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In a Strategic Thinking workshop recently, a participant from the largest business unit of a multinational company asked, “How, when it comes to corporate strategy, can the “tail can wag the dog”?

Put another way, he wondered how his business unit, which feels hemmed in by corporate strategy directives, can better influence or vary the corporation’s direction.

6 Ideas for the Tail Wagging the Corporate Strategy Dog

caymanAnswering his question generated these six ideas. The ideas range from the least risky to the most risky from both an organizational and a personal standpoint:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to outperform expectations even following a sub-optimum corporate strategy (in order to earn the right for greater latitude and experimentation)
  2. Identify new and better ways to deliver on the corporate objectives that stretch the organization in positive ways
  3. Build a rock solid business case demonstrating superior returns from an alternative strategy
  4. Assess what type of strategic change the organization needs and reach out to corporate leaders to make the case for moving forward with a different strategy
  5. Wait out the current direction until it changes, and you can pursue a more targeted strategy
  6. Create a stealth effort to push forward with targeted initiatives

While it seems numbers five and six are wildly different (i.e., one is suggesting “toe the line” and the other is advocating for going against the corporate strategy in a clandestine way), they are both very risky.

If the business unit truly has to sub-optimize to follow the prescribed corporate strategy, it should be a very conscious decision – not the accidental fallout of a strategic disconnect within the organization.

Similarly, making the decision to advance particular initiatives that are right for a business unit but clearly outside corporate strategy may be possible. But pursuing this strategy could be a recipe for huge problems for leadership and the overall organization.

That’s why both five and six, although wildly different strategies, are both very risky. If you decide to go there, be careful . . . very careful! Mike Brown

 

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3

Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is getting all crazy innovative in today’s guest post as he shares how to push for extreme innovation when you need it. Take it away Woody!

 

Creative Thinking Exercise for Extreme Innovation by Woody Bendle

One of the most exciting things to me in the innovation process is generating an array of possible ideas for uniquely solving unmet or underserved consumer needs.

i3-generate-ideas

As you see in the i3 Continuous Innovation Process map above, generating ideas happens AFTER the consumer needs have been identified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you generate new product and/or service ideas before you fully understand all of your consumers’ needs, there is a high likelihood you will waste time, effort and money chasing a cool idea destined to fail.
  2. It is easier to come up with possible solutions to a problem once you actually know what the problem is!

Assume we’ve done our homework and have clearly identified and prioritized all our consumers’ needs based on the magnitude of the opportunity.  The next step in the Continuous Innovation Process is to come up with as many possible ideas or solutions (regardless of feasibility), that might create meaningful new value for our target consumers.

I like starting idea generation sessions with a set of exercises I’ve developed called “Going to Extremes.”  The objective is to break the ice quickly and get the craziest, coolest, far-reaching things you can come up with on the table to start. The more absurd, extreme or ridiculous the idea the better!

go-extremes-exercises

As you begin working with these tools, it is important to frame each exercise in the context of exploring possibilities for addressing only one or two unmet (or underserved) consumer needs.  Narrowing your focus actually works in your favor when you are Brainzooming!

It is important to emphasize you really want to try to come up with 100 (or more) ideas for each exercise.  All ideas are welcome – as long as they are crazy, cool, extreme, ridiculous or even absurd!

In my experience, the best and most innovative ideas tend to be closer to the 100th idea than the first, so keep generating as many ideas as you can.  And don’t judge them, because the next step of the i3 Continuous Innovation Process is where we weed out the ideas that don’t make economic sense.

The Value of Going for Extreme Innovation

After working with these creative thinking exercises for several years, I’ve found them effective for several reasons:

  1. They explicitly make it okay to say something a little (or a lot) crazy. Everyone has a little “crazy” in them, and they now have permission to let it out!  And, Column C reinforces that we’re looking for stuff that is really really crazy, cool and way out there! As a side note, how many times do you suppose Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs or the Wright brothers heard, “That’s crazy!” – only later to hear “This is awesome!” or “This is amazing!”
  2. Because you are going for quantity in addition to the extreme, participants tend not to overthink their ideas in search of that spectacular idea – they just let them rip!
  3. Thinking about the why and the what (column B) highlights functional and emotional benefits which often lead naturally to new, even better ideas for Column C. (Remember that breakthrough innovations tend to be much closer to the extremes than where we currently are. )
  4. Lastly, these exercises are a ton of fun!  Now, who doesn’t need more fun in their life?!

So here is a crazy idea; the next time you are planning an idea generation session, why don’t you give these Going to Extremes Exercises a shot?

