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So, CAN analogies change the world?

That’s the bold claim conveyed in the headline of a Wall Street Journal article pulled from the book, “Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas.” The book is by Jon Pollack, a former Bill Clinton speechwriter (affiliate link).

Given we’ve tried to spend more time on how to generate analogies as part of strategic thinking exercises, this may be one of those books I will kick myself for not writing!

In any event, the Wall Street Journal article highlights four ‘rules” for gaining the greatest values from analogies. All of them include sound advice and intriguing examples. They are all worthwhile to include within your repertoire of strategic thinking exercises.

Apples-Orange-LO

Four Rules for Discovering Analogies

Here are Pollacks four rules for discovering analogies, in my own words:

1. Challenge all the typical analogies

The analogies you always hear may have some value because they have stood the test of time. Even so, it’s smart to

Pollack’s Example: The Wright Brothers saw an analogy between flying machines and bicycles because of their instability and the dynamics of balance.

2. Don’t settle for identifying just one analogy

When it comes to analogies, the same principle holds as with ideas: the more the better since you have the ability to try many of them and determine which are most effective.

Pollack’s Example: Darwin employed two fundamentals to hypothesize about evolution: water eroding grains of sand and agricultural breeding were applied to his views of gradual change.

3. Include a wide range of sources for your analogies

You won’t open a book and find all the ready-made analogies you’ll need to solve your problem or explore new ideas. Be prepared to take pieces from multiple, unusual sources and apply them in new ways.

Pollack’s Example: Bill Klann, a Ford mechanic, is credited with the original inspiration for the assembly line. The key analogy came from disassembling carcasses on a line at a meatpacking plant. Re reversed it to apply to assembly of cars, instead.

4. Make things as simple as possible

The strategic thinking trick is to combine multiple analogies without so over-burdening them that complexity takes over and they lose value. In this case, more shouldn’t just be less. It should also be elegantly simple.

Pollack’s Example: Steve Jobs (of course there has to be a Steve Jobs example) applied the idea Xerox idea of a digital desktop to a simple interface that could open access to computing for large audiences.

Strategic Thinking Exercises to Explore Analogies

Here is a sampling of previous Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises on finding and using analogies:

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There was considerable interest in marketing metrics and ROI at our two-day “Doing New with Less” marketing workshop for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association.

One question we addressed was, “When do you develop marketing metrics during strategic planning for new initiatives?”

Should you develop metrics as you start developing your strategy? Or should you develop metrics after the strategy is developed as a final (or near-final) step in strategic planning?

Our recommendation is to address marketing metrics as you start developing your strategy.

Metrics-Guy

Why?

Addressing metrics as you first work on strategic planning pays multiple dividends. Doing so can:

  1. Identify gaps in the systems and processes to track the metrics you need.
  2. Suggest new strategies designed to create needed metrics.
  3. Reveal that you are not aggressive enough in your strategy to fully exploit all the opportunities to generate needed returns.
  4. Show that there is a mismatch between management expectations on the timing of business returns and when you will realize them.
  5. Uncover disconnects between your strategic direction and the metrics you currently have to track progress and success.
  6. Help you sequence developing marketing metrics to match up with the timing for implementing other marketing efforts.

If you’re in the midst of strategic planning currently, make sure marketing metrics are getting due attention early in the process before you’re plan is figured out. If not, you may miss that you are missing the marketing metrics you need while you can still do enough about it! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download 6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!

 

 

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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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Chuck Dymer, the Brilliance Activator, taught me years ago about the difference between chickens and eggs when it comes to creative thinking exercises.

In the world of creative thinking, Chuck shared how you can equate a chicken with a concept and an egg with an idea.

Just as a chicken lays many eggs, exploring a concept with various creative thinking exercises yields many ideas. Based on the breadth and variety of creative thinking exercises you use, the ideas a concept produces may be radically different.

One great benefit of the chicken and egg approach is this: If you have a single idea, you can morph the idea into a concept by asking questions about what things the idea represents. And once you turn the idea into a solid concept, you can use the concept to generate a whole new set of ideas using other creative thinking exercises.

chicken-eggs

I’ve been thinking about this while updating our “Doing New with Less” material for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association boot camp this week. When we deliver one of our Brainzooming creating strategic impact workshops, there are definitely a lot more chickens than eggs.

Instead of telling participants to simply return to their companies and do what some other “best practices” company has done, as so many speakers and workshop facilitators do, we deliver strategic and creative thinking exercises linked to frequent business situations. In this way, we’re looking to maximize the value attendees gain through having real tools that will serve them for years.

Most attendees appreciate this strategy of sharing strategic and creative thinking exercises during our workshops.

