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We were driving home from the store this weekend, and saw this huge tree that fell over from its base. It made me think of the phrase “too big to fail.” In this case, this huge tree must have been completely ready for failure, whether that was apparent to anyone or not.

Disrupt Your Brand Before Something Else Does

A similar phenomenon applies to brand strategy. You may think your brand is strong and ready to withstand anything that might come its way. But all the while, competitors or market forces you may not even suspect are disrupting your place in the market.

While success can breed success, it can also lead to blindness about the importance of trying to disrupt your brand strategy before something else comes along to topple your brand.

104 Possibilities to Disrupt Your Brand Strategy

To help you stay ahead of disruption, here are 104 possibilities to do the work to disrupt your brand strategy yourself instead of letting another party do it for you. Beyond these articles, it’s a wonderful time with strategic planning coming up for many firms, to download the free Brainzooming eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

Don’t allow your executive team to become complacent! Get to work on disrupting your business strategy yourself: it’s much less painful! – 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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What can you expect from a strategic planning process?

That question was the topic of several recent conversations.

As I explained it, our objective when leading a strategic planning process is to make sure the result is an innovative, implementable strategy.

9 Things to Deliver in a Strategic Planning Process

That specific phrase (an innovative, implementable strategy) is very important to a strategic planning process. It creates a definition and set of expectations around what the process we’re facilitating needs to deliver.

With innovative, we look to deliver ideas that:

  • Are better than current strategies
  • Are differentiated relative to competitors
  • Create exceptional benefits and value for important audiences

In terms of implementable, the strategy needs to:

And if it’s a solid strategy, it:

These specifics help determine what we need to prioritize within any strategic planning process:

As you look ahead toward strategic planning, think about where you legitimately need to concentrate your efforts. Where do you need to focus to create an innovative, implementable strategy for your organization’s success? – 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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Someone downloaded a free Brainzooming strategy eBook, noting his biggest strategy challenge is “how to do a strategic planning process when you are new.” That question relates to something we do all the time: walk into a new client in an unfamiliar industry to design and facilitate a strategic planning process.

While leading strategy development in a new company poses challenges (including needing to learn a tremendous amount as you go), it has a comparable number of advantages (Including not laboring under preconceived ideas about how the organization does things).

via Shutterstock

In that type of situation, we recommend using strong strategic thinking questions and frameworks to quickly understand the situation, the players, and the opportunities. This is vital (from our experience) for ensuring your newness yields more advantages than challenges.

Additionally, here are four areas we recommend exploring right away (and 12 resources to support your work):

Identify what has been done previously

Secure copies of previous plans and strategy documents, and don’t settle for the first things people offer you. Keep digging via different angles and types of requests. What you see as strategic may not be what others think is strategic. Ask about what has and has not worked during previous strategic planning initiatives. You want to be sure to find out what things most often lead to successful implementation. Finally, as you compile strategy documents, review them thoroughly to glean all the value they provide.

Getting to What Is Strategic

Determine the important players

Review the organization chart and identify the major players from a formal standpoint. That’s your first look. Then start probing informally for who the important players will be in strategic planning. That’s not to say the people on the org chart AREN’T important. There are like people outside the top-level organization charts with ideas, insights, pieces of the puzzle, and important answers for getting you up to speed very quickly.

Tracking Down the Expertise You Need

What’s it like?

Go hard and fast to understand the company, customers, industry, and competitors, along with all the other things important for the early internal and external fact base supporting the strategic planning process. These are the basics where you must quickly develop a working knowledge and a good command of the facts. As a new strategic planner, you can quickly gain advantage by bringing intriguing comparisons to the table. Finding analogous situations to help create new perspectives helps you stay ahead of the game in introducing new thinking. The more pertinent analogies you can employ, the more you showcase how fresh perspectives are bringing value to the strategic planning process.

Making Great Comparisons

What’s ahead?

It would not be a surprise if many (most?) of the people you will reach out to for strategic planning participation will be focused on day-to-day business activities. While they may want to look toward the future, near-term responsibilities can routinely derail those aspirations. As the strategic planning person, you are in a prime position to focus on what is coming – whether expected or unexpected. Be on the lookout for individuals who spend considerable time thinking about trends, future developments, and their implications.

Looking Further Out from Here

That may not be everything, but it’s a solid start to run a strategic planning process as if you have years of experience where you are! – Mike Brown

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10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved 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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Suppose the strategic planning task at hand is imagining what your organization will look like at some future point.

What are strategic planning exercises you can use with a team?

7 Ideas to Envision What Your Future Organization Might Look Like

Here are seven possibilities to consider:

  • Describe a future time where the organization has already achieved incredible success. Also, describe a comparable future time scenario the organization failed on all important objectives. For each of future state, look back and ask what led to incredible success or failure.
  • Employ extreme creativity and disruptive innovation-oriented questions to push your strategic planning vision exercise in bold, future directions.
  • Identify the most important elements of the business that hold great potential to materially change the organization’s future prospects. Once you settle on these attributes, use them as the basis to describe the future (i.e., What does that specific attribute look like in the future by itself and in conjunction with all the other attributes).
  • Interview lead users and future-looking experts to understand how they’d describe an aggressive future vision.
  • Identify all the elements of the brand. Have a group respond individually on which of the attributes needs to change dramatically, which can change marginally, and which need to be eliminated in the future. After securing individual responses, use a group strategic conversation to settle on the future strategic planning vision.
  • Develop an analysis of future trends. Extend the trends 5x and 10x to create dramatically bold future visions.
  • Select other brands and imagine what your organization would look like if they were running your organization.