And if you need a little added encouragement, let’s give a listen to what Seal has to say about getting a little Crazy.  Better yet!  Play this tune in the background during your next idea generation session! Woody Bendle

 

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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.

 

 

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3

Over the past month, we’ve been designing a 150-person brainstorming session for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund launch in Kansas City, Thursday, February 13, 2014.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will invest $150,000 in the Kansas City innovation community (with an equal amount in Chattanooga, TN) to support “development, experimentation, and deployment of learning experiences and workforce development opportunities enhanced by next gen networks.”

Brainstorming-FacilitationOur objective for the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 brainstorming session is to build community and imagine concepts for how technology can address needs and aspirations in multiple community segments. These segments include K-12 and higher education, workforce development, digital inclusion, seniors and lifelong learning, and digital making and storytelling.

The scope and detail behind designing and producing a brainstorming session for such a large group is exciting. It’s also something we’ve become known for doing very successfully at The Brainzooming Group, starting with the first Building the Gigabit City event in 2011.

5 Keys for Successful Brainstorming with Any Group

To produce the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of individuals from Kansas City and beyond to help facilitate the Brainzooming session we designed for Mozilla.

Creating the facilitator’s guide for Building the Gigabit City 2.0, I included five keys for successful facilitation. Whether your creative thinking group is just a few people or approaches multiple hundreds, these five keys to successful brainstorming and facilitation for our extended team apply to any group:

1. The facilitator is present to serve the group, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Far better to reach the desired result and be forgotten as a facilitator than to be remembered for being part of the reason a group wasn’t successful.

2. Facilitators should be managing the group for the outcomes, not all the interim steps.

There may be a pre-planned flow to a brainstorming session, but the specific activities are less important than reaching the expected outcomes and deliverables.

3. One of the facilitator’s chief roles is managing and respecting participant time.

By sticking as best possible to the timing guidelines and keeping the session moving, you help create energy, focus, and productivity within the group.

4. You have a unique opportunity to draw out once in a lifetime creative thinking.

This group may never come together again, so this is the only opportunity ever for exciting creative thinking from these individuals as a team. Actively push, prod, stimulate, and cajole the group for more ideas throughout this precious time they are working together.

5. A facilitator is more important for creating “white space” than for sharing ideas.

Depending on how the group is progressing toward answers, cheer a lot, suggest a little, and say what YOU think the answers is only as a LAST resort. Try to answer their questions with questions. The group will get to where it needs to be, only if you give them sufficient room to explore.

What else?

I know we have other facilitators in the audience. What would you add to or subtract from this list of keys to for successful facilitation? – 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 strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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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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0

Tweet-SBEXPMany (Most? Nearly all?) brands face the brand strategy challenge of cutting through the clutter of other brands’ advertising and marketing. It may be clutter within a brand’s own category (at a trade show, in an industry publication) or across categories (in mass media, sponsorships, online).

No matter the types of clutter it’s battling, a successful brand strategy has to account for all the planned and random distractions getting in the way of its target audience receiving, experiencing, remembering, and acting on its message.

The brand strategy imperative to cut through the clutter in Super Bowl advertising has generated a wide variety of tactics never envisioned when the Super Bowl debuted including:

While these tactics sometimes work to cut through the clutter, they more often than not raise another form of clutter: internal clutter.

Internal clutter results when there is so much (or so little) going on within a brand’s own Super Bowl advertising (or any other advertising for that matter) that its audience is distracted from the core message the advertiser is trying to convey.

This phenomenon became more evident for me two years ago while watching Super Bowl advertising at a party instead of sitting in front of a TV and computer so I could tweet and blog about it. While watching the game amid a crowd, much of the Super Bowl advertising was there and gone without with little recognition of what it was trying to get across to the audience.

I’ll be at a Super Bowl party again this year and will be on the lookout for those ads not creating their own internal clutter. Will these be the Super Bowl ads that stand out from the loud, aggressive, complicated ones and register the biggest impact?

If you’ll be watching for Super Bowl advertising and want to tweet about it, you’re invited to join the Super Bowl Twitter Chat party #SBEXP (for Super Bowl Experience), hosted by author and branding expert, Jim Joseph. If you want to learn more about #SBEXP, Jim has a blog post on it. You can also learn more about Twitter chats (and the “rules” to make them even more fun) in a previous Brainzooming post as well.

And here’s to the brands that avoid 15-yard penalties for clutter come Sunday evening! – Mike Brown

 

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8

Is your organization lacking innovative ideas? Does it seem as if your employees are deficient in creative thinking skills?

