Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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“Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence featured ideas keeping executives focused on strategic priorities during strategic planning meetings. If your team wanders away from the important strategic topic, here’s a strategy to address it:

3 Ways to Keep Strategic Priorities Front and Center with Executives via Inside the Executive Suite

An executive reported a real-time challenge: keeping the senior team at her company focused on strategic priorities. Depending on the number of executives, or the positions of those prone to overly-detailed discussions, making sure a senior team does not get caught in the weeds during strategy meetings can be a touchy proposition.

We suspect it’s an issue familiar to many organizations. We find it typical that at least one or two individuals in any senior group are comfortable sticking to more detail than you would expect them to embrace. These may be individuals who are responsible for specific areas (and perhaps have been so throughout their careers) and/or ones with personalities oriented toward greater-than-average detail.

Keeping Strategic Priorities Front and Center

Do you struggle keeping senior-level strategy discussions at the appropriate level? If so, try these techniques we’ve employed over the years to focus meetings on strategic priorities that legitimately deserve executive suite attention.

1. Identify Where Everyone Stands Up Front

We are major proponents for meeting with executives before important strategy discussions. Whether through in-person interviews or some type of online input, it is helpful to know which executives are thinking what, and what issues resonate most strongly with them. Pre-meetings provide a sense of areas in which individuals may take the group into unnecessary detail. Questions to explore up front include:

  • What are the most important issues to address?
  • Where do you suspect strategy discussions could potentially derail?
  • What factors are important for determining the right strategy?
  • What topics do you feel most strongly about addressing in the meeting?

Based on participants’ answers, you will develop an early indication of the areas in which a meeting could go into the weeds. You will also have a sense of the major strategic themes to use in anchoring meeting conversations. Also, look for the senior leaders most likely to keep things out of the weeds. Talk with them beforehand, asking for their assistance to voice concerns if a particular leader or discussion becomes stuck in tactical matters.

2. Implement a Structure that Emphasizes Discussions on Strategic Priorities

Using what you identify during pre-meeting conversations, design a meeting format and structure to help the team focus on strategic issues. As you evaluate what is strategic, we recommend ignoring whether issues are long- or short-term. The timeline associated with acting on an opportunity or challenge doesn’t determine its strategic importance. Rather, think of strategic issues as those that will create a material impact on any of the following areas for your organization:

  • Its brands
  • Key audiences
  • Customers and prospects
  • Structure and alignment
  • Financial prospects
  • Vision and values
  • Resources and raw materials

Sharing and adopting a comparable framework for what is strategic helps keep a discussion focused on matters that will legitimately move the needle in any of these areas.

We also use several other approaches to steer strategic conversations:

  • List the major strategic themes you identify before the meeting. Allow the senior group to individually and collectively assign each item to a category: strategic, tactical, or (project) task issues.
  • Assign time limits to various agenda topics, allowing more time for strategic matters—disproportionately so.
  • As tactical or extraneous items are mentioned and commanding attention, stop and ask for clarification around the strategic issue to which they relate. If they can’t be tied back to strategy, table them.
  • Tackle non-strategic topics with questions that reveal them for what they are. Ask: How does this contribute to accomplishing our major objectives? How will this create a meaningful impact for customers (or other audiences)? If we don’t address this at a senior level, what major downsides will it create?

You can use these techniques individually or in combination to help manage discussions toward a strategic level.

3. Actively Listening for Strategic Information

From our experience, it’s rare that senior leaders (or anyone else for that matter) will articulate clear strategy statements and strategic issues right away. Instead, strategy emerges from snippets of conversation. That places heavy responsibility on the meeting facilitator to listen for strategic inputs amid conversation that may largely seem tactical.

