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Who should you invite to participate in an innovation strategy workshop?

We’ve written about three important strategic perspectives (general management, functional expertise, and people with creative energy) and three types of voices (traditional, challenger, and emerging) to include in any type of strategy workshop.

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Working with a client to identify potential participants for an innovation strategy workshop, we identified five other participant profiles to expand the workshop diversity:

1. Unafraid People – Individuals that don’t care about what other people think, say, or do relative to their ideas.

2. The Voices of the Organization – People who will be able to share what the organization thinks – whether easy or challenging to hear. These are the individuals that everyone in the organization talks to about their aspirations and concerns.

3. Organizational Reactors – These are the people who, whenever an announcement is made or big news happens, everyone watches to see their expressions and the intensity of whatever emotions they display.

4. Entitled Owners – Individuals within the organization that only support implementation of their own idea and programs. You invite these individuals (in a reasonable numbers) so they feel as if the innovative ideas emerging are their own.

Adding individuals in each of these four groups, we grew the list of potential participants. We still hadn’t accounted for every department or tenure group that needed representation in the innovation strategy workshop. But they were out of people who would provide an innovative perspective.So, we added another potential group of participants:

5. People who won’t do any harm. These are individuals who might not contribute much to new thinking but won’t detract from the innovative thinking of others.

Identifying these five groups pushed us to the diversity we needed to move forward with the innovation strategy workshop.

Which leads to a question YOU will need to answer: Who is in your YOUR innovation strategy workshop?  – Mike Brown

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7 Free Gifts that People Won’t Return or Forget by Late January

Finished your holiday shopping? With a long holiday shopping season, you would think that by now all the buying would be behind us.

Yet, advertisements, emails, and online remarketing campaigns demand that we keep shopping throughout the weekend if we are truly going to have positive impacts on our relationships with friends, loved ones, and co-workers. You would think that, without last-minute gifts, everyone will miss out on their hopes and dreams and face a miserable year ahead.

Going a Different Direction

Amid all the signals to buy more, let’s focus on very different gift ideas.

These seven are appropriate for business settings, and you can start (although maybe not fully accomplish) them before January. All are free gifts, which makes them ideal for sharing with others throughout the year.

Cheerleading someone toward bolder aspirations than they have imagined.

We have all been around people with strong talents, solid knowledge, and great attitudes who nevertheless sell themselves short. They face self-doubts or struggle with imagining themselves taking on bigger, higher-impact roles. They are not limited in their abilities, simply in their personal horizons.

If you know someone like this, give them the gift of sharing the potential you see in them. Share how you imagine them displaying their talents on a bigger stage or accomplishing objectives they could never envision for themselves. If this person reports to you, go further; nudge them into bigger opportunities than they would ever personally seek.

Connecting with a person when you suspect he or she might need it most.

You will see media discussions focused on how the holidays are a difficult time for many. As a friend who was undergoing Job-like challenges once put it, “You may never know the private hell someone else is living through.”

People experience challenges beyond the holidays. Even if you regularly and actively do so, listen with your ears, eyes, and (as tough as it may be in the social media world) keyboard. You never know who is living with potentially life-crushing challenges you’d never imagine without listening. If you suspect someone around you is struggling, go out of your way to give them an opening to address or unload about what they are facing.

Telling someone you have not talked to for a long time that you miss them.

A former co-worker once left me a message after a job change, saying she was going through “withdrawal pains” from talking regularly. I saved that message for years and listened to it when I needed a boost.

What is a sincere, upbeat message you could share with someone close to you who has been far away for an extended period? Why do you miss them? What are your hopes for them? Call, and if they answer, you’ve gotten over the hurdle of reconnecting. If you get voice mail, have something already planned that you want to share with them that you suspect will brighten their days for years to come.

Letting someone who’s struggling know they are on the right track.

It is easy for individuals to beat themselves up, particularly at year end, over failing to accomplish goals, progressing as they expected in their careers, or having the family lives they would prefer to enjoy. As an objective observer, you can both acknowledge their frustrations AND see the clear positives in their lives. Can you see and share personal growth or career progress they are making, but are too close or inside their own heads to recognize?

Even if you’re not in a formal mentorship role, reach out to someone in this situation and provide the perspectives to let them know (and then reinforce) where you can see they are moving forward in a positive, beneficial way.

Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.

Discord surrounds us. News channels are filled with argument-based programs. Too many on social media hurl invective and insults as comments on others’ posts. And we are all likely apprehensive about the potential for harsh political conversations at family gatherings this holiday.

