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I am not a big Rudy Giuliani fan. Recent personal events, however, have me thinking about two messages from a closing keynote Rudy Giuliani delivered at a customer conference I produced back in my Fortune 500 days.

Giuliani-Stage

The two messages struck me strongly, and I have tried to adopt both of them into my strategic planning since; one is professional, and one is very personal.

How do you handle the unimaginable in strategic planning?

The professional message came through his discussion of 9-11 that took place several years before our conference. Rudy Giuliani said when the attack and collapse of the World Trade Center buildings happened, New York City had no strategic plans ready for what to do if two planes fly into the World Trade Center and they collapse.

What the city did have were various plans for things that were happening in the aftermath of the collapse. The strategic thinking key was putting the other plans together and executing them rapidly to address the crisis.

For Brainzooming, that means embracing the idea of rapid strategy planning and development to create mini-plans.

Rather than developing overly elaborate strategic plans with too many assumptions about the future and too many critical moving parts, we are oriented to create more streamlined, straightforward strategic planning documents. These strategic plans are quicker to prepare, allowing us to create more of them to accommodate a greater variety of things that might happen. They can also be more readily adapted, improving the effectiveness of strategic planning

What is optional, and what is mandatory?

The other lingering lesson from the Rudy Giuliani keynote speech was that when it comes to attending events, weddings are optional, but funerals are mandatory.

Funeral

Previously, I found excuses for not attending funerals I should have attended in order to support friends and family members. It was always too easy to say work responsibilities or travel prevented attending.

Since then, although far from having a perfect attendance record, I have made a concerted effort to travel to funerals I’d have found easy excuses to miss previously, including one this past weekend.

Not once have I ever regretted making decisions to attend these funerals, but I absolutely do have regrets over ones I did not.

Thinking about all the speakers I have seen before and after, two big, memorable, and actionable lessons from one keynote seems remarkable.

I’m so thankful for hearing both of them when I did. – 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 found this picture while cleaning off my iPad (yes, this one too). It was from a creating strategic impact workshop. While discussing project management techniques, I used it to show how to develop project management strategies when dealing with unpredictable people in business.

Working-With-People

Putting the range of predictability (from low to high) on the Y-axis, the X-axis conveys how “good for business” someone might be, from low to high.

Sizing up someone you work with regularly in these two areas helps develop a strategy to build and strengthen the working relationship to maximize its effectiveness.

Project Management Techniques – The 4 Types of People on Your Team

Obviously, the best situation (upper right quadrant) is someone whose business behaviors are predictable, and the person is good for business. We LOVE them! These are the people to recruit for any project you are leading.

In the lower right quadrant, you have people who exhibit productive business behaviors but do so unpredictably. They may not always finish things, could be prone to running late, or aren’t always available when needed. You still want to involve them, but your project management techniques need to include anticipating what to do if they fall down when you need them. It may require getting them assignments early or having someone else available to step in if they aren’t ready to deliver when you definitely need them.

In the upper left, these people aren’t great for business, but at least they are predictable in their shortcomings. If you must include these types of people on project teams or in management groups, be ready with work arounds or other maneuvers to minimize dependencies (especially critical dependencies) related to them. This way, they won’t compromise the group’s progress.

Finally, and unfortunately, we have people who are bad for business, but unpredictably so. You can count on them messing up things (unintentionally OR intentionally), but you can’t be sure how they will do it. You want to get them off the team or out of the organization if possible, but that is not always in the cards. If you are stuck with trying to manage around them, marginalize them or handle them as you would a sociopath. (Surprisingly or not, the articles we’ve written on the topic are among some of the most viewed on the Brainzooming blog.)

During a lull in your next management meeting or project update, draw this grid and see where all your team members fit. Here’s hoping you fill up the upper right quadrant right away!– Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

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 more employees 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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I found this picture while cleaning off my iPad. The notepad with the message, “Leave a Trail of Genius,” was from a meeting at a Marriott in Jackson, MS.

Leave-Trail-Genius-Pic

When it comes to creating strategic impact, what CAN you do to leave a trail of genius?

That doesn’t have to mean you have to be a genius, however. It simply means you have been creating strategic impact by bringing out the genius in others.

26 Ways to Leave a Trail of Genius

So what are you doing to leave a trail of genius wherever you interact?

