Brand Strategy Lesson 1 – Ideas are easy, answers are hard
Ideas are easy.
With some focus and using the right creative thinking exercises, you can produce many ideas in a relatively short time. When we facilitate a brand strategy or new product creative thinking session, we often call these “possibilities” because they are so young and fresh and devoid of analysis, it’s tough to say they are “ideas.” They may just be fragments of someone’s thinking. With more work they can become ideas and concepts, but call them what you will, they are relatively easy to generate.
Real business answers, however, are hard.
We’re talking about ideas that turn into answers that successfully change the course of a business, particularly one that’s failing – those are hard. Because to become a successful answer, the idea SHOULD stand up to a rigor that’s nearly impossible to survive:
Tests for strategic fit
Testing and piloting
Determinations about related critical success factors
All that, plus the idea has to be introduced at the right time strategically by an organization with the experience and wherewithal to pull it off. It has to be resourced adequately, successfully produced and marketed, effectively sold, and executed well so that it delivers value.
And those lists are simply surface level starts at what an idea has to survive to become a right answer.
A brand in trouble doesn’t just need an idea guy for a turnaround. A brand needs the RIGHT ANSWER guy at the RIGHT TIME.
And for both J.C. Penney and Barnes & Noble, it seems very possible that the time when even a PHENOMENALLY RIGHT ANSWER could make a difference is in the rear view mirror. When a brand misses the window for its right answer, no matter what the brand throws at the situation, it may very well be it’s going to fail. Maybe not right away, but it’s probable that no amount of executive chair swapping or brand strategy changing is EVER going to be the right answer anymore.
Brand Strategy Lesson 2 – The Devil You Know Isn’t Better Strategy
In both of these brand strategy dilemmas, there’s a view that the former person is the right answer as a replacement, even though the brand declines started (or at least continued) on the former guy’s watch before the new guy failed to fix it.
The “devil you know” isn’t better strategy; it’s desperation strategy and smells of unfounded corporate nostalgia. While a board of directors may think “the devil you know” is an intriguing or viable idea, it’s tough to believe it will be the RIGHT answer.
The social media moves J.C. Penney made are absolutely smart ones that any brand should consider. A great social media strategy, however, isn’t going to fix a shaky underlying brand strategy. It can enhance it, but it’s just one part of the brand, not the whole brand. – Mike Brown
Recently, after a quick succession of strategic thinking workshops, I’ve been thinking more about perfection. One workshop involved many people active in the healthcare industry where you don’t want to settle for less than perfect, if perfection is defined as whether someone lives or dies.
Contemplating how this changes the messaging on BDTP prompted a realization: there are multiple types of perfection, and the real issue may be striving for a type of perfection that doesn’t really matter (or as we’d say, that isn’t strategic).
What Kind of Perfection Are You Looking For?
For a process, you might achieve perfection relative to its:
This list isn’t perfect, certainly – it’s just a starter.
Strategic Thinking about the Right Kind of Perfection
So for a healthcare example, what matters might be perfection in the outcome (i.e. someone lives). As much as the other types of perfection might be nice, it may not be a big deal to compromise on them if you deliver the perfect outcome.
So while you may need “some” perfection in what you do, what’s more important than BDTP may be GTRP: Get The Right Perfect.
What do you think about that? Does GTRP make more sense? Looks like I have some strategic thinking workshop slides to change. - Mike Brown
Based on WordPress metrics, this is the 1,500th Brainzooming blog post. For safety’s sake, let’s say it’s the 1500th-ish Brainzooming blog post. I’m not entirely sure all the blog posts WordPress counts are officially published, plus some posts are very time-specific and could be removed – when I get the time to do that sort of thing!
They then identified expectations about the process from each new perspective. With this combo, the strategic thinking exercise’s results were helpful in prioritizing issues (where all parties had comparable expectations), identifying areas receiving too much focus (where interest was found to be relatively narrow), and introducing unexpected perspectives (including one where a process was reviewing itself).
One strategic thinking perspective I’d missed, however, was eliminating everything extraneous and contradictory until all that is left is something or someone who is absolutely right to move forward.
For example, think about the story of Noah and the flood. There was a clear willingness to save only a few people versus trying to protect others who weren’t on the program (to borrow some corporate-speak jargon).
That’s never been how I’ve approached business strategy. While I’ve had to implement strategies to indiscriminately cut to the bare bones and reduce people and business expenses in order to start afresh, I’m not generally a proponent of the strategy. Instead, I’m a big advocate of trying to save and rehabilitate what you have available, even if it’s not exactly right. To me, it’s generally smarter to take best advantage of what you have rather than cut out what you might be able to adapt in some way. I’ve always seen this as decreasing the risk of falling short of the resources needed to implement a new strategy.
