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We originally published the Brainzooming strategic thinking eBook, 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times in 2017. The release date coincided with the change in the US administration. Two years later, uncertainty is in decline. In many ways, unpredictability continues to settle in for a long run in Washington and all over the globe.

How are you viewing uncertainty in your organization?

Is your organization dealing with uncertainty by using the right strategic thinking skills to keep moving forward?

Do you see things becoming clearer and more predictable, or are you uneasy because things continually make you feel feel unsettled?

We bet more of you would place yourselves in the latter strategic thinking camp versus the former one.

4 Strategic Thinking Keys in Uncertain Times

If uncertainty is confounding your ability to craft and implement a dependable strategy, you need to:

  • Predict as best you can
  • Gather the data that applies
  • Take the best advantage of your expertise strategic thinking to chart a successful course of action

Uncertain times demand specific strategic thinking skills

Beyond that, you need to grab your free copy of 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times ASAP.

It provides multiple strategic thinking approaches. They will help you address what you know, what you don’t know, and how much you need to predict to balance risk and progress.

Download 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times and keep moving forward! – Mike Brown

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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I mentioned teaching a strategic thinking skills workshop for a client’s newly-formed department leadership team. As always, I learn many new things when I deliver a workshop. The learnings frequently come from:

  • Questions that participants ask
  • Comments and observations that participants share about their perspectives on strategic thinking
  • Seeing what stories, frameworks, and interactions work best with the audience

This strategic thinking skills workshop was no different.

Strategic Thinking Skills and Better Conversations

Our client made an interesting observation about the all-important question: What do you want to achieve?

She said her team tends to stop before completing the question. They too often ask, “What do you want?” and omit “to achieve.”

Answers to the shortened question too frequently send them down wrong paths. They deliver things that are too much or too little of something compared to their client’s optimum solution. She emphasized that using the full question will provide the opportunity to improve performance.

Another comment she made involved the idea of being too comfortable with being comfortable. Her challenge to the team was how they’d make being comfortable a lot less attractive. Her comment prompted the image below.

Better strategic thinking skills will make hiding out and being safe and uncomfortable more difficult to do.

Finally, the group’s answers to my early question about their expectations suggested the need for a new eBook or content compilation on conducting strategic conversations. They expressed interest in learning how to apply the strategic thinking skills they were learning to daily business situations. I pointed out that many of the strategic thinking tools I taught them were sets of questions for having conversations. Structured conversations will help lead to delivering better results.

We offer eBooks with many lists of strategic thinking questions and others that go deep into big questions that lead to amazing ideas. We don’t have a single collection, though, that covers the best ways to initiate, conduct, and deliver results from strategic conversations.

If you think an eBook on strategic conversations would be helpful, drop me a note. If you do, we’ll add it to the list of content we need to create.

And, if your team needs to work on its strategic thinking skills, contact us. Let’s put something together for your team to improve THEIR performance this year and beyond! – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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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Today, I’m with a fun client, teaching a half-day Idea Magnets workshop on strategic thinking in leadership.

The audience? Their newly-formed leadership team.

The challenge? I have THREE days of Idea Magnets-based content about strategic thinking in leadership that I’d love to share!

As a resource for them (and for you), here is a mega-compilation post on strategic thinking in leadership.

Strategic Thinking in Leadership

From our perspective, strategy and strategic thinking are different.

Strategic leadership in thinking has a greater impact with many strategic leaders on your team.

We define strategic thinking as addressing what matters with insight and innovation. Its goal is to create a willingness to address challenging issues and to inspire people to use their imaginations as they envision many possibilities, turning the best ones into realities.

While setting strategy may be the responsibility of senior management, we FIRMLY believe and readily share an important idea: strategic thinking and leadership need to happen throughout any organization.

Here’s how we contrast these two important business functions.

Strategy involves:

  • Setting the organizational direction
  • A subset of people with responsibility for determining it
  • Specific time windows where it is reviewed and determined

Strategic Thinking & Leadership involves:

  • Shaping & implementing the strategic direction
  • Engaging everyone in the organization to participate
  • Daily attention and focus

What Is Strategic Thinking in Leadership?

