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Leave it to our friends over at Armada Corporate Intelligence for inspiring a new idea to close out the end of the year by enhancing your stronger creative thinking skills.

In their Wednesday “Inside the Executive Suite” edition, they recommended making a concerted effort during December to do something new each day as a way to boost readers’ creative thinking skills.

The four suggestions they offered to identify ideas for new things to do included:

  1. Stop asking what, why, and how questions that block new ideas
  2. Put something uncomfortable for you to-do on your daily to-do list
  3. Let others make decisions for you that will lead to doing new things
  4. Review the Wall Street Journal or Fast Company and identify ideas your company has never pursued

What an intriguing idea to go out of your way to do new things all the time. For those with a preference for predictability and efficiency, it can be challenging and uncomfortable to do something new daily, even if it could be a way to enhance your creative thinking skills continually.

But maybe devoting one month to trying new things daily is a way to get more comfortable inviting more frequent creative changes into your life.

DoNewCember?

In fact, maybe this could turn into a movement where each December becomes DoNewCember complete with a Twitter hashtag, social sharing of new activities, and lots of hoopla.

DoNewCember

Maybe launching DoNewCember as month-long movement could be my new activity for December 1st! – Mike Brown

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This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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While the year is winding down, it’s an ideal time to use strategic thinking questions to think about what you need to change for next year.

And what better way to get started than with a new batch of strategic thinking questions.

Strategic-QuestionMark

15 Strategic Thinking Questions to Explore

Some of these strategic thinking questions may seem reasonable; others may seem so outrageous that you wouldn’t ever considering using them. Our recommendation is to start with all of these ones that seem unbelievably outrageous.

In fact, the more outrageous, the better when it comes to applying these strategic thinking questions to your aspirations for the year ahead!

  1. How can we educate and cajole customers to raise their standards about the product / service we deliver? Then how can we more overtly encourage them to proactively point out when we aren’t meeting their high standards?
  2. What steps can we take to lower our brand’s tolerance for creating products and service that aren’t perfect?
  3. How can we reduce the barriers to starting new initiatives for our people who are most likely to do great things and deliver incredible value?
  4. How can we enable talented and less experienced people to get the backing for new initiatives early in their work histories before they’ve had a chance to imagine their ideas won’t work?
  5. How do we design new products or services for the potential customer who could be the most outrageously important and critical customer we could ever serve (as opposed to designing it for the lowest common denominator)?
  6. What would our brand look like if we deliberately tried to break every rule we can imagine that’s defined our industry and business until now?
  7. Where does our company move the slowest, and what steps can we take to dramatically speed things up by next week, at the latest?
  8. How would it improve our organization if we only paid people based on delivering the specific results we need for customers?
  9. In what ways would only paying people based on delivering the specific results we need for customers make things worse?
  10. What steps could we take to turn the craziest good idea we have into reality as soon as possible?
  11. Before we start deciding how we’re going to do something, what are all the ways we could decide to measure success or failure as early and often as possible during development?
  12. What are all the little pieces we need to break a “too big to start or even imagine how to start” project up to finally get it started?
  13. What will it take to blow up every reason why our organization fails to start tackling the important challenges we’ve become too accustomed to accepting?
  14. If we ruled out the belief that ANYTHING is impossible to accomplish, what would we start trying to accomplish RIGHT AWAY?
  15. What are nine other projects we could start that are related to our organization’s biggest project to help us move it ahead more quickly?

Are there enough strategic thinking questions on this list that make you squirm?

If so, be sure you start asking those first! – Mike Brown

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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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How do you help people with varied creative thinking skills perform most productively in a group setting?

We ask ourselves that question regularly, both in a general sense and with specific groups participating in creative thinking sessions we design and facilitate.

If you lead group meetings or teams, you should be asking this question also. If you don’t you’ll waste a lot of your time and others’ time fumbling around and hoping they individually, collectively, and spontaneously apply their creative thinking skills in the best possible way to solve whatever challenge you’ve presented.

