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  1. Don’t multi-task – focus on one project at a time with your full attention.
  2. Surround yourself with smart people who will challenge you.
  3. When someone tries to pass a problem or question to you, ask for their recommendation or point of view before you comment.
  4. Pray for wisdom that can be used to benefit others and pay attention when your prayer is answered.

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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Doing a lot of presenting on “strategic thinking” has generated a number of interesting questions about the subject. Many of the questions have prompted posts on the blog.

To make it a little easier to track down answers, here are some of the most asked questions about strategic thinking with links to previous posts that address each topic; simply click on the original date to go to the post.

  • My boss wants me to be more “strategic”? How do I do that? (1/10/2008)
  • What are some characteristics of solid strategic thinkers? (12/1/2007)
  • How can I help myself to look at situations from different perspectives? (2/14/2008)
  • Our strategies sound really complicated and nobody knows what they mean/ Shouldn’t you be able to actually do something with a strategy? (12/26/2007)
  • People at my company are stuck in how we’ve always done things. How can we get past that? (12/5/2007)
  • People are busy on day-to-day responsibilities. How can I get them to make the effort to work on strategy? (3/12/2008)
  • I’ve got to come up with some new ideas at work. How do I go about it? (3/11/2008)
  • How do we get “bigger” ideas? (3/10/2008)
  • What are the reasons for timing strategic thinking exercises? (2/1/2008)
  • Once you have a good idea, how do you sell it to management? (12/10/2007)
  • What do you do if you ideas aren’t working out successfully? (2/28/2008)
  • If something doesn’t work, how do we make sure we improve next time? (3/3/2008)

Please let me know if you have additional questions that can be answered in future posts!

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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We’re all faced with the need to perform seamlessly in unfamiliar situations. Who faces a similar challenge to come up with creative ideas with no opportunity to prepare ahead of time? An improv comic. An improv comic routinely deals with unfamiliar situations, accepting and working with information presented by the audience or other performers and, with no chance to prepare ahead of time, getting people to laugh.

So let’s apply an improv comic-based approach to help us do a better job in unfamiliar situations that require thinking on our feet. An improv comic:

  • Actively solicits input from the audience and others around them
  • Listens closely to other participants for information & clues
  • Quickly assesses the underlying structure of the situation
  • Becomes comfortable with not being able to figure things out ahead of time
  • Is open to spontaneity
  • Depends on instincts
  • Offers information and clues to others to help them co-participate successfully
  • Works with and builds on information supplied by others
  • Is able to employ a variety of talents to advance the situation
  • Refines the process as new information is determined

Identify three new ideas for each of the approaches an improv comic would employ to improve your own performance when you can’t prepare ahead of time for unfamiliar situations.

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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 strategy and implementation efforts.

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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Here’s a checklist you can use in considering a new business opportunity or campaign to assess whether you’ve addressed critical elements of a marketing plan. It’s especially helpful to use in business environments where you have non-marketing people driving product launches or efforts without a full grounding in how a strategic AND implementable marketing plan will increase the probability of success.

For each question, choose whether the most appropriate answer to each question is: YES, NOT SURE, or NO. If there is one NOT SURE or NO answer, the basic elements of a marketing plan aren’t in place. Ensure all the questions are answered satisfactorily and understood by the organization before deciding to launch the effort.

  • Is there a clear business objective for this effort?
  • Do we know the market’s size and growth rate?
  • Do we know our current revenue, profits, and share?
  • Do we know the competitors and their strategies?
  • Do we know who the customer / prospect is?
  • Do we know customers’ current and future needs?
  • Do we have an estimate of our expected revenue, profit, share, etc?
  • Do we know and can explain the service features?
  • Do the features match customer needs?
  • Do we know what the pricing levels and structure should be?
  • Do we know what we want customers to think about it?
  • Do we know how a customer will find out about it?
  • Do we know what the necessary sales effort should be?
  • Do we know who and how it will be implemented?
  • Do we have all potential metrics in place?

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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*This is Holy Week for Christian denominations, so I hesitate to write in support of certain strategic benefits of sloth, one of the seven deadly sins, but here it goes:

There’s a phrase written on my office whiteboard: “Sloth is the new genius.” That was my reply once when someone complimented me on having apparently anticipated a project’s “new” new direction and deliverables well in advance.

Actually I had ignored several weeks of activity on the project’s “new” direction because it just didn’t make strategic sense. Instead, I stuck with the direction we’d been working on for months since it was clearly a solid approach. When everybody came to their senses and returned to the old plan (which was now the “new” new plan), it only looked as if I had been really smart and proactive. It was anything but that. I’d simply done nothing on the project and placed attention on other efforts while everyone else frantically tried in vain to change course.

Find yourself getting caught amid constantly changing direction? If you do and a new one doesn’t make sense, rather than going with the flow maybe you should just do nothing.