Using the three-part strategic thinking definition and four important elements of strategic leadership, here is the workshop’s content:

Strategic Thinking Focuses on What Matters

Strategic Thinking Depends on Insights

Strategic Thinking Leads to Innovation

Leading Strategically

Quick Decision Making

Engaging Employees

Anticipating Forward-Looking Change

Delivering Consistent Performance

We conclude the workshop with an important idea: ultimately, all you can control is the integrity of your effort. That, in many ways, is your one job. Everything else springs from this. – Mike Brown

 

Engage Stakeholders & Improve Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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Who is Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders intended for? Will it help you develop your creative leadership skills, personally and professionally?

John Jantsch asked that during our interview about the book on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.

The answer: it is for any leader in a business or organization.

The inspiration for the book came after a long corporate career. I paired up for a long stretch with a boss who was wildly creative. He would generate ideas that I would NEVER imagine. Working with him, I was the person who would lead turning the ideas into reality, figuring out what we could deliver and how we’d do it. I would also carry the enthusiasm for the ideas to the team. While I was helping shape the big ideas, I was more focused on implementing than originating them.

When I started Brainzooming, I didn’t have an amazing creative leader to pair up with anymore. Clients looked to me to generate big ideas. That’s why I’ve described Idea Magnets as a book from the road. It’s my guide from along the way about figuring out how generate bigger and stronger ideas. It comes from looking at the creative leadership skills of Idea Magnets who I had worked with in my career:

  • What did they do?
  • How did they motivate themselves?
  • How did they energize a team?

The Idea Magnets development process involved reverse engineering their strategies. I had to figure out, stepping into a role with greater creative expectations, what frameworks, tools, and exercises would help transform someone to display fantastic creative leadership skills, even if that’s not a natural talent.
Buy Idea Magnets on Amazon

Ready to Improve Your Leadership Skills?

Idea Magnets is for anyone dealing with a comparable challenge to who wants to improve his or her creative leadership skills. People who are already Idea Magnets through God-given talent can also still find value in the book. It will provide them a way to work through creative dry spots and generate new inspiration.

For somebody who feels as if there’s a lot of pressure in business, and needs to grow and do wonderful new things? Idea Magnets will be a resource to help them step into that role and be more successful with it on a more predictable basis.

Yes, Idea Magnets is for YOU!  – Mike Brown

idea-magnets-creative-leadership-amazon-ideamagnets.com

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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What if your team needs to improve strategic thinking skills? What can you do to quickly assess their capabilities (and yours) and start improving?

First off, make sure that you understand this: strategic thinking is not the same thing as strategy. This is a central point when looking at strategic thinking roles, responsibilities, and expected capabilities. While the leadership team sets strategy, everyone in an organization needs to have basic strategic thinking skills.

As we define it, strategic thinking means addressing what matters with insights and innovation. Everyone should be able to:

If everyone is able to improve three strategic thinking skills in those three areas, your organization will improve, even if it’s already great.

Assessing and Improve Strategic Thinking Skills

Improve strategic thinking skills? Do more than think about it; take action!

Using the three-part definition, you can look at a team member’s performance in each of the areas to gauge where they’re starting from and how quickly they are able to improve strategic thinking.

Let’s review the three areas and identify ways to quickly assess strategic thinking skills.

Part 1. Understanding What Matters

We see non-strategic thinkers getting bogged down too early in addressing what to do and how to do it. These people are easily swept away in activities that may or not contribute to anything important. Thus, our favorite recommendation for improving strategic thinking skills is to master the use of a simple question: What are we trying to achieve?

Achievement goals will differ in specificity based on where the question is asked and what level of the organization is asking. For strategically sound organizations, though, there should be a common thread everywhere in answers to the question. Routinely asking this question grounds any conversation, request, directive, and even new idea in things that should help the organization achieve its most important goals. That sets the stage for strategic thinking.

Coach your team members to make sure that they are always seeking to understand what matters. If they are removed from directly impacting the things that matter most (revenue, profitability, addressing the organization’s mission, satisfying customers, etc.), make sure they are reaching out to people with direct responsibilities in these areas. Broad perspectives on what matters are vital to a solid understanding of what’s important for the organization.

Part 2. Forming Insights

The second part of the definition involves insights. Let’s think of insights as information + implications. This formula allows you to gauge how a team member is doing as well as address improvement opportunities.

When a team member shares what they presume to be an insight, is it grounded in information? It may be quantitative data; it could also include information based on experience, observations, logic, strategic realities, or other inputs. At its heart, an insight has to be more than speculation, hearsay, or unfounded conjecture. (Are you listening, Washington, DC?)

And implications? Does a team member share information that suggests meaning or action, even if the action is to wait, do nothing, or continue to monitor a situation? Information coupled with implications related to things that matter, signals a team member is delivering strategic insights. Without implications, someone who shares information is simply a reporter.

