Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5

I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.

Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – 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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My dad was a huge believer in The Power of Positive Thinking. I think that book, by Norman Vincent Peale (affiliate link) was the first self-help book he tried to get me to read.

For some reason, I particularly resisted The Power of Positive Thinking, although I’m hard pressed to say why.

For whatever reason, though, I do not think I ever read the book in its entirety. Probably the best I did was reading a summarized booklet he gave me. The more important aspect of my exposure was absorbing how my dad lived the book’s central messages in his work and personal life.

This recollection surfaced while searching for ways to think strategically and positively about several possible business challenges. It’s my tendency to focus on the scary possibilities looming over the horizon and address those.

The Power of Positive Thinking Plus Strategic Thinking Questions

via Shutterstock

As an alternative, I tried being more like my dad, coupling the power of his positive thinking with the strategic thinking questions that are so comfortable for me. It became apparent how I could more easily form and hold onto a positive expectation when strategic thinking questions provide a way to generate ideas and evidence for the positive thinking. Here are a few examples of positive expectations I wrote, along with the strategic thinking questions to support them:

Positive Expectation – There are people who want to help us succeed.

  • Who do we know that shares our interests?
  • How can we get them to cooperate with us?

Positive Expectation – We are over-delivering value and benefits.

  • If we deliver less value than we planned (but still more than is expected), how can we re-deploy what remains to create additional or different value?
  • In what ways can we ask more for this extra portion of value?

Positive Expectation – We have done solid, comprehensive work, and can continue to mine it in new ways.

  • What have we done previously that answers a question or issue from today?
  • How can what we know or have done previously allow us to move 3x more quickly than if we didn’t have previous experience?

Positive Expectation – Remain confident things will work out successfully.

  • When this works, what do we need to be ready to do next?
  • What next bigger challenge will this success propel us to accomplish?

I’m not  saying these specific examples will work for you. What is worth considering is how you can pair up strategic thinking questions to better realize, hold on to, and work toward positive expectations, even if that isn’t your natural tendency. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful strategic thinking 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

Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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We worked with a client to facilitate an information technology strategy vision. From before the engagement’s launch until near the completion, we asked for strategy documents spelling out corporate priorities, objectives, and expectations. We wanted a strategic target to align IT strategy and innovation initiatives to support the organization in realizing its overall vision.

Despite repeated requests, no one ever surfaced this type of strategy document.

We instead used previous exposure, strategic thinking exercises with the IT team and others, and strategic business sense to describe what it seemed a corporate target would encompass.

Flash forward to subsequent opportunities to hear top executives discuss the company’s direction. These presentations suggest a clear, overarching strategy that perhaps doesn’t exist in a formal, written format, but is only passed along verbally outside of the top corporate ranks.

This situation prompted sketching two strategic planning process approaches (narrow or broad collaboration) and alternatives for how an organization communicates its strategy.

A Narrow Strategic Planning Process

When only top management participates in a strategic planning process, relying on verbal communication of the plan can be dubbed “Drip and Wonder(?).” We found ourselves in this situation in the example above. If you are in front of a senior leader (or someone else that has been in front of a senior leader), you get drips of the strategy. If you don’t have this access, you “Wonder(?),” as we did, what to emphasize to best contribute to corporate success.

In this situation, when the strategic plan output makes it to a written document, it’s a “Read to Learn” situation. You must review a big binder of material to know the direction. If they do throw put multi-media communication behind the strategic plan, it’s likely to lead to superficial (because that’s all there is time for) wows (although the hoped-for wows may be snoozers).

A Broad Strategic Planning Process

When you engage a broad group in strategic planning, the verbal communication takes the form of “strategic conversations.” These do heavy duty in both developing the strategy and creating shared knowledge of the strategic direction. The broad participation helps fuel more frequent and robust conversations about the organization’s strategic direction. It’s not about access to the right senior executive; it’s about strategic conversations among people throughout the organization helping shape the direction.

The written plan doesn’t carry nearly as much burden to convey every detail. The written format can concentrate on providing guidelines to operationalize implementation activities. Finally, adding multimedia communication focuses on providing the vision’s highlights.

