Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2

“Can you show up and do a strategic planning workshop early next week?”

We get a decent number of requests from companies that resemble that question. Since a time is booked, and we do this all the time, why couldn’t we simply show up and immediately facilitate a company through developing its strategy? When someone makes a request like this, I’m sure they can’t imagine there is anything THAT complicated about designing a strategic planning workshop.

My question back to those executives are how comfortable they are with:

If they can answer YES to all those questions AND really LOVE high-stakes surprises, then sure, let’s see if we have a Brainzooming facilitator available to show up next Tuesday.

11 Steps in Designing a Strategic Planning Workshop

designing a strategic planning workshop

When an executive cares about successful, productive results that move an organization forward, they UNDERSTAND it takes more than a few business days to make it happen. You need enough time to work through eleven steps we address when designing a strategic planning workshop:

  1. Ask foundation questions to develop a strong sense of the objectives and desired participant experience
  2. Figure out relevant and intriguing comparisons to the situation
  3. Check internal information and comparable situations we’ve addressed
  4. Prepare an initial engagement design and scope of work
  5. Perform secondary research, looking for clues to explore additional sources
  6. Identify intriguing ideas, themes, and inspirations from the secondary research results
  7. Develop new insights and hypotheses
  8. Conduct informational interviews
  9. Develop the input opportunities for the broad audience
  10. Analyze results and themes that emerge from the broad input opportunities
  11. Finalize the workshop design

Not all these steps require significant time to complete. They do build on each other. In aggregate, they lead to designing a strategic planning workshop that delivers results.

Want to Dramatically Improve How You Develop Strategy?

You may not be thinking about scheduling your next strategic planning meeting right now.

Even so, it could be exactly the right time to start PLANNING and designing your next strategic planning workshop to improve the outcomes over the last one.

Have you been trying to identify new ways to make developing strategy more collaborative, simpler, results-oriented (and even fun)? Contact us, and let’s chat about the impact these eleven steps can have in changing how you think about developing strategy from now on.  – Mike Brown

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Whenever You’re Stuck Creatively

Stuck creatively? Try something new.

Try to start with anything – ANYTHING – that might move you ahead or sideways when you’re stuck creatively.

What you’re struggling, break a pattern and then approach what you’re facing from a new direction.

When there are too many possibilities ahead of you, pick one – perhaps the easiest one – and take a step or two.

When you know too much about all the potential challenges (or all the ways that already work easily), pick up something new that’s still full of surprise and use it.

When you know exactly what you need, but it’s not available, consider it a signal to change.

When you seem incapable of making progress, put something small together that you can see, then tinker with it.

Write something, and then edit the daylights out of it with no fear of erasing and keeping just a little bit.

Do a little something of what you do, and then go from there when you’re stuck creatively.

Listen to Mike Brown discuss Amazing Ideas on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

A Strategy for a Life that Is Stuck Creatively

I wrote the lines above on the way back from Huntsville, AL on Saturday. I was thinking about advice to help others do what they obviously know how to do, yet struggle to start.

Then, Emma Alvarez Gibson found this article on how to be an artist from art critic, Jerry Saltz.

This article says it all. All of it, when it comes to being an artist – whether that’s an artist as we typically think of them, or simply trying to bring artistry to whatever means something to you. Read it today! – Mike Brown

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Are you trying to accomplish new things or create a bigger impact in your life professionally or personally this year? Do you have the excellent leadership skills you need to accomplish your initiatives in a workplace experiencing dramatic changes?

If you are, I’m wondering if you have gotten your copy of Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders?

Here’s why, if you don’t have Idea Magnets yet, you should act now: Idea Magnets delivers a tremendous repertoire of leadership tools and actionable strategies, all in ONE PLACE!

Curious about how Idea Magnets will recharge excellent leadership skills?

