Insights | The Brainzooming Group - Part 20 – page 20
1

Precious-GiftIt’s the season of giving.

So maybe it’s time to think about who is receiving one of the most precious gifts you have to give. And whether it’s deserved. Or was ever deserved in the first place.

It’s the gift of your immersion.

By “immersion,” I mean the people, places, or things to which you give your focus and overwhelming attention on a daily basis.

What is your passion? What do you talk about and think about most? For what things do you stop, delay, or push aside other aspects of your life without fail?

Your immersion may be given to your family, your faith, or your career. Your immersion may be given to sports teams, celebrities, entertainment, causes, brands, or a variety of other entities.

3 Questions about Your Most Precious Gift

This is a great time of year to ask these three questions about where you are giving your most precious gift:

  • Does my immersion add anything meaningful to the recipient?
  • Does whoever receives my immersion really matter now? And in the future?
  • What does whoever receives my immersion offer in return?

At various times, I’ve given my immersion to sports, pop culture, and musicians. Finally, I wised up and realized those things wouldn’t really matter in the end. And my immersion in them didn’t really help anyone, even myself.

Don’t be casual with this most precious gift.

Give it wisely, and give it only where it’s deserved, because it’s the season of giving what’s most valuable where it means something lasting. – Mike Brown

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Taking the No Out of Innovation eBook

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creative 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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5

At a recent Brainzooming client creative thinking session, the company’s Chief Operating Officer told a story about seeing a car with both an anti-corporation bumper sticker and an Apple logo on it. His point was how interesting it is that Apple had transcended being a huge, very profitable corporation by the car owner.

His story made me blurt out, “Did you hear about the Harvard Business Review journalist who wrote a very thorough comparison between the innovation styles of Steve Jobs and the management team at Sunkist?

“He was widely criticized for comparing Apple and oranges!”

Feel free to insert your guffaws here! When we get brains zooming (even our own), who knows what types of connections will be made?

Comparing Apples and Oranges

“Comparing apples and oranges” ranks with “think outside the box” as one of my least favorite business jargon phrases. “Comparing apples and oranges” is typically used by a strategic dolt to shut down creative thinking and obscure connections that may very naturally exist between two or more things.

Apples and oranges actually have MANY things in common. Even though they aren’t identical on the surface, there are multiple strategic and creative comparisons to be made about their similarities and differences.

In fact, considering ways of comparing apples and oranges can help your creative thinking skills. Next time a strategic dolt tries to get in the way of your creative thinking by saying you’re comparing apples and oranges, remember these ways the two fruits (or anything you’re examining that may seem unrelated) can be compared:

1. Apples and oranges move through comparable PROCESSES

The supply chain bringing apples and oranges together at a grocery store or fruit stand for sale is obviously a point of comparison. When you’re comparing potentially disparate things, look for comparable processes they each experience.

2. Apples and oranges are SUBSTITUTES for one another

Since both apples and oranges satisfy the need for food, in general, and fruit, specifically, they serve as potential SUBSTITUTES for one another. As you look at potentially dissimilar items, consider how they might meet the same or related needs.

3. Apples and oranges can be made MORE SIMILAR

You can manipulate apples and oranges for greater similarity (i.e., by cutting them into similarly-sized pieces, or putting them into recipes as ingredients). When making a comparison others think is a stretch, transform the two things to accentuate their similarities strategically, numerically, chronologically, or in other ways.

4. Compare the REASONS FOR DIFFERENCES between apples and oranges

You can explore the reasons apples and oranges are or are not appropriate for comparison and make comparisons about that! Similarly, when comparing two things others think don’t match up, dive into why they appear to be different, whether because of strategic direction, motivation, nature/nurture, etc.

5. Acknowledge the differences and COMPARE THEM ANYWAY

Maybe apples and oranges are all you have to analyze. In that case, to better understand them, comparing and contrasting the differences is your only option. Being able to compare things to provide context and contrast is vital to analysis.  When others lack the creative thinking skills to see the similarities in two things you’re analyzing, turn it around and simply compare differences.

6. Make a FANCIFUL COMPARISON between apples and oranges

Many strategic business conversations have an air of seriousness and a resistance to anything not grounded in reality. Don’t let that stop you. If people shut down more realistic comparisons as inappropriate, get crazy on them with a really outlandish comparison. The conversation you’ll stimulate will likely yield the greatest creative value.

