Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 246 – page 246
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In the movie “Groundhog Day,” an alarm clock starred in several scenes. Since it’s that time of the year, let’s take 90 seconds to extol the virtues of a well-used kitchen timer.

We use a digital kitchen timer extensively in planning sessions, setting time constraints for our exercises. While people may grumble at first, they usually come to appreciate the efficiencies a timer creates. What are the advantages to time constraining strategy generation or ideation? Using a kitchen timer:

  • Shows people that you value their time – setting a time limit helps you get what you want done promptly, thus avoiding running late or coming up short relative to your session objectives.
  • Creates a sense of urgency – a time constraint and an aggressive goal on the number of ideas identified creates healthy pressure to generate, and not debate, new ideas.
  • Sets up the opportunity to look at a situation in multiple ways – it’s much more productive to divide 28 minutes into four different 7-minute exercises than a single effort. Doing so allows you to vary the perspectives from which you’re addressing your challenge, yielding a stronger set of possibilities.
  • Forces decisions during an evaluation phase – even if you’re discussing ideas to be prioritized, timing the activity precludes endless, unproductive debate that won’t materially change the group’s outcomes.

So here’s to the basic, digital kitchen timer coming out from the shadows to gain its rightful place as a strategic planning tool. I’ve got mine babe!*

* Click here for our recommended timer – the Taylor 5806

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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At the conference I presented at this weekend, we worked on the “Change Your Character” exercise for a customer service example. One suggestion was that an internal customer service rep is similar to a babysitter in that they both have to manage bosses (parents) and front line employees (kids).

Sounds close, so if your challenge is helping customer service providers improve their effectiveness, work through how a babysitter handles a new situation:

  • Shows she really likes kids & can get along with them
  • Demonstrates a professional attitude
  • Makes sure she has clear instructions from the parents
  • Establishes her role right away with the kids
  • Focuses on the kids
  • Has strong listening skills
  • Knows positive ways to help kids follow rules
  • Displays maturity in handling difficult situations
  • Acts with firmness, but understanding
  • Ensures that kids are fed and comfortable
  • Can be flexible when necessary

As always, try to generate 3 new ideas for your situation from each of the babysitter’s behaviors. And remember, my mother lets me stay up to watch Craig Ferguson all the time. She really does!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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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Two recent articles do a great job of addressing the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation in business.

In a recent Business Week column, Suzy and Jack Welch provide a brief rationale for the value of mission statements and then cover several steps toward developing a meaningful one that actually drives business decisions.

A longer piece in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.

We learn NASA’s “vision” statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.” With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.

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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At the start of a recent conference call for an upcoming strategy planning project, it was clear I was expected to facilitate the discussion. That was my suspicion coming in, but with other responsibilities, there wasn’t a chance to prepare as much as I typically would. So after a brief introduction, all eyes and ears turned to me to start talking – gulp.

Here’s Your ChallengeWhat do you do when you’re not ready to speak or don’t know what to say?

Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” How about a middle ground? Next time you’re in a similar situation, think for a moment, open your mouth, and ASK a great question.

Doing this provides three clear, immediate strategic benefits:

  • You shift the focus from your lack of preparation and give the floor back to the other participants.
  • The other people feel better because they’re able to provide input.
  • By actively listening, you can pick out cues from their comments that can shape your next move – to talk, to change course, or to ask another question.

The strategic key is asking the right type of question.

Be ready by developing a quick list of 8 to 10 questions that you can rely upon with ease. Here are a few to get you started (along with when to use them):

  • Can you elaborate? (If someone has provided information, but you’re not clear what it means.)
  • How have you approached this before? (If people have previous experience they could share.)
  • What are your initial thoughts for how to approach it? (When participants have pre-conceived notions about what to do.)
  • Can you tell me more? (When someone has a wealth of information that hasn’t been shared yet.)
  • What’s most important for you to accomplish? (To understand the other parties’ motivations – and what matters in this situation.)

