2

Do you ever suffer from “client block”?

As I’d characterize it, client block is a subset of creative block when you are specifically challenged making progress on a project for a particular client. That client may be an external or internal one to your organization. The point is something is getting in the way of delivering what you are on the hook for as the project outcome for a specific client, rather than an overall creative block.

Why Client Block Happens

Considering times I’ve suffered client block, it has happened because a client:

  • Has a world view that doesn’t have a lot of regard for the project’s focus
  • Doesn’t have a willingness to absorb much information
  • Isn’t open to accepting their view of reality isn’t borne out by facts
  • Isn’t interested in what they really need to know or understand
  • Knows what they DON’T want but can’t articulate what they DO want
  • Refuses to productively engage in shaping what the project deliverable they want contains and/or looks like

The result of these client block situations may be something that feels like creative block where you are unable to get started on a project. It could also simply be a lack of interest or motivation in determining how to address the specific issue a client could have with the project outcome.

Solutions to Client Block

Considering the issue the other day with someone while talking about creative block, we brainstormed a variety of approaches to combat client block. Some potential ideas to combat client bock include:

  • Creating a strategic outline that’s a mix of what the client wants and what you think should be delivered and working to get buy off on it from the client.
  • Moving ahead with what you believe is the right direction, realizing you’ll have to sell in your approach much harder.
  • Being an “order taker” and resolving to deliver whatever the client wants, whether you think it’s the right thing or not.
  • Using a previous project deliverable similar to what you need as a template or roadmap.
  • Not starting at the beginning of the deliverable but starting where you can most easily get started to fuel yourself with an early sense of accomplishment.
  • Determining the easiest way for you to create the deliverable and start using that direction, even if you modify and adapt it later.
  • Pulling someone into the project who can challenge your thinking and help identify a place to get started.
  • If you’re able, delegating or outsourcing the deliverable to someone who has a better sense of how to start and complete it.

What do you do to combat client block?

These eight ideas are a start at addressing client block. Have you tried any of them to deal with client block successfully or unsuccessfully? Are there other ways you’ve been able to work around a client block?

We (and be “we,” I mean “I”) would love to learn your solutions and give them a try! – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new 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 innovation 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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4

For some people, it is a natural move from in real life personal relationships to social networking. Their social networking success can come from an instinctive or learned knack for what and when to share the right amount of personal information to make positive connections without boring people or seeming too self-obsessed.

Others, who take a more cautious approach to their lives and personal relationships, cannot imagine WHAT they could share online about themselves while still maintaining a professional image.

Social Networking by Sharing Kitteh Pictures

I was having this discussion with a cautious business owner recently who has social media presences established for the business, but struggles with what to share to both establish professional expertise and make personal connections via social networking. My point was even in a business-to-business setting, people buy from other people. PERSONAL relationships matter in real life business development, and they also matter when you are engaged in online social networking for business development.

You should have seen the reaction though when I mentioned the strategy behind sharing pictures of our cat Clementine (who a Twitter friend dubbed the “Director of Enthusiasm”) on Facebook.

Within a few questions, we found some topics that definitely have the potential for sharing on social networks. The issue is whether this business owner will become comfortable weaving in a more personal feel to social media content.

7 Content Strategy Questions for Building Personal Relationships

If you are struggling with integrating personal information into your social media sharing, here are seven questions you can ask yourself to identify potential personally oriented topics for social media sharing:

  • What do you think, know, and believe?
  • What are your favorite sources of compelling news and information online?
  • What do business associates and clients know about you personally?
  • What do you share about yourself when you meet someone at a networking event?
  • What is intriguing about you and your professional and personal interactions?
  • What is visually intriguing about your life – both professionally and personally?
  • What brands, stores, and places do you talk up to people because you appreciate them?

Certainly, you have answers to these questions. If you are struggling with sharing personal information via social media, the answers to these questions can start to form the basis of your personal content sharing strategy.

Social Networking – When and How Much Personal Information

The next big questions to ask and answer are how soon and how much to share personally?

