Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 196 – page 196
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Forecasts and size estimates shown with multiple decimal points are scary because they invariably imply a phony level of precision. When you’re estimating something, understand up front how precise the answer has to be, and present the result accordingly.

Doing a near-term estimate for a production forecast is one thing. But if the question relates to a market’s size to gauge relative market share or reasonable long-term growth expectations, it’s probably appropriate for your answer to be a range, and maybe a pretty wide one (2x or 3x differences between the low and high end may even be reasonable).

Also, rather than investing all your efforts in one estimate, approach it with multiple methodologies or sets of inputs to create credible boundaries for your estimated range. That’s “precision” that’s more valuable than any level of phony decimal places.

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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Here are three links that can benefit you in varying (and sometimes fun) ways when preparing marketing plans.

Guerrilla Marketing Plans

I haven’t “blogged” other conference presentations yet, although I typically write pages of notes and idea starters. One of the most valuable note packets was from a 2003 Transportation Marketing Communications Association presentation by Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of guerrilla marketing. He covered essential elements of a marketing plan and the number of times you need to get a message in front of potential customers to move them to be repeat buyers. Interestingly enough, surfing the web recently, I found this Spark Insight page with notes taken from the same speech Levinson was giving then. Not sure if he’s still covering this material, but it’s a great quick reference on guerrilla marketing.

Marketing Plan Simplicity

This link to Entrepreneur magazine content popped up on AOL recently. It’s a great reminder on the importance of simple prose, reasonable length, and a direct style when preparing a business plan. While its target audience is people writing business plans for their own start-ups, it’s certainly applicable for any marketing or business plan you’re putting together even within a big company.

Deceptive Simplicity – “Indexed

I love a Venn diagram just as much as the next person. Okay, I love a Venn diagram more than most people. This book and website by Jessica Hagy capture her commentary on a wide range of topics through Venn diagrams, x-y charts, and other graphs. She produces an amazing amount of content on her blog and generates a lot of comments debating what the charts mean. Her ability to translate complex issues into a few lines and words on an index card is inspirational (and maddening – if you struggle mightily to express ideas simply!).

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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Here are five things that can help you in creative block busting. At least they work for me most of the time when a creative block is rearing its head:

  • Start with the familiar – What forms / styles / characters / media are the familiar ones that always work for you creatively? Use them to get started. (As the cartoon suggests, when I have a creative block about something to draw, a cow or a growling dog usually shows up on the page first.)
  • Do something mindless – Start something productive that requires no creative energy to get your mind off the block. (For me, that’s usually some type of data entry or spreadsheet work.)
  • Perform very yes/no or close-ended tasks – Find things with clear right & wrong answers (math, puzzles, etc.) and work on them. (I will often create flow diagrams for something I’m working on that force yes/no points or provide only a couple of choices at each step.)
  • Go where you’ve gone before –Return to a setting where you’ve been creative before or get out tools that have stimulated ideas to bust a previous creative block. (It’s Sharpie markers, a blank piece of paper, and starting to write or draw bold lines to get me going.)
  • Create a variation on the theme – Modify something you’ve done or build off of somebody else’s creativity. Start working with it, but vary it in increasingly bold ways until you’ve moved into creating something new. (For me, that may be drawing Dilbert characters in unusual settings or searching Google images for offbeat pictures that convey what I’m trying to say.)

Those are five potential blockbusters. For a bonus 6th creative blockbuster, here’s a link back to a previous post. And share a comment on what you do. Happy creative block busting!– Mike Brown

To tap into your creativity and bust creative blocks, download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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

 

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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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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on combating overly detailed PowerPoint slides, here are two quick checks to keep yourself honest on the detail level and clarity of your slides:

Check #1 – Print out your “finished” PowerPoint presentation with 16 (or at least 9) slides on the page (you can usually do this in the Printer Setup dialog – not directly in PowerPoint). At that resolution, see if you can read what’s on EVERY slide without squinting. If you can, you’re audience will be able to read it as well. If you can’t, neither will your audience, so go back to yesterday’s post and start again.

Check #2 – Cover the headline on each slide and ask, “Can the audience get my point from the slide’s content?” Next, cover up the content and ask, “Can the audience get my point from the headline?” Then determine, “Is the point consistent for both the headline and the content?” The right answer to all these questions is “Yes,” if you’re slide is a good one. If not, you’ve got some more work to do.

Simply using the principles outlined in the past two posts will demonstrate to your audience that you’re thinking about them and are making strides to deliver value to them with your content.

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’s post for “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t” Week examines ways to look at your market and business to take advantages of opportunities where your competitors aren’t located.

Many markets, especially in the business-to-business arena, are relatively conventional, i.e. they don’t necessarily have a lot of breakthrough, cool new developments such as the Apple iPhone. Even in these cases, however, there’s still a great opportunity to make a mark because in a conventional market, small doses of unconventional can really stand out. Sometimes, dramatic change comes from doing simple things that nobody else is doing.

Here are a few questions to ask and answer to help identify ways to be more unconventional in your own market:

  • What are things that customers have been requesting that we’ve yet to deliver?
  • What are the most frequent customer-precipitated exceptions to our product or service?
  • What are the most frequent employee-created exceptions to our product or service?
  • What are the best, most successful companies (regardless of industry) doing to grow customer relationships with their brands? How can we emulate them?

If a competitor isn’t already doing your answer to one of the questions above, you’re set with a potentially great opportunity for an unconventional move.

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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This week’s Brainzooming posts are dedicated to one of my favorite all-time players, Wee Willie Keeler. You’ll learn more about him Wednesday, but the reason he’s a favorite is because of his famous strategic quote: when asked about his hitting approach, he replied, “I hit ’em where they ain’t.”

That strategy works in so many ways, we’ll use it as the inspiration for the posts all week. Today’s turns the quote around, concentrating on not getting hit where you ain’t looking.
I spoke a couple of years ago on the same program as the then-COO from Sprint. During his presentation, he highlighted the incredible number of photographs being taken and sent via cell phones on a monthly basis.

It would have been interesting to sit inside Kodak in the years leading up to the emergence & explosion of this capability to see if cell phones were ever considered as competitive threats. I suspect they weren’t, especially since a Kodak exec I saw presenting at a Frost & Sullivan conference in early 2007 couldn’t get beyond his focus on printing things. There wasn’t much recognition of alternative means of communicating and transmitting images and the impact on Kodak.

The scary implication for any business is that not all future (or even current) competitors will “look” like your company. Cell phones don’t look like cameras, and the images that they produce aren’t too conducive to printing. Yet, for capturing & sharing images, they’re a lot more functional than a traditional camera (or even an electronic one).

How can you begin to assess and project the nature of future competitive threats. Beyond cursory exploratory market research techniques, here are several questions to consider:

  • What benefits does your company deliver? If you didn’t deliver them, who else currently would / could deliver them?
  • What if your company never existedhow would customers satisfy their needs?
  • What if your industry never existedwhat alternatives might develop to satisfy needs?
  • Who are the niche players in your markets today that could grow in prominence? How might they be defining your business for you right now?

We used the first benefits-oriented set of strategic questions at a Kansas City Business Marketing Association in looking at how Apple had disrupted other markets, yet could be disrupted itself. The strategy exercise interestingly yielded Microsoft, Garmin, YouTube, and Louis Vuitton as all potential competitors to deliver the same benefits Apple does. That’s quite a wide-ranging list!

This type of strategy work is challenging and highly speculative. But it pays to consider, anticipate, and prepare for as many competitive possibilities as you can imagine.  – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you develop a stronger competitor profile and create business building strategies to target big competitors more successfully.

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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