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At an Idea Magnets workshop, we shared a strategic thinking exercise we call Rock-Paper-Scissors. We employ it to categorize what your company or department is currently offering based on:

  • Things that add incredible value for your audience
  • Things that don’t add incredible value, but could if they received more attention and resources
  • Things that once created incredible value, but no longer do, and are ripe for major modifications or for being eliminated

In the post-workshop evaluation, one attendee asked about extending this strategic thinking exercise to identify things you aren’t currently doing that you should be doing. The individual asking the question suggested it as a fourth element of the Rock-Paper-Scissors strategic thinking exercise (perhaps as Rock Number 2).

Picking up on the suggestion, here is a starting list of questions that could start to answer this important fourth question about what’s missing within your offerings:

  • What have customers been asking about forever that no one will deliver for them?
  • If you weren’t constrained by whatever you think your current constraint is, what would you provide to customers because it’s the right thing to do?
  • If you moved backward in your product/service delivery process, what would you start to do to create stronger benefits for customers?
  • If you moved forward in your product/service delivery process, what would to begin offering to customers to enhance how you deliver benefits to them?
  • Ask a client: If you were running our company / department, what would you be doing? (You may get lucky on this one, but don’t bet on it. Customers aren’t paid to do your thinking for you.)

This one is definitely in the Brainzooming R&D Lab! We’ve used most of these questions in other settings, but not integrated as a fourth part of Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’ll try it out soon and see how it works to complement what is an already-proven strategic thinking exercise for Brainzooming clients. – Mike Brown

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Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
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Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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This matrix on 4 ways your organization can deal with major issues is DEFINITELY courtesy of the Brainzooming R&D lab.

Going back through notes and strategic planning posters from previous client engagements, I came across a big easel sheet. It was used during a particularly long and particularly challenging strategic planning workshop. The notes all pertained to tackling elephant in the room issues. These are issues inside an organization that everyone knows about (and will discuss in private) but that are NEVER discussed in meetings or any type of formal group setting. For this organization, which was undergoing a significant transition, many years of micro-managing resulted in at least one huge page’s worth of elephant in the room issues.

4 Ways to Address or Avoid Major Strategic Issues

That combination of knowing and discussing major issues led me to wonder: What are all the potential combinations of an organization knowing and discussing major strategic issues? That thought experiment is played out in this matrix.

You can see the elephants in the room in the lower right. Blind spots are in the lower left; these are the issues in the organization that are narrowly known and discussed. Failing to uncover issues the organization (and especially its leadership) doesn’t know, but that are very real, typically poses a significant threat.

Speculation occurs when there is a lot of chatter about issues that some might suspect, but for which most of the organization lacks any solid facts.

The upper right – the best quadrant – is transparency, where there is a reasonable balance between knowledge and discussion about major issues within an organization.

Did I mention that his was from the Brainzooming R&D lab? We haven’t used this matrix about major strategic issues in any formal ways yet. The first use will likely take place with an organization dealing with poor communication and a negative environment. We might use it before or during a strategic planning workshop to better understand where major issues are landing. If you do anything with this matrix ahead of that, we’d love to know what you think.

One Final Note: While this matrix is discussed in the context of an organization, it relates to other situations, particularly couples and families, at least based on being able to readily identify interpersonal behaviors within the matrix. So, maybe try it out at home first? But, probably not as a big poster you put up on the wall! – Mike Brown

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We’ve written about the importance of signaling collaboration strategy preferences when you and team members are working remotely. Even with video conferencing, you lose many of the verbal and physical cues available when you are sitting across a table planning who is going to do what and when on a project.

Talking with someone who is struggling with identifying the best ways to signal the appropriate collaboration strategy approash, we hit on a variation on the Sergio Zyman decision levels. We talk about Zyman’s decision delegation approach frequently to help leaders and teams figure work better.

Rather than addressing who will provide input and who will make decisions (as the Zyman model does), this collaboration strategy revolves around who will start developing ideas and how the collaboration will unfold within the team.

A 5-Level Collaboration Strategy Approach

Via Shutterstock

Here are five possibilities:

  • L – The Leader will figure it out
  • LT – The Leader will start developing ideas, then will collaborate with the entire Team to figure it out
  • C – The leader and team will Collaborate from scratch to figure it out
  • TL – The Team (or a team member) will start developing ideas and then bring them to the Leader to collaborate and ultimately figure it out
  • T – The Team (or team member) will figure it out and bring the finished product back to the team leader

This collaboration strategy idea is still in the Brainzooming R&D lab. The situations and acronyms for this collaboration strategy approach may change.

