Tools | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5
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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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Last week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence featured ideas for how to handle confidential information. The business strategy focus revolved around how an executive can maintain confidences while employing confidential information to best benefit his or her organization. While passing along confidential information was more in the news last week than this week, it’s a daily issue in business.

Here are ideas the Armada newsletter shared on how to handle confidential information:

Business Strategy – How to Handle Confidential Information via Inside the Executive Suite

Confidential information has been in the news recently. It is a topic relevant to any senior executive immersed in business strategy. While the nation wrestles over handling confidential information in a government setting with geopolitical implications, similar and dissimilar questions exist in private business. Beyond trade secrets and insider knowledge that could move markets, organizations consider a wide variety of information as confidential.

How should you go about handling confidential information within your business strategy?

What are the different varieties, the implications behind a confidential information designation, and the way executives are using it?

These questions drove a chat with a former Fortune 500 executive about how he navigated confidential information at senior levels. It was not a legal conversation (so don’t take his comments as legal advice). His strategies suggest a real-world, pragmatic approach to protecting confidences while getting work done.

One Executive’s Take on Using Confidential Information

“Unless I’m too far removed from it to remember, I don’t recall any extensive training in business school about confidential information. While we undoubtedly covered it in class, I learned the ins and outs of confidential information on the job. When I worked on the consulting side, that was largely client information. In the Fortune 500 world, it was dealing with our own business information. Honestly, ‘confidential’ was as much code for ‘don’t tell anyone this’ as it was legally confidential information.”

Market-Moving and Insider Information

“The first consideration is whether the information has legal implications. Information that moves markets, is insider knowledge, contains trade secrets, or has some other legal standing must be handled with the strictest confidence. In these cases, you sign legal documents with specific parameters. I read through what I’m signing and strictly apply the restrictions. If something is unclear to you, reach out to your legal staff for advice so you have a clear, actionable guideline to work with as you conduct business.”

Via Shutterstock

Handling Business Strategy

“Much of what I dealt with involved information that an organization does not want disclosed because it changes the business and competitive environments, typically for the worse. Maybe there is paperwork attached to disclosing this type of information. Sometimes someone passes along information and declares it confidential as they spill the beans to you about something. These are tricky situations because they center around your ethics and smart business practices.

“What I do in these situations is step back and think about what the information means for daily and longer-term business. For example, in a corporate parent role, one of our subsidiaries had to disclose a new service offering it was planning. When the new service reached the market, the staff of another, competitive subsidiary visited my office to try to understand the market implications. The plan had to remain confidential to protect business relationships. I applied my knowledge of the new service offering to prompt them with questions they needed to ask or service implications they might need to explore. The questions were what I might have suggested if a competitor outside our corporate family had made a similar move.

“That kind of upfront exploration may suggest that activities currently underway might be more important, or less important, based on confidential information. In these cases, try to offer guidance or manage priorities to foster smart business decisions without disclosing confidential knowledge. Provide context to others so they think about their activities in a bigger or slightly different way that better fits a future outcome. Do this by finding a relationship between current, publicly-known strategies and what will happen as you implement confidential information.

“This happens with branding changes. Executives cannot disclose exact branding moves to their teams before public announcements. However, waiting to tell employees until after the market has learned the information leaves employees ill-equipped to support the change. I suggest finding ideas you can share with employees to prepare them for change without disclosing confidential information. If a rebranding will more heavily emphasize an aspect of a brand that exists today, ramp up the emphasis ahead of time. This is not necessarily easy, but savvy executives find ways to apply confidential information to maximize the impact as early as possible without compromising confidentiality.”

When You Can’t Say, or Don’t Know

“When there’s a buzz about something confidential in a company, it creates questions about what the secrets are. Some questions are point blank; others are more subtle. If you are in the know and receiving those questions, how do you handle it? It is important for me to never lie to people. I suggest executives develop an answer to questions about confidential information that they use in every instance, whether the person asking is on the right track or not. One example might be, ‘I can’t and don’t speculate about rumors.’ Rather than lying to someone accurately asking about a confidential matter (by telling them an emphatic ‘no’ to correct information), using a non-committal response is truthful and protects your own reputation.

“On the topic of consistency, in some cases, you may not know confidential information but have to continue your work. I’d analyze these situations after the fact to understand what the indicators were for the confidential situation. For example, when our company considered M&A activity, I’d receive certain questions about competitors’ market positions. The questions were always about multiple competitors, never one. The questions surfacing became a signal a deal might be in the works. That consistency helped me be more effective for the company without ever having to know the specifics of a confidential matter.”

Only One Point of View

These suggestions are from one individual. They are not legal advice about confidentiality. But they do suggest the importance of creating the policy and practices that work best for your organization.   – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.


Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you are doing strategic planning activities for a support function within an organization, you can face challenges deciding what the plan should emphasize.

It’s easy to focus on creating important capabilities for the functional area (i.e., implement better accounting systems, develop an improved human resources process). It is probably equally easy to fall into the trap of simply taking orders from the P&L side of the business, limiting your focus to simply listing what the line organization tells your area it needs from you.

