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I learned in a Bible class that one meaning of the word “holy” is “to be set apart.” In the case of religion, obviously, whatever is considered holy is being set apart for God.

Extending this idea to business can help explain executives who act as if they are the only ones involved in developing strategy for their organizations.

Many executives commonly think, believe, and act as if strategic planning activities are “holy” since they are set apart as something in which only leaders can participate.

Everyone else gets told (ideally) or not (far too often) what the company strategy means for employees, customers, and other stakeholder groups. This communication about strategy may be so superficial it is nearly impossible for an employee to understand and connect to the business strategy to effectively it to life with customers.

Who Participates in Strategic Planning Activities?

At its heart, how the broader organization participates in strategic planning activities is a philosophical issue about what “owning” a company’s strategy means. This extends to who in an organization (or even outside an organization) provides input, hypothesizes about, develops,  shapes, articulates, and implements strategy.

From spending most of my career in the Fortune 500 world leading and participating in developing strategy, the approach The Brainzooming Group supports is that strategy SHOULD NOT be considered “holy.” We push for and support more people participating in developing strategy because it paves the way for dramatic marketplace success.

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Our thinking about strategy permeates the content here.

Creating Strategic Impact and Results!!!

Additionally, The Brainzooming Group has published a new mini-book for senior executives called, “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact throughout an Organization.”

In this mini-book, we share ten lessons for how senior executives should approach developing strategy as an open, collaborative process that meaningfully involves participants and insights from inside and outside their organizations.

These lessons from our work with clients across industries lead to discovering new ideas and changing how organizations serve customers more successfully. The lessons include how to efficiently incorporate a wide number of perspectives about delivering value and more seamlessly linking strategy and implementation throughout the organization.

Download your copy of “Results” today and get a big head start beating your competitors to new heights for strategic impact and dramatic results!


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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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Before We Start

This isn’t an April Fool’s Day post; it’s an actual article. If you’d like to understand why we ignore April Fool’s Day prank posts, you can review our article on why we think they are generally a very bad practice.

Seriously Considering Customer Experience Strategy

What seems like eons ago, Stephen Lahey, the self-professed #1 Brainzooming fan, and I were discussing customer experience strategy and doing some strategic thinking on how to create a pre-purchase experience for an intangible service.

The point was with a product, a potential buyer can pick it up or demo it with minimal economic impact on the product’s delivered cost.

With an intangible service that has to be created to deliver the full experience, however, the economics and practicality of a full demo fail quickly. There typically has to be a huge upside and pretty firm assurance of some level of remuneration for a demo of any significance to make sense for an intangible service.

11 Ways to Demo an Intangible Service

Mike Brown Speaking at KVC Health Workshop

Despite this potential customer experience strategy limitation, there are possibilities. We did the strategic thinking to suggest these eleven possibilities:

  1. Describe the service experience in multiple ways from multiple perspectives
  2. Have someone else provide a descriptive testimonial about using your service
  3. Record (whether audio or video) you providing the service for a real customer
  4. Create a demonstration that many potential customers can experience at one time
  5. Develop a simulation of your service experience
  6. Offer samples of the service’s typical outputs or outcomes
  7. Sponsor a contest for a potential customer to receive the service free in for a large number of testimonials, reference conversations, etc.
  8. Offer the first step in your service free or at an introductory, low cost
  9. Demonstrate the service for someone else that will allow a prospect to become immersed in the service experience
  10. Create rich, easily-grasped comparisons to describe what the service experience will be like
  11. Align with an appropriate sponsorship and donate your in-kind service in exchange for inviting your prospective customers as guests

I’m certain this isn’t a comprehensive list, but they are ones our strategic thinking yielded that we have either considered or tried.

Specifically, we used number nine to help a local non-profit enhance its strategic planning. The mini-strategic planning session we designed and facilitated was designed around the organization’s objectives, but the objective for us was to create a real-life experience for a potential client who offered a large upside in actual business and referrals.

