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My natural inclination when it comes to business strategy is to identify what is MOST IMPORTANT and build everything around that. Tie the objectives, priorities, and strategies to a very tight focus for an organization. Mass the resources and the organization’s attention on that single area and put everything toward implementing it successfully.

My most memorable example of this goes back to early in my career.  There was a nearly month-long labor strike at the transportation company where I worked. During that time when we were laying off people on a weekly basis as the strike drug on, it was clear to everyone that the single focus for us as a marketing organization was to win back customers for the day we started our operation back up – whenever that might be. I inherited leadership of our department about a week into the strike, and we pointed EVERYONE toward understanding current customer sentiment and developing the plan to incent them to use our brand again even though we had let them down.

THAT was a singular focus.

Granted, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk about a single, focused business strategy than it is to actually create one.

There always seem to be multiple important things or varied priorities among senior leaders or business units that do not line up in a neat and clean rank order. I’m sure you’ve experienced one of those “our three most important objectives” situations. Yes we have a priority; in fact, we have THREE priorities that are ALL EQUAL.

That’s the MUCH MORE TYPICAL business strategy scenario.

When we started developing our varied extreme creativity questions and exercises to drive bolder business strategy, however, one of the approaches was to actively consider that an organization isn’t going to make choices. It would deliberately and actively pursue multiple big strategies with all available resources.

fork-in-road-quickie

So instead of taking ONE business strategy path and wondering about the other, how about taking BOTH PATHS and doing more? What would the business strategy look like if you did it deliberately instead of by accident? – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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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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It’s always incredible to work directly with Brainzooming blog readers in supporting their companies’ innovation strategy objectives.

Last week, we presented a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a Brainzooming reader who leads the national sales division of a global industrial manufacturer. We integrated the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop into their annual sales meeting. Our going-in plan for the five-hour workshop was to interactively share and practice Brainzooming creative thinking exercises the sales, marketing, and engineering team could use to expand customer opportunities in new ways.

While we did that, an early exercise during the strategic thinking workshop shaped the rest of the day.

creative-thinking-workshop

An exercise on adopting different creative perspectives to see previously overlooked business opportunities prompted an extensive discussion about a specific client situation that was stalled. The exercise uncovered how multiple team members have relationships with the account in question plus another related account influencing the first account’s purchase behavior. This was a brand new insight for the team overall. As one participant noted, “The discussion was helpful and revealed some blind spots in my thinking. I realized there are tools and resources available that I’m not using.”

Based that conversation’s impact, we talked with our client and modified the workshop approach. We eased up on our aggressive time schedule to allow more time to discuss current client opportunities and issues throughout the day. The result was we took deeper dives throughout the strategic thinking workshop, using Brainzooming exercises to develop solutions for specific current business issues.

13 Unexpected Benefits of a Strategic Thinking Workshop

Given that unexpected, real time change in our approach, we were eager to review the participant evaluations to identify other “unexpected” benefits the group realized from the strategic thinking workshop. Their answers grouped into three areas:

Benefit 1 – Applicability to Work Situations

  • The work was practical for our jobs.
  • Generates good new solutions to challenging situations.
  • The use of different vantage points to see new prospects.
  • New techniques for generating ideas on penetrating accounts.

Benefit 2 – New Learnings

  • How similar the challenges are (within our company’s different areas).
  • (Discovering) how we work in parallel (within our team) but not together at times.
  • Recognizing breaking down big ideas (and) challenges into smaller pieces.

Benefit 3 – Ways to Generate Creative Ideas

  • It pulls lots of ideas in a small amount of time.
  • The idea of thinking extreme first and bringing the concepts back to a possible scenario was great.
  • Ideas about outrageous and scary ideas.
  • Lots of new ideas to facilitate creative and strategic thinking.
  • (The) ability to unlock my creative though process.
  • Very interactive with the audience – makes for a great/fun workshop.

If you have responsibility for a sales and marketing team’s development and you are seeking comparable creative thinking benefits, contact us.

We’d love to customize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop to advance your team’s real world strategic and creative thinking 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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I suspect many, if not most industries, know there’s an elusive brand promise customers have been requesting for a long time that no competitor has figured out yet.

Or maybe a competitor HAS figured out how to deliver the brand promise, but it can’t do it profitably, efficiently, or consistently.

One competitive response is to try to explain to customers why they don’t really need what they think they need. Alternatively, competitors may try to convince customers they don’t really want to buy the elusive brand promise they say they want to buy, no matter how vehemently the marketplace may say otherwise.

A bold competitor, however, will heavy up with tremendous intensity and deliver the incredible, elusive brand promise in a truly disruptive fashion.

10xMoreEffort

What type of competitor are you going to be?

One that drags its feet?

Or the competitor that drags all the other competitors kicking and screaming into a new market reality.

Of course, you know what the RIGHT answer is! – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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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One of my favorite things is when clients, blog readers, and Brainzooming workshop attendees use our strategic thinking exercises to explore new ideas. They often end up creating new formats and adapting tools in ways we hadn’t envisioned!

The most recent example came our way this weekend.

Diane Bleck of Discovery Doodles  and I were tweeting each other a couple of times in the past few weeks about innovation.

Early yesterday, she alerted me to expect a custom drawing heading my way via Twitter later in the day.