Approach holiday events looking for points of agreement with each person. Focus on where you see things comparably, no matter how minor the points where you see eye-to-eye may seem. Concentrate your conversations there, avoiding the acrimony that might otherwise ensue.

Refraining from sharing all your successes when someone needs to hear about your challenges.

Holiday letters are loaded with incredible personal and family accomplishments. Some people reserve that type of success onslaught for an annual letter; others bask in a litany of personal accomplishments whenever you encounter them. Consumed with themselves, they are exhausting for others.

While it’s often easier to report good news, it could be more important with someone not experiencing current success to hear about your challenges. What hasn’t gone well? What aspirations did you surrender and subsequently on from? What survival strategies worked when disaster struck? While success lessons are nice, tips for coping, survival, and rebounding are valuable. Make yourself vulnerable and share those stories.

Deferring a great personal opportunity to someone who is less of a fit, but would benefit more.

The beginning of the year is a time for promotions and new opportunities emerging. As a leader in your company, you may be under consideration for a disproportionate number of these opportunities to contribute, grow, and develop.

If you’ve been richly blessed with these opportunities, look to see who in your organization is deserving or has tremendous potential, yet has been overlooked for comparable assignments. How can you impact these individuals receiving an opportunity earmarked for you that will benefit them dramatically more?

Have a Wonderful Holiday!

Any of these free gifts would be a great way to give something that won’t be forgotten by the end of January! – via Inside the Executive Suite

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! 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. Contact 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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Many experienced people, including marketers (who should know better), are ill-equipped to succeed at job networking for new opportunities. It’s scary. And it’s a frequent enough situation that it is easy to list these seven proven ways to screw up job networking calls, along with corresponding tips to improve your performance.

7 Proven Ways to Screw Up Networking Calls

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Screw up #1: Refusing to be conversational

I may call initially based on someone else’s description of what you’re seeking. After taking the initiative to call, introduce myself, and state that so-and-so asked me to contact you, it would be nice if you were prepared to say “thank you,” exchange a pleasantry, and share your call objective. Too many individuals act as if they’re being disturbed or don’t understand why I’m on the phone. It’s taken three attempts on some occasions to turn it into a two-way conversation. Work with me people!

Job Networking Tip: Be ready to talk!

Screw up #2: An inability to quickly set the stage

Have an elevator speech – describe your background, aspirations, and goals in two paragraphs. I’ll spend time with someone I am familiar with to probe and seek more clarity about their options. With a stranger, that’s more difficult. It would be nice if you’ve done it in advance.

Job Networking Tip: Know your interests and prepare to share them!

Screw up #3: Adopting an overly casual attitude toward the call

It’s amazing how casual people are on the phone with total strangers.  A woman once recounted her intense interest in transportation, the industry in which I was working. To make her point, she said a fully-loaded rail car was like “pornography” to her. Huh? Instantly, she went from a potential referral to a curiosity – wondering what other inappropriate things she might say.  Even if I’m not hiring, you want an introduction to someone who might be. That means it’s an interview. Act like it!

Job Networking Tip:  Conduct yourself as if it’s a job interview!

Screw up #4: Thinking this is a one-sided conversation

I go into calls expecting to offer information, ideas, or referrals that might be of assistance. It would be great if you shared that attitude. Even if you think your near-term need for opportunities is greater, I also appreciate information, ideas, and suggestions for people to meet. A two-way exchange will earn you follow-up conversations.

Job Networking Tip: Offer something of value to the other person!

Screw up #5: Expect the other person to do your heavy (and light) lifting

I received an email from someone unknown to me seeking senior marketing candidates. After forwarding the email to Clarence (not his real name) who I’d met for a networking lunch, he responded in a stern tone that the employer’s email address was wrong, asking me to get the right one. All this, even though I had to use the same resources available to him (ever heard of The Google?) to track it down. Clarence also asked me to send him direct phone numbers for other people rather than calling himself to get them. Remind me – who is looking for work here?

Job Networking Tip: Do some work yourself!

Screw up #6: Make dealing with you as cumbersome as possible

An unsolicited email arrived from someone (call him “Clarence #2”) who had been referred by a business acquaintance I hardly know. The email included two separate Word documents. Having to open both (shortening review time), I quickly closed them since a mild virus was attached (eliminating all review time).  When Clarence #2 called, he presumed I’d fully read the resume and asked what questions I had about him, followed by silence (precluding meaningful dialogue).  Important tip – presume I haven’t given a complete stranger’s resume a lot of time; help refresh me.  When later referring him to associates, I created a single PDF of his documents (he couldn’t create PDFs) to spare them the virus (robbing time from pre-selling him).  Clarence #2 could have gotten more valuable help if he’d saved me all this wasted time.