Part 3. Innovative Ideas

Innovation is a fundamental improvement in the status quo. It may not be a sexy definition, but it opens the door so that anyone in your organization can generate innovative ideas.

The assessment here is comparable to the others; when a team member suggests improvements, are they fundamental or otherwise related to what matters, and do they provide a marked change in current activities and situations? If a concept is on the periphery between “what you do” and “no one will ever notice the change,” then it isn’t innovation.

Innovative ideas will trigger affirmative answers to more than one of the following questions:

  • If we don’t pursue this idea, will its absence be widely perceived?
  • If we do pursue it, will its impact be widely noticed?
  • Will ignoring the underlying situation or opportunity create significant issues?

Putting It Back Together

It’s clear: we like to break big concepts into simple definitions and formulas to make them actionable. In this case, you can aggregate and disaggregate this view to both gauge where you and your team are performing and highlight ways to improve each team member’s strategic thinking. – Mike Brown

Download Your FREE eBook! Right Now! 29 Ideas to Speed Up Strategic Planning

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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What strategic thinking questions work when you don’t know what’s coming in a conversation? Specifically, what can you ask to learn, explore, diagnose, and adapt recommendations, without knowing what opportunities and issues the other party will mention?

I was on a call like that recently. After a month-long gap in chatting, we talked with a client about current initiatives. The call featured new, important news in multiple areas.

During our talk, we identified multiple valuable ideas. While that didn’t surprise me, I ALWAYS appreciate having several solid ideas waiting in the wings. I can share them if no other ideas come to mind. Developing the ideas in advance depends on prior insight into topics or issues. Without that, it falls completely to asking the right strategic thinking questions to stimulate productive ideas.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions to Improv

What strategic thinking questions worked?

Strategic Thinking Questions can help you handle when the more familiar route is closed down.

That was something I asked myself after the call to attempt to turn strategic improv into a more formal script for future calls. Here are the questions (I think) I asked myself during the call to generate ideas:

In a situation with a clear, positive outcome

  • How was the positive outlier different?
  • How or where can we recreate that difference?

When several things all performed well

  • What was the comparable about the things performing similarly well?
  • Who or where can we make more things like that?

Seeking to leverage already-developed capabilities

  • Where might we have a recipe already completed that’s the same or close to the same for a new situation?
  • Are there instances where we’re neglecting things we already know will work?

Seeking to expand the range of active participants

  • Who else can we involve to help us?
  • Who has a self-interested motive to help us now, in exchange for a future opportunity?

Expanding the impact

  • What can we to do to make other parties successful?

This isn’t our first list of improv strategy questions. It probably won’t be our last.

Contact us and let us know what situations demand that YOU are better at strategic thinking question improv. – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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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“Sitting down to think up big ideas is a really great way to freeze your brain out.” That’s so true. It’s also how author and entrepreneur, John Jantsch, introduced his Duct Tape Marketing podcast where we discussed Idea Magnets, powerful creative thinking questions, and the path to amazing ideas.

John Jantsch has been a marketing icon for years, and a personal model for me since before I started The Brainzooming Group. While still in the corporate world, my career coach, Kathryn Lorenzen, pointed me toward John’s work with Duct Tape Marketing. As a fellow-Kansas Citian, Kathryn said to look at how John was building writing into an entire business model.

Discussing Creative Thinking, Big Business Ideas, and Idea Magnets on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.

Since that time, John’s reach and impact through Duct Tape Marketing have continued to grow dramatically:

  • Forbes has chosen the Duct Tape Marketing blog as a favorite for marketing and small business
  • John’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast is a top ten marketing show on iTunes
  • The Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and CNNMoney frequently cite John’s perspectives on small business
  • Duct Tape Marketing trains and licenses independent marketing consultants, coaches and agencies on the use of its system around the world

Given all that, I was incredibly honored when John reached out to feature Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders on his podcast.

Listen to Mike Brown discuss Amazing Ideas on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast
During the show, we discussed:

  • The difference between being creative and having a creative thinking process
  • Ways to build a team (whether formally or informally) with all the attributes to generate amazing ideas
  • Using targeted questions to achieve the impact you are looking for in leadership and business

Listen to our fast-paced conversation and get a new take on Idea Magnets, creative thinking, and how you can use questions to inspire and implement for impact! – Mike Brown

Buy Idea Magnets on Amazon

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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