  1. Encouraging people to use their distinctive talents to express their ideas.
  2. Teaching people things that took you a long time to learn.
  3. Asking questions of others that lead them to discover new ideas.
  4. Being able to listen to others with as much skill as you display when doling out advice to them.
  5. Encouraging others by reminding them of past successes.
  6. Seeing potential in others they don’t even realize.
  7. Knowing exactly when to push and when to let up.
  8. Introducing big possibilities without specifying all the answers for how to accomplish them.
  9. Bringing excitement to unexciting situations.
  10. Seeing new possibilities where others only see the status quo.
  11. Assembling the right team for the moment.
  12. Challenging what’s expected and expecting the challenges you’ll receive in return.
  13. Not worrying about being understood.
  14. Painting a compelling vision that stretches everyone.
  15. Creating things people haven’t even imagined before.
  16. Getting everyone focused on what matters.
  17. Experimenting all the time.
  18. Cultivating enough mystery to keep everyone intrigued and guessing.
  19. Borrowing ideas from other places that are new to what you do.
  20. Knowing how long to repeat what is working before you suddenly change it.
  21. Giving others the time and preparation to come along and be ready to perform when they need to perform.
  22. Laughing at authority figures that believe they matter much more than they really do.
  23. Trying for something bigger every time.
  24. Never learning anything from your mistakes that would make you fearful of making future mistakes.
  25. Always letting other people shine by giving them the opportunities and stages on which to perform.
  26. Cultivating just enough of the myth behind all the genius moments you leave on the trail.

That’s a start at a list for creating strategic impact. What do you do to leave a trail of genius behind you? – Mike Brown

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First-time workshop questions always trigger blog posts. A new question from last week’s Outside-In Brand Innovation Brainzooming Workshop at the Brand Strategy Conference is no exception.

The intimate size of the brand innovation workshop afforded a rare opportunity. The participants decided to select one brand from among the attendees with everyone working together on outside-in innovation exercises for that brand. Using this approach with the strategic thinking questions, we created a tremendous jumpstart for a B2C brand whose brand manager admitted struggling with differentiating itself from its closest direct competitor.

The group’s responses to the strategic thinking questions and their brand innovation ideas filled many easel-sized Post-it pages.

Modifiers

7 Keys to Creating a Brand Toolkit for Brand Innovation

The voluminous poster-based output led one participant to ask what we do AFTER the strategic thinking questions and exercises to document the Brainzooming results.

That’s something I don’t typically cover in workshops, especially since most involve participants working on exercises individually.

After reviewing the poster photos to begin documenting a session, here are the next strategic thinking questions we ask ourselves to create actionable report outs:

  1. What big ideas jump off the page (or stand out in our memories) as natural big messages?
  2. What are big ideas people overlooked that should be brought to the forefront?
  3. Are there big themes that emerge when we aggregate multiple ideas from across exercises?
  4. How do we best call attention to the expected deliverables and outcomes from the workshop?
  5. If we are putting results into a table or matrix, are there obvious dimensions for organizing them? Are there less obvious dimensions to organize them in new ways?
  6. Were there any ideas that took my breath away when they were suggested? (From our Brand Strategy Conference workshop, one attendee shared an insight that could be a million dollar idea for a differentiated brand position. Those ideas make me gasp when they emerge.)
  7. Are there interesting parts of ideas that emerged during different exercises that need to be put together?

Asking and answering strategic thinking questions such as these helps develop what we characterize as a “strategic brand toolkit.” A brand toolkit (in electronic form) provides a brand manager so many possibilities for ongoing brand innovation.

Does that sound like what your brand needs?

Let’s talk about making it happen for your brand! – Mike Brown

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Looking for Brand Innovation 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!


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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 compare how we approach creating Brainzooming strategic thinking workshops to how a band develops a live music set list for a concert. For example, I read somewhere that when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band go out on tour, they have more than two hundred songs ready to slot into any one concert. They play some songs nearly all the time; other songs might only appear once.

That’s comparable to how we select specific strategic thinking questions and exercises from among our large (and always growing) repertoire for a client session. We include some exercises (in one form or another) in nearly every workshop. These are supplemented by less frequently used strategic thinking exercises serving a particular role to address a client’s needs.

Similarly, we select specific exercises to teach at conference workshops to best address a particular conference topic or learning objective. For the Brand Strategy Conference in San Francisco, we used the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book of Strategic Thinking Exercises as the basis for a brand innovation workshop. We concentrated on how companies can use customer, market, competitor, and other external, outside-in looks for brand innovation.

8 Strategic Thinking Exercises for Brand Innovation

Among the sixteen exercises in the Fake Book, we picked eight that were most relevant for brand innovators. Want to apply them to your own brand innovation needs? Here is the set list we used in the workshop (along with the Fake Book page numbers):

1. Looking at Your Brand as a Set of Benefits (Page 7)

This brand innovation exercise is central to most of the following benefits-based exercises that unlock innovation opportunities.

2. New Ways to Enhance Benefit Delivery (Page 8)

Using your audience’s needs, this exercise lets you imagine new ways to address them through the brand experience.

3. Innovating Brand Experience Proof Points (Page 12)

This exercise explores ways you currently deliver and could potentially strengthen your brand experience backstage and onstage.

