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Metrics strategy is a vital topic relative to innovation. Despite how important metrics strategy is, it’s a challenging one for many businesses when it comes to innovation. Going back through my own experiences and secondary research on the topic, here are a few starting thoughts on developing what we call a “whole-brain” approach:

Begin developing your innovation metrics strategy by determining what factors drive ROI.

Specifically identify which factors increase positive business returns and which reduce necessary investment. Starting with the end result in mind will better align the overall effort toward delivering a positive return on investment.

Adopt a “whole-brain metrics” orientation.

This means consciously trying to capture both quantitative (left brain) and qualitative (right brain) metrics. Doing so, you satisfy the financial and performance-oriented need for numerical targets and tracking. Adding qualitative measures into the equation, however, also provides the basis to match the numbers with stories, images, and other insights, providing a more complete performance picture.

Within the whole-brain approach, consider three distinct types of metrics related to innovation.

  • Culture Metrics – If your innovation efforts are part of an overall push to instill a more innovative approach to a department, business unit, or company, culture-based measures help track how solidly the effort has taken hold. Quantitative metrics in this area may be more activity-oriented, i.e., how many people are participating in innovation efforts and what percent of employees have been trained in creative or strategic thinking disciplines. Qualitative elements can tie to success stories on personal & professional development or other workplace-based changes.
  • Process Metrics – The second group of measures relate to systematic innovation activities.  Quantitatively, it could be how many ideas have been developed or are in various parts of the innovation pipeline. Longer term, it could incorporate how many patents have been filed and received. Qualitative measures in this area might relate to process learnings or images / descriptions of prototypes developed through innovation efforts.
  • Return-Based Metrics – The third group includes ROI, ROC, new products/services as a percent of sales, etc. Here too though, it’s important to augment the quantitative measures with qualitative elements, such as success stories, learnings (from both successes and mistakes), and customer comments (letters, email, online and social media-based responses, etc.).

This is hardly an exhaustive treatment on innovation metrics strategy, but it can be a good starter for expanding what you’re doing now. If, however, you’re doing more currently in this area, then please share what’s working for you.  – Mike Brown

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 today, change your decision making strategy.

Do you usually gather facts, deliberate, look at all angles, think about it some more, and then reach a qualified point of view? Then for today, make quick yes or no decisions on questions you face.

On the other hand, do you see everything as black and white, making decisions with no hesitation? If so, step back today, solicit other perspectives, think a while, and then decide a course of action.

The benefit, irrespective of whether you see the world as black and white or grey, is you’ll get a sense of the other side’s decision making strategy. You will be able to see previously hidden benefits in a different decision making style. You can reveal new creative and innovative options that wouldn’t have surfaced with your typical decision making style.

And best of all, you can go right back to your more comfortable decision making strategy tomorrow. – Mike Brown

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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As we’ve mentioned previously, during Super Bowl XLIV as part of #BZBowl, Brainzooming Strategic Contributor Barrett Sydnor focused on rating Super Bowl ads based on the memorability criteria highlighted in the book, “Made to Stick.” Here’s Barrett’s assessment:

“I loved that ad with the little kids, you know, the one for . . ., Well I can’t remember who it’s for, but I loved it.”

We’ve all said those same words more or less. Most critiques of Super Bowl ads operate on that level. The ad someone “liked” or thought was the funniest is declared the best Super Bowl ad.

But that isn’t why advertisers buy Super Bowl time. They want to sell stuff, lots of stuff. To accomplish that, the message must be memorable. As Chip and Dan Heath write, it must be “Made to Stick.” So in generating ratings for the Brainzooming Super Bowl XLIV ad analysis, I was more systematic in assessing the best and worst Super Bowl ads using the six strategic characteristics Made to Stick says make for memorable messages.

Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion, Story

From kickoff to final whistle there were 31 breaks containing 67 national commercials and at least one very memorable promo. I watched each ad only once—as it ran—and made my judgments as to whether each met the six criteria (yes/no only, no shades of gray here) in as close to real time as possible. I haven’t looked at any best and worst list other than Mike’s.

