0

WeedsPreparing a creative and strategic thinking workshop for a client this week, one of the attendees mentioned in the pre-session survey a desire to identify ways to stay out of the weeds on project teams.

Great question and a strategic thinking topic we haven’t necessarily covered from that angle. While we talk frequently about the importance of focusing on what matters for an organization and staying productive, we haven’t necessarily addressed specific ways project teams can stay out of the weeds.

12 Ways Project Teams Can Stay out of the Weeds

Here are twelve ways to monitor whether a group is addressing strategic topics and ways a project team can stay out of the weeds if that is where it is stuck:

  • Involve a senior executive on the project team who has a short attention span for detail.
  • Prepare a meeting agenda that addresses big topics, but plans for a brief time near the meeting’s conclusion to revisit overly-detailed topics emerging during the project team meeting.
  • Maintain a running list of decisions and assumptions your project team has made and unless there is a clear and compelling strategic reason, make it difficult for the group to revisit and rework them.
  • Set a time limit for how much time you’ll spend researching, discussing, or deciding on a topic.
  • Invite fewer people to meetings where you’re discussing detailed topics.
  • Use an impartial facilitator to run the project team meeting and keep it moving toward the meeting objective.
  • Have someone with no experience participate in your discussion and whenever you get into topics that person doesn’t understand, pull the conversation back up to a meaningful level.
  • Ask whether the topic you’re discussing will have a material impact on the organization.
  • Continually ask how overly-detailed conversations are going to lead to discernible impact for customers or other important audience members.
  • Call time out on any topic you’re discussing that promises incremental impact but will be complex to implement.
  • Assign the people who want to get bogged down on a topic to do individual work to investigate or explore the issues and report back to the team.
  • Be willing to wrap up (or leave) early if there’s no forward progress toward the team’s objective and rethink your approach.

How do you keep a project team focused on strategic thinking and out of the weeds?

Do you have a tendency to get into the weeds when you really should be staying strategic? If not you, but others around you have a tendency to get into the weeds, how do you keep it from happening? – Mike Brown

 

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


Brainzooming-Before-After

 For More Information |  Phone: 816-509-5320  |  Email: info@brainzooming.com

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

0

Here are two recent examples of opportunities for more effective audience-driven branding, if one is paying attention and thinking from the audience’s perspective.

A New Audience Member Doesn’t See Your Ho-Hum

Schanee-AndersonAt the Kansas Green Schools and Environmental Education Conference, I attended a discussion group on “Thinking Outside the Box about Community Partners & Resources,” facilitated by Schanee’ Anderson of the Sedgwick County Zoo. Schanee’ covered the importance of not presupposing what your audience will find intriguing about your brand experience based solely on what YOU find intriguing.

Just one of her great insights on audience-driven branding was to take people unfamiliar with your organization on a tour of your operation. When an unfamiliar audience member “oohs” and “ahhs,” take note: that is an audience-driven branding element that is special. It is something to feature, no matter how long ago you started taking it for granted.

Other audience-driven branding insights Schanee’ shared included:

  • Not just asking the usual suspects to participate in your non-profit’s activities. Look for people with no apparent ties to your cause who might have intense interests in your cause that are not readily apparent.
  • Continually provide your audience members with the inside scoop on your organization. This builds relationships through giving them he inside scoop even when you do not have a specific ask to make of them.
  • If the people in your organization need training, identify an organization whose people would grow by educating your organization on relevant topics.

Question: What kinds of opportunities could a more audience-driven look at your brand experience create for your organization?

Not Jumping the Gun on the Ask

I was talking with a fund raising executive about his organization’s newsletter. The top section of the newsletter, filled with links to news about the organization, its people, and their activities drives significant website traffic whenever they distribute the email. The newsletter section immediately following the newsy/personal links is a very direct ask about finding out more about wills, trusts, and estate planning. Not surprisingly, the number of clicks on the features in the estate and wills section is much lower.

We discussed the awkward shift between news and estate planning that makes it seem as if the organization is jumping the gun on its ask. As an alternative, we discussed developing a persona to represent his target audience: people in their 40s and 50s who are creating wills who rarely change their wills and trusts after they are completed.

Since his audience is connected to its youthful days as part of the organization, I suggested instead of featuring articles on estate planning, his more in-depth section should recap memories of his organization when his target audience was directly involved. These stories of yesteryear would actually engage the target audience. The associated links for these stories would focus on familiar people to the target audience who have actually engaged in planned giving. So now instead of jumping the gun to the ask, the organization uses two sets of stories of personal interest to the target audience to create engagement.

