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There is no one right way to gather information when you’re working with multiple parties. That’s why it’s beneficial to think upfront about what ways might work best for you.

Ask the Same Questions Over and Over

One natural way to gather information from separate, multiple groups is asking the same strategic thinking questions repeatedly so you can aggregate or compare answers from among all participants. This is the basis of quantitative survey research. You can employ the same strategy in more qualitative settings too, such as in focus groups or when evaluating between separate groups or individuals (think of a job interview or a vendor review process).

This same approach underpins much of our strategy work.

For example, it’s what happens when you answer the same questions annually about an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Asking the same strategic thinking questions of multiple people each year provides a basis for making effective comparisons.

We employ this approach for strategic thinking questions across many situations.

Identify What Answers You Need and Ask Different Strategic Thinking Questions

There is another valuable technique for using strategic thinking questions, however, that many organizations overlook. We use it actively, however.

Strategic-Questions

We inventory upfront what information we need to learn or insights we need to develop to move a strategy forward. With this inventory of strategic thinking ANSWERS, we can make decisions on whether the asking same strategic thinking questions repeatedly will deliver what we need OR if asking varied questions will work more effectively and efficiently.

This questioning strategy to information and insight planning provides various benefits:

  • If a key piece of information comes up earlier than expected during our process, we can capture it than and have it available when we need it later.
  • Asking strategic thinking detour questions allows people to share new insights and answers that won’t emerge from the standard questions.
  • Varying the strategic thinking questions we use provides greater flexibility and is less monotonous for participants.

Neither of these two approaches replaces the other one. Used together, however, the two approaches open up many more opportunities for stronger information gathering and developing new insights. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees and Creating Improved Results

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Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

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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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We have been developing a new competitive intelligence process for a client. The B2B company wants to better collect, analyze, and disseminate valuable insights on competitive strategy.

As with many competitive intelligence systems, especially in B2B settings, much of the most timely and otherwise unavailable intelligence will come from the salesforce. Similarly, the salesforce is in one of the best positions to take advantage of competitive intelligence to better position products, value propositions, and offers to customers to stymie competitive strategy.

It is vital, however, to ensure the competitive intelligence process is not simply asking for competitive intelligence from salespeople, and then giving it back to them without adding sufficient value.

6 Ways to Enhance Competitive Intelligence from the Salesforce

Heard-On-The-Street

To combat this possibility, here are six enhancements to competitive intelligence that originates with the salesforce to deliver new value:

  1. Aggregate information from multiple people to provide a view no one individual has in order to see patterns or spot trends.
  2. Perform additional and deeper analysis on the raw information to create new understanding.
  3. Communicate information to senior leadership that salespeople feel intently, but that is typically lost in the corporate shuffle (i.e., a regional or niche competitor who is not big enough to get corporate-wide attention).
  4. Disprove or verify early rumors salespeople have reported to address the word on the street.
  5. Exploit the availability of non-sales sources to enhance the raw intelligence and deliver new information to them.
  6. Make if more efficient for sales to gather and especially share competitive intelligence with a process that funnels competitive intelligence to them when they need it.

Is a more robust competitive strategy in your plans?

If your organization needs to boost the value of competitive intelligence from your salesforce, give us a call or email. We’d love to talk to you about how we apply our Brainzooming techniques to efficiently gathering information from broad sources and turning it into actionable competitive intelligence. – 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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Brand marketers can find it challenging to identify all the brand language available to communicate a brand’s distinct benefits and value for customers and prospects.

Based on a recent client brand strategy experience, I highlighted an often overlooked source of compelling brand language in my first LinkedIn article: Is Your Brand Exploiting All Its Brand Language?

If you’d like to read the brand strategy lesson from our experience, you can do so over on LinkedIn.

As an alternative, we also put together a screencast that recaps the article plus adds visuals the LinkedIn article does not contain. This is the first time we’re introducing screencasts into the blog. We’re excited by the possibilities because it gives you the opportunity to have a richer experience with Brainzooming blog content. Additionally, because audio and visuals are incorporated in a screencast, I expect it to open up new topics that just don’t come across as strongly when using words alone.

So go ahead and ask yourself: Is our brand exploiting all its brand language? – Mike Brown

Brand Strategy Screencast – Is Your Brand Exploiting All Its Brand Language?


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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 with a strategy session and branding development to create strategic impact for your organization.

 

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-QuestionsWhat are your most significant opportunities and challenges in 2014? And where do you gather ideas and input on developing the best strategies to address them?

