Insights | The Brainzooming Group - Part 46 – page 46
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I’m at the marcusevans Market Resarch & Consumer Insights conference today talking about strategic thinking and the opportunity that market researchers have to contribute to broader strategic success in their companies. One of the keys to delivering on this promise is to have strong relationships with your key market research partners.

Several years ago, I sat down with our main market research company to address what was wrong in our strategic relationship. Taking the approach that we both had faults leading to problems in our relationship was a constructive way to get both of us back on track. The “Ten Things” list can work for almost any market research relationship. Fell free to use or adapt it with your marketing partners:
Ten Things – The Foundation to a Strategic Research Relationship
  1. Be a “thought partner” with us. This is a two-way street – we’ve got to treat you like one before you can do what it takes to become one.
  2. Your energy and passion for what you do (and your intellectual curiosity) need to be evident.
  3. There’s a difference between researchers who think they’re researchers and researchers who see themselves as business people. It’s tough to explain the differences, but they’re readily apparent. We need researchers who think like business people if we are to be successful.
  4. Understand our business more deeply than from just the numbers that you see. If not, we’ll never get to where we must go.
  5. Bring creativity to questioning, analysis, and reporting (and any place else in the process). That means generating new ideas to produce breakthroughs on mutual efficiencies, high impact insights, easy to grasp reporting, and actionable recommendations.
  6. We must put information into context. We can’t afford to just report numbers or even changes in numbers. We need to get to insights. What does it mean? What do we do about it?
  7. We have to get beyond reports that show charts and have bullets that merely say what is on the chart. We have to offer our audiences relevant insights. That takes pulling information from various sources (including people) and analyzing, talking, and identifying relationships among everything we’re looking at.
  8. Look outside our industry or outside research circles for ways to report information. Review Edward Tufte, Richard Saul Wurman, and others. Are there movie scenes that help us get our points across? Magazine ads? Always ask the question: “What’s that like?”
  9. Communicate proactively – let’s make sure we talk and we’re all clear on things before moving ahead. That may mean a phone call instead of an email.
  10. Exhibit strong attention to detail – that way we can get beyond fact & spell checking and spend our time on delivering insights.

If you can get to this point with your research partners, you’ll truly be doing COOL WORK that matters and that can change your company and your industry. WOW!!!

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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When you don’t have anything interesting to say about thinking and research, step aside and let people who do have something to say take the floor:

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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Something happens to take you off plan. Sometimes it can’t be avoided…the first time.

But how do you avoid getting your plan derailed a second or third time? One way is by revisiting an implementation effort that went awry and addressing questions such as those below, turning the answers into lessons that you and your team can use in the future to guide your actions:

  • What happened to cause these implementation effort problems?
  • What was the root cause – really?
  • Was there a backup implementation strategy in place? Yes or No? Did the backup implementation strategy fail as well?
  • What were the indicators that there would be a problem? Did we notice or ignore them? Will the signals likely be there next time in a comparable situation?
  • Was available information not gathered or processed?
  • How did we deal with missing information?
  • In what ways might the implementation effort differ next time?
  • If we think it was “bad luck,” how do we create “good luck” in the future?

These few questions will go a long way toward providing a foundation to improve your performance next time. For an insightful, more in-depth look at various types of mistakes and the personal perspective and processes to address them, check out this essay from Scott Berkun. And while you’re doing so, poke around on his website. I just started, and it looks like there are a lot of cool ideas to discover!

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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Here’s the second installment of one of my favorite posts – the Rules of Can’t Be Right. This edition is focused on written reports. Here are some important checks you can use to spot potential errors:

  • Ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” If you didn’t know what it was saying beforehand, could you really tell someone what your point is?
  • Look at written prose in a different font or format than you originally used to write it. Doing this freshens your eyes to spot mistakes in something that you’ve spent quite a bit of time working on. (It’s amazing how frequently I’ll miss a mistake while writing this blog that becomes readily apparent when it’s published in Blogger with a different look.)
  • When you have a bulleted list, check to see if the beginning words are of the same type (i.e., all verbs, all of the same tense, etc.) and if each line ends in the same way (period, no period).
  • Run the spelling and grammar checkers. Yes, it’s completely basic, but that doesn’t mean people always do it.
  • Print it and read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised to find how fractured something that looks right can sound when you’re speaking it.
  • Have someone else take a look at it. That’s another way to get a fresh set of eyes as a double check. If the person is unfamiliar with the topic, all the better since they won’t subconsciously fix problems that more experienced people might.
  • Ask yourself, “What knowledge am I assuming that the reader has on this topic?” Figure out how you can eliminate the need for the assumption to be necessary by providing the background to understand your material.

Please leave comments with tips you use to double check work and look for mistakes. We’ll run them in a future installment of the rules of CBR.

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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My wife and I see the need for home repairs very differently. She’s more attuned to subtle defects, noticing many I don’t. It’s not surprising. She spends more time at home and views things more closely. We also look from different perspectives – different chairs, bathrooms, even heights, since I’m taller. Yet with my more distant perspective, I notice certain items needing attention that she doesn’t. It usually occurs when I’m doing an unfamiliar activity – putting things away, cleaning, yard work, etc.