Putting This to Use

This is a new visualization of something we experience that paves the way for another benefit of strategic collaboration. It needs some more work, but it sets the stage why the type of strategic planning approach an organization takes shapes communication opportunities. – Mike Brown

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Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater agility and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!

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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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Suppose the strategic planning task at hand is imagining what your organization will look like at some future point.

What are strategic planning exercises you can use with a team?

7 Ideas to Envision What Your Future Organization Might Look Like

Here are seven possibilities to consider:

  • Describe a future time where the organization has already achieved incredible success. Also, describe a comparable future time scenario the organization failed on all important objectives. For each of future state, look back and ask what led to incredible success or failure.
  • Employ extreme creativity and disruptive innovation-oriented questions to push your strategic planning vision exercise in bold, future directions.
  • Identify the most important elements of the business that hold great potential to materially change the organization’s future prospects. Once you settle on these attributes, use them as the basis to describe the future (i.e., What does that specific attribute look like in the future by itself and in conjunction with all the other attributes).
  • Interview lead users and future-looking experts to understand how they’d describe an aggressive future vision.
  • Identify all the elements of the brand. Have a group respond individually on which of the attributes needs to change dramatically, which can change marginally, and which need to be eliminated in the future. After securing individual responses, use a group strategic conversation to settle on the future strategic planning vision.
  • Develop an analysis of future trends. Extend the trends 5x and 10x to create dramatically bold future visions.
  • Select other brands and imagine what your organization would look like if they were running your organization.

Ensure you have all the strategic thinking perspective and voices we always recommend. Additionally, for these strategic planning vision exercises, make sure you include external participants with expertise and perspectives not burdened by the organization’s current, status quo vision.

Want to talk more about taking this approach to a future vision as part of your strategic planning?

Contact us, and let’s chat about how this strategic planning exercise approach applies to your organization. – Mike Brown

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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

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We see seven keys to creating an innovative workplace culture where individuals are able to meaningfully contribute to the organization’s innovation strategy.

If you’re looking at your organization and wondering where to start to foster a more innovative workplace culture, here are forty articles to go deeper into the topic.

An innovative workplace culture:

#1 Provides Direction

It’s vital to point your innovation strategy in a direction. That doesn’t mean leadership should spell out everything. Yet sharing knowledge about what matters for the organization’s future success shouldn’t be a mystery to those working on innovation initiatives.

#2 Invites Broad Participation

Throw open innovation to encompass perspectives from throughout the organizations AND outside the organization. Instead of asking people for the next big ideas, ask them for insights and perspectives that can contribute to shaping big ideas for the organization.

#3 Meaningfully Engages and Involves Employees

Develop multiple innovation roles that match your team’s talents, strengths, perspectives, and aspiration. Provide the training, structure, and access to opportunities to best use their knowledge and expertise to drive the innovation strategy.

#4 Encourages Change

Make sure senior leadership is saying and DOING things that send a clear message: trying new things is fine, we understand not everything is going to work, and it’s vital we look beyond our current environment to identify innovation strategy possibilities.

#5 Pursues Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

#6 Stays Agile

What’s innovative will continue to change. Your environment needs to be ready to understand what’s important today while looking ahead to future developments and opportunities to disrupt markets and competitors.

#7 Celebrates Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!


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A friend is heading to a business conference by herself today. Over the weekend, she mentioned she is nervous about going because of “everything: driving there, being there alone, not knowing anybody, whether or not to do the dinner cruise thing, just imagining walking into any of the socializing stuff, what to wear, what to do in my down time. Will probably just hide in my luxurious hut.”

I told her she needs to make herself socialize and meet new people at the conference, suggesting she find a friendly face that also doesn’t know anyone and become buddies. She was skeptical based on her most recent experience of showing up alone. As she recalled, “I stood around, walked around, smiled, said hi, introduced myself. Nothing. Except an angry nerd attached himself to me. No grownups were interested.”

I suggested additional ideas, then realized: I was writing a blog post on how I, as an introvert, force myself to meet new people at conferences and business events. Granted, there are LOTS of other sources on this, but this one is based on my personal experiences.

Speaking is a central part of my personal conference networking strategy to meet new people. Speaking helps tremendously in getting people to approach you to chat. If you’re the type of introvert that is fine getting up in front of groups and talking, that’s my number one recommendation.