7. Even if apples and orange were completely unrelated, RANDOM ITEMS trigger creative ideas

Pick any two things that really ARE completely unrelated. Looking for the comparisons and contrasts between them will get peoples’ minds working on new paths, sparking creative ideas. What will those creative ideas be? It’s tough (maybe impossible) to imagine in advance what a particular group will come up with creatively when considering random inputs, but be prepared for dramatically new thinking

Seven Apples and Oranges Comparisons for Creative Thinking

There you have it. Seven ways to consider comparing apples and oranges (or other things perceived to be dissimilar) to counter a strategic dolt trying to squash creative thinking. Simply remember you can push a strategic comparison based on:

  • Process similarities
  • A potential substitute realtionship
  • Changes to accentuate similarities
  • The reasons for underlying differences
  • Comparing elements that shouldn’t be compared
  • Fanciful similarities
  • Completely random connections

So when was the last time YOU were accused of comparing apples and oranges? I’ll bet now you can’t wait for the next time it happens! – Mike Brown

 

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Discover New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

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! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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1

You know how when you leave a job, there is frequently an exit interview to ask you a bunch of questions?

At least that’s what I hear.

When I left the corporate world, I didn’t actually have any exit interview questions asked of me.

And when people would leave my department, and I’d ask HR for any feedback on things we should be aware of to improve or address in the department, I never got any feedback.

Ever. In nearly fifteen years of having people work for me.

Despite my lack of experience with seeing anything come from exit interview questions, the IDEA of an exit interview seems worthwhile.

The value of it got me thinking the other day about creating a self-administered personal exit interview for 2012. With the end of the year approaching, wouldn’t it be an opportune time to ask yourself some probing questions about what worked and didn’t in the year we are about to exit?

4 Exit Interview Questions for this Year

One approach would be to use the Plus-Minus-Interesting-Recommendation (or PMIR) format we use for strategic thinking events. The PMIR approach (borrowed originally from Edward de Bono via Chuck Dymer, with the addition of the R from a former co-worker) would have you list out as many things as you can think of for the past year that were:

  • Plusses – things that worked well
  • Minuses – things that didn’t work
  • Interestings – surprises, unexpected events, and random occurrences that had an impact
  • Recommendations – things you should bring forward or avoid in 2013

The PMIR approach is great for doing a general brain dump at the end of the year and recalling what you should pay attention to as the current year exits and gives way to the next year.

Another 9 Personal Exit Interview Questions

If you want your personal exit interview to be more probing and focus on specific areas to learn from and consider for 2013, here are another 9 questions to further push your personal strategic thinking:

  1. What are the most significant skills I developed this year, and were they significant enough?
  2. Who were the most impactful people I added to my ACTIVE personal network this year?
  3. Who were the most impactful people I added to my social media network, and which ones will I be meeting in real life this coming year?
  4. What was the most life-changing assistance I offered to someone else this year?
  5. In what ways did I scare myself through taking on risk or uncertainty this year?
  6. What are the five most important accomplishments I achieved this year, and have I already added them to my resume and LinkedIn profile?
  7. What personal relationships did I strengthen this year?
  8. Where did I grow spiritually this year?
  9. In what ways am I ending the year better prepared to deal with uncertain conditions?

Will you be conducting a personal exit interview this year?

Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation 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 innovation and implementation 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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12

If you haven’t started already, there’s not much time left to make sure your organization is asking itself innovative strategic planning questions and looking for top opportunities before 2013 starts.

The good news in all this, however, is it’s ALWAYS a good time for strategic thinking and considering innovative strategic planning questions. No matter when it is, you can use great questions to push your strategic thinking and move you into increasingly smarter, more differentiated, and successful market strategies.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Next Year

Reviewing conference tweets, Brainzooming strategic planning engagements, and leftovers in our strategic thinking exercise R&D lab, here are fifteen innovative strategic planning questions (plus a bonus ice breaker question) to move to the top of your strategic planning questions list – whether you’ve started planning or not!

Strategy & Purpose Questions

  • When we say our purpose and messages aloud to someone outside our business, do these statements make sense? (Evan Conway, president of OneLouder, a Kansas City-based mobile app developer)
  • What would you do differently if you HAD TO get 10x better / bigger in the next 12 months? (An incredibly challenging question was inspired by Chuck Dymer – Brilliance Activator)

Strategic Marketing Questions

  • How can we shift more value to the front end of a customer relationship, not charging anything until later when the customer fully realizes the benefit? (Inspired by TEDxKC presenter, Shai Reshef)
  • Have we set a pace for our brand experience to allow a customer to get the maximum value from our brand? (Inspired by Julian Zugazagoitia, Director of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art at TEDxKC)
  • What are our organization’s passion and purpose, and how are we effectively and innovatively marketing them? (From BigIdeas12 conference tweets)

Strategic Innovation Questions

  • How can we get more ideas at early stages when it’s easier and less expensive to incorporate great ideas? (Inspired by Rob Grace of Bazillion Pictures)
  • What can be removed from what we do / produce? (A variation on a Steve Jobs question to drive simplicity, via Ken Segall, author of “Insanely Simple” affiliate link)
  • In what ways can we innovate to offer “more for less”? (Michael Raynor, author of “The Innovator’s Manifesto” affiliate link)
  • To identify potential innovation opportunities, what are the most frequent workarounds customers are asking our sales, customer service, and other representatives to perform?
  • How can we break up big change into pieces too inconsequential to fail (i.e., no matter what happens, we’ll either meet our objectives or learn so much when we don’t, we still win)?

