Going into a strategy meeting today that is sure to be a snoozer?

Even if you are going into the meeting with the same old people, the same old topics, and the same old expectations to just get a strategy done and put into a notebook on a shelf so you can go back to doing what you’ve always been doing, there is hope!

Here is a way you can turn a typical strategic thinking exercise into something new and fun that both adds variety to your strategy meeting AND could trigger some new ideas to get our strategy out of a rut!

You have no doubt heard of a SWOT analysis. It highlights your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

In many companies, the list of items on the SWOT analysis does not change all that much from one year to the next.

Are you up for changing that?

Use a New SWOT Strategic Thinking Exercise Nobody Expects

Go into your next strategy meeting with a different spin on this important, yet tired old strategic thinking exercise.


Split your group into two or four groups if it is large enough. If not, then let the entire group work on the four questions within this different SWOT strategic thinking exercise.

Once you have everyone situated, here are your four new SWOT questions:

  • What are important things we avoid doing (that we should do) because they are Scary for our brand?
  • What are Wild and creative ideas our competitors or other relevant companies are doing that we need to consider?
  • What can we do next year that would be Outrageous and bold?
  • What can we do in the marketplace that will be the most Threatening to our competitors?

Yes, try a SWOT strategic thinking exercise looking for ideas that are:

  • Scary
  • Wild
  • Outrageous
  • Threatening

This new type of SWOT analysis is good for at least twenty minutes of new thinking at your strategy meeting to get people out of the humdrum of strategic planning.

And be on the lookout for crazy ideas. You can always adjust those ideas and harvest them for great new strategies you might have never generated if you had not been looking for ideas that at first seemed ridiculous!

Contact us, and let’s customize a strategy process specific to your organization. – Mike Brown

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Want to try something to get a particularly new and insightful look at a situation?

Here’s how it works.

After you identify the “characters” in a particular situation, completely shift their roles. After you do that, see how the situation looks differently, simply because the characters are playing different roles.


We frequently facilitate a strategic thinking exercise that uses a character outside a situation as the perspective. This is different, however. Here are situations where you can use it:

  • If it’s a discussion for or against an idea, shift the protagonist and antagonist roles to see how the argument might change or develop.
  • If it’s an interaction between people in different groups, flip the roles, characteristics, or natures of the parties.
  • If it’s an evaluation of before and after performance, make the after scenario before and the before scenario after to see how the switch looks from this different perspective.

The other day, I was revisiting a personal exchange between two business people. Switching their characteristics unveiled multiple insights about the strategies, decisions, and outcomes related to their interactions. It also led to identifying other comparable situations to mine for insights and expected behaviors.

There’s no guarantee this strategic thinking exercise works in every situation. There’s not even a clear and certain sense of what it might yield in each situation.

Since it worked so well the other day, however, we wanted to pass it along right away as a strategic thinking exercise to consider when you have the right types of characters to make it work. – Mike Brown

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We were on a hotel site visit to scout the location for an upcoming client conference. Beyond meeting with the client team, we spent considerable time with the hotel staff. The objective was to solicit their innovative ideas for how to create the highest impact in a challenging conference space.


While we developed ideas for high-impact options, we wanted the experts at the hotel to come to the table with ideas. With that situation, we wanted to ask plenty of questions and provide plenty of room for them to contribute their experience-based, innovative ideas.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions – Innovative Ideas from Experts

Many of the strategic thinking questions we share help people imagine things that have never happened. The following nine strategic thinking questions that we used with the hotel staff were meant to get them to mine their previous experiences and aspirations to generate innovative ideas we could incorporate into the meeting:

  1. What are things you have been dreaming about or trying to figure out how to do, but haven’t had a chance yet?
  2. What are outlandish things you tried but didn’t work as you expected?
  3. What things have worked, and how would you like to do more of or do them in a bigger way?
  4. What are things you’ve seen elsewhere we should consider trying?
  5. What’s something no one in our audience will have seen happen before?
  6. How have you thought about reimagining a familiar something or other?
  7. What are things you’ve done elsewhere you would like to try here?
  8. What have you done in a completely different setting that might work for what we’re doing?
  9. What cool things haven’t we asked about that we should consider?

Whenever you’re dealing with experts and looking for innovative ideas, consider these strategic thinking questions (or variations on them) to help them not do as so many experts do: dismiss what they know as routine and normal, when in fact normal for an expert is often quite innovative and sensational for everyone else! – Mike Brown

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I attended a presentation on cultivating a creative culture delivered by Michael Perman, formerly of Gap, at The Marketing Conference last week in San Francisco. During his keynote, Perman discussed twenty-plus three-day creativity sessions he organized while at Gap. Called M!ndspark, the sessions brought together thirty team members from The Gap in three-day “mini-TED conferences” to capitalize on creative diversity. The objective for M!ndspark was to provide creative stimulation, pave the way for cultivating a more creative culture, and to address business opportunities and challenges.

During the time for audience questions, I asked Michael how long it took during the four year run of M!ndspark to settle on a standard format, if they ever did?

