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I was standing in line at the Baltimore airport, about to board an earlier-than-planned Southwest Airlines flight through Chicago on my way back home. I was trying to shake a lingering stress headache, while feeling good about getting home an hour earlier, even though I’d passed up my direct flight to be able to do it.

Suddenly, Facebook Messenger buzzed. It was a message from my buddy, Mess Wright: “Hello. Are you there?”

I responded, saying I was about to board a plane, but had a minute. Mess let me know that she’s working on a new idea, had a variety of potential names, and wondered if I’d review them. I asked for more background information to determine how well the names were working to convey her brand. Mess sent a few paragraphs plus photos of the list of possible names.

On the plane, I decided, based on the headache, to generate other possible names versus trying to concentrate and read the one from Mess. Without an available list of our Brainzooming cool product name questions, I used the descriptions Mess sent to identify strategic starting points. I began imagining what words might pertain to the new brand’s:

  • Personality
  • Benefits
  • Customers
  • Business Category
  • Other Audiences

I also left myself some mental white space to riff on any other names that came to mind.

When we reached Chicago, I forwarded a list of 106 potential names generated before landing at Midway. Mess responded later that several of the cool product names were resonating, along with others from her original list.

This past Friday and Saturday, Mess sent possible logo executions incorporating suggested name number eighty-three from my list. By this weekend, she’s using our online branding lab tools to further explore brand positioning, content, visuals, and product ideas.

How to Generate 100+ Cool Product Names in a Hurry!

I see three take-aways from this story:

  1. The benefit of creative structure to generate LOTS of ideas, because the winner may be cool product name number eighty-three
  2. The power of strategy-focused creative thinking questions to help generate a high proportion of on-target ideas
  3. The speed with which you can move from idea to prototype when you are determined and use resources from around the world

This mini-cool product names project was a welcome distraction during the BWI-MDW flight. Without it, I’d have had a full-on head explosion from the detail I discovered about my Chicago connection AFTER I was on the plane. More about that customer experience fail.

In the meantime, if you want help generating names, we have a FREE infographic that features 7 inspiring creative thinking questions to create cool product names! Download your copy today! – 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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As you look ahead to implementing new strategic initiatives, how actively are you engaging with the senior leaders of your organization to let them know what’s coming? 

This piece from Inside the Executive Suite lays out a number of questions you should be asking to understand what, who, and how you should be communicating to pave the way for successful implementation.

Gaining Leadership Buy-In for New Strategic Initiatives without Selling-Out

This series of questions provides a helpful road map for initiating change and gaining upward support for new strategic initiatives.

1. Determining the Organizational Latitude

The initial questions focus on determining how open an organization is to independent development of new strategic initiatives.

  • What types of new initiatives typically gain an okay / approval?
  • What types of new initiatives usually get more leeway, less oversight, and generous room for development and implementation?
  • What evidence exists to back up the answers to the previous two questions? Are there specific decision-making and support-building processes or oversight groups in place?
  • What has or hasn’t worked in the past to secure sufficient buy-in?

Asking these questions help you determine where you stand as well as your best options with a current initiative.

2. Assessing the Negotiating Position

The next set of questions pertains to understanding how to approach the conversations you need to have, and your best negotiating stance.

  • What must the final version of our initiative include so that the result is true to what we are trying to accomplish?
  • If executives are looking for changes, what potentially important areas are we willing to modify to get agreement to the overall initiative?
  • Are there aspects of the initiative that we are willing to give up or trade away to secure buy-in?

As a starting point, develop a short list of items that you see as must-have elements. This initial list could be based on what team members, the organization, and other internal participants have been told or have come to expect through their involvement in collaboratively developing a strategic initiative. The goal is to think ahead and consider the types of modifications that will be acceptable before executives ask for changes.

3. Identifying the Supporters and Dissenters

You also need to understand where the pockets of support for the new initiative lie within the organization. To further your sell-in strategy, determine:

  • Which individuals and / or groups must support this initiative for us to move forward to implementation?
  • What about it do they have to support, and how do they need to show their support (through a decision, funding, other resources, etc.)?
  • What will it take, individually and collectively, to secure their support?
  • Will any of the individuals or groups look to see if others are already supporting the initiative before they are willing to step up with their own support?

The second part of this exploration is more vital and higher-risk: identifying potential naysayers, especially the ones with enough power to do something about their dissent. Try to anticipate the potential challengers using these questions:

  • Who can kill this initiative outright (these are the aggressive dissenters)?
  • Who might kill this initiative indirectly through resistance, failing to deliver on commitments, or by using the corporate political landscape to create traps (these are the passive dissenters)?
  • What do people in each group believe right now? What do we need them to believe? What will get the dissenters to not try to kill the initiative?

