1

When it comes to designing and conducting Brainzooming sessions, we know providing creative thinking exercises and structure to participants creates a more productive, efficient, beneficial, and stimulating experience, along with much better results.

In spite of that, what actually happens when people interact and use our process is that our creative thinking exercises change and grow constantly.

This change is a direct result of giving people the freedom to use our Brainzooming creative thinking exercises as a jumping off point for exploration, not as structures to follow without variation.

I understand how integral everything in the last three paragraphs is to what we do.

Yet our experiences the last two days conducting large (fifty and more than one hundred person) sessions suggests starting creative thinking exercises with ground rules and sharing what we expect to accomplish implies to many people that the Brainzooming approach is rigid.

poster-pic

Change and Grow Constantly

Case in point, one recruited facilitator for yesterday’s incredible session at the Nature Explore / Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute reported to me that he had “subverted me” by telling a table that multiple people could write ideas instead of picking one person as I had suggested earlier. I told him that was fine, he wasn’t subverting me, and he didn’t even need to let me know . . . whatever he told them to do would make sense.

A participant at another table close by asked about varying the instructions for how they applied sticky dots during a voting exercise. I reiterated what I had told the group, but said if she did it differently it would be fine and that I’d never have any idea afterward.

It’s those variations to the creative thinking exercises as a session happens that make them grow and get better.

What I don’t tell participants is how much variation I throw at them that’s never apparent to them. In these last two days, we went “off script” through:

  • Changing from a two-facilitator to a three-facilitator session right before it happened.
  • Having each small group approach a planned set of creative thinking exercises in a completely different path to compensate for suddenly having three facilitators.
  • Telling groups they could take their posters outside and work instead of staying in the crowded conference room to hear the ongoing instructions.
  • Taking precious, limited time with the group to have one hundred people sing Happy Birthday to one of the participants.
  • Using the last two minutes of extra time (when I couldn’t get more sticky dots to people) to spontaneously have people draw hearts on ideas they loved.

None of those variations was part of our internal instructions for the session beforehand.

All of them and more (including audience-suggested changes) were implemented on the fly to make the most of the creative thinking exercises as they were happening.

Creative Thinking Exercises Use Structure and Variation

We design and plan a session in tremendous detail whether it includes five people or more than a hundred people. Once we have a plan, however, we’re open to changing it like crazy to get the most from and deliver the most to a group.

Does it work?

As one participant from Chicago at the Leadership Institute told me as she was getting ready to leave, “I see there’s a difference between brainstorming and Brainzooming. Brainzooming is fun.” – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

I’ll take that as a huge validation for the power of structure and variation working together!

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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2

Based on the title, you might have been expecting a list from The Art of War.

If so, that’s not where we’re headed today.

St-Johns-Church-Cleveland

With yesterday’s post about discovering strategic insights I use in the secular world while at church, I challenged myself to document and share what some of the other strategic insights from church were.

The list starts with yesterday’s strategic insight about “small, possible steps” and adds the first eleven others I jotted down from my hymnal notes and Bible classes of the last few years.

12 Strategic Insights from Thousands of Years Ago

In an age when it’s fashionable to rule out religion as just some outdated thinking (or imagination or fables) from long-dead people, I’d stand behind any of this wisdom as highly relevant to my workday, and likely that of any reader here, as well:

  1. Once you’ve figured out where you’re headed, take all the small, possible steps you can to get headed there as directly as you can.
  2. Anyone, even the most unlikely person, can be THE person to save the day (or the strategy, project, event, etc.).
  3. It doesn’t so much matter if you’re off track during the process as whether you are heading in the right direction and how you ultimately wind up at the end.
  4. People get multiple chances, even if they burn you on the second or third chance.
  5. You’ll have a lot more success if everything you do reinforces everything else you’re doing in a conscious, deliberate way.
  6. Sometimes you’ll have to walk away from your original audience when they’ve decided they just aren’t interested.
  7. Wisdom trumps just about everything.
  8. You’ll typically have an easier go of things if you can deliver what leadership is looking for first, even if you have bigger or different ideas in mind.
  9. People aren’t always going to be ready to follow right away so you have to get them ready to see why your direction is the best.
  10. Use history to your advantage.
  11. When personal inspiration is lacking, familiar structure can get you started while inspiration catches up.
  12. There is tremendous learning and change value in repeating and integrating messages at pre-planned times.