A New Strategic Thinking Perspective
But now, having seen in how many situations, the stories we studied involved protecting perhaps only one, absolutely right person to move the story forward, it has me thinking. Given how well all the other Bible-based strategic thinking perspectives I’ve adopted have served me, I’m considering expanding my personal strategic tapestry with this new lesson on keeping only what’s needed.
Which side of this strategy question do you embrace? - Mike Brown
I’ll admit to being hopeful about the strategic planning benefits an organization can realize. But not from the typical strategic planning – the kind with too many boring meetings, too few real insights, lots of forms to fill out, takes forever with little real world impact.
Instead, my hopefulness is tied to the type of strategic planning we facilitate with:
Customer experience and innovation expert Woody Bendle is back today with his big, big, big, big strategic insights on big data analytics. Here’s Woody!
Strategic Insights – Much Ado about Big Data Analytics by Woody Bendle
Big Data is HOT!
Look at this Google Trends search on “Big Data” from this past Saturday (August 08, 2013). You don’t have to be a statistician or a Nobel Prize winning macro economist to see Big Data has been on an AMAZING upward trajectory since 2011!
There is no denying Big Data is in vogue right now. Some might even say it’s pretty darned sexy! But, as someone whose been tackling ‘Big Data’ for more than 20 years, I have to ask, “What the heck’s the big deal?” We’re just talking about data – albeit, more of it.
Look, Big is relative; and as long as you know what you’re doing, data size should not be an issue given the current state and price of computing technologies today. This leads me to think there is something more to all of this ‘Big Data’ chatter than simply terabytes.
Perhaps all of the hoo-hah surrounding Big Data analytics has to do with the different types of data out there.
Big Data encapsulates A LOT of different data types ranging from good (accurate and reliable) to bad (wrong and inconsistent). Big Data can also be structured (numbers, etc.) or unstructured (a video posted on YouTube with someone railing on your company). Also, some Big Data reflect location (latitude and longitude or a check-in on FourSquare) as well as things happening over time. WHEW!
And for good measure, I even have my own classification for the different types of data (Big or not) I regularly encounter – these are Woody’s data ABCs.
Attitudinal – what people are thinking, feeling and saying (or trying to say)
Behavioral – what people are doing, where, when, and how often
Crap – no explanation needed here
So sure, I’ll admit it, Big Data can be pretty complicated and complex. But this is what data analysis has always been about – for years. This leads me to think there is still something more to this whole Big Data thing than just data size and data complexity.
This is something I’ve been thinking more about lately, and I tend to believe the big deal has to do with the confluence of a number of technological trends that surprisingly snuck up on a lot of people, as well as the fundamental laws of demand and supply.
Our New Hyper-Digital Era
On the technology side, we now live a new hyper-digital era where due to advancements in computing capacity and speed, data capture and storage in conjunction with rapidly decreasing costs, virtually every move we make throughout every living moment of our lives is registered digitally. Billions of people all doing hundreds (or thousands) of different things every day – all captured and memorialized in some digital form in the cloud.
In addition, the Internet revolution has enabled all sorts of technological, consumer , and social innovations which now allow people to create and share more data in one day than many companies used to generate in a pre-digital era year!
Think about all of the data each of us create every day through emails, text messages, Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Yelp, WordPress, Blogger, etc. And, not to mention the continual digital wake we leave behind with the GPS transmitters in our smartphones and cars. All of these things individually and in combination generate more data than most of us can fathom – and certainly way more data than most in the business world are prepared to use. And by use, I mean actually utilize in such a manner as to create new value for consumers, society, and businesses.
So, technological innovation is enabling the creation and storage of exponentially growing mountains of Big Data. But this wouldn’t be happening if there weren’t market forces driving it. That is, demand for Big Data led to the supply of it!
It always seems to come back to economics doesn’t it . . .
On the demand and supply side of things, we’re dealing with at least two different phenomena. And this is where I think the real Big Data frenzy is stemming from. The first is a case of being careful about what you wish for (because you just might eventually get it!); and the second is gross deficiency in the supply of analytical talent in the US.
