Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Do you dread strategy meetings?

Really, we’re among friends, so you can be completely truthful in your answer: Do you REALLY, REALLY DREAD strategy meetings?

Of course, you dread them. Every executive dreads strategic planning. I know I do.

The reason is while it is important for organizations, participants hardly ever see the connection between participation and positive changes for brands and customers.

While a strategic planning process may promise to deliver real objectives and tactics, it often never happens as promised. Senior executives may say they want disruptive ideas, but they really want ideas that are easy to grasp and fit the current system. And who wants to waste precious time on trying to imagine and plan things an organization should pursue but ultimately never will?

That is why wrapping strategy meetings in creative thinking exercises and the appropriate amount of fun and diversion is optimum.

80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

We’ve been facilitating fun strategic planning activities for years.

Across our client engagements, here are links to 80 activities and ideas for making strategy more fun!

Even though fun strategy meetings seem elusive, we routinely make them productive, enjoyable, and fun for the organizations, senior executives, and teams with which we work. Enjoy this dive into our most successful approaches.

If you would like to go even deeper, contact us, and let’s talk about how we can bring a fun approach to strategy into your organization! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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In the Midwest, where I grew up, grain elevators are a common sight. The tall structures store grain for processing, and you learn as a kid that they can be both combustible and explosive. Given they hold a high concentration of grain, and therefore a large surface area, it only takes a small spark to turn one into an explosive scene.

3 Conditions for Explosive Creative Thinking Skills

Reflecting on grain elevators led me to consider explosive creative thinking skills, and the parallels between the two. The characteristics that create a potentially dangerous explosive situation at a grain elevator can be turned to a positive when applied to creative thinking skills:

#1. Large surface area

When it comes to creativity, this element translates to setting up many-to-many (as opposed to one-on-one) interactions among participants during a creative workshop. In this way, a variety of people are exposed to, and can stimulate new thoughts and perspectives in, one another.

#2. Intensity

Achieve intensity by constraining time and creating high expectations for the number of ideas a creative group should imagine. With just a few competitive people involved across a large group of participants, a big goal combined with a deadline leads to an opportunity to push everyone’s creative thinking skills for big impact.

#3. Structure

Finally, by having creative thinking exercises in place, you provide the right structure for group collaboration. And that’s the spark that takes the setting from calm to explosive.

Creativity Goes Boom!

This shorthand analogy proves very convenient if your team’s creative thinking skills aren’t delivering the results you would like to accomplish. Step back and ask, How can we generate the combination of the abundant surface area, intensity, and the structure to spark an explosion of creative thinking? – Mike Brown

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“I’ve known those guys for years, and they smiled all the way through a strategic planning process. That’s when I knew I wanted to meet you guys.”

That’s what the CEO of a nearly-$1 billion, employee-owned company said to us at our first meeting. We facilitate the strategic planning process for his organization’s largest business unit in 2016. Currently, we’re helping develop and implement one of its strategic initiatives.

The CEO wanted to discuss how we can help him with the strategic planning process across the corporation. The idea is that we’ll work with him to develop a strategic direction and then create a corporate strategic plan with his direct reports. Following that, we’ll work with each business unit on its own collaborative strategic plan.

Now, this is still a work in progress. In fact, we’re in the process of putting together the scope of work. But I wanted to share this endorsement while it was still fresh. We don’t share many of the accolades we receive, because our focus is on you and information that helps you, not news about us.

Keeping It All Smiles

I am sharing this one because it’s the kind of endorsement I particularly enjoy.

We strive to make any strategic planning process engaging, fun, and completely smile-worthy. In other words, everything strategic planning usually is not! Receiving this validation from the corporation’s CEO meant the world to me because getting people to smile during something that most people hate is a big part of why we do what we do.

Want to see this happen in your organization? If you’re ready to create your best strategic plan yet, in a shorter time than you’re used to, in a way that’s fun, engaging, and makes people smile, get in touch today. We have all kinds of ideas and proven methods to make it happen for you! – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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You may want to take a seat before reading this rest of this.

