Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3

What types of strategic planning activities are in a strategic thinking workshop?

Readers have been asking this question frequently of late. That this is taking place during a period when many companies are IMPLEMENTING strategies suggests you understand the importance of strategy even beyond initial planning.

As we collaborate with a client to design strategic planning activities for a strategic thinking workshop, we explore various possibilities. The goal is making sure the strategic planning activities we select best match the organization, the objective, and the participants. By adapting the process to the situation, we’re able to help clients develop strong strategies with tremendous time efficiency.

6 Potential Strategic Planning Activities for a Workshop

If you are figuring out strategic planning activities in a strategic thinking workshop, we suggest looking toward six “I” categories as your starting point for the design. These six types of activities include:

Interacting – Meeting, networking and connecting with one another to build or enhance the sense of team among participants.

Informing – Providing background data and context so everyone has the same backdrop for strategic thinking. These activities often happen before a group convenes.

Investigating – Examining a particular situation to ensure the appropriate facts and perspectives are available for strategic thinking.

Insighting –  Identifying breakthrough thinking to open the door to deeply understanding opportunities and threats that strategy needs to address. (And yes, we know Insighting is a made-up word!)

Iterating – Using specific creative and strategic thinking exercises in a sequence to help the group generate many possibilities and ideas.

Integrating – Taking the output from throughout the strategic thinking workshop and putting it into strategic planning outputs. As with Information activities, these often happen outside a group setting.

Selecting the Right Menu of Activities

Selecting the menu of activities for a strategic thinking workshop isn’t haphazard. As we mentioned, the combination of the organization, objectives, and participants leads to the right menu of strategic planning activities. We explore each of these areas upfront to determine what to include.

The next article will take you deeper into each of the six categories with helpful articles to shape a productive strategic gathering.

Have questions about how we apply these activities? Contact us at The Brainzooming Group, and let’s talk about how to create the right menu of activities for your team. – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation

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During the Lenten season, which starts today (Ash Wednesday), Christians are called to sacrifice in a spirit of reflection and prayer. The point is to distance ourselves from the attractive nuisances of daily living that chip away at our spiritual lives.

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Entering this Lenten season, I’m thinking a lot about expectations and evaluations. Not expectations and evaluations from others, but those we render personally about ourselves.

For as long as I can remember, I tell myself I am not doing well enough or am not performing up to expectations. These are powerful personal motivators for me. In MBA school, I used to worry that each semester’s finals could be the ones that caused me to flunk out of college. In reality, that wasn’t even a remote possibility. Yet, this self-expectation drove me to study harder. It also made me physically ill every semester.

That’s a strong example of lying to yourself in a tremendously self-destructive way.

The same mentality drives me in business, too. Some shortcomings I’m trying to fill are real. Many (maybe most), however, are lies I tell myself to keep pushing harder.

Among other things, this Lent will involve for me trying to be more honest with myself. Self-lies about needing to do more work (or more whatever) have become too much a part of immersing myself in the world. They have detracted from my spiritual life. They cause me to get away from practices that are important to staying healthy and more productive overall.

I’m looking to honesty as an important part of making sure I’m investing my time and energy in the places God (and not Mike) wants.

A Creativity Prayer

As we’ve done for years on Ash Wednesday, here is our creativity prayer. It’s right at the intersection of my spiritual and personal lives. And if you say it, drop in a little prayer for me, please. Thank you!

A Creativity Prayer

Lord, Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours. Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others. Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

©2008, Mike Brown

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I long ago learned an important lesson about corporate branding decisions: no matter how many intriguing, mentally-engaging brand strategy conversations you have among senior executives, those conversations NEVER lead to final decisions. No, corporate branding decisions are only resolved when someone needs a new business card, trade show booth, brochure, or website.

When you have to physically display a logo or depict how two brands relate to each other when they are placed together? THAT is when executives finally make corporate branding decisions.

A conversation with an upcoming client brought this lesson to mind. They asked whether they should include the organization’s logo in the official email signature.

