3

If you notice The Brainzooming Group message at the bottom of many marketing strategy posts, we mention helping “smart organizations” with strategic evaluation and differentiation strategy development. This phrase is shorthand for how I usually describe our target strategic planning clients: “organizations almost too smart for their own good.”

While that might sound flippant, it’s not.

How Can an Organization Be Too Smart for Strategic Planning?

Being “too smart” for strategic planning happens when an organizations becomes TOO expert at:

When an organization becomes THAT smart, it’s typically because its marketing strategy has been very successful and its market and organization relatively stable. These are the good aspects of being too smart about your organization.

The bad aspect of being too smart means prolonged success and stability can lead to indifference, arrogance, and a lack of solid customer analysis, thorough strategic evaluation, and effective strategic planning to push the organization for future-oriented disruptive innovation.

What to Watch for When Organizations Become Too Smart

There are multiple ways organizations manifest being too smart and losing the drive for disruptive innovation. Based on our collective experience at The Brainzooming Group, here are five signals an organization may be too smart for its own good relative to strategic planning:

  • There is a very stable leadership team with few new members from outside the organization (or industry) in at least ten years.
  • The organization is very stable with new people at junior levels whose challenging ideas are being stifled by senior leader resistance.
  • It’s a market leader with strong share and financials who hasn’t faced serious competitive threats to its marketing strategy for as long as anyone can remember.
  • It’s a smaller player in a large market that’s been able to be comfortable with its size and share position.
  • A company that’s been protected from aggressive competition by a structural advantage (whether regulatory, economic, environmental, etc.) that’s disappearing.

In any of these situations, waiting around for disruptive innovation to happen instead of creating a new differentiation strategy to create beneficial change can be a crippling mistake.

How a Strategic Evaluation Makes a Difference

In these situations, organizations need to be pushed to look at their familiar situations in new, and even strategically frightening ways through a dynamic strategic evaluation. This can entail:

The irony is through challenging a “too smart” organization with an aggressive strategic evaluation, it will actually get smarter and savvier as it develops a relevant differentiation strategy for the future.

If your organization feels like it’s too smart for its own good and may be losing disruptive innovation opportunities as a result of a too conventional differentiation strategy, contact us.

At The Brainzooming Group, we’re experts at helping smart organizations develop the right marketing strategy based on a rigorous, yet brisk customer analysis and strategic evaluation to get smarter, better, and more successful – in a hurry. – 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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2

The Wall Street Journal featured a review this past Saturday of “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay” by Frank Partnoy (affiliate link) by Christopher B. Chabris. The review highlights Frank Partnoy’s challenge to those espousing the need to act right away, lest opportunities be forever lost and his support for the waiting game strategy in both business and personal lives. The question of using the waiting game strategy is something we have talked about here on Brainzooming before as “strategic patience.”

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In “Wait,” Frank Partnoy offers examples of the waiting game strategy paying off in a variety of situations. These include a baseball batter who can wait on getting the right pitch to 3M waiting twelve years between the discovery of a low-stick adhesive and the introduction of the Post-it Notes the adhesive made reality.

As with many books, Christopher B. Chabris points out in his review that Frank Partnoy offers examples, but no answers to know when and how long to wait because “there is no formula for getting the right answer.”

I don’t necessarily have a formula either.

But as one who likes to use the waiting game strategy, thinking back through lessons from both my business and personal lives suggested six characteristics of situations where a waiting game strategy can work and two critical success factors for one being more successful.

Six Characteristics where a Waiting Game Strategy Can Work

Thinking about situations where you are considering waiting over acting, you’re likely to find a waiting game being successful if these six characteristics are in place:

1. Waiting is consistent with a longer-term strategy you have in place

This implies a pre-determined reason for waiting that was baked into your initial strategy.

2. Your longer-term strategy is flexible and can accommodate several situations or time frames

When your strategy could apply to a variety of different market and organizational scenarios, waiting for the best of these is a viable approach.

3. Your opportunity and risk exposure is so small that you are willing and able to sustain the window of opportunity going away completely

This is the classic negotiation technique. If you are in a waiting game, you have to be able to walk away from the deal (or have it walk away from you) and still be okay.

4. You are still learning or receiving benefits while waiting that improve your ability to respond

This reflects the advantage played out by fast followers. Rather than jumping in first and learning by trial and error, fast followers watch the leader and go to school on their mistakes before launching a similar effort.