You have to do what works for you, but if you are reluctant to share personal information online, the answers to these last two questions are “sooner than you think” and “more than you want.”

So now that all the questions are answered, it is time to started sharing and building personal relationships to let people get to know you better in an online professional setting! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

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

We have run several posts on visual thinking tools we find particularly valuable in the Brainzooming process. One of my personal favorite visual thinking tools is a matrix, grid, or table. Maybe I like a matrix so much because I liked an orange divided dinner plate from my childhood since it kept different types of food separated from each other. A matrix does a similarly effective job of separating data and ideas to better compare and contrast them.

For whatever reason, from the first time I used a spreadsheet, I gravitated to using matrices for both numerical and prose-based data display.

9 Reasons a Matrix Is One of the Hardest Working Visual Thinking Tools

When you use a matrix to organize data, it does many of the same things an xy graph does since each displays available information along two dimensions, with the opportunity to create smaller categories along each dimension as well.

A matrix is an especially hard working visual thinking tool since it:

  • Creates structure for data while still providing flexibility. Simply changing the dimensions used to organize the information allows for a potentially very different look.
  • Can convey, depending on the dimensions you choose, relationships based on chronology, proximity, organizational structure, dependencies, characteristics, etc.
  • Allows text, numbers, symbols, images, and even colors to display and communicate comparative insights.
  • Frees data in the matrix from having to point out relationships to the two labels describing a particular cell’s position. This allows data to address other important insights and relationships.
  • Can be either tremendously information dense or highly stylized and simple based on its size and the analytical needs.
  • Invites comparisons and contrasts between and among adjoining cells. Depending on the size and arrangement of the matrix, one cell can have adjacent contrasts with as many as eight cells (those on each of the four sides and four additional cells at the corners).
  • Can make sameness more obvious since identical or similar data will stand out (and potentially lead you to revise the matrix dimensions to accentuate differences).
  • Can make various types of differences stand out, particularly varying levels of information completeness or ratings.
  • Is generally portable between spreadsheet, document, and presentation software programs.

Those are some strong visual thinking advantages that make using a matrix a compelling data display choice.

Are you a fan of using a matrix as a visual thinking tool?

Do you use matrices often? If so, what other advantages do you see a matrix providing for your visual thinking needs? – 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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4

The  old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” is wrong when it comes to a business assessing brand experience. When you’re responsible for managing brand experience, the saying should be, “People who live in glass houses should be begging anyone and everyone to throw stones.”

Let me explain with an unusual example.

I live in Prairie Village, KS, an early post-World War II suburb in the Kansas City, MO metro area. Prairie Village is filled with Cape Cod-style houses. One peculiarity of the original Cape Cod design was having a full window in the bathroom where the bathtub/shower is placed. This oddity has been modified in various ways by nearly all owners over the years. In our house, for instance, the upstairs bathroom window is covered over and the downstairs bathroom window is now a small one for ventilation.

Glass Houses

Other homeowners have gone a different route.

Directly across the street from the parking lot where I attend 6:30 a.m. mass weekdays is a Cape Cod house whose window has been replaced with glass block.

Yes, glass block with no window covering.

That’s exactly what you think it is.

Fairly frequently when it’s still dark at 7 a.m., this is the view I see when turning onto a fairly heavily traveled road in Prairie Village that runs past this house. It’s a road with lots of traffic, early morning joggers, and students walking to the nearby high school at that time of day.

The thing is, I have no idea who naked shower guy is or whether his rather regular early morning shows are intentional or from a complete lack of awareness of the properties of glass and light.

Naked Shower Guy and Brand Experience Monitoring

Nonetheless, naked shower guy isn’t unlike a lot of organizations who think they have a solid handle on the brand experience of their customers, employees, and stakeholders. It’s easy for a company to delude itself into thinking it knows what its customers and employees are experiencing. That’s especially true when they hand out thousands of URLs and phone numbers to customers asking them to let the company know how they’re doing via a few questions on inbound customer surveys rating performance.