Here’s a partial list of tools within Idea Magnets to address your leadership skills:

  • Stating your core purpose (p. 19)
  • Knowing where to go for daily creative inspiration (p. 22)
  • Having a dependable way to attract amazing ideas (p. 24)
  • A checklist for improving your collaborative leadership performance (p. 34)
  • Striking the balance to offer both strategic direction and ample room for innovation (p. 40)
  • Three simple steps to further strategic leadership (p. 42)
  • How to surround yourself with the most effective collaborators (p. 53)
  • Dependably seeing familiar situations in fresh, innovative ways (p. 54)
  • A formula to generate 1,000 ideas – YES, ONE THOUSAND IDEAS (p. 60)
  • Uncovering unusual, innovation-triggering connections (p. 71)
  • Mega-sizing your innovative ideas (p. 72)
  • Improving your ability to spot emerging competitors and potential partners early (p. 78)
  • Using unique experiences to energize creativity (p. 85)
  • Ways to make it easier for team members to share ideas (p. 89)
  • Effective methods to showcase diverse talents within your team (p. 93)
  • Creating high-performing team members (p. 97)
  • Speeding up decision making (p. 105)
  • Simplifying complex choices (p. 106)
  • How to help your team implement more effectively (p. 109)
  • Developing contingencies for when plans don’t work (p. 111)
  • Going from 1,000 ideas to the very best ideas to implement (p. 113)
  • Managing and maximizing your personal and team creative energy (p. 122)
  • Using different creative roles to spur new thinking (p. 128)

Yes, all of these tools to recharge excellent leadership skills are in Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders.

If you’ve already gotten your copy, we hope this list pinpoints the tools you need to increase your leadership effectiveness!

If you still see new opportunities to recharge your creative leadership, you need to get Idea Magnets. It is THE book for you! Get your copy on Amazon today! – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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This past summer, while organizing documents that I brought with me when I left the corporate world, I discovered something I didn’t know I still had: my handwritten notes from a January 31, 1995 America Marketing Association luncheon. We hosted the lunch-time seminar on creative thinking skills at my company’s headquarters. Serving as the host, I had the opportunity to meet the creativity expert who would be presenting and get to know him before the meeting started.

Agreeing to host the luncheon at our company was one of the most important business decisions I ever made.

The reason?

The creativity expert was Chuck Dymer.

The Creativity Expert Who Inspired Brainzooming

As anyone who has read Idea Magnets knows, Chuck was a major influence early in my career; he continues as an influence still. Chuck, through the knowledge he shared at the creative thinking skills seminar, introduced ideas that have dramatically shaped career.

Reviewing the notes, I found mentions of fundamental concepts that still influence Brainzooming:

It is amazing; Chuck shared all these vital ideas in just one hour. If you’d like, you can look through a PDF of the notes below and see what impact they may have for you!

Thank you once again, Chuck, for being the creativity expert (and Idea Magnet) that walked through the doors of Yellow Corporation on this day, all those years ago. It is an honor to have you as a friend and important part of the Brainzooming family! – Mike Brown

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There’s finally a name for the phenomenon that many of us have been aware of for several years: hybrid jobs.

Marketers, and especially marketing communicators, have become familiar with seeing job postings that seem to expect every skill. It used to be that a writer was a writer, a photographer was a photographer, and a programmer was a programmer. Now, it’s common to see creative positions in marketing and advertising that require the ability to code or program web pages. While you don’t typically find those skill sets in the same individual, the combination has become a basic expectation.

Cue the study from Boston-based Burning Glass Technologies about how jobs are increasingly demanding broad, very different skill sets.

The firm has dubbed these roles “hybrid jobs.” Its conclusion came from combing through millions of posted positions, detailing and analyzing the expected skills. These types of positions, which are projected to show double the growth through 2028, yield higher salaries (perhaps 40% more for a marketing manager who knows SQL), and experience less susceptibility to automation-based redundancy (an estimated 3x-plus reduction, in fact).

Is Your Organization Ready for Hybrid Jobs?

Thinking AND doing. In many cases, that may make it a hybrid job.