Customer and Market Questions

  • Who specifically is representing the customer 24/7 in our business?
  • What benefits are our customers seeking when they buy from us, and who else is poised to deliver those benefits to them?

Learning Organization Questions

  • Who are our rising stars two jobs away from ever being included in strategic planning that need to be included starting right now?
  • What makes the work our organization does worth it for our employees? (From author of “The Commitment Engine” author, John Jantsch at TEDxKC affiliate link)
  • How are we learning (individually and as an organization) by doing, failing, collaborating, creating, and teaching? (Danya Cheskis-Gold of Skillshare at BigIdeas12)

And a Bonus 16th Strategic Thinking Question – My New Favorite Ice Breaker

  • If you could have the characters in any painting come to life, which painting would you choose? (A wonderful ice breaker from Amy Dixon of CreativeRN.com on Twitter that elicits very diverse and insightful answers)

Still Need to Get Your Strategic Planning Set for Next Year?

If you’d like help in developing your annual plan done faster than ever, contact us at 816-509-5320 or email info@brainzooming.com.

Our Brainzooming name means what it says: we’ll stretch your brains through strategic thinking exercises to consider new opportunities and quickly zoom them into a plan that’s ready for next year when next year starts! We’d love to help you hit next year zooming!   – Mike Brown

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation success. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around innovation and implementation challenges.


Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

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! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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16

There is clearly tremendous value in having diverse, positive creative thinking skills on your creative team. What you might be overlooking, however, is the value of having access to creative thinking skills that might not typically be considered particularly constructive for a creative team’s success.

Consider It “Critical” Thinking

While creative instigators can be vital to the robust development of creative thinking, you can’t afford to let it coast its way toward implementation without being challenged. “Critical” thinking  make your creative thinking stronger near-term and your creative thinking skills sharper over time.

Don’t let a premature implementation push leave your creative thinking work vulnerable to critical challenges too late in the creative development process.

Select your creative team to make sure you identify the individuals who will supply five critical thinking perspectives to make your creative thinking stronger:

1. The Skeptic

The skeptic isn’t going to believe anything you tell them the first time. The skeptic will demand proof for the creative thinking you’re trying to sell to them. The skeptic making you prove everything, however, forces you to ensure you have the strategic and insight-driven support for your creative ideas.

2. The Short Attention Span Theater Fan

Certain people will not or cannot sit still for an in-depth explanation of your creative thinking. You might have only three PowerPoint slides worth of time to provide the background, make your recommendation, and show your supporting rationale. When someone on your team has a short attention span, you’ll get much better at getting to the point . . . or you’ll be talking to yourself in an empty room!

3. An Argumentative So and So

We all know people who object to everything. Everything is wrong; nothing will work. And they are ready to let you know all the things you can expect to fall short with your creative ideas. Talk about critical thinking! As a result, making your case to an argumentative person will cause you to be ready to answer all kinds of passionate, unexpected objections to the creative ideas you believe in so strongly.

4. The Dense Person

Some people simply don’t “get” things as fast as others. You can explain a new idea and see it in their eyes or in their body language: something about your creative idea isn’t clicking. Even if your dense creative team member does get the idea, he or she will not get it the next time you discuss it, so you’ll have to explain it again. While it may feel as if repetitive explanations are taking up time, repeating your creative idea multiple times will productively challenge the consistency of your thinking and your attention to strategic detail.

5. Your Narrow Minded Associate

The creative team member who has a clearly different, and markedly narrower, perspective than you can be maddening most of the time. These people do not (or simply refuse to) see the bigger picture. They also don’t have much time or respect for alternatives viewpoints to their own. Where they are beneficial as you try to sell your creative ideas, however, is when they force you to find (or incorporate) benefits to address non-believers in your audience.

Do you know who the problem people are on your creative team?

Are these “critical” creative thinking skills accounted for on your creative team? Are there other challenging creative thinking skills  you depend upon for your creative success? Let’s hear about them! – Mike Brown

 

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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creativity 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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0

A business associate returned  from a manufacturers’ conference reporting new opportunities for growth and business development among attendees were generally coming from them looking at current clients in new ways.

What a great, often overlooked, reminder.

While it may be easy for organizations to get bored with their same old clients, surprising, unrealized new opportunities are often present with clients you have had for years. To discover new opportunities with current clients, however, can depend on pushing what you’re already doing on business development into new areas.

