1

It’s natural for engineers and operations people to be at odds with marketers over innovation strategy.

The engineering and operations view of the world typically focuses on internal perspectives and ensuring processes conform to standards, are efficient, and cost as little as possible. Success from this perspective is just enough performance relative to the costs incurred.

Marketers typically take a drastically different view.

As natural customer advocates, marketers are more likely to push for an innovation strategy that dramatically differentiates a brand’s customer experience. A marketer will focus on what will be different, attractive to the market, and sell strongly. After that’s solved, they figure out the rest. So instead of the threshold orientation operators advocate, marketers are looking to maximize and create significant advantages in the brand experience.

Spending many years in a B2B transportation and logistics company, I was usually standing in the middle of the street at the intersection of “do just enough” and “do everything possible.”

Trying to better our odds of innovation success and secure the help of the operations team, we used an approach one consultant originally called, “Operationally Smart Marketing.” At the concept’s heart is the idea that pushing for a more robust innovation strategy in an operationally-oriented environment requires being intimately familiar with the roadblocks operations might raise in order to innovate around them.

Closed-Road-Or-Not

This approach can appear counter to a customer-first, outside-in innovation strategy. From experience, however, this strategy is more productive than falling on the sword for innovations that WOULD maximize customer value IF they were ever implemented, but that you can NEVER get implemented.

An “Operationally Smart Marketing” Innovation Strategy

As a marketer, what are your starting points for operationally smart marketing?

Try asking and answering these strategic thinking questions:

  • What drives profitability in the business?
  • How do important operational factors play into whether there is a bigger or smaller opportunity for a bold innovation strategy?
  • Are there certain parts of the business that provide disproportionately greater innovation opportunities?
  • What factors make for disproportionately outstanding efficiency and operational performance? Can they be aligned to increase customer value?
  • What are the critical success factors for the best quality performance your organization can deliver?
  • Are there things customers might be incented to do to enhance performance AND improve the customer experience?
  • Is there anything we didn’t ask about?

This last question is particularly important. I came across many cases where operations people would answer only the question asked without ever volunteering ideas to expand possibilities or introduce greater operational variations. That’s why you should always ask point blank about what else might be possible you didn’t anticipate.

Knowing the relevant constraints and possibilities from the operations side can be vital to turning the strategy approaches we discuss in our Outside-in Innovation eBook (which you can download below) into success within a strong operational environment.  – Mike Brown

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Looking for Outside-In Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise Outside-In Innovation ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive growth!


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you are in charge of developing innovation strategy, you have to answer the question, “What are our next big innovation opportunities?”

Being responsible for developing innovation strategy also means reaching out beyond your innovation team to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to gather valuable input.

When your outreach consists of asking stakeholders what your next big innovation opportunities are, however, you are missing the mark.

Delegating the Wrong Question to the Right People

Quesiton-Mark-Puzzle

Photo by: Leung Cho Pan

When answering the question about big innovation opportunities, your answer will likely come after significant exploration, ideation, concept development, prioritization, and prototyping. With that work out of the way, you are ready to speculate about the future opportunities.

Thinking you can delegate to others your job of developing innovation strategy and answering the important question you must address will not work. You cannot expect others to answer in one-step the question you might work months to address.

Yet, companies try to do just that.

Innovation Strategy that Has a Chance to Work

Talking with someone inside a big company recently, what they have tried to ask various stakeholders what they think the next innovation should be. First, it was through an employee “idea box.” When that did not work, it was through talking to customers, asking them what the company should innovate. That was not successful either.

No surprise in either case.

When taking the right step to reach out to employees and customers, do not expect them to develop your strategy. Instead, solicit input and help them articulate insights they have to help shape the innovation strategy.

  • Employees know about challenges and lost opportunities with customers. They know about problems with processes that restrict delivering value.
  • Customers know why they don’ use your product more. They know the problems or challenges they have with your product and what they wish you did more of or better.

Talk to your stakeholders about topics they can address. Give them information and the strategic thinking structures they can use to better articulate their thoughts.

Then, get back to the work you should be doing to turn that information, along with the other work you are doing, into answers about what your next big innovation opportunities are.

