1

Last Sunday, Diane Stafford’s column in the Kansas City Star discussed the role of “Synergists,” as described by Lee McKeown, within teams. Synergists bring together team members with varied perspectives, pull the talents together collaboratively, and make things happen within business teams. Lee McKeown noted that from his experience, there are few natural synergists. Most people need to grow into the collaborative skills synergists employ.

March Madness Point GuardSince we’re in the midst of March Madness, Diane Stafford’s column about synergists made me think about basketball point guards. As with synergists, basketball point guards play vital roles in pulling basketball teams together and making things happen, especially during March Madness basketball games.

Across all the March Madness basketball games, there will be ample opportunities to see the best college point guards in action. As you watch March Madness basketball games, look for these comparisons between outstanding point guards and business team members who excel at making things happen within business teams.

Nine Common Characteristics Shared by Outstanding Point Guards and Business Team Leaders

These nine characteristics are important for both point guards and synergists to display:

1. An unselfish, team-oriented mentality requiring stepping back or stepping up (whichever is appropriate) to make the whole team most successful.

2. Multi-dimensional skills and versatility – not just being okay at several skills, but being an outstanding performer in multiple important areas for success.

3. Dependability and an ability to build trust among team members through consistent outstanding performance and a focus on making the whole team work well together.

4. Enabling teammates to be more productive by knowing how their individual and collective strengths will create wins.

5. Leadership among both peers and organizational leaders by being on strategy even while looking for new opportunities to exploit when modifying the strategy makes sense.

6. Efficiency and effectiveness as a communicator among the team and its leaders so there are no detrimental surprises.

7. Command of situations a team faces through understanding team member roles, emerging opportunities, environmental and resource variables, and the team’s past performance history.

8. A talent for real-time analysis and being a “scenario implementer,” creating success by connecting current activities to scenarios the team has rehearsed.

9. Poise and a tremendous work ethic to lead by example and help appropriately balance successes and failures the team will experience.

What do you think? Are you a point guard on your business teams? Do you work with an outstanding business point guard? What characteristics do they display that let them excel?

It’s Not Just March Madness that Has Us Thinking About This

Beyond March Madness, we’ve been thinking about this a lot because these skills are absolutely vital in successfully implementing the type of collaborative, multi-functional strategic plans we help organizations develop. It’s becoming clearer that unless business leaders display these nine skills outstanding basketball point guards must possess, they are going to struggle in successfully implementing collaboratively, even with collaboratively-developed strategic plans.

Look for more on this topic here – well after March Madness is over – as we take on helping managers better learn and use these skills. - 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

I love seeing an integrated marketing communications effort (or any type of integrated program planning) play out successfully. When a program displays strategic integration, it makes it easier on the audience to get the message let alone its efficiency for the message sender in delivering the message successfully.

There’s a recent case in point, as newly ordained fashionista Jessica Simpson made an appearance on the NBC program “The Biggest Loser” last night, doing makeovers for a couple of contestants. “The Biggest Loser” episode was right before the new Jessica Simpson fashion-oriented NBC competition TV show, “Fashion Star.” While I didn’t get to see TBL, I heard a lot about it Monday night when Cyndi was watching “The Voice” and “Smash,” also on NBC. And on “Fashion Star,” the integration continued with Macys, Saks, and H&M buyers bidding on designs that are magically available in their stores today for the public to buy.

What an example of great strategic integration.

But how do you make sure you’re planning for all the steps you need to address to successfully integrate a marketing effort?

