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Before tackling the current topic on strategic thinking exercises, I have to admit something: In my capstone MBA strategy class, we ran a business simulation throughout the semester. Upon its completion, my partner and I won an award for our performance. We garnered the “Understock Award” for stocking out of product more than any other team.

Yes, I had created a spreadsheet-based model to perform what-if analysis and forecast our business levels. But my tendency to plan for surviving the downside of a situation led us to repeatedly under-forecast our sales volume in the simulation. Thus we invariably experienced more demand than we had product to satisfy.

Flash forward to last week’s strategy session we designed and facilitated for Literacy Kansas City. The organization, under the leadership of executive director, Carrie Coogan, is a nonprofit advancing literacy for teens and adults in the Kansas City region through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration.

While we were identifying critical success factors for a new Literacy Kansas City program launch, one of the board members announced she was going to play the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role. By “Positive Devil’s Advocate,” she meant she wanted to plan for overwhelming success with the new program. Would the organization be ready to handle a dramatically higher enrollment than expectations?

Literacy-Kc-Session

Playing the Positive Devil’s Advocate in Strategic Thinking Exercises

This role came up once before in a strategy session. Based on my award-winning tendency to plan for the worst and not for wild success, however, we haven’t developed specific Positive Devil’s Advocate roles in current exercises or designed new strategic thinking exercises focused on dealing with overwhelming success.

We’ll fix that and incorporate the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role into strategic thinking exercises. It will a bit of a flip to the Black Swan exercise we’ve talked about previously. We’ll also incorporate this role into other exercises, making sure we identify a person to push thinking on wild success wherever it’s appropriate. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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This Thursday, I’m leading two Brainzooming workshops at the Arizona State University 25th annual Compete Through Service Symposium.  The workshops are titled, “Mining Outside-in Opportunities to Expand Your Service Offering.”

The workshop will cover Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises that explore brand benefits for innovation ideas, provide new ways to derive insights from the marketplace, and allow organizations to look at what they do in new ways to find other examples from which to innovate.

Innovation-Fake-Book

Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Exercises for Outside-in Innovation

As a preview, here is some of the Brainzooming content on which the session is based.

Building on Your Brand Benefits

Observing and Exploring New Possibilities

Deconstructing What Your Brand Does

Organizing the Strategic Thinking Exercises

To organize the strategic thinking exercises and other content, we’ve tapped a couple of outside sources that allow you to identify an organization’s innovation profile and tie specific activities to five stages of designing and offering a customer experience.

If you aren’t going to be at the Compete Through Service Symposium, we’ll soon be offering the eBook that attendees can download for these Brainzooming sessions. Look for it soon! – 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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A big strategic statement (such as a core purpose, mission, or vision statement) shouldn’t simply be words on a plaque or page that don’t really shape day-to-day activities.

When you get a strategic statement right, you’ll use it on a daily basis to shape decisions, priorities, and approaches to what you do and how you do things.

For instance, your organization’s vision should make it clear what the bold promise is for its future. It should provide an attractive picture that helps employees better carry out their responsibilities to make the vision a reality.

Blue-Sky

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Testing Your Vision Statement Impact

How do you know if your vision statement is working as hard for you as it can?

Here’s one of our strategic thinking exercises to help you explore how well your big vision statement is suited to driving strategy and behaviors in your organization.

Ask these five questions:

  1. Is our vision statement primarily comprised of real, clear words people understand and use or is it primarily filled with business jargon?
  2. Is our vision statement one that could only describe your organization or could it apply to just about any organization?
  3. Does our vision statement sound like we talk inside our company or does it sound as if a consultant wrote it?
  4. Do employees know and understand our vision statement or is it generally a mystery to them?
  5. Does our vision statement shape big and small decisions or does it effectively sit on a shelf?

If your answers to the questions tend toward the first description in each question, you are on the right track. If your answers tend toward the latter description in each question, you should use additional strategic thinking exercises to explore how to better shape your vision statement. – Mike Brown

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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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“How to Brand a Company – 7 Types of Brand Language You Should Use” is one of the most popular Brainzooming articles of the past couple years. This branding strategy article looks at seven different types of language (Simple, Emotional, Aspirational, Unusual, Connectable, Open, and Twistable) a brand should be using to fully communicate its brand promise, benefits, and overall messaging.

I received a tweet the other day asking for successful examples to back up the seven types of brand language identified in the post. Since I was working on a presentation I needed to complete ASAP, I was more than happy to abandon the presentation deadline and throw together an immediate answer to the tweet.

Yes, I clearly have a “focus” issue, but that’s a topic for another day.

Brand Language Examples

I created a quick grid (of course), and started filling in examples of each type of language, from both my own recollection and a few listings of popular advertising slogans.

7 Brand Langauage Examples

While not going for an exhaustive list of brand language examples, I noticed after tweeting off the jpeg of the table that “Just do it” from Nike showed up in two areas – both Simple and Aspirational.

Nike-Just-Do-It

Going back through the list of seven types of brand language, however, it seems that “Just do it” could also fit in several others:

  • Emotional (There is definitely an emotional component depending on its use)
  • Open (The phrase can mean multiple things from both a brand and a consumer perspective)
  • Twistable (It could be used as an admonition to someone else, a personal pep talk, plus serving as a brand promise)

The leaves only Unusual and Connectable as gaps for “Just do it.” While it’s never going to be unusual, it COULD be used in a Connectable fashion. One example would be to insert sports actions (i.e., slug, slam, dunk, pass, hurdle, putt, etc.) in place of “do.”

