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I mentioned upcoming business collaboration opportunities for Brainzooming yesterday, including co-presentations, creating content, and developing new workshop and training offerings.

What to look for in a business collaboration?

Shame on me, but I’ve never put the criteria I look for from a business collaboration into the type of strategic decision making tool we develop for clients. The criteria are in my head. There is a time for everything, however.

Business-Collaboration-2

Here are criteria to evaluate when considering business collaborations:

  • There is a clear way we can be of help to the collaborator.
  • The collaborator brings something different (and complementary) to what we do and offer.
  • The other party shares comparable core business values to us.
  • There is a mutual commitment to learning from the business collaboration.
  • The collaboration will yield mutual benefits.
  • Beyond learning more from the collaboration’s outcomes, it should provide an opportunity to learn about each other and our brand.
  • The collaboration helps us grow in a new way.
  • The collaboration helps us reach a new audience.
  • With an event-based collaboration, it provides opportunities to extend it in strategically smart ways.
  • The other party is as enthusiastic about the possibilities from the collaboration as we are.
  • The collaboration doesn’t have to be completely aligned with what we are trying to do, but giving attention to the collaboration won’t become a distraction to important goals.
  • There is a clear motivation for both of us to invest in the collaboration to make it as successful as possible.
  • There is a mutual contribution from both parties toward the strategy and ideas.
  • There won’t be a big exit cost if the collaboration doesn’t develop successfully.
  • The investment and work to make the collaboration successful is spread among both parties, even if the types of investment in it are markedly different.

There may be more, but thinking back on business collaborations from the past few years, those items characterize the decision making and expected impacts of our varied collaborations.  Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

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 stakeholders 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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While traveling recently, I met with two online friends I’d never spoken with before. We’d chatted, messaged, and emailed, but had never spoken in person.

All I can say is I highly recommend turning online friends into IRL ones whenever possible.

A New Business Collaboration in Dallas

In Dallas, I met and spent two days with Mess Wright. We originally met on Twitter several years ago. I think Mess reached out online after reading some Brainzooming articles. I have been reading her multiple blog sites the last few years chronicling her career and life. I’ve said multiple times that I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone online that’s written about their personal successes and challenges in such a real, raw way.

Leading up to the Dallas trip, we were discussing her new role as a Communications Animator at The Grove, a social impact-focused co-working space located across the street from what was the Texas School Book Depository.

Mess-Wright-Serious

We spent time together seeing “Mess Wright’s Dallas” and attending the Social Media Strategies Summit. Our conversations led to us pursuing a new business collaboration we’re currently defining. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about collaborating with Mess!

A Chicago Creative Nudge

While in Chicago following the Dallas trip, Diane Bleck of The Doodle Institute met Anthony Vannicola (our Brainzooming intern) and me. Diane has graciously created a couple of infographics for Brainzooming articles. Nevertheless, we didn’t have any particular plans for our meetup.

Diane-Bleck

To put it succinctly, Diane came in and kicked my creative and content marketing ass in the nicest possible way. She dropped a strategy and business model on me that both makes so much sense AND runs wildly against the balance I’ve tried to create between The Brainzooming Group brand and how visible I am in the mix. We did a Periscope video (my first). She also kindly shared one of her Innovation Think Pad kits and issued a creative nudge to create a visual vocabulary for Brainzooming.

Being the dutiful student, I spent the flight home starting to craft a set of doodle icons for Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.

Visual-Vocabulary

As an introvert, meeting online friends IRL has definitely extended my social boundaries in incredibly positive ways. It’s made me more open to meeting new people. That includes sitting down and talking with complete strangers in airport restaurants on both trips. When I got back to a flooded-out Kansas City after the Chicago trip, I gave the guy across the aisle on the plane a ride home. Our introduction stemmed from a mutual friendship with Paula Holmquist. I met Paula at a copy shop years ago while preparing for our first big community collaboration event.

San Francisco and the SMS Summit

In late September 2016, I’ll be co-presenting and hanging out with Whip-Smart Wordsmith, Emma Alvarez Gibson, at the Social Media Strategies Summit and Marketing Conference in San Francisco. I met Emma in 2009 via an introduction from Jan Harness. Emma’s helped develop the initial Brainzooming brand messaging. We collaborate online frequently, and Emma co-facilitated an in-person workshop we did for CompTIA in San Diego several years ago. Additionally, she’s been editing our eBooks this year.

