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Something I’m trying to improve is being deliberate about what I agree to do that could end up distracting from what’s important. After consciously pursuing many new avenues the past few years, it is evident some very fundamental business capabilities aren’t receiving the attention they need. I’ve been thinking about what strategic thinking questions could help me stay more focused.

In the midst of that personal reflection, kick ass business person and cycle instructor, Kate Crockett, posted “2016 – The Year of No” on Facebook. Kate’s strategic thinking questions resonated with me, and I asked her for permission to share them here.

I suspect you will find them valuable as well. Here’s Kate!

2016 – The Year of No by Kate Crockett

I challenge you to make 2016 the YEAR OF NO.

Before you agree to anything, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to do this?

We all need to stop doing things we absolutely do not want to do or things that cause us stress and anxiety just because we feel it’s what others want us to do or it is perceived as the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to care for yourself so you can care for others when needed.

Will doing this make me feel satisfied?

kate-crockett

Kate Crockett and her daughter, Olivia

Would the person asking me to do this do the same for me if I asked?

We all need to stop bending over backwards and going out of our way for people who wouldn’t help us even if it weren’t out of their way.

Would you allow a friend to say “Yes” to whatever it is if you knew they didn’t want to do it or it caused them stress or emotional anxiety to do it?

Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?

Is this time well spent?

We all need to learn to set our boundaries with those in our lives so that we aren’t the ones driven to stress and anxiety while the others in our lives skate around us caring very little that they’ve have put us in an inconvenient situation.

All of us are extremely talented, caring, generous, loving and amazing humans who allow those around us to exploit those admirable qualities to their advantage with little care for what it does to us. Spend your time this year on those who support your physical, emotional and mental well-being and lift you up. At the end of the day, it will make us less stressed and happier people for those that really matter to be around. – Kate Crockett

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Is it a good or bad career strategy if you do not have a job description?

And if you have to write one, what are good ideas for creating your own job description?

We tackled both questions recently in working with a nonprofit executive charged with crafting one for a newly expanded role.

Quite honestly, my initial career strategy advice was to avoid a formal job description for as long as possible. My preference was always to get a general understanding of what my boss wanted, but to avoid spelling out all the specifics. If I would have had strictly stated job descriptions, I am not sure I could have morphed my corporate job to be able to lay the groundwork for what became the Brainzooming methodology.

3 Career Strategy Questions for Creating Your Own Job Description

Since this executive was expected to devise a job description, we created a straightforward career strategy-oriented exercise to start. We suggested answering the following three questions:

  • What are ten things you WANT to accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten things you NEED / HAVE TO accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten VERBS you want to have associated with your impact in the organization?

Short of starting by developing a personal core purpose or branding statement, we suggested these three career strategy questions to balance aspirational activities and the “what has to get done” stuff that will not be as exciting. The verb question is to identify viable action words (other than “develop”) to incorporate into the job description.

After recording with these thirty ideas, we suggested picking the top three from each list to provide a starting point.

We will incorporate the input into a trial balloon job description that carves out a bigger role while stopping short of wrapping “world domination” into the job description.

We’re Throwing Orange Paint on the Wall

Throwing-Paint-Job-Description

As we often mention, this one is from the Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Lab. We will report the results as the job description comes together. – Mike Brown

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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 saw a Forbes click bait story on Facebook about THE thirteen “habits of exceptionally likable people.”

Just to be obstinate, I refused to click the link to discover what the Forbes blog writer had to say about his or her perspective on these life lessons.

13 Characteristics of a Likable Personality

Likable-Personality

Instead, I decided to create my own list based on the likable people I have had the blessing to meet throughout my life. Based on those experiences and life lessons, someone with a likable personality:

  1. Is comfortable with themselves.
  2. Possesses a sense of wonder.
  3. Is interested in many things and does not fixate on narrow topics.
  4. Radiates energy and a positive spirit.
  5. Has an open mind.
  6. Is adept at self-deprecating humor.
  7. Smiles at others.
  8. Instinctively knows when you need him or her to be around.
  9. Is happy to see you.
  10. Tells you nice things about you that you did not even know yourself.
  11. Listens intently.
  12. Laughs readily.
  13. Will go out of his or her way for you without mentioning it later.

