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As we mentioned recently, we’re on the lookout everywhere for strategic thinking exercises to share.

AEIB-GraphicWe spotted a recent “Inside the Executive Suite” feature from the Armada Executive Intelligence Briefing featuring a thirteen-question checklist for strategic change management. The origin for the strategic change management list was two stories in the Wall Street Journal. One story covered Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon and the other Apple CEO, Tim Cook.  Both CEOs are in the midst of trying to change what have been very successful companies over the long-term.

While issues (some major) exist for both Wal-Mart and Apple, the Inside the Executive Suite piece offered the strategic change management checklist as an example of introducing more aggressive innovation and change management when a company doesn’t exactly seem to need radical change.

A 13-Point Checklist for Strategic Change Management

If you’re contemplating (or even in the midst of) making dramatic changes within your own organization, this list is helpful as a strategic thinking exercise to make sure you’re considering the breadth and depth of changes two pretty successful companies are undertaking.

  1. Are you getting as close as possible to the customer to understand what’s working (or isn’t working) for them?
  2. Are you challenging yourself and the organization by strengthening your leadership team?
  3. Have you looked beyond your immediate organization chart to identify people with important perspectives to fuel innovation and change?
  4. Are you taking steps to invite external parties to help fuel more innovation and improved customer experiences for your brand?
  5. Are you open to matching smart competitive moves you’ve been slow to previously adopt?
  6. Are you learning from the new competitors who are beating your company in new ways?
  7. Are you pushing prototypes, trials, and pilots to dramatically increase the pace of innovation?
  8. Are you making the small internal changes necessary to pave the way for bigger, higher-profile moves?
  9. Have you been willing to go against what brought you earlier success when it might not work in the future?
  10. Is your organization investing in vital areas where competition is going to be waged now and in the future?
  11. Can you stomach making longer-term investments that are critical to growth?
  12. While advocating innovation, are you still emphasizing the fundamentals that haven’t changed?
  13. Are you willing to be a different type of leader at a different type of company?

Using this Strategic Thinking Exercise to Creating Strategic Impact

The “Inside the Executive Suite” article acknowledged that since the list was just developed, there’s no specific number of “Yes” answers to suggest your organization is definitely on the right track or not for creating strategic impact.

Instead, you can use this strategic thinking exercise as a great way to frame up your strategic change management agenda and push for appropriate innovation levels well before you’re in a “must-change now” situation. – 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.

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I was in Dallas delivering the closing keynote presentation on Creating Strategic Impact for the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA) annual conference.

Based on previous experiences speaking at TMSA conferences, my plan was to avoid the stage and speak from the floor to be as close to the audience as possible.

Setting up for the Creating Strategic Impact presentation several hours early, I placed my laptop on a chair on the floor, rearranged cables, and made sure everything worked. I then unplugged the laptop to head to a breakout session.

Fake-Books

Returning later, someone had returned the cables to the stage. I pulled the cables back to the floor, hooked everything up, did a final test, and went next door to watch the awards presentation.

Returning twenty minutes later, someone had moved the entire setup back to the stage. As I finished moving the laptop back on a chair on the floor, one of the AV techs appeared. He asked why everything kept getting moved to the floor. Explaining the plan to deliver the talk, he asked if I would prefer the laptop be on a table on the floor. I said that would be great if it were not too much trouble. He said it was not; he was sure we could find a table in the service hallway.

As we were about to track down a table in the few moments before the closing keynote was to start, a female tech arrived and asked what we were doing. The male tech explained the plan and said we were going to go find a table instead of the chair I was using.

She turned around to the stage and casually asked, “Why don’t you use the table already on the stage for laptops?”

Well, that was certainly the OBVIOUS answer, but it NEVER occurred to either of us to simply move the table.

That’s because my focus was on the floor. The male AV tech’s focus was on not using the chair.

Neither of us stopped long enough to take in the whole situation and see there was a table right there – behind us. Yet someone with a completely fresh and different perspective of the situation could see the easy answer instantly.

