3

For many companies – even those with elaborate data mining initiatives, years of tracker research, and extensive market research budgets – the market research data generated doesn’t always yield the comprehensive business  insights needed to proactively identify opportunities, drive business decisions, or address emerging customer needs and market situations.

At the AMA Applied Market Research Conference in Las Vegas this week, I am leading a session to help Market Researchers evolve into Business Insight Strategists.  Balancing Data & Dialogue: Cultivating Insights that Matter was designed for market research professionals who find themselves in the never-ending stream of projects to manage in mind.  It’s easy for market research professionals to overlook the opportunity to add the value that will turn market research results into comprehensive decision support tools.

But taking the key steps is what creates a business insights strategist.

Four “How Do” Questions

Stepping back and seeking the answer to these four “How Do” questions can begin the culture transformation:

1. How do I maximize the data/information I already have to more effectively support new insight needs or research initiatives?

2. How do I identify the most important information and let go of what isn’t really relevant to the decisions that need to be made?

3. How do I get internal alignment on the scope as well as implications of the research?

4. How do I show the value of a holistic – rather than ad hoc – approach and develop a plan to continually cultivate insights that matter over time?

Four “How To” Steps

In Balancing Data & Dialogue, we work through a 4-step “How To” process for identifying and assessing the information needed to get actionable results to facilitate:

1. How to move beyond the research or information objective to clearly define the business opportunity or challenge the organization is facing.

2. How to define and align critical information needs to comprehensively address the challenge

3. How to identify, evaluate and integrate the benefits of various data sources to fulfill the critical information needs.

4. How to apply the Brainzooming action planning process to successfully activate the insights.

The Insight Integration Matrix

A core tool in the process for a business insights strategist is our Insight Integration Matrix that serves as a guide for aligning data sources against critical information needs. If you would like a copy, you can request it at info@brainzooming.comand start cultivating insights that matter! – Barb Murphy

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 deliver these benefits for you.

 

Guest Author

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.

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Photo by: Dan Kuta | Source: photocase.com

We don’t see many movies, but recently watched Moneyball, nominated for six Academy Awards, on DVD. To be accurate, I watched Moneyball multiple times. The first viewing was because I was intrigued by the movie’s story, especially since I missed seeing Oakland A’s general manager, and subject of the movie, Billy Beane speak at The Market Research Event several years ago. The second viewing was to capture the rich innovation strategy lessons shared throughout the movie.

With the Academy Awards this weekend (which means #OscarEXP on Twitter) and the start of Major League Baseball spring training, it’s a great time to recap eight innovation strategy lessons in Moneyball and its story of how the Oakland A’s applied a statistically-oriented, sabermetrics approach to baseball strategy and improved performance against much richer teams in the early 2000s.

1. Take advantage of having inferior resources to employ a dramatically different innovation strategy.

The Oakland A’s were faced with a major salary constraint compared to other teams able to spend much more on widely regarded superstar baseball players. As Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt (who played Billy Beane) puts it, “There are rich teams and poor teams, then 50 feet of crap. Then there’s us.” When you have inferior resources, look at your situation in new ways to develop an innovation strategy. That innovation strategy likely includes changing the rules of the game you’re playing.

2. When your market situation changes, you can’t think with old conventional wisdom.

Baseball scouts are characterized in the movie as employing 150-year old guidelines to evaluate baseball talent. Granted, some of the conventional wisdom seems pretty perceptive (i.e., “An ugly girlfriend means no confidence.”) Billy Beane brings his scouting staff up short, however, telling them bluntly that talking like business as usual wouldn’t work. The old rules were making for an unfair game and demanded different thinking. In Billy Beane’s case with the Oakland A’s, the different thinking meant fully embracing a Bill James sabermetrics approach to new baseball statistics.