Be careful though, because as befits any deadly sin, there are major risks and potentially heavy penalties in a slothful approach. Guess wrong and if things don’t ultimately swing back to the original strategic path, you could find yourself corporately dead. But if you understand how the morphfiends in your business life operate and can read the situation correctly, your strategic slothfulness can keep you out lots of corporate silliness. It’s your call.

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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A number of younger business people have asked over time about travel tips. I’m a moderate business traveler at most, but in honor of all the spring break vacations, these travel tips are good for any time your travel to make your trip easier and more  productive:

  • Think ahead about the best location to stay relative to where you will need the greatest time advantage (i.e., you have an early flight, so get closer to the airport or you’re making multiple calls during the day, so stay near the final one).
  • Visualize the days you’ll be away to think about what to pack – where will you be, who will you meet, are you likely to get your clothes dirty or unable to be worn again during the trip?
  • Try everything possible to just do carry-on luggage. Pick one color theme for the trip so you can mix and match with fewer clothes. If you do check bags, make sure that it doesn’t infringe on the time or travel plans of others.
  • Roll your clothes to maximize luggage space and use Downy Wrinkle Releaser to dramatically reduce ironing on the road. A related tip – if you have a clumsy spray bottle, pour its contents into a smaller 3 oz. bottle and carry the spray bottle that’s too big for the 1 qt. plastic bag without any liquid in it.
  • Always have an HBA bag already packed just for travel – don’t spend time to have to think through everything to take. Also have extra cell phone and computer cords dedicated to travel so you don’t have to think about remembering them.
  • Check in online, look for better seats, and print multiple boarding pass copies just in case you misplace one.
  • Carry a basic 6 foot extension cord with you. It can get you access to a full outlet at an airport because you can help two other people get access to power also.
  • Take water and something to eat on ANY plane trip – just in case. And once at the destination, assume you won’t get fed by someone else – take care of yourself, getting some familiar food to minimize the impact on your system of traveling.
  • To the extent possible, make plane time your own – use it for the tasks and activities you do best when uninterrupted. For me, that’s “creative time.” Be ready with reading material or something else to do with the inevitable down time you’ll have.
  • Figure out your surroundings – know where the nearest drug store, grocery store, convenience store and/or Wal-Mart is in case you have general needs, particularly after hours. Also ask first if the hotel has extra HBA items you may need.
  • Make sure the hotel clock is set properly to AM and PM times. Same with the alarm. And get a wake up call, just in case.
  • Don’t work every minute; get some time to relax & refresh spiritually! Try to see something new on every trip (but don’t deviate from your old standbys on crucial services, i.e. ground transportation, lodging, drug stores, etc.).

Thanks to the “editorial group” who reviewed the list and added some new wrinkles to it (got to get more of that Downy Wrinkle Releaser!). Please leave your comments on travel tips (here’s a website with some additional ones too), and safe travels next week and beyond! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas! For an organizational creativity 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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While in South Florida, I had dinner with Dave Brown (no relation) who introduced me to my wife and was our boss on the student activities board at Fort Hays State University. We later went to Southern Illinois University as a result of Dave introducing us to his former student activities boss from grad school.

It’s embarrassing that it’s been twenty years since we’ve seen each other because Dave was the first strategic mentor in my career. I learned a number of very important lessons from Dave that have served me incredibly well since; they can probably benefit you also:
  • Whenever you’re bringing even a few people together, it’s an event and you should make it special. Under Dave’s tutelage, I produced small coffee house performances and a 5,000 person concert. No matter how many people were attending, he emphasized making the event something memorable. That perspective shaped me to view every meeting or presentation, no matter how small, as an event where there’s a duty to create a memorable experience.
  • You have to plan and manage the whole host of details for any event. Dave demonstrated the discipline of planning and producing large events. It became quickly clear I wouldn’t get into concert production (Kansas City’s most well-known promoter told me to forget it, because “you start at the bottom and work your way down”). Yet when another mentor entered my career later, and our company started producing large events, I was able to step into a production and on-stage role seamlessly even though I was a market research guy. That opportunity has profoundly shaped my career the last 10 years.
  • Create a huge vision and stick to it amid all odds against you accomplishing it. Dave created an incredible, nationally-recognized concert series at a small Western Kansas college, attracting an unbelievable string of #1 chart acts. He did it with an often hostile university administration that completely missed the significance of his accomplishments in gaining attention for the university. It was audacious, but it was the right thing for the school, and Dave was going to make it happen no matter what.

There’s a host of other things in my life that Dave shaped, but within this short post, he accounted for me meeting my spouse, making the introduction that ultimately led to me getting a nearly free graduate education, turning me into an “event person,” and paving the way to successfully seize one of the biggest opportunities of my career.

All I can say is “thank you,” and let’s stay in better touch Dave. And if you have a strategic mentor and haven’t done either of these two things lately, I’d suggest you locate them and do the same!

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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