I’ll add to this list over time as I keep oncovering new strategic insights. - Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

 

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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2

You have to be on the lookout always and everywhere for the wisdom and insights that can help in creating strategic impact.

I get a lot of insights from attending daily mass.

Even there, though, the insights can come through ways you would never expect.

Yesterday’s mass was celebrated by Fr. Mirco Sosio, AVI. He was filling in for our pastor, who has been filling in for the usual priest, who is visiting his family in the eastern US. Fr. Sosio is from Italy originally, and he is serving as a temporary associate pastor at our parish for a few months. This was the first time I’d seen him.

During his homily, Fr. Sosio talked about the parable of the mustard seed. He likened it to a sentiment that the Franciscans (the orders of priests following the model of St. Francis of Assisi) have of embracing “small, possible steps.”

Small, possible steps?

Small-Possible-Steps

The phrase “small, possible steps” struck me strongly, because it speaks to exactly how I view strategy and creating strategic impact: First figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, and then you’ll understand any incremental move that gets you going (and staying going) in the right direction.

I grew up in Hays, KS around Franciscan priests, including going to a high school they operated. Yet I’ve never had a phrase from my youth to explain my strategic perspective, or even a recognition that it might have been shaped by the Franciscans.

But there it was staring me in the face at mass yesterday.

While we’re all a tapestry of what we’ve learned, experienced, and imagined, it is remarkable how many business lessons I’d have otherwise credited to my secular business career surprisingly surface in church with no recognition on my part that might be where they originated.

So as this started, be sure to be on the lookout always and everywhere for the wisdom and insights to help you in creating a strategic impact because you never know where they will emerge. – Mike Brown

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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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2

Trying to be perfect has come up in several strategic thinking workshops and conversations recently.

I definitely understand trying to be perfect. Been there, done that, and still try to do it way too often. But I’m getting better, even if not perfect, at cutting myself a break and not wasting time and energy on all the strategic thinking that can go into trying to be perfect according to standards nobody else really cares about at all.

Do you struggle with trying to be perfect?

7 Ways to Chill Out and Move beyond Being Perfect

Here are seven strategic thinking reminders I keep telling myself to try to get over the call to needlessly being perfect:

  1. Recall all the times when things weren’t EXACTLY perfect yet EVERYTHING was still completely fine. That’s the first step in lowering your own expectations for perfection.
  2. Understand that in most business situations, meeting your commitment to get something done is more important than absolute perfection coupled with the imperfection of delay after delay while you work on perfect.
  3. Go ahead and pick SOMETHING to be perfect at, realizing it means other things WON’T BE perfect as a result.
  4. Remember how many times you knew there were problems with something and NO ONE else did.
  5. Realize that all the collateral damage from being perfect in one situation keeps you from pursuing all kinds of other opportunities.
  6. If you weren’t such a perfectionist, other people would be able to HELP YOU and relieve your stress. Get over it and give someone else a chance to do even better than you might.
  7. It’s okay to have do overs; just make it easy on yourself to start over if something goes wrong.

Horsehoe-Game

Strategic Thinking on Being Perfect

I’m sure this list isn’t perfect. It could be written better or maybe things are missing.

But I’m okay with that! - Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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0

Creative Thinking in Summer

There are some real challenges in the summer that just aren’t that big of a deal in the winter. Still, I like summer so much more . . . It’s really hard for people to change, me included . . . I take on stuff I really shouldn’t because I know there will be learning involved, and it’s SOOOOOOO tough for me to turn down a juicy learning opportunity.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently about a research project conducted on 36 kids who had been DIVIDED into THREE groups. They’re granting ridiculous credibility to assuming twelve kids in a split group represent all kids . . . With some potential clients you just want to say, “Don’t pull on my ears. I know what I’m doing.” You don’t, though, because it’s rude and offensive. Which is why it fits in the first place.

Challenging Words

Sorry, but I gave up early today. I’ll do better tomorrow with my creative thinking . . . I spent two hours driving around to do shopping and errands the other day because Cyndi can’t. That’s where the missing Friday blogs posts have gone this summer . . . It’s not a healthy sign when you are boring yourself . . . Some things just aren’t meant to be . . . You try saying, “a people peculiarly his own,” fast a couple of times (Deut 7:6) . Heck, it’s a challenge to even say it slow . . . Yes, I understand you are avoiding me.

