Brainzooming – All Posts | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4

Every organization faces challenging, completely unexpected situations. It could be a surprise competitive move, an unanticipated external event, or a new type of internal crisis demanding attention. Some organizations stumble in these situations. Others deal with curves thrown their way seamlessly, functioning as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Irrespective of why it wasn’t seen coming, when surprise decision making situations develop, you need a way to move forward in a strategic, orderly, and effective manner. Preparing mini-plans as part of your strategic planning activities is a way to do this. They help improve your readiness to act when the unexpected happens.

With the immediacy and flexibility imperative for success in challenging situations, brief plans tied to specific trigger events or event-based outcomes provide the ability to make decisions almost as a football team builds and executes a game plan. While a football team has an expectation of running certain plays to start a game or in specific situations, the team has command of a larger number of plays (or mini-plans). These can be arranged and executed in multiple combinations based on how the current set of events is unfolding.

Preparing Mini-Plans as Part of Your Strategic Planning Activities

What does a mini-plan include?

A mini-plan should feature clear, understandable terms with a focus on involving the right people upfront. It should spell out the first steps of getting started and provide signals to move to another mini-plan when it has run its course. It’s smart to leave room for the responsible team to fill in sensible actions based on what’s happening during implementation.

We recommend a mini-plan fit on one piece of paper and include the following areas (which are outgrowths of your regular strategic planning activities):

  • Plan Title
  • Goal of the Plan
  • Critical Success Factors
  • Audience(s) that are Impacted or Needed for the Plan
  • Starting Tactics to Launch
  • Expected Resources Needed during Implementation
  • Communications Channels and Messages

This abbreviated structure makes completing a mini-plan relatively quick. Ideally, you shouldn’t need more than 30 minutes to get the mini-plan basics in place. Remember, the heart of the plan is spelling out two or three steps to get started; it’s not a fully-formed strategic plan.

Areas where you create mini-plans are specific to your organization, but consider the following situations:

  • An interruption in a vital capability or function
  • Market-changing competitive moves
  • Reputation-based issues or other external crises that could befall the organization

After identifying potential scenarios where a mini-plan may be valuable (or you have the need thrust upon you from an event taking place), you can quickly prepare relevant mini-plans.

With mini-plans in place, you are in a much better place to make solid, strategic decisions during challenging situations. Even if the current situation necessitates improvisation, the mini-plan will help you start in a pre-planned way, modifying from an approach you’ve had time to consider before the heat of the moment.

Are you using something similar to mini-plans in your strategic planning activities? How are you applying them? And if not, what steps are you taking to handle decision making when you can’t plan ahead? – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times

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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Chuck Dymer co-facilitated a client’s internal management meeting with us recently. Chuck is the owner of Brilliance Activator, which helps leaders uncork the creative genius of their teams to improve products and processes, delight customers, and grow profits.

During the creative thinking workshop we facilitated inside an internal management meeting, participants worked through multiple exercises to identify ideas for internal and customer initiatives. Chuck shared the following example to push the participants toward greater specificity in the ideas they shared. It’s a tremendous example, and I asked him to share it with all of you!

Why Specificity Makes or Breaks a Creative Thinking Workshop by Chuck Dymer

It’s lunchtime and a colleague asks you what you’d like to eat. You answer, “Chinese,” and off you go to a nearby Chinese restaurant. Then you open your menu and discover that there’s not a single item on the menu called Chinese.

Hunan style lemon chicken, mu shu pork, wonton soup–these and many other choices appear on the menu. You can sit and stare at the golden carp in the fish tank or you can order an item off the menu. But eating Chinese? Good luck.

“Chinese” is the name of a cuisine, a style of preparing food associated with a place of origin. You can eat lemon chicken; you can’t eat Chinese. Lemon chicken is specific; Chinese is a generality.

When it comes to idea generation (be it a brainstorm or one of the methods Brainzooming offers), participants often put forward ideas that are too general to be implemented. You can use them to organize or to develop specific ideas. But you can’t implement them.

If you were to run a creative thinking workshop to generate ideas for improving your organization’s morale, odds are that one of the ideas from the group would be “better communication.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But just as you can’t order something as general as “Chinese,” you can’t implement something as general as “better communication.”

Here’s what you CAN do. You can ask: “What are some specific ways to improve communication?” And you might receive ideas such as “shorter emails” or “fewer emails.” Here’s where it gets interesting, because now you can ask, “How can we shorten our emails?” or “How can we have fewer emails?” Participants might suggest that no email should be longer than 4 tweets, i.e., 480 characters in length. Or they might say that no one can send an email to more than three people at a time. Specific ideas like this can be implemented. You may not want or choose to implement them, but they are actionable and ready for implementation.

After giving participants 10 minutes or so to generate ideas, you can pause and separate the generalities from the specifics. The generalities can be used as topics for organizing specific ideas. For instance, “better communication” might be one topic, with “fewer emails” listed as one option for improving communication.

Now this is where the magic happens. As you continue to organize generalities into topics and ask for specific, actionable steps, you’ll end up with far more ideas than the original 10 minutes produced, and those additional ideas will be much closer to implementation. Of course, ideas must be vetted prior to implementation.