Imagine my surprise when Diane’s drawing turned out to be a representation of an innovation strategy formula we shared on the Brainzooming blog a year earlier. Diane took the simple 5-step innovation strategy formula and brought it to life via this infographic.

Diane-Bleck-5-Innovation-St

What’s particularly cool is step number five. The original step was “Revel and Repeat.” This was meant to encourage celebrating successes and incorporating new learning into future innovation strategy.

Diane modified “Revel” to become “Reveal,” which creates an additive impact to the formula since you definitely have to let the world know about your innovation!

Thanks, Diane, for expanding the range of Brainzooming tools with your creativity and skill! – 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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There are soooooooooooooo many ways to generate creative ideas.

One way is to come up with a name that inspires an idea. When you check the name, it doesn’t work (or someone has already used it), but the idea has some possibilities, so you run with it.

That’s what has happened here.

A name for a new Friday feature popped into my head at a conference. Unfortunately, the name is already “a thing,” although not that big of a thing. But enough of a thing that there was no credible way to claim that it was unique to the Brainzooming blog.

Since the idea worked, however, we’re running with the concept and resurrecting a feature name we haven’t used for quite some time: Creative Quickies. These features will include photos and strategic thinking questions or innovation prompts.

strategic-thinking-question-innovation-Frideas

And just as we hope for all Fridays, future Creative Quickies will be fast, fun, and stimulating enough (via strategic thinking questions) to give you something to ponder and act upon when you return to the office the following week. Enjoy! – Mike Brown

 

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your 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’ve lost count of how many times I have heard business people say and then try to explain why their particular companies are unique. By this, they typically mean there is no possibility any other company faces the same types of challenges and operational issues they deal with daily.

While that might be a comforting perspective if you’re fond of business isolationism, it’s rarely true once you start to explore the business strategically.

Maze

We were working recently with a company that, based on its competitive and business situation, could certainly lay some claim to having a unique business situation. But given our unwillingness to settle for that easy answer, we created a rapid fire strategic thinking exercise to push for ideas.

Our immediate need was to identify potential innovation case studies to discover how other companies and industries are innovating in relevant ways.

Strategic Thinking Exercise – 17 Questions to Find Innovation Case Studies

Within about ten minutes, using the seventeen questions in this strategic thinking exercise, a group of nine or ten people generated more than seventy possible companies and industries to explore for comparable innovation case studies.

If you are facing a similar challenge to generate relevant strategic connections to your business, here is your starting point for a comparable Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise:

  1. What companies have similar sizes and org structures to ours?
  2. Who are our strategic partners?
  3. Who are our primary competitors?
  4. What companies provide substitutes for what we offer to customers?
  5. What other companies serve the same customers we do?
  6. What other companies have similar strategies to ours?
  7. What industries have similar operations or sales structures to ours?
  8. What companies have similar cost structures to ours?
  9. What companies employ similar processes to the ones we use?
  10. What companies are trying to innovate in similar ways to ours?
  11. What companies of our size have similar ownership and/or financial structures?
  12. What companies that do the same general things we do have comparable business situations?
  13. What other companies that share our general business category are most similar to us?
  14. What other companies are facing comparable competitive dynamics?
  15. What other companies are facing comparable cost pressures?
  16. What industries look / behave like ours? Why/how?
  17. What companies look / behave like ours? Why/how?

See, with this strategic thinking exercise, there’s no reason your business has to feel so alone in its innovation challenge. There are definitely innovation case studies you can discover and explore for new ideas! – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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 have been traveling more recently for speaking than at any time during history of The Brainzooming Group.

While there’s more to come in the months ahead, here are highlights of a couple of innovation strategy presentations this week to very different groups.

Innovation Strategy in Your Organization – An Innovative Workplace Culture

Today, I’m in Cincinnati presenting to senior executives from multiple companies on cultivating an innovative workplace culture.

Cincinnati

The presentation incorporates  our “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation” work to focus on seven key innovation enablers. Senior leaders can address these focus areas to improve an organization’s receptiveness and motivation to generate new ideas and do something with them.

The seven recommendations for cultivating an innovative workplace culture include:

  1. Providing actionable strategic direction (beyond simply saying your organization needs to be more innovative)
  2. Inviting broad participation from employees throughout the organization
  3. Meaningfully engaging employees when inviting them to share ideas
  4. Encouraging and supporting organizational change
  5. Implementing smart, innovative possibilities
  6. Staying agile through focusing on what’s important for creating results
  7. Celebrating progress and success tied to innovative ideas

As questions and discussion with the attendees suggest new topics, look for us to explore them here.

Innovation Strategy across a Community – Forward to the Future

On Monday, I discussed the community collaboration process we facilitated for Carbondale, IL in September 2015. The panel discussion at the Gigabit City Summit also featured Gary Williams, the interim city manager of Carbondale, and Dave Sandel of Sandel & Associates. We’ve worked with Dave’s team on multiple community collaboration engagements related to broadband initiatives, economic development, and Smart Cities.

Carbondale-Group

To provide a feel for the community collaboration work in Carbondale (home of my grad school alma mater, Southern Illinois University), we developed a brief video. It shares how university students and community leaders participated to shape a future-looking view of Carbondale.

You can also review the results of the Carbondale playbook to see what lies ahead for the community.  Mike Brown

10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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