Creative-Friend

And btw, if you’re focused on marketing in general or social media and content marketing specifically, you should join us at this great event!

Want to Meet IRL in Your Town?

Introverts can grow and gain comfort with going from online to IRL friendships. Every time I’ve done this, it has led to learning more about online friends and about myself. In multiple cases, these meetings have fostered further collaboration.

So if I’m coming to your city (including Evansville, Indiana, San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis. Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and other locations before the year is done), are you interested in meeting IRL? Let me know! – Mike Brown

 

Conquer Fears of Business Innovation!

FREE Download: “7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears”

3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
  • When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

Download your FREE copy of 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears today!

Download Your FREE eBook! 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization's Innovation Fears

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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We wrote recently about lowering the stakes for sharing creative ideas. Right after that article, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a small innovation strategy workshop with a client.

We discussed the approach for the client’s upcoming thirty-person new process innovation strategy workshop. The question emerged of how much prior thinking to share with the newly involved participants. Our client thought we shouldn’t bias them by initially reviewing the innovation work that had already been done. The concern was that it would limit potentially contrary thinking about ways to improve the internal process they’re seeking to improve. These concerns followed an extended conversation about the value and applicability of having participants complete a pre-workshop survey to gauge their initial thinking and reactions.

We pointed out that bringing a large group together with little preparation and information-sharing would make the workshop way more risky than it should be.

Innovation-Strategy-Workshop

For example, think about the salary cost (and associated risk) of having thirty people (many of them senior leaders) coming together for a day-long innovation strategy workshop without taking advantage of all the inputs we can.  We think lowering risks in these situations ALL THE TIME.

That’s why we never convene people for live, multi-hour innovation strategy workshops without pre-workshop input to understand:

  • What they are thinking
  • Where they see opportunities and challenges, and
  • How we can best organize the in-person time to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Upfront input lowers the risk of an unsuccessful meeting developing.

5 Ways to Lower Risk in an Innovation Strategy Workshop

Here are five ways we lower risks with an in-person workshop:

  1. Carefully selecting participants to get a sufficiently diverse group with as few people as possible.
  2. Reaching out to as big a group as makes sense with pre-workshop surveys or online collaboration sessions so we can introduce their voices and perspectives into the in-person meeting, even if they aren’t physically present.
  3. Sharing as much one-to-many information as we can before the in-person workshop (since it’s often low efficiency time when one person is talking and everyone else is sitting and listening).
  4. Customizing and sequencing exercises based on what participants are thinking and need to accomplish (instead of some standard arrangement that’s always the same).
  5. Creating open space within the meeting where we encourage participants to challenge thinking already advanced by the core team.

With that approach, we can move faster and make an in-person innovation strategy workshop tremendously productive.

If you’d like to learn more about doing the same for your innovation team, contact us! We’d love to fill you in on the approach and how it could look for your organization. – Mike Brown

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

Ready to boost your innovation strategy?

New-10Barriers-Cover-BurstDo you need a quick evaluation to understand your organization’s innovation challenges so you can create a strategy to boost new ideas and successful implementation?

Download “The Ten Big Nos to InNOvating – Identifying the Barriers to Successful Business Innovation.”

This free Brainzooming eBook highlights ten common organizational innovation barriers. A one-page evaluation sets the stage to quickly self-diagnose where to focus your organization’s efforts in customizing a successful innovation initiative.

Download Your FREE eBook! 10 Big NOs to Innovating in Organizations

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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If you’re developing an innovation strategy initiative inside your company, is your primary focus on bringing executives together in a creative way to imagine new ideas?

That’s the focus some companies get enamored with based on innovation training that puts creativity front and center as the key to jump starting innovation.

From our experience, that’s far from the first step.

Strategic-Planning-Fun

Sure, the idea of getting everyone together for a creativity session is a sexy part of innovation.

But convening executives for a creativity session is the right step ONLY AFTER you’ve done a lot of decidedly non-sexy innovation strategy work. All the pre-work will suggest whether an in-person session even makes sense and how to make it successful if it does.


Download Your FREE eBook! 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization's Innovation Fears 

9 Critical Steps Before Your Innovation Strategy Gets Sexy

What are the non-sexy upfront steps in an innovation strategy?