From hundreds of formal creativity and strategy sessions and thousands of less formal meetings, here’s how we answer the question. The best way to help people with a wide array of creative thinking skills perform most productively is to provide questions for them to answer.

Sometimes they are simple questions. Other times, the creative thinking questions are more complex or approach an issue from multiple directions.

When you give someone a creative thinking question and some structure, however, you set the stage for people with different perspectives to work together successfully.

Questions and Structure Fostering Creative Thinking Skills

For example, at the Literacy Kansas City strategy session we facilitated, we wanted the group to react (in a constructive, additive way) to in-process planning underway for a new initiative’s launch. After two staff members shared their current plans, we could have moved to a blank flip chart and asked for reactions, which is what happens in most meetings.

Instead, we used the strategy poster in the photo below with targeted creative thinking questions. We designed it to help participants focus on critical success factors, ramifications from implementing a new model, and the metrics needed to measure success. By using multiple questions, people had a target for how they could contribute to the discussion and the planning’s progress.

Session-Poster

At the meeting’s end, one participant told the group she came to the session intimidated and wondering how she’d be able to contribute. After she saw the collaborative approach, however, she realized she had a lot to contribute throughout the day.

That’s a wonderful confirmation for using questions and structure to help people contribute to a productive meeting and a successful strategy.

Next time you’re expected to plan a meeting, spend time thinking about how YOU can help participants tap all their creative thinking skills through questions and structure.

Or if it’s a high-stakes, big, complex meeting, call us. We’ll do the planning for you to get the results you want! – 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. Email 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.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Before tackling the current topic on strategic thinking exercises, I have to admit something: In my capstone MBA strategy class, we ran a business simulation throughout the semester. Upon its completion, my partner and I won an award for our performance. We garnered the “Understock Award” for stocking out of product more than any other team.

Yes, I had created a spreadsheet-based model to perform what-if analysis and forecast our business levels. But my tendency to plan for surviving the downside of a situation led us to repeatedly under-forecast our sales volume in the simulation. Thus we invariably experienced more demand than we had product to satisfy.

Flash forward to last week’s strategy session we designed and facilitated for Literacy Kansas City. The organization, under the leadership of executive director, Carrie Coogan, is a nonprofit advancing literacy for teens and adults in the Kansas City region through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration.

While we were identifying critical success factors for a new Literacy Kansas City program launch, one of the board members announced she was going to play the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role. By “Positive Devil’s Advocate,” she meant she wanted to plan for overwhelming success with the new program. Would the organization be ready to handle a dramatically higher enrollment than expectations?

Literacy-Kc-Session

Playing the Positive Devil’s Advocate in Strategic Thinking Exercises

This role came up once before in a strategy session. Based on my award-winning tendency to plan for the worst and not for wild success, however, we haven’t developed specific Positive Devil’s Advocate roles in current exercises or designed new strategic thinking exercises focused on dealing with overwhelming success.

We’ll fix that and incorporate the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role into strategic thinking exercises. It will a bit of a flip to the Black Swan exercise we’ve talked about previously. We’ll also incorporate this role into other exercises, making sure we identify a person to push thinking on wild success wherever it’s appropriate. – Mike Brown

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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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A huge part of the value of using well-crafted strategic thinking exercises is they increase thinking, ideas, and active participation from a broader range of people than might otherwise happen.

Yet, a common question attendees at our workshops ask is how, in a group setting, to keep big talkers from dominating conversations as you are trying to use strategic thinking exercises or simply trying to facilitate a strategic conversation?

My first answer is to give any dominating, big talkers the wrong room and time so they miss the strategic discussion.

While I am kidding about that, it IS a possibility, if you are really daring.

Blah-Blah-Blah

3 Ideas for Keeping Big Talkers from Dominating Strategic Thinking Exercises

Here are three more reasonable ideas for how to deal with big talkers who could easily dominate the discussion during a strategy meeting:

1. Employ a few strategic thinking exercises BEFORE getting everyone together in a meeting.

Solicit input, compile the answers, and report the entire group’s thinking. In that way, the range of perspectives gets on the table.