Brand-Experience-Mapping

4. Determining Your Benefit-Based Competitors (Page 8)

Your competitive set looks dramatically different when you identify competitors based on brands delivering comparable benefits (instead of simply picking those that look like your brand).

5. Identifying New Markets (Page 10)

If your brand is seeking growth, where else can you deliver benefits central to your brand in new markets? This exercise yields the answers.

6. Messaging Benefits in New Ways (Page 9)

There may be many brands in diverse markets providing benefits comparable to yours. Go to school to discover new ways to sharpen and improve your messaging.

7. Deconstructing What Your Brand Does (Page 22)

One of our favorite exercises (What’s It Like?) provides multiple strategic and brand innovation ideas to change the game for your brand.

8. Disrupt or Be Disrupted (Page 20)

There’s no one way to disrupt your brand or others in the marketplace. These strategic thinking questions are a starting point, however, to imagine a range of potential disruptions.

 

If you have brand management responsibilities in your position, download the Outside-In Innovation Fake Book today (it’s still free to download!).

Then you can use this set of exercises to start thinking about your brand in a dramatically new way.

Chances are, there will be a million dollar idea in there for your brand too! – Mike Brown

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

 

Looking for Brand Innovation 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 eBook

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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If you’re trying to create strategic change in an organization having a sense it knows the right way to do things and an even stronger perceived handle on which things are important to do and not do, what is the best change strategy?

Is it better to do a two-step sale or a one-step sale to get the go ahead for strategic change?

This strategic pondering emerged from several Brand Strategy Conference presentations this week.

BrandStratConf

Strategic Change Management in 1 or 2 steps?

There were discussions during various Brand Strategy Conference presentations about how you get an organization to understand branding, design thinking, or social media. The premise, understandably enough, is you need to win the organization over to a belief in the overarching concept before selling-in the related strategic change associated with embracing the concept.

This is what I’d call a two-step sell: sell the concept, then sell the specific strategic change.

A one-step sell would eliminate the separate first step of selling-in the overarching concept. Instead, you would simply start selling-in the strategic change that is needed by linking it, as best possible, to things the organization already believes in and supports. The idea is you may be far better off to not telegraph strategic change by either creating or acknowledging the hurdle of getting the organization to accept a big concept as a precursor to change.

For instance, if you’re trying to implement stronger and better branding in an organization that doesn’t get what brand is, you could start with aspects of brand building start where agreement to do something already exists. If product quality or customer engagement is something the company has been addressing even though it doesn’t completely understand branding, how about simply launching brand strengthening quality or customer engagement changes you align with more familiar initiative? You wouldn’t even have to mention the “B” word, especially if it were likely to just muddy the waters.

Think about this strategic thinking question this way: if you’re dealing with small minded people, are you better off to give them small ideas to consider rather than a huge, unfamiliar idea?

If you think you might be, a one-step strategic change cell may be exactly the approach to pursue.

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Innovative Perspective with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! 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. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Download Your Free

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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You want input from your employees and partners on your branding strategy, but you cannot afford the risk of the input getting out of control.

Why the big risk?

DSCF6618

You are two-thirds of the way toward finishing your brand strategy development. And, while you are seeking input from others, you cannot afford the input to needlessly and non-strategically unwind the branding strategy work you have already finalized.

One option is to not seek any input. Another is to stipulate certain topics are off limits. Another is to have a town hall type meeting (a few individual speakers with lots of listeners) so people have to acknowledge (if they’re being honest) they were in the room as the branding strategy was discussed, even if very few of them had a chance to offer ideas.

All of those options are weak.

Not soliciting input sets you up for multiple issues, including looking as if you are trying to hide something. Taking certain topics off the table makes it OBVIOUS you are hiding something. Holding a town hall meeting runs the risk of exposing your most negative and toxic audience members to the widest possible audience.

3 Ways to Invite Productive Branding Strategy Input

The far better alternative is bringing your larger audience together and maximizing the benefit of the input they provide through several techniques:

  • Have them work in small groups (which you assign or let naturally develop) so each person has a greater opportunity to contribute.
  • Give them specific questions to respond to that focus on areas where you need input you can actually consider and incorporate.
  • Provide a way to capture their input and conversations in a way they can easily share it with you.

Using this type of approach, you can focus interested brand participants on topics that are additive to your branding strategy. And it ideas or other input surfaces that runs counter to your strategic direction, you can see it in the small group output and react in a sound strategic way – rather than having to field a hot question off-the-cuff in a big audience setting.

Want to learn more about the opportunity and value of incorporating more voices in developing strategy? Download our latest RESULTS!!! mini-book to learn more about the advantages of dramatically growing the perspectives shaping your strategy. Do you have many things you want your employees to understand about your corporate branding strategy, what they should be doing to carry it out, and how they should interact with customers to fulfill your brand promise? – Mike Brown

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

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 more employees in strategy AND implementation success

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

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

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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