Do you have thoughts, reactions, or alternatives? Please share them on our Facebook page. If we have big insights from trying it ourselves, we’ll pass those along, too. – Mike Brown

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Before an impending purge of The Wall Street Journal back issues in my office, I reviewed an article from a late December 2017 issue: The New Age of Bespoke Travel. The article, by Nina Sovich, details how certain travel agents have reinvented themselves to compete when online trip planning now dominates over help from actual travel agents.

Photo by Dmitry Sovyak on Unsplash

The article inspired a laundry list of strategic thinking exercise prompts to re-imagine a threatened business model when your service offering is under assault from online offerings, bots, or some other form of complete automation.

A New Strategic Thinking Exercise

Here is how we see this new strategic thinking exercise coming together.

First, detail all the elements of your current service offering. Afterward, re-imagine what you could offer based on these generalized strategic moves travel agents are implementing successfully:

Customer Focus

Extraordinary Customer Service

  • Provide mega-personalized customer service
  • Offer 24/7 availability and assured communication WHENEVER the customer wants it
  • Remove EVERY worry customers in your market harbor
  • Remove ALL complexity before, during, and after your service
  • Establish unquestioned trust in your performance
  • Provide intense troubleshooting for ANY problems that arise – whether related to your actions or not

Amazing Expertise and Experiences

  • Develop and offer COMPLETE knowledge of your category
  • Offer highly-detailed upfront planning, customized for each client
  • Share more potential ideas / options than anyone would imagine
  • Create exclusive access to incredible experiences
  • Address customer needs outside the typical service boundaries your competitors adhere to
  • Design unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities
  • Integrate high-value, unique partnerships into the service offering

New Pricing Structures

  • Create a subscription-based price with no cost per interaction / service request
  • Establish a high-priced initiation fee and sizable annual spending minimums
  • Create an annual fee with a minimum spending volume beyond the fee

This strategic thinking exercise is straight from the Brainzooming R&D Labs. We don’t have any real-life stories to offer you yet on how it works in practice.

We’re excited about the possibilities of this strategic thinking exercise, though, and will probably try it out first on some Brainzooming service lines. – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful 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


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Based on executives visiting the Brainzooming website, there is considerable interest right now in “strategic planning icebreaker activities.”  I guess that isn’t surprising. This is the time of year when most organizations that are going to do strategic planning are thinking about it or have already started.

2 New Strategic Planning Icebreaker Activities

Here are two brand new ideas for strategic planning icebreaker activities. They both materialized last week. One is from a misunderstood comment at a strategic planning workshop. The other is a spin on a strategic planning technique someone told me about.

#1. Why can’t we have nice things?

Walking up to a small group at a Brainzooming strategic planning workshop, I mistakenly thought one participant said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” That was enough of an inspiration to jot the idea down on this sticky note.

It occurred to me that this could be one of those fun strategic planning icebreaker activities to start a conversation about challenges and roadblocks an organization is facing. As it’s shown here, people can introduce themselves, then state a reason the organization can’t have nice innovations. Nothing about the question suggests whether the responses must be serious or silly. You may want to arrange for an early participant to share a silly answer to keep the tone light.

#2. Fill in the Blank

The second icebreaker activity idea came from someone telling me about a strategic planning workshop exercise where they used fill-in-the-blank questions. That made me remember the Match Game television program. On the game show, contestants completed a sentence by filling in a blank. The players scored points based on whether celebrities matched their answers to the typically suggestive questions.

Why not use a similar approach for strategic planning icebreaker activities?

Based on the same theme of getting a conversation started about innovation challenges, possible questions are:

I’m thinking we’d print the questions on sheets of orange paper, allowing people to answer them in writing and then hold them up as they introduce themselves.

Remember: These Are from the Brainzooming R&D Lab

We haven’t tried either of these in a real workshop yet, but we will soon. If you beat us to it, contact us about how they go! – Mike Brown

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

Engage employees and customers with powerful 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


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Short story: If you want big ideas, ask the big questions, which is what extreme creativity is all about!

By Friday night, we’ll know the Elite Eight in NCAA college basketball. These eight teams that will vie Saturday and Sunday to play in the national championship basketball game the following week.