The communication and buy-in path that emerges from these questions will suggest how much effort is ahead of us to gain buy-in. It will also provide clues as to whether it looks like you’ve started early enough to both secure the buy-in and launch the initiative on time.

Start Early to Gain Buy-In

No matter the approach you take to gain support for new strategic initiatives, the key is not putting off the selling step until later. Make this step happen early, and you’ll increase your chances of success.

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!
Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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, I’m delivering a new Idea Magnets workshop on Finding and Sharing Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories on Social Media. The venue is the Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. Within the workshop, we’re applying the Idea Magnets creative leadership formula to brands that want to improve the resonance and impact of the social-first content they create.

For the workshop, we solicited participants’ questions and expectations in advance. One desired take-away they shared was figuring out how to get the most from the stories their brands develop. To come up with a new Idea Magnets creative approach to the question, Emma Alvarez Gibson and I turned to one of the most famous stories of the last forty-plus years: Star Wars.

Think about all the variations and extensions of the Star Wars story! We translated all those twists and turns to create this list of seventeen ways to extend your brand’s extraordinary stories:

  1. Develop a story with multiple characters
  2. Continue the story and add new characters
  3. End the original story and resolve most things
  4. Use elements of the original story format and share specific parts
  5. Develop the prequel story before the original story with new characters that set up the backstories of some already-revealed characters
  6. Continue the prequel story in multiple parts
  7. Resolve the prequel, but leave room between the prequel and the original story
  8. Refresh the original story with new storytelling techniques & previously unused material
  9. Create events allowing the audience members to immerse in the story
  10. Hand the story to a new creative leader to develop a sequel that happens after the original story
  11. Continue the sequel in multiple parts
  12. Select specific characters and build new stories around each of them
  13. Select an as-yet-untold story and focus on answering big, lingering questions related to it
  14. Adapt all parts of the story for different audiences with different media preferences
  15. Let users create content stories from the original characters and story lines
  16. Invite other professional communicators to re-imagine the story with their preferred storytelling methods
  17. Extend the legacy of a few characters through to the next generation of the story

Want to go further to exploit extraordinary stories? Download our FREE eBook with forty-nine questions to inspire extraordinary brand stories.

Want to up the game on your Idea Magnet creative leadership skills? Then get your book or Kindle copy of idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders today on Amazon! – Mike Brown

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories

Developing and sharing extraordinary stories that resonate with your brand’s most important audiences is an important key to branding success.

49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand’s Extraordinary Stories puts ALL the powerful questions at your disposal to identify, develop, and share authentic stories. It introduces multiple strategies that Idea Magnets use to:

  • Make unexpected connections and generate story ideas
  • Encourage people to share experiences that lead to memorable stories
  • Tell stories through effective techniques that intrigue and engage audiences

Download Your FREE eBook! 49 Idea Magnet Questions to Attract Your Brand's Extraordinary Stories!
 

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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Idea Magnets instinctively apply their core strategies to create outstanding customer experiences. With that backdrop, I delivered an Idea Magnets workshop at a technology company.

The specific focus?

How Ideas Magnets apply their strategies to create stronger internal customer experiences.

Idea Magnets and Outside-In Customer Experiences

Here’s how each Idea Magnets strategy matches up:

Generate Inspiration: Idea Magnets use extreme creativity questions to motivate their teams to imagine dramatically new possibilities. The answers impact how they design and deliver a customer experience.

Embody Servant Leadership: Servant leaders are thinking about how they are doing things to benefit their audiences. Embracing servant leadership helps focus on what works best for potential customers.

Attract Opposites: When there’s a call to enhance a customer experience, you want to explore ideas from multiple perspectives. Idea Magnets are adept at flipping situations on their heads to see new ideas hidden among familiar processes.

Make Unexpected Connections: There are incredible customer experience lessons from leading brands across all industries. Finding the right comparison brand for your brand will highlight strategies that are easily portable across industries.

Encourage People and Ideas: Customer experience is a multi-dimensional aspect of a brand. Idea Magnets naturally bring together a diverse mix of people and perspectives across the customer experience.

Implement for Impact: With a bias for acting on innovative ideas, Idea Magnets effectively narrow options and make decisions with the customer in mind. They integrate techniques to simplify making complex choices, speeding up the time from idea to implementation.

Recharge Creativity: Staying on top of expectations and performance on the customer experience demands long-term focus and innovative thinking. Ideas Magnets are adept at keeping the team’s thinking fresh and new even as they tackle ongoing functions and issues.