If you’d like to learn very productive ways to explore and identify your innovation opportunities, we invite you to download our FREE “Outside-In Innovation” edition of the Strategic Thinking Facebook. It’s waiting for you below, and will jump start answering the innovation questions you need to answer!

Download Your Free

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Would you like to gain greater advantage from the expertise and experience of your employees as you craft your organization’s strategy?

If that’s a goal for your senior leadership team, today is the day to download our latest FREE mini-book, “Results!!! – Creating Strategic Impact throughout Your Organization.”

Executives worldwide are downloading the new Brainzooming strategy mini-book to gain insights into cultivating strategic thinking, developing strategic alignment, and fully engaging their employees in strategy.

Today, we want to ensure all our readers are aware of the value they can unlock by downloading “Results!!!”

25 Reasons You Need the “Results” Free mini-Book

Better-Business-Results

Here are twenty-five reasons you should download the free “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact throughout Your Organization” mini-book RIGHT NOW.

It offers senior executives:

  1. A way to approach “developing strategy very differently,” versus handing everyone cumbersome strategic planning templates to complete. (Page 1)
  2. Strategy development techniques that will work even in organizations without innovation-friendly cultures. (Page 2)
  3. Action steps for each of the ten lessons so you can begin implementing them right away. (Throughout)
  4. Techniques to demystify strategy and strategic planning. (Page 5)
  5. An approach to effectively align strategy the organization’s daily activities. (Page 7)
  6. A simple set of questions to use in focusing their teams on strategic issues that make a big impact on the business. (Page 8)
  7. The granddaddy of all strategy questions to create more innovative strategies, greater focus on priorities, and stronger growth leadership. (Page 9)
  8. A credible, realistic way to increase engagement through expanding employee involvement in the front end of innovation. (Page 11)
  9. Ways to better prepare employees to anticipate and respond to customer opportunities that don’t fit neatly into policies and procedures.  (Page 13)
  10. A case for how broader participation in strategy benefits (rather than slows) implementation.  (Page 12)
  11. Action steps focused on pushing the boundaries of how senior executives include emerging leaders in strategic planning discussions.  (Page 12)
  12. A proven way to identify which senior leaders and management team members match three vital strategic perspectives for creating strategic impact. (Page 14)
  13. Insight into the three types of voices to include in developing strong strategies and implementation plans. (Page 15)
  14. A four-question diagnostic to identify the right mix of “structure and space” enabling non-strategists to contribute to innovative growth strategies. (Pages 18)
  15. Ideas for a game plan encouraging reluctant and apprehensive employees to engage in strategic planning conversations. (Page 19)
  16. An equation to identify how many total ideas are needed to reach the number of high-impact ideas you are seeking. (Page 20)
  17. Five secrets to more efficiently generate on-target, strategic ideas. (Page 22)
  18. Ways a strategic detour completely changes the innovation impact of strategic conversations. (Page 23)
  19. Techniques to break the, “We’ve been there, tried that, and know better” attitude of experienced management teams. (Page 24)
  20. Seven questions to make strategy understandable for all employees (Page 26)
  21. A three-point checklist for gauging a strategy’s clarity and simplicity. (Page 27)
  22. Examples of how strategic conversations among employees trump strategic plans delivered in notebooks. (Page 28)
  23. Three ways to directly connect strategy planning conversations to how the resulting strategies will be implemented. (Page 29)
  24. The inside scoop on a no-cost daily resource to cultivate a fresh perspective on innovative strategy.
  25. The Results!!! mini-book is FREE!!!

Those are the first twenty-five reasons you should download Results!!!

If you‘re a senior executive seeking dramatically different results for later this year and early 2016, today’s the day! Download Results!!! Right now!!!

10 Lessons for Engaging Your Employees to Create Stronger 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

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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Almost daily, people are looking at the Brainzooming blog for ideas for cool product names.

Since time has passed since we shared an updated list of creative thinking questions for creating cool product names, here are twenty-one additional questions.

These creative thinking questions are representative of those we use with clients to explore ideas for cool product names. Using questions such as these creates an efficient and very productive naming process. During a recent naming exercise for a client, we generated seven hundred naming ideas and four hundred naming possibilities using questions comparable to this during a two hour online collaboration session.