Creating Strategic Impact if Experience Gets in the Way

What a great reminder of how an outsider can see obvious answers that insiders – those most steeped in an issue or opportunity – might never see, no matter how long they look.

Is’ an easy trap for any of us, even those of us who know better, to fall into if we miss viable options our experience prevents us from seeing.

That is why we do what we do, and one big way we add value and specialize in creating strategic impact for our clients.

Could we be of help to you as well? – Mike Brown

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Rather than hanging around here, you have my permission (as if it were needed) to visit the Creative Babble blog today. The Creative Babble blog is curated by Javier Leiva, who is a Creative Director at Running Pony Productions.

Javier has done a wonderful job of featuring interviews with advertising creatives, filmmakers, and artists on the web on how they approach creativity for their work.

Somehow I slipped through the creative professions screen, and Javier interviewed me recently about The Brainzooming Group, the blog, and our take on creativity.

I loved Javier’s interview questions since they took us into topic areas I don’t really write about here. Although as you’ll see in the interview, I talked myself into the need to start writing about some of them as opposed to keeping them part of the untold Brainzooming story.

creativity-boost

Creativity on Creative Babble

If you’re interested, you can learn more over on the Creative Babble interview about:

  • Why I don’t believe in creative magic (but do believe in creative thinking)
  • The reason this website has been purposely vague about my career background
  • The specific situation while I was working at YRC Worldwide eight years ago that led to hatching what became Brainzooming (See, I’m already trying to fill in career details!)
  • How come I approach our Brainzooming presentations and creative sessions as if we were a band

While you’re at Creative Babble, peruse what Javier has going on there relative to creative thinking. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Then be sure to come back here tomorrow because we’ll miss you if you don’t! - Mike Brown

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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.

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During a staff meeting call back in the corporate days, a team member whose responsibilities included answering questions for internal clients, recounted how she had received a question from a VP. She proudly reported answering the question in about 45 minutes by giving him a big list of information, and how pleased the VP was with the quick reply.

I questioned her strategic thinking in this situation and challenged her quick response as the wrong thing to do.

Yes, she provided a more targeted pile of information for the VP to locate the answer himself. But, by emphasizing speed, she missed the opportunity to provide even more value. What she gave him was a bunch of useless information to wade through to find the answer he needed, which was maybe 1% of what she gave him.

I asked her whether she might have provided greater value if she had told him it would take a day or two to answer the question. She’d then have the time to cull through the information, identify the EXACT answer the VP needed, and deliver the precise answer to him with a slight, but completely acceptable, delay.

My contention was a day LATER with a specific answer would be of tremendously more value (and the potential for greater accuracy), than a quick, but not precise answer. I couldn’t convince her with my strategic thinking, however, that anything could be more important than fast.

In a world where we celebrate FAST as a nearly universal value driver, it’s easy to miss the fact that sometimes, something else entirely would provide greater value for a client.

13 Reasons to Not Answer Too Fast

Slow-Circle

A comparable situation came up in conversation the other day. It prompted this list of times when it’s better to be SLOWER than FASTER in answering a question:

  1. You could be answering the wrong question right away
  2. The other person may be not be ready for the answer yet
  3. You may need to share more information (over a longer time) to let the other person see how you got the answer
  4. You could be setting unreasonable expectations for the future by answering too fast
  5. Answering too fast is inconsistent with your brand promise or the brand experience
  6. It will compromise your service to other customers
  7. It could remove the motivation for the customer to work with you to provide them the best service over time
  8. They may find the answer suspect if you produce it too quickly
  9. They may find less value in the answer if it appears like it was an off the shelf answer
  10. They may discount the expertise and insight that it takes to produce the answer when it is delivered too quickly
  11. While you may want to answer fast and move on, the client may really need more time and more of your expertise
  12. You miss out on the opportunity to test and adjust the answer based on the perspective of others
  13. You’re foregoing the opportunity to take more time and deliver disproportionately more value in the ultimate answer

Strategic Thinking on Answering Questions

What do you think? Would it make more sense and result in greater value if you slowed down when answering questions? – Mike Brown

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I attended the visitation for a former co-worker last week whose illness I learned about only after his passing.

