Strategic Thinking | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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In Brainzooming presentations and workshops, attendees want case studies and the answers somebody else has used.

Why?

Because that seems easy.

You show up, put in your forty-five or sixty minutes, and walk away with the answers that you haven’t been able to come up with back at the office. Or you receive confirmation from a speaker that what you have been thinking is right (or pretty close to right), and you can take that back to the office and tell the boss.

A Strategic Thinking Framework Is Better than an Answer, Really!

Despite this desire for case studies and answers, I rarely include them when I speak. Or if I do, I incorporate examples from audience members so THEY can talk about everything they tried, what worked and didn’t, and the things they learned.

Instead, I include lots of strategic thinking frameworks for decision making. While these strategic thinking frameworks aren’t answers, they allow you to quickly develop answers even in areas where you lack experience. That ability (and flexibility) is vital in business. It’s also essential as a presenter where you get questions and people wanting you to tell them what to do. As I remind people, however, I can’t tell them to do one thing or another within a couple of minutes at a conference. But I can give them a strategic thinking framework to analyze the question and decide for themselves.

Here is one example from a social media and content marketing workshop:

An attendee asked about the need to maintain separate Facebook pages in different languages. I pointed him to a brand-oriented strategic thinking framework I shared that focuses on what customers expect, accept, and will reward.

As we played it out, customers expect brands to interact in their own languages. They may or may not accept that one out of every few posts is in their language, and then they have to scroll. Maybe they will accept images with links to content in their own language? Maybe they will accept built-in translation as a viable option.

Then, depending on which approach they choose, they have to look at whether customers will reward it in some meaningful way. Will they select the brand over another? Select it more often? Pay more for a sense of personalization?

While I didn’t know the answer at that moment, the strategic thinking framework provides a way for them to consider the options and make a decision that works for the brand.

Bring the Questions!

If you are in the audience for a Brainzooming workshop, I love, love, love the questions. Please ask questions.

Just realize, your answer is probably going to be a way for YOU to think about your question and develop the answer you are seeking that works best for YOU, not somebody else! – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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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Does your organization excel at its strategy implementation process?

Do you execute new strategies quickly, effectively, and successfully?

A few clients we talk with mention a strong strategy execution process. Most discuss some big challenge (or multiple challenges) with implementation.

We address their experiences in our collaborative strategy implementation approach. You can’t invite others to collaborate on a strategic plan and later ignore them when you launch it. The strong value of collaborative strategic planning comes, in part, from involving parties critical to strong implementation even before you create the plan.

Fast Forward Your Strategy Implementation Process – Free eBook

We have compiled our highest impact strategy implementation recommendations into one FREE eBook: Fast Forward – Successfully Implementing Your Plan.

In Fast Forward, we share actionable ideas, tips, and checklists to rapidly improve your strategy implementation process and results. Fast Forward focuses on three critical success areas:

  • Streamlining how you communicate your plans for impact
  • Selecting and shaping strong implementation leadership
  • Reducing implementation barriers to move forward quickly and flexibly

Download Your FREE eBook! Fast Forward - 3 Keys to Implementing Successfully

Specific features include:

  • 10 ways to simplify and strengthen the language you use to communicate strategic priorities
  • 9 ideas for introducing your strategic plan with style and impact to gain the organization’s attention and engagement
  • 4 keys for selecting the right collaborative leaders for implementation
  • 12 questions to better launch a successful strategy implementation process
  • How to navigate 4 typical execution challenges in organizations
  • Using mini-plans to increase your organization’s implementation flexibility

Download your copy of Fast Forward today, and ramp up your results with outstanding implementation! – Mike Brown

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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Emma Gibson forwarded an article from Harvard Business Review addressing four factors that distinguish top chief executive performers in creating strategic impact.

In “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart,” authors Elena Lytkina Botelho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, Stephen Kincaid, and Dina Wang reported their analysis of several thousand CEOs. A database of individual career profiles, behavior traits, and performance results provided the data set for their review. They identified important profile differences between top performers and laggards.

The authors report four characteristics that set top CEOs apart, According to the article, “roughly half the strong candidates had distinguished themselves in more than one of the four essential behaviors, while only 5% of the weak candidates had.”

4 Critical Factors for Successful Executives in Creating Strategic Impact

The four characteristics relate to quick decision making, engaging employees, anticipating forward-looking change, and delivering consistent performance. For each characteristic, here are related Brainzooming articles with exercises and tips to improve your own performance creating strategic impact.

Quick Decision Making

Engaging Employees

Anticipating Forward-Looking Change

Delivering Consistent Performance

Can you look at your career performance and see where you are creating strategic impact through your performance in at least two of these areas? If not, dive in with the supporting articles and strengthen your depth and results! – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative Strategy



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 folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence offered an internal branding strategy take on the United Airlines woes, offering strategic thinking questions you can ask and answer to improve your brand’s resiliency and avoid brand crises.