This same phenomenon happens in business even with things such as opportunities, challenges, and processes. You look at something very closely, maybe because you have responsibility for it. Since you spend so much time with it, you may view it from several perspectives, but all of them VERY close. Still you’re likely missing things that are obvious to others who see what you see from a different vantage point.

The key is to be able to actively look at a situation from blatantly different viewpoints. So if I may, here are a few great suggestions for changing how you “look”:

Move Further Away

  • Have someone completely unfamiliar with the situation observe it, and ask them, “What are your impressions of what took place?”
  • Change your seat – physically or virtually – and take a few steps back from where you usually “sit” while viewing a situation. What do you see differently?

Look Closer

  • Look at only one aspect of a process – repeat “how” and “why” questions (i.e., How is this working? Why does this happen?) until you’ve explored many possibilities for new insights.

Look from a Different Height

  • Spend a day on the front lines with sales, manufacturing, or customer service – what do they see about the process or opportunity that you don’t?
  • Spend time directly with a customer as they interact with your business – how does it look to them?
  • Shadow a senior executive (maybe a mentor) – what regularly makes its way to their level?

Look from a Different Perspective

  • Have someone else carry out the process – what’s different?

Several of these techniques helped diagnose what wasn’t working with a new planning process recently. By having new participants review it, sitting in different seats to observe interaction, and using different facilitators to lead the process, we’ve cut the initial time for the process by 50% and created more-tailored exercises. And we got these results by simply changing how we look – without plastic surgery or having to address the worst Valentine’s Day “look” question of all, “Does this make me look heavy?”

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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I gave up using a red pen while reviewing work several years ago because someone in our department said she felt as if she were being graded in school. Regardless of your pen color though, a critical part of performing & reviewing analysis is the ability to quickly spot mistakes. It helps to have a sixth sense regarding CBR—items that obviously “Can’t Be Right.” In case you don’t have that special power, here are rules you can use to help spot mistakes – whether they’re yours or someone else’s:

  • Before you work on or review analysis, think about what the answer should or will likely be. If the results aren’t in the ballpark, and there’s no apparent reason, do some digging.
  • When reviewing work, start with a “skeptical” attitude – the expectation that something’s wrong – and look specifically for mistakes.
  • Assume things typically won’t change dramatically (or at least outside a typical range). If changes look like big deviations from the norm, investigate why.
  • Try to “break” things—when testing a spreadsheet or program or reading a document, look for ways to make it not work or look for passages that don’t make sense.
  • With a spreadsheet, do the unexpected—put in numbers that you wouldn’t normally expect (i.e., a negative number where it should be positive, change the order of magnitude of important numbers, etc.). As a double check, if a spreadsheet uses lots of formulas, dramatically change some numbers that should make the results change.
  • Do things or read sections out of the natural sequence. This often makes irregularities more recognizable.
  • When reading, repeatedly ask the questions, “Why would I know that? Does it tell me that somewhere else in the document? Is the point consistent within the document?” Be skeptical when you think you have satisfactorily answered these questions.

While it might feel a little better to not use a red pen while marking up analysis, it feels tremendously better to catch a mistake before your boss or client does. Use these rules to help increase that likelihood. And if you have rules that you use successfully, let me know, and we’ll put them in a follow-up post.

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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Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of guerrilla marketing, the concept that businesses can reap greater rewards through the strategic use of low- and no-cost marketing tools. He says that there are at least 100 guerrilla marketing tools available to any business.

Beyond the standard tool list that Levinson uses, I’ve found it helpful to get marketing teams to work through a specific question-based exercise to identify marketing tools unique or at least specific to their own businesses.

Use the list below with your marketing team. One way is for a team member to identify as many answers to a specific question as possible within a 3 minute period, and then rotate the question to the next team member to build on the list:

  • What do we want to promote?
  • What are our features, benefits & competitive advantages? Which are most meaningful?
  • What communications vehicles are in place?
  • What ideas/words/phrases do we use?
  • Who are experts/partners? What’s notable about them?
  • Where do our audiences congregate (geographically or virtually) and/or receive our messages?
  • What motivates our audiences?
  • How can we get permission and the info to keep marketing to our audiences?
  • What business & personal relationships do we have that could be of assistance?
  • Who would like to be involved with us in growing our business?
  • Who could we help make more successful?
  • What interactions do we have with our audience?
  • What new interactions can we create?
  • What tools or ideas can we “steal”?

I’ve had a team of 8 to 10 people build a list of more than 200 tools (many of which they’d never thought of using) within a 25 minute period as everyone worked individually using the rotating question approach.

You can also check out a more focused set of areas to brainstorm and identify specific social media resources and tools your organization can use.

Give this exercise a try at your next staff meeting or planning session, and then go back through your marketing plan to make sure you’re using as many of the tools as possible that you’ve identified.  – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can develop an integrated, guerrilla marketing-oriented strategy for your brand.

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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