An Awkward Social Media Strategy Moment, Brought to You by The Brainzooming Group

We’re going to ask a tough question about your social media strategy. An uncomfortable one that may be awkward.

Ready?

Here it is: When you take an honest look at the social content your organization produces, can you think of any reasons why your customers and prospects would be interested in reading, viewing, listening, or engaging in it?

Before you check, think about this: you’re not evaluating your social media strategy as a company insider. You’re evaluating your social content as a customer or prospect that may know very little about your company, let alone have a burning desire to learn more about it right this second. What they care about is content that is beneficial, entertaining, or otherwise good for them. End of story.

Now, go take a look and consider the question. We’ll wait while you poke around your blog, tweets, videos, Facebook updates, LinkedIn articles, Instagram images, and such.

(And BTW, if none of the abovementioned has been recently updated, the answer to the question is NO.)

*whistling while we wait*

You’re back. Great!

What’s your answer?

If it’s YES, that must mean you’ve invested time into thinking about your audiences’ interests beyond your company, creating and sharing content where you can credibly address those concerns. And that means–

What’s that?

You’re now unsure about whether YES, THEY WOULD LOVE OUR CONTENT is the right answer?

Well…we thought you might have some second thoughts about that.

Boost Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy with Social-First Content!

Whether you wavered in your YES, or you fessed up right away that the answer is NO, it’s time to download our latest Brainzooming eBook on social-first content strategy.

In Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, we’ll show you how to quickly develop and use an audience persona to:

  1. Understand more comprehensively what interests your audience
  2. Find engaging topics your brand can credibly address via social-first content
  3. Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content shares actionable, audience-oriented frameworks and exercises.

We use these same tools to help clients develop solid, brand-building social media strategy plans and implement them successfully.

And now you can, too. At no charge. In no time at all, you’ll be back, confidently saying YES, THEY WOULD LOVE OUR CONTENT.

Download Your FREE eBook! Boosting Your Brand with Social-First Content
Download your personal copy of Giving Your Brand a Boost through Social-First Content, and start improving your social media strategy today. Ready? Let’s go!

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Emma Alvarez Gibson is here today, as a Gen Xer, to get the multi-generational workforce on the same program. Well, maybe as a first step, to get the Baby Boomers and Millennials to understand there are options for them (beyond whining to the Gen Xers) to upgrade their own performance and make more sense to each other. Because the Gen Xers have their own work to get done, and translating for all of you is making it tough for them.

Short story, it’s a powder keg out there in the multi-generational workforce, so here is to making it a little safer!

Field Notes: A Gen Xer Speaks to the Multi-generational Workforce from Emma Alvarez Gibson

Hello, colleagues.

We have a pretty decent working relationship, don’t we? We are gracious and professional, we exchange pleasantries even when we don’t have to, and we weather the ups and downs of corporate life together, or anyway near one another. Things are fine! I think we probably all agree on that.

You may not be aware of it, but as the lifeblood of our organization, as a Gen Xer, I’m holding together two disparate worlds in the multi-generational workforce. Having one foot in Baby Boomer Biosphere and the other in Millennialandia, I translate all day long, you to me to them and back again. I tell the youngs what the olds want, and I tell the olds what the youngs mean. I switch gears so that the inhabitants of both worlds will understand that I know what I’m about and that I’m trustworthy. (It’s tiring, yes, and I imagine this is the sort of situation that led Atlas to shrug, but that way lies a discussion about Ayn Rand, which, frankly, I’m too worn out to consider at the moment.)

It is in the spirit of our mutual respect and collaboration, then, that I implore you to consider a simple upgrade to your modus operandus. Herein I shall recommend one upgrade for the Baby Boomers, and another for the Millennials. In both cases the goal is the same: greater productivity within our multi-generational workforce.

via Shutterstock

Millennials, I’m going to start with you.

You are much maligned, it’s true; but all of us could benefit from some improvement. (And hey, Gen Xers know from being maligned. Everything was our fault until you guys were in grade school, at which point everything magically became your fault.)