You Asked for It
In terms of being careful about what you wish for, my sense is a lot of the Big Data issues many are living today probably involves a narrative similar to this:
1) For years, the lack of data (or the costs associated with obtaining data) has been used as an excuse for not knowing (or being able to answer) something – if we only had more data
2) Many, for whatever reason, erroneously believed that simply having more data would mean better and more valuable (insightful) data - these are probably the same people who believe you need to remove all of their blood in order to have a reliable blood test
3) Over the past 15-20 years it has become amazingly cheap and easy to create and house A LOT of data. As a result, there are now massive mountains of Big Data “out there” all over the place - making the people using the old “if we only had more data” excuse pretty nervous
4) Many (bosses, shareholders, government leaders, etc.) naïvely believe since Big Data is now relatively easy to capture and house, it also should be relatively easy and inexpensive to analyze - these are people who think Microsoft Excel is all anyone could ever possibly need to analyze anything – they also happen to be the same people who slept through their business calc and business stats courses and don’t know the difference between a T-Test and a T-Square (hint – one is used in carpentry)
5) Very few people (in decision making capacities) have actually spent much any time thinking about the types of questions they want to be able to answer with Big Data – let alone how someone would actually go about answering them
6) Even fewer people have spent much time thinking about how all of this Big Data should actually be configured. That is, how it should be structured in order for it to be analyzed; thus enabling it to help answer all of these yet-to-be-defined business questions
7) Many leaders are now nervously sitting on tons of Big Data and have come to the realization that they don’t have the right tools and/or the right talent within their organization to leverage their unwieldy Big Data asset
8) Meanwhile senior leadership, boards and shareholders continue to wonder when all of the Big Data magic is going to begin! – I mean come on all ready would you! You’ve got all of this data that you’d been asking for; so do something with it already – and make us tons of money! NOW!
In Search of Big Data Ninjas
This leads me to the second, and more problematic demand and supply issue surrounding Big Data – There simply aren’t enough well-trained Big Data analysts in the US labor market do anything of any value with all of this Big Data!
These are the types of degrees Big Data analysts will have; and unfortunately for organizations needing to hire Big Data analysts, this is down significantly from nearly 13.5% of all degrees awarded in the 1980-1981 academic year. If you are on the demand side of this Big Data equation, this is not the sort of trend you want to see in the face of the surging Big Data Tidal Wave! (Affiliate Link)
While I’m spreading all sorts of sunshine on our Big Data parade, here’s something else to keep in mind. Only a small fraction of those who have graduated with analytic or technical degrees in the past twenty or so years are actually in the Big Data analysis business, and very few of today’s technically-oriented undergrads are aspiring Big Data ninjas. The bottom line is an interesting reality where we are dealing with the rapid growth in demand for competent Big Data analysts in the face of a woefully insufficient supply. I suspect it will take a good number of years before natural market forces arrive at equilibrium – that is, when the supply of Big Data slayers will equal market demand.
The Path Forward
There is absolutely no doubt that Big Data is finally here, and that it is truly here to stay. There is also no denying that there are a lot of Big Data challenges that need to be better understood and dealt with. However, if we make the proper investments in Planning, Preparing and Organizing for Big Data, we can begin to realize the value that is promises. I, by no means intend to trivialize or undersell the time, effort, and resources that will be required along the way. This will be a big effort – after all, we are talking about Big Data. However this dilemma is a bit like the question about when is the best time to plant a tree. The best answer of course is yesterday and the second best answer is today. Regardless of your current Big Data state, better Planning, Preparation and Organization today will ensure a better Big Data tomorrow.
So what do you think? Are we really in the midst of a Big Data dilemma? Or, is all of this Big Data stuff much ado about nothing?
The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.
When a perfectionist hears NOs about efforts where the rules used to judge an effort don’t really have any lasting significance or a performance was actually fine (if perhaps not perfect) yet they were told it fell short, it can have creatively devastating impacts. This is especially true when the NO comes from an authority figure or is heard repeatedly.
What are the legacies of the “no” messages kids hear?
Avoiding situations where there is potential for rejection.
Taking the “no” to mean they are bad, unskilled, or presumptuous to ever think of themselves as special.
Undercutting expectations of themselves rather than celebrating what they can do and risk failing to meet expectations.
Only giving slight hints to their capabilities and hoping someone will ask them to do more.
Not going out on a limb in situations where they might disappoint someone important.
Trying fewer things in life – perhaps only those things where they know they’ll be right.
Undervaluing their talents, causing them to wind up giving away too much of what they can do.
Delivering more than anyone can reasonably expect.
Remaining an “amateur” at many things because it’s safer than concentrating on one area and standing apart from others.
Depending on others to push them into new situations.
Taking the NO Out of InNOvation Later
It’s vital that parents, educators, and other authority figures in kids’ lives be tremendously careful: Make sure you aren’t doling out creative rejections or even imposing your own apprehensions about perfectionism and creative success on the kids in your lives.
Your “NO” today can have an impact on killing creativity for years to come. - Mike Brown
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 email@example.com call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.