5. You are able to move forward with actions supporting a definitive path to be pursued later

If you’re able to make progress while keeping your strategic options open, that’s a real benefit.

6. Future options are not being shut down (and in fact be expanding) with the passage of time

As long as you’re in the position of being able to decide your course of action (as opposed to having inaction making decisions for you), waiting can still make sense.

Two Critical Success Factors for Making the Waiting Game Strategy Work

To better ensure you do not miss too many opportunities while you are content to wait, make sure you:

1. Don’t let the opportunity you are waiting on be pushed out of sight, out of mind

You need listening posts to monitor market and competitive actions relative to the opportunity you are waiting on to make sure you actually pull the trigger at the latest and best possible time.

2. Have individuals in your close circle that will instigate for action and keep forcing the issue

You want to make sure that even during a period of strategic patience you have people in your organization who are advocates for taking action. As much as you may be fine waiting for things to play out over an extended period of time, you want someone pushing action to keep you honest.

Don’t wait to share what you think!

What are your thoughts on this idea of strategic patience, a waiting game strategy, and the areas Frank Partnoy is addressing? If you’re someone who pursues it, how do you make it work for you? If, instead, you are a person of immediate action, what works best about that approach for you?

We’re waiting to hear what you have to say! - 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.

 

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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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4

Friend and author Jim Joseph recently led a webinar on his book “The Experience Effect for Small Business” (affiliate link). During the question and answer segment, someone asked about how much a business should “spend” on brand building. I quickly tweeted:

“How much to spend on your brand? Zero. Instead, INVEST in brand elements that generate ROI.”

The tweet prompted Margie Clayman, Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, to ask what I meant exactly with my tweet. Her question prompted a great back and forth Twitter exchange about marketing investment vs. spending. At the conclusion, I promised a follow-up blog post on marketing investment to respond more completely to Margie’s initial question.

Don’t Spend Anything on Brand Building?

Back in the corporate business-to-business world, when trying to increase our organization’s emphasis on building a brand in all forms (service quality, awareness building, customer service, sponsorship marketing, etc.), we were seeking significantly more resources for activities we believed would benefit the company.

But instead of talking about our request for more resources as “spending,” we made ourselves talk about our marketing INVESTMENT strategy for brand building.

Why the distinction?

In our business-to-business organization, SPENDING implied we simply wanted more dollars because we were marketers, and marketers SPEND money on frivolous, nice looking things that don’t matter. INVESTING, on the other hand, was what the organization did to secure equipment, facilities, and everything else perceived to be vital to performing the services we sold.

Banning use of the word “spend” in favor of “marketing investment” created five clear benefits. Some of the benefits were organizational. Others simply made us be better marketers.

Investment both implies and forces you to think about your strategy in a new way:

1. A marketing investment implies an underlying business objective

You can spend money on anything. You invest in assets expected to generate a positive return and address important business objectives. Displaying a marketing investment attitude makes you ground brand building programs in real business objectives, not just creating new advertisements because the old ones are boring to the marketing department.

2. Talking about return on investment (ROI) adds credibility and makes building a brand seem (and become) less squishy

Making yourself discuss a program with all the elements incorporated in an ROI calculation makes a marketer take on a whole business perspective and not that of someone who simply designs advertising or tweets for a living. You’ll directly benefit as you help the organization learn that marketing and branding don’t simply involve logos, but instead focuses on the entire experience customers (and prospects) have with your organization.

3. Talking about marketing investments will get Marketing into early conversations with Finance

One of the most challenging business relationships for a marketer focused on building a brand is with the finance function in your organization. When you start building a brand thinking about your marketing investment levels and ROI, you’re going to need to reach out to Finance to ensure you are in sync. That outreach will get challenging conversations started sooner than later, which will pay tremendous dividends financially and organizationally.

4. An investment attitude will force you to make sure you’re doing enough to meet your return objective

When you put yourself on the hook to forecast a return associated with your marketing investment strategy, it causes you to look at your plans and make sure you are planning enough of the right types of strategic actions to generate necessary returns. Far better to consider those strategic actions upfront than when your program is falling short of goal half-way through implementation.