Job Networking Tip: Find EVERY way to make it easy for someone else to help you!

Screw up #7: Answering someone’s help by going silent

Maybe there’s a reason you’re looking for a job since follow-up is also typically spotty. Remember:

  • If I send information or make referrals, let me know if they’re beneficial.
  • If we set an appointment, do everything to keep it. When you cancel multiple times, don’t expect much future energy from me on getting together.
  • If I invite you into LinkedIn and offer to make connections, include a message for the ultimate target that explains why you want to network. Don’t expect me to compose a message explaining why they should spend time with you.

Job Networking Tip: Follow-up with someone that helps you!

These are basics any senior person (especially marketers) should know. Invariably, people trip on several of them.

If you’re intent on screwing up your career strategy while networking, I’ll try to help stop you, but don’t expect me to take a bullet for you while trying to wrestle your own gun from your hands! – Mike Brown

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Looking ahead to transitioning from planning to doing and wanting to maximize success?

Try these 5 implementation strategy steps for launching a big initiative properly so the initial implementation leads to outstanding results later.

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Team

The big first implementation strategy step is assembling the right team with the skills, experience, and perspectives to make a big initiative happen. This begins with envisioning the initiative’s scope and reach. For those who’ve been blessed with skills as visual thinkers, this may be an easy step. These types of people can simply “watch” an initiative play out in their minds, almost as if it were a movie. They see the scenes and think about what happens and all the people that need to be in place.

For those less visually-inclined, it helps to get a couple of people you know will be on the team, the starting project timeline, and a white board. List the key steps for implementing the initiative. Then, for each step, list who is best prepared to implement it, whose work they will depend on before theirs so they can implement, and who will work with what they produce in the initiative. By exploring those three areas for each step, you’ll have a much more robust list of potential project team participants. With this expanded list, you can start to make sure you have all the types of people and necessary skills accounted for among your project team.

2. Share the Expected Impact and Experience from a Successful Initiative

Even if there is a stated objective or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound) goal created for the initiative upfront, it’s helpful to envision in a broader way what the initiative is supposed to deliver. You can frame the initiative’s expected impact in several concrete ways:

  • What will the team do to implement the initiative?
  • How will the initiative’s audiences react as it is implemented? How will they benefit from it?
  • What will be the business results from the initiative’s success?

Articulating this envisioned impact provides a more complete perspective of the experience and look of success at every step of the initiative’s implementation. This prepares a team to help you, as a leader, monitor and adjust to keep the initiative on track for its timely completion.

3. Provide a Broad Starting View to Your Team Members

Typically, an initiative’s leader has greater exposure to the plan based on the length of time you’ve been involved, your experience, and/or where you sit in the organization. If this is the case, it behooves you to share as much of what you know as possible with newly-involved initiative team members. To launch the team most successfully, the leader should bring together all the relevant information – including highlighting what isn’t known – to make team members as uniformly smart as possible on the initiative.

Offering this overview even before the team meets the first time provides an immediate confidence boost. It sends a clear message that the work is important (since you’ve taken time to prepare), strategic (through providing valuable context on how the initiative supports business objectives), and action-oriented (because you anticipated the initiative’s timeline and impact).

4. Set Boundaries for Change

While it might strike some people as odd to discuss setting ‘boundaries for change,’ this is an important element in a big initiative’s success. This implies letting your team know where they have more and less latitude for introducing new, creative, and untried solutions that can turn the initiative into reality.

Team members can determine where to best invest their time, ideas, and diligence most effectively when they know whether an initiative is viewed as needing to deliver incremental vs. transformative change. If the organization isn’t looking for major changes from an initiative, understanding that upfront helps team members develop more realistic strategies and timelines.

When, however, an organization expects significant transformation resulting from an initiative, team members can set targets appropriately. They can better identify how much personal and organizational creativity to bring to the implementation steps.

5. Embrace Moving Back and Forth between Strategy and Details

Think about implementing a major initiative implementation as an event. Using an event framework is helpful because successful event planners must move continually back and forth between a strategic perspective and tactical implementation. This implies, in practice, both identifying implementation steps that support overall strategy and being comfortable (while implementing) testing each step against how it supports the overall initiative strategy.