For strategic planning activities within a matrix organization, however, the ideal is to foster a shared strategic mindset between the line organization and support areas. Both line and functional areas should be leading the organization in the same direction with complementary strategic initiatives. This is the reason we are emphatic about having both line and functional leaders participate in strategic planning activities for functional departments.

2 Strategic Thinking Questions for Strategic Planning Activities in a Support Organization

One way to instill the mindset that a functional department also needs to take on a leadership role in the organization during strategic planning (and afterward) is asking and answering these two strategic thinking questions:

Within our strategic plan…

  • Our department will drive _____________?

  • Our department will enable _____________?

At the start of your strategic planning activities, solicit ideas broadly with these strategic thinking questions. Identify a comprehensive list of ideas for where the functional area will DRIVE initiatives to make the organization better. Do the same for how your work will ENABLE the important objectives for the entire organization. Identify themes and narrow your answers. You are not looking for a final list of dozens of strategic initiatives. You want just a few areas where your functional area can concentrate. These should be strategic initiatives where a functional area can meaningfully and visibly improve core metrics for the overall 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



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 you involved with the strategic planning process for your organization?

That could involve leading it, participating in it, or trying to influence the strategic planning process so it delivers more value and better results for the organization?

7 Strategic Planning Process Challenges You Can Fix!

Typical complaints about a strategic planning process

If you have a role in strategic planning, do any of these describe your situation?

  • You have a strategic plan completed by a small senior leadership team. Key leaders in the organization now won’t embrace the strategic plan because they weren’t involved in developing it.
  • You are a board member of a non-profit that’s doing great work, yet the board is apprehensive about whether the dynamic executive director has a plan and is grooming successors. The executive director, on the other hand, is not inclined to want to complete a strategic plan.
  • You have just taken over leadership of a company. You are starting to see where you most need to make progress. Your next challenge is communicating the vision and getting your new, senior team onboard.
  • Your organization is pursuing lots of good ideas. All the good ideas are getting in the way of the game-changing idea you need to develop and successfully implement.
  • You have a major strategic move to make with the company. You need to ensure you are considering every potential option to ensure you’re pursuing the smartest possible direction.
  • You have the okay for a more robust strategic planning process. You don’t have the expertise or experience for delivering on the expectations you’ve created. And now you’re scared.
  • Your senior leadership team held a meeting to develop a strategic plan. You had tons of great conversation, but no one wrote anything down that you can now implement.

These are just a few of the situations where we have helped organizations embrace a different type of collaborative strategic planning process.

If you find yourself on this list, contact us and let’s talk before this year’s strategic planning season starts. We’d love to share ideas with you on how to derive more results from the time investment you will be making in planning your organization’s future!  – Mike Brown

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

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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Beyond depicting your product every which way (or depicting the equipment and people who create your service every which way), what images do you include in your brand’s visual vocabulary?

As you consider that answer, ask yourself this: Are you effectively using the best images to reinforce your brand in strategic, consistent ways?

Let’s talk about your brand’s visual vocabulary. I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time considering on design as we solidify the Brainzooming brand’s visual vocabulary through creating more eBooks on strategy and innovation (with our initial offer on branding on the way).

11 Hacks for Creating Your Brand’s Visual Vocabulary

Here are the hacks that have worked for us.

Start by unpacking your brand for inspiration. Look at all the pieces of your brand foundation (big strategy statements, brand promise) to discover the most significant words and phrases you use to describe your brand. You can do this by:

  • Combing through brand foundation materials and existing creative briefs. This will help you avoid spending time trying to recreate visual vocabulary clues that already exist.
  • Running a Wordle on web pages or other content where your brand talks about itself. This is one way to check for important descriptors.
  • Putting customer comments and open-ended descriptions about your brand through a Wordle to see what emerges on top from the marketplace’s view.
  • Reviewing your current brand visuals to identify themes or types of images that stand out based on repetition or impact.
  • Cataloging brand visuals from direct competitors and other brands that do comparable things to what your brand does. Examine what are doing to uncover opportunities to differentiate your brand visually.

Explore ideas to associate visuals with your important brand words and phrases. Start by:

  • Plugging brand words and themes into Google Images. This will help you uncover images the world associates with your brand words.
  • Searching brand words and phrases in professional photo sites to see what stock photos images exist. Careful on this: you will see lots of visual clichés you don’t want to associate with your brand.
  • Extending your search to visually oriented and image-based social sites (Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr). Look for how a broad range of people capture and categorize images linked to your brand’s attributes.

Document what you learn through:

  • Writing ideas describing the images you found. This is the approach I employed. Some of the related words were literal; others were more abstract.
  • Creating Pinterest mood boards. This is a smart alternative suggested by a design blog.:   http://designyourownblog.com/visual-vocabulary-brand-identity/They recommend pinning images you find on separate Pinterest mood boards to identify themes, then consolidating them into one overall brand mood board.
  • Finding what works for you to capture and share your results with others. I used words because my next step was taking photos to build our brand image library. Working with words makes it easier for me to avoid duplicating what others are doing. Looking at visuals as my starting points would make it too easy to potentially co-opt other people’s’ visualizations accidentally.