Here’s the potential problem though with relying solely on this type of brand experience monitoring.

Substitute naked shower guy in his Cape Cod house for one of these businesses handling brand experience monitoring through quick inbound customer surveys.

If naked shower guy were doing a five-question online survey, he might ask about a variety of standard elements of the brand experience around a Prairie Village Cape Cod house – Is it well-painted and maintained? Is the yard mowed? Are the trees and flowers attractive? Is the surrounding area clean and free of trash?

He’d never ask, “How do you find the view of me naked in the shower every morning?”

Why?

Because he’d be deciding questions to ask based on his inside-out view of what the brand experience is. And clearly no one has mentioned to him that the most prominent experience related to his brand is him naked in the shower.

Outside-In Brand Experience Monitoring

So before you launch into a program to capture customer ratings on the standard stuff, take the time to ask questions and encourage all your audiences to throw some stones about what makes up your brand experience from their perspectives. Don’t just rely on your internal perspective of brand experience or you’ll miss some potential problem areas you’d never imagine .

Because you DON’T want to be naked shower guy. Trust me on that.  – 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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7

Photo by: Bastografie Source: photocase.com

Planning for the unexpected was a focus recently with a client we worked with to create a multi-year strategic plan.

Our client’s chief executive had read “Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (affiliate link). Taleb developed the concept of black swan events to describe unexpected occurrences that precipitate dramatic, history-shaping impacts. With black swan events being so disproportionately rare and generating such disproportionately large impacts (think 9-11 and the emergence of the Internet), people are generally blind to anticipating them. These events are ripe though, for people to “figure them out” after they happen, mistakenly thinking the event could have been anticipated.

Our client asked us to help his leadership team anticipate black swan events, even though, almost by definition, you can’t anticipate them.

But hey, it was a client, so we developed a strategic thinking exercise to address his request. Think of it as a glimpse into the Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise R&D lab!

Imagining the Unexpected in a Strategic Thinking Exercise

As we thought about envisioning black swan events in a strategic thinking exercise, we considered a pivotal scene from “Ghostbusters” (affiliate link). There was a scene in the movie where the Ghostbusters are under threat of the first thought that pops into their heads rising up to destroy them. Dan Akroyd’s character ponders the Stay Puft Marshmallow man since this figure from his childhood seems to be the most harmless thing imaginable. Suddenly, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man appeared to hunt down the Ghostbusters on top of a Manhattan building.

We drew a comparison between this “Ghostbusters ” scene and developing questions to consider potential black swan events.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, black swan events aren’t independently scary (i.e., a plane is a common item and who would imagine one crashing into a building) or dazzlingly incredible (i.e., a couple of connected computer networks becoming the Internet).

Yet, somehow in both the “Ghostbusters” movie scene and in black swan events, what seems friendly and safe can turn deadly.

Starting with the Benign

Instead of asking questions to identify specific black swans in a strategic thinking exercise, we recommend identifying a list of things in your business seemingly beyond failure – and even as benign as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

Our initial list of areas to consider includes:

  • Things currently working well– both inside and outside the organization
  • Strong, dependable areas in the organization and its processes
  • Activities increasing in volume and importance because of growing market demand
  • Overlooked aspects of the business considered no big deal
  • Disproportionately complex processes in the organization
  • The organization’s hidden secrets
  • Formerly problematic business areas whose challenges are long forgotten

Once you’ve generated a list from these areas, you can look for themes that emerge.

Turning Your Organizational Imagination into Action

The second step is to begin imagining the impact of things from the list you’ve created blowing up (through extreme failure or success) and whether you would be prepared to respond to these events. This can be a fun strategic destruction exercise for your team.

Across this strategic thinking exercise, you may not have anticipated all or even most of the black swans that might hit; but ideally, you’ll have anticipated a wide range of significant disruptions that could be caused by the black swan events you can’t anticipate.

Do you plan for Black Swan events?

Does (or will) your organization try to plan for black swan events? How do you go about doing it if this is a regular part of your annual planning?

