures will change the training and pool of employees, leading to greater diversity, fewer people with traditional college degrees, and a need for specialization vs. careers as generalists.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If none of our employees had college degrees and were instead DIY or technically-trained, how would our business model and processes change?
  • What could we do better in this scenario? What would we do differently?

Talking to Machines, Not People

Changes in how we interact with computers, robots, and other devices are already underway. Instead of typing, we’ll increase voice interaction – or mind control. Britton’s claim is “hardware is the final mile.” That’s why Amazon and Google are moving to hardware, because it will dramatically impact online search results.

Where people once might have viewed several search pages to find answers, now it is about a brand needing to be among the first ten recommendations on Google. With voice delivery, people won’t listen to more than one or two options. If the voice hardware doesn’t mention your brand, you are out of luck; thus the importance of shaping how the hardware works. With devices talking directly to devices, the dynamic changes even more.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What will it take to set up a marketing innovation team to understand how voice technology changes our marketing, sales, and customer service? Where should the team start exploring?
  • If we don’t have a team looking at the impact of the Internet of Things on our business, what do we need to do to get on it by early 2018?

Download Disrupting Thinking

Renting vs. Buying

Britton combined several trends to explain why millennials (and later, the class of 2025) will want to rent things instead of buying and owning them:

  • City and downtown living is a pull for millennials. As demand and prices rise, they can’t afford bigger places. The result is they won’t / don’t have room for as many things.
  • Parking is an issue. The greater density of amenities in downtown areas makes walking, biking, and public transit more attractive. Thus, there is no need to own a car.
  • In a gig-based economy, organizations will downsize offices. Gig workers will look increasingly to collaborative workspaces to rent a desk or place to congregate and work.
  • As having more things is less attractive, experiencing more things (and documenting the experience digitally in photos and videos) is all the rage. The goal becomes pursuing experiences just to be able to take a picture and show it to others, with the expectation that the experiences and images are life changing and defining.

There are numerous examples: massive valuations for Uber and WeWork, the popularity of Color Runs, and Get the Flight Out (GFTO offers last minute flights deals so going to exotic locales to take pictures is more affordable).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What changes in our business if most customers want our product or service on demand versus owning it?
  • How do we move faster to introduce a self-disruptive business model before another brand does?

Abandoning the Middle

Britton predicted a continued move toward a “barbell economy,” where the middle class and mid-range products are being “wiped out.” He points to a major potential brand implication: the best growth opportunities are for luxury and value brands. Luxury brands can create high-impact, premium-dollar (potentially convenience-rich) experiences (see the renting vs. buying impact) and value brands can uncover supply chain innovations, taking costs out, and maximizing simplicity (Brandless sells essentially generic, but “better” food products, all at $3).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If we have a middle-market product or service, what will be left of our business if it dries up?
  • What does the ultimate, premium, high-end version of what we produce look like? What does the generic, everything costs the same version of what we do look like?

Old Hat, Old Thinking, or Both?

Whether these predicted trends feel old hat or impossibly far off for your business, you should take Matt Britton up on one of his ideas: creating a shadow board of millennial employees to advise your Baby Boomer and Generation X senior leaders on what’s coming. Create this type of group, and spend time with them imagining what your brand and marketplace’s future looks like.

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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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Looking for ways to spice up your organization’s strategic planning process before you lock into the same old strategy ideas shaped by your senior team’s conventional wisdom?

Try asking surprising strategic planning questions to push your leadership team toward new thinking.

Here is where we are coming from: when someone with romantic interest in you gives you a gift, it’s usually attractively, even lavishly, wrapped. Discovering the wonderful new treasure awaiting you requires tearing off the wrapping paper. Now apply that idea to the traditional industry knowledge – the conventional wisdom of your business.

Conventional wisdom is especially prized by executives with tenure and experience in one industry, company, and/or discipline. While conventional wisdom can speed decision making and prevent you from repeatedly making the same mistakes, it also is a powerful weapon to stand in the way of new thinking, innovation, and applying creativity to business strategy.

Just as you must tear away wrapping paper to get to the great gift inside, you must tear away conventional wisdom that stands in the way of innovative strategies. This is vital to move an organization in new, innovative, and disruptive directions.

Strategic Planning Questions that Create Surprise

One key to greater creativity and innovation is the ability to temporarily forget what you know. That’s where unusual strategic thinking questions provide an element of surprise when developing strategy. Executives quickly become overly familiar with standard strategic planning questions:

  • What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are our threats?
  • What opportunities do we have?

Try twisting traditional strategic planning questions in new, unusual ways. You will quickly see how surprising questions lead to new, unexpected, and insightful ideas that spark winning strategies.

If you’re interested in a treasure trove of strategic planning questions addressing multiple important business areas, download our eBook, The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (The Brainzooming Group Uses. So far.)

Also, for more ideas on spicing up strategic planning, you need to grab your copy of our FREE Brainzooming eBook: 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning!

Don’t settle for boring strategic planning. Use these free resources to bring new life to your planning today! – Mike Brown

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11 Hot Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

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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