23 Ideas to Meet New People at a Conference

Here are things I’ve tried (or experienced) to meet new people at conferences where I am not speaking:

Way Before the Conference

#1. Try to convince someone to go with you so you know somebody.

#2. Do whatever you can to scope out the attendees and speakers upfront. Figure out if you have connections to any of them (or even to people in the city where you are headed), and arrange meetings. That’s how I met Diane Black (who has done such great inforgraphics for us) and Mess Wright, both of whom inspired ideas that could re-shape the future of Brainzooming.

#3. Try wearing message clothing. By that, I mean wear a shirt that creates conversation, which may require pre-planning. I met this young woman at Inbound2016. With a shirt like this, I HAD to ask why she was looking for a new boss. I took photos and tweeted them to help her get attention. What message clothes can you create and wear to start converstations?

Right Before the Conference

#4. Pack the clothing or jewelry you own that most often generates comments from others. Wear those as conversation starters. (Orange socks, an orange watch, and all the other orange stuff I have prompt many comments and conversations. Even from other introverts! That’s how I got to know Claire Denbo of engage5w.)


#6. Find out the conference hashtag(s) ahead of time, and begin monitoring them. Reach out to other attendees and speakers using the hashtag. Ask and answer questions to start building relationships.

#7. If there are free times for lunch or dinner, book a reservation for four at a nearby restaurant and start asking people you meet to join you (and bring friends). I tried this the first time at the GasCan conference; long-time friend Kathryn Lorenzen became my anchor guest, bringing two other friends, while I invited Mike Farag of Fervor. We had a fantastic lunch!

#8. Prepare a few open-ended, easy-to-answer multiple part questions to ask. Prepare to use them. Try, “Is this your first time at the conference?” If it is, ask why they chose it or what they are looking forward to at the event. If they are returning, ask why they came back, and what you should not miss. This helps you uncover experts you can depend on or refer others to for meet-ups.

Onsite Before the Conference Starts

#9. If the registration is informal, chat with the people handling registration. Let them know this is a new environment for you, and you’d love to meet new folks. Maybe even give them a card or two that includes a way to track you down onsite. Tell them if they come across anyone looking for a buddy, you’re interested in hanging out with others.

#10. Arrive early and get the lay of the land in and around the conference facility so you can easily answer questions. Take on the role of being an informal conference concierge since answering questions is a great way to meet people. Be ready to point people to where meeting rooms and bathrooms are, know how long it takes from the elevators to the conference area, figure out fun things to do, where to eat, and the closest convenience and drugstores.

#11. Get up to speed on the agenda in a deep way. Understand the event flow, themes for the day or evening, and when things are. This positions you to pipe up with answers and meet people that will be at your table and ask general questions about the conference hoping someone can answer them.

During the Conference

#12. Wear your nametag. Make sure it’s visible. If it keeps flipping around, rig a binder clip to hold it in place.

#13. Be deliberate about your seating strategy at sessions with round tables. You can join a group and have people to start talking with right away (asking if a chair is free, introducing yourself, asking a question, etc.) Alternatively, you can scope out a table where no one is sitting. You then “own” the space and can play the role of a host. Either one works. One may suit you better than the other, though.

#14. Serve other people at the conference. Stock up on cough drops, mints, phone chargers, an extension cord, pens, and paper. Know how to download and use the conference app. Sit near the water pitcher at a table so you can offer to pour water or go get a drink for someone that just sat down. Be the one to get the Uber or car pool arranged. Those are easy ways for an introvert to meet new people and seem as if you are one of the most engaging people at the conference.

#15. Compare schedules with others. Learn what sessions they are attending. If it makes sense content-wise, give preference to sessions where you suspect you’re going to find people you have already met. (While it wasn’t a conference, this is why I, as a political science undergrad major, took a summer school accounting class: a woman I was interested in was going to be taking it, and so I just happened to be taking it, too.)

#16. Take advantage of social media to reach out and increase your visibility. Live tweet the sessions you attend (I’ve had people change sessions and meet me based on live tweets that made where I was sound more interesting.) Change the profile pics on social networks daily so they show what you look like and are wearing. This makes it very easy to spot you in a crowd.