Here’s a checklist:

  1. Setting appropriate objectives
  2. Gathering internal and external input
  3. Internal fact-finding
  4. Surveying external sources and environments for relevant ideas
  5. Conducting analysis
  6. Synthesizing pre-work into themes and directions to shape the innovation strategy (and workshop)
  7. Determining which parties will disproportionately contribute to an in-person innovation strategy workshop
  8. Designing the right type of workshop to help participants maximize their contributions
  9. Planning all the logistics and experience variables for the in-person workshop

Yes, those are all significant steps BEFORE you ever conduct a creativity session or in-person innovation strategy meeting.

Yet these steps may get insufficient attention in quickie innovation training classes because they:

  • Happen outside the organizational limelight
  • Can be ill-defined and cumbersome
  • Aren’t as sexy as facilitating a creative workshop

Here are two warnings:

  1. If the innovation training you’re attending goes right to how to have a creative workshop with executives, you’ve chosen the wrong training.
  2. If an outside company that is supposed to help with your innovation strategy goes right to the details of scheduling an in-person workshop, you’ve chosen the wrong partner.

If you find yourself in either of these situations, get creative about getting away FAST! – Mike Brown

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

Ready to boost innovation in a high-impact way?

New-10Barriers-Cover-BurstDo you need a quick evaluation to understand your organization’s innovation challenges so you can create a strategy to boost new ideas and successful implementation?

Download “The Ten Big Nos to InNOvating – Identifying the Barriers to Successful Business Innovation.”

This free Brainzooming eBook highlights ten common organizational innovation barriers. A one-page evaluation sets the stage to quickly self-diagnose where to focus your organization’s efforts in customizing a successful innovation initiative.

Download Your FREE eBook! 10 Big NOs to Innovating in Organizations

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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What leadership skills are necessary to successfully champion a collaborative strategy?

A client fully immersed in developing and implementing a collaborative strategy asked that question. The task at hand is selecting “champions” from among the organization’s leadership team to move forward with strategic initiatives developed from the input of employees across the organization.

The question is a critical one that’s started emerging with a variety of client organizations. Since we’re involved at the heart of driving the process to develop a collaborative strategy, we navigate our way through the development process based on an organization’s specific culture enablers and quirks.

When we leave after the plan is completed, however, we’re finding many leaders aren’t prepared to implement a collaborative strategy plan. The big difference a leader has to account for is that even if an organization operates in silos, you can’t implement a collaborative strategy plan in a silo. Since so many people have a stake in a collaborative plan, those individuals need to participate in the implementation or at least have visibility to the plan coming to life.

This is a topic I’m turning my attention toward increasingly, because we HAVE TO help develop leaders that can successfully implement collaborative plans. It’s not necessarily a different type of leader than exists in business today. They are out there; we’ve worked with them across industries. The issue is it requires a leadership style that many organizations have never fostered.

4 Vital Characteristics of Collaborative Strategy Leaders

collaborative-strategy-leaders

Here are four vital characteristics of collaborative strategy leaders:

#1 – They actively seek out the energy of the organization.

These leaders are continually reaching out in all directions for what people in the organization are passionate about and trying to make happen. They affiliate up, down, and across the organization; they reach out to all levels and areas to ask questions, listen, synthesize what they learn, and share updates back to all the areas that participate in implementation.

#2 – They integrate the organization’s energy and activities into the collaborative strategy.

You can’t simply send out a plan and think everyone will implement it. As a collaborative leader sees activity even remotely linked to the bigger organizational plan, they work to integrate it. That means finding points of connection, offering or suggesting adjustments that align activities to the plan to accelerate their momentum, and/or inviting cooperation among parties driving activities that should be in the plan.

#3 – They connect the people, parts, and pieces that will benefit each other.

This seems a like number 2, but there’s a difference. The previous characteristic is about connecting people and activities in the organization to the plan. This focuses on connecting people and activities to one another that are related. Creating these connections helps the organization move forward more quickly and dramatically with greater alignment.

#4 – They serve the people, the collaborative initiatives, and the organization above their own concerns.

You could put this first or last on the list. It’s the foundation of the leadership style. These collaborative leaders are motivated and act based on the overall good instead of what suits their own agenda or part of the company. They are in the collaborative strategy leader role for the organization’s overall success even if it means their own interests have to take one for the team.

There’s more to say on collaborative strategy leaders.

We’ll keep after this topic. This is a starting point, however, to look around and see which current and emerging leaders are ready to step into new roles championing collaborative strategy.  Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

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 stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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

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

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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When you’re first launching some type of innovation initiative, what is the most important innovation strategy question to ask?