Here is the one weird trick to improving your reputation around the office: have good manners. That entails, for instance, making eye contact. It means that when someone greets you in the hallway, you say hello back, even if you don’t know the person who’s just spoken to you. (The odds of your needing to ask that person for permission in order to carry out various parts of your job repeatedly over the course of an average week will be high. Trust.) Don’t just waltz into someone’s office and say, “I’m supposed to get a folder from you?” Knock, even if the door is open, and introduce yourself. Say please. Say thank you. Respect the pecking order, or make the effort to appear as though you do. You’re probably way faster at what you do than the majority of the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers you work with. But we’ve got years on you, which translates into breadth, depth, context, and relationships. Relationships are everything. Remember that.

Baby Boomers, you’re up now.

You have that aforementioned breadth, depth, and context. You have the relationships. We rely on you for structure and order, for insight and reason. So please, please, please: learn how to use technology, already.

Stop spending so much time talking about the ways you used to be able to do your job without it. Stop finding clever ways to avoid doing tech-related things because you don’t want people to think you’re too old. Spoiler alert: it’s heartbreakingly obvious to us when you’re avoiding it. We can tell from the language you use whether or not you’re scared of technology. Avoid the mental calisthenics: admit what you don’t know, and then learn what you should know. Stop pretending you can be as good as you once were without it. Change is inconvenient for everyone. It’s just that your generation is the only one still in the workforce that’s ever had the luxury of stability. We understand the impulse to ignore this pesky quicksand atop which we all stand. But we know it’s futile at best and self-destructive at worst.

Manners, meet technology. Technology, say hello to manners.

And yea verily will the skies part and the hallelujah chorus sound. Well, anyway, things will get better for our multi-generational workforce: we will grease the wheels of both form and function, and the Gen Xers will get a little breathing room, which in turn will make us a whole lot less resentful and irritatingly prone to dramatic statements about what martyrs we are.

So, now it’s your turn. Because fair’s fair. What are Gen Xers doing to drive you nuts? How can we contribute to the good of the group? Let us know on the Brainzooming Facebook page. (Yes, Millennials, we know it’s for old people. Yes, Boomers, we know you don’t want your life all over the internet. But everyone else is using it, so…c’mon. Do it for the team.)

Change is not only possible; it’s inescapable. So let us go willingly. The only thing we stand to lose is a bad stereotype.

– Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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Connect your plan to your business with Brainzooming.com.

These are just a few of the ways your strategic planning process can produce a plan that is disconnected from your organization. When that happens, you wind up with a strategic plan that sits on the shelves of your employees, as they go back to doing what they were doing before you interrupted their daily fire fighting with a strategic planning process.

Your strategic planning process does not have to fall into this trap. It’s avoidable if you do the right types of planning for planning and then eagerly, actively, and honestly engage all the appropriate parts of your organization in contributing to the strategies you develop.

If you are concerned about your organization’s strategy being disconnected from important aspects of your organization, contact us, and let’s talk about how to make strategic planning productive and integral to running your company in the year’s ahead.

In the interim, here are multiple articles to start going deeper into creating a well-connected strategic plan:

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“Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence featured ideas keeping executives focused on strategic priorities during strategic planning meetings. If your team wanders away from the important strategic topic, here’s a strategy to address it:

3 Ways to Keep Strategic Priorities Front and Center with Executives via Inside the Executive Suite

An executive reported a real-time challenge: keeping the senior team at her company focused on strategic priorities. Depending on the number of executives, or the positions of those prone to overly-detailed discussions, making sure a senior team does not get caught in the weeds during strategy meetings can be a touchy proposition.

We suspect it’s an issue familiar to many organizations. We find it typical that at least one or two individuals in any senior group are comfortable sticking to more detail than you would expect them to embrace. These may be individuals who are responsible for specific areas (and perhaps have been so throughout their careers) and/or ones with personalities oriented toward greater-than-average detail.

Keeping Strategic Priorities Front and Center

Do you struggle keeping senior-level strategy discussions at the appropriate level? If so, try these techniques we’ve employed over the years to focus meetings on strategic priorities that legitimately deserve executive suite attention.