Beyond monitoring for the strategic areas we mentioned earlier, listen for any conversation that touches on:

  • Organizational aspirations
  • Expectations tied to strategic initiatives and outcomes
  • Numbers that help size the impact of a strategic initiative
  • Significant strengths and weaknesses
  • Factors impacting organizational success, either positively or negatively
  • Descriptions of metrics and objectives
  • Beliefs central to the ways in which an organization conducts business
  • Elements that will contribute to decision making

By identifying the types of information you need to develop and refine strategy, you can better recognize relevant elements that surface throughout a strategic discussion. When details emerge, record and organize them in a way that both highlights their strategic nature and provides a visual aid to align the group. We’ve used this technique to allow a leadership team the flexibility to talk in an open format, while capturing their strategic insights and organizing them in a way they can productively use. Another advantage to actively and distinctly posting strategic decisions and issues as you go through a meeting is that it creates a visual aid to manage the conversation. If people get in the weeds when trying to revisit previously-made decisions, you can point them to the decision list to demonstrate it has already been addressed.

Additionally, if several senior participants are struggling to stay on a strategic plane, divide the larger group into smaller sub-groups. Put tactical thinkers together, freeing those ready to stay focused on strategic topics and make progress.

Keep Trying

We’ve suggested various ideas for keeping strategic priorities a focus for executives . We’ve used them all successfully. Yet they won’t all work in every situation. Try them, adapt where you need to do so, and develop your own variations that work most successfully with your group of senior leaders.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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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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We turn to extreme creativity questions to help clients imagine big ideas. It is all part of not ASKING for big ideas; we use big questions that enhance peoples’ natural creative thinking skills. They start filling the extra space big questions create with ideas of ALL sizes. Based on our experience using extreme creativity questions, they DO tend to yield bigger ideas.

5 Quick Tips on Extreme Creativity and Creative Thinking Skills

What other tips have we learned about how extreme creativity questions boost creative thinking skills? Here are five of them:

1. Plan the series of extreme creativity questions you are going to use.

Try to use different types of questions so you aren’t only looking at your opportunity from one perspective. That means not every question should be about doing ridiculous amounts of something or doing completely without something. Mix it up!

2. Don’t think an awkward experience isn’t working.

It is okay if feels uncomfortable and it doesn’t seem as if an extreme creativity question makes sense for your organization. That means it is stretching your thinking. Don’t move away to a different question that seems a better fit until you’ve made a healthy effort to exploit a more difficult one.

3. Try introducing extreme creativity roles for participants.

Imagine an outlandish creativity-oriented title that perfectly fits each participant’s creative thinking skills. Do a few exercises without disclosing the roles, then hand each person his or her extreme creativity role. You can have them reveal the roles OR keep them secret. They assume the extreme creativity roles (Master of Mashups, for instance) for an exercise. Afterward, have each person pass their role to someone who the extreme creativity role will stretch during the next exercise.

4. What seems like funny business can be incredible business.

Look for laughter as a strong cue that a group working with extreme creativity questions is onto something. Laughter is a natural response when an idea is outrageous. It is more likely to signal an idea has promise than it doesn’t.

5. There are multiple ways to work with outlandish ideas.

If you are coming up with ideas that seem to have promise, but seem as if they won’t work, don’t just leave them in that state. Have a way to extract usable versions of the ideas, even if you continue pursuing the impossible side of them.

Boosting Your Team’s Creative Thinking Skills

If you are looking to boost the impact and innovative nature of ideas in your organization, we recommend employing extreme creativity questions.

Alternatively, you can employ The Brainzooming Group, and we’ll develop the exercises and facilitate all the extreme creativity thinking for you! Contact us, and let’s get started, why don’t you? – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

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Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

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

 

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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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We still come across many companies, especially in B2B, that do not incorporate a content marketing strategy to effectively reach potential customers.

The reasons they give for lagging in this area?

A content marketing strategy is not a priority for them. They doubt whether social-first content strategy will work for their companies, because they are different or have customer bases that do not care. They do not know where to start or how to sustain creating great content. Maybe they are wedded to how they have always done things, with business development people, brochures, and frequent pleading to generate referrals.

7 Signs to Invest in a Social-First Content Strategy for Your Brand

We assure them that a social-first content strategy works, even in B2B. We also offer these types of signs that it is time to invest in a content marketing strategy.

Do any of these issues sound familiar in your organization?