2.Use more strategic thinking exercises where people work individually before sharing answers.

In a meeting, having people work individually before sharing ideas in groups keeps big talkers from getting in the way of others forming and documenting THEIR ideas.

3. Take advantage of small groups within a meeting.

You can reduce the negative impact of big talkers in this way by keeping them all together in a small group (so they don’t get in the way of others). Another variation on this approach is simply minimizing how many people rotate through small groups with the big talkers.

When do these ideas work best?

All three of these ideas are ways to avoid having to call out big talkers directly and shut them down. I favor these because big talkers can have great ideas, and you don’t want to take them out of the mix simply because they’ll talk about their ideas a lot.

But if you have big talkers who talk all the time without adding value, you may have to take bolder steps.

Which takes me back to the wrong room and wrong time idea! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s fantastic to have Woody Bendle back on the Brainzooming blog after too long away with an admonition to consider going opposite with your new product innovation strategy. Here’s Woody! 

New Product Innovation Strategy – Go Opposite by Woody Bendle

If you are a student or practitioner of new product innovation strategy, you are undoubtedly familiar with the “Go Opposite” strategy.  If you are neither however, the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy is a specific example of an innovation technique sometimes called “Challenge Existing Conventions” that seeks innovation opportunities by going after sacred cows – or purposefully diverging from the herd.

I have recently come across a terrific example that really drives home the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy in running shoes. Consider this depiction of 40 years of running shoes:

Running-Shoe-Trends

From the 1970s through the late 2000s, the prevailing trend in running shoes was the evolution and advancement of materials and technologies.  Shoes became more constructed with better out and midsoles that were designed for runners with different gates and foot-strike patterns.

In 2009, Christopher MacDougall’s book Born to Run (affiliate link) unleashed the “Go Opposite” trend of minimalism and for the next five or so years, nearly every running shoe company introduced an array of minimalism innovations that were designed to emulate the feeling of being barefoot – without actually being barefoot.

Right about the same time as the release of Born to Run, a completely different type of running shoe company started up called Hoka One One.  Rather than following the prevailing trend of minimalism, Hoka (affiliate link) innovated by Going Opposite and produced running shoes with maximal cushioning.  And, for going opposite when it comes to its new product innovation strategy, they have been rewarded with a ton of awards and accolades.

Regardless of the market that you happen to compete in, it is always important to understand the prevailing trends driving your industry.  But just remember, chasing the prevailing trend is usually a pretty crowded space and some terrific innovative opportunities regularly exist by exploring the opposite direction! Woody Bendle

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                                          Affiliate Link

 

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you 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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Surprisingly, one of the old war horse business maxims speakers and audience members at the Compete Through Services Symposium started repeating at every turn was, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Introducing a completely foreign strategy to an organization can be a recipe for disaster and the culture swallowing the strategy whole. This will happen because of either cultural sins of commission (the strategy is sabotaged by the culture) or omission (the culture collectively ignores the strategy).

If there’s a situation where culture eats strategy for breakfast, however, it represents a huge mistake in strategic thinking and how the leadership developed, communicated, and/or implemented the strategy.

Smiley-Face

Strategic Thinking on Culture and Strategy

In reality, a healthy culture doesn’t eat a smart strategy for breakfast.

Instead a healthy culture and a smart strategy complement and reinforce one another. (You can pick whichever breakfast item combo you enjoy complementing one another to finish that thought.)

How do create a situation where culture and strategy are working together?

There are multiple strategy development approaches that can ensure culture and strategy are working together productively.

Most of our strategic thinking on accomplishing this positive result is in our Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto (which turns eight years old this month).

The short list of strategy development approaches we advocate includes:

It’s easy, especially when you’re speaking in front of a crowd of smart, successful, action-oriented folks to take swings at strategy.

Strategy is a pretty cheap target. It sounds dynamic to trot out, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” as a presentation punch line.

It’s a lot smarter to be a smart strategist who knows how to deliver strategy that successfully works with your culture. – Mike Brown

 

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

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. Email 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.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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