I think frequent readers know this. New Brainzooming readers might not know it. Come to think of it, maybe even you regular readers don’t have a full appreciation for this important point: We use the business strategy resources we share with you in OUR OWN business and with our own clients.

One thing that got me thinking about this was a Chris Brogan webinar I bought last night. During the webinar, he said that people download free eBooks but never read or use them because they are free. He challenged everyone to think about all the eBooks we download that we never use.

I’m sure we’re all guilty.

Here’s the thing when it comes to the business strategy resources we create for you – whether directly on the website or via download. We create all these tools as outgrowths of our work or as we develop strategic planning or innovation strategy work that we’re about to do for a client.

Either way, you have the opportunity – for free – to take advantage of proven (or soon-to-be-proven) business strategy resources to improve your organization’s performance in real ways.

2 Business Strategy Resources to Implement Now!

The other thing that got me thinking about this point? A client call earlier yesterday afternoon.

The call was our regular Tuesday afternoon check-in on progress with the strategic planning and internal customer experience engagement we’ve been developing with them. As we near implementing the first strategies in a multi-decade roadmap, we discussed what a kickoff workshop would look like as we launch new teams to get started.

What did I do to quickly prepare our recommendation?

By now, you’ve guessed it: I used two of our eBooks. I copied and pasted screen images of activities and questions the teams would answer to get started. In minutes, we had a tangible recommendation for how to prepare these teams for implementation success. Time saved, client able to easily visualize the workshops, and buy-in secured to keep moving. Boom!

Since lots of you are implementing your strategic plans and new initiatives right now, these two eBooks are for you:

Grab these two eBooks TODAY if you are responsible for implementing successfully and delivering results.

Download Fast Forward Today!

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

Then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, put them to use. Save yourself time and pave the way for implementation success.

And yes, they’re both free (for now), so knock yourselves out! – Mike Brown



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What is your definition of innovation?

An article in The Wall Street Journal about food companies innovating to raise prices features this definition of innovation from Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen:

“Creating something I didn’t know I needed is innovation.”

We tell new product development leaders all the time that generating innovative ideas isn’t in any customer’s job description.

It’s an organization’s responsibility to identify what’s next to deliver new value and grow sales. You may get lucky. A particularly engaged customer could suggest a winning idea. Yet, customers probably aren’t thinking much about using your product, let alone ways to improve it.

4 Strategies this Definition of Innovation Suggests

This definition of innovation suggests an important question: If innovative new products and services must surprise customers with what they didn’t expect, how can you develop these ideas?

Here are four paths you can use to develop innovative product ideas:

1. Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

Aggressively explore and analyze actual customer behavior data in your internal systems (and relevant external sources):

  • What product groupings do customers already purchase, and what are natural (or unexpected) next things to offer them?
  • What situations seem to be causing long-term customers to leave?
  • Where are new customers stopping and not going deeper into your product offerings?
  • Why are they demonstrating the behaviors you identify? What can you do to offer innovative new things to them?

By interpreting data related to these questions, you create a strong platform for imagining new products. Looking at actual customer behaviors should suggest new opportunities and/or missing components in your product offerings.

2. Listen and Observe Between the Lines

We use early-stage innovation research to ask questions that can help identify product innovations. Instead of asking customers what products they want, we ask questions about their situations:

  • Can you describe the challenges you are having in doing what you want to do?
  • What are your unrealized aspirations (for yourself and/or for your business)?
  • What are the most frustrating aspects of using our product (or those of competitors)?

These types of questions aren’t asking customers to provide any solutions. Instead, they provide a way for customers to give voice to the goals they have and the challenges they face. With strong insights from these questions, your team can work to figure out innovative ways to address their concerns and aspirations.

Alternatively, you can spend more time with your customers to see firsthand what their challenges and missed opportunities are. You will observe things in the normal course of their activities that spark ideas for you to solve.

