Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2

Is your business-to-business brand looking for new product ideas, stronger innovation strategy opportunities, and a bigger impact?

If so, look for ways to shape the customer experience of your product’s end users.

That doesn’t mean the intermediaries your organization may view as its customers: the distributors, wholesalers, or others that sell or bundle your product. Look to the customer experience as delivered to actual organizations and/or individuals that are USING your product on a daily basis.

What do you know about the people who are touching, interacting with, and determining whether your product makes their days better or worse? (Or perhaps your product is so seamless or invisible that it doesn’t even register with them.)

You know those people are out there, but how much time do you devote to thinking about the impact your product has on them?

If it’s slim to none, it’s time to dramatically increase the amount of consideration you give to end users – right away!

We took that approach when developing an innovation strategy workshop for a B2B manufacturer. While the organization has extensive insights into its intermediaries, we oriented many of the innovation strategy exercises toward the ways the people using their product experience (or don’t) what the company manufactures. One participant noted at the end of the workshop that focusing on the experience was new and valuable for them when it came to identifying new opportunities.

If you’re in the same situation, look to the individuals that are the last ones to interact with your product. How can you orient your innovation strategy to the experiences THEY have? – Mike Brown

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Need a Stronger Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Brand? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation strategy profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!

Download Your Free Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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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The 2018 Fast Company Most Innovative Companies issue arrived Saturday. It’s always a wonderful inspiration for strategic and creative thinking questions (plus it’s exciting that we have a current client among the companies recognized). In the spirit of the first Agility question below, rather than trying to imagine questions from across all the companies listed, we limited the focus to creative thinking questions inspired by the top ten most innovative companies’ innovation journeys and priorities.

16 Creative Thinking Questions from the Most Innovative Companies

You can apply these creative thinking questions to trigger your own brand’s strategic thinking on innovation strategy:


  • What’s the heart of our brand that we can double down on right away?
  • If our time horizon were 25 years, what current things would we eliminate? Which ones would we accelerate?
  • How is our leadership removing distractions to innovation (instead of creating them)?
  • How can we focus on innovation results and let the financial results follow?
  • Where can we mass resources for innovations with the biggest impacts?

Customer-Focused Innovation Strategy

  • What remarkably new things can we deliver to the marketplace in the next year? 3 years? 25 years?
  • Where can we innovate to allow customers to do things they have never been able to accomplish before?
  • Where can we innovate to provide customers and partners greater visibility and growth opportunities?
  • What innovations would help customers do the right things?
  • What would we halt if we stopped doing anything that might be remotely bad for customers?
  • What will it take to immediately stop using our customers as guinea pigs for innovation?
  • How is our B2B brand dramatically changing individuals’ lives?
  • What opportunities will let us grow by 100x the amount and variety of valuable content our brand produces for customers?


  • What can we do to deliver innovations when they need to get to market vs. when we’re done tinkering?
  • What changes would let us keep tinkering and improving right up to the time we deliver our next innovation?
  • Which of our internal systems have value for other brands like ours that we can sell?

Which creative thinking questions from the most innovative companies will you take to your next leadership team meeting to focus the conversation on your own brand’s innovation strategy?  – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions


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 were facilitating report outs at a strategy planning workshop after multiple teams tackled developing high-level plans to improve various employee challenges in a relatively high-performing company. Chuck Dymer, who was co-facilitating the client workshop with me, remarked at the depth and importance of several of the report outs and the conversations they sparked.

Why were these report outs different than others we’d done previously?

Four of the five report outs in this strategy planning workshop were delivered by female leaders in the organization.

Rather than looking at the report outs as perfunctory assignments, the female leaders used the platform to share hopes, concerns, frustrations, and possibilities important to them and to the organization. And once they did, the men in the group jumped in to these powerful conversations.

If you’re in charge of a company or a significant business unit or department, are you actively managing gender diversity? Are you making sure women are in leadership positions where they can voice things that need to be said that male leaders are unwilling to say?

These questions are real.

And for the too many client strategy planning workshops we facilitate (especially in business-to-business settings) where all the participants are male, these questions about female leaders are of supreme importance.

What are your answers to the questions, and what are you doing to improve the situation right away? – Mike Brown


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Facing Innovation Barriers? Here Is Help!


Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!


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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An article in The Wall Street Journal by Paul Ziobro shares an report on how toy manufacturers, including Mattel and Hasbro, are accelerating their new product innovation processes. The brands want to capitalize on market growth stemming from toys tied to popular social media themes. These trends, as one industry insider put it, “burn really bright and really short,” necessitating abbreviating product development cycles from several years to months, or even weeks. Thus, the need to catalyze innovative success by streamlining the steps between ideas and implementation.

2 Super Smart Ways to Catalyze Innovative Success

Let’s review two of critical success factors toy manufacturers are embracing that are of value, if your brand also wants to speed up its innovation pace.