Don was responsible for equipment at the large transportation company where we worked. You can’t even begin to imagine the attention to detail this role demands for the entire equipment and maintenance organization in a multi-billion transportation company. Equipment Services is the group that has to ensure all equipment is available, has been prepped, and is ready to leave when it’s dispatched.

Yellow trailer

Living Your Life and Dying Exactly the Same

Talking with other co-workers at the visitation, it’s clear Don approached his cancer diagnosis exactly as he had his career.

Given perhaps eighteen months to live, Don (beyond the planning he’d already done) appeared focused on making things as easy and straight forward as possible for his wife and family. Sure, he planned the music and details of the visitation and the celebration of life the next day.

The stories I heard, however, revealed Don’s focus on getting EVERYTHING ready for after his departure.

He made an extended trip to visit relatives so his wife would start to adapt to life without him. He even bought his wife a new car two days before he died so she wouldn’t have to deal with transportation for years to come.

It struck me how Don approached death exactly as he had life.

He performed as much preventive maintenance as possible for his family. He knew he was working against a not completely certain, but nonetheless, very real departure time when everything would need to be ready. He apparently worked his pre-trip checklist to make sure every detail was in order.

Quite amazing.

Life Lesson Time

The experience reinforced two life lessons of a well-lived life, one of which we’ve probably never talked about here.

The first life lesson is the value of seamlessly extending what you know and love about what you do – the areas where you are most creative – across all aspects of life.

The other life lesson is the satisfaction that must come from being able to die exactly as you lived your life.

In Don’s case, it’s clear his whole career and the ethic he brought to his work (including creativity although he’d have probably denied being creative) paved the way for the readiness with which he approached his death.

Don was a good man, and I’m thankful for having known him. – Mike Brown

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Someone asked me earlier this year if I had simply gone to a facilitation training class, swiped the content, renamed it Brainzooming, and opened up shop.

My answer was an emphatic, “Definitely not!”

What has become the Brainzooming methodology developed from a wide variety of sources.  It evolved into a tested approach for developing strategy that takes full advantage of the diverse inspirations from which its strategic thinking exercises originated.

I was reminded of the diversity of influences we incorporated while creating the Strategic Thinking Fake Book for a recent Creating Strategic Impact workshop.

diverse

In the workshop, we covered twelve different strategic thinking exercises in two hours. Revisiting the twelve strategic thinking exercises presented in the workshop, the inspirations are all over the place:

  • A Fortune 500 CFO
  • A strategic thinking book
  • An advertising agency
  • A poster from a poster shop in New Orleans
  • A strategic mentor
  • A magazine ad
  • My own thinking about anticipating disruptive competitors
  • A different advertising agency
  • My own thinking about social media networks
  • Lateral thinking principles
  • Helping a co-worker try to think differently about a business situation
  • An innovation consultant

The lesson here is there are great strategic thinking examples all around you.

Focus less on business gurus who get written up all the time in magazines and online. Their lessons are broadcast so broadly, there are many people trying to mimic them.

Look instead for the great lessons where perhaps YOU were the only person ever exposed to them who recognized them as strategic thinking lessons.

Those are the ones you can adapt and do something with to really set yourself apart.   – Mike Brown

 

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Extreme creativity can scare some people, but . . .

The people saying you and your bold ideas are “crazy” generally have way too many problems of their own. That’s why they have energy to waste “fixing” you.

Crazy-Ideas

Don’t let people who have no idea what they are talking about tell you your bold ideas are crazy. Celebrate your extreme creativity.

And if you need help with getting yourself ready for the extreme creativity that leads to bold ideas, take advantage of all these Brainzooming creative thinking resources.

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.

 

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