3. Discover What Lead Users Are Doing Now

Executives (and most everyone else) are better at describing what’s happening right now than predicting the future. You can use this to your advantage to jump start innovative ideas for your broader market. Identify current customers who are the most advanced in using your product or others like it. Think about:

  • Who is pushing the product to the extremes?
  • Who is constantly asking for more because their needs demand it?
  • Which customers seem to be months or years ahead of  most other ones?

You can reach out and learn more about this group’s current activities. Their views on today will provide advance insights into the rest of the market’s future needs.

4. Excel at Rapid Development

Another way to stay ahead of the market?

Develop an incredible ability to efficiently and inexpensively imagine, prototype, and develop new products at a rapid pace. Innovation is largely a numbers game. The more possibilities you can test and launch that aren’t copy-cat products, the greater the likelihood you will introduce successful, innovative products that surprise the market.

How might this definition of innovation shape your strategy?

You have multiple ways to imagine product offerings before the market knows it needs them. Pick one or two that fit your organization’s assets and let you get in front of trends and market expectations easily. – Mike Brown

Related FREE Innovation Resources for You

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“Can you show up and do a strategic planning workshop early next week?”

We get a decent number of requests from companies that resemble that question. Since a time is booked, and we do this all the time, why couldn’t we simply show up and immediately facilitate a company through developing its strategy? When someone makes a request like this, I’m sure they can’t imagine there is anything THAT complicated about designing a strategic planning workshop.

My question back to those executives are how comfortable they are with:

If they can answer YES to all those questions AND really LOVE high-stakes surprises, then sure, let’s see if we have a Brainzooming facilitator available to show up next Tuesday.

11 Steps in Designing a Strategic Planning Workshop

designing a strategic planning workshop

When an executive cares about successful, productive results that move an organization forward, they UNDERSTAND it takes more than a few business days to make it happen. You need enough time to work through eleven steps we address when designing a strategic planning workshop:

  1. Ask foundation questions to develop a strong sense of the objectives and desired participant experience
  2. Figure out relevant and intriguing comparisons to the situation
  3. Check internal information and comparable situations we’ve addressed
  4. Prepare an initial engagement design and scope of work
  5. Perform secondary research, looking for clues to explore additional sources
  6. Identify intriguing ideas, themes, and inspirations from the secondary research results
  7. Develop new insights and hypotheses
  8. Conduct informational interviews
  9. Develop the input opportunities for the broad audience
  10. Analyze results and themes that emerge from the broad input opportunities
  11. Finalize the workshop design

Not all these steps require significant time to complete. They do build on each other. In aggregate, they lead to designing a strategic planning workshop that delivers results.

Want to Dramatically Improve How You Develop Strategy?

You may not be thinking about scheduling your next strategic planning meeting right now.

Even so, it could be exactly the right time to start PLANNING and designing your next strategic planning workshop to improve the outcomes over the last one.

Have you been trying to identify new ways to make developing strategy more collaborative, simpler, results-oriented (and even fun)? Contact us, and let’s chat about the impact these eleven steps can have in changing how you think about developing strategy from now on.  – Mike Brown

Related FREE Strategy Resources for You

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Whenever You’re Stuck Creatively

Stuck creatively? Try something new.

Try to start with anything – ANYTHING – that might move you ahead or sideways when you’re stuck creatively.

What you’re struggling, break a pattern and then approach what you’re facing from a new direction.

When there are too many possibilities ahead of you, pick one – perhaps the easiest one – and take a step or two.

When you know too much about all the potential challenges (or all the ways that already work easily), pick up something new that’s still full of surprise and use it.

When you know exactly what you need, but it’s not available, consider it a signal to change.

When you seem incapable of making progress, put something small together that you can see, then tinker with it.

Write something, and then edit the daylights out of it with no fear of erasing and keeping just a little bit.

Do a little something of what you do, and then go from there when you’re stuck creatively.

Listen to Mike Brown discuss Amazing Ideas on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

A Strategy for a Life that Is Stuck Creatively

I wrote the lines above on the way back from Huntsville, AL on Saturday. I was thinking about advice to help others do what they obviously know how to do, yet struggle to start.