Additionally, the Building the Gigabit City event we created several years ago with Social Media Club of Kansas City was an example of number eleven. The large-scale Brainzooming event provided the opportunity to expose what we do to scores of potential clients as we sought to gain greater awareness and buzz within the city.

What customer experience strategy ideas do you think we missed?

If you sell and deliver intangible services, what do you think we missed on this list of potential ways to cost-effectively create a service experience demo for what you do? –  Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


 

 

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’ve ever seen me present a strategic thinking workshop, you’ve likely heard me say, “People think strategic planning is boring, and I agree with them. I’m a strategic planner, and even I don’t enjoy strategic planning. That’s why we make it fun!”

That’s not simply a throw-away line. It’s the absolute truth.

We consciously try to develop fun strategic planning activities.

The reason fun strategic planning activities are so important is they prompt people to want to engage with strategic planning at that moment plus make them eager to participate in the future.

5 Fun Strategic Planning Activities

Funny-Orange-2

“Fun strategic planning activities? You have to be kidding,” you may be thinking. No, we’re absolutely SERIOUS about the FUN part!

If you’d like to incorporate more fun into your strategic planning activities, here are a few ideas we’d offer:

1. Eliminating Boring Introductions

If you’re going for a more enjoyable strategic planning session, it’s important to start on a light note. This ice breaker dumps the typical boring self-introduction and uses introductions where everyone BUT you gets to tell something about you. Here’s one secret for even more fun – have one person make up all the answers they share. When you read this post, you’ll get what I mean by that!

2. Invite Katy Perry for Her Fashion Sense

You have to go see the picture to get this, but Katy Perry’s dress at this awards show a few years ago is all kinds of fun. If your challenge is reimagining old strategic ideas, this strategic thinking exercise will inject fun into your planning.

3. Put the Pin Prick to Your Competitors

This strategic thinking exercise involves targeting a pesky competitor and thinking about every way you can be a complete nuisance for them. You have to keep the ultimate ideas you choose legal and ethical. Before that point, however, anything is fair game and lots of fun!

4. What does Ghostbuster have to do with strategy?

By definition, you aren’t supposed to be able to anticipate black swan events. But when a client wants a black swan exercise, you figure out a way to give them a black swan exercise. This fun strategic planning activity gets its fun from the connection to Ghostbusters that inspired the exercise. Other than that, it should be a LITTLE more serious than the others here.

5. Try Some Shrimp!

This exercise is called “Shrimp,” but you’ll see a picture of a pumpkin throwing up pumpkin seeds on the original post. Yeah, it’s kind of gross, but this particular strategic thinking exercise is a blast. In workshops, I tell the story about when we used it with a group working on a NASCAR sponsorship program. They turned the exercise toward some pretty tawdry topics, yet came out with an idea that led to getting their company’s NASCAR driver on an ABC reality TV show!

Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun*

I wouldn’t necessarily advise trying to use ALL these fun strategic planning activities with one group. But if you do, let me know. THAT would be funny! – 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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Your plan is completed, and you have your brand building strategies for 2015 in front of you. The big question remains – are these brand building strategies going to deliver dramatically better business results this year?

Better-Business-Results

These strategies SHOULD lead to better business results. You know you invested the time and effort to develop what seemed to be the right set of brand building strategies.

You know too, however, your actual strategic plan and tactics often sit on the shelf and do not fundamentally deliver better business results.

Why is that?

It could be your strategic plan is disconnected from what moves the business on a daily basis. Another possibility is that despite all the hope you have to focus on implementing the strategic plan in January, unexpected opportunities and challenges develop, and they gain more attention.

No matter what factors are at work to derail your strategic plan from developing better business results, keep the following list handy. These 15 articles each target specific business issues that could get in the way of using your strategic plan implementation creating better business results this year.