3 Ways Your Internal Branding Strategy Can Be Smarter than United Airlines

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

United Airlines is at the forefront of recent business and general news due to having forcibly removed a passenger from a partner airline flight. Chicago Aviation Department police dragged Dr. David Dao from his seat after United identified him as a low-value flier. That put him next in line to be bumped to make way for several crew members. Dao suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and lost two teeth. This past weekend, United made headlines again with another incident; a couple headed to their wedding were removed after having moved into more expensive seats.

United Airlines seems unable to extricate itself from the intense negative media spotlight right now. These situations underscore a major brand impact of smart technology: nearly every customer is a broadcaster following his or her own personal rules for the ways in which broadcast journalism operates. While the era of personal broadcast journalism is several years old, it’s clear that even major brands have not fully adapted their branding and customer experience strategies to recognize this phenomenon.

3 Internal Branding Strategy Challenges

The concept of internal branding addresses the ways in which an organization prepares its own people to carry out the experience it delivers for its customers. For an airline, determining the correct way for a gate agent to manage boarding, or for a flight attendant to interact with passengers, are both elements of managing an internal brand team.

With current United-related stories focusing on its business practices and crisis communication response, let’s pursue a slightly different path. Here are three internal branding weak spots the United incident highlights. For each, we articulate a challenge and related internal branding questions for your organization to ask and answer.

Anticipating Flexibility in a Rules-Oriented Culture

When making sure an airplane takes off and stays in the air, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. That’s why airlines are sticklers for operations manuals, checklists, and rules. With United, a Wall Street Journal Story reports the company cultivates a “rules-based culture where its 85,000 employees are reluctant to make choices not in the ‘book.’”

The challenge: giving your people the flexibility to handle negative customer situations that may develop or are already happening. United is reviewing its policies after the fact. How can a brand better anticipate these situations? A variation on business war games could be helpful; set up customer interaction situations, having stand-in rogue customers disrupt the system. Alternatively, data analysis of real world customer interactions could signal unusual ones a brand should explore, particularly if a customer introducing more system stress than expected turns it negative very quickly.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • How much customer interaction detail is spelled out within your brand policies?
  • What do you do on an ongoing basis to monitor when policies aren’t functioning properly?
  • Are you actively imagining unusual, hypothetical situations to test how applying the rules might escalate and turn customer interactions negative?

Who Is Your Internal Brand Team?

It is easy to identify your employees as critical members of your internal brand team, particularly those with direct or indirect customer contact. Brands typically focus training attention on employees to ensure they understand and carry out the brand promise as intended.

The challenge: looking beyond your own employees to understand other parties and organizations that are on your internal brand team. While early reports suggested United saw the interaction with Dr. Dao as the purview of the Chicago Aviation police, the officers present on the plane were certainly part of the United internal brand team. One wonders whether United strategized the possibilities with the officers before they boarded the plane to remove the passenger. If that conversation took place, it’s difficult to see how dragging a passenger off the plane was a sanctioned course of action.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • Has your brand team consciously explored, from a customer’s perspective, who all the parties are that interact with your customers within your brand experience?
  • How many are partners, contractors, agents, or even unrelated or unaffiliated parties you would never include in traditional employee training?
  • What steps can you take to make them more formal members of your internal brand team?

Everyone Is a Reporter, Everyone Is on Camera

The first-hand reporting on the United incident came from multiple passengers, complete with different camera angles of the exchange between the Chicago Aviation police and Dr. Dao. The passengers uploaded their videos to social networks directly. That means they were in effect broadcasting the video without any chance for a United response. Sharing the videos may, in fact, have happened even before senior United executives learned of the incident through internal communication channels.

The challenge: brands are controlling less of the message about themselves than ever before. Each customer (or bystander) can cover a brand interaction as it happens. That means there no opportunities for a brand to hide from negative situations or even go through typical internal communication protocols. In a practical sense, this means every member of an organization’s internal brand team needs to be aware that EVERY interaction has the potential to wind up on social networks, and then broadcast channels. Not only do they need to be prepared for this, a brand needs to be listening for customer-created reports. These communication channels move faster than most internal communication processes!

Internal Branding Questions:

  • What does delivering media training look like for EVERYONE in your organization – and for your extended brand team?
  • What is the bare minimum training required to prepare frontline people interacting with customers to understand the impact of personal reporting?
  • What provisions do you have for listening to miscues and problem situations that an external party is reporting even before your internal brand team members can?

Are you prepared?

As you explore these internal branding questions, we do encourage you to consider the worst possible situations you can imagine to more accurately test your internal branding readiness. Don’t shy away from considering: How bad could it get? – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE  Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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It’s natural for a business to struggle with new ways and places to add value for its customers. Other than dropping price, in what ways can you adapt your branding strategy to boost the benefits and reduce the costs (be they financial or non-financial) of having your company as a provider?

That’s a huge question.

One way to look at your branding strategy to identify new value opportunities is to ask this strategic thinking question:

What mistakes are customers prone to make before and after they work with us, and how can we eliminate (maybe even guarantee to eliminate) any of those mistakes?