5. Making marketing investments forces you to ensure you have measures and listening posts in place to capture necessary ROI metrics

Considering upfront what it will take to calculate an ROI from your marketing investment strategy causes you to evaluate whether you have the measures and listening posts in place to measure the positive returns you expect to generate from building a brand. If you were simply “spending,” you might find yourself at the end of a marketing program knowing how many dollars went out, but with insufficient metrics to demonstrate any returns.

The Final Tweet on Marketing Investment and Building a Brand

I thought Margie Clayman’s final tweet was a perfect summary to our conversation:

Investment really does say you’re putting something into your brand AND expecting something back for it.

So what words do you use (and not use) relative to your brand building efforts?  - 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.

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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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0

At the end of yesterday’s post, I mentioned today’s topic would be recapping a project case study we’ve been involved with the past few months. Because of client confidentiality on strategic plans, it’s not often we can openly discuss learnings from what we do to help clients. In this case, we can.

Bring More Insights back from Boston

The Brainzooming Group has been working since earlier this year with the Centurions Leadership Program for future Kansas City leaders. The two-year program with more than 70 active members conducts an annual trip to another city for a learning and listening tour to meet with its leaders and bring back lessons for strategic plans and actions in Kansas City.

Before this year’s Centurions trip to Boston, Jake Jacobson of Garmin, one of the trip’s organizers, reached out to us based on his experience with The Brainzooming Group process at the Google Fiber brainstorming session. Jake wanted to see if we could help the Centurions do a thorough job of capturing and building upon learnings during the Boston trip to bring them back to Kansas City.

A Mobile-Based Brainzooming Approach Is the Answer

After talking further with Jake and Shawn Hickey of Perceptive Software, we designed a targeted mobile-based approach to capture reactions among the Centurions as each half-day of the April trip was completed. We also designed a more comprehensive wrap-up survey to gauge reactions to the trip overall. Through this effort, the Centurions identified a robust base of real-time reactions on a variety of pertinent topics including education, innovation, entrepreneurship, arts and entertainment, infrastructure, and biotechnology.

This approach allowed Jake and Shawn to have an interim recap of major learnings to close out the Boston sessions. It also set up our activity today, where we will be working with the Centurions during their Wild Card community service day to turn the concepts they highlighted into the start of strategic plans and actions.

Sticky Notes? We Don’t Need No Sticky Notes!

One of the important aspects of The Brainzooming Group process is flexibility, and we’ll be demonstrating that for today’s session.

We’d typically facilitate plan-building with a multiple strategic thinking exercise approach and lots of sticky notes. The venue for the Centurions session (a small restaurant with little available wall space, about 35 minutes of working time, and mostly tiny tables) won’t support our typical approach. Since we don’t have the time to adapt the venue, we’re adapting our process to fit the client need.

During lunch, we’ve designed a single strategic thinking exercise for the Centurions to tackle high-level strategic plans and actions on thirteen concepts from the Boston trip. The initial strategic plans and actions the Centurions will be working on will involve describing desired outcomes, important resources, and initial steps for each concept. It will be a lively discussion with much progress over this short luncheon planning session. Right after we’re done, the Centurions will be off to more community service activities around Kansas City.

A Real Impact for the Future of Kansas City

We look forward to how the Centurions will ultimately prioritize and move forward with these concepts from the Boston learning and listening tour. There is a real opportunity for this fantastic organization to make a real impact and improve the Kansas City community with their efforts! - Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


 

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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2

I was talking with an organization’s leader the other day about how the boss can participate in the process of strategy planning and managing for change without compromising the team’s results. In his case, he was concerned that if he sat back and let his team take the lead in the process of strategy planning, they wouldn’t push for enough change. If, however, he talked first to demonstrate how far the organization needs to go in managing for change, he feared the team would agree with his comments without challenging ideas “the boss” shares.

He asked me what I’d recommend to help mitigate this particular challenge of the boss dominating in the process of strategy planning.

In this case my recommendation was based on a quick assessment that he legitimately wants his organization to undergo dramatic changes. My answer would differ if the question were coming from a leader who talks about change yet every obvious action suggests change isn’t a good thing.

With that backdrop, my first recommendation was to bring in an outside strategic facilitator (i.e., The Brainzooming Group!) so he isn’t in the dual role of trying to both participate and facilitate at the same time. Unless it’s a very rare situation, a leader has to pick one role or the other. Trying to facilitate and also participate is a recipe for problems.