If your organization easily loses focus, if your brand benefits aren’t clear, if your competitors are getting the best of you, these are places to go here for immediate, implementable ideas to avoid getting derailed and actually using your planned brand building strategies for all they are worth to create a stronger year with dramatically better business results.

  1. Creating a Stronger Strategic Focus on What Matters
  2. Better Defining and Articulating Your Brand Benefits
  3. Strengthening the Brand Language You Use
  4. Heading Off Critical Issues in Your Brand Strategy
  5. Bolstering Your Brand’s Value Proposition
  6. Asking Better Questions to Identify Business Opportunities
  7. Uncovering New Opportunities with Existing Clients
  8. Improving Your Strategic Response to Competitors
  9. Developing Proactive Strategies to Disrupt Your Market Before Someone Else Does
  10. Anticipating Unexpected Potential Disruptions and Growth Opportunities Before They Happen
  11. Increasing the Diversity of Employees Involved in Strategy for Your Company
  12. Better Integrating New Product Development with Your Business Strategy
  13. Creating Strategic, Cool Products Name for Your New Offerings
  14. Developing a Better Strategy for How Social Networks Support Business Building
  15. Moving from Talking about Great Ideas to Implementing Great Ideas

If you want to go deeper on any of these issues, email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320. We would be happy to talk through the opportunities for your organization to improve its success this year and beyond.  – Mike Brown

 

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.


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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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It’s fantastic to have Woody Bendle back on the Brainzooming blog after too long away with an admonition to consider going opposite with your new product innovation strategy. Here’s Woody! 

New Product Innovation Strategy – Go Opposite by Woody Bendle

If you are a student or practitioner of new product innovation strategy, you are undoubtedly familiar with the “Go Opposite” strategy.  If you are neither however, the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy is a specific example of an innovation technique sometimes called “Challenge Existing Conventions” that seeks innovation opportunities by going after sacred cows – or purposefully diverging from the herd.

I have recently come across a terrific example that really drives home the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy in running shoes. Consider this depiction of 40 years of running shoes:

Running-Shoe-Trends

From the 1970s through the late 2000s, the prevailing trend in running shoes was the evolution and advancement of materials and technologies.  Shoes became more constructed with better out and midsoles that were designed for runners with different gates and foot-strike patterns.

In 2009, Christopher MacDougall’s book Born to Run (affiliate link) unleashed the “Go Opposite” trend of minimalism and for the next five or so years, nearly every running shoe company introduced an array of minimalism innovations that were designed to emulate the feeling of being barefoot – without actually being barefoot.

Right about the same time as the release of Born to Run, a completely different type of running shoe company started up called Hoka One One.  Rather than following the prevailing trend of minimalism, Hoka (affiliate link) innovated by Going Opposite and produced running shoes with maximal cushioning.  And, for going opposite when it comes to its new product innovation strategy, they have been rewarded with a ton of awards and accolades.

Regardless of the market that you happen to compete in, it is always important to understand the prevailing trends driving your industry.  But just remember, chasing the prevailing trend is usually a pretty crowded space and some terrific innovative opportunities regularly exist by exploring the opposite direction! – Woody Bendle

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                                          Affiliate Link

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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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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During our Brainzooming “Outside-In Innovation” workshop at the Compete Through Service Symposium, participants applied several of our benefits-based strategic thinking exercises.

These inter-related strategic thinking exercises help explore higher-impact benefits. These longer benefit lists highlight new innovation opportunities, improve messaging, and suggest potential competitors.

One participant struggled on the strategic thinking exercise to identify competitors. Participants were trying to list three types of organizations delivering comparable benefits to their own. The three types are:

  • Expected competitors – Those on a brand’s typical competitor list
  • Surprising competitors – Dissimilar organizations that could still clearly be competitors
  • Left Field competitors – Completely non-traditional, out of category organizations that could possibly compete with yours

As an example, here’s a left field competitor someone identified. A health insurance company selected Google as a left field competitor. Google has massive amounts of information on healthcare needs. It could also introduce ways to collect more. Additionally, Google has dabbled with delivering online healthcare.