  • You are not generating enough leads, at least in part, because not enough people are coming to your website.
  • The don’t offer information relevant to your targets, business, and industry that match with how and what your potential customers want to discover.
  • Your organization has great stories about your people and what you do but only share these great stories inside your organization.
  • Onboarding new customers is a challenge because they lack current information about what getting started with you entails.
  • You are not continuing to learn about potential customers each time they interact with your brand online.
  • Potential customers see your competitors as doing a better job educating the market you serve.
  • You only use traditional marketing channels and media.

Let us ask again: how many of these issues apply to your organization right now?
Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content

If several of them are all too familiar, you owe it to your top and bottom lines to explore introducing a social-first content strategy as a high-impact way to build your brand. – Mike Brown

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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 the time of year when it’s easy to look backward and forward at multiple dimensions of your implementation plan.

You have enough time to gain a sense of what’s working. You can look at your first steps and see whether your subsequent steps have been as effective. There is also enough time to still address gaps in your implementation plan to improve results before the year ends.
Download Fast Forward Today!

What are those forward and backward looks telling you about the success of your implementation plan?

  • Are your people rallied around strategic priorities versus daily distractions?
  • Have you engaged key audiences to move forward aggressively?
  • Are you successfully executing innovation initiatives beyond the first big splash earlier in the year?
  • When things haven’t gone as expected, is your organization agile enough to change the direction?

If your implementation plan results are lacking by this point in the year, we have just the thing for you! It’s not too late!

Download our FREE eBook: Fast Forward – Successfully Implementing Your Plan.
Download Your FREE eBook! Fast Forward - Dozens of Strategies to Implement 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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Are your employees celebrities within your branding strategy activities?

No, I’m not asking whether your employees are movie stars, singers, or newly-celebrated personalities that tweet, buy, or glom their way into celebrity status.

I’m asking about whether you feature your employees within your branding strategy in ways that allow them to attract attention and accolades for how great it is to have them as part of your brand?

Employer Branding Strategy Stars

Talking with a B2B company about a day-long customer program, I suggested they invite employees to fill various roles at the event. These duties would give customers exposure to smart, strategic, and dynamic team members they might never typically know. It would create the opportunity to celebrate the great people at the brand. Incorporating these interactions in its branding strategy could strengthen relationships, open doors to new business possibilities, and reinforce customer perceptions that they have chosen the best service provider.

Want to guess the response to the idea?

“Great idea, but everybody is really busy. We can’t pull them away from their regular jobs for even a few hours.”

I understand that EVERYBODY is CRAZY busy. Busy is about doing what the company does. Busy is at the heart of selling and producing revenue and profit growth.

Yet brand building (via creating stronger relationships and perceptions) is integral to the company being able to sell more, do more, and make more money. And opportunities to foster customer relationships in ways that strengthen the brand outside of the day-to-day of doing business are typically rare. While it appears to be a great business decision to ensure everybody is in place to perform their daily tasks, this represents a poor branding strategy decision.

If the company thought about its employees as business celebrities, its priorities would likely differ. They would probably not hesitate to put their important customers in direct contact with their employee celebrities to get to know them better and bask in their glow.

Against that backdrop, let me ask the question again: Are your employees celebrities within your branding strategy activities?

And if you answer, no, COULD and SHOULD they be?  – Mike Brown

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Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!

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 time to launch an innovation strategy for your organization. Your brand has grown dramatically the last few years. You are not sure, however, what will drive the next round of growth. So, it’s time to announce an innovation program, because that will undoubtedly fill the growth gap facing your brand.

How will the innovation strategy eliminate your revenue shortfalls? That is not yet completely clear yet. But, hey, it’s an innovation strategy! All kinds of good things are sure to result!!!

As you and your leadership team announce the new innovation strategy, your employees have questions.

6 Things about Your Innovation Strategy Employees Need to Know

Here are six things about your innovation strategy employees want to know. Are you prepared to answer these questions?

Is this innovation push just for this quarter or this year?

Your employees have been through the flavor-of-the-month strategy. Probably not at YOUR company, but somewhere they worked before, no doubt. They know innovation strategies come and go. They will want to know whether your innovation strategy is here to stay. Demonstrating that it is will take both words and LOTS of actions.

How innovative do you want us to be?