1. Identify Where Everyone Stands Up Front

We are major proponents for meeting with executives before important strategy discussions. Whether through in-person interviews or some type of online input, it is helpful to know which executives are thinking what, and what issues resonate most strongly with them. Pre-meetings provide a sense of areas in which individuals may take the group into unnecessary detail. Questions to explore up front include:

  • What are the most important issues to address?
  • Where do you suspect strategy discussions could potentially derail?
  • What factors are important for determining the right strategy?
  • What topics do you feel most strongly about addressing in the meeting?

Based on participants’ answers, you will develop an early indication of the areas in which a meeting could go into the weeds. You will also have a sense of the major strategic themes to use in anchoring meeting conversations. Also, look for the senior leaders most likely to keep things out of the weeds. Talk with them beforehand, asking for their assistance to voice concerns if a particular leader or discussion becomes stuck in tactical matters.

2. Implement a Structure that Emphasizes Discussions on Strategic Priorities

Using what you identify during pre-meeting conversations, design a meeting format and structure to help the team focus on strategic issues. As you evaluate what is strategic, we recommend ignoring whether issues are long- or short-term. The timeline associated with acting on an opportunity or challenge doesn’t determine its strategic importance. Rather, think of strategic issues as those that will create a material impact on any of the following areas for your organization:

  • Its brands
  • Key audiences
  • Customers and prospects
  • Structure and alignment
  • Financial prospects
  • Vision and values
  • Resources and raw materials

Sharing and adopting a comparable framework for what is strategic helps keep a discussion focused on matters that will legitimately move the needle in any of these areas.

We also use several other approaches to steer strategic conversations:

  • List the major strategic themes you identify before the meeting. Allow the senior group to individually and collectively assign each item to a category: strategic, tactical, or (project) task issues.
  • Assign time limits to various agenda topics, allowing more time for strategic matters—disproportionately so.
  • As tactical or extraneous items are mentioned and commanding attention, stop and ask for clarification around the strategic issue to which they relate. If they can’t be tied back to strategy, table them.
  • Tackle non-strategic topics with questions that reveal them for what they are. Ask: How does this contribute to accomplishing our major objectives? How will this create a meaningful impact for customers (or other audiences)? If we don’t address this at a senior level, what major downsides will it create?

You can use these techniques individually or in combination to help manage discussions toward a strategic level.

3. Actively Listening for Strategic Information

From our experience, it’s rare that senior leaders (or anyone else for that matter) will articulate clear strategy statements and strategic issues right away. Instead, strategy emerges from snippets of conversation. That places heavy responsibility on the meeting facilitator to listen for strategic inputs amid conversation that may largely seem tactical.

Beyond monitoring for the strategic areas we mentioned earlier, listen for any conversation that touches on:

  • Organizational aspirations
  • Expectations tied to strategic initiatives and outcomes
  • Numbers that help size the impact of a strategic initiative
  • Significant strengths and weaknesses
  • Factors impacting organizational success, either positively or negatively
  • Descriptions of metrics and objectives
  • Beliefs central to the ways in which an organization conducts business
  • Elements that will contribute to decision making

By identifying the types of information you need to develop and refine strategy, you can better recognize relevant elements that surface throughout a strategic discussion. When details emerge, record and organize them in a way that both highlights their strategic nature and provides a visual aid to align the group. We’ve used this technique to allow a leadership team the flexibility to talk in an open format, while capturing their strategic insights and organizing them in a way they can productively use. Another advantage to actively and distinctly posting strategic decisions and issues as you go through a meeting is that it creates a visual aid to manage the conversation. If people get in the weeds when trying to revisit previously-made decisions, you can point them to the decision list to demonstrate it has already been addressed.

Additionally, if several senior participants are struggling to stay on a strategic plane, divide the larger group into smaller sub-groups. Put tactical thinkers together, freeing those ready to stay focused on strategic topics and make progress.

Keep Trying

We’ve suggested various ideas for keeping strategic priorities a focus for executives . We’ve used them all successfully. Yet they won’t all work in every situation. Try them, adapt where you need to do so, and develop your own variations that work most successfully with your group of senior leaders.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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