DietDPatUMKC

There’s enough to love about the QuikTrip convenience stores brand just in its crushed ice machine and 79 cent, 32 ounce drinks during the summer . . .No, don’t claim you’re getting the exercise you need through “resistance training.” Resistance training doesn’t simply involve you vehemently disagreeing, refusing to cooperate, and then not wanting to talk about it . . . This band of flies that act drunk have invaded our house. I think they want be part of our Framily plan.

Good Words

The most profound words ever written about the human condition? “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Rom 7:15),” gets my vote  . . . The truest words ever written about what passes for a lot of business expertise these days? Teddy Roosevelt saying, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” - Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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1

Yesterday’s article talked about creating strategic impact through breaking a business and recreating it as something new and better. I’ve been reworking various Brainzooming strategic thinking questions to make them better suited for identifying and exploring concepts for breaking a business.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions for Breaking a Business

Here’s a working list of the first nine refashioned strategic thinking questions.

  1. How would an incredibly successful company with a very different business model rework our business into something new?
  2. How can we go shopping with our customers on a daily basis to gain breakthrough product ideas?
  3. What do we have to do to increase our number of employee-generated ideas by 100x?
  4. If we listed everything we think is essential to our business, what would be the first 50 percent of items we would cut from the list to remake our organization?
  5. If we cut the number of product/service options, variations, and alternatives we offer customers, what else would we do to improve the value we deliver to them?
  6. What has our industry known about and ignored for years that could deliver incredible value to customers that no one has every pursued?
  7. If our brand is trying to catch the #1 in our industry, what can we do completely differently instead of simply following the leader once again?
  8. How can we boost our speed, expertise, and strategic thinking by an order of magnitude to disrupt our industry?
  9. How could we turn the most complicated processes in our customer experience into one-step processes that are dramatically easier for clients?

The first couple of questions focus on generating many more insights; three through seven address strategic options; eight and nine push for creating strategic impact via increased speed and simplification.

Which of these strategic thinking questions would you tackle first?

I’m leaning toward 1, 4, 5, and 9 as our initial strategic thinking questions to think about breaking our business and turning it into something new.

Which questions get you thinking about breaking your business? – Mike Brown

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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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5

At a creating strategic impact workshop, one attendee talked about breaking the business he runs and putting it back together in a new, different, and improved way.

Shortly afterward, I was on a conference call with an entrepreneurial business owner who mentioned reserving one day weekly exclusively for working on his business since he expects to be his own best client.

These two statements, one about breaking the business and the other about taking the time to do it, have been top of mind for me ever since.

Breaking the Business

Road-Work-Ahead

As with a lot of entrepreneurial companies, I suspect, we don’t spend nearly enough time doing for The Brainzooming Group what we do for our clients, i.e., imagining the future in new and innovative ways and detailing what it will take to make it reality.

There never seems to be the extra time, the right composition of people, or the mental distance to lead ourselves through the strategic thinking exercises and explorations we routinely facilitate for clients.

The result is our business changes have been too incremental, and frequently, not at the best times. We have been successful on some very important measures, but have not taken the business as far as we would have hoped and expected. We are very good in some processes to grow and develop the business and woefully behind in others.  As I mentioned to Stephen Lahey recently, we’re overly deliberate on developing “how” we do things and way too random on “what we do” and “how we build the business. “

For example, new blog posts, strategic thinking workshops, and client strategic planning sessions always happen when they are supposed to happen. New downloads, email campaigns, and business initiatives to build The Brainzooming Group do not.

Creating Strategic Impact for Ourselves

While working on new strategic thinking exercises and questions for a blog the other night, the idea struck me: Why don’t we try to break The Brainzooming Group into something new and improved, and write about that instead?

I haven’t completely decided that’s the next best thing to do, but it certainly feels as if it is. It simply seems like it’s time to impose the same discipline on ourselves that we bring to our clients to help them in creating strategic impact.

But since this blog is for all of you, I have to ask, is that firsthand story of breaking the business something you’d want to read about here?

Let me know what you think. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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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