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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is back with his first post of this year. I was glad Woody tackled a visual thinking topic, because it’s something we’ve touched on, but haven’t spent enough time addressing. Depending on how tomorrow’s post shakes out, we’ll likely talk about what it takes to create a valuable infographic, such as Woody shares below. Here’s Woody!

Visual Thinking: Better Ways to Think about Calorie Data by Woody Bendle

Here we are in the New Year, and if you are like me, your selfies probably have more “self” in them now than prior to the holidays!

While many of us resolve to start each year with intentions of exercising and watching our diet more closely, have you ever stopped to consider what “watching our diet” really means?

For years, health and nutrition experts have recommended regular exercise and a balanced diet of 2,000 calories per day (pdf link). Two thousand calories is roughly what an adult human needs daily to function and maintain weight.

The exercise thing I readily understand, but I have absolutely no idea how many calories I consume in a meal, let alone a day. For all I know, I could be consuming 20,000 calories per day! If it were easier to know how many calories were in the different things I eat and drink, however, I would maybe pay more attention.  After all, I am sort of a numbers guy.

Here comes the calorie data!

Before too much longer, we’re all going to have A LOT more data on calories all around us! Did you know one new regulation under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a requirement for restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie information for menu items?

I’m not here to pick with the ACA, nor this new requirement to provide calorie information.

But if the regulation’s intent is to really get Americans to think differently about their food choices, there are several reasons posting more numbers next to a menu item will likely not accomplish much:

  1. Lack of context – Most Americans have absolutely no idea the current US Dietary Guideline is a daily diet of roughly 2,000 calories.
  2. Lack of meaning – Most Americans have no idea what a calorie actually is nor what it means, and
  3. Lack of usefulness – More data doesn’t necessarily mean better (more relevant or useful) information

Granted, most people will understand something with 500 calories has five times more calories than something else with 100 calories.  But so what!?  And that’s my point.

How about creating BETTER information?

If this new regulation’s goal is to help people better understand tradeoffs between menu choices (any get them to change their diets), we could be more creative in how we provide the information.  That is, help people understand what the data mean in a way that is more meaningful to them!

What if McDonald’s displayed menu items in the following manner?

Menu-Calories

NOTE 1: Based on an average male adult between the age of 31-50, weighing 195 lbs.
NOTE 2: Walking pace of 3 ½ miles per hour and jogging pace of 5 miles per hour.

When I see that a Big Mac, Large Fries and Large Coke is 1,330 calories I’m not entirely sure what that means.  However, when the calories are translated to how much exercise is required to burn off those calories, I now have some information I can run with effectively!

Understanding the average Joe on the street has to walk 3 ½ hours or jog 1 hour and 45 minutes to completely work off that Big Mac, Large Fries and Large Regular Coke tells me something!  And if he were to get the McChicken Sandwich, Kid’s Fries and Large Diet Coke (a total of 460 calories), he’d only need to do an hour and 10 minutes worth of walking or 40 minutes of jogging?

Walking 3 ½ hours vs. 1 hour and 10 minutes… hmmm.

By providing the calorie information in a way I can more easily envision and digest, I actually think about my particular meal choice differently. And that’s some food for though – even though thinking doesn’t apparently burn ANY calories– Woody Bendle

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”

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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looking-for-answersThe easy answer to finding an answer for a question you have is “Googling it.”

While Googling is a ubiquitous way to find and process possible answers from global sources on the web, there’s more to getting solid answers you can confidently use.

Getting to solid answers that are either exactly or directionally accurate requires applying several strategic thinking skills involved beyond just Googling your question and grabbing a fast answer.

6 Search Tips beyond Googling Your Question

To improve not only your online search results, but the real results from answering your question, develop and use these six strategic thinking skills:

1. Imagine your search results before you start Googling

Before you start Googling, develop a sense of what types of answers you might find or at least the forms your answers may take. With this backdrop, you’re in a much better position to quickly evaluate whether you are on the right path with your search results.

2. Push outside your social network for answers

Increasingly, results served up to you online represent a small circle of what Google or other platforms think / believe / know will be most valuable to you. I’m too skeptical to depend exclusively on an algorithm to shape my search. Log out of Google and other applications as best you can to search a wider range of possibilities outside your social network.

3. Don’t read too extensively as you search

Grab as much information as you can as fast as you can without reading everything. Particularly if the answer is important, don’t settle for what might seem like the exact answer right away. Even if it appears you have a solid answer, do more looking to confirm or refute your apparently quick solution.