A few attendees, however, simply want to be told what to do. Those attendees, although few in number, are likely to be disappointed. That’s why we always both probe on attendee expectations at a workshop’s start and set expectations about how they can use what they’ll learn in multiple ways and situations.

If you’d like your team better prepared as strategic thinkers and implementers armed with many tools to enable your organization’s success, we should be talking about how we can customize a creating strategic impact workshop for your organization soon.

We’ll bring the chickens. – Mike Brown

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Have you seen this commercial about bad decisions people make in horror movies? It reminds me of the typical strategic planning process, where people KNOW it’s not going to be productive, yet they approach a kickoff strategic planning meeting the same way every year and think things will be different.

10 Signs of a Strategic Planning Meeting Nightmare

If you’re invited to a strategic planning meeting to prepare for next year or you are doing the one inviting to this type of meeting, look at the materials sent to participants.

Want to know in advance if the strategic planning process is going to be a nightmare?

Spooky

See how many of the descriptions below apply to what’s being sent to participants to prepare for the strategic planning process:

  1. The organizer isn’t a strategic thinker
  2. People or whole areas of the company that SHOULD be included are absent from the invite list
  3. A bunch of blank pages were sent out for people to complete in advance about past performance and future strategies
  4. Invitees are expected to come up with ideas, issues, strategies, and/or forecasts outside their expertise that they are supposed to fit into complex templates and forms
  5. The first time anyone will see what everyone else is working on is when they show up at the first strategic planning meeting
  6. The meeting is too internally focused, with insufficient time to address customers, competitors, markets, and important external factors
  7. There are lots of presentations, but no time for the group to work collaboratively
  8. Not enough time is set aside (within the meeting or across the whole planning process) to create a plan that meaningfully (and not just incrementally) improves things
  9. The person leading the strategic planning meeting has too much authority over the participants and will sway their perspectives
  10. It’s not clear how decisions are going to be made about priorities and what to do for next year

Do any of these sound familiar?

I’m not sure how many of these descriptors completely tip the scales toward ensuring your strategic planning process is going to be a nightmare.

If more than four or five of them describe your upcoming strategic planning meeting, however, you can pretty much rest assured it’s going to be a nightmare.

Want to change your strategic planning process for the better?

Contact us (info@brainzooming.com or 816-509-5320).

There’s still time (yes, there is still time) to make a course correction and turn your strategic planning meeting into something productive and beneficial.

Think of us as the running car in the commercial, and you can leave all your horrors to the horror movies!

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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A big strategic statement (such as a core purpose, mission, or vision statement) shouldn’t simply be words on a plaque or page that don’t really shape day-to-day activities.

When you get a strategic statement right, you’ll use it on a daily basis to shape decisions, priorities, and approaches to what you do and how you do things.

For instance, your organization’s vision should make it clear what the bold promise is for its future. It should provide an attractive picture that helps employees better carry out their responsibilities to make the vision a reality.

Blue-Sky

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Testing Your Vision Statement Impact

How do you know if your vision statement is working as hard for you as it can?

Here’s one of our strategic thinking exercises to help you explore how well your big vision statement is suited to driving strategy and behaviors in your organization.

Ask these five questions:

  1. Is our vision statement primarily comprised of real, clear words people understand and use or is it primarily filled with business jargon?
  2. Is our vision statement one that could only describe your organization or could it apply to just about any organization?
  3. Does our vision statement sound like we talk inside our company or does it sound as if a consultant wrote it?
  4. Do employees know and understand our vision statement or is it generally a mystery to them?
  5. Does our vision statement shape big and small decisions or does it effectively sit on a shelf?

If your answers to the questions tend toward the first description in each question, you are on the right track. If your answers tend toward the latter description in each question, you should use additional strategic thinking exercises to explore how to better shape your vision statement. – Mike Brown

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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter focused on an intriguing article from Inc. online. The article identified reasons why major companies invest significant, seemingly unjustified amounts on startup businesses with scant revenues and no discernible business models.

Big-Idea-Dollars

The original article from Inc. by Dev Aujla claims major companies use these acquisitions as a new variation on research and development. A major corporation may be able to pick up a whole startup for many millions of dollars. Despite seeming like an excessive figure, the purchase price could still put the major corporation dollars ahead versus developing whatever the startup offers on its own.

Aujla highlights three reasons major companies target these acquisitions. They are typically looking for:

1) New learnings and research
2) The opportunity to more easily plug a hole in their product or market portfolio
3) Talent that moves them ahead in new areas

AEIB-GraphicThe folks at the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief used Aujla’s three items and offered strategic thinking questions for each of the three areas.

The strategic thinking questions provide a way for companies, even ones far beyond startup status, to develop strategies boosting their chances for acquisition or spin-off opportunities. Armada agreed to let us share the questions here for each of the three areas.

