Guest author Archives - Page 30 of 30 - The Brainzooming Group – page 30
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This article on reactionary marketing appeared one day when I was ranting on this topic several times. Maybe that’s why it struck such a nerve.

It is on Karlyn Morisette’s blog, and although her focus is higher education, most business people should be able to relate to her perspectives on the topic.

If you follow up on none of the other links the rest of the week, go read this one; it’s that good.

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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For variety, I’m going to primarily shut up and listen this week, sharing links, quotes, and ideas on innovation, creativity, and strategic thinking. I’ll offer my thoughts in the comments section at Brainzooming. I hope to find yours there too! Let’s get started!

Creative Quickie – Creativity Quotes

Here are some quick quotes on creativity right from Twitter, so they may or may not be accurate. Enjoy them and add your cool quotes in the comments!
@ShaunConnell Rationality begets creativity. Until you understand the box, you can’t think outside the box.
@healthyincome4u Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. ~Edward De Bono
@PopWuping “If limitation spawns creativity, is the limitless resource of the Internet a good thing?” — Alec Soth
@earthXplorer “Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” ~ Anonymous
@pixelati “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” – Thomas Disch
@hottomali Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Scott Adams
@boxofcrayons RT @joevans: From Sir Ken Robinson: “If you are not prepared to be wrong — you will not come up with anything original.
@boxofcrayons RT @joevans: More Sir Ken: People are being educated out of their creative capacity. We do not grow into creativity, we grow out of it.
@JackieAustinBNC Creativity is generated by humor combined with conflict. WOW
@lildrummergie routinely doin somethin u enjoy over & over again, without variation or creativity, can diminish even that enjoyment. swimmin for instance
@pseudoliterat “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” – Charles Mingus
@gregnyc Fast Company Editor: “[Only creativity and aggressive innovation…will fuel a turnaround.]”

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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Here’s another post from Barrett Sydnor, this one addressing how the sequence of competitive alternatives can suggest both threats and potential opportunities:

One of the most interesting things I ever heard a client say came from a person who had spent most of his work life in cable television. Talking about the future of the industry, he wondered if cable television would ever have come to be if satellite television (DIRECTV, DISH Network) had been invented first.

This leads to an intriguing way of looking at the current and potential competitive landscape for your organization. Ask the question: If their (newer) X had been invented first, how much of a market would there be for our (older) Y? (X and Y can be physical products, services or even brands.)

If your answer is “not much” or even “considerably less,” it’s hair on fire time. It doesn’t mean that life as you know it will soon end, but it does mean that you need to do something and do something fast, no matter how small Product X’s market share might be currently.

Cable did do something, if offered bundles of video, telephone and high-speed internet service that satellite couldn’t match. It did not totally stop the bleeding, but it did cut satellite’s growth from 12% year over year to 7% for each of the last two years. Unfortunately for cable, it has not grown at all and its market share is still shrinking.

As with any type of planning it is often instructive to look at examples outside your industry. Here are some thought starters. A good exercise would be to determine how the entities on the right in each bullet have reacted to incursions by the entities on the left. Have they been successful, why or why not? What can you learn from their successes and failures?

If _________ Were Invented First Would We Have _________ ?
  • Satellite television – Cable television
  • Wireless phones – Landlines
  • Google – Yahoo
  • FedEx – Post Office
  • Email – Post Office
  • Wal-Mart – Sears
  • Kindle – Printed Books
  • MP3 – CD
  • Lexus – Cadillac
  • Riverboat casinos – Las Vegas
  • Macintosh – Microsoft

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’m so excited to have Barrett Sydnor, president of Sydnor & Associates, as today’s guest author. We go back nearly 15 years, and I’ve always enjoyed his business writing tremendously. Today he addresses objectivity within strategic planning; he’ll also be back next month with a post on “invented second.”

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, quotes the father of modern consulting, Marvin Bower, as defining marketing as “objectivity.” If so, then objectivity is one of the most important qualities that any good strategic marketing planning process must have. But it is tough to do for two reasons.

One is that most people simply aren’t built that way. A few years ago I led a planning session for a company where I wanted people to think from the outside in (no big insight I know, but bear with me). To encourage that, they were not allowed to use first person references when speaking about the company – no “we” or “our.” It had to be third person, as an outsider would refer to it. To enforce it, we charged a quarter each time they referred to the company in first person. By the end of the session we had collected a very considerable sum for charity. One participant gave up about one-third of the way through, tossed a ten dollar bill in the pot, and said “I hope this gets me through the end of the day.”

These were smart people, good strategic thinkers, but they could not totally divorce themselves from thinking of the situation at hand in a first-person way.

The second reason that objectivity is tough is because often the objective person is seen as being negative or cynical. They are accused of not being a team player. And it is true that sometimes the approach and language of objectivity sounds negative and cynical when it is intended as skeptical or cautionary.

So how do you build objectivity into the planning process? One way is to encourage something I would call “passionate objectivity.” This is a quality or skill set that the best news reporters are heavily endowed with.

Those reporters approach stories with enthusiasm and an open mind, but they look for facts -verifiable facts – to back up or refute the opinions and subjectivity they encounter along the way.
An exercise that you can do to ensure that a planning recommendation is based in objectivity is to treat it the way a reporter would (should) treat a news story.