Addressing that question led to an extended conversation about reasons why they should or should not include the logo. During the conversation, we also tackled what the organization’s multi-part name is supposed to mean (because no one seems to know) and why its logo looks like something it isn’t. We also touched on whether one of their product names actually has much greater brand equity than the overall organization (which changed its name to an acronym several years ago).

See what I mean?

A question about the email signature quickly got us (well, at least me), questioning their whole naming and identity strategy.

If you’re struggling with corporate branding decisions no one is moving forward to resolve, maybe it’s time to design new business cards. Getting physical like that will prompt the decisions you need to make to clarify your brand strategy and move into action.  – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!

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Talking with a client team about facilitating its strategic planning process, we discussed why completed strategic plans sit on shelves.

There are multiple reasons for this unfortunate situation.

I think an important reason is when a strategic planning process focuses on the wrong issues. It happens so often: people launch into strategic planning and begin to talk and think differently than during daily business activities. They also assume the things they work on every day must not be part of the strategic planning process.

Put all those things together, and if left unchecked, you wind up with a strategic plan disconnected from the organization’s daily activities and reading like a document foreign to the organization.

A Strategic Planning Process Focused on the Wrong Issues

I shared a story from my corporate days to demonstrate how easily strategic planning gets disconnected from what matters.

We spent 3/4 of a day working on the strategic plan for a cross-border transportation service. We were going through all the typical strategic planning exercises. We worked with the brand manager to complete and review a SWOT analysis, identified (and prioritized) important opportunities, and spelled out tactics to implement the opportunities.

Late in the afternoon, the brand manager said the service was in violation of certain governmental regulations. The remedy to address the violation was not immediately clear. If the brand team could not figure out what to do quickly, the government was threatening to shut down the service within a few weeks.

I about fell to the ground.

Heck, maybe I did fall to the ground. There would be precedent for it.

I asked what would have made the team think we should spend most of the day working on next year’s planning when the biggest issue facing the service RIGHT NOW could halt the revenue stream within a month.

The problem?

The brand manager interpreted “strategic” as “long-term.” The catastrophe that could shut down the service was not long-term. Since it was immediate, he didn’t think the impending shut down was relevant for strategic planning.


Ever since then, we employ a series of questions to ferret out incredibly strategic make-or-break issues a client does not, for some reason, think are strategic.

Are you planning for your biggest day-to-day issues?

If your organization’s plans sit on the shelf, contact us, and let’s talk about how we attack that issue from multiple fronts so strategic planning creates strategic impact and results for you! – Mike Brown

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

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!

Download Your FREE eBook! Big Strategy Statements - 3 Steps to Collaborative Strategy

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We have released a host of eBooks on strategic planning exercises and ideas to increase collaboration, creative thinking, alignment, and successful implementation. In case you missed any Brainzooming strategy planning eBooks, here are seven to jump start your strategic planning exercises and better engage your team in shaping your organization’s direction.

You can download your copies by clicking on the titles or the covers of the eBooks below.

Results – Creating Strategic Impact (Download)

The Results eBook makes our case for collaborative strategy planning among your organization’s employees (and even, in many cases, your customers). That doesn’t mean you turn over strategy setting. It does mean that you ask all your important audiences for their perspectives to meaningfully shape the strategy you determine.

The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (Download)

This is our biggest collection ever of strategic thinking questions to move strategy planning ahead in finding the best strategic direction. The questions also address branding, marketing, innovation, creativity, and implementation.

Reimagining the SWOT Analysis (Download)

The SWOT analysis is the workhorse of strategic planning exercises. That creates two options: always use it as originally designed while it calcifies, or shake it up and realize new value from adapting the SWOT analysis in a way that best suits your organization.

Big Strategy Statements – A Collaborative Way to Shape Your Strategic Direction (Download)

If your organization has a big strategy statement (vision, mission, etc.), but didn’t involve your employees in helping to shape it, you have missed a HUGE opportunity. These strategic planning exercises provide a way to engage employees in the direction you will depend on them to create.

11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning (Download)

If you are in charge of strategic planning exercises in your organization, you can take the same old approaches and perpetuate miserably boring and mind-numbing strategy planning meetings. Alternatively, you can use the fun ideas in this eBook to create an engaging strategy planning experience that motivates great thinking and creates strategy fans!