A 15-Step Checklist for Integrated Program Planning Success

Considering what might have had to happen to make sure Jessica Simpson appeared on “The Biggest Loser” as a lead in to her new “Fashion Star” reality TV show provides a great checklist any of us can use when developing an integrated plan. Here are fifteen steps for successful integrated program planning the people behind “Fashion Star” would have had to consider:

  • Evaluate the need for and benefits of an integrated effort.
  • Develop a preliminary plan with the flexibility to incorporate integration opportunities.
  • Sell-in integration’s value to stakeholders who may have to be convinced.
  • Develop a timeline so you can look for and plan seemingly far off integration opportunities.
  • Research what other efforts provide adjacencies (timing, geography, process, etc.) to your effort, in addition to thinking through other intriguing strategic integration possibilities.
  • Act with enough time to modify plans already in place within your own organization or with potential integration partners.
  • Reach out and build relationships with parties responsible for potential integration opportunities.
  • Secure agreement to integration activities with other partners.
  • Anticipate external situations and the context when the integrated program will roll out.
  • Create story lines to make the integration make sense to audiences.
  • Coordinate resources across all involved parties.
  • Take necessary steps with all partners to prepare to implement the integrated effort.
  • Manage the coordinated activities so any unforeseen challenges to the integration effort won’t derail it.
  • Promote the integrated program so all target audiences are aware of and understand it.
  • Implement the integration and perform any follow-up.

What do you think? What type of checklist do you use when developing and implementing an integrated marketing communications effort or managing other integrated program planning?

Fifteen steps might seem like a lot, but I’d invite you to use this checklist when you’re in the planning phase to make sure you maximize any integrated program planning opportunity. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding the strategy options they consider as we create 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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13

Jason Harper first pointed me to a podcast on the New Yorker article “Groupthink – the brainstorming myth,” by Jonah Lehrer. It was followed by a tweet from Josh Gordon asking my opinion. Additional tweets from Richard Dedor and Aaron Deacon then surfaced about the article. At that point, there was no choice but to go on record about Jonah Lehrer’s premise that brainstorming, first espoused by Alex Osborn of the B.B.D.O. advertising agency in the late 1940s, “doesn’t work.”

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

Jonah Lehrer cited two sources challenging the effectiveness of the approach and ground rules associated with brainstorming:

  • A 1958 Yale study found students working individually generated twice as many ideas as brainstorming groups, and the ideas were judged better.
  • A 2003 study from Charlan Nemeth at the University of Berkley reported groups told to debate ideas generated 20% more ideas than those told not to judge ideas (one of the foundational brainstorming ground rules).

Lehrer highlighted several situations as further evidence that the typical approach to brainstorming doesn’t work for generating creative ideas:

  • A study of Broadway musicals showed the most successful shows had neither very high nor very low familiarity among the show’s creative forces. A moderate level of familiarity seemed to yield the most successful Broadway musicals.
  • Isaac Kohane’s study at Harvard Medical School found that among 35,000 co-authored research studies, there was a positive relationship between more frequent citations and the closer proximity of authors.
  • Several examples of the beneficial creative impact of proximity and random interactions in workspaces were discussed, citing the building arrangement Steve Jobs pushed at Pixar Animation and the Building 20 lab at MIT.
  • The Charlan Nemeth study also found dissent can more successfully stimulate free association and the creative thinking that results from it.

Jonah Lehrer wraps the Groupthink article by stating the fatal flaw with brainstorming is believing one approach leads to the best creativity. Lehrer points to the importance of group composition, diverse perspectives, cumulative unpredictable interactions among people with loose connections, and a tolerance for difficult interactions as fundamental elements for the best creativity.

Does Brainzooming Think Brainstorming Doesn’t Work?

I buy where Lehrer is coming from in “Groupthink,” but that may be because of my willingness to consider “brainstorming” to be much more loosely defined than the definition Jonah Lehrer offers from “Your Creative Power,” Alex Osborn’s original book introducing brainstorming.

How Does Brainzooming Differ from Brainstorming?

My willingness to treat the term “brainstorming” loosely and tinker with what constitutes brainstorming in our world is why our process and our company are both called Brainzooming.

In developing our creative method, we already addressed the issues Lehrer raises regarding group composition, interactions, and dissent during a Brainzooming creative session.