#17. Type up your top ten take-aways from the day’s events and publish a blog post that evening or before the conference begins the next morning. Share it using the conference hashtag so people notice you are there. Invite conference goers reading the post to reach out to you at the event to request your full set of notes afterward.

#18. Unless you are actively using your phone for networking with social media (be honest here), leave it in your purse or pocket. Don’t make it look like your phone is your date for the event.

#19. Be careful with how you approach uber-confident, uber-outgoing, and uber-interested in telling everyone how great everything is people. I don’t know about you, but they can suck away what networking energy I have and leave me beating myself up for not being more outgoing and successful. That means I, at least, must be very careful about how much time I spend trying to hang out around them.

Networking Events

#20. Sign up for networking events and excursions. Make yourself go. Boost your confidence that you can enjoy these events on your own, while you look for opportunities to share experiences with others!

#21. Know how much alcohol gets you to where you start being engaging. Be careful if you need to drive afterward, but get to that amount of alcohol early on at a networking event to loosen up your conversation skills.

#22. Find other people that are alone and appear uneasy but hopeful. Reach out to them, essentially offering them an opportunity to be a part of a posse. Invite them to the group lunch or dinner you are planning!

#23. Look for small groups at networking events, ideally with people you’ve seen at sessions during the day. Find a way to join them through proximity, listening, smiling, and shared interests (i.e., you all are at this event, were in some of the same sessions, and have drinks). Being around the crowd can be the right opening to start meeting other people on the edge of the crowd.

That’s Not All the Ideas

I’m sure there are more ideas than this for an introvert to meet new people at a conference, but since this is probably the longest Brainzooming post ever, that’s all for today! – 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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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence profiled a Bloomberg Businessweek story on Fanatics, the sports apparel manufacturer and marketer, in its Inside the Executive Suite. Fanatics introduced disruptive innovation to its marketplace with an agile strategy. It employs technology, focused creative teams, new manufacturing processes, and communications to remove time and waste when creating post-sporting event apparel featuring the winners and exciting story lines. For NCAA basketball tournament games, Fanatics can put a newly approved shirt on its website within 15 minutes. It also uses its agile strategy to market apparel for niche opportunities where it might sell as few as ten t-shirts.

Along with the recap, Inside the Executive Suite offered sixteen strategic thinking questions inspired by the Fanatics case study that you can use to explore agile strategy options within your own organization. We thought the list was intriguing, so we secured the go ahead to share the strategic thinking questions with you here.

16 Strategic Thinking Questions to Explore Agile Strategy and Disruptive Innovation

via Shutterstock

Developing an Agile Strategy

  • Where can your organization realize the greatest leverage from improved agility – cost savings, an improved customer experience, sales opportunities, greater financial efficiency?
  • Beyond making investments and process changes to increase agility, are there other opportunities to cost-effectively manage demand?
  • How can you develop a super-agile process that disrupts other industry players’ competitive advantages?

Identifying Process Changes for Agile Strategy

  • Where can you aggressively remove steps (especially low-value ones) from today’s process to boost agility?
  • How can you completely redesign today’s process from scratch to create a super-agile approach?
  • What roles do you need on your agile execution team to move from idea to market with previously unheard of speed?
  • What characteristics and behaviors are important for agile execution team members to display?
  • What resources (even if they are redundant or eventually discarded) are critical to enable rapid execution?

The Interplay Between Flexibility and Agility

  • How can you improve your organization’s ability to pre-plan and anticipate the uncertain?
  • In what ways can more / better / faster data access increase forecasting accuracy, and your ability to delay decisions without compromising agility?
  • What are the various types of reviews, approvals, and decisions you will need during crunch time? How can agile decision making happen in an easier and more timely way when speed is most important?
  • What does the time window around peak need look like?
  • Is there additional flexibility you can create / exploit in lead times, the length of the selling opportunity, and / or the long tail of demand?

Strong Relationships Enable Agility

  • Who are the outside people and entities vital to ensuring your agile processes perform as expected?
  • What foreknowledge, training, and support will outside parties require to perform their duties at peak levels?
  • What do agile relationship-building skills necessary for supporting your process look like?

Across these questions, you’ll get a start thinking through how an agile strategy can push disruptive innovation in your industry.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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Download Disrupting Thinking

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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