Question: How would more audience-driven stories open up possibilities to engage audience members wary of a direct ask? - 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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1

Yes-NoDeveloping a new presentation on “Doing New with Less,” I realized we had not published a list of strategic questions for reviewing creative design work.

We have covered the idea that asking yourself whether YOU like a piece of creative is typically not appropriate unless you are in the target audience. But what strategic questions SHOULD you ask when reviewing creative work?

19 Strategic Questions for Reviewing Creative Design Work

After first making sure you have the strategic creative brief prepared to guide a creative design effort, here is a list of nineteen strategic questions for reviewing creative work:

  • First question – Does this creative design address the objective and carry out the strategy successfully?
  • How is the creative design working harder than expected to carry out the strategy and objectives it needs to address? Or does the creative work veer off into interesting creativity that falls short of the intended strategic objective?
  • What will the target audience think about the creative work? (Remember that is not “you,” unless you also happen to be a member of the target audience.)
  • Is the creative design consistent with the overall brand direction and other strategic efforts (assuming that was the intent)?
  • How does the creative work integrate with other creative design elements for the brand?
  • Do the images in the creative design work alone without any text or other supporting elements? Does the text work alone without images? Do the sound and/or video elements (if any) work by themselves? If you pull apart the individual pieces of the creative work in this way, how much of the intended message does each creative element convey standing on its own?
  • Does the creative work appropriately account for the amount of time an audience member will most likely spend processing it?
  • Will the creative work grab the audience’s attention within the environments in which we will feature it? Will it keep someone around to go beyond more than just the initial impression? Does the creative design also work outside the intended environment?
  • Does the creative design put the product or service in its relevant competitive category while setting it apart from the rest of the category?
  • Is there a clear call to action within the creative work? Will the audience understand what they could or should do next?
  • Does the creative work meet the mandatories in the strategic creative brief?
  • Are there ways the creative execution can work harder while still being on strategy?

What strategic questions do you use?

Those are some of the questions we use in review creative work of all types. What strategic questions do you use? Please share them and let’s add to this list. - Mike Brown

Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic thinking and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

1
Unimplemented Creative Ideas

Photo by: Nicco | Source: photocase.com

It’s fashionable to say that good creative ideas have to be implemented or they’re not worth anything. It’s a sentiment in line with expectations for efficiency, productivity, and the ultimate value of execution.

But it’s also a load of crap.

Saying creative ideas are only good if they’re implemented is like saying a major league baseball player is only good if he hits a home run every time at bat. Or an NBA basketball player is only good if he scores every time down the court and no one ever scores off him.

Sure, either of these situations would be fantastic, but they are completely unrealistic and defy the dynamics of baseball and basketball.

In reality, there all types of good baseball and basketball players. Great players in both sports perform at the top of their games in various ways. Scoring is only part of success. Contributing to others scoring is vital. Playing outstanding defense is another aspect. Performing at outstanding levels in specific, defined roles (i.e., a baseball closer isn’t expected to throw six innings) is part of success too.

7 Good Creative Ideas that Might Never Be Implemented

The same phenomenon applies to brainstorming good creative ideas whether or not they are implemented. Not every creative idea gains its value from being implemented as originally envisioned.

From thinking about how players contribute in baseball and basketball outside of scoring, here are seven types of ideas that may never see the light of day in their original form, yet are still important:

  • Ingredient Ideas – These creative ideas become part of a bigger idea and may disappear entirely as independent ideas.
  • Trigger Ideas – These lead to or enable other ideas that ARE implemented.
  • Temporary Ideas – Creative ideas that are clearly not the end result, but will suffice in a pinch until better ideas come along.
  • Sacrificial Ideas – They fall short of what’s needed but get a brainstorming group’s competitive juices going toward brainstorming other better creative ideas.
  • Starter Ideas – These ideas work right away but are intended to be easily adapted, changed, and grown over time into something different.
  • Hail Mary IdeasIdeas that move a brainstorming session to consider completely new, far away possibilities that change the dynamics of ideas a group is imagining.
  • Blocking Ideas – These draw a brainstorming group’s attention away from a “loser” idea that has captivated everyone’s attention so the group can start thinking about other possibilities.

Any of these types of creative ideas are good ideas, even though you may never notice them being implemented.

Innovation Metrics and “Assist” Ideas

To borrow terminology from basketball and baseball, when you total up your innovation metrics scorecard relative to brainstorming and implementing ideas, add a category for “idea assists” or “sacrifice ideas” just as you would find in basketball and baseball scoring stats.