If you’d like some assistance on your next round of strategic planning (whether or not you want to anticipate black swan events), let me know. We’d love to help you imagine your future thoroughly and quickly on the way to better implementation next year. – Mike Brown

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

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

 

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

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

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • 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 thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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7

Having just completed an innovation session last week where The Brainzooming Group was leading a client in addressing its customer service experience innovation, this Brainzooming guest blog post from Woody Bendle was top of mind for me. Woody shares a robust approach to pursue if you are trying to address any opportunity to differentiate your organization relative to the customer experience you deliver:

 

Is customer service, or providing a great customer service experience at the core of your organization’s mission and strategy?

If so, I first want to congratulate you and encourage you to continue on this journey because it really can make all the difference in the world between success and failure!

Second, you also need to recognize that you are not alone.

Everybody Is Talking Excellent Customer Service

I did a quick Google search this morning on “excellent customer service mission.”  The search produced 46.2 million results!  Here are a few that came back:

  • We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible.  – Zappos
  • The mission of _____ is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.  – Southwest Airline
  • Exceed our customers’ expectations by being the leading provider of safe, responsive, value-added services in the student transportation industry.  –  Laidlaw International
  • At the heart of delivering any and all of our solutions is incredible customer service, which we feel sets us apart from our competition.  –  TerpSys.com
  • Our mission is to provide our customers with superior products and outstanding customer service  –  Yardi Systems
  • We place the customer experience at the core of all we do. Our customers are the reason for our existence…. Our goal is quality, service, cleanliness and value (QSC&V) for each and every customer, each and every time.  –  McDonald’s
  • Create experiences so great the customer says, “Wow.” –  Oracle
  • Our goal is to provide the best customer service in our industry.  –  HeinOnline.com
  • Our customer service sets the standard. – Delta Dental of Illinois

Not only are you not alone, I’d say you are at risk of being the norm!  And, therein is the problem.

With so many organizations focusing on customer service, you have to assume if you are providing really good customer service, resulting in a pretty good overall customer experience, you are likely close to providing what is expected by today’s consumer.  But, this probably only keeps you in the game; and it may not be setting you apart.

In order to set your organization apart from your competitors – in terms of customer service and experience – you have to innovate.  You need to develop and provide a customer service experience that is:

  • Truly unique (through the eyes of your customers), and
  • Highly valued.

Figuring out whether or not you are doing something truly unique is easy enough.  When you walk into an Apple Store you know you are experiencing something different. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being visited by The Geek Squad, you know you’ve experienced something different. It probably made a positive impression on you.

Recognizing something different after you’ve experienced it is pretty easy, but how do you come up with that idea in the first place?  Also, how do you determine whether or not it is something that will be highly valued by your current and potential customers?  And perhaps even more important, how do you determine if there is even a significant opportunity to differentiate your organization through customer service (or experience) innovation?

To answer these questions, you essentially need to do two things:

  • Thoroughly understand all of the things your customers want and expect from their engagements with your organization.
  • Determine the extent to which you have an opportunity to differentiate your organization from its competition in a way that is truly valued by the marketplace.

Thoroughly Understand Your Customer’s Needs, Wants, and Expectations

Yes, I heard you say “well….duh!” But this is always the foundation for creating a successful innovation.  So many new products and companies failing, you’ll be surprised to learn it is actually a lot simpler than people make it out to be.  You just have to do it!

To thoroughly understand your customers’ needs, wants and expectations, you need to ask and exhaustively answer the following questions:

  • Why is it that they are engaging with our organization at all – that is, what is it our organization is helping them do or accomplish?
  • What do they want to accomplish as a result of engaging with us?
  • Is their engagement with us a means to accomplishing something else?
  • How do they feel (or want to feel) while they are engaging with our company, our associates, or brand?
  • Why are they choosing our organization over another?
  • What contributed to their choosing us versus someone else?
  • What could possibly get in the way of them engaging with us?
  • How do they determine whether or not they had a successful experience that met or exceeded their expectations?