1. Listening to the Market in Multiple Ways

From just the few toy industry innovation stories reported in the WSJ, you see multiples ways of incorporating broad and early market perceptions to shape innovation:

  • Social Media Listening
    Portland-based organization Zing employs three people to monitor social media for popular topics with the potential to inspire successful toys. During June 2016, they noticed people in Greece using beads as a toy for nervous fidgeting. That holiday season, it released Thumb Chucks, its own version of the beads.
  • Observing Behavior
    Online video platforms provide new ways to observe customer behaviors and perceptions beyond formal research studies. Hasbro has released multiple toys based on viral video trends, including bottle flipping and people wearing dental mouth guards as they try to pronounce complicated words.
  • Point-of-Sale Analytics Trends
    LaRose Industries saw Walmart sales of its Cra-Z-Art glue increase over 50% monthly in the fall of 2016. Investigation showed that kids were creating slime (a gooey, fun concoction popularized on the Nickelodeon TV network) by mixing the glue with other household products. LaRose jumped on the growth trend, introducing slime-making kits in January 2017.
  • Securing Early Commitments
    Before producing the slime-making kits, LaRose Industries paired with Nickelodeon to license the slime name and identity, boosting potential customer awareness immediately. It also secured interest from retailers at the January toy show. It only then moved into manufacturing, reaching stores within 45 days.

Beyond these possibilities, what else can your brand explore to expand its repertoire of market listening strategies?

  • Directly Observing Customers
    Whether in business or consumer markets, how can you secure cooperation from your customers to observe them in their work or home settings, using your products and others? This is a fruitful way to identify innovation opportunities customers can’t clearly articulate.
  • Involve Customer-Facing Employees
    Instead of confining new product innovation to employees working in corporate offices, directly involve sales, customer service, and other employees who routinely interact with customers. They are a rich source of customer insights and feedback.

2. Exploiting Small and Nimble to Catalyze Innovative Success

Another theme from the toy industry stories is taking advantage of smallness – in team sizes, budgets, and development windows – coupled with sizable impact expectations:

  • Hasbro
    It has created a Quick Strike team to push new product innovation stemming from popular social media topics and memes. The team has released new products in as few as 11 weeks. The manufacturer is migrating the approach into its overall organization.
  • Mattel
    The team deployed to develop social-trend based toys at Mattel is made up of ten people. The company’s CEO reports having given the team very little budget and only three months to have toy ideas ready for last January’s toy fair. The toys are scheduled to reach stores later in 2018.

Restricting resources and keeping big innovation demands in place can seem counter-intuitive. The strategy is consistent, though, with other case studies of major brands creating small, separate incubators to rapidly develop new ideas. Consider these points when developing a comparable strategy to boost nimbleness and speed:

  • First Plan the Team around Capabilities
    Rather than starting team selection with an org chart, identify the talents, capabilities, and functions the team needs. Only then start looking for the right people. Set a goal of maximizing the talent pool with as few people as possible. More people provide more ways to slow down decisions and progress.
  • Push for Self-Sufficiency
    A corporate intrapreneurial leader in the cosmetics industry cautions innovation teams to develop their own solutions rather than reaching back into their main organizations. Her experience was that parent organization answers carry time, complications, and overhead that a rapid development team can’t tolerate.
  • Streamline Decision Making
    Identify upfront the team’s parameters to keep moving forward without seeking review and approvals. As you remove typical decisions steps, make sure to enforce this simplified process throughout the development cycle. Otherwise, the parent organization may work overtime to slow down ideas it hasn’t vetted in the typical fashion.

What Else Do You Need?

These examples can get you thinking about new ways to streamline innovation. If you want to go deeper, the Accelerate eBook covers sixteen keys for finding resources to accelerate your innovation strategy. Get your copy today!Adapted from Inside the Executive Suite


Find New Resources to Innovate!

FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

Download Your FREE Brainzooming eBook! Accelerate - 16 Keys to Finding Innovation Resources

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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With nearly 2,400 articles (at time of publication) on strategybranding, and innovation, it’s safe to say there’s a ton of content on the Brainzooming website. You can go deep, wide, and in multiple directions on these core topics.

To ensure that we continue to develop relevant, valuable content for you, we’re always keen to know what resonates the most. We use analytics, keyword research, and various forms of reader feedback to shape our content calendar. We target the greatest relevance for strategists and innovators inside organizations that are excited about the opportunities that collaborative strategy offers in the way of culture transformation and results.

Many executives visiting the Brainzooming website for the first time review dozens of pages of articles and downloads. That was the case recently, as we reviewed the article selections of one such executive. This new reader was seeking information on managing strategy and innovation inside an organization described as fearing change.

How Much Do You Love Free, Fun Strategic Planning Advice?

Since we know many of you face a comparable challenge, here are the more than 30 articles this reader reviewed in search of insights and answers on strategy and innovation. We’re guessing there are more than a few articles of value to you, too!