3. Seek out unlikely experts, especially ones who do their homework.

Oscar-nominated Jonah Hill plays a composite character named Peter Brand, depicted as an underling Billy Beane notices swaying decisions during a meeting with an opposing baseball team. He pursues Peter Brand following the meeting, asking what he does. Brand shares his view that medieval thinking in baseball had created an “epidemic failure” to comprehend why teams win. This misunderstanding led to asking the wrong questions about players. Brand makes a case for major league baseball teams setting their player spending objectives with a new focus – buying runs – since buying runs translates into buying wins. The movie depicts this insight as a turning point along with Beane hiring Peter Brand.

4. Consider many possibilities to find the few winners you need.

When Beane asked Brand to evaluate three potential players, Brand analyzed fifty-one players instead. By having a rich pool of possibilities, Brand armed himself and Beane with multiple scenarios when various players became available through free agency or potential trades. The extensive pool of vetted, prioritized possibilities provided options, flexibility, speed, and negotiating leverage that three player evaluations options wouldn’t have offered.

5. Ask rich, on-target questions to unleash real creativity.

The traditional major league baseball view was for the Oakland A’s to try replacing the apparently high-producing players lost to free agency. Billy Beane challenged his scouting staff that the real need was replacing a departing player’s on base percentage – in the aggregate. In that way, the Oakland A’s could look at multiple, lower-cost players who could deliver the same on-base percentage the departing star did over the course of a season. With the change in strategic thinking, multiple solutions presented themselves.

6. A leader can’t make an innovation strategy happen alone, but he or she does have to take responsibility for it.

The Oakland A’s head scout takes major exception to the baseball team’s new reliance on computers and statistics to make player personnel decisions. His preference is experience, intuition, and the intangibles that had been in use for 150 years. He acknowledged though, “We make suggestions. He (Billy Beane) makes the decisions.” Beane ultimately fires the scout who couldn’t get past his 29 years of experience, and picks a new head scout who hadn’t played the game. The new scout’s lack of experience and preconceived notions about baseball’s conventional wisdom made him a much better fit to implement and not second guess Beane’s statistics-driven strategy.

7. If there’s a sound case for your unconventional strategy, you can’t abandon it at the first sign of challenges.

Early in the season when the Oakland A’s made their unconventional player personnel decisions, the team went on a significant losing streak. With the pressure mounting, Beane went to bat for the team being on plan, even though it trailed in its baseball division. When Oakland A’s manager Art Howe deliberately thwarted the strategy’s ongoing implementation by refusing to play the players Beane had assembled, Beane got rid of the players, essentially burning the boats, so there was no choice but to implement the intended strategy.

8. When competitors catch up, the rules will change again.

The Oakland A’s had early success using a Bill James sabermetrics approach, but didn’t win the World Series using the approach. Additionally, they never had the success that the Boston Red Sox, who actually hired Bill James, had using the approach to win its first World Series in decades. Since 2006, the Oakland A’s have not had a winning record, a symptom, potentially, of money coming back into play as more teams adopt a sabermetrics approach.

Did you see Moneyball?

What other innovation strategy lessons did you glean from the movie? – Mike Brown

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.

 

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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5

There are many interesting opportunities floating around out there and all kinds of people who would love to spend time talking about them. Opportunities can be exciting, sound great, and very attractive to pursue. Interesting opportunities can be tough to turn down when they are presented to you all packaged up and shiny.

It is clear you cannot pursue every opportunity someone has decided should have your name attached to it. But when does the next interesting opportunity with lots of potential become a strategic distraction?

How about when . . .

  • Pursuing it is more about feeling good than feeling rewarded for your efforts.
  • The same opportunity has not worked in the past, and there is NOTHING to suggest something has changed this time.
  • It causes you to do a whole series of things whose benefits are not clear.
  • The results would not really matter for your organization.
  • There will not be an opportunity to expand your network.
  • Whatever is next after this opportunity is a dead end.

Okay, here is an admission.

This is my running checklist of things to watch for when there is a new opportunity because I can get too fascinated by all those interesting opportunities floating around.

I wrote out this list earlier in the week when an opportunity that looked initially problematic, then looked like it was going to work, all of a sudden didn’t . . . just as we thought when it was initially presented to us. In retrospect, it was a strategic distraction.

That’s why this is a running list.

What things do you look for when sorting through opportunities to pursue and those to avoid?  – Mike Brown

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.

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 have not started already, it is a great time to ask yourself and your organization innovative strategic planning questions to identify your best opportunities and prepare for implementation next year. Maybe it is because the new year is approaching quickly that conference presenters the past week prompted twenty innovative strategic planning questions – either directly or by me turning a statement into a creative question to answer.

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

Presenters offering these strategic planning questions included Fast Company co-founder, Bill Taylor at the FastKC luncheon and several presenters at the marcus evans B2B Summit in Colorado Springs, including authors Mitch Joel, Joe Pulizzi, and business leaders Atul Vohra (Solera Holdings, Inc.), Michael P. Guillory (Texas Instruments), and Curt Porritt (Master Control Inc.) I spoke on Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation at the marcus evans B2B Summit.

As you get ready for implementation next year, make sure you are considering these innovative strategic planning questions to boost next year’s results!

Strategy & Purpose Questions

  • In this age of disruption for businesses and markets, what do we stand for and strongly advocate as an organization that makes us special? (Bill Taylor)
  • Are we asking enough “why” questions, since they tie to our business plan? If we are not asking enough of them, why is that? (Mitch Joel)
  • What are we the “most of” in our field? (Bill Taylor)
  • Don’t ask, “What keeps us up at night?” Ask, “What gets us up in the morning?” (Bill Taylor)

Strategic Marketing Questions

  • What are we doing to reboot our marketing for the new realities of customers buying in dramatically different ways? (Mitch Joel)
  • What are our plans to introduce more sense-based cues into our product or service? (Bill Taylor – Umpqua Bank features local music in its branch offices)
  • How are we going to start our own media channels (by creating content) instead of renting them (through buying advertising)? (Joe Pulizzi)
  • Once we’ve created content, what are 10 ways we can re-imagine and package it in new ways? (Joe Pulizzi)
  • Are we putting lead forms and next steps options into all of the content our organization creates and shares? (Joe Pulizzi)
  • What metrics and strategic thinking exercises are we using to stay away from “marketing by what happened last” (i.e., you just had a good trade show so there’s a push to do more of those)? (Curtis Porritt)

Customer and Market Questions

  • What are we trying to do for our customers? (Atul Vohra)
  • When it comes to customers, how is our organization shifting from a “how many” to “who” focus? (Mitch Joel)
  • How will the growing BRIC and BOP markets fit in our market plans the next 3 years? (Atul Vohra)
  • If someone doesn’t interpret what we wrote as expected, what’s to say they’re wrong? What can we learn from the misinterpretation? (Interactive Session comment)

Learning Organization Questions

Marketing Metrics Questions

  • How many meaningless numbers are part of our marketing metrics? (Michael Guillory)
  • How many people are searching for our brand name or URL – spelled correctly? (Curtis Porritt)
  • If we’re using in-person events in our marketing plans, who were the new people and companies we met this year, and how are we turning them into customers? (Michael Guillory)

Number 20 – My New Favorite Strategic Planning Question

  • To identify potential value for a client in a B2B market, ask clients, “What do you never want to do again?” Then provide the means for them to never have to do what they don’t want to do again. (Unnamed B2B Summit participant)

Are You Ready for What’s Ahead?

If you’d like assistance in getting your annual planning for next year done faster than ever, call us at 816-509-5320 or email info@brainzooming.com. Our Brainzooming name means what it says: we’ll stretch your brains to consider new opportunities and quickly zoom them into a plan that’s ready for next year when next year starts! We’d love to help you hit next year zooming!   – Mike Brown

 

If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This innovative article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating an innovative 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

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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In the midst of interviewing people about Google+ and Facebook for an article in the next issue of The Social Media Monthly magazine, it’s helped me better articulate what’s important to me in social networking platforms when it comes to enhancing creative thinking. It’s now a lot clearer to me why I:

  • Am so oriented toward Twitter
  • Have only begrudgingly embraced Facebook
  • Don’t spend nearly as much time on LinkedIn as it seems I should
  • Am more than a little fascinated with using Google+ more effectively

6 Ways Social Networking Platforms Can Enhance Creative Thinking

From this exploration, here are six important things for me when evaluating a new social network for its creative thinking potential:

1. How easy is it to find new, diverse people and prioritize them based on their content’s creative thinking impact?

Identifying people and opinions within your social graph is all the rage, but finding people and ideas I don’t know about is much more interesting to me.  There’s great value in having multiples ways to find people beyond the platform-generated suggestions of people I might know. I REALLY appreciate being pointed to people I should know that nobody I know knows. Being able to continually increase platform-appropriate diversity in my network helps enrich the creative value of online interactions.

2. In what ways can you organize both homogenous and diverse groups of individuals?

Homogenous groups, comprised of similar people or individuals focused on a common topic, are important when going deep on a subject and exploring multiple dimensions of it creatively. Homogenous groups can also helpful as a virtual creative team. Diverse groups, though, are equally important since they can introduce randomness and new creative thinking.

3. Can you listen to people, including those you don’t even know, in a variety of ways?

There’s a theme running through here for me: It’s not who you know, it’s who you don’t know. I prize the opportunity to listen and see how people are talking about topics irrespective of who they are or where they’re from. It’s helpful for me creatively to see how people talk about creative blocks or share insights from informative webinars. Without this capability, you’re always listening and talking with the same people.

4. How readily can the platform allow you to discuss, build upon, and adapt creative ideas?

As I’ve written previously, there are individuals I know exclusively through social networks who are very vital in sharing thought starters, ideas, and creative thinking inputs which shape my content. It’s really important for a social network platform to facilitate introducing and collaborating on ideas, even if a lot of the communication has to be in short form. The more ways it supports richer, back-and-forth dialog, however, the better.

5. Can people you don’t know reach out and share valuable information (while it’s still difficult or impossible for those sharing crap to do the same)?

As I’m writing this, someone from Paris I hadn’t previously followed online just recommended a new blog article on Google and its innovation successes and failures. The blog article is tremendously pertinent for the magazine article I’m writing. This incoming serendipity online is always appreciated. Keeping the incoming spam and junk to a minimum is important though, too.

6. How much crap to do I have to duplicate or go through to participate?

We all know there isn’t enough time to spend on additional social networking platforms. Yet, new social networking platforms emerge, we sign up for them, and first movers talk about them for a few weeks until moving on to the next platform. So if I want to get in for an early look on whether a new one has anything to add to creative thinking capabilities, my big questions are:

  • How much redundancy do I have to endure relative to other networks I’m already on?
  • How much information and permission to further bug me or collect data on me do I have to consent to?

If the answer to either of these is “a lot,” it’s a lot less likely I’ll spend much time early on nosing around on a new platform.

What Do You Look for to Enhance Creative Thinking in Social Networking Platforms?

That’s my list. What things are you looking for in a social networking platform when you want to enhance your creative thinking?  Mike Brown


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more creative!For an organizational creativity 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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 reasons which I’m still not entirely clear, my wife was watching a recent marathon of the Bravo reality TV program, “Millionaire Matchmaker.” It’s ostensibly a look at a matchmaking business run by Patti Stanger catering only to single, upper income men and women looking for love – or something damn near like it. Since “improve yourself / learn something-oriented” reality TV shows have been a major source of inspiration in developing the Brainzooming method, I’m always a sucker for watching one, too. Lo and behold, The Millionaire Matchmaker marathon yielded multiple solid strategy ideas relevant to strategic business relationships. And that, my friends, is clearly fodder for a Brainzooming blog post. Here are 5 strategic relationship-building lessons that can be valuable for developing million dollar strategic business relationships as well!

1. Figure out your relationship non-negotiables first.

Identify your absolute requirements from a relationship before pursuing it. In one case a guy with a variety of failed relationships was evasive and very vague about what he really wanted in a woman. Patti challenged him to list his 5 relationship non-negotiables. A definitive list helped him do a better job of evaluating and ranking potential candidates as he met them. The same concept works in business, too.

2. Evaluate many more candidates than you’ll ultimately select.

Don’t ever think you’re only looking for one “perfect” match. Patti interviews many more candidates then her clients will ever meet, and she makes them meet MANY potential people before they select one. Build an ample pool of clearly attractive candidates (who meet your non-negotiables list) and let the narrowing process work to get to the best ultimate candidate for a strategic relationship.

3. Ask questions – lots of questions.

It’s important to know what you’re getting into with a potential relationship partner. Patti Stanger both asks lots of questions and puts candidates in situations where they have to ask questions of one another and uncover who they really are. Before diving into finding a strategic relationship partner, ask yourself lots of pertinent questions also. Do the same with every potential candidate. No matter how well you think you already know them. Even better, observe them in situations as close as possible to those you’ll experience during the relationship. It’s all good learning.

4. Look for someone “age” appropriate.

Patti tries to match people on various criteria after interviewing the millionaires and potential dates. She hits especially hard on people whose immaturity shows through via an interest in dating outside their age range. Translating that to strategic business relationships, are you looking for candidates who are equally strong (if not stronger) partners for your organization? Don’t set your sites on partners you can dominate. Seek  out those who will challenge and make you grow as an organization.

5. Don’t force awkward situations early in the relationship.

That initial date can always be a challenge. Patti has a list of what her clients on “The Millionaire Matchmaker” are not supposed to do on first dates (i.e. no dates requiring swimsuits). Her intent is to minimize stress points for everyone involved. It’s a great idea to not push a strategic relationship too far, too fast. Organizations and the individuals active in the strategic relationship need time to get comfortable with one another before a potential crunch time hits. Build that time into the early relationship stages.

Wrap-up

Pretty decent strategic relationship lessons from what is admittedly real junk food TV.

Do you watch “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” and if you do, what other lessons (other than “Patti shouldn’t wear such short skirts at her age”) have you learned from it? – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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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Author John L. Allen, Jr. has been an influence on me in so many ways. Before becoming a well-known author, reporter, and sought-after expert on the Catholic Church’s inner workings and current trends impacting it during and after Pope John Paul II, John Allen and I were very close friends in high school and college. As a result, my collection of early John Allen memorabilia includes fun things such as:

  • The standard opening paragraph John wrote which works for ANY book report.
  • A hand-written list of his “great sayings.”
  • Many memories of hilarious stories of John’s fearless exploits in student journalism and government, rock music criticism, and the consumption of food and beverages.

It had been at least ten years since I last saw John, right before he was moving to Rome to establish a beat there reporting on the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter. As John told me at the time, he was going to Rome, in essence, to “wait for Pope John Paul II to die.” After arriving at the Vatican however, John, not surprisingly, turned an opportunity other Rome-based reporters viewed as a laid back assignment into a platform to break stories of global impact through building relationships with important figures throughout the Catholic Church hierarchy.

In the decade since, John traveled on 50 trips with Pope John Paul II, and became the go-to Vatican analyst for CNN leading up to and after the death of Pope John Paul II. He’s also authored numerous books, including “The Future Church – How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church.”

Talking about “The Future Church” brought John  to The University of Kansas recently in advance of heading back to Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II this weekend.

In writing this trend-focused book, John went through an extensive process to identify and vet potential trends against specific criteria to ensure the ten trends in his book could legitimately be considered so. After his KU lecture, I asked John to talk about the research and crowdsource-based process he used to settle on the ten trends in “The Future Church,” since the strategy he employed is directly applicable to how one would approach forecasting current trends in any market or organization. – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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