  • Write down the questions they would ask. Include the basic neutral, fact-collecting ones and the pointed ones that try to dig deeper.
  • Determine who they would go to as sources on the story, both inside the organization and outside sources—competitors, independent industry experts, academicians. Figure out what customers they would talk to.
  • What would they ask each of these sources and what would the answers be?

If you can answer those questions with good reliability and it still points favorably to your recommendation, you’ve had a good test of your processes objectivity. If you don’t know what the answers would be or the answers don’t square with the recommendation, maybe it’s time to go back and put some more passionate objectivity into the process. Barrett Sydnor

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 known John Burton for a long time, and we’ve worked together closely during various phases in our careers. He’s a strong, multi-dimensional strategic thinker, and it was great to see him at the BMA presentation last week. Here are his thoughts on the reluctance companies demonstrate in hiring a mix to people to spur diversity in strategic thinking:

I had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s strategic perspective presentation last week. One point he made struck a cord with an idea I have been thinking about in recent weeks – Do companies make hiring decisions to be complimentary or complementary?

Mike mentioned that an aspect of “awakening strategic thinking” is a having good blend of participants. You need some that have experience, some with strong functional knowledge and a few with dynamic, creative energy. This is just like basketball, where you need to blend a point guard with shooters and big men. In both cases, the key to success is to have people play complementary roles in the process, creating a bigger whole than any one aspect can bring on its own.

However, a business sometimes forgets this point when putting together its leadership team, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.

A business was recently going from small company to major player in a fragmented business service segment after a number of acquisitions. Leadership knew it needed to add strategic marketing and sales resources to help position the company for continued growth. After defining a senior position and recruiting candidates that fit the bill, they backtracked and decided to hire someone whose primary background was sales management.

Why? They felt they had to have someone the new person’s most important direct reports (regional sales VP’s) would respect and feel comfortable with. In essence, they went for the candidate that would get “compliments” for being familiar versus someone that would “complement” the organization by bringing new skills and insights.

Sometimes, success comes not from creating a comfortable, “complimentary” environment, but putting a team together that forces everyone to live with a little discomfort. – John Burton

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’m excited to have Brad Barash from Decision Insight in Kansas City as the first guest blogger. Brad and I worked together for a number of years, and he was the creative force behind a video called, “How to Kill a Business.” It remains one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of portraying research insights in a fun and incredibly memorable way using video. So when it comes to expertise in communicating research reports in unique, impactful ways, he knows from where he speaks!

When Mike asked me to write about communicating research results, one word quickly came to mind:

Regurgitation.

What a great word. So vivid. So unmistakable in its connotation.

I cannot think of a better word (unfortunately) to describe the typical research report. Too often, the “writing” in reports is simply regurgitation of the data on the slide (“17% of respondents _____”). That’s not delivering insight. That’s dumping data. (Regurgitating, dumping… may be coming from different places, but the result is the same!)

Our job as researchers and marketers is to tell a story, not report data. We should be writing the column on the sports page, not simply delivering the box scores.

There is a reason most reports don’t feel like a cohesive story. Researchers are too quick to create charts and graphs. Then, the charts and graphs are put in “chronological” order (i.e. question 1 on slide 1, question 2 on slide 2, etc.). When you do this, you are confined to a structure that is rarely conducive to telling the best story.

To go from data dump to story, use what I call the “note card puzzle” approach. First, scour the data, and write every key finding on a separate note card. At this point, it is OK to simply regurgitate the data point onto the card.

Then, physically put together the cards that “fit” together, or those that point to a consistent theme.

From there, come up with no more than 3-4 key themes, or big picture “insights.”

Next, re-sort the note cards across the key insights as follows:

  • Support one of the key insights
  • Contradict one of the key insights
  • Spurious (do not support or contradict any of the key insights)

Ideally, there are few contradictory data points. If they do exist, first find out if they truly contradict the insight. To understand how to sort through meaningful data interpretations, check out this article by Richard McCullough. (This should be required reading for any researcher!)

If there are meaningful contradictions, then the key insights likely need to be revised. Most often, however, you are left with some spurious data points that should be buried in the appendix. And, with the “supporting” data points, you have a structure that makes telling the story simple. Key insight 1 is _____, and here is the data that supports that; key insight 2 is ______, and here is the data that supports that, etc.

One final trick to telling a story: do NOT use statistics or data in your headlines. Quick Example:

  • Page 1 – Key Insight: The Jayhawks are a solid pick to win the National Championship this year.
  • Page 2 – Headline: They are a veteran team.
    Support charts/graphs: % of upperclassman relative to other contenders
  • Page 3 – Headline: They have won big games already this year.
    Support charts/graphs: # of wins vs. ranked teams
  • Page 4 – Headline: They are balanced, so they can overcome a poor game by any one player.
    Support charts/graphs: scoring averages of starters relative to other contenders
  • Etc.

Here’s hoping this example does not make any non-Jayhawk fans regurgitate! But, notice how there is no statistic in any insight or headline. The data that is reported simply supports the writing. Brad Barash

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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