Ensure you have all the strategic thinking perspective and voices we always recommend. Additionally, for these strategic planning vision exercises, make sure you include external participants with expertise and perspectives not burdened by the organization’s current, status quo vision.

Want to talk more about taking this approach to a future vision as part of your strategic planning?

Contact us, and let’s chat about how this strategic planning exercise approach applies to your organization. – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve 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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Short Story: Instead of voting on strategic priorities, use exercises incorporating individual perspectives and strategic conversations to make fact-based decisions on where to focus your company’s attention.

How do you approach prioritizing strategic opportunities?

There is no one way that’s right for deciding among competing initiatives. In fact, we don’t even use just one way to prioritize them.

Prioritizing Strategic Opportunities

One frequent prioritization approach works well when we have tons of ideas in a strategy workshop and need to quickly (and spontaneously) narrow them to a manageable number.

We get there by estimating how many ideas we have, taking 1/5 of that number of ideas (assuming that 20% of the ideas at most have near-term applicability). We divide the number of participants into that number. The result is how many ideas each person can select for prioritization. They don’t need to get agreement from anyone to select an idea. Only one individual must believe in an idea for the group to consider it. Everyone then places their ideas on a large x-y grid based on an individual assessment. After every idea is placed, the group engages in a strategic conversation about each idea’s placement. The group discussion determines the ultimate location for each idea on the grid.

With more time, we frequently develop a decision support tool for a client to use in prioritizing strategic opportunities.

This involves working with the organization’s leadership team to identify important factors shaping strategic decisions. After selecting the factors, we work with them to describe very attractive, attractive, and unattractive options for each factor. We then create a decision support tool allowing each team member to assess an opportunity individually. After everyone is done with the ratings, we aggregate the results. The subsequent conversation focuses not on where everyone agrees, but on areas of disagreement. We look for differences in information, assumptions, and/or perspectives and work at resolving them. These conversations are typically efficient so we can quickly reach decisions across multiple initiatives.

2 Things in Common

Notice what is similar with the two methods? Each one involves individual assessment followed by group conversation.

Starting with people offering individual perspectives without influence from others taps greater diversity in thinking. The group’s strategic conversation creates the opportunity to challenge individual perspectives that may be off the mark.

Even though we don’t have only one method for prioritizing strategic opportunities, pairing individual perspectives and strategic conversation among a group works well to focus on the smartest alternatives.  – Mike Brown

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  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

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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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If you are an organization with a limited budget but an intense need to better understand the audiences you serve, what are the best research methods to pursue?

That was the question from two nonprofit executives tasked with planning market research to support a new marketing plan.

Before diving into planning market research, I asked about old research they had. Although the most recent customer research was five years old, a cursory review of the customer segmentation it generated suggested its research methods were sound.

With that preliminary check on the previous research methods, we spent our time discussing what they could discover from what they had in hand before planning market research. We also discussed market research others have done or might be doing, in addition to informal listening posts they could deploy right away.

14 Questions Before Planning Market Research

Whenever you are planning market research, these fourteen questions comprise a money, time, and effort-saving list to explore!

Examining Your Own Previous Market Research

  • Was the output valuable (made sense, spurred insights, suggested smart directions, etc.), even if we didn’t use it?
  • Are the results valuable, accurate, and recent enough that we can use them to start thinking about future research?
  • Do we have the original data set to slice and dice the results for new insights?
  • Are there questions in the previous work that we can incorporate into new research methods?
  • Have we linked the customer survey results to internal metrics to find predictive relationships?
  • If we haven’t linked customer survey results to your internal metrics, is there the possibility of doing it now?

Exploring Research Others Have Done

  • What other organizations have asked and answered comparable question to ones we have?
  • What experts have insights into the questions we want to answer?
  • Are there industry associations with ideas on answers or research methods to make us smarter?

Anticipating Surveys Others May Be Doing

  • Are there other organization’s surveying our audience that might allow us to include some questions?
  • Could we propose a joint research project with another organization to satisfy our mutual needs?
  • Are there university programs where students can conduct research for us?

Considering Preliminary Research to Perform

  • What research methods can we use to reach out to customers on a manageable scale to gain their perspectives?
  • How could asking questions informally help identify potential new questions, important attributes, or other insights to shape planning market research we will conduct?

That’s a Start!

There are more questions you can ask, but even these will make sure you get as much value as you can from other sources before you begin planning market research initiatives that require substantial investment. – Mike Brown

 

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Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

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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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Yesterday, we identified the six types of strategic planning process activities we use to design a client’s strategic thinking workshop. To facilitate you going deeper into thinking about how these activities function within a strategic planning process workshop, here are articles in each of the six areas.

6 Types of Strategic Planning Process Activities

Interacting (Networking, meeting, team building)

Informing (Sharing background data and context)

Investigating (Assembling the facts for strategic planning)

Insighting (Revealing breakthrough opportunities and threats)

Iterating (Structured thinking to expand ideas)

Integrating (Assembling pieces into strategy)

Lots of places to go with all these articles on strategic planning activities that can fit into a workshop within your strategic planning process.

Putting it Together in a Strategic Planning Process

If you have responsibility for leading the strategic planning process in your organization, we recommend bookmarking this strategic planning activities reference and coming back to it when you need to explore the right mix of exercises to engage your planning participants.

Of course, picking the right menu and bringing it to life is our specialty. Get with us at info@brainzooming.com, 816-509-5320, or the contact us page on the website so we can discuss the approach that makes the most sense for your organization. – Mike Brown

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Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
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  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic planning exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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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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