That’s not a new branding strategy question, but it came to mind once again while heading to my car after morning mass yesterday. I hadn’t seen one of these trucks for a few months, and this was a great opportunity to take a picture of it standing still.

Yes, that’s a big typo on the side of the truck. And it’s been there for at least a few years.

Think about this opportunity if you’re a vehicle graphics company. Maybe you’re adding new materials to your product mix. Reducing the time to take off and install vehicle graphics. Selling service packages over an extended period to touch up graphics. Offering a discount here and there to get your customers to swap out their graphics on a more regular basis.

Those ideas all center around what you do.

How about looking before and after for potential mistakes?

How about offering a 100% spelling, grammatical, and image accuracy guarantee? That would be great for when everybody that wrote or reviewed copy that was going to go on the side of a truck suddenly forgot (we hope forgot) the basic rules of English.

That could be a great service. And all you’d have to do to market it is rip off the picture in this post, and assure your customers that YES, this really DOES happen!

What are the comparable opportunities in your business? Spend fifteen minutes today thinking about the dumb mistakes that happen before and after what you do. See if there are a few ways you can help your customers completely avoid those to create more value in what you deliver for them.

It’s all up to you if this strategic thinking question will create its full impact for your brand! – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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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I was talking with a friend about how we approach developing a strategic planning process for a client. During the conversation, she asked me about the proudest moment we have had with The Brainzooming Group. I told her I don’t tend to think about moments of pride, since I try to avoid the seven deadly sins as best I can!

In response, though, I shared a client’s comment after we completed an all-day social content strategy workshop:

“We got six months of work done in one day.”

I’ve recalled his comment often since he shared it in the early days of The Brainzooming Group. The statement does a great job of describing the brand impact we strive to create with a strategic planning process: Getting smart work done while expanding creative thinking more quickly than anyone imagined possible.

5 Secrets to Get 6 Months of Work Done in One Day

You may be wondering how in this situation (and others) we get six months of work done in one day. Here are five secrets:

  1. By creating an event focused on strategic planning, we earn the attention and time commitment of people that might not typically devote attention to strategic thinking.
  2. Narrowing in on the business objectives in advance, we orient all the activities toward what we need to accomplish, increasing the efficiency for everyone participating.
  3. We create strategic thinking exercises to fit the participants. We serve up tasks in an easy-to-understand format, minimizing the time needed for instruction and familiarization, thereby maximizing the doing and working time.
  4. The ground rules establish how interactions will happen. This eases us through challenging situations instead of allowing things to grind to a halt.
  5. We provide structure and a flow for people to work together who might not necessarily want to do so. (In the case of the client making the comment, we got several agencies in the same room collaborating for the client’s benefit.)

Those reasons (and a few others), are all part of getting much more work accomplished than EVER happens in typical business meetings – especially strategic planning meetings.

Interested in getting that kind of productivity and impact in your strategic planning process?

Contact us, and let’s figure out what we can do to move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

 

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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My dad was a huge believer in The Power of Positive Thinking. I think that book, by Norman Vincent Peale (affiliate link) was the first self-help book he tried to get me to read.

For some reason, I particularly resisted The Power of Positive Thinking, although I’m hard pressed to say why.

For whatever reason, though, I do not think I ever read the book in its entirety. Probably the best I did was reading a summarized booklet he gave me. The more important aspect of my exposure was absorbing how my dad lived the book’s central messages in his work and personal life.

This recollection surfaced while searching for ways to think strategically and positively about several possible business challenges. It’s my tendency to focus on the scary possibilities looming over the horizon and address those.

The Power of Positive Thinking Plus Strategic Thinking Questions

via Shutterstock

As an alternative, I tried being more like my dad, coupling the power of his positive thinking with the strategic thinking questions that are so comfortable for me. It became apparent how I could more easily form and hold onto a positive expectation when strategic thinking questions provide a way to generate ideas and evidence for the positive thinking. Here are a few examples of positive expectations I wrote, along with the strategic thinking questions to support them:

Positive Expectation – There are people who want to help us succeed.

  • Who do we know that shares our interests?
  • How can we get them to cooperate with us?

Positive Expectation – We are over-delivering value and benefits.

  • If we deliver less value than we planned (but still more than is expected), how can we re-deploy what remains to create additional or different value?
  • In what ways can we ask more for this extra portion of value?

Positive Expectation – We have done solid, comprehensive work, and can continue to mine it in new ways.

  • What have we done previously that answers a question or issue from today?
  • How can what we know or have done previously allow us to move 3x more quickly than if we didn’t have previous experience?

Positive Expectation – Remain confident things will work out successfully.

  • When this works, what do we need to be ready to do next?
  • What next bigger challenge will this success propel us to accomplish?

I’m not  saying these specific examples will work for you. What is worth considering is how you can pair up strategic thinking questions to better realize, hold on to, and work toward positive expectations, even if that isn’t your natural tendency. – Mike Brown

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

Engage employees and customers with powerful strategic thinking 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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