Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 331 – page 331

Here’s one of our fun strategic planning activities: ice breaker questions for a moderately sized group (15 – 20 people) that doesn’t know each other that well. These ice breaker questions create interaction and put a new twist on the standard, boring personal introduction at meetings.

Give every attendee a sheet with a single, different question and a list of everyone in the meeting. As people gather, each person attempts to ask their question of as many other people as possible, recording the answers on the sheet.

Then during the introductions, instead of people telling about themselves, the entire group reports the one piece of information that they have on the person in a rapid fire format, providing a brief and varied introduction.

You can limit the introductions to 30 or 45 seconds to keep the report out moving; if not, it can take 90 to 120 seconds per introduction.

One key to the lighter side of these ice breaker questions is to mix up the types of questions and have some fun with them. There may some personal, but not too invasive questions (i.e., How far do you drive to work?) along with ice breaker questions that can tie to the person who is doing the asking. I once had a rather notorious beer drinker ask each person about favorite hangover remedies; he had a blast with it as did the people he was asking.

For a first hand account about fun strategic planning activities and an experience with using this one in particular, Jan Harness, the Chief Creative Instigator, reports on her participation in this ice breaker exercise at an event we led.

By the way, do you dream in color or black and white? – Mike Brown


fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for More Ideas to Make Strategic Planning 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.”

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Speaking to a graduate level class on innovation several years ago, we covered the concept of borrowing ideas from other sources, looking for opportunities to change & incorporate them into your business.

One student, a communications professional at a major local company, said his department held “Plagiarism Fridays.” They were trying to upgrade their marketing effort, and Plagiarism Friday was a bit of a show-and-tell to get employees looking at strong creative from other industries, thinking about how their company could learn from it.

Here’s a way to take this approach and adapt it for your own business:

  • Schedule time and ask employees to look for examples of great ideas to share. The only rule – they have to be from outside your industry or competitive set.
  • Have participants present the selected ideas – perhaps 2 or 3 pieces per session.
  • Get each person to do a quick personal assessment. For each idea, identify what’s strong, what’s weak, what’s intriguing or unusual, and a recommendation for how your business could incorporate some learnings from it. Share the assessments as a group.
  • Select one of the sample ideas and using the input from the assessments, have the group apply it to one of your business challenges to see what possibilities arise.
  • Select at least one new possibility and do something to advance it.

Plagiarism Friday sounds like a great idea to me, so…go ahead, steal it and take it to work tomorrow (just be sure to change it and make it better)!

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Many people struggle with selling intangible ideas, benefits, and points of view. If you have a discomfort with abstractions, it’s difficult to modify your communication style to create a picture in someone’s mind of something that doesn’t physically exist.

One person who does a wonderful job of that on a weekly basis is Garrison Keillor along with the cast of “A Prairie Home Companion” radio program. Every Saturday afternoon, they bring to life a whole host of situations, characters, and even products that are completely fictional. So for today’s Change Your Character exercise, let’s delegate our task of conveying intangible ideas to them and see how the cast would approach the task by:

  • Writing a script
  • Incorporating rich, vivid language
  • Featuring reoccurring characters
  • Employing a variety of entertainment formats
  • Telling stories
  • Acting out skits with multi-talented performers
  • Booking guests to help act out the stories
  • Interviewing guests
  • Intermixing real and imagined entities (sponsors, characters, etc.)
  • Mixing comedy and drama
  • Incorporating sound effects
  • Having a band play music and theme songs
  • Performing in front of a studio audience that provides real reactions to the material

Step right up to the microphone and share three new possibilities for helping your audience visualize intangible ideas based on each of the techniques above. If you need an additional push, try some Powdermilk Biscuits – they “give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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At a recent dinner, a colleague was talking about a wine-tasting class his son had taken. One of the most memorable wines he tasted was creatively named “Cat’s Pee” – I kid you not. Always trying to have a business orientation, the conversation suggested this potential process map, drawn on the paper tablecloth at dinner. Happy April Fool’s Day!

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It’s the time of year when many annual reports are published. If your company publishes one, take advantage of the opportunity to get a better sense of “what matters” in your business. Read the management letter where the company’s senior leadership goes on record with its take on past performance, future aspirations, and the priority efforts that are expected to get your company where it’s going.

Afterward, ask yourself how your efforts fit with and contribute to the priorities. If you don’t clearly see or can’t logically make connections to what you’re focused on, you’ve got some work to do to link to what matters in your business.

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Just as with a chemical periodic table, go ahead and use this handy reference to determine the “corporate behavior formulas” of both good co-workers (the An2PoFCr who is a regular blog reader) and bad (the PFl4 that’s like a bad penny). Simply click on the chart to get a full sized version. Feel free to post your intriguing combinations as comments or suggest new behaviors as your encounter them. And thanks to Sally for her help in rounding out the initial list!

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I’ve known John Burton for a long time, and we’ve worked together closely during various phases in our careers. He’s a strong, multi-dimensional strategic thinker, and it was great to see him at the BMA presentation last week. Here are his thoughts on the reluctance companies demonstrate in hiring a mix to people to spur diversity in strategic thinking:

I had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s strategic perspective presentation last week. One point he made struck a cord with an idea I have been thinking about in recent weeks – Do companies make hiring decisions to be complimentary or complementary?

Mike mentioned that an aspect of “awakening strategic thinking” is a having good blend of participants. You need some that have experience, some with strong functional knowledge and a few with dynamic, creative energy. This is just like basketball, where you need to blend a point guard with shooters and big men. In both cases, the key to success is to have people play complementary roles in the process, creating a bigger whole than any one aspect can bring on its own.

However, a business sometimes forgets this point when putting together its leadership team, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.

A business was recently going from small company to major player in a fragmented business service segment after a number of acquisitions. Leadership knew it needed to add strategic marketing and sales resources to help position the company for continued growth. After defining a senior position and recruiting candidates that fit the bill, they backtracked and decided to hire someone whose primary background was sales management.

Why? They felt they had to have someone the new person’s most important direct reports (regional sales VP’s) would respect and feel comfortable with. In essence, they went for the candidate that would get “compliments” for being familiar versus someone that would “complement” the organization by bringing new skills and insights.

Sometimes, success comes not from creating a comfortable, “complimentary” environment, but putting a team together that forces everyone to live with a little discomfort. – John Burton

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