The remainder of this post with the strategic thinking questions comes directly from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter and its “Inside the Executive Suite” edition.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Crafting Startup Strategy in Any Business

1. Developing New Learnings and Research

Many companies claim to be learning organizations. This is often professional development jargon for “educating the staff.” While education is important, it won’t prompt another company to pay a premium simply because your employees have current training.

Try this strategic flip, though. Instead of characterizing your company as a learning organization, characterize it as a “discovering” organization. With that change in strategic perspective, evaluate where you stand today and where you would like to be a year from now:

  • What is our organization discovering that no other party knows?
  • How many people inside our organization are hell-bent on discovering new technologies, capabilities, and possibilities to bring to market?
  • Who are the people and organizations outside our own that we are collaborating with on major discovery efforts?
  • What discoveries can we make happen at lower cost, with less risk and red tape, and at a markedly faster pace than bigger firms can?

These answers should stretch your organization to move beyond learning what everyone else knows into discovering breakthrough knowledge with real value to outside parties.

2. Filling Holes in Markets, Audiences, or Product Portfolios

Aggressively examine market, audience, and product strategy gaps at other organizations to discover missing elements you can fill through your own exploration.

  • Which organizations have bigger, more sweeping product visions than ours? What gaps exist in their product portfolios we might be able to supplement through our narrower focus on product and market development?
  • What markets adjacent to ones we serve include competitors with missing elements in their market, audience, or product mixes?
  • Are there companies in related or even far removed categories lacking strong platforms for innovation that our discovery strategy could readily address?

Don’t think about fixing everything with these discovery efforts. Focus on the minimum standard product or market development allowing another organization to readily fill a gap by eventually acquiring what you are doing.

3. Gaining New Talent

Consider how your organization pursues new talent. Is there a deliberate attempt to hire the types and caliber of people most ready to help your organization discover and grow along a valuable path?

While you may be hiring to clear standards, evaluate – if you haven’t already – who will be the “explorers” you need to discover the knowledge, markets, audiences, and products with the greatest potential value. Think about these questions:

  • What deliberate actions are we taking to bring on extraordinary discoverers?
  • What steps are we taking to identify and target emerging talent, i.e., people who aren’t as well known, but are about to become rock star talents?
  • What relationships are in place (or can we develop) with educational institutions that are doing new work and introducing new programs in areas of discovery for our organization? (BTW, you may need to be looking at grade schools, middle schools, and even home schooling programs.)

It’s clear that answering these questions won’t lead to simply placing online ads and waiting for your email inbox to fill with too many resumes! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

 

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We’ve designed and delivered many creating strategic impact workshop sessions for clients this year. No two sessions have been identical because we design each workshop to the client’s specific learning objectives. Today, we’re delivering a strategic kickoff meeting workshop for an organization working to dramatically improve its strategic planning process for 2015.

Since 2015 planning is right around the corner for many companies, it’s the ideal time to look at the value of a 2015 strategic kickoff meeting and include one on your planning calendar.

Top 10 Reasons to Have a 2015 Strategic Kickoff Meeting Soon

Strategic-FakeBook-Workshop

Based on our clients’ various objectives, here are the top 10 reasons to have a 2015 strategic kickoff meeting:

  1. It’s the right time to boost everyone’s skills in strategic, creating thinking.
  2. There’s still time to tweak your annual planning process so it is more productive as you plan for next year’s success.
  3. It’s possible within a few days to organize a Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop closely aligned to your organization’s strategic direction and priorities.
  4. Having a strategic planning kickoff meeting allows you to address skills gaps with your team relative to strategic thinking and successful implementation.
  5. Whether your focus is a small team or dozens of line managers, we can adjust a strategic kickoff meeting to help everyone productively align on important objectives.
  6. You can customize your strategic kickoff meeting from hundreds of Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises so your business objectives dictate the activities your team learns and practices.
  7. It’s a fantastic way to let the organization’s leaders actively participate with the team instead of becoming bogged down in meeting details and trying to facilitate.
  8. If you are in an advertising agency, consulting, or service business, a strategic kickoff meeting serves as a professional development boost for your staff.
  9. A strategic kickoff is a fantastic way to involve your non-profit’s board of directors more actively in understanding and positively contributing to the organization’s future success.
  10. You’ll hear comments afterward from your team such as:

Yes, strategic thinking can be both engaging and clearly beneficial for your organization’s success. We don’t think there’s any other way to do it!

Are you ready to schedule your strategic kickoff meeting?

What do you think?

We have the capacity to develop and schedule your 2015 strategic kickoff meeting. Or if you’re well into planning already, we can orient the workshop content toward creating strategic impact and a focus on successful implementation for 2015.

Give us a call at 816-509-5320 or email at info@brainzooming.com, and let us get to work on your kickoff meeting! – 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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