If you’re an executive with a team that needs to deepen its opposite skills (e.g., more creative if your people are technical, or more technical if your team is creative), what moves make the most sense? How does that translate if you’re an individual trying to stay ahead of the threat of automation and/or irrelevancy?

Increasing Creativity for Technologists

Honestly, we have much more experience to share in helping technical people tap into and develop their creative skills. That’s a large focus of Idea Magnets – 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders. It’s filled with techniques to help everyone on your team embrace and master creative thinking skills. The objective? To expand personal and organizational success.

The Idea Magnets strategies rely heavily on using targeted questions and frameworks to help executives think from new perspectives. One intriguing thing? Executives don’t have to know anything about the methodology behind the questions to make them successful. That’s why it’s easier (in our experience) for a technical person to adapt to greater creativity. The trick, though, is demonstrating the interest in using creative thinking questions and techniques on an ongoing basis. That’s where the Idea Magnets book, tools, and training come into play to seed creative thinking in your organization.

Increasing Technical Skills for Creatives

A Wall Street Journal article by Lauren Weber detailing the growth of hybrid jobs did not offer much in the way of remedies to help retrain workers. Other than a closing paragraph which mentions that hybrid jobs tend to require at least a few years of experience and the need for post-college training, Weber doesn’t hint at any potential solutions.

We’ll take that to suggest that no one has yet cracked the code. In part, the aging out of the current workforce will eventually place individuals who are digital natives in these roles. In the meantime, here are a couple of ideas to help you explore solutions for your organization and/or yourself.

Take Advantage of Training Resources

Google how to teach adults to code, and you’ll discover a wide array of free-to-low-cost training resources. One list featured sixty-four free resources; the author has updated it multiple times over the past several years.

Similarly, you can search for adult STEM training and find additional resources to immerse adults in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.

The positive news is the wide array of online resources that organizations and individuals can use for training. The challenge, as with so much information on the web, is that independent of established education brands, you’ll have to look through reviews and sample the programs to ensure the right level of quality.

Mess Wright, Executive Director at WorkChops Makerspace, lives and works in the heart of the future of work.

“Scroll through a site like Udemy and make a list of classes that are even marginally relevant to your current role – most are low cost or even free,” she says. “Don’t worry if you start a few and never finish them. Keep trying until you find one that hooks you. It may be that you feel hooked because the new skill is easy for you to learn or even that it’s difficult enough to make you want to rise to the challenge.”

Try a variety of approaches

For a potential client engagement, we researched ways other companies are trying to accomplish this objective, before pulling workers off the factory floor for training. We identified organizations using a variety of strategies, including:

  • Educational partnerships
  • Forming ecosystems among non-competitive companies to develop technology training programs
  • Introducing gaming elements into workplace tasks
  • Incentives for independent training on technology skills

Hybrid Jobs ARE in Your NOW

It’s important to be creative about finding an approach that works for you and/or your team. Research. Experiment. You’ll need to try before you buy, in other words—there’s no easy way around that. – Mike Brown

FREE Download - 49 Idea Magnet Questions for Attracting Amazing Ideas

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Look, I know it’s almost February. The new year is marching ahead like crazy.

One way I can tell?

Seeing Facebook friends posting last week as they bemoaned the impending end of January. Others responded about how they are only NOW working on their planning for this year’s business goals and strategic initiatives. After THAT, they’ll start launching new programs.

You have to be ready to launch strategic initiatives in new ways if you get off to a slow start.

This feels like a year that thinks it is calling the shots and running roughshod over those of us trying to lead organizations.

And, we totally get that feeling.

In fact, due to travel, vacations, conferences, family health problems, and a focus on long-term projects, we felt like our team hadn’t really had a collective new start to the year.

That’s why we declared January 21 as our January 1. We restarted the clock on the new year.

Did we really re-set the new year?

Of course not.

Did it at least make us feel like we had a fresh start to improve the collaboration and coordination that was suffering in the new year’s first three weeks?


