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Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem sound impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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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There was a Brainzooming posse in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday as Marianne Carr and I attended ConfabuLarryum, the Lawrence festival of creativity. In just its second year, Ben Smith’s brainchild increased its attendance 4x to more than 5,000 adults and kids.

What a fantastic event celebrating creative thinking skills of all kinds!

ConfabuLarryum-Wideshot

The only disappointment was I didn’t get to spend any time with the incredible array of activities and demonstrations. With a noon time slot to speak, I stayed in the auditorium to see the presentations before mine, getting a read on the audience, the room, and what content would work most effectively.

I presented a mini-workshop on Busting Creativity Barriers. One of the audience questions from a fourth grade teacher was on  how to help kids stop editing their creativity and new ideas for fear of being wrong.

My response was that’s clearly a challenge in a school environment where we are grading kids on their academic performance and monitoring all their actions and behaviors for conformity to expectations. Talk about a recipe for teaching children to edit their creativity and curb their creative thinking skills! It takes a full-blown creative rebel to survive creatively in that environment. And that survival will likely be VERY rocky because a student putting up enough of a fight to hang on to their own creative thinking skills and instincts will be going dangerously against the grain.

How about establishing a grade-free zone to cultivate creative thinking skills?

My spontaneous idea and response to her question was to create a grade-free zone in the classroom. This would be a spot where children could go to experiment, imagine ideas, and explore their creative thinking skills without ANY grading or correction.

Thinking about it, the grade-free zone might be a physical location in the classroom, a condition (i.e., a certain day or days), a situation (i.e., a child could call for grade-free zone time to create), or maybe all three of these.

Grade-Free-Zone

What else might need to be in place for a successful grade-free zone?

Those are some initial thoughts from someone who ISN’T a childhood educator; they are based, however, on how we try to create what are essentially grade-free zones inside creative thinking workshops. It would be interesting to see how my friends at the Boulder Journey School would address the question!

Two other thoughts emerged later:

  • Perhaps rather than being grade-free, the zone should be an all-A zone. That would be akin to conductor Benjamin Zander’s statement that he only teaches A students.
  • Even though ConfabuLarryum WAS a grade free zone filled with all kinds of creative outlets, I heavily edited my workshop presentation before starting, inserting stories that weren’t part of the presentation when I walked in the building and taking out a number of pieces.

I guess being grade-free is harder than it initially sounds.

What do you think of the idea, and how would you approach helping students to stop editing their own creativity? – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBusting Creativity Barriers with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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How important is your job description? And is it more important BEFORE you take a new job than after you start?

I was working with a senior executive on a career strategy change. After an initial interview with a potential employer, the executive had perceptions about the new job’s responsibilities, sphere of influence, and reporting relationships to the CEO and the department team.

The perceptions formed via conversations; nothing was in writing. In a subsequent conversation, however, the CEO unveiled other organizational and position changes underway. Following this second conversation, the new job’s responsibilities and reporting relationships seemed different than originally portrayed – different enough, in fact, to make the new position unattractive.

Question-Marks

How Important Is a Job Description to Your Career Change Strategy?

At that point the question was whether the next move should involve demanding a written job description before confirming acceptance of the new position. The thinking was that forcing the CEO’s hand about a job description would clear up all questions.

Discussing the concerns, it was clear there were two BIG factors necessary for success up in the air. Each issue involved a reporting relationship:

  • Did the new position report to the CEO or not?
  • Would a key supporting capability within the organization report up through the new position or not?

Answers to these two questions were sufficient to know whether the new position could create the type of impact the CEO SAID he wanted it to have.

While a written job description would typically address these questions, it wouldn’t be a guarantee of the new job being exactly as promised. That understanding would come from having a strong sense the CEO does what he says. If there was an underlying uncertainty about whether the CEO says one thing to please someone yet actually do something else, a job description wasn’t going to address that.

The best strategy was having another conversation with the CEO about the two open questions. This strategy positioned the job seeker as a legitimate senior level executive that didn’t need everything spelled out to make a decision.

The conversation answered the two questions. Yes, the position definitely reported to the CEO, and the important function within the organization would report to the new position.

Questions answered and the best career strategy change was decided, all without a written job description.

The conversation, however, provided greater assurance the CEO will follow through on what he says. And at a senior level such as this, knowing you can trust someone is typically more important than spelling out a bunch of job duties in a job description! – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoDownload 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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If possible, I engage the audience near the start of a presentation by asking their expectations for our time together. Beyond pre-planning with an event organizer, letting audience members voice their content preferences (and then trying to cover the strategic thinking exercises that deliver on their expectations) gives them a stake in the presentation.

Asking the question at a recent strategic thinking workshop, one participant said he expected to hear “empirical evidence on how the brain works.” I wrote down his expectation, turned to him, and said, “You may be the person who will leave here today VERY disappointed.” We confirmed this possibility moments later when he also said he expected to learn what the future held after the 2016 election. Unfortunately, that was not on the list of things I could answer either. It did, however, prompt me to unhide several slides covering our Black Swan strategic thinking exercise.

What Works with Your Brain?

Relative to the request for brain research factoids, he did hit a weak spot in my worldview.

Brainzooming-Simulation

While empirical research is interesting, we are focused on creating tools and processes that deliver results based on workplace experience. While I can’t say exactly how someone’s brain waves behave when you ask them to develop a smart organizational and market strategy, we have hundreds of experiences demonstrating how specific strategic thinking exercises, asked in a particular order, and visualized in a certain way, work compared to other options we might use.

