Putting Action Back into Strategic Plans

Find out why executives love APPLIED GROUP CONCEPT MAPPING!



Applying Group Concept Mapping to Strategic Planning, Innovation and Product Development

Group Concept Mapping is a form of conceptualizing that combines several common group processes such as idea generation (brainstorming), sorting, and rating, with a series of analyses (multidimensional scaling, hierarchical cluster analysis). It is relevant to strategic planning, innovation and product development in that it creates high quality input to the process and action-oriented results.


Businesses today face many difficult challenges.  There is an incredibly broad range of tasks and activities that need to come together to execute a successful plan.  This assumes there is a plan to execute.  Many companies hobble on by performing legacy tasks that have outlived their strategic purpose.  Either way management must continuously prioritize, focus, and align the work, across a diverse group of functional disciplines to move the organization forward.  Management essentially orchestrates a series of specific actions to achieve its…

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Using Applied Group Concept Mapping to Drive Innovation Success

Innovation success requires specific, strategic actions. Applied Group Concept Mappingis a powerful new tool that can help determine what specific actions are required to drive long-term business performance. It can be used for strategic planning, project and business risk management and creating a culture that supports innovation.

This simple-to-use, robust tool collects, sorts and rates unstructured qualitative data (ideas or solutions). It differs from other strategic tools in that it leverages the knowledge, wisdom and experience of all internal and external stakeholders resulting in more creative, emergent solutions to business problems.

Join us for informational webinars on March 21 where you will learn how this exciting new tool can benefit your business. The webinars are free. Register below:

Tuesday, March 21 at 10 a.m. EDT or Tuesday, March 21 at 4 p.m. EDT

This webinar is a collaboration of New Product Visions and INSIGHTOVATION CONSULTING.

Questions? Contact Jeff Groh at jgroh@newproductvisions.com.

Why Risk Assessments Fail

Do you need improvements to your risk assessment process? Who doesn’t! Read about a new robust process to create value-added, action-oriented inputs to mitigate the new and hidden risks to your business – Applied Group Concept Mapping


Mitigating risk to the business is an essential leadership function.  The number of business failures may give us a clue to how many companies do it well.  Obviously it is more complex than that but I like to keep things simple.

The longer you stay in business the more you need an effective risk management process.

The facts are:

Over two decades, up to 75 percent of businesses in certain fields fail. Survival rates follow a universal downward trend, as the years of operation increase, with 50 percent of businesses failing after 5 years and 75 percent failing after 17 years, notes U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between 1994-2010, the survival rates of private establishments ranged between 25 to 50 percent, reports U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Common Failure Points Within a  4-Phase Risk Assessment Process


  • Inadequate planning and communication
  • Lack of process alignment…

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Better Leadership in 2017

I have been thinking about the year ahead and wanted to come up with simple, easy-to-remember guidelines for deepening my own leadership skills in 2017.

2015, for me, was all about BALANCE both personal and professional.  Balance turned out to be more of a challenge than I originally estimated and it spilled over into 2016 under a new banner of SIMPLIFY.  I continue practicing balance and simplification and know for me it is a life-long initiative.  I think the word PRACTICE is appropriate for these types of pursuits.

After overcomplicating the 2017 guidelines exercise, I came back to 4 basic verbs.  I chose verbs for the very fact that they are action-oriented.

  1. Listen
  2. Ask
  3. Act
  4. Know me

Getting to these four areas of focus started out pretty cloudy.  Still, I knew there was something important about all four skills.  Any one of these capabilities are great characteristics.  I will argue good leadership requires all four.  Take away any one and the problems start.screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-9-50-07-am  Not listening to other stakeholders, not asking the right questions, failing to act when required, and looking at the situation through my own narrow filters can put me at a significant disadvantage and result in poor leadership.

It seems obvious that I turn the clouds into firm skill sets represented by intersecting circles to try to visualize and explain what was happening in each of the overlapping areas.  screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-23-22-am

Great leadership requires a combination of listening, asking questions, acting and knowing my own stuff.screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-23-47-am

I thought about writing a paragraph on each overlapping section including what types of leadership behavior is exhibited when leaders don’t listen or are not self-aware of their own prejudices, preconceived ideas, and assumptions etc.  Instead I will simplify the post and leave that examination up to the reader.

With these simple guidelines in place, I look forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

Happy New Year!