If you want to innovate, it is important to obtain as many answers to each of these questions as possible.  As you obtain one answer, go ahead and ask:

  • Why else?
  • What else?
  • How else?

Another oft referenced technique I absolutely love is “5 Whys.” By probing deeper and deeper with each and every question, and continuing to ask why, you will uncover many interesting and surprising insights.

As I mentioned earlier though, thoroughly understanding your customers’ needs is only the beginning.

Determine Your Opportunity to Innovate

Armed with a lot of really interesting answers to the above questions, you need to determine how important each of these things is to your customers, and how well they feel you and your competitors help them with what they want to accomplish.  A proven tool you can use to gauge the opportunity for innovation is called the “opportunity algorithm.”  After you’ve performed your opportunity analysis, you will be able to pinpoint you organization’s most significant areas for service and experience innovation.

At this point you know how differentiated your organization is from your competition, and whether or not you actually have an opportunity to deliver a knockout service and experience innovation.

There are several additional (and critical) steps you will need to take if you want to develop and get your service and experience innovation to market. These include:

  • Developing several possible innovation solutions
  • Determining the extent to which each possible solution meets and ideally exceeds customer expectations
  • Calculating if you can profitably implement the innovation, and
  • Assessing how unique and defensible your customer service innovation really is

In a forthcoming Brainzooming article, I will detail these next steps for customer service and experience innovation. Until then, you have the first steps to get started.

Since I’m an individual who loves and genuinely appreciates new and distinctive customer service experiences, I’m rooting for you to get started leaping out of this sea of sameness!  – Woody Bendle

 

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 creative 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.

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I was watching an HBO documentary on supermodels from the 1940s through the 1990s. The HBO documentary included supermodels sharing perspectives on their careers from earlier days, how they have changed since their prime modeling years, and ideas about what they have learned along the way.

Among various intriguing interviews, Paulina Porizkova spoke about how she viewed herself at the height of her modeling career in her mid-twenties. At the time, she felt her thighs were fat, her knees were ugly, and in general, she did not have good legs. At 45, however, she said she looks back twenty years and thinks she looked great. Now though, she was bemoaning going to the gym 6 days a week only to have everything on her body sagging, with a too large forehead, and a stretchy face. She admitted that at 70 though, she will look back at herself at 45 and probably think she looked great in her mid-forties.

Now to me and just about anyone else, Paulina Porizkova looked fabulous in her twenties and still looks incredible today.

So how can an objectively beautiful woman such as Paulina Porizkova have such mistaken perspectives when it comes to judging how she looks?

Paulina Porizkova cannot assess how she really looks for the same reason it is so difficult for any of us to objectively judge our situations and provide the best ideas to ourselves about what we should do. Yet how many business people cling doggedly to the idea that they (or at least only the people already within their organizations) know everything there is to know about their situations and do not need outside help assessing things or helping devise new, more successful ideas?

6 Vital Insights Outsider Perspectives Offer

If you are one of those people who does not want outside help, here are six reasons you’re missing vital insights by not seeking outsider perspectives:

  • Your internal voice will not give you objective insights on your situation.
  • Even if you know you don’t know everything, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • You have no diversity of mindset, knowledge, or experience relative to yourself.
  • You can’t objectively assess what your strengths and weaknesses are by yourself.
  • You are either too bold or too reticent to provide ideas for yourself with the right degree of urgency and intensity.
  • You would have to be excellent at all of these: assessing your situation, determining the right steps to take, AND then taking the steps. Good luck.

It is so much easier to provide vital insights to other people on what to improve than it is to do the same for yourself. While the Brainzooming Group provides many outsider perspectives on strategy to clients across a variety of industries, I am always interested in hearing what insights others in our strategic circle have about opportunities for The Brainzooming Group. Trust me, an outsider can see, process, and speak with a clarity it is nearly impossible for an insider to muster.

If you are ready to give up on excluding outsider perspectives on your strategy, give us a call at 816-509-5320 or email us. The Brainzooming Group would love to provide the objective, outsider perspectives and ideas you are missing! – Mike Brown

 

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

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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