Five Ideas to Discover New Opportunities with Current Clients

Here are five ideas for taking your business development efforts into new, unexplored territory, by discovering new opportunities with current clients:

1. Go beyond just knowing your client’s job responsibilities

Make sure you know the range of duties for which your client contact has responsibility. Also find out, however, where your client spends too much or too little effort versus how they would like to allocate their time. A client spending more time than desired on an activity signals an opportunity to offer new ways to streamline and reduce demands on them. Areas where they aren’t spending enough time could be new opportunities to address what’s missing in their desired efforts.

2. Discover your customer’s business challenges beyond your category

After calling on a customer for some time, you may only focus on challenges they have tied to your product or service. Work to discover a customer’s biggest challenges outside your business category, too. With a broader view of a customer’s challenges, you can identify additional opportunities to solve, situations a partner can help address, or completely new business solutions to stretch your organization.

3. Ask how all your customer’s vendors are performing

It’s always helpful to play the Spy vs. Spy game of trying figure out how you’re doing relative to direct competitors. Additionally, start concerning yourself with how the providers of any product or service your client uses are making your client more successful. You can uncover value-creating approaches other vendors have identified for your client that you may be able to engineer into what you deliver for them.

4. Take a backward look at your client’s purchase decisions

If a customer is doing business with you, they’re “satisfied,” or they’d choose one of the many other options available to them. Instead of focusing on satisfaction levels when talking directly with clients, spend time discussing why the client STARTED and continues to buy from you. This line of discussion provides the opportunity to see if you’re still meeting initial expectations, if you’ve expanded the value you’re delivering, and if new needs/decision factors are shaping the client’s CURRENT expectations.

5. Dig for the problems being created for your client by . . . (wait for it) . . . you

It’s nice to hear nice things about how you are performing for a client. Beyond probing for what’s going well, it’s critical to uncover the customer’s biggest issues and how your organization could be unknowingly exacerbating them. Getting to the heart of this yields vital insights into how products, services, and processes your organization considers standard gum up the works for your clients and hold back your growth in serving them.

What are you doing to look at current clients in new ways to discover new growth opportunities?

There are obviously many more approaches to look at current clients to find new opportunities. These five ideas, however, can definitely open up unaddressed possibilities in any long-term business relationship. – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation 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 innovation and implementation 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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12

There is, not surprisingly, a lot of activity on the Brainzooming blog on strategic thinking exercises since they are vital elements in effective strategic planning. As The Brainzooming Group looks at it, strategic thinking exercises are devices to help individuals or teams imagine and address ways to advance organizations / products / programs toward important goals.

What are the characteristics of the best strategic thinking exercises?

Here are six characteristics we design into the strategic thinking exercises we create for strategic planning engagements with clients.

They all need to:

1. Allow everyone to participate – even those with little or no direct experience

We preach the importance of multiple thinking perspectives in developing great strategy. We know some people who participate in strategic planning will have less experience than other participants will. Great exercises, however, accommodate these differences in experience and do not leave anyone without a role based on what they know or have done.

2. Incorporate emotion

It does not necessarily matter which emotion strategic thinking exercises incorporate. It could be fear, angst, frustration, humor, hope, or passion. Or another emotion. Or some combination of all of those. If your strategy development only depends on logic and does not incorporate emotion, you are missing something.

3. Require people to think atypically

If everyone comes into and leaves a set of strategic thinking exercises without having thought in new ways, there is a major disconnect. There needs to be specific variables built in to ensure people are thinking along new paths and in ways they have not had to consider previously.

4. Introduce a strategic twist that doesn’t match expectations or reality

If you want different perspectives from your current strategy, strategy and brainstorming questions need to go beyond simply what the current situation looks like. They should incorporate an unexpected twist or thinking detour to make participants feel uncomfortable with their standard way of thinking.

5. Create new questions

The more you attempt to answer strategy and brainstorming questions, the more new questions will emerge. Strategic thinking is about exploration. If it’s fruitful exploration, you’re going to uncover strategic paths that will be laden with new questions.

6. Leave room for unanswered issues

This goes along with triggering new questions. Successful strategic thinking exercises can’t be expected to answer everything. The future isn’t certain. The objective should be to consider as many possibilities as possible, even if some, or even many of them, can’t be completely answered right away.

Want examples of our favorite strategic thinking exercises?

Here are some of our go-to strategy exercises and brainstorming questions. We invite you to look at how these could fit into your strategic planning and innovation work:

As usual, they all carry our standard disclaimer: “These exercises appear easier to use then they really are.”

If you want the best results from them, you need to call The Brainzooming Group! When we’re on the case, we’ll guarantee these exercises will be successful as part of your innovation or strategic planning! – 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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