** An open letter to my HR Friends **

Dear HR Friends,

Fundamental for an organization to thrive and grow is having talented employees who are committed, motivated and engaged.screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-5-47-43-pmThis is an accepted conclusion of scores of studies on employee engagement, now a commonly overused buzzword with an entire leadership curriculum behind it. Research studies, as cited by Debbie Hance, Head of Business Psychology, Head Lamp, HRZONE.com – such as those by UK government’s 2009 review on employee engagement [1], Gallup [2] and the Corporate Leadership Council [3] –

“[Research studies] champion the transformational possibilities of engagement and seduce us with the promise of increased productivity, improved financial performance, lower attrition and absenteeism, and higher levels of customer satisfaction and innovation.

In the hopeful expectation of reaching this euphoric nirvana – where employees are more motivated, happier, more committed and more involved – many organizations have embarked on their own engagement journey…

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Thoughts on Leadership Coaching

Leadership – On Gossip and Criticism

Here are some thoughts on gossip and criticism.  Two things that spoil a company’s culture and unity of purpose are gossip and criticism. To avoid these divisive things, we must realize that as a company, we’re all in the same boat and need each to work effectively and productively together.

gossip criticismIn a tough world economy, with strong competition, leaders must pull employees together without engaging in gossip and criticism, and take action against gossip and criticism whenever it is observed or reported. Gossip and criticism are sure ways of disrupting any team by undermining trust and transparency. Neither gossip nor criticism helps anyone to work more productively or effectively.

Workplace gossip can harm employee morale. Conversations in the workplace affects everyone. Even if particular employees are not directly involved in the conversation, gossip damages the relationships of fellow employees and creates a toxic working environment.

Criticism of colleagues and employees can seen to be necessary for managing the workforce and for reaching corporate goals.  Often it has the opposite effect.  Using the right method of communication and motivation to reenforce the behaviors that drive workforce productivity will go a long way toward preserving and salvaging employee morale. A workplace without gossip and criticism can help both retain employees and improve workplace productivity.


11 Brutal Truths Every Baby Boomer Needs to Hear (Written by a Millennial)

This is an excerpt from an article on Inc.com by Nicolas Cole.  I say “Go Millennials! You have my confidence and support.”  (Written by a Boomer) ‪#‎writtenbyaboomer‬

Somebody has to say it …

CREDIT: Getty Images

Millennials aren’t a demographic. They’re a trending topic.

Just like the internet, we, the generation birthed in a simultaneous era, seem to have adopted a reputation for disrupting modern civilization.

We are, like the internet, both helpful and annoying, forward thinking and yet disruptive, go-getters and self-entitled, etc.

Let me preface all of this by saying that I have an extreme amount of respect for those who have come before me–and I would be incredibly naive to think that I, in my 20s, have somehow surpassed those who have clearly seen more of the world. This is by no means an attempt to dethrone or condemn older generations, but instead, shed some light on our own.

We were born and raised in a different time.

1. We grew up in a world where anything and everything is possible.

What you are exposed to as a child shapes so much of who you ultimately become. Imagine being a 7-year-old and sitting in front of a computer on which you could type anything you wanted into a search engine (Google) and have it appear in front of you. To older generations, that was magic. To us, it was normal. Please do not misconstrue our wild imaginations. It’s all we know.

2. We actually really do appreciate time away from technology.

As much as it’s believed that Millennials are screen addicts, trust that we are equally as worried for the next generation. At least for us, there was that gap in our early years between VHS and Napster where having fun still consisted of, you know, going outside and playing in the grass. We are not as immersed as you might think–and many of us hope to find ways to help our own kids find a balance between the real and the digital.

3. We are not narcissistic. We just know what works.

Since our modern-day world is ruled by digital social tools, we understand the rules of the game. We know that people want to see people. And yet, when we post about ourselves, we are slaughtered for being “narcissistic.” Go look up the definition ofnarcissism. While there is a gray area, posting a selfie is not the same as being a true, evil narcissist. We just know selfies get higher engagement. Chill.

4. You need us, just like we need you.

The generation gap is fascinating. The most prized spending demographics lean younger, however, and to capture their attention you need to speak their language. Older generations, the ones who own the big companies and big brands, then need Millennials to help translate those messages to the demographics they hope to target–and in turn, we, as Millennials, need the older generations to help support our wild ideas. And, statistically speaking, the older generations are the ones with the funding. Can’t we stop fighting and just work together?

5. We face a very different set of challenges. Not easier or harder–different.

You grew up in a time when you had access to only what was within your proximity–which meant as the world expanded (and more rapidly with the internet), you were left with a feeling of “I remember when things were simple.” We, on the other hand, grew up in an era where anything and everything was accessible, all the time. Our issue is not “the world used to be simple, and now it’s expanding.” Our issue is that the world and what we have access to is expanding so fast, and we have no idea how to create simplicity for ourselves.