He said they learned over time about how to purposefully manage creative diversity most effectively.


Originally, the goal was simply bringing a diverse group together from across the company. Over time, however, they discovered that while they wanted participants with creative diversity, it was important to include individuals from groups that would actually return to the business and work together to solve problems. Solving the creative diversity puzzle with an eye toward ultimate implementation success led to better cultivating a creative environment.

What mix of creative diversity will drive implementation?

That is a great lesson whenever you are thinking about selecting a diverse group of participants for a strategic or creative thinking workshop. Beyond getting the right mix of people for that day’s activities, you want to make decisions based on how a work team will most benefit from the shared experience to cultivate a creative environment.

While we work aggressively to ensure a strongly diverse group that understands the issues we’re addressing, we’ll had this new question to our creative thinking workshop design process. Ultimately, business creativity is about creating strategic impact. Solving the diversity equation for implementation success is a smart approach. – Mike Brown


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I came up with this list a few years ago when some friends were searching for high school reunion ideas that would help pass the time.


It’s reunion time again. Here’s the list of fun questions in text and image form. Try them out, and see who fits each category at your high school reunion!

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask

  1. Most unrealized intellectual potential?
  2. Who has most over achieved?
  3. Most changed physically—male?
  4. Most changed physically—female?
  5. Least changed?
  6. Person I would most like to change places with?
  7. Would have taken better care of him/herself if he/she had thought he/she would make it to this reunion?
  8. Great news! __________ showed up.
  9. Great news! __________ didn’t show up.
  10. Too bad. ________ didn’t show up.
  11. Highest (unwarranted) opinion of themselves?
  12. Most changed?
  13. And I would know you from?
  14. When did you get so big?
  15. Boy…I’m glad I’m not __________.
  16. Over/under—plastic surgeries? 2
  17. Most interesting conversation?
  18. Most thought provoking conversation?

High School Reunion Ideas – 18 Fun Questions to Ask (image)

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Want to hang out with some of the Brainzooming crew in San Francisco next week and learn all kinds of valuable information on content marketing, social media, marketing strategy, and branding?

Yes, it’s possible to do a deep dive into all those areas, plus network with other smart marketers from across industries, all in one location.

You’re invited to join us at the Social Media Strategies Summit and The Marketing Conference, taking place concurrently at The Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco, September 27-29. Registrants for either conference can move back and forth between the two, targeting the workshops and presentations that will be most valuable to their business success.

Did I mention there’s a special conference discount registration for Brainzooming readers? Keep reading for the code!


I’ll be doing workshops on content marketing and collaborative branding strategy. I’ll be co-presenting the content marketing workshop and a presentation on marrying data and creativity with Emma Alvarez Gibson.

Other presenters are from Charles Schwab, Gap, Intel, and Campbell Soup.

Want to learn more about the combined opportunity of two conferences in one?

Here is conference producer Breanna Jacobs sharing more on the presenters and benefits of having two conferences agendas to customize your experience.

Earlier I mentioned a special discount code for Brainzooming readers (I.e., you!). When you register for The Marketing Conference, use the code MKTG25 to score a 25% discount on your registration!

We’re looking forward to seeing all our Bay Area (and traveling) friends next week in San Francisco for this incredible marketing meet up! – Mike Brown

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As we mentioned, business people are expending considerable energy preparing for strategy planning meetings. That is evidenced by our web traffic as searches for effective strategic planning exercises and effective strategy meetings jump.

Invariably, executives are seeking information on strategic thinking exercises suited to making strategic planning participants more effective and successful.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – Some Work, Some Don’t

That is why whenever we’re working in the Brainzooming R&D lab on new strategic planning exercises for clients, I’m reminded of this video. It’s a Monty Python sketch called “World Forum.” In it, Eric Idle plays a talk/gameshow host quizzing the big players in communism and socialism.

Why, you may ask, does this video remind me of strategic planning exercises?

Because the Monty Python sketch demonstrates how asking questions that participants aren’t suited to answer tanks strategic planning meetings. That’s why this video was an early inspiration for the Brainzooming approach to strategic thinking exercises.

Think about how closely the sketch matches your strategic planning meeting experiences.

In the first round, the host asks experts in communism and socialism about trivia questions pertaining to English football. Despite how opinionated they are in their fields of expertise, they can’t contribute beyond what they know. In the second round, it’s only through dumb luck that one of them positively answers a question far afield from what you’d expect they know. Finally, in the third round, a few questions about their areas of expertise lead to beneficial answers. After the topic returns to English football, however, it’s back to silence.

That’s just like many strategy meetings. Employees that rarely deal with strategy formally are peppered with questions and exercises about corporate strategy and business analysis they are ill prepared to answer. As a result, participants are frustrated and feel as if they wasted their time.


It doesn’t have to be like that, though.

If you’d like to learn more about a better way to collaborate on strategy, we have suggestions for you that will really work for your organization!

Call us at 816-509-5320 or email us at info@brainzooming.com, and let’s talk about what will work best for your team. –  Mike Brown


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.

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