Yes, you read that right. 700 naming possibilities and 400 specific name ideas in 2 hours!!!

Idea-Bulb

21 Creative Thinking Questions for Cool Product Names

Ask these questions and imagine as many possibilities as you can for each question. The mega-list of names that results from that exercise will provide the basis for forming a variety of actual name possibilities.

  1. Is there a fictional person’s name associated with the product?
  2. Is there a real person’s name associated with the product?
  3. What animal represents the product?
  4. What are descriptive names for the geographic area from which the product originates?
  5. What are descriptive names for the geographic area that the product is associated with?
  6. What are nicknames for people who will use the product?
  7. What does the product most remind you of in another product?
  8. What emotional words describe the reactions people have when using your product?
  9. What made up word or words would does the product suggest?
  10. What names do people call the product after they’ve seen or used it for some time?
  11. What names do people call the product when they first see it?
  12. What words describe the product’s most prominent features?
  13. What words describe the product’s most prominent benefits?
  14. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used as intended?
  15. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used in a mistaken way?
  16. What words describe what users do with the product when it’s used in a very naughty way?
  17. What words or phrases would people use to describe the product when it works exceptionally well?
  18. How about when it works well over an extended period of time?
  19. What words would make users of the product proud or excited about their participation with it?
  20. What’s the most matter of fact name that describes the product?
  21. What’s the strongest description of the product?

If your team is dispersed, call us to find out how an online Zoomference collaboration allows many more of your team members to participate in naming exercises.

And if you’d like us to run with the project and generate the list of names, we’re happy to make it happen using a customized list of creative thinking questions tailored to your naming assignment.

And if you’re a few steps away from a name because you’re still searching for new product ideas, our Outside-In Innovation eBook is a must download resource. Get yours today using the download button below! – Mike Brown

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake 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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You want to innovate. You know it’s important to innovate. Your customers’ behaviors are screaming it is beyond time to develop an innovation strategy and do something about it.

A problem we hear about often, however, is you have few resources to develop an innovation strategy and get started innovating.

Insights, capital, time, expertise, strategic support, people, data, materials, and processes could all be missing resources. None are necessarily standalone resources. They are typically connected to one another, i.e., a lack of insights could be because of lack of data, no people to analyze or identify insights, or no processes to turn insights into tangible innovation.

16 Keys for Innovating with No Resources

If you have hit the “no resources to innovate” wall (once or multiple times), here are sixteen areas to explore for new ideas on innovating with no resources (or at least fewer than you think you might need).

Empty-Cupboard-Canva

These questions are built around the six infamous storytelling words (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How). Each is coupled with the important word, else, as a way to find alternatives and get around any walls that stand in the way of a successful innovation strategy with tight resources.

WHO ELSE . . .

  • Might participate in our innovation strategy?
  • Would know someone who wants to participate?
  • Is already addressing new product innovation in this area?

WHAT ELSE . . .

  • Would permit us to innovate with fewer resources?
  • Could be an input to leapfrog our innovation strategy?
  • Might spin off resources available for innovation?

WHERE ELSE . . .

  • Could we advance this idea with a different audience?
  • Might we tap additional people to help develop parts of this new product innovation idea?
  • Could we get a head start in learning what others already know about innovation in this area?

WHEN ELSE . . .

  • Might we get resources in place to support this innovation strategy?
  • Could we build support with new audiences we could reach?
  • Would we be better prepared to launch this new product innovation?

WHY ELSE . . .

  • Would others support this innovation strategy?
  • Could we persuade others in our organization to support funding this innovation?
  • Might customers want to get involved with this new product innovation sooner rather than later?

HOW ELSE . . .

  • Could we organize our innovation strategy to start innovating right away?

This is just a start. You can adapt and customize the list to your specific situation.

Rethinking Your Innovation Strategy

Whether you’re on your own or part of a small (or even larger) team dedicated to developing an innovation strategy in the apparent absence of resources, use these questions and get everybody to start adding possibilities.

Do it quietly (where each person adds answers to a list) or loud (where the group is hearing and contributing answers all together). Either way, in 15 minutes, 30 minutes at the most, you’ll have so many more options to get around whatever the resource limitations you think you have are.