The easy answer is to say you are looking for big ideas. Who doesn’t love big ideas? The problem: asking for big ideas rarely leads to big ideas. Instead, give your team creative thinking questions appropriately sized to the innovation you are seeking. Then, let them go to town answering the questions.

What expectations or limits are in place on an innovation strategy?

I know, I know. You want your employees to start with a clean sheet of paper as they start imagining the future. Be honest, though. You’ve never given them free reign before to innovate. Do everyone a favor. Share goals, objectives, and strategies for where you want to direct your innovation strategy. You’ll ALL be more successful. Pinky swear.

What are you going to do with our ideas?

If you announce you want everyone to innovate, you need to have thought upfront about how you are actually going to review and process the ideas your employees share. Have you figured that out? We didn’t think so. Identify the process, THEN make your big innovation strategy announcement.

Will I get into trouble if I break something?

Your employees are concerned about getting into trouble. As much as you SAY you want disruptive innovation, they have doubts. Heck, we were talking with a new CEO recently. His board told him to be both innovative and to not mess anything up with the organization. He’s running the show and struggling to find the right balance. You can imagine how someone with less standing in the organization struggles. Stake out a penalty-free free space in which your team can experiment and break things.

Who owns my idea if it turns into something successful?

I hate all the legal mumbo jumbo. But innovation is all fun until somebody’s idea starts generating lots of money, and you have to settle up equitably. Let your team know the rules. Who owns what? How much does everyone get paid for an idea that proves successful? It can seem premature to consider this while still figuring out how an electronic idea box works. Set the rules before you ask people to play the innovation strategy game.

There Is Work to Do

We’re not saying everything requires an immediate answer. Being ready to tackle these questions at the start, however, is important to creating an innovation strategy that WORKS! – Mike Brown

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  • Brand benefits and value propositions
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational structures and processes
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Industry and market dynamics
  • New business initiatives

Disrupting Thinking is the answer to starting the conversations your leadership team needs to have about disrupting your own brand before unexpected competitors do it to you first!

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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 snapped this picture at Target the other evening because of the intriguing product branding ideas it suggests.

This is a ten-pack of 7.5 ounce cans of Diet Coke. Compare that to the typical Diet Coke configuration: twelve cans of 12 ounces. Doing the math, this carton has 75 ounces of Diet Coke vs. 144 ounces in the typical 12-by-12 arrangement we purchase like crazy at our house.

Just looking at the numbers, you can see people are receiving about 50% of the amount of Diet Coke they might expect if they rush into the store and grab a carton without paying attention.

That’s a big difference!

3 Product Branding Ideas to Beg, Borrow, and Steal

Suppose you are in a similar product branding situation. You need to reduce what your brand delivers, but still put sizzle into your product so consumers think it is an attractive option. How do you go about it? Try going to school on three producing branding ideas from Diet Coke, and look for where you can beg, borrow, and steal ideas!

Beg

Background: Smaller cans do not usually suggest a positive brand experience.

Diet Coke Strategy: Translating small to sip-sized. This takes advantage of alliteration and whimsy. And rather than seeking permission for the change, this branding strategy idea begs forgiveness later – if ever!

Ask: What’s the coolest way possible to describe the presto-chango we’re about to pull on our customers?

Borrow

Background: Mini Cooper has positive brand affinity. The brand has helped make small a good thing.

Diet Coke Strategy: Borrowing mini and using it in a maxi fashion across the entire side of the box.

Ask: What brand positively employs a typically negative attribute that our branding strategy can embrace and celebrate?

Steal

Background: On the carton, it says 7.5 ounce cans. The images show the traditional can and bottle, though.

Diet Coke Strategy: Stealing from the Coca-Cola brand halo to depict a traditional can (12 ounces) and the classic bottle (something bigger than 7.5 ounces). This creates a deliberate mismatch between what you see and what you buy.

Ask: What brand attributes from our higher value / more significant offers can we use to sell-in something less?

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

From the Brainzooming Product Branding Lab

We haven’t tested this exercise for generating product branding ideas since it is brand new. If you beat us to putting it into practice, let us know how it works for you! – Mike Brown

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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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