The participant stymied in pushing his thinking on left field competitors asked for help to push further.

Left-Field-Fenway

Two Other Ideas to Imagine Potential Left Field Competitors

As is often the case, one great way to push your thinking into new areas is to combo multiple strategic thinking exercises.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 1 – What’s It Like?

If you’re challenged by identifying unlikely but potentially emerging competitors, you can combo the benefits approach with the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise.

In “What’s It Like,” you list five diverse characteristics of your business situation. You use this list to explore others organizations facing the same types of generalized situations.

To imagine more unusual potential competitor possibilities, you could pick various combinations of only two of the five characteristics. What left field competitors might match just two characteristics similar to yours? The answer can still tie to what you do. But using only two common characteristics should create room for a wilder exploration of potential left field competitors.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 2 – What’s Getting in the Way?

The recent story we shared from Armada Corporate Intelligence about how the Oreo brand is staying fresh inspired another way to spot left field competitors.

Oreo identified online video games as a competitor. The reasons were consumers play with video games – and spend discretionary dollars on them – while they wait in retail lines instead of looking at (and buying from) Oreo point-of-sale displays.

Cookies and online video games competing is a pretty left field comparison, if you ask me.

You can identify comparable left field competitor comparisons. Explore how else your customers may be using the time, attention, and resources they usually would have used to buy from your brand. Even more critically, examine other brands, in or out of your market, that are inserting themselves and disrupting the traditional buying process.

Why imagine left field competitors?

If you wonder about the value of identifying left field competitors, consider the benefit to Borders Books, Tower Records, and any cell phone company of imagining Apple as a far-off competitor twenty years ago! – Mike Brown

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

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 recasting a variety of innovation-oriented Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises for a workshop on “Strategic Service Innovation” at the 2014 Compete Through Service Symposium at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership. Having organized many corporate senior management education programs at ASU previously, it’s exciting to get back to the Center for Services Leadership to facilitate two Brainzooming workshops on strategic service innovation.

Among the strategic thinking exercises we’re revamping is one where companies can explore potential opportunities to identify new markets with brand new service (or product) offerings.

For a traditional, established company, the prospect of entering a new market with something less than what it would have in place to introduce a new offering in its primary markets can scuttle innovation.

The thing is, however, companies emerging with a disruptive mindset aren’t approaching markets as established companies approach them.

If you’re in an established company trying to become a disruptive strategic force in a new market, you have to figure out a way to give your brand internal permission to pursue markets where:

  1. Your brand isn’t a blip of a presence yet.
  2. You’ll be starting from scratch (or close to it) to create a brand position so you can create distance from your primary brand.
  3. You may be introducing a niche offering, so targeting a small share at a premium price is viable.
  4. You may need to spread costs differently in order to consider pursuing a low-priced, share-stealing strategy.
  5. You are creating a product/service and price point combination that isn’t comparable to any market competitor.
  6. Your strategy needs to lower certain risks so you can move dramatically more quickly compared to new entries in your primary market.
  7. Heavying up on only one part of the marketing mix and largely ignoring others is acceptable.
  8. The entry point into the industry’s current customer model may seem radically different.
  9. You’re not over-focused on looking like current players in the industry since doing so can reduce your disruptive impact.
  10. You may be a part-time player, making it unnecessary to try to serve all the market needs with a complete product offering.
  11. It’s possible to be successful against traditional competitors even with major deficits in areas that industry players think are important, but really aren’t in customers’ eyes.
  12. You can over-deliver on a very different set of benefits than traditional players.

Sound scary?

If so, that’s good.

Now give your brand permission to enter a market where some, most, or all of these permissions become realities. That’s when your brand can really shake things up and disrupt! – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


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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