Getting Ahead on Strategic Initiatives

If you feel as if you and/or your organization are still in full-on pre-launch mode when it comes to strategic initiatives, then, so be it. We have a resource that can help you play catch-up faster and more effectively. It’s the 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs eBook.

We compiled this actionable resource to help everyone get started more productively with new strategic initiatives. It will help implementation teams ensure they understand new programs’ overall directions AND explore ways to increase the relevance of strategic initiatives.

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

Working with 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs will help you get the right people, resources, and alignment to launch your new initiatives more efficiently and effectively – even if it still feels as if you are coming back from an early year deficit! – Mike Brown

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On a recent Thursday I left my house at dark o’clock in order to get to the EPIC International Summit in time for check-in. The location: a college-prep boarding school in Ojai, California, surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful nature, and all the clean, sweet-smelling air that I tend to forget exists at all when I’m going about my daily life near the Port of Los Angeles.

I’ll be honest: my expectations were high for this innovation-focused conference, and I was doing my best to manage them. On the one hand, it sounded amazing. On the other hand, this was its inception, and all too often, first-time events don’t go as expected.

Location for the Epic International Summit

The EPIC International Summit, however, did what it says on the tin. Far and away the finest conference I’ve ever attended, it was epic for several reasons.

First: the workshops, keynotes, deep-dives and panels were excellent.

Speakers and presenters included professionals from around the globe; educators, actors, consultants, special-effects supervisors, directors, musicians, and others. Topics ranged from entrepreneurship to leading creative teams, from being cognizant of one’s news sources and information suppliers to the factors that make up a creative mindset. The hard part, honestly, was deciding which sessions to pick.

Second: the serene setting, a stark contrast to the typical hotel or convention center setting.

We were surrounded by the natural beauty of the area, which lends itself well to the shedding of masks. Adding to that: there was a no-electronics rule in effect. While it was primarily enforced via the honor system (and an email/text area had been designated in one of the buildings), most attendees successfully disconnected. This, of course, created a breathing room most of us no longer have in our daily lives, and along with it, a sincere yearning to connect with others. (It’s possible I’m speaking just for myself here, but I doubt it.)

Third: the meticulously-arranged details.

From the signs along the rural highway directing participants where to go, to the tasty meals included each day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, save the Friday evening that was left open for newly-forged acquaintances to break bread together in town, if desired), to the scale of the event (any larger and it might have felt impersonal; any smaller and it could run into issues of claustrophobia), very little was left to chance. It all felt incredibly thoughtful, which is a surprising way to describe a conference.

And that seemed to be the general consensus. Even cynical types were openly surprised at the insights and learnings. One woman said, “I don’t believe I’ve ever used this word before, but I feel so…enriched!” Another attendee was heard saying, “My brain is full!” There were sessions where everyone smiled through the entire thing; sessions that ran long because people were so engaged they didn’t want to leave; sessions where I found myself cracking jokes with one of my fellow attendees, only to find out later that they were, for instance, the founder of a huge global organization that everyone has heard of, if not actually used at one point or another.

That’s the open-hearted, egalitarian environment that EPIC fosters. It was what I’d imagined, as a child, that college would be like: a big group of friendly people who are genuinely excited about learning and doing good in the world.

What’s Next?

I’m so glad for this experience and cannot wait for next year at the Epic International Summit. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing some of my takeaways from conference, here on the blog. Here’s a sneak preview:

  • Deep knowledge of the values of a project, plus trust and freedom, are the “measure twice, cut once” of creativity.
  • Common language is crucial — clear and accurate communication is so much more difficult than we think it is.
  • We need to ask ourselves: how does information come into our daily lives? What are our filters? How do we know?

Sit tight! There’s lots of other good stuff coming soon from the Epic International Summit. – Emma Alvarez Gibson

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Find New Resources to Innovate!

NEW FREE Download: 16 Keys for Finding Resources to Accelerate Your Innovation Strategy

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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