In this example, I chose the last question, allowing participants an opportunity to share their individual and collective objectives for the upcoming planning session. Their initial comments set up a follow-up question (What percent of the plan should be devoted to each of the 3 sections you’ve mentioned?), creating the opportunity to start capturing topic areas. A productive meeting was thus snatched from the jaws of unpreparedness with two great, simple questions.

So what questions will you be better prepared to ask next time this happens to you? – 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 us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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Doctors are trained in asking questions, making observations, and using tests to identify possible infirmities that patients are suffering. Their techniques can be adapted within the Change Your Character exercise to help find new ways to diagnose business issues also. Doctors’ approaches that can be used for your brainstorming include:

  • Figuring out who / how services will be paid for
  • Having you fill out paperwork on yourself
  • Asking how you’ve been feeling
  • Having someone do a quick vitals check before seeing you
  • Checking vital signs
  • Reviewing your previous treatment history
  • Following a standard diagnostic procedure
  • Prescribing a treatment
  • Referring you to a specialist
  • Scheduling a follow-up appointment

Remember, strive to identify three potential ways that each of bulleted points above can be generalized to address & resolve your situation. It’s easier than taking two (make that three) aspirins and calling me in the morning.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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.

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I’m on a panel today addressing “Global Branding Trends, Challenges, and Possible Solutions” at the HDMA Heavy Duty Dialogue ’08 conference. It’s being moderated by Sally Staab a VP at Weyforth-Haas Marketing in Overland Park, KS. The other participants are Walt Delevich from SKF and John Beering from Eaton Corporation.

From my segment on brand strategy in a full house of brands, here are a few keys for branding amid significant M&A activity:

  • Elegant brand architecture often isn’t in the cards with an M&A-based growth strategy – With significant M&A activity, a number of very real factors may confound attempts to create elegantly simple brand architecture. Among the potential issues: the relative strengths of brands in the family, customer loyalty to existing brands, management demands, deal structures, challenges in doing a large-scale conversion, required investment, and long cycles for replacing branded assets.
  • Work with experienced brand strategy partners – A brand is more than a logo and an ad; it’s the promise you make to your key audiences. It’s multi-dimensional and encompasses all customer contact points with the company – employees, products, service, visual and physical cues, and communications. Given this broad definition, few advertising agencies have the full range of capabilities to address all of your brand issues. Engage firms that specialize in branding across all these dimensions.
  • Invest in the necessary fact finding effort to determine your brand strategy – Facts need to be at the heart of any brand strategy decisions, and they should come from as many sources as possible – internally & externally. Inventory the key data sources and audiences whose perceptions you need to understand and project. Beyond analysis of available data, look to both qualitative and quantitative research techniques to bolster your understanding of what the market expects, accepts, and will ultimately reward from your brand.
  • Figure out where you want your brand to be in the future and then work your way back to the present through multiple scenarios – Hypothesize various scenarios on where you want the brand to be in the future relative to customers, products / services, markets, competitors, and the external environment. Pick a future point linked to the longest relevant decision cycles for your brand. Then, work your way back on how you expect to get there, recognizing likely decision points, operational issues, future M&A events, sales & marketing efforts, competitor activity, and the best and worst developments that could happen with your brand.
  • Look to others brands for lessons, even if their situations aren’t completely comparable – You can’t simply follow your industry’s branding conventions if your situation differs dramatically. In that case, find brands outside your industry that you can look to for insights. Ideally seek out brands in similar current situations and others that have brand architectures that resemble how you’d like yours to look. Go to school on what their brand migration paths look like, what rules or approaches they use, etc. Additionally, there’s great value in networking with them and being able to ask direct questions on their strategies.
  • Use in-country experts to assess how your brand will fit in global markets – Don’t depend on uninformed or remote perspectives for determining in-country brand strategy globally. Identify branding partners & key employees with on the ground experience that can provide knowledgeable input and reactions to global brand strategy development. Do the qualitative and quantitative fact finding work in-country or in-region as well. – 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. We draw on our varied strategy experience in defining new brands, jump starting lagging ones, and  rehabilitating battered brands. 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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