The Best Brand Language

This exploration raised two questions:

  1. Are there any other examples of brand language that uses five of the brand language types, and are there any that use more?
  2. If no other slogan checks off five different types of brand language on its own, does that mean “Just do it” is the best brand language ever?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether any other brand’s language works harder than “Just do it” does for Nike?

Because if there is one, I can’t name it. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

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

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We have been developing a new competitive intelligence process for a client. The B2B company wants to better collect, analyze, and disseminate valuable insights on competitive strategy.

As with many competitive intelligence systems, especially in B2B settings, much of the most timely and otherwise unavailable intelligence will come from the salesforce. Similarly, the salesforce is in one of the best positions to take advantage of competitive intelligence to better position products, value propositions, and offers to customers to stymie competitive strategy.

It is vital, however, to ensure the competitive intelligence process is not simply asking for competitive intelligence from salespeople, and then giving it back to them without adding sufficient value.

6 Ways to Enhance Competitive Intelligence from the Salesforce

Heard-On-The-Street

To combat this possibility, here are six enhancements to competitive intelligence that originates with the salesforce to deliver new value:

  1. Aggregate information from multiple people to provide a view no one individual has in order to see patterns or spot trends.
  2. Perform additional and deeper analysis on the raw information to create new understanding.
  3. Communicate information to senior leadership that salespeople feel intently, but that is typically lost in the corporate shuffle (i.e., a regional or niche competitor who is not big enough to get corporate-wide attention).
  4. Disprove or verify early rumors salespeople have reported to address the word on the street.
  5. Exploit the availability of non-sales sources to enhance the raw intelligence and deliver new information to them.
  6. Make if more efficient for sales to gather and especially share competitive intelligence with a process that funnels competitive intelligence to them when they need it.

Is a more robust competitive strategy in your plans?

If your organization needs to boost the value of competitive intelligence from your salesforce, give us a call or email. We’d love to talk to you about how we apply our Brainzooming techniques to efficiently gathering information from broad sources and turning it into actionable competitive intelligence. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

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

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Based on the title, you might have been expecting a list from The Art of War.

If so, that’s not where we’re headed today.

St-Johns-Church-Cleveland

With yesterday’s post about discovering strategic insights I use in the secular world while at church, I challenged myself to document and share what some of the other strategic insights from church were.

The list starts with yesterday’s strategic insight about “small, possible steps” and adds the first eleven others I jotted down from my hymnal notes and Bible classes of the last few years.

12 Strategic Insights from Thousands of Years Ago

In an age when it’s fashionable to rule out religion as just some outdated thinking (or imagination or fables) from long-dead people, I’d stand behind any of this wisdom as highly relevant to my workday, and likely that of any reader here, as well:

  1. Once you’ve figured out where you’re headed, take all the small, possible steps you can to get headed there as directly as you can.
  2. Anyone, even the most unlikely person, can be THE person to save the day (or the strategy, project, event, etc.).
  3. It doesn’t so much matter if you’re off track during the process as whether you are heading in the right direction and how you ultimately wind up at the end.
  4. People get multiple chances, even if they burn you on the second or third chance.
  5. You’ll have a lot more success if everything you do reinforces everything else you’re doing in a conscious, deliberate way.
  6. Sometimes you’ll have to walk away from your original audience when they’ve decided they just aren’t interested.
  7. Wisdom trumps just about everything.
  8. You’ll typically have an easier go of things if you can deliver what leadership is looking for first, even if you have bigger or different ideas in mind.
  9. People aren’t always going to be ready to follow right away so you have to get them ready to see why your direction is the best.
  10. Use history to your advantage.
  11. When personal inspiration is lacking, familiar structure can get you started while inspiration catches up.
  12. There is tremendous learning and change value in repeating and integrating messages at pre-planned times.

I’ll add to this list over time as I keep oncovering new strategic insights. – Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

 

Mike Brown

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

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You have to be on the lookout always and everywhere for the wisdom and insights that can help in creating strategic impact.

I get a lot of insights from attending daily mass.

Even there, though, the insights can come through ways you would never expect.

Yesterday’s mass was celebrated by Fr. Mirco Sosio, AVI. He was filling in for our pastor, who has been filling in for the usual priest, who is visiting his family in the eastern US. Fr. Sosio is from Italy originally, and he is serving as a temporary associate pastor at our parish for a few months. This was the first time I’d seen him.

During his homily, Fr. Sosio talked about the parable of the mustard seed. He likened it to a sentiment that the Franciscans (the orders of priests following the model of St. Francis of Assisi) have of embracing “small, possible steps.”

Small, possible steps?

Small-Possible-Steps

The phrase “small, possible steps” struck me strongly, because it speaks to exactly how I view strategy and creating strategic impact: First figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, and then you’ll understand any incremental move that gets you going (and staying going) in the right direction.

I grew up in Hays, KS around Franciscan priests, including going to a high school they operated. Yet I’ve never had a phrase from my youth to explain my strategic perspective, or even a recognition that it might have been shaped by the Franciscans.

But there it was staring me in the face at mass yesterday.

While we’re all a tapestry of what we’ve learned, experienced, and imagined, it is remarkable how many business lessons I’d have otherwise credited to my secular business career surprisingly surface in church with no recognition on my part that might be where they originated.

So as this started, be sure to be on the lookout always and everywhere for the wisdom and insights to help you in creating a strategic impact because you never know where they will emerge. – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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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