Group Composition

We spend considerable time managing group composition for any Brainzooming creative session, making sure there is diversity in any client group. We want people with direct ties to the topic of interest, others with multi-disciplinary backgrounds, and others who are creative instigators. We strive to include some people with very little familiarity on our topic and also people who don’t all work together all the time. That level of diversity works wonders for great thinking, and our Brainzooming method allows them to work together productively despite very different (and often diametrically opposed) worldviews.

Interactions

We typically only get to design client workspaces for the Brainzooming creative sessions we create and facilitate (although it would be cool to design permanent creative spaces). We design a creative space featuring dramatically more room per person than most facilities want to accommodate. Designing this type of session layout promotes frequent physical movement and rotations among table and group assignments so there are plenty of new creative connections happening.

Dissent

We do start Brainzooming creative sessions by saying, “Do not criticize ideas.” Given how easy it is for most groups to savage one another’s ideas, our admonition is at best a way to slow down criticism. We have actually started to introduce a variation on the rule in Brainzooming creative sessions asking people challenging ideas to also offer better alternatives.

What Did We Learn from the “Groupthink” New Yorker article?

The awakening for me in the Jonah Lehrer Groupthink article and my reaction to it is the need to speak more precisely about what The Brainzooming Group does. Precise descriptions of what we do are not something I’ve spent too much time addressing. Frankly, it’s more comfortable for me to be very muted in talking about what we do. As a result, I usually talk about our Brainzooming method as me simply having pulled together ideas from a variety of sources. If you want to call it “brainstorming,” that’s been okay. If you want to call it anything else that’s reasonably accurate, that’s been okay, too.

In reality, we’ve built a creative approach with Brainzooming that’s highly flexible and infused with techniques from sources as varied as big time consulting, strategic planning, creative thinking, market research, self-help methods, reality tv shows, design, and improv comedy – to name a few. The Brainzooming approach has been tested, adapted, and refined through hundreds of strategy, innovation, and creative sessions in some environments that were incredibly hostile toward creativity. We have delivered real results with the Brainzooming approach, even when we had senior managers actively hoping we would not be successful.

I have talked about what we do as brainstorming, because it is the easy way to talk about it, but it is not simply brainstorming.

What we do is Brainzooming.

And if you have a need for better ideas that can actually be implemented successfully, we’d be honored to show you what results the Brainzooming approach can deliver for your organization. - 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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3

Too often, an organization signs on for a sponsorship without a clear sponsorship strategy. Sponsorship marketing can produce attention and strong ROI impacts for companies of all sizes, but it takes clear strategy. While it’s easy to pay money to get your company name attached to a sponsorship, that doesn’t mean you have a solid sponsorship strategy to enhance attention and produce a positive ROI for your organization. With the “Building the Gigabit City” project to brainstorm ideas for Google Fiber in Kansas City, The Brainzooming Group employed a non-traditional sponsorship strategy, creating a sponsorship where one didn’t already exist by:

Since our sponsorship strategy was one any company could pursue under the right circumstances, here are five key sponsorship principles to consider in pursuing a similar path:

1. Stand near somebody else’s spotlight

Standing near another party’s spotlight is part of why NASCAR sponsorships work. Since a whole army of media cover the NASCAR racing world, a sponsor doesn’t have to try to get media to show up for the event. There has been considerable coverage for the Google Fiber move into Kansas City. Creating Gigabit City allowed us to stand near the Google Fiber spotlight for a credible reason, even though the event wasn’t an official Google Fiber program. The Google name drew strong media attention for Gigabit City, nevertheless.

2. Create your own sponsorship property

The traditional sponsorship strategy is to pay money to a sponsorable property’s owner (i.e., a sports team, an entertainment venue, a nonprofit event, etc.). With Building the Gigabit City, there was no property to sponsor. Working with Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC), we created the sponsorship property. It takes more work, but it offers the opportunity to shape and mold what you’re investing in to best suit your business objectives.