Even though it might be difficult or nearly impossible to keep track of these types of ideas, your innovation metrics scorecard isn’t complete unless you include these good ideas in your stats. – Mike Brown

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


Brainzooming-Before-After

 For More Information |  Phone: 816-509-5320  |  Email: info@brainzooming.com

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

Despite the talk about the importance of disruptive strategies, a more subtle, longevity strategy can also serve a brand well. This is especially true when you are a smaller player going up against competitors with superior resources. In these cases, developing a low-risk business model built to create your own game and designed for low-risk and longevity can work.

The Wall Street Journal Magazine, WSJ., published an article this weekend highlighting the strategic thinking behind a well-known example of a low-risk, longevity-oriented strategy. The magazine article featured Woody Allen and his film making strategy. While his personal decisions are reprehensible (as pointed out by many of the online comments), Woody Allen has successfully adopted a low-risk, longevity strategy in the film industry.

Strategic thinking for a Low-Risk and Longevity Strategy

Strategy-Us-ThemGiven the talents, skills, and weaknesses he has, Allen either employed strategic thinking or found his way into a strategy that has enabled him to make forty-eight movies so far in his career. Allen’s longevity is due in large part to a repeatable “operational” process and a strategy built on making movies that are so inexpensive that a movie studio cedes him control because they are comparatively low-risk compared to the typical movies made today.

The article highlights at least seven strategic components of a longevity strategy that apply to others situations where a business does not want to or cannot easily play the same game as everyone else.

  • Decide what matters to you then make everything else fit – even if it is different from the rest of the industry. (In this case, creative control matters to Woody Allen, so he makes inexpensive movies to be able to retain creative control.)
  • Focus on solving what you can solve. (Woody Allen is able to get movies made so he makes movies instead of investing time on bigger, global questions.)
  • Develop enough ideas so you can stay detached and move on from ideas that do not work – instead of increasing your risk position trying to make a unique idea work. (One collaborator describes Allen’s willingness to walk away from a film project that does not gel and simply pursue another.)
  • Adopt a style that fits your strategic approach and repeat it until it becomes your signature. (One example is Allen’s tendency to use single, long shots in all his movies. He claims the long shots come from his personal laziness.)
  • When pursuing a low-risk, longevity strategy that limits your upside and downside, consistency, frequency, and volume are vital to success. (Allen is constantly working on his next movie and regularly produces one movie annually.)
  • Make sure you can secure disproportionately inexpensive resources to make your revenue and cost structure work.  (Actors pursue the opportunity to work with Woody Allen and are eager to accept a role at union scale rates.)
  • Build experimentation into what you do and get new and additional value from your key resources. (Allen purportedly gives actors little acting direction but encourages them to improvise and adapt dialogue in the script.)

Take or leave Woody Allen as a human being, but these strategic thinking lessons make sense for an underdog brand creating its own game inside the structure of someone else’s game (Think about the Oakland A’s, as depicted in Moneyball, using quantitative and predictive analysis to make player personnel decisions and put a less expensive team on the field.)

There is more than one strategy for success, and a low-risk, longevity strategy can succeed with even inferior resources – even if it represents a different standard of success than big, traditional players employ. – Mike Brown

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


Brainzooming-Before-After

 For More Information |  Phone: 816-509-5320  |  Email: info@brainzooming.com 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

2

Assumptions are vital. Despite the whole “when you assume you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me,’” maxim, assumptions can be valuable and speed analysis, decision making, and implementation.

But when evaluating what assumptions are being made, however, it’s vital to look at your own assumptions as skeptically as you view those of others.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Brand Identity and Logo Design

What-The-HellDuring a presentation on new brand identity and logo design work recently, the brand manager was, obviously, very involved in creating the new brand identity. Before unveiling the new brand identity recommendation, however, he reviewed the organization’s current, but long-ago designed, logo. While the old logo is familiar through repetition, the presenter highlighted two subtle logo elements that were a surprise to me. Although obvious after the fact, I’d never noticed one of the logo elements previously, and the other I had MAYBE noticed “subconsciously.”

When pointing out these two design elements, the brand manager mocked them because they are, especially to those unfamiliar with the organization, obscure. Although the two elements depicted in the logo are publically associated with his organization, the graphic representation is too subtle for the uninitiated (i.e., POTENTIAL customers). Because of that, he rightly identified the old logo as not working hard enough for most of the intended audience.

Then, after a little fanfare, he unveiled his organization’s new brand identity work.