A. Who should participate in the innovation workshop?

B. What exercises will generate the strongest ideas?

C. What are we trying to achieve?

D. All of the above

What do you think?

innovation-strategy-question

If you’ve been a Brainzooming reader for any amount of time, you probably know we think “C” is the most important first innovation strategy question to ask.

We call C the granddaddy of ALL strategic thinking questions.

If you have a solid strategic perspective on what you are trying to achieve, you are in a position to apply all the other aspects of a solid innovation strategy process (such as who will participate and the best exercises) in a meaningful way. If you don’t start with what you are trying to achieve, you run the risk of coming up with innovative solutions to issues that can wind up being wildly off the mark.

Talking with a potential client about an innovation workshop, I cautioned that his organization wasn’t ready for a high-stakes innovation workshop just yet. There was an entire information gathering and analysis phase that was yet to be completed.

But even more importantly, from our relatively brief conversation, there were at least two (and maybe more) candidates for the answer to what they were trying to achieve. And not surprisingly, when we chose a different one of the possibilities for what they wanted to achieve, the range of innovation possibilities suddenly grew larger and different than they were imagining.

That was only possible, however, by spending a little time thinking about what they want to achieve. – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

Innovation-Strategy-eBooks

Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

 

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

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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What are your expectations from a creative thinking workshop?

That is the first question I ask the audience at a Brainzooming creative thinking workshop. While I have a rich array of content planned, audience member expectations shape the points I emphasize and lead to including other unplanned content.

7 Expectations from Creative Thinking Workshop Training

Preparing for a creative thinking workshop this week, I looked back at a recent workshop to review the expectations participants shared. The expectations are a good representation of issues, from personal creativity to organizational strategy, important to getting things accomplished in a large company.

creative-thinking-workshop

How do you move an organization and its strategy from reactive to proactive?

On a personal basis, certain strategic leadership basics are a good place to start adjusting your attitude and growth as a strategic leader. Organizationally, a change management assessment we use identifies the types of change challenge an organization faces, along with ideas for approaching them successfully.

What are techniques to look at problems in new ways?

We offer a wide variety of strategic thinking exercises to change perspectives and look at day-to-day and longer-term problems in novel ways. At that workshop, we concentrated on the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise as a flexible tool suitable for many situations.

How do you build a team to move forward in a new direction?

We recommend assembling a diverse team with members filling specific important strategic perspectives. You can add to the core group with three distinct voices that include traditional leaders, emerging voices, and those challenging the status quo.

How do you motivate others – and yourself – to engage in greater creative thinking?

It may seem easy to stay stuck in the status quo. But for as easy it is to not change, you can’t stop all the change going on around you. We recommend inviting people to participate in creative thinking through using idea magnet behaviors. Idea magnets excite and propel others to tackle challenging creative tasks. Leaders also need to cultivate an atmosphere where people understand it’s okay to imagine and try ideas that won’t be successful right away, if ever.

How do you choose specific creative thinking ideas your team develops?

Ideas are a numbers game. It takes many ideas to uncover the most creative possibilities. Our experience suggests that as few as 8% to as many as 20% of ideas in a creative thinking workshop are viable candidates to move ahead right away. Involve a team in narrowing ideas by letting them select up to 20% of the initial ideas consideration. Then use a four-box grid to let team members express their initial views on the value of potential ideas, while group discussion helps decide which ideas advance.

What’s the life cycle of creative ideas?

The cycle to get from few ideas to many ideas to the best few ideas may happen multiple times during one initiative or plan. You, as a creative leader, need to be on the lookout for when it’ s time to move between divergent to convergent thinking and back again.

How do you communicate new strategies to those that are less open to change?

Personally, you can ask open, neutral, and lean questions of people reluctant to change in order to better understand their concerns. Invite them to play a challenger role in constructively helping to vet new thinking. For setting an overall strategy to handle change fears, download our innovation fears eBook offers seven possible strategies to consider.

Creative Thinking Is a Broad Topic

These questions suggest how a creative thinking workshop can cover a wide range of techniques and tips.

If your team would benefit from honing its creative thinking skills, it’s a great time to schedule a Brainzooming workshop before you dive into planning for next year! Contact us to get your workshop booked today!  – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

Innovation-Strategy-eBooks

Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

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

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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