4. Compare possible answers to your initial expectations

As you begin scanning the initial search results, compare them to what you initially expected as an answer. This is vital since so much of the information you’ll get by Googling your question has never been properly vetted and fact checked. These days, fact checking sits squarely on the searcher’s shoulders. Be skeptical but also be open to having your initial perceptions of what you’ll find challenged or overturned.

5. Look for important disagreements in data

If every source is reporting the same thing, chances are it all came from a single source. When you don’t find a healthy amount of disagreement or variation from multiple information sources, you have a problem. To get a sense of being on the right path toward an answer to your question, go digging for greater information diversity.

6. Keep a running list of insights

As you review search results, jot down initial impressions, major points of agreement or disagreement, supporting points for your answer, ideas from your review, and clues to other places or resources to search. This list is your summarized recap of what your search yielded.

Strategic Thinking Skills Deliver the Best Answers

These six strategic thinking skills will serve you well so you do not just seize the first, and potentially wrong, answers from Googling your question blindly. – 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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2014-crazy-busyHere is a prediction for 2014: bosses and client will want even shorter reports and presentations than last year because everyone will be busier and have even shorter attention spans. (In fact, I also predicted on Twitter last night that 2014 will be the global year of even “crazier and busier.”)

But what if the report you are writing is destined to be way longer than your audience’s short attention span will tolerate?

How are you going to make the right decisions about cutting content to experience report shrinkage?

The first step, if it is at all possible, is printing the report you are developing. By printing the report, you can easily change the order of the content and compare alternative versions with and without specific content. This preference for printing and working with hard copy may reflect my age and thinking biases, but I find it much more efficient (and personally satisfying) to turn cutting content into a physical experience.

7 Questions to Experience Report Shrinkage

Beyond readying a physical or virtual version of your report, these seven questions will help you make decisions to achieve report shrinkage:

  1. Based on your previous history of positive and negative reactions to content with this audience, what can you get away with removing?
  2. If you don’t have previous experience with this audience, are there other comparable situations you can reference to identify what to eliminate?
  3. Can you create a reference or link to content you’re not including so if there’s interest in it, you can reference it on the fly?
  4. Does each piece of content you’re planning to keep disproportionately contribute to the short list of information the client needs to know, understand, or believe to take the desired actions?
  5. Can you combine content that’s similar but not exactly the same to create higher impact in the presentation?
  6. Have you duplicated content as the deck has moved through multiple authors and iterations?
  7. Are you to the point of cutting things that make you wince when you cut them? If not, you definitely have more content to cut.

We used these questions recently to get a forty-page report down to fourteen pages, just under the fifteen pages the client could reportedly handle!

Are you predicting more report shrinkage in 2014?

Do you buy our report shrinkage prediction for 2014? And if you do, what strategic thinking and actions are you going to do about 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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3-DoorsSometimes there is only one door available as your point of entry for a problem or opportunity you’re facing. While your choices for how to approach things are severely limited, there isn’t a lot of strategic thinking required when deciding where and how to start.

Sometimes there is only one good door to open up a problem or opportunity, yet it SEEMS like there are five or six different doors you COULD try. Choices are typically beneficial for strategic thinking. Having several doors from which to pick when addressing a problem or opportunity, however, can slow progress as you do the strategic thinking and trial needed to identify the only door that will maximize success.

Other times, there are several doors that will work with varying levels of success to address a problem or opportunity. In these cases, you need to quickly accomplish the strategic thinking to best identify the door (or doors) that will be most productive and fruitful.

Still other times, as was the case working with a client the other day to plan a kickoff event, there are fifteen doors you could open to begin developing a strategic opportunity. Pretty much all fifteen doors will lead toward creating strategic impact. The big thing here is your willingness to embrace the strategic thinking and exploration that having so many possibilities entails.

Short story?

You’ll face various situations all the time that have different dynamics and variables leading to success. One of the best things you can do early on is hone your ability to identify how many doors a particular problem or opportunity offers that could lead to creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

 

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Seth Godin wrote a post last week that seemed to be the inverse of his book, “The Dip.”  (Affiliate Link)

PeakWhile “The Dip” was about the deep trough that can take place right before things take off (or don’t), this new blog post called “The Moderation Glitch” was about “The Peak.”