3. Pursue a sponsorship built around what you do

The storyline for a sponsorship can be difficult to twist back to what your company does when you’re only investing dollars. Instead, look for a way to put what you do in your business at the heart of your sponsorship contribution. By donating our strategic brainstorming services to the Google Fiber in Kansas City event, The Brainzooming Group and our strategy and innovation services were at the heart of the story, providing the opportunity to integrate it more seamlessly into news stories.

4. Don’t ask for permission and don’t even worry about having to ask for forgiveness

Most of the Google Fiber attention in Kansas City appears to be forming with little attention boosting effort from Google. While a traditional move might have been to try doing something directly with Google, we instead created an event related to Google where the natural partner was almost incidental. Providing our brainstorming services pro bono allowed us to start, move quickly, and issue a comprehensive report free to anyone who wants it. Since Building the Gigabit City wasn’t authorized by Google though, we were careful to structure an event that would be neutral at worst to Google and ideally somewhat intriguing.

5. You have to activate a sponsorship to make it worthwhile

Even though our initial “investment” in Building the Gigabit City was in-kind (i.e., providing our services on a pro bono basis to design and implement the brainstorming session), to realize the full benefit we had to get behind the public relations effort. Another partner of The Brainzooming Group, Alex Greenwood, was fundamental in representing our awareness-building and messaging interests among the potential media opportunities to ensure we received attention. That translated into considerable television and radio time, shareable third-party stories, and greater recognition for The Brainzooming Group in Kansas City and within the category.

Learn More Today

We’re extending our Gigabit City sponsorship strategy through other media appearances. I’m on Kelly Scanlon’s radio show on 1510 KCTE AM at 9 am CST, Friday, January 13 to discuss Google Fiber and what it can mean for small businesses in Kansas City and elsewhere. You can listen live on 1510.com.

I also wrote a feature story in the January 2012 edition of The Social Media Monthly magazine on “The Social Side of Speed” about how Google Fiber might impact societal and cultural elements of Kansas City. You can get a printed copy at any Barnes & Noble store, plus check out one of the “Hottest Magazine Launches of 2011″ with an online subscription at The Social Media Monthly magazine’s website.

What could you do with your sponsorship strategy?

Does our approach instigate any creative ideas for how you could develop more effective sponsorships? If not, give us a call. We can put our years of sponsorship strategy and implementation experience to work for you to realize your business objectives.  - 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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Today’s Brainzooming article comes from San Diego where I’m speaking to the Virtual Edge Summit (#VES12) this afternoon on using “Social Media Strategy to Drive Virtual Events.” This presentation combines two of my favorite strategy topics – events and social media strategy – with content covering how creating a meaningful social media strategy for an event starts when designing the entire event experience – whether virtual or face-to-face.

Since we have a lot to cover in the one-hour presentation at the Virtual Edge Summit, the links below which follow the presentation structure provide additional support information – whether from the Brainzooming website or other reference pieces.

While created for #VES12 attendees, the list is beneficial for anyone who is trying to get the benefits of incorporating social media as a part of an event strategy – whether that’s for a large organization, a small business, nonprofits, or even for your local church, school, or professional group.

Social Media Strategy Basics

Creating Fantastic Content Before, During, and After Your Event

Getting Your Event and Content Noticed

Social Media ROI

Other Resources

– Mike Brown

 

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!

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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7

photo by: suze | source: photocase.com

Times are very different from when I was launching my business career. In light of that, there are several things I would do differently, yet several things I would not change in the slightest.

Things I Would Change

If I were launching my business career now, I would:

  • Start multiple things since the barriers against doing so are lower when you are early in your business career. When you are more advanced in your career, you make the barriers seem way too big.
  • Move through a bunch of activities to get as many growth experiences as possible. Tenure can shut off growth experiences.
  • Plan with a list and not a fully developed plan. The strategic thinking to arrive at the list and the full plan are comparable, but the lesser effort invested in creating the list makes you more likely to adapt when things change.
  • Try not let a fascination with perfection become a roadblock to doing something.
  • Attempt to cultivate an air of confidence as opposed to an air of hesitancy and self-doubt.