That list reflects the characteristics of someone with an exceptionally likable personality in my book.

What does your list look like?

And how many of your most likable characteristics do you display yourself? Maybe THAT is the most important question!  – Mike Brown

 

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We are working with a client to develop a content marketing strategy for multiple business units in the organization. The first step was for our client to talk with the presidents of the various business units to understand their strategic objectives. With that information, we will be in a strong position to identify a content marketing strategy specific to each business unit’s needs.

In Search of Strategic Objectives

One business unit president described his objectives as including employee retention, improving a critical aspect of the brand experience, and addressing a significant cost area. During the discussion, he apologized for not having any strategic objectives. He reported being too focused on near-term issues to have developed any strategic objectives to tackle.

His comment prompted a question from our client about whether something was wrong with the conversation since it did not lead to identifying any strategic objectives for the business unit.

My response was the conversation was incredibly successful and yielded exactly what we were seeking. For each area the president listed, there were natural content marketing opportunities.

Strategic-Objectives

What are Strategic Objectives?

Why didn’t the business unit president realize he had strategic objectives on his list? Why didn’t he see initiatives tied directly to the brand, its people, and significant factors for its financial success as strategic?

My suspicion is the business unit president didn’t think he had strategic objectives because nothing addressed growth, innovation, or things that would only come to fruition years in the future. It seems evident that he operates under a mistaken belief about what is strategic and what is not. He is not alone; many executives labor under that misunderstanding.

3 Helpful Questions

We have covered ways to identify what is strategic using various questions and criteria. This new situation suggested a three-question exercise to identify likely strategic initiatives and objectives. Simply ask these three questions about an opportunity:

  • If we do not pursue it, will its absence be widely noticeable?
  • If we do pursue it, will its impact be widely noticed?
  • If the underlying situation or opportunity is ignored, will it create significant issues?

If you get three “Yes” answers, it is a safe bet you have a strategic issue on your hands. Two “Yes” answers suggest a borderline strategic issue. If you cannot justify even one “Yes” to the three questions, it is likely not a strategic issue.  – Mike Brown

 

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What’s the story on the innovation strategy for beer?

The Kansas City American Marketing Association monthly lunch addressed that question. Former Vice President of Innovation at Anheuser-Busch, Pat McGauley, shared stories of his past twelve years creating the company’s innovation team.

Rather than playback the various innovation strategy stories Pat McGauley shared, here is a sampling of quotes and points he made that stood out as great thought starters:

Not all innovation strategy inside a company is created equal.

Pat’s innovation team was responsible for product and packaging innovation. He reported that packaging innovation was more difficult to develop than liquid innovation. Based on comments he made regarding working with retailers on in-store shelving, product innovation may have been easier because it might lead to a fight for shelf space. Packaging innovation, on the other hand, could require making the case for a different shelf entirely.

Not all innovation teams are created equal.

Pat formed two innovation teams. One focused on near-term innovation strategy and the other on filling the three-to-five-year innovation pipeline. While the two team approach was designed to keep the longer-term team from getting pulled into today’s fires, it presented challenges. The long-term innovation strategy team became too disconnected from current activities shaping the future environment its innovations would face. Both teams, however, were detached from the brand teams to minimize the pull toward shorter-term brand priorities.

Innovation-Strategy-Checkli

“If you have a whole room that thinks the same, you don’t need all those people.”

He was speaking to the choir about the need for diverse participation and varied inputs to trigger ideas. Their global innovation team went to Korea in 2015 to look for inspiration.

How you frame the question shapes the innovation strategy opportunity.

On a market segmentation chart, Pat was making the point that there are multiple ways to grow from innovation. Sometimes it’s grabbing share from competitors in your category. In other situations, it’s grabbing share from substitutes for your category. The chart drew the distinction between these “share of beer” and  “share of throat” opportunities. That’s an intriguing categorization you could apply to many businesses to point innovation opportunities in different directions.

“Sometimes a company needs something that the consumers don’t need.”