The new logo makes the organization instantly recognizable. But (in my strategic view), the new logo is unnecessarily cluttered and has a retro feel clearly off strategy for an organization trying to promote its forward-looking perspective.

The brand manager addressed one graphic element that seemed particularly out of date: it’s an exact match of a visual element on display throughout the organization’s headquarters location.

Yes, it’s all over THE INSIDE of its headquarters.

Since the brand manager works INSIDE headquarters, this antiquated visual element made perfect sense to him. To most audience members (who NEVER see the headquarters), however, it screams “antique,” which is equivalent to “off brand.”

Interestingly though, THAT assumption made all the sense in the world to the brand manager even though it’s an even more gross oversight than the assumptions he’d been skewering just a few moments before about the old logo.

What Assumptions Are You Making about Your Brand Identity and Logo Design?

Yup, we love our own assumptions, and often think others’ assumptions are just plain stupid.

My advice: find someone who doesn’t know what you know. Ask this person what assumptions you’re making and if any of them are just plain stupid. Once you’ve had someone do that, see how strong your idea still is. You’ll be better off for doing this . . . trust me. - Mike Brown

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about Mike Brown’s creative thinking and innovation presentations!

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

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading

3

IMG_1901-ReponsetoProbLuke Sullivan, a copywriter, creative director (Fallon McElligott and The Martin Agency), and author of “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads” (affiliate link), spoke about the critical importance of cultural tension to creative ideas at AAFKC.

Ironically, for a presentation all about creative ideas coming from drama, tension, and conflict, Luke Sullivan’s presentation (which he guaranteed wouldn’t suck) was titled, “Leveraging Cultural Tension to Improve Creativity.

Leveraging?

How much more boring, uncreative, and corporate jargony can you get? I tweeted beforehand that “Leveraging” should have been replaced with “Kicking the MF Ass of.” With Luke Sullivan’s in-your-face presentation style, that definitely would have been a better title.

Consider this post one big paraquote, i.e. it’s pulled from live tweets and pictures during the Luke Sullivan talk with some additional words to string them all together. That’s a paraquote post!

Creative Ideas, Drama, and Conflict

IMG_1893-ConflictWe are all interested in conflict. It’s human nature to be intrigued by conflicts, problems, and drama. When everything is okay, we’re not interested. If you want people to be interested in your advertising, you have to find the tension.

All drama is conflict. Everybody needs an enemy. Think about how much Star Wars would have sucked with just Luke.

Bad ass guys are interesting, and they make for a rocking story (Think Mayhem – although Mayhem may be more creatively than financially successful for Allstate). Everybody wants to be the bad guy. Don’t believe it? Kids go out for Halloween dressed as Michael Myers. Nobody dresses up like Jamie Lee Curtis for Halloween!

Figure out who is the enemy for your brand? Who the hell does your brand want to slap the crap out of?

Problems, Tension, and Creativity

Creativity happens in response to a problem. When it comes to advertising, finding the tension to spark creative can come from a variety of places: your brand vs. the other brand, cultural issues (i.e., we celebrate thin people as ideal but we also love crappy, fattening food), contrasting ideologies and themes, unseemly things in a product category.

If you bake tension into your creative strategy, you set the stage for ongoing story building. It’s imperative you address the tension, truth, and emotion of the situation authentically, though.

Negatives and Anticipation Get Attention

Problems are interesting. Solutions are boring. “Got milk?” works, but a campaign about “Have milk!” wouldn’t go anywhere. What’s interesting is what’s ABOUT to happen in your advertising. Negatives work. That’s why advertising people can be seen as so negative . . . because negative works!

Finding Tension for Creative Ideas

Where do you look for tension when you’re trying to create attention for a product or category that doesn’t have tension? You MAKE UP the tension!

Steps 1 and 2 in finding tension:

Tension-Builders

Also, look toward conflict. Want to find great sources of conflict ideas? Look back at “The Far Side” cartoons (affiliate link), since all of the Far Side revolved around conflict.

Translating Uncomfortable Tension into great Advertising

Great strategic creative briefs build in conflict. A bad strategic creative brief doesn’t tell you anything new. And if there’s nothing new, it’s simply a boring old rerun. If the creative winds up being bad, everyone in the room who has touched it is to blame. A big reason for bad creative is because a decision was made to throw everything into the advertising. Saying, “We got it all in there,” should always be uttered with a deep sense of shame.

Parting Shots from Luke Sullivan

True communication is what your listener takes away. And, the simpler something is, the less it ages. – 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 creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact TheBrainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us atinfo@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

(Affiliate Links)

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading