Strategic Listening

Listening is the heart of good communication and strategic conversations. Asking good questions is an important part of listening but first you need to get the distractions out of the way.

Asking tough questions.
In the TV show SUITS, the main characters are masters of asking tough questions.

Listening to someone is a real gift because it allows them to clarify their thinking and you can then reflect back their thinking with even more clarity.

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Strategic Questions

Having a strategic conversation is all about listening and asking the right questions. Great brand strategists build a toolkit of questions that they can ask in difficult questions.

Strategic Questions
In the TV show SUITS, one of the senior lawyers tells a new lawyer to “prod until it hurts”.

Management consulting, innovation, design and branding can all benefit from asking better questions.

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Strategic Conversations

Large meetings seem productive, but if you really want to get things done, you need to have a one-on-one conversation.

In our strategy consulting we are finding that workshops and brainstorming sessions can only get you so far. I’ve been noticing that to get to the heart of something, you need to have a one-on-one conversation with the key players. A frank and fearless conversation with the CEO can be the best way to quickly understand what’s really going on with a project.

Workshops versus Conversation
Sometimes the best way to have a strategic conversation is to get out of the office.

I’m calling these fireside chats “strategic conversations” and we’re using them more and more as a formal part of our digital brand consultancy. It seems like a small thing, but early on in a project it can make a real difference to sit down and have a truly honest conversation. Talking one-on-one can make all the difference.

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Tim Ferriss on Minimum Viable Knowledge

Minimum Viable Knowledge is the amount of information that you need to know about a subject to operate effectively in that domain. Tim Ferriss is the master of how to achieve the minimum effective knowledge on any topic quickly, easily and elegantly.

Tim Ferriss Minimum Viable Knowledge
Tim Ferriss shared lots of case studies and examples about how to learn a new skill faster and easier.

Learning how to learn is one of the main things that makes a good business person into a great thinker. All the things that can hold back a natural strategist, become a strength once you can articulate and accelerate the way that you absorb and process information. Being a polymath is often considered a weakness until you become a credible specialist in being a generalist. Tim has created a robust system for something that a good Renaissance Man has always known: how to quickly learn just enough about something to be dangerous.

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Creativity lessons from Noma Restaurant

Noma is a world-famous restaurant in Copenhagen that is leading charge in creativity and innovation. The experience of eating at Noma really blew my mind. Every detail has been considered. The meal leads you on a journey throughout the Scandanavian wilderness. The idea is to use ‘found’ food that had been foraged from nature. There is a child-like wonder to the Noma restaurant that draws you into the story. The passion of the chefs is infectious and they really are on a mission to change the way that we look at creativity and food. Noma was awarded the best restaurant in the world for a couple of years running and there is a lot that we can learn from them about creativity, innovation and company culture.

Creativity in Business
The Noma laboratory and test kitchens create an impressive space for innovation.

We made a special trip to Copenhagen because a friend had managed to refresh the booking page on their website repeatedly until she got a table. A little like buying tickets to an almost sold-out concert. Just before leaving for Copenhagen, a client in the restaurant trade reminded me that that Autumn in Denmark might be a cold time to be foraging and that perhaps the meal would be a bit light. Luckily, the team at Noma are masters at improvising and the Autumn seasonal meal was a masterpiece.

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The business of merino wool

In 1994 a high country sheep farmer pushed a merino wool singlet across the table to a young Jeremy Moon in a cafe in Wellington. From a distance, it looked like any other woolen underlayer, but when you picked it up, it didn’t itch like normal wool. Jeremy immediately saw the potential of this under appreciated fabric. By getting the best out of the product, hustling hard and getting the best out of his various advisors, Jeremy has since managed to grow that singlet into a multi-million dollar lifestyle and sportswear brand.

Shawn merino sheep icebreaker design
What can you learn about word of mouth marketing from a sheep?

In 2005, I had just finished watching Jane Fulton Suri from Ideo at the Better by Design conference and a marketing manager from ANZ Bank handed me a corporate sponsored Icebreaker top. It was a small piece of conference swag that changed my life. I had heard of Icebreaker merino before, but I had dismissed it as just another itchy woollen jumper. How wrong was I?

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Commercialising your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is the heart of an innovative business. I’ve been mentoring a couple of technology start-ups on how how to take their ideas to market.

IP for startups
For an idea to be profitable it needs to be bought to life.

The sad fact is that no matter how good your intellectual property is, if no one can buy your product, then you don’t have a business, you have an empty “invention”.

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