Strategic Thinking | The Brainzooming Group - Part 176 – page 176
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I’m so excited to have Barrett Sydnor, president of Sydnor & Associates, as today’s guest author. We go back nearly 15 years, and I’ve always enjoyed his business writing tremendously. Today he addresses objectivity within strategic planning; he’ll also be back next month with a post on “invented second.”

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, quotes the father of modern consulting, Marvin Bower, as defining marketing as “objectivity.” If so, then objectivity is one of the most important qualities that any good strategic marketing planning process must have. But it is tough to do for two reasons.

One is that most people simply aren’t built that way. A few years ago I led a planning session for a company where I wanted people to think from the outside in (no big insight I know, but bear with me). To encourage that, they were not allowed to use first person references when speaking about the company – no “we” or “our.” It had to be third person, as an outsider would refer to it. To enforce it, we charged a quarter each time they referred to the company in first person. By the end of the session we had collected a very considerable sum for charity. One participant gave up about one-third of the way through, tossed a ten dollar bill in the pot, and said “I hope this gets me through the end of the day.”

These were smart people, good strategic thinkers, but they could not totally divorce themselves from thinking of the situation at hand in a first-person way.

The second reason that objectivity is tough is because often the objective person is seen as being negative or cynical. They are accused of not being a team player. And it is true that sometimes the approach and language of objectivity sounds negative and cynical when it is intended as skeptical or cautionary.

So how do you build objectivity into the planning process? One way is to encourage something I would call “passionate objectivity.” This is a quality or skill set that the best news reporters are heavily endowed with.

Those reporters approach stories with enthusiasm and an open mind, but they look for facts -verifiable facts – to back up or refute the opinions and subjectivity they encounter along the way.
An exercise that you can do to ensure that a planning recommendation is based in objectivity is to treat it the way a reporter would (should) treat a news story.

  • Write down the questions they would ask. Include the basic neutral, fact-collecting ones and the pointed ones that try to dig deeper.
  • Determine who they would go to as sources on the story, both inside the organization and outside sources—competitors, independent industry experts, academicians. Figure out what customers they would talk to.
  • What would they ask each of these sources and what would the answers be?

If you can answer those questions with good reliability and it still points favorably to your recommendation, you’ve had a good test of your processes objectivity. If you don’t know what the answers would be or the answers don’t square with the recommendation, maybe it’s time to go back and put some more passionate objectivity into the process. Barrett Sydnor

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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In business, people typically spend time thinking about arguing and defending their own points of view. It’s rare though when someone spends time thinking about how they’d argue against themselves.

So next time you’re advocating a particularly contentious position, grab somebody who is less tied to your positions and swap sides – have them argue for your position while you challenge their pro arguments smartly and strongly. Seeing what new logic they develop to defend the position you really hold can help unlock new perspectives you can use later.

Debating against yourself (or at least your viewpoint) is a fantastic way to challenge and shore up your thinking before somebody else forces you to do it on the spot.

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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  • “Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.” – John Naisbitt
  • “A large number of execution problems are really direction problems.” – Geoffrey Moore
  • “What’s the use of running when you are not on the right road?” – Unknown
  • “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

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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In terms of competitive strategy over the past thirty years, multiple villains have been able to create damage, wreak havoc, and end lives (all defined as success for them) by very often using non-traditional & apparently illogical techniques.

Despite how reprehensible their approaches are, they provide the basis for identifying potential competitive strategies in business. Here are potential approaches to plug into the character exercise to identify new competitive strategies:

  • Be very low profile
  • Conceal your appearance
  • Stay in hiding
  • Move around continuously to evade detection
  • Select an attention-getting target
  • Plan out all variables in the competitive attack
  • Work through a network of loyal followers
  • Patiently wait for the right moment to act
  • Do things differently each time to avoid detection
  • Conduct attention-getting attacks
  • Frighten large groups of people
  • Publicize your motives
  • Create the perception of future potential moves

Again, this isn’t advocating being a villain. But it is suggesting that variations on many of their planning techniques can be used legally to compete in business with a high degree of surprise and effectiveness.

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

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

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

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The phrase “fighting fires” gets thrown around pretty casually in business. For real fire fighters, however, it’s a highly skilled, dangerous endeavor focused on both prevention and ensuring public safety amid life threatening fires.

In this week’s Change Your Character exercise, let’s see what fire fighters can teach us about stopping the non life-threatening challenges we face in business; brainstorm 3 potential ideas for each of the fire fighting approaches listed below:

FIRE PREVENTION

  • Performing community outreach & education on fire prevention
  • Training with real fire situations
  • Inspecting buildings to ensure susceptibility to fire is reduced
  • Having a special number for people to report problems

DURING A FIRE

  • Getting to the scene of the fire quickly
  • Bringing specialized equipment and proper tools with them
  • Using resources at the scene
  • First finding the fire’s origin
  • Identifying potential risks
  • Rescuing people in danger / harm’s way
  • Locating casualties / people injured & providing assistance
  • Analyzing the fire for potential future trouble spots
  • Removing the fire’s source of fuel
  • Addressing self-preservation

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

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

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

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To wrap up “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t Week,” here are strategy quotes that reflect Wee Willie Keeler’s competitive perspective:

  • “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals to deliver a unique mix of value.” – Michael Porter
  • “Strategy used to be about protecting existing competitive advantage, but not any more. Today it is about finding the next advantage.” – Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble
  • “K is for Keeler
    As fresh as green paint
    The fustest and mostest
    To hit where they ain’t.” – Ogden Nash

 

Photo: http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/photo/history/ph_history_timeline_keeler.jpg

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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How many people in your company read trade pubs and websites from your industry? Probably a lot of them.

How many of them are deliberately perusing content from industries outside yours or in functional areas outside their fields of expertise? Probably not all that many.

So what should you do about it? Be a contrarian – go where everybody else isn’t, checking out trade pubs and web content from outside your industry such as:

  • Industries known for innovation or performance in areas where your industry lags.
  • Industries with similar, but more advanced life cycles than yours.
  • From functional areas that your business may ignore, but probably shouldn’t.

Pursue this approach and keep answering the question, “How can we apply this out of industry content to our business situation?”

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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