5 Fun Strategic Planning Activities

Fun Strategic Planning Exercises – 6 Last-Minute Creative Ideas

Free Strategic Planning Exercises – 5 Warnings

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Strategic Planning for a Troubled Company

Strategic Thinking Exercise – Black Swan Events in Your Plan

Strategic Thinking Exercises – More than 200 Strategic Planning Questions

Great Strategic Questions – A 3-Step Strategic Question Formula

Brainzooming – First Questions

80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

11 Boring Details for Making Strategic Planning Fun*

Strategic Thinking Perspectives – Three Strategic Voices to Include on Your Team

Creating Strategic Impact – The Brainzooming Group Strategic Planning Toolkit

Why Change Is Hard – 3 Strategic Thinking Ideas for Making Change Easy

Strategic Alignment – 4 Lessons for Line and Staff Organizations Working Well

A Week of Struggling for Simplicity – A Simple Strategy Check

The Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto

Innovation Blocks-Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation

Facilitating Innovative Strategy with a Diverse Group

Strategic Thinking Success – 3 Critical Thinking Perspectives

Strategic Thinking Exercises – 6 Characteristics the Best Ones Have

8 Fun Strategic Planning Icebreaker Activities

15 Innovative Strategic Planning Questions to Get Ready for Next Year

3 Short, Funny Strategic Planning Questions

If Not Time, Then What Else Matters?

Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify What Matters for a Brand

What Are We Trying to Say?

Ask and You Shall Receive with Great Strategic Questions

Strategy – Visioning Exercises for Strategic Planning

Reinvent Yourself Week – Look and Ask Around

Nobody Cares About You!!!

Creative Thinking Exercises – Would you like S, M, L, or XL Creative Ideas?

Where will you head next on strategy, branding, and innovation? – Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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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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I’m involved with a new outreach effort at church. Our objective is connecting with people that have left the Catholic Church or those that have expressed an interest in joining. Another thing our pastor asked us to implement is going door-to-door throughout the parish boundaries to reach out to everyone in the area.

I know I speak for myself and the other committee members: none of us were very excited about engaging in door-to-door ministry. We don’t want to seem like people from one of THOSE churches where we ALL hide when the doorbell rings.

Researching Catholic outreach ministries, I found a prominent one with a palatable strategy for door-to-door outreach. It recommends focusing exclusively on asking people if they have anything that your church can pray about for them. Whether it’s a challenge, aspiration, or nagging concern, the idea is simply to let people know that others care and want to join them in praying about what is on their minds.

Then a few weeks ago, a priest from a Catholic young adult ministry visited our parish. I was there early and helped pass out the pamphlets he brought with him. I placed them in the pews without even looking at them, figuring they solicited contributions. Only later, during his homily, did I learn that the return portion of the brochures had nothing to do with a request for money. It asked everyone to share prayer requests we had so that the young adults in the ministry could join with us in prayer.

How do you follow up within your brand’s business development strategy?

via Shutterstock

Against this backdrop, I was recently working on a business development strategy for a business when the idea clicked. Rather than reaching out to prospects to talk about what the firm does, they could reach out to business decision makers interested in the company and ask them for their version of a prayer request.

For this brand, some comparable prayer request ideas might include:

  • Asking what questions they have and providing an answer then or in a follow-up.
  • Offering a free consultation call to solve a challenge.
  • Providing access to an exclusive webpage or group with resources to help them do their jobs.

If you applied a comparable business development strategy for following up with your prospects, what would be YOUR brand’s version of a soliciting a prayer request? – 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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You’re leading a major new initiative for your organization. It’s kind of a big deal. Since you’re leading it, that means a lot of other people ARE NOT leading it. Nearly all of them are fine with that. It’s one fewer thing to be responsible for beyond their regular day jobs.

One person, however, resents the hell out of your leading the initiative.

This person (let’s make him a guy, because we all know, it’s almost always a guy) knows that HE should be leading the initiative. It’s HIS area of expertise. HE has the best experience. He’s been around longer than you have, is known by all the key executives, and basks in his reputation as always wanting to be the one credited with making things happen.

He sees the new initiative you are leading quite plainly: YOU are going to get the credit if things go well. In his twisted way, if YOU are getting credit for a success, that makes HIM look worse. That leaves only one option: do everything possible (without calling attention to it) to sabotage you, the initiative, and its ultimate success.

What leadership strategy should you employ to succeed while dealing with this type of pernicious corporate antagonist?

The expected answer is probably to keep the corporate antagonist as far away from the initiative as possible.

An Unconventional Leadership Strategy with a Corporate Antagonist

When a new executive at a company faced this situation, I counseled him to instead adopt a leadership strategy where he invites the antagonist into all the planning activities for the new initiative.

The advice surprised him.

Here’s the reason for suggesting it. Inviting the corporate antagonist into the heart of the process forces him to openly share his resistance. Participating in everything, he will be part of a lot of strategy setting, review points, and decisions. Across those opportunities, he’s going to have to either constructively participate or use crazy levels of subterfuge to hide the sabotage he really hopes to carry out successfully. If he elects to go the route of trying to jam things ups for the new initiative later, the initiative leader will have documented a whole array of comments and involvement to challenge and confront the duplicity.

According to the new executive, the strategy is working. The antagonist feels involved. He’s having to go public with several biases and perennial weak spots in his leadership style as he tries to protect his previous work.

In this case, keeping a business ally close and a corporate antagonist even closer is working even when it seems an unconventional leadership strategy. – 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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