Try this. It will work for expanding your range of strategic options so you can get started innovating. – Mike Brown

 

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

 

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

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


Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2

Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle got home from work the other day and received a great reminder on why you need to understand your customers, even the ones you don’t realize are trying to become your customers. Without waiting any longer, here’s Woody!

Customer Experience Strategy – Millennials Don’t Wait by Woody Bendle

Ranting-Woody-Bendle2One of my favorite expressions is, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look.”  The other evening, my millennial step-daughter reminded of just that.

I’d just gotten home from work, and she was at the kitchen counter with her laptop going through a packet of paperwork and looking frustrated.  I recognized the packet as “the stuff” she needed to get done prior to moving into her first apartment. You know, hooking up the electricity, gas, internet, etc.

I asked her if she’d been able to connect with our insurance agent to get her renter’s insurance set up. She gave me that millennial look that says, “You won’t believe this,” and replied, “I called this afternoon and got their voice mail. It said to leave a message, and someone would get back to me within 24 hours. I left them a message, but I haven’t heard anything from them yet.”

I told her, “They’ll get back with you tomorrow – just be patient.”

That’s when the, “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look,” moment happened.

She shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes, and dispassionately said, “I don’t need to wait,” as she continued scrolling through an online insurance comparison site.

Wait-Wait

IWWIWWAHIWI

For those of you who don’t speak Millennial, IWWIWWAHIWI stands for “I want what I want, when and how I want it.” And therein lies my lesson from the other evening.

I “know” this is how Millennials think and feel from all of the stuff I’ve read over the years about them, but I guess I didn’t “really know” this until the other evening. That reality hit me when I saw how my step-daughter was dealing with not connecting with our insurance agent when SHE tried to connect with him.

With just a few taps on a keyboard, I watched our insurance agent lose business – just like that!

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of brands and businesses still operating out there assuming that they are fine by just focusing on satisfying the needs and expectations of their current customers (Boomers and Gen-Xrs). And, they don’t have a clue about what’s going to happen to them in a few more years.

My insight from observing a Millennial in the household is this: If you have a business partially dependent upon millennial consumers – either today or tomorrow – and you’re not operating in “now time”, you need to re-tool… now! If you don’t change your customer experience strategy, it’ll be game over before you even know what hit you.

Just remember, not only do Millennials instinctually feel they don’t need to wait; they won’t.

And by the way, the insurance agent still has never called back. – Woody Bendle

 

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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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The April 2015 Fast Company features its list of the biggest business comeback stories during the twenty years the magazine has been publishing.

Each business comeback story is presented individually (expect for Apple, which they say is number one, but never bother to list or write a full profile about the company). I was curious about what successful business strategy moves Fast Company highlighted across the twenty corporations.

To paraphrase the old saying, “curiosity killed the hour” it took to go through the list and uncover the answer to my question.

What’s Behind a Business Comeback?

Traffic-Circle

Based on this very loose analysis, the top five most frequent successful business strategy moves for these business comeback stories are:

  1. New Products: 14 (of 20 comebacks)
  2. New Leaders: 10
  3. Enhanced Brand Experience: 9
  4. New Business Lines: 6
  5. (Tie) Enhanced Advertising/Marketing and Bankruptcy: 5 each

New product growth and turnaround leaders were the most cited factors while only four profiles mentioned major cost cutting efforts, and three highlighted downsizing. Given the magazine’s focus, this list is not a big surprise.

Under different circumstances, it would be intriguing to big deeper into the list and look for more patterns. Since the list is subjective, the very brief profiles are nowhere near comprehensive, and there is a lot of my interpretation in this, however, it is not worth any more time killing.

If you would like to review the analysis with my notes on the comeback proof points Fast Company offers and my “short story” on each comeback, click the image below and go to the PDF.

FC-Comebacks

What are your takeaways from this list of business comebacks? And are there other ones from the past twenty years you would add to the list? – Mike Brown

 

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

 

Looking for stronger new product innovations to drive your business comeback?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness comebacks often tie to introducing new products that more strongly resonate with customers.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enable your brand to ideate, prioritize, and develop the innovative growth ideas to spur a business comeback. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

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

Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking 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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