We will never know what it was like to grow up in your time period, and you will never know what it is like growing up in this one. One is not better or worse. They are different–and it’s on both parties to seek to understand each other.

6. We are trying to learn from you. Do not put us down for doing so.

Whenever studies come out saying that Millennials would rather work fewer hours per week, would rather make less if it meant more personal time, etc., the overwhelming consensus is that we are lazy. But what a lot of people don’t consider is that we have watched our own mothers and fathers work their entire lives, slaving away for the American dream, only to obtain the house with the picket fence and still be unhappy.

Instead of walking the same path and expecting a different result, many of us want to try a different path and seek work-life balance.

7. Social media aren’t good or bad. They just “are.”

Social and digital media are here–and they are only going to continue growing and dominate more areas of life. When people say, “It’s ruining society” or “Life was better before,” that’s wishful thinking. Just like some days when I wish I was 9 again, and my biggest responsibility was deciding whether I wanted macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza for lunch. Digital media are here, and there is no going back. All we can do is continue to adapt and move with them and learn as we go.

8. We are vocal about who we are and whatever challenges we have gone through because we want to help others do the same.

Someone said to me once, “Twenty years ago, nobody said a word about their mental health or opened up about their emotional baggage. Now, you can’t find a person under 30 who isn’t proud of whatever it is they are struggling with.” The person said it as if this was a bad thing. As if we were too vocal.

Personally, I don’t see this as a negative at all–I see it as an overwhelming positive. In some sense, I experienced this as an adolescent. I was very sick, with undiagnosed celiac disease, and there wasn’t a doctor in the Midwest who could figure out what was wrong with me. I really didn’t know where to go for information.

Now? You search online for whatever it is you’re struggling with, and you’ll come across message boards filled with other people who are going through something similar. And if enough people are going through it, someone (or the community as a whole) tends to step up to provide a solution.

That’s incredible.

9. We are motivated by things that are emotionally satisfying.

I think this has less to do with our generation, actually, and more to do with how our world is changing. More and more, older people, too, are making career changes not geared around making more money but focused on personal health, well-being, and fulfillment.

Some are motivated by money, sure, but in general most Millennials are motivated by being part of something that is meaningful. Something that speaks to the life they strive to lead, and what they believe to be fulfilling. If you can cater to that, we will work endlessly to be part of it.

10. We have an incredible work ethic.

Speaking to No. 9 here, when we find something we love and that connects with us emotionally, our work ethic is unrivaled. We are not the “clock in and clock out” type. We would much rather (and often do) make what we are doing part of our lifestyle, instead of seeing it as a segmented portion of our day.

On the flip side, keep in mind that every time we open Instagram, we see photo after photo of a 20-year-old model on a beach in Bali with the caption, “Follow your heart and live the life of your dreams.” Every message around us (in 2016) speaks to living life on your own terms. Now, it’s our fault for wishing that to be true instead of putting in the hard work. But it’s also important that you learn what motivates Millennials and give them a sense of purpose.

11. Our intentions are genuine.

Aside from our ADD and our instant-gratification-seeking and our inability to comprehend why someone won’t give us $500 million for our cotton candy concept, we really do have the best intentions. The number of young people who want to make a difference in this world and do something positive, create a solution, solve a problem, bring people together, and help those in need is astounding.

We might be misdirected sometimes, and we might not think in the same “conventional” ways that you would, but that’s kind of the point.

Otherwise, how else do you stumble upon anything new?

Co-working and Leading Teams

The co-working movement may be considered the latest fad, but it has been around for decades under different names and forms.  Cross-organizational or cross-functional teamwork is the basis of many existing business processes.  Co-location of teams and matrixed organizations are also well known. Marketing, product development and innovation teams have long realized the benefits of working in multi-disciplinary teams to better accomplish goals.  Recently new research indicates it has a surprisingly strong psychological basis.


See WENDY MARX  07.14.16 5:00 AM http://www.fastcompany.com/3061515/the-scientific-reason-why-coworking-may-be-the-future-of-work

New cultural tactics such as working in pairs that rotate every five days, and company culture and social structure designed to help employees collaborate are more and more popular. Expanding offices and creating innovation centers to allow current clients or new startups and entrepreneurs to work with company teams generate strong connections and innovation in the process.

No doubt co-working is an established movement.  An of a new platform includes WeWork as well as other co-working platforms taking shape in a variety of forms.