This Seth Godin post discussed the challenge of knowing when the marginal benefits from your strategy peak and additional incremental efforts will yield negative rates of incremental benefit.

As is frequently the case, the blog post was more about pointing out a problem than how to do something about it. In fact, Seth Godin offered little in the way of even knowing WHEN you hit the peak.

That’s where this piece comes in.

While we don’t have the answer to WHEN the peak happens for your brand, his article got me thinking about questions you should be asking to better understand your peak as early as possible so you can take appropriate strategic action.

6 Strategic Thinking Questions for “The Moderation Glitch”

So from the Brainzooming strategic thinking R&D Lab, here are six strategic thinking questions to aid in estimating the potential timing of the peak Seth Godin identifies and who might help anticipate its arrival.

Gauging the Peak’s Timing

  • How long do customers in your market typically stick with something before moving to the next new thing? Cut that number by 1/3 or by 1/2 – or maybe 3/4 to get a sense of when you should start looking for the peak.
  • How long do you need your current strategic direction to work before you’d be okay with it falling apart on you since you’ll be doing something better already?

Use the answers to these two strategic thinking questions to estimate the initial timing expectations for when the peak may appear.

Identifying Your Strategic Guides

  • Whose sense of fatigue with this strategy will be the best indicator that it’s “enough” – whether it’s enough in the opinion of your customers, your organization, or someone else?
  • Will your salespeople or Finance people first know that things aren’t as good as they have been – or will it be your market research people or someone else?
  • Who understands the leading indicators in your business?
  • Who in your organization isn’t so enamored with the current strategic direction that they are willing to step away from it before everyone else in order to start thinking about the NEXT strategic direction?

Based on answers to these strategic thinking questions, you can identify the canaries in YOUR coalmine – those individuals who will sense a problem before anyone else does.

It’s impossible in one article to figure out your peak moment (or peak period). In just a few moments, however, you can document a better sense of your timing and the canaries who will signal it’s too late WHEN it’s too late, as opposed to AFTER it is too late. – Mike Brown

 

       (Affiliate Link)

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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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Maybe your strategic plan for the year is ready to go. Congratulations!

Maybe you are still working on your strategic plan. That’s completely understandable, and you’re still in pretty good shape to be ready for next year.

Maybe you are so focused on this year you have not even had a chance to begin thinking about a strategic plan for the upcoming year. You may want to skip ahead to the last paragraph!

Two Strategic Thinking Questions to Ask

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

No matter which category you are in with your strategic plan, here are two strategic thinking questions we highly recommend you ask and answer for this year as you look ahead to next year:

  • Where did the big surprises – both good and bad – come from in our organization this year?
  • Where did things happen this year in our organization where we lacked key insights ahead of time?

With answers to these two strategic thinking questions, you will have a helpful tweak to the strategic planning you have already done.

Alternatively, you will have additional ideas to help you focus on important areas to prioritize for the strategic planning you still need to do.

And by the way, if you need help getting an innovative strategic planning still completed before we get too far into next year, contact. We will get you Brainzooming! – 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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Best-The-Rush-SaleIn the United States, Thursday night launches Black Friday – the opportunity for people to start their Christmas shopping early.

While this push for early Christmas shopping creates bizarre behaviors and demonstrates some very scary aspects of our culture, I do have to applaud the value of EARLY.

While early is a struggle for lots of people, it pays to start early because it has many benefits for successful performance.

Early:

  1. Provides extra time for strategic thinking before doing.
  2. Lets you DECIDE how much time to spend on strategic thinking vs. doing.
  3. Allows you to get the easy stuff out of the way first to build momentum.
  4. Maximizes your creative and development options since the passing of time typically removes options.
  5. Lets you reach out and involve other people so they have adequate time to perform successfully.
  6. Affords you time to explore many possibilities.
  7. Lets you explore surprises that appear along the way toward developing what you are developing.
  8. Allows you to make multiple, really juicy mistakes you can learn from and improve.
  9. Does not force you to skip steps – unless you want to – in order to finish by the deadline.
  10. Gives you time to screw around and chase dead ends as you go.
  11. Allows you extra time on the hard stuff so you can keep the easy stuff to do until later as a reward.
  12. Saves time at the end to finish early and tweak what you have done.

Yup, if you can start early, it is definitely good for successful performance.

But how about spending that early shopping time actually spending time (not money) giving thanks and saving your shopping for a regular time?

Happy Thanksgiving!  – 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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