In covering a few  innovation failures, Pat talked about Anheuser World Select. As he put it, “Anheuser-Busch needed an import beer, so we created a fake import.” The company had become enamored with trying to solve the problem of not having an import, but consumers had access to import beers. They didn’t need an inauthentic version from Anheuser-Busch.

“Renovation is putting new coats of paint on big brands.”

Pat credited InBev (which merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008) with introducing the idea of renovation to the organization. The innovation team spent 15% of its time on core brand renovation to enhance competitiveness.

3-Innovation-Strategy-Tiers

A leading company shunning innovation is “like someone hugging a block of ice.”

You can hang on to a block of ice (representing a core capability) and refuse to move away from it, but eventually the block of ice is going to melt and disappear. Pat pointed to Jeff Bezos as a CEO with a contrasting perspective. He is always on the lookout to disrupt Amazon before the next Amazon does it.

Lackluster innovators can catch up quickly.

One chart depicted (I think) growth factors in the beer market from 2012 to 2014. In 2012, competitor innovation accounted for just 5% of growth in the beer market; Anheuser-Busch was the overwhelming leader in innovation-driven growth. By 2014, competitor innovation represented 35% of beer industry growth. – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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I fielded a request for a few ideas on social engagement for an upcoming eBook an online company is creating. One of the questions related to how brands can set themselves apart through a customer experience strategy and outstanding customer engagement.

Our focus is often on creating memorable event-related experiences. Shifting the focus to ongoing customer engagement, however, necessitated a different look than the one we’ve used for years in designing events. While surprise is an important element in creating memorable event experiences, customers aren’t typically looking for surprises in more routine customer service situations.

Brand Expectations and Experience

Noodling the answer to the question further, I sketched an x-y chart comparing customer expectations vs. the nature of the customer experience. This customer experience strategy framework is a variation on how we’ve been thinking for years about developing memorable event experiences.

Social-Engagement-Matrix

The horizontal axis looks at how expected a particular customer experience, showing a range from completely expected on the left to completely unexpected on the right. For the vertical axis on the nature of the customer experience, the bottom label is “Routine” and the top label is “Delight.” The idea here was to describe the range of audience reactions to a brand’s customer engagement.

At a first pass, this framework seems to address the range of experiences a brand might seek to deliver on an ongoing basis.

Start with the lower left quadrant. These are Expected and Routine experiences. In this quadrant, a brand has to get social engagement basics right every time with incredible dependability.

In the upper left, the Expected/Delight quadrant is where customer loyalty programs function. A customer with strong, positive brand behaviors has a history with your brand and expects a certain level of delight in any experience with your organization.

The bottom right quadrant (Unexpected / Routine) might be one that’s frequently overlooked. It’s the opportunity to create a pleasant surprise for a customer during a routine interaction. One example might be the bakery that occasionally and somewhat randomly gives you a free donut because you’re a familiar face, not because of a loyalty program.

The money quadrant is the upper right – that’s where a brand delights a customer in a completely unexpected way. In this area, a brand engages with customers in a fashion consistent with the brand experience, but does so by going above and beyond. These situations create high-impact, memorable moments for audience members. These engagements wind up in business magazine brand profiles and case studies!

Remember, This Is from the Brainzooming Labs

This is a first pass. We’ll be incorporating it into workshops and client sessions to test how beneficial it is as a customer experience strategy framework for generating new ideas!  – Mike Brown

 

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Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
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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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You know, this week doesn’t have to be as unproductive as last week, what with business meetings going nowhere along with wasting time, positive energy, and any hope of creativity.

The thing is, there’s a different way to structure business meetings to help a group come together and collaborate in an innovative, productive way.

We create these types of radically different (and beneficial) business meetings for clients, in large part, by bringing together the right people in the right settings with the right structure to allow them to be productive and successful participants.

If you’re up for abruptly halting the cluster f%@k of the modern business meetings you attend, contact The Brainzooming Group? We’ll figure out how to turn insights, ideas, and initiatives into realities that actually move your business ahead!

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10 Lessons for Engaging Your Employees to Create Stronger Results

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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
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