Then, Emma Alvarez Gibson found this article on how to be an artist from art critic, Jerry Saltz.

This article says it all. All of it, when it comes to being an artist – whether that’s an artist as we typically think of them, or simply trying to bring artistry to whatever means something to you. Read it today! – Mike Brown


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Are you trying to accomplish new things or create a bigger impact in your life professionally or personally this year? Do you have the excellent leadership skills you need to accomplish your initiatives in a workplace experiencing dramatic changes?

If you are, I’m wondering if you have gotten your copy of Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders?

Here’s why, if you don’t have Idea Magnets yet, you should act now: Idea Magnets delivers a tremendous repertoire of leadership tools and actionable strategies, all in ONE PLACE!

Curious about how Idea Magnets will recharge excellent leadership skills?

Here’s a partial list of tools within Idea Magnets to address your leadership skills:

  • Stating your core purpose (p. 19)
  • Knowing where to go for daily creative inspiration (p. 22)
  • Having a dependable way to attract amazing ideas (p. 24)
  • A checklist for improving your collaborative leadership performance (p. 34)
  • Striking the balance to offer both strategic direction and ample room for innovation (p. 40)
  • Three simple steps to further strategic leadership (p. 42)
  • How to surround yourself with the most effective collaborators (p. 53)
  • Dependably seeing familiar situations in fresh, innovative ways (p. 54)
  • A formula to generate 1,000 ideas – YES, ONE THOUSAND IDEAS (p. 60)
  • Uncovering unusual, innovation-triggering connections (p. 71)
  • Mega-sizing your innovative ideas (p. 72)
  • Improving your ability to spot emerging competitors and potential partners early (p. 78)
  • Using unique experiences to energize creativity (p. 85)
  • Ways to make it easier for team members to share ideas (p. 89)
  • Effective methods to showcase diverse talents within your team (p. 93)
  • Creating high-performing team members (p. 97)
  • Speeding up decision making (p. 105)
  • Simplifying complex choices (p. 106)
  • How to help your team implement more effectively (p. 109)
  • Developing contingencies for when plans don’t work (p. 111)
  • Going from 1,000 ideas to the very best ideas to implement (p. 113)
  • Managing and maximizing your personal and team creative energy (p. 122)
  • Using different creative roles to spur new thinking (p. 128)

Yes, all of these tools to recharge excellent leadership skills are in Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders.

If you’ve already gotten your copy, we hope this list pinpoints the tools you need to increase your leadership effectiveness!

If you still see new opportunities to recharge your creative leadership, you need to get Idea Magnets. It is THE book for you! Get your copy on Amazon today! – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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This past summer, while organizing documents that I brought with me when I left the corporate world, I discovered something I didn’t know I still had: my handwritten notes from a January 31, 1995 America Marketing Association luncheon. We hosted the lunch-time seminar on creative thinking skills at my company’s headquarters. Serving as the host, I had the opportunity to meet the creativity expert who would be presenting and get to know him before the meeting started.

Agreeing to host the luncheon at our company was one of the most important business decisions I ever made.

The reason?

The creativity expert was Chuck Dymer.

The Creativity Expert Who Inspired Brainzooming

As anyone who has read Idea Magnets knows, Chuck was a major influence early in my career; he continues as an influence still. Chuck, through the knowledge he shared at the creative thinking skills seminar, introduced ideas that have dramatically shaped career.

Reviewing the notes, I found mentions of fundamental concepts that still influence Brainzooming:

It is amazing; Chuck shared all these vital ideas in just one hour. If you’d like, you can look through a PDF of the notes below and see what impact they may have for you!

Thank you once again, Chuck, for being the creativity expert (and Idea Magnet) that walked through the doors of Yellow Corporation on this day, all those years ago. It is an honor to have you as a friend and important part of the Brainzooming family! – Mike Brown

Buy Idea Magnets on Amazon

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There’s finally a name for the phenomenon that many of us have been aware of for several years: hybrid jobs.

Marketers, and especially marketing communicators, have become familiar with seeing job postings that seem to expect every skill. It used to be that a writer was a writer, a photographer was a photographer, and a programmer was a programmer. Now, it’s common to see creative positions in marketing and advertising that require the ability to code or program web pages. While you don’t typically find those skill sets in the same individual, the combination has become a basic expectation.

Cue the study from Boston-based Burning Glass Technologies about how jobs are increasingly demanding broad, very different skill sets.

The firm has dubbed these roles “hybrid jobs.” Its conclusion came from combing through millions of posted positions, detailing and analyzing the expected skills. These types of positions, which are projected to show double the growth through 2028, yield higher salaries (perhaps 40% more for a marketing manager who knows SQL), and experience less susceptibility to automation-based redundancy (an estimated 3x-plus reduction, in fact).

Is Your Organization Ready for Hybrid Jobs?

Thinking AND doing. In many cases, that may make it a hybrid job.

If you’re an executive with a team that needs to deepen its opposite skills (e.g., more creative if your people are technical, or more technical if your team is creative), what moves make the most sense? How does that translate if you’re an individual trying to stay ahead of the threat of automation and/or irrelevancy?

Increasing Creativity for Technologists

Honestly, we have much more experience to share in helping technical people tap into and develop their creative skills. That’s a large focus of Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders. It’s filled with techniques to help everyone on your team embrace and master creative thinking skills. The objective? To expand personal and organizational success.

The Idea Magnets strategies rely heavily on using targeted questions and frameworks to help executives think from new perspectives. One intriguing thing? Executives don’t have to know anything about the methodology behind the questions to make them successful. That’s why it’s easier (in our experience) for a technical person to adapt to greater creativity. The trick, though, is demonstrating the interest in using creative thinking questions and techniques on an ongoing basis. That’s where the Idea Magnets book, tools, and training come into play to seed creative thinking in your organization.

Increasing Technical Skills for Creatives

A Wall Street Journal article by Lauren Weber detailing the growth of hybrid jobs did not offer much in the way of remedies to help retrain workers. Other than a closing paragraph which mentions that hybrid jobs tend to require at least a few years of experience and the need for post-college training, Weber doesn’t hint at any potential solutions.

We’ll take that to suggest that no one has yet cracked the code. In part, the aging out of the current workforce will eventually place individuals who are digital natives in these roles. In the meantime, here are a couple of ideas to help you explore solutions for your organization and/or yourself.

Take Advantage of Training Resources

Google how to teach adults to code, and you’ll discover a wide array of free-to-low-cost training resources. One list featured sixty-four free resources; the author has updated it multiple times over the past several years.

Similarly, you can search for adult STEM training and find additional resources to immerse adults in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.

The positive news is the wide array of online resources that organizations and individuals can use for training. The challenge, as with so much information on the web, is that independent of established education brands, you’ll have to look through reviews and sample the programs to ensure the right level of quality.

Mess Wright, Executive Director at WorkChops Makerspace, lives and works in the heart of the future of work.

“Scroll through a site like Udemy and make a list of classes that are even marginally relevant to your current role – most are low cost or even free,” she says. “Don’t worry if you start a few and never finish them. Keep trying until you find one that hooks you. It may be that you feel hooked because the new skill is easy for you to learn or even that it’s difficult enough to make you want to rise to the challenge.”

Try a variety of approaches

For a potential client engagement, we researched ways other companies are trying to accomplish this objective, before pulling workers off the factory floor for training. We identified organizations using a variety of strategies, including:

  • Educational partnerships
  • Forming ecosystems among non-competitive companies to develop technology training programs
  • Introducing gaming elements into workplace tasks
  • Incentives for independent training on technology skills

Hybrid Jobs ARE in Your NOW

It’s important to be creative about finding an approach that works for you and/or your team. Research. Experiment. You’ll need to try before you buy, in other words—there’s no easy way around that. – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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