If so, how frequently do you hear these phrases around your organization?

  1. It’s not my idea
  2. We’ve never thought of that before
  3. We don’t know how to do that
  4. Things are crazy busy right now
  5. We don’t have the right people on board
  6. It seems like it may get us in trouble
  7. We’ve done something similar before
  8. People could think it’s a boondoggle
  9. That will stretch us too thin
  10. I don’t see how we can pull it off
  11. Nobody in our industry has ever done anything like that
  12. They’re better at it than we are
  13. I don’t know anything about that
  14. We’ve got too many initiatives going on
  15. It’s too new for our market
  16. We already doing too much in that area
  17. They’re not expecting anyone to do that
  18. Our salespeople have too many things to sell already
  19. I know what the forecast numbers say
  20. It seems like such a small deal
  21. We’re already trying something else
  22. It seems too late to do anything about it
  23. We’ve never done anything about this
  24. I don’t understand why that’s necessary
  25. No customers are asking for that
  26. It seems impossible to pull off
  27. It’s not in the budget
  28. It seems like overkill
  29. We don’t have time for that

All these phrases could end with a period. A period is final. A period is definitive. A period says, “We’re done here,” like nobody’s business.

When you put a period at the end of any of these phrases, you are blocking potentially innovative ideas others are trying to share.

Making a change to this doesn’t require major creative thinking skills though.

If you really want to stimulate innovative ideas, instead of a period, put a comma after each of these phrases followed by, “but it could be a great idea.”

A comma says there are nuances to explore, possibilities to consider, and more ideas to come.

If one of your organizational goals is developing more innovative ideas this year, implement this simplest of creative thinking skills. You can even click this graphic, print it out, and put it up around your office.

We-Create-Innovative-Ideas-Brainzooming

How simple is that? Mike Brown

 

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2

Typical brand strategy often involves making it unattractive and costly for a customer to switch brands, but does little to reward brand loyalty in a positive way. But how about instead of penalizing a customer with switching costs, a brand strategy focused on rewarding future brand loyalty with tangible convenience and cost savings? That’s a point of differentiation.

I experienced a relatively simple brand strategy that creates this upside advantage for being a loyal customer.

Creating Positive Future Brand Loyalty

LockIn a bizarre set of circumstances, our front door lock broke, leaving me stuck outside in below zero wind chill temperatures. After taking a photo of the lock to best match its style, I headed to the hardware store for a replacement ahead of the locksmith arriving to replace it.

Before the locksmith left, he pointed out that if we ever wanted to re-key the lock, we could do it ourselves. All it took was inserting the current key into the lock along with putting a little thingamajig into a slot in the lock. After turning and removing the current key and substituting it with any other key that fit (which ours did because it was the same brand), the lock would then open with the new key.

He asked if I wanted him to demonstrate. I was all over the idea since we have five or more keys that fit the old lock made by the same manufacturer. He went through the steps, and suddenly all our keys to the old lock worked with the new lock.

No inconvenience or cost associated with having to get a full complement of keys replaced.

No time spent changing keys on our own key rings.

No hassle of having to trade out keys with those people having backup keys to our house.

Talk about a brand strategy delivering a feature that works like crazy to cultivate future brand loyalty by eliminating hassles and switching costs when it’s time to replace your brand’s product!

What comparable brand strategy examples do you see?

What example are you familiar with that deliver the same type of built-in, positive incentives toward future brand loyalty? – 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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Please Vote for The Brainzooming Blog by 12/31/2013!

Vote ButtonWe were nominated once again for the Top 40 Innovation Blogger list featured by Innovation Excellence. The final ranking is based on both on voting and determination by the Innovation Excellence editors.

We’ve always appreciate your support in past years to vote for Brainzooming among a great list of other innovation bloggers. If you enjoy the innovation articles on Brainzooming, please cast your vote in several ways this year:

Voting on the Innovation Excellence Blog:

Tweet: @ixchat I vote for Mike Brown @Brainzooming for Top #Innovation Blogger

Voting via Twitter:

  • To vote on Twitter you can actually press the “Tweet This” bird to the right (if you’re logged into Twitter) or paste and share this tweet: @ixchat I vote for Mike Brown @Brainzooming for Top #Innovation Blogger

Voting via Facebook:

Vote Now! December 31, 2013 Deadline for Voting

You can vote on all the platforms if you’d like. Voting ends December 31, 2013 and I really appreciate you taking a moment to vote and help Brainzooming demonstrate a strong showing for this year’s list!

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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