This is a simple approach for building your brand vocabulary, but I know it worked for us.

If you haven’t invested much time thinking about your brand and its visual vocabulary, starting simple can move you ahead dramatically! – 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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Whenever we discuss using questions to foster disruptive innovation strategy, it prompts objections.

The objections center on the idea that questions do not create disruptive innovation.  The point these individuals (who are usually innovation experts that comment on other companies’ content without ever generating any innovation strategy content of their own) make is that a whole variety of factors contribute to disruptive innovation. They counter suggesting strategic thinking questions as a starting point over-promises and ignores all the other dynamics involved.

Our response? We never claim that questions alone will create disruptive innovation.
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Yet, we have seen many successful companies that cannot even imagine deliberately undermining the basket where they have placed all their eggs. For these types of established players, you have to disrupt their status quo thinking so they realize that brands not even in their consideration sets are aiming to render them pointless in the marketplace.

Examples? See Kodak, Border’s Books, unionized trucking companies, and every department store you ever visited, among others.

ANYTHING that gets leaders in these situations to imagine where they are vulnerable and how to disrupt themselves before someone else does is a HUGE HELP.

13 Exercises for Disruptive Innovation Strategy: Disrupting Thinking eBook

That’s why we’re releasing the innovation strategy eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

This FREE eBook, inspired by a popular Brainzooming post on how emerging competitors look nothing like your company, features question-based exercises to foster strategic conversations on disrupting your:

  • Brand benefits and value proposition
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational structure and processes
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Industry and market dynamics
  • New business initiatives

We do agree with our critics: imagining disruptive innovation scenarios is one step that must be coupled with develop the ideas and doing something about them. And as hard as imagining disruptive innovation is for established brands, acting can be even more of a challenge.

If you need to start the difficult strategic conversations on disruptive innovation strategy, Disrupting Thinking is for you!
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

Download your FREE copy of Disrupting Thinking TODAY, before it’s too late!

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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Chatting with a mid-career professional who is at the height of job frustration, she placed a career strategy challenge on the table:

  • “A résumé is supposed to have metrics, but I have no real metrics I can own for my contributions at my day job.
  • “What I’m doing in my day job isn’t the kind of work I want to do in my next job – at least under the same circumstances. I need to find something more fulfilling.
  • “I’ve done outside work at various times, but it’s not a consistent work history. Plus, I can’t jump back into entrepreneurship with its lack of stability.
  • “I have some starting points describing myself that have potential to go on a résumé, but they seem fluffy and lack concrete accomplishments.”

With all that backdrop, the question was, “What should I put on my résumé that is going to help me attract an employer’s attention when I email or post my résumé?”

I know this isn’t an isolated career strategy challenge.

Parts of it feel a lot like what I was facing at various points in my corporate career. When you are part of a big organizational machine, it is often difficult to isolate what you do to create metrics. And if you tend toward under-selling yourself, you freeze when faced with touting your own capabilities and accomplishments.

5 Career Strategy Challenge Ideas When You Lack Résumé Metrics

What’s the answer to this career strategy challenge?

I don’t know that there is one answer, but here are the ideas I shared:

  • You can always go to a professional to help prepare your résumé. Here is one I’d recommend if you pursue this idea. A professional creates compelling stories for job seekers all the time, and there’s tremendous value in both that experience and the objectivity of someone else looking at your great capabilities.
  • Create your own metrics. Every organization wants to improve what it does and do it more efficiently. If you’ve struggled to compile metrics for your personal contribution to the organization, create a performance improvement project in your department. Go to your internal customers under the banner of bettering your department’s contributions. Ask them for specifics on where your contributions improve good things, reduce bad things, accomplish results with fewer resources, and improve efficiency and effectiveness in any other quantitative ways. Collect success stories, too, even if they aren’t metrics-based. All this work will improve your day job while giving you ample résumé material.
  • Reach back out to your outside clients and ask them comparable questions about performance improvements, cost efficiencies, and customer successes they can attribute to the work you did for them. Those could be easier, more compelling metrics to establish.
  • Beyond the success stories you are collecting, ask several people close to you to create a recommendation letter for you that highlights at least five key characteristics, talents, work accomplishments, and selling points that they would use to communicate about you positively to others. They will likely share things you don’t see in yourself that you should be communicating in your résumé.
  • Network like crazy! Start now, and continue for the rest of your career. If you are a unique talent who is hard to adequately and differentially describe in a couple of pages, why limit yourself to selling yourself in a couple of pages? My advice to this job seeker was that her next position is going to come from someone that sees and gets her talents and finds the right role. By meeting hiring decision makers personally through an aggressive networking effort, the résumé becomes less important. Then, instead of selling you sight unseen, it becomes a crutch for the decision maker to better describe you and what they see in you to others in the organization.

Those are my ideas.

They helped get her thinking about new possibilities. Ultimately, these ideas are all about action, and doing the hard work to bring them to life! – 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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