This ongoing back and forth movement between strategy and detail is integral to implementing a big initiative. It’s neither all about the thinking, nor all about the doing. Additionally, there aren’t necessarily exclusive times for separate thinking and doing. A great initiative leader has to be adept at moving back and forth between the two, while helping team members do the same.”

5 Implementation Strategy Steps and Future Success

We are firm believers that delivering a successful initiative is highly dependent on it starting properly rather than having to make major adjustments later when a poorly-planned launch creates performance gaps. Following these five implementation strategy steps sets the stage to launch a major initiative with the right team members having clear expectations on what they are expected to deliver and the change impact the organization needs.

If you’d like a valuable resource to help you ask the right questions as you launch new initiatives, download our FREE eBook, 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (or 10? as we call it). These questions will help your team perform better and lead to stronger results! – Mike Brown

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

 

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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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We were set to work with a client team exploring the customer experience strategy they’d introduce to their internal customers. As we thought about how many of them there were (about twenty), the two of us from The Brainzooming Group, and the value of having an inner circle of informal facilitators, we hit upon an idea: create roles for a small group of clients to play during our two-day branding workshop.

Each of the four roles were intended to help push the group’s thinking on its customer experience strategy in varied ways.

4 Roles to Push Bold Customer Experience Strategy Thinking

We met with them the afternoon before the branding workshop started to provide background information and answer questions. Rather than tromping on others’ ideas, we asked them to look for ways to build on and expand ideas the group was sharing in positive ways. We provided strategic thinking questions of their own to use, including:

  • “That’s great and how can we do that _____________?”
  • “What if that were ________________?”
  • “Oooh, can we enhance that by ______________?”
  • “What would it look like if we also _____________?”

We assigned four roles to shape the customer experience strategy thinking:

On the second day of the branding workshop, we added another role: The Queen of Intrigue. That role went to the group’s senior executive to focus us on transformative ideas during a strategic thinking exercise involving imagining Chick-fil-A designing their customer experience strategy. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate that one!

We asked the group to pick the roles they wanted to play without telling other participants or us.

Now, for two admissions:

  1. All the while as we were creating this, I was thinking of Chuck Dymer letting me know these roles were accounted for in Six Thinking Hats (affiliate link). That’s the problem of me never having taken one of Chuck’s Six Thinking Hats workshops. My mistake, definitely!
  2. Emma Alvarez Gibson and I consciously tried to forget who we talked to about the roles. We didn’t want to interact with them differently or rely on them unduly as we facilitated the small groups. The result? We can’t tell you definitively whether the role playing created greater success or not.

If nothing else, the customer experience strategy roles provided a handful of participants more to think about and something extra to do to make our branding workshop the success it was! – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful 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


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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 that time. Organizations are reviewing budgets for the year ahead. While everyone hopes these meetings are smart, strategic, and have a meaningful impact on the business, that rarely seems to be the case.

 12 Reasons Budget Meetings Aren’t Strategic

Too often, budget meetings aren’t strategic. From personal experience, these twelve reasons all contribute to the disconnect:

  1. The meetings are adversarial, as if the people inside the company are trying to rip off the company by requesting money to run it.
  2. The focus is only on numbers, without any stories of success and aspirations for what the dollars are expected to do.
  3. They are handled out of context strategically, looking at the business by department instead of by initiative.
  4. General managers and non-financial executives are placed in unfamiliar and poorly-performed accounting roles.
  5. Budget meetings are not integrated with strategic planning and business strategy.
  6. Accounting and finance act as if they control the business and are integral to generating revenue and profit.
  7. Budget meetings solve for numbers and do not solve for business results.
  8. They prioritize overly precise discussions about inconsequential aspects of the business.
  9. Budget meeting length isn’t matched to the strategic complexity or importance of the area.
  10. They are awkward and challenging to prepare for to ensure they are as productive as possible.
  11. Since they only happen once a year, the formats and discussions are unfamiliar.
  12. Preparing for them creates an organizational drag on getting things done to drive the business forward.

Because of these factors, business and department leaders often focus on escaping budget meetings with some semblance of a budget that makes sense. This behavior obscures looking at their areas and the entire organization strategically, comprehensively, and with a smart investment perspective.

3 Ways to Fix Budget Meetings

Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities
If you’re interested in changing the strategic disconnect of budget meetings – whether you are in finance and accounting or not – we have a guide!