Only you can answer those questions to help shape our Brainzooming editorial content calendar for 2014.

We are asking you and all of our Brainzooming readers around the world to share a few perspectives via a brief online survey. While we talk, email, and tweet with readers regularly about topic ideas, this is the first time we have developed a survey to collect broad input at one time.

Share your perspectives on 2014 starting right here!

Please take a moment to share your perspectives to give us a better sense of where our editorial direction and content should be directed this year. You can access the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2014Opportunities_TBG.

Please feel free to share this post or the survey link with other business associates who might benefit from the content on Brainzooming.

As an added reason to participate in the survey, everyone completing the survey can access a free copy of The SmallBusinessTalent.com® LinkedIn* Power Checklist by Stephen Lahey, a Brainzooming reader and producer of the tremendously beneficial SmallBusinessTalent.com podcast.

I’ve been both a guest and a host of the podcast, and I’d encourage you to subscribe to the SmallBusinessTalent.com podcast. Stephen has been gracious enough to provide a free copy of the LinkedIn Power Checklist for everyone completing the 2014 opportunities and challenges survey to help each of us improve our LinkedIn profiles this year.

Share your perspectives on 2014 starting right here!

Thanks for your readership and sharing your perspectives. And here’s to an outstanding and successful 2014! – Mike Brown

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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Question-MarksAs a market researcher, conducting new market research is typically NOT my first recommendation for answering a question.

There are multiple reasons for my reluctance to push the new market research button.

Chief among them is market research often asks respondents to speculate about what they might do relative to a product concept that may or may not exist, with a description that may or may not represent the concept accurately or in a way the respondent would actually perceive it.

Said simply, a helluva lot of market research is so speculative you can’t use it nearly as definitively as you might like.

7 Things to Pursue Before Conducting New Market Research

Instead of jumping right to market research as the first option to get a sense of what your customers want or think, seek out:

  1. Research reports and business articles from external sources related to your area of interest
  2. Internal data that contains at least some of the component pieces for the answers you’re seeking
  3. Data based on actual customer behaviors in comparable situations
  4. Experts (internal or external) with working hypotheses or models related to the topic under study
  5. Previously conducted research that demonstrates methodological lessons you need to understand
  6. Stronger reference points for the concept you want to test based on actual or virtual prototypes
  7. Logic, strategy, and experience-based scenarios to frame the potential answers you should expect through primary research

This is just a starting point.

Pursuing the right strategic thinking before conducting new market research will get you better inputs and greater efficiency for your market research investment. – 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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I saved the October 2013 issue of Fast Company, its 10th annual innovation by design issue, from the recycle bin when my wife we de-cluttering for me. To justify saving the innovation by design issue from recycling oblivion, I combed through the brand profile articles in the innovation by design section to identify these fourteen strategic thinking questions as innovation starters for 2014.

Strategic-QuestionsYou can use these strategic thinking questions as inspiration for taking advantage of innovation and change, addressing change challenges, and shoring up your brand’s customer experience.

Creating Innovation and Change

  • After you’ve identified the absolutely essential elements of your brand, how can you start changing all the other elements right away?
  • What might be the place or way you start every new initiative so they are all solidly grounded in your brand?
  • How can you more aggressively prototype the huge change you need to start making right away?
  • What can you change that, if it didn’t work, could be completely restored to how it was before?
  • How about expecting everyone in your organization to create something new and improved EVERY day?

Addressing Change Challenges

  • Who in your organization is obsessed with problem solving, and what are you doing to keep them busy solving problems for clients?
  • If you’re trying to inject new thinking into an old organization, what is the senior leader in charge of innovation doing to morph corporate oldsters into new thinkers?
  • What ways can you track things people originally hated about the new big change that they now love – so you can use it to sell-in the NEXT big change?
  • How can you deliberately move the “How do we build it?” question until later in the innovation process?

Improving a Brand’s Customer Experience

  • What are the two next-most detailed questions you can explore about your brand’s customer experience?
  • How are you determining the “ooh and ahh” moments of your new ideas before and after you introduce them?
  • In what ways are you figuring out what you need to deliver to customer’s in the future beyond asking them – since they likely don’t know what they are going to need?
  • How are you improving your ability to prioritize and align disparate innovation processes in different parts of your organization so they maximize value for customers?
  • If you considered everything you have accomplished so far as “day one,” where could you be at the end of “day two”?  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming 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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