Most Memorable Ads

  • Based on the Made to Stick criteria, I rated Doritos “Keep Your Hands Off My Momma” as the most memorable Super Bowl ad. It hit on all six cylinders.
  • The runner-up is Google for Paris. I thought it hit on five of six. (Mike and I disagree here.  Actually the next best ad was for The Late Show with Dave, Oprah, and Jay–but I think advertising is like therapy, it doesn’t count if you don’t pay.)
  • Tied for Third: Snickers, Coca-Cola (Simpson’s characters), and Teleflora. All had four of six and all were well done tactics with clear strategies.

Least Memorable Ads

  • The least memorable Super Bowl ad was Diamond Foods. The totally overproduced and under-communicating ad for Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret met none of the “Made to Stick” criteria.
  • The next least memorable ad was Vizio. It did meet one criterion (Unexpected), but the rest of it was so bad it drops to the penultimate place on merit.
  • Third worst went to the Go Daddy spots collectively. They met no criteria and made you feel bad for everyone involved.

A full listing of all the ads with their Made to Stick criteria ratings and my pithy comments can be downloaded at the end of the post.

Summary

Using the same criteria, someone else might reach a different conclusion about most and least memorable, i.e. your mileage may very.  But we should be able to agree that memorable communication counts for something in marketing.

Right now, we’re applying these principles for an event strategy project, designing an innovative positioning and strategy to create greater memorability and impact for attendees. What we’ve found at Brainzooming is beyond applying the “Made to Stick” criteria after the fact, the big opportunity is to innovatively use them in developing communications creative strategy. – 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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It’s a challenge to objectively examine your own website as if a prospect or customer seeking information would. There’s a strategic thinking approach you can follow to get ideas flowing though: Look at a direct competitor’s online presence, trying to shoot holes in it based on how a customer might view it.

You should really be able to get into it by answering a few questions:

  • What misleading or out-of-date information is presented?
  • What’s not compelling about the website?
  • What’s confusing about the navigation?
  • How much unnecessary detail do I have to supply to get a copy of the “free” download?
  • What questions do I have that the website doesn’t answer?
  • Do I know where to get my other questions answered?
  • In what ways did I get smarter by browsing this website?
  • In what ways were my information needs left wanting?

After doing this, go back and see how your own online presence compares. Looking at yourself from a customer perspective should now be much easier! – 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 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated social media strategy for your brand.

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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Keith Prather is Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, a corporate business intelligence firm that functions as outsourced members of corporate strategy groups and consults with companies of all sizes on strategy and implementation. Armada is sponsoring this week of posts on getting ready for 2010 planning.

I’ve known Keith for nearly a decade and have worked with him closely on a variety of strategic and market planning efforts. Today, I’m excited he’s sharing his professional perspectives on getting a better understanding of your external environment during this period of dramatic global change in business and consumer markets:

A critical component of a successful strategic plan is a well-established strategy foundation – a compilation of information and intelligence covering your industry, global markets, customers, and the environment. Particularly relevant this year is the need to produce an accurate economic forecast with meaning and relevance for the business. And given the uncertainty surrounding the global economy, this can be a daunting task.

Following the most basic tenets, forecasters need to identify the supply and demand drivers for an industry, and capture meaningful data describing the condition and outlook for them. Sometimes though the most impactful elements on a business are not what we think. Going to the expense side of the income statement and understanding the biggest cost items in your business will help determine the real key elements of supply – those you rely on.

For instance, one client believed steel (which was one of the company’s top expenses) was the primary input for its business, with countless hours spent monitoring, forecasting, and negotiating steel prices. Energy costs, on the other hand, were not considered to have a material impact, and were lumped into utility and overhead costs. In 2008, however, consumption of oil-based resources drove prices up significantly. As a result, oil costs had to be factored much more directly into forecasting models to improve their accuracy. By not anticipating this significant change to the company’s business mix, however, it was caught flat footed.

On the demand side, the challenge is more complex. While providing future economic insights for clients, several fundamental items seem to be driving things developments. First, everything ultimately circles back to consumers. You and I, spending money, drives more than 70% of the nation’s $13 trillion in GDP. Watching consumer spending, consumer confidence, housing, and several other metrics tracking consumer activity are useful in helping gauge future activity. One great aggregator site for basic economic information is the US Census Bureau’s Economic Indicator page.

There are some other great free aggregator sites providing solid current economic news and explanations of some of the items driving current activity. One of my favorites is the RTTNews Daily Market Analysis. We also pay a lot of attention to the Financial Times, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and Global Insight for forecasting information.

For manufacturing, the Institute for Supply Management publishes one of the most accurate gauges of manufacturing activity, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), on a monthly basis. You can read about the PMI in simple, easy to follow prose at the ISM website.

Calculating risk is also an important component to a well-done strategy foundation. With a wave of new legislation floating around in Congress, it is important for companies to use scenario planning in considering impacts of various regulatory actions on the company. From health care to energy legislation, companies will be hit with direct and indirect risks as a result. Using a system such as the Lockwood Analytical Method for Prediction (LAMP) can help in gauging which scenarios provide the greatest risk – and the greatest likelihood of occurring.

It can’t be said enough, a solid strategy foundation is the underpinning to a successful strategic plan. Woodrow Wilson once said: “We should not only use all the brains we have, but all the brains we can borrow.” If you can’t build the strategy foundation in-house, it’s worth getting help to make sure that the business landscape is being accurately portrayed. Otherwise, you might be building a ship when what you really need is a bicycle. – Keith Prather

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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Too many research reports are train wrecks of charts, arrows, and statements that simply play back the graphics, or even worse, regurgitate the detailed methodology with no forward looking implications.

For senior executives, it means a confusing (and at best, boring) jumble of information – pointing in all kinds of directions without really saying anything.

If you have research responsibility, apply this maxim for great strategic thinking from Gary Singer, a wonderful strategist and former Chief Strategy Officer at Interbrand. His comment to me was:

  • Good researchers go to the edge of the data and step back – to be cautious & statistically sound.
  • Good consultants go to the edge of the data and stop – to be sure they’re on solid footing & that the client will buy off.
  • Great strategic thinkers go to the edge of the data, formulate a sound next set of assumptions that the audience can comment on & agree to, and then keep going to expand understanding & get to revealing insights.

It’s a simple statement and hard to do, but done successfully, it promises incredible business results. Use it as your new strategic hurdle to clear! – Mike Brown

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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Using secondary research techniques was our starting problem-solving approach at Kansas City Infobank to be able to get smart fast when tackling a new project or industry assignment. We informally defined secondary research techniques as “ways to find what you’re looking for among answers to questions already asked and answered by others.”

Secondary research was ideal for me since it was similar to school (which I always enjoyed) and required a strategic, problem-solving approach that’s been valuable not only in business, but in many other situations.

5 Keys to Getting Smart Fast

There are several keys to effectively using secondary research techniques including strong skills in anticipation, visualization, detecting clues, and making sound assumptions.

Here are 5 keys to getting smart fast through secondary research techniques that Bill McDonald taught me that I still use all the time:

  • Start by anticipating what your ultimate answer will be. Approximate the answer and its form: If it’s a prediction, what’s it likely to be? If it’s a recap of something, how extensive will it be? Approximating what you’re looking for helps you know when you’ve found the answer and aids directly in step 2.
  • Anticipate what components that could make up the answer will look like and where they might be found. Rarely do you find the exact answer; instead, you need to piece it together as you would a puzzle. Start by thinking through what the “puzzle pieces” look like: quotes, number, expert names, trend information, news, etc., then map out where the pieces will likely be located.
  • Armed with hypotheses on the answer and its pieces, begin quickly searching and scanning information sources. Having imagined the information upfront allows you to get through a search more quickly, i.e. if you need numbers to develop a forecast, it’s easy to look at articles online and see right away if numbers are included. The key is grabbing as much information as appears relevant early on and leaving heavy analysis for later.
  • When you’ve captured these first sources, review them for more clues on where other information may reside. Are there sources or experts mentioned you haven’t explored but need to? Where are they located and how can you get to them?
  • While scanning sources, start piecing the answer together. Ideally, you should be able to begin constructing the answer in parts, even if it doesn’t look like the final form. Doing this effectively means making sound assumptions to start filling in the answer. This is where your initial hypotheses come in handy as a springboard for constructing the answer and providing a check on how the pieces are fitting together.

Secondary Research Techniques – Just the Start

There’s certainly more to be written about secondary research techniques, but these five keys will help you be more successful whenever you have to find out an answer online or in printed material. – Mike Brown

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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