10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (Download)

As you assemble a team for implementation, you want to start down the right path. The strategic thinking questions here provide teams a way to shape implementation through focus and inclusiveness.

321 GO! 5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better (Download)

Not all implementation teams step up to the opportunity to move ahead. These five situations and corresponding remedies help senior leaders and initiative point people move teams forward if they hesitate.

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times (Download)

Things are crazy right now. There is a lot of uncertainty globally, and has a way of paralyzing organizations. Even if your implementation path is not completely clear, these four strategies will help you move forward in a smart way.  – Mike Brown

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We facilitated a follow-up innovation workshop for an industrial client. In previous workshops, a large group convened and re-imagined a manufacturing process to improve quality, while maintaining costs and production efficiency. A follow-up workshop moved four of the process improvement concepts into detailed project planning. The aim was creating a series of relatively quick experiments to test the feasibility of each concept.

Straight forward enough, it would seem.

The organization’s leader, however, struggled with one of the concepts. It was not big and bold enough. As the team began implementation, they seem to settle for incremental improvements. The leader wanted to see them broaden and expand the concept’s horizons.

They requested a follow-up innovation workshop to inspire bigger, further out thinking.

A Remedy from our eBook, 321 GO!

We brought two specific inspirations to the innovation workshop: extreme and analogy-based creative thinking exercises. Using these creative thinking exercises, we pushed them to forget (temporarily) what they have been doing and re-imagine the situation from different perspectives. That combo, along with a lot of conversation and drawing, identified six other concepts during the innovation workshop. They picked two to drill down on right now, with four other others in the hopper for later.

Most importantly, the client was happy with the progress and sees the right level of reach from the innovation project team.

There were plenty of take-away lessons for any of us to consider. Here are a few:

  • A leader’s “no” to innovation isn’t necessarily throttling new thinking. It may be that the new thinking isn’t big enough.
  • Where, and how far, you stand away from today has a significant impact on the size of ideas in an innovation workshop. Standing in extreme and analogous positions leads to bigger thinking.
  • An internal team, left to its own devices, can lack the capabilities to push their thinking. In those cases, stopping for an innovation workshop provides the impetus to advance thinking so the team can keep moving.

A client looking for more extreme ideas, finding the right inspiration triggers, and designing an innovation workshop to deliver bigger thinking. All in a day’s work for The Brainzooming Group!

If that sounds like something you need, contact us, and let’s discuss the possibilities.  – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!

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

Continue Reading


While we are whole-hearted proponents of fun strategic planning activities, that doesn’t mean every strategic planning workshop we design and facilitate has exactly the same type of fun. In fact, in some situations, we never get out the fun squeeze toys.

And we all know that toys are a universal signal that a strategy workshop is supposed to be fun.

Not really; just kidding.

There is a lot more to making a strategy workshop fun so that people want to participate the first time and in subsequent years. We detail all those ideas in 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.

4 Times to Avoid Toys during Fun Strategic Planning Activities

But back to strategy workshops and skipping the toys – here are four situations where we do not rush to put out toys:

1. The dynamic with the group doesn’t feel right

Sometimes, it is obvious that the participants are not jelling and funny is not the best thing to get them comfortable with each other.

2. It’s too cramped and cluttered in the room

We want a lot of square feet per person for a strategy workshop. Often, we wind up in a tiny room because it’s convenient, and everyone is on top of one another. In those situations, the last thing we need is to add to the clutter with toys.

3. The people may kill each other

Toys are meant to be fun. They are not meant to be weapons. When the strategy workshop participants are a little TOO aggressive with one another, someone could put an eye out by zinging a squeeze ball at a co-worker. If people can’t play nicely, NO TOYS.

4. We’re told “no funny stuff”

We have talked about situations where a client came to us before the workshop to say there was to be no funny stuff. In those cases, we don’t go to the toys – at least not right away!

Other than those four times

Beyond those four times, we’re all about the toys. And everything else that REALLY makes strategic planning a mentally stimulating experience! – Mike Brown

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fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy 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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