Five Ways to Keep the Boss from Dominating Strategy Planning

Beyond that important recommendation, here are five other ways to deal with this challenge:

  • Incorporate anonymous responses from the team so they can say their peace and suggest ideas without being identified.
  • Reduce the leader’s presence in the strategy planning process so they are not “visibly” participating in front of all team members at all times.
  • Vary the leader’s participation so the leader isn’t always talking first, but is talking first when it makes sense to do so.
  • Use different strategy questions than the organization typically asks so employees won’t know as readily what answers to expect from the boss.
  • Use a new or clearly neutral location for the planning session so the boss can’t sit in the usual power position in a room where the team typically meets.

Those are a few of the general techniques we use to get the broadest and most balanced participation during the process of strategy planning.

Are You Facing this Same Challenge?

What things have you done successfully to ensure the boss doesn’t overly-sway a team when it’s trying to be effective at managing for change? Are there things you do that haven’t worked as well? Let’s hear them!

And if you’re facing this same challenge, give us a call so YOU can do the most and get the most from your team’s planning effort.  - 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 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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2

Working in a large corporation with both organizational strengths and weaknesses relative to implementation, I was generally clear on working the system and knowing the critical steps to things getting done. I was also typically clear on which projects were simply never going to be implemented successfully.

One thing I’ve learned as The Brainzooming Group works with clients having different types of people, business situations, and political environments is other organizations have a whole range of implementation success challenges.

13 Reasons Implementation Success Is a Problem

Thinking back across our client experience, here are 13 possible reasons your organization is struggling with things getting done:

1. Development and implementation steps are happening in the wrong order.

2. A mismatch exists between what the organization wants to do and the resources available for implementation success.

3. Too many critical people or other factors for implementation success are changing and can’t be depended upon with any certainty.

4. The people needed to work together to get things done are unaccustomed or unprepared to coordinate efforts.

Photo by: froodmat | Source: photocase.com

5. The person who should be leading the effort is ill-prepared or ill-equipped for getting stuff done.

6. No individual has been charged with leading implementation.

7. Sufficiently strong senior leadership isn’t attached to a project.

8. The implementation team isn’t working well together to get things done.

9. Talking about things getting done is easier than actually doing it.

10. Too much complexity gets in the way of effectively getting things done.

11. There is no clear understanding or where or how to launch implementation.

12. A disproportionate value is placed on being safe versus taking appropriate risks.

13. While internal demand (usually from senior management) exists for getting something done, there isn’t any strategic foundation for the effort.

What Do You Think?

To the extent that one or more of these reasons sound familiar in your organization, you’re going to be struggling with things getting done.

After seeing this list, what other reasons would you add that thwart getting stuff done?

Need Some Help?

And if you’re struggling with how to get things done, we should talk. We can help you get things done by working through your challenges. - 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 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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20

Business branding (and by business branding we mean the entire brand promise and experience, not just a name and a logo) is an undercurrent throughout Brainzooming blog content.  Brand strategy is central to our treatment of social media, marketing, communications, business innovation, and competitive strategy.

Since business branding is not a part of Brainzooming blog’s standard content line (strategy, creativity, innovation, and social media) though, it can feel as if brand strategy gets short shrift here. In fact, a blog visitor asking about our coverage of business branding prompted today’s compilation post of selected brand strategy content.

These sixteen articles on brand strategy provide an overview of our business branding thinking on various topics.

Defining Brand Strategy

Adjusting Your Brand Strategy

  • Bad Strategy and Economies of Scale – It can seem like the right move to remove small elements of the brand experience when you have a scale-driven cost savings opportunity, but what’s the brand loyalty impact when customers notice?
  • Creative Thinking for Brand Extension Ideas – Brand extensions can be tricky, but this simple strategic thinking exercise can help in thinking through how other brands’ extension strategies can prompt new directions for your brand.
  • Untangling Your Brand Attributes for Greater Value – Over time, brand attributes can become too bundled and undermine customer value perceptions. When that happens, it is time to rethink ways to deliver branding benefits and value.
  • Strategy in a Full House of Brands – When you have acquired a whole array of brands through M&A activity, making them all fit into one house of brands can become crowded.

Addressing Brand Challenges

Incorporating Lessons from Others

What Other Branding Topics Are of Interest to You?

Are there branding topics you’re interested in learning more about here on the Brainzooming blog? Let us know, and based on the broad branding experience on our team, we’ll tackle your questions! - 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 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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