How can you bring the benefits of co-working to your organization?

There’s no forced socialization. Team spaces that allow employees to be as friendly, or as reserved, as an individual wants work well.  Creating secure and accessible space for interaction with outside parties allows for learning and collaborative work.

And according to researchers who’ve studied the effectiveness of co-working, they’re all on to something. Wendy Marx explains why.  The following is an excerpt from her recent article in Fast Company cited above:


A team of researchers at the University of Michigan’s Steven M. Ross School of Business led by business professor Dr. Gretchen Spreitzer, who also directs the Center for Positive Organizations, has spent the last four years studying co-working. In the process, they’ve interviewed the founders of co-working companies around the U.S. and surveyed more than 200 workers from dozens of co-working spaces; one team member spent six months as a co-working member.

Their research uncovered two key benefits to the co-working experience, both of which have been linked to improved employee performance. Simplified somewhat, it comes down to flexibility and autonomy without dispensing with meaningful community.

It turns out that co-working spaces’ hallmarks—like funky design features—are far less important than their social structures, where workers feel a sense of individual autonomy that’s still linked to a sense of collaboration, the Michigan team told me in interviews. Most co-working spaces, for all their variation, tend to strike that careful balance between those crucial needs—in ways that neither solo freelancing nor the traditional office experience usually provide.

Typically, coworkers pay a monthly fee in exchange for the freedom to work when, where, and how they want. Often open 24/7, coworking facilities let members come and go and sit wherever they like. There’s no forced socialization. You can be as friendly or as reserved as you want.

Co-workers also have the freedom to literally shape their environment—which some research suggests can significantly improve workers’ performance and productivity. In their research, the Michigan team found that some co-working companies have taken it upon themselves to redesign their spaces to better meet members’ needs, raising additional money to do so and inviting users to help design the new features.

Independence, adaptability, flexibility: These characteristics are fundamental human needs. So it isn’t surprising that they’ve been linked to positive outcomes in the workplace, too, from improved performance to higher rates of employee commitment and engagement.

They also help explain why more companies are embracing flexible work schedules—many of the same ones, in fact, that are exploring coworking. GE, Parades tells me, now offers flexible work arrangements for all its U.S. employees as long as they’ve got their managers’ approval.


But this isn’t the whole story, the Michigan researchers found. Autonomy and flexibility may be crucial, but your work environment is hardly the only factor that can supply them. The other key benefit that coworking spaces tend to offer is a sense of community—not just any community, but one where people, as Dr. Spreitzer puts it, are “free to be themselves” because they don’t feel they’re competing with those around them. As a result, ideas are more freely shared.

People are “free to be themselves” because they don’t feel they’re competing with those around them.
Spreitzer, Garrett, and their third colleague Dr. Peter Bacevice, director of research at architecture and design firm HLW International, found that that type of communal spirit provides the necessary ballast to autonomy. While too much freedom can actually hurt productivity, grafting a community structure onto an already flexible one provides what she calls “the optimal degree of control.”

Typically, people join coworking spaces because they want to be part of a community while still doing their own thing. Members often share their thoughts and needs on Slack or some other communal platform. Everyone is usually expected to volunteer to maintain the facility. Lectures, outings, and other events are planned—but optional.

Here’s one coworking member that PhD candidate Lyndon Garrett interviewed as part of the research:

It’s really positively affected my work because it . . . makes me happier all the time, and having people around that I’m not in competition with but who can bring experience from different industries and different situations is really, really helpful . . . I’ve been able to come in contact with ideas I wouldn’t have normally come in contact with.
Traditional companies are trying to create that same sense of serendipity. AT&T has created coworking-like spaces where the company’s own engineers mingle with independent developers and startups in order to accelerate AT&T’s innovation cycle. The office furniture company Steelecase redesigned its corporate office to include a work café that strongly resembles those at the center of many coworking spaces, based on the idea that employees may be stimulated and build friendships with people outside their work unit.

So if more employers follow suit in the months and years ahead, they aren’t just jumping on a trendy bandwagon. Sure, they might be doing that, too, but they’re also trying to tap into the science that helps explain what makes people work well—alone and together.

H1 2016 is Over! Act on H2.

Today’s thought from INSIGHTOVATION® – July 19, 2016

Stay ahead of your business cadence.

Are you still analyzing the first half of 2016 to see where you are vs. the business goals?  If so you are already behind for the year.  That analysis should have been done starting in mid-June using actuals through May and forecast for June.  The official books should be all but closed as a formality with no surprises and business reviews finalized.  You are now 3 weeks into the new quarter and second half of 2016.  Stop looking back.