If your organization needs new thinking on customer experience, embracing the seven Idea Magnets strategies is a fantastic place to start. Contact us, and let’s talk about how the Idea Magnets book and/or workshops will inspire big changes!

Note: If you’re a Brainzooming blog subscriber and wondering where I’ve been the last month, it’s been a crunch time: travel to client workshops, the Inbound18 conference, and multiple local client engagements. That’s great for business. It’s also a challenge for publishing regularly. I can’t see the time crunch ending soon. My apologies as we try to keep up a regular publishing schedule in this important strategic planning time! – 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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At an Idea Magnets workshop, we shared a strategic thinking exercise we call Rock-Paper-Scissors. We employ it to categorize what your company or department is currently offering based on:

  • Things that add incredible value for your audience
  • Things that don’t add incredible value, but could if they received more attention and resources
  • Things that once created incredible value, but no longer do, and are ripe for major modifications or for being eliminated

In the post-workshop evaluation, one attendee asked about extending this strategic thinking exercise to identify things you aren’t currently doing that you should be doing. The individual asking the question suggested it as a fourth element of the Rock-Paper-Scissors strategic thinking exercise (perhaps as Rock Number 2).

Picking up on the suggestion, here is a starting list of questions that could start to answer this important fourth question about what’s missing within your offerings:

  • What have customers been asking about forever that no one will deliver for them?
  • If you weren’t constrained by whatever you think your current constraint is, what would you provide to customers because it’s the right thing to do?
  • If you moved backward in your product/service delivery process, what would you start to do to create stronger benefits for customers?
  • If you moved forward in your product/service delivery process, what would to begin offering to customers to enhance how you deliver benefits to them?
  • Ask a client: If you were running our company / department, what would you be doing? (You may get lucky on this one, but don’t bet on it. Customers aren’t paid to do your thinking for you.)

This one is definitely in the Brainzooming R&D Lab! We’ve used most of these questions in other settings, but not integrated as a fourth part of Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’ll try it out soon and see how it works to complement what is an already-proven strategic thinking exercise for Brainzooming clients. – Mike Brown

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

swot-alternatives-cover

“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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“You need to train people for their next jobs, not the ones they’re in right now.”

A participant shared that in an experience strategy workshop. 

His comment got me thinking: How much of what we do is based around right now, when it REALLY should be oriented toward getting ready for whatever is next?

The next . . . 

While you want to importantly make sure what’s going on right now is working well, you HAVE to carve off investment resources (focus, time, money, effort) to make sure you are ready for whatever is next.

Look at where you are giving your attention and other investment resources. Are they setting you up for future success? Or are they merely keeping you paddling in place for right now?

Depending on the answer, an Idea Magnet realizes you may need to make a big change to ever make progress. And that change starts right now!  – 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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Nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises.

I’d never thought of this term previously. Yet, they are vital. They help groups (or an individual) efficiently explore many more opportunities and ideas than they otherwise might.

The nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises term popped into my head during a Brainzooming client workshop. Three groups rotated through posters focused on their shared services organization’s internal branding. We had already identified its experience promise to internal clients. This new exercise translated its internal brand promise into specific behaviors its five-hundred employees will use to create the experience.

Each strategic thinking exercise poster had four or five brand dimensions on the Y-axis. The x-axis labels along the poster’s top featured three specific opportunities to deliver the attributes: at the initial engagement with internal clients, throughout ongoing work, and as a project wraps up.

You do the math with this strategic thinking exercise.

Five rows times three columns presented fifteen different opportunities within a matrix for participants in each of three groups to explore different phases of the experience promise. That meant more than forty perspectives from which to generate ideas for potential behaviors.

Someone asked if, after the small groups completed all the idea generation, we would leave them with all these cells worth of ideas.

My answer was, “No.”

The point of creating so many possible ways to think about brand behaviors WAS NOT to develop a bunch of answers pointing in varied directions.

Our objective? Use the forty-plus cells to push the team into exploring the nooks and crannies of brand behaviors. We will report back the summarized list of important behaviors to successfully bring the promise to life. The focused behaviors lead to implementing a robust, focused, and consistent experience for internal clients.

Whether it’s a bunch of cells, many different prompts for ideas, or questions that extend from incremental to extreme change, nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises are trying to do the same thing: create an efficient way to look at an opportunity from as many different perspectives as relevant and possible within a brief amount of time.

Want to make sure your team is looking at all the nooks and crannies of your strategy?

Contact us, and let’s adapt the concept to your specific organizational, brand, or innovation strategies. You’ll quickly see why we love the productivity of nook and cranny strategic thinking exercises so much! – Mike Brown

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

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

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


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



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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