Things I Would Keep the Same

  • Live way below my means. Living humbly provides all kinds of flexibility.
  • Work in a very small business and a very large business. The experiences in a small business and a large business are so dramatically stark, it provides a solid foundation for whatever is next.
  • Concentrate on learning how to find information and interpreting it instead of learning facts that are going to change anyway.

How About You?

What things would you change and what would you do over the same way again if you were launching your business career now?  - Mike Brown

 

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational innovation boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.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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4

Even the popular press has been reporting on the major changes in the English translation of the Roman Catholic mass implemented this weekend. The current Catholic mass translation has largely been in place for more than 40 years since the change from the Latin mass in the 1960s. From a change management perspective, this major change by the Catholic Church provides a relatively rare opportunity to witness significant change management lessons:

  • How a long-standing, deliberate organization steeped in tradition implements major changes
  • The ways in which a couple of critical audiences (the clergy and members of the Catholic Church) handle major changes
  • Real-time lessons in what major change does to learning and performance

Having personally experienced the change management process for the translation of the Roman Catholic mass and thinking about change management recently on how Google Fiber will impact Kansas City’s digital divide, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share change management lessons from this process:

1. Pick a firm date and give people time to get ready

Allow everyone who has to prepare ample time to get ready. The November 27, 2011 implementation date (the start of the new Church year) was identified and communicated by US bishops in the summer of 2010.

2. Dispatch experts to explain major changes in person

People want and need to hear about major changes personally, if possible. Throughout the US, liturgists and other Catholic Church officials were dispatched to churches to explain the changes and what they’d mean for people. In our local churches, there were several different instructional sessions since last summer.

3. Communicate major changes in multiple ways, multiple times

Direct communication is great, but hardly sufficient. We also received various overviews in writing and during homilies at mass explaining the nature of the translation and the changes.

4. Provide aids to help people be successful in implementing major changes

Despite everything you do to get people ready, they’ll have to experience the major change for some time to really perform as previously. They’ll need more help than normal after a major change to perform successfully. Catholic churches seem to have all been outfitted with cards that have all the changes people need to know and say on the cards.

5. Make strategic accommodations to pave the way for change

Although you may be trying to point everything to a specific launch date for the major change, you should flex where it makes sense. Even though the implementation date was this weekend, it’s been permissible to use songs with new translations for some time so people could start learning them beforehand.

6. There will be mistakes – provide an opportunity for do-overs

Things aren’t going to be perfect after major changes so build that into your implementation plan. At the first mass I attended, our priest made more mistakes than the congregation did (since priests have many more wording changes than the congregation does). No matter whether it was him or us messing up, he had do-overs so we could all learn from the mistakes and practice it the right way, right away.

7. Things will go slower after the change, but having to pay attention again is a good thing

When you say (and do) the same things every time you do them, you wind up on autopilot. Autopilot mode saves time, but also leads to zoning out and not thinking about what you’re doing. As of right now, everybody at a Catholic mass is going to have to slow down and pay attention, which is a positive.

8. If you’re introducing a trial version of the major change and expect future changes, act quickly

If you’re going to put a temporary fix in place, make sure it’s really temporary and not semi-permanent. This Catholic Church missed the mark on this count. A commentator on radio Sunday morning said the translation being replaced after 40 years of use was put together in 9 months and was only expected to be used 5 or 10 years. The new translation has taken 9 years to complete. Clearly some organizations are faster than others!

Thanks for indulging me in sharing these change management lessons I’m personally seeing play out. What have been your lessons learned from major changes where you’ve been a participant? - Mike Brown


How can ultra high-speed internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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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