Executing the plan is the business priority.

  1. There is a clearly defined strategy and action plan.   Everyone is aligned and focused.
  2. It is still the right plan.  Nothing has changed.
  3. You have the right resources to execute.

Publishing a business/marketing calendar is a helpful way of staying on track.

  1. This calendar outlines a framework of the regular cycles for the business.
  2. It describes the business process and timing vs. the content.
  3. It gives visibility to timing and manages expectations of reporting to business stakeholders.

Whether the calendar is on a shared, electronic platform or an excel spreadsheet matters not. The important characteristics are that it is clearly articulated, accessible, and has organizational alignment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.12.59 AM

First Step? – Populate a calendar with all known business events for the next 18 months.

Consider a 3-year strategic plan with a rolling 18-month action plan.   Create an 18-month calendar outlining the business/marketing cadence as a framework and allow stakeholders to align their action plans so that the entire team is going forward on the same timing to achieve the plan.

Let me know if you need step-by-step help creating a cross-organizational cadence.


15+ Words to Describe Great Product Managers

Writing a resume or job description?
Preparing to interview a product manager candidate or be interviewed for a product manager job?

I was recently asked to identify characteristics of a great product manager.

If functional expertise is a given, then what are the characteristics that take a product manager from good to great?

Here are some of the words I l use to describe the great product managers I have known and with whom I have worked.


adjective ~ au·then·tic \ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-\
  • : real or genuine : not copied or false

  • : true and accurate

  • : an original

Conformity does not yield innovation.


adjective ~ cu·ri·ous \ˈkyu̇r-ē-əs\
  • : having a desire to learn or know more about something or someone
    :  marked by desire to investigate and learn
    :  marked by inquisitive interest in others’ concerns

  • : strange, unusual, novel or unexpected



adjective ~ fear·less \ˈfir-ləs\
  • : not afraid : very brave

  • : not being afraid to fail

inquisitiveQuestion_mark curious

adjective ~ in·quis·i·tive \in-ˈkwi-zə-tiv\
  • : tending to ask questions : having a desire to know or learn more


adjective ~ inˈsītfəl /insītfəl/
  • :having or showing an accurate and deep understanding; perceptive.

intuitive, perceptive, discerning, penetrating, penetrative, astute, percipient,perspicacious, sagacious, wise, judicious, shrewd, sharp, sharp-witted, razor-sharp, keenincisive, acute, imaginative, appreciative, intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive, deep, profound



intuitive brain

Credit: Pentera PGBuzz


adjective ~ in·tu·i·tive \in-ˈtü-ə-tiv, -ˈtyü-\
  • : having the ability to know or understand things without any proof or evidence : having or characterized by intuition

  • : based on or agreeing with what is known or understood without any proof or evidence : known or understood by intuition

  • : agreeing with what seems naturally right

Great product managers have a unique balance of left and right brain capabilities.



judicious decisive


adjective ~ ju·di·cious \jü-ˈdi-shəs\
  • : having or showing good judgment

Judiciousness stresses a capacity for reaching wise decisions or just conclusions.


practical practical

adjective ~ prac·ti·cal  /praktək(ə)l/
  • : of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

Great product managers are practical, focused on actually doing something, yet I find them to have a quirky silliness and creative bent that sends them in innovative directions hidden from the view of the average mortal.


adjective pru·dent \ˈprü-dənt\
  • : having or showing careful good judgment

  • : shrewd in the management of practical affairs

  • : marked by circumspection

  • : acting with or showing care and thought for the future.

     sensible, politic, advisable, well advised


relentlessextra-mile relentless

adjective ~ re·lent·less  /rəˈlen(t)ləs/

  • :oppressively constant; incessant.
  • :showing or promising no abatement of intensity, strength, or pace


adjective ~ sa·ga·cious \sə-ˈgā-shəs\
  • : having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions



adjective \ˈsāj\
  • :very wise through reflection, wide experience and great learning



adjective ~ \ˈsān\
Sane stresses mental soundness, rationality, and levelheadedness

sapient Sapient

adjective ~ |sa·pi·ent|  /sā-pē-ənt/  [sey-pee-uh nt]
  • :wise, or appearing wise especially in the ways of being human


adjective un·pre·ten·tious \-ˈten(t)-shəs\
  • : not having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are : not pretentious

  • :not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed.

  • :possessing humility in leadership

unaffectednatural, straightforward, open, honestsincere, frank


There are of course many other words to describe what makes these human beings great product managers.  These are some of my favorite.  Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments.


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