Download our FREE eBook, 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities.  In it, we share actionable ideas for turning tactical accounting reviews into strategic conversations balancing business results with the financial underpinning necessary to achieve them.

Get your copy of 3 Ways to Turn Budget Meetings into Strategic Activities and grow your strategic leadership to drive better business results!

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Mike Brown

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Matt Britton, a millennial generation expert, spoke about the anticipating the Class of 2025 as the keynote speaker on the closing day of the October 2017 Social Media Strategies Summit in New York. His keynote got us thinking about how today’s ten-year-olds (the Class of 2025) will change the landscape for brands, following in the wake of the impact millennials have created.

A Future-Looking Strategic Thinking Experiment

Reviewing the copious notes, here are strategic thinking starters for thought experiments as you imagine your future organization and market.

A Radically Different Audience Base

Britton discussed the fact that younger millennials (born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) and Generation Z (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) are the first generations to grow up with the internet in their households. Because of the lifelong availability of the web, Britton contends their brains are wired to think and consume differently.

For the class of 2025, it goes further: they were born with phones in their faces. They are developing collaborative projects online in grade school. The availability of learning outside traditional schooling structures will change the training and pool of employees, leading to greater diversity, fewer people with traditional college degrees, and a need for specialization vs. careers as generalists.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If none of our employees had college degrees and were instead DIY or technically-trained, how would our business model and processes change?
  • What could we do better in this scenario? What would we do differently?

Talking to Machines, Not People

Changes in how we interact with computers, robots, and other devices are already underway. Instead of typing, we’ll increase voice interaction – or mind control. Britton’s claim is “hardware is the final mile.” That’s why Amazon and Google are moving to hardware, because it will dramatically impact online search results.

Where people once might have viewed several search pages to find answers, now it is about a brand needing to be among the first ten recommendations on Google. With voice delivery, people won’t listen to more than one or two options. If the voice hardware doesn’t mention your brand, you are out of luck; thus the importance of shaping how the hardware works. With devices talking directly to devices, the dynamic changes even more.

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What will it take to set up a marketing innovation team to understand how voice technology changes our marketing, sales, and customer service? Where should the team start exploring?
  • If we don’t have a team looking at the impact of the Internet of Things on our business, what do we need to do to get on it by early 2018?

Download Disrupting Thinking

Renting vs. Buying

Britton combined several trends to explain why millennials (and later, the class of 2025) will want to rent things instead of buying and owning them:

  • City and downtown living is a pull for millennials. As demand and prices rise, they can’t afford bigger places. The result is they won’t / don’t have room for as many things.
  • Parking is an issue. The greater density of amenities in downtown areas makes walking, biking, and public transit more attractive. Thus, there is no need to own a car.
  • In a gig-based economy, organizations will downsize offices. Gig workers will look increasingly to collaborative workspaces to rent a desk or place to congregate and work.
  • As having more things is less attractive, experiencing more things (and documenting the experience digitally in photos and videos) is all the rage. The goal becomes pursuing experiences just to be able to take a picture and show it to others, with the expectation that the experiences and images are life changing and defining.

There are numerous examples: massive valuations for Uber and WeWork, the popularity of Color Runs, and Get the Flight Out (GFTO offers last minute flights deals so going to exotic locales to take pictures is more affordable).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • What changes in our business if most customers want our product or service on demand versus owning it?
  • How do we move faster to introduce a self-disruptive business model before another brand does?

Abandoning the Middle

Britton predicted a continued move toward a “barbell economy,” where the middle class and mid-range products are being “wiped out.” He points to a major potential brand implication: the best growth opportunities are for luxury and value brands. Luxury brands can create high-impact, premium-dollar (potentially convenience-rich) experiences (see the renting vs. buying impact) and value brands can uncover supply chain innovations, taking costs out, and maximizing simplicity (Brandless sells essentially generic, but “better” food products, all at $3).

Strategic Thinking Experiment Starters:

  • If we have a middle-market product or service, what will be left of our business if it dries up?
  • What does the ultimate, premium, high-end version of what we produce look like? What does the generic, everything costs the same version of what we do look like?

Old Hat, Old Thinking, or Both?

Whether these predicted trends feel old hat or impossibly far off for your business, you should take Matt Britton up on one of his ideas: creating a shadow board of millennial employees to advise your Baby Boomer and Generation X senior leaders on what’s coming. Create this type of group, and spend time with them imagining what your brand and marketplace’s future looks like.

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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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