We also continually experiment to see if new possibilities will work better than what we have been doing previously. Sometimes we create those variations ourselves. Often, the variations originate in client requests and constraints based on their organizational realities. In other cases, we go out of our way to try what we do in new settings with new types of participants. This further expands our understanding of how to help small and large groups work together more effectively and successfully.

If you are deep into brain performance research or have a favorite article summarizing how the brain functions when thinking about business and market strategy, send me your links. Just yesterday, Tanner Christensen shared this brain and creative thinking skills link on Twitter, which led to this one, and this one. We will incorporate what we can glean from this material along with all our experience and experiments to shape future Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises.

Plus, if I run into my workshop friend again, I will be ready to meet his expectations for creative thinking skills documentation!  Mike Brown

Need help boosting your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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Solo-Social-Media-Cover2Speaking at content marketing and social media strategy conferences, I meet many individuals in social media specialist roles handling social and content marketing duties for their companies as one-person departments.

What amazes me is that these are not just people from smaller companies. Even many big brands place all the responsibility for their social and content marketing on a single social media specialist. One study reported, in fact, that 42% of individuals with full-time social media strategy and implementation responsibilities are flying solo.

When you ask a solo social media specialist about the job’s issues, they report a variety of challenges, including:

  • Trying to manage strategy and tactics
  • Being pulled between competing priorities
  • Creating social campaigns that produce business results
  • Lack of time
  • Producing enough content
  • Lack of budget

For a solo social media specialist to work effectively, it’s important to know ways to save time, increase focus, improve performance, boost efficiency, and create more productive content.

If your time, attention, and dollars are stretched thin carrying out your brand’s social media strategy by yourself, you need to download the new eBook from The Brainzooming Group, “3 Principles for a Thriving One-Person Social Team.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Keys to Thriving as a Solo Social Media Professional

We’ve partnered with The Social Media Strategy Summit to make this FREE eBook available to all our Brainzooming readers. Within the eBook, you will learn actionable ideas to:

  • Use your company’s business strategy to better focus and streamline your content creation
  • Take advantage of “whole brain metrics” to more thoroughly document how your work contributes to success
  • Develop a simple, action-oriented content planner
  • Smart ways to produce and distribute more of the right content in less time
  • Extend your team to motivated, knowledgeable “volunteers” within your organization

If these sound like ideas that will let you do more with greater effectiveness and in much less time, we invite you to download our new eBook TODAY to boost your success and results as a solo social media professional! – Mike Brown

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Keys to Thriving as a Solo Social Media Professional

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How confident are you in your presentation skills when it comes to making last minute changes to what you had (or maybe DID NOT have) planned for your presentation?

Stephen Lahey (the undefeated number one Brainzooming fan until someone challenges him for the title) and I were discussing the value, impact, and risks of deviating from typical presentation formulas and improvising in front of a live audience.

We both agreed we are not “memorizers” when it comes to delivering presentations. Personally, I often do not know even the first line I will use to start a presentation until thirty seconds before starting. If the emcee for the session happens to say something I can turn into a self-deprecating joke, that will likely replace any other beginning I had in mind.

Conference_Audience

Presentation Skills Tips – 12 Last Minute Presentation Ideas

I will admit a huge preference for improvising during presentations. It’s a way to customize the content on the fly to attempt to make it more relevant based on the feedback and what you’re learning about the audience as the presentation unfolds.

While Stephen was understandably dubious, our conversation prompted me to list these twelve presentation skills tips for relatively safe last minute presentation ideas you can use to customize the content you are delivering for an audience:

  1. Talk to people attending your presentation before it starts and reference the conversations.
  2. Look around the room before you start and notice anything (posters, handouts, signage) left over from previous presentations; incorporate these into your remarks.
  3. Insert a relevant story you would usually share in another presentation, but had not planned during the current one.
  4. Make fun of any foibles you make during the course of the presentation to have some fan at your own expense.
  5. Make a bold physical movement (i.e., jump up, slam a table, fall down, walk out into the room) the audience does not expect.
  6. Ask the group (or an individual) a question and use the response to illustrate (or even challenge) a point you are making.
  7. Pause during your presentation to chat with an audience member about an expression, statement, or action they have done.
  8. Ask an audience member to share a story about the topic you are covering.
  9. Spend more time on something that appears to be resonating with the audience and shorten up other content that might be less relevant.
  10. Skip a few slides that are going to push you past the time you are supposed to speak.
  11. While the audience is working on an exercise or is otherwise distracted, unhide a slide you did not plan to cover and include it in the presentation.
  12. Close the presentation with an emotional story from your life that you have been reluctant to share because it will make you vulnerable.

What do you think? Are you ready to take some more risks with these presentation skills tips?

Go ahead. You will be fine. I promise! – Mike Brown

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

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. 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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There were several searches on the Brainzooming website the other day for “strategic planning session for (a) company that is headed for trouble.” From the quick glance I took, I am not sure if they were from the same person or even the same company.

This strategic planning session search, however, got me wondering: What would I grab from the Brainzooming website as a starting set of strategic thinking exercises, questions, and tools to use for strategy planning if a company were headed for big trouble?

Traffic-Circle

While The Brainzooming Group generally works with clients that are in strong current positions, but perhaps sensing some early strategic weakness, we developed many early Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises while in various turnaround situations in the Fortune 500 world.

As expected, we have created an array of content directed toward a strategic planning session for a company headed for trouble.

Always eager to turn a fruitful search on the Brainzooming blog into a compilation post, here are fifteen articles full of strategic thinking exercises you should consider if your company is headed for big trouble!

Evaluating Warning Signals and Strategic Options

Strategic Problem Solving

Strategic Implementation

Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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

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

Continue Reading