Keeping with the eight theme, here are eight new questions from the Brainzooming R&D Lab to boost your creative thinking skills.

There are two extreme creativity questions to stimulate breakthrough ideas from four perspectives: Aspiration, Authority, Disruption, and doing More.

Aspirations

  • What would our goals look like if we 10x’d all of them?
  • How will we solve everything that has seemed impossible for us to do previously?

Authority

  • What are the stupid unwritten rules in our industry we must upend right away?
  • What internal policies and procedures should we start ignoring immediately to innovate faster?

Disruption

  • What can we purposely break to force cutting all ties to how we do things now?
  • What can we do to totally befuddle our competitors, creating chaos and inaction?

More

  • How can we double our innovation capacity by end of day tomorrow?
  • What can we do to be 10x faster than we are now doing __________? (Fill in whatever area you need greater speed)

Creative Thinking Skills and Breakthrough Ideas

To develop these questions, we revisited our original source for Brainzooming extreme creativity questions: Peter’s Laws. I saw these principles, subtitled the Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive, in a New Orleans poster shop.

I bought the poster because the rules closely match how the creative geniuses I’ve experienced approach business. For people struggling with working around these individuals, I thought the list would help them better understand their strategies.

After launching The Brainzooming Group, I revisited Peter’s Laws, turning them into questions to inspire extreme creativity. This exercise produced my biggest personal insight about creative thinking skills: When you need huge thinking, don’t ask for big ideas; instead, use big questions to cultivate extreme creativity and breakthrough ideas.

The strategy works tremendously well. That is why I share our original list of extreme creativity questions in nearly every Brainzooming strategic and creative thinking workshop. In a recent workshop, one attendee stated he didn’t have the creative thinking skills to produce wild ideas. He wondered how he could get them. I smiled and said, “Man, do I have a technique and the questions for you!” – Mike Brown

 

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Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

This Brainzooming eBook will help identify additional possibilities for people, funding, and resources to jump start your innovation strategy. You can employ the strategic thinking exercises in Accelerate to:

  • Facilitate a collaborative approach to identifying innovation resources
  • Identify alternative internal strategies to secure support
  • Reach out to external partners with shared interests in innovation

Download your FREE copy of Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy today! 

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Short Story: You can take serious questions and wrap them in child-like situations to add fun and new thinking to a strategic planning process.

One way to create greater engagement during a strategic planning process is through framing important questions in new ways. Sometimes that means asking familiar questions completely differently. Other times it means changing the perspective from which participants are answering questions.

Then there are times in a strategic planning process when the questions are mainly serious, but the premise is mostly silly.

Here is one of those times.

Based on someone reaching our website looking for reflections to kick off a strategic planning process, I started imagining adapting and wrapping strategic thinking questions in nursery rhymes. Except now, I can’t remember WHY I was thinking about using nursery rhymes. They must have seemed like a way to add fun.

Never wanting to waste an idea emerging from the Brainzooming R&D lab, here are two surprising (and fun) ways to frame important questions as nursery rhymes.

Goldilocks and the Three Competitors

If you have strategic planning process participants who are knowledgeable about your competitors, you may want to collaboratively tap their insights. How about framing the exercise as Goldilocks and the Three Competitors? Ask them to address:

  • Which competitor has been too hot? (Growing faster, making aggressive product or pricing moves, expanding operations or markets)
  • Which competitor has been too cold? (Seem to have lost its way, losing share and/or people)
  • Which competitor is just right to target? (Clear weaknesses you can better exploit, opportunities to create a major advantage)

Ask the group to identify not only the three competitors, but reasons for their situation, and the best offensive and/or defensive moves your brand can take against each of them.

Jack and his Extreme Creativity Beans

Suppose you need extreme creative thinking. The kind of extreme creativity that comes from people with their heads in the clouds! Take the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and imagine the magic beans are extreme creativity questions. Use questions such as those below to grow ideas that will reach into the blue sky!

  • What would we do if these magic beans let us ignore resource limitations?
  • What if these magic beans prevented anyone from ever telling us “no”?
  • What would we have if these magic beans allowed us to grow ideas bigger and bolder than anything we’ve ever done before?

As you use these questions, look for ways to turn the blue-sky ideas they generate into reality.

See what we mean?

These are a mix of serious and silly. But then again, that mix keeps business interesting! – Mike Brown

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