This extra step—separating generalities from specifics in a creative thinking workshop—may at first seem strange. But the benefits are immediate and far-reaching. Remember, ordering the Chinese dish you want by name, rather than saying you want Chinese food, is a much more effective way of ensuring you’ll get exactly what you want. So too with ideas! –  Chuck Dymer, Brilliance Activator

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.”

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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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The folks over at “Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence addressed an important aspect of customer experience strategy this week: turning your organization’s claims of customer focus into real actions.

The following ideas (condensed from the original Armada article) highlight four ways to bring your aspirational customer experience strategy to life.

Customer Experience Strategy: 4 Ideas for Creating Customer Focus

In a Bloomberg Businessweek interview with GE CEO, Jeff Immelt, he comments, not surprisingly, multiple times on GE embracing a customer focus. He mentions that even GE narrowing its business portfolio ties to its customer focus: managing unrelated businesses is challenging and demonstrates more of a brand-first than customer-first perspective.

Immelt also discussed the GE transformation toward becoming a digital and software player. Immelt ties the strategic shift, without using the phrase, to the Internet of Things: GE jet engines have hundreds of sensors streaming performance information. Rather than standing by, GE wanted to play a vital role in modeling the data, turning it into actionable knowledge for customers.

Decisions that Benefit Customers

The idea of customer focus is easy to say, but challenging to implement.

To make the concept more actionable, however, let’s posit this idea: one meaningful way to demonstrate customer focus is through helping customers improve their own situations – whether or not it helps a company’s own prospects.

This implies looking at business decisions from a customer’s viewpoint, not the company’s view. While that is natural for some organizations, it runs completely counter to business practices in many others. To stimulate your thinking about what this approach could look like in your organization, here are questions and potential responses for boosting your organization’s customer focus.

1. Making Customers Better Buyers

Think about the price comparison tool Progressive Insurance ads feature. To keep potential customers from third-party sites, Progressive offers competitive price comparisons, even though it does not always win. This is scary for companies. It seems unnatural to boost a competitor’s visibility, but consider how it could improve both customers’ situations and your brand.

Questions to Explore

  • How can we facilitate easier and more accurate buying comparisons for customers?
  • In what ways can we help customers buy ONLY what they need ONLY when they need it?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

If you suspect your brand will not fare well in competitor comparisons, explore product and / or service enhancements to improve your position. You can also identify other features and benefits to incorporate into the comparisons to show the true benefit of your brand relative to the competitive set.

2. Creating Smarter Customers

In Immelt’s example with GE, jet engine sensors provide the opportunity to boost customer knowledge in myriad ways. They offer current diagnostics, forward-looking indicators, and long-term trend data. Can the Internet of Things or other information flows provide the same types of insight benefits for your customers?

Questions to Explore

  • Where can we inform customers with performance and exception data they do not currently have access to with our products?
  • How can our products provide visibility to customers where they cannot easily get it right now?
  • In what ways can we deliver predictive information to customers?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

These questions challenge you to deliver better information to customers. This can improve their effectiveness, productivity, and growth potential. For your organization, it opens possibilities for new services to interpret the slew of data, further increasing the customer benefits you deliver.

3. Making Customers More Productive

Organizations seem increasingly open to radically different ways of accomplishing basic and advanced business functions. Look beyond your company’s own boundaries to imagine new ways you can enable customers to improve their productivity levels.

Questions to Explore

  • How can we take on new functions for customers to allow them to extend their reach and impact?
  • Where are steps we can remove from our processes that don’t provide value to customers?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

Simplification can be a very attractive market position. Simplify life for your customers, whether doing more for them or making them do less when they work with your organization.

4. Providing Greater Value

Many organizations bundle products and services to sustain higher price points. Too often, that’s accomplished through including features that are inexpensive to provide yet offer little additional impact for customers. This is an opportunity to rethink your approach.

Questions to Explore

  • What are ways to unbundle what we offer so it better fits with customer needs, usage, and buying preferences?
  • Are there more attractive bundles from a customer viewpoint?
  • How can we cut the market price of what we offer by ½ to dramatically boost customer value?

Your Customer Experience Strategy Response

These questions cause you to decouple market price from the cost to produce what you offer. Building your price around the customer and the marketplace forces you to re-engineer what you do to achieve the lowest possible cost. That’s a competitively strong way to increase margins vs. simply tacking on an increase to current prices.

A Starting Point for Your Customer Experience Strategy

Not all these areas apply to all companies. If your organization is truly customer-focused, however, tackling these questions will do more to move your brand in that direction than simply telling people you focus on customers. – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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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!

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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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Are you in a job that looks, from the outside, as if it is perfectly stable, engaging, good paying, and the kind of position that people in your profession would die to get?

Yet you, as the person in the job, feel trapped, under siege, and desperate to do almost anything else, but you can’t leave.

What’s up with that?

Maybe it’s golden handcuffs, or you’ve been trying to find another job for a long time, but you can’t land anyplace. Possibly you want to launch your own gig, but it’s not the right time.

Whatever the reason, you can’t leave that shitty job, which leaves you feeling demoralized, powerless, and stuck with no clear career strategy to fix your situation.

Dear Job, I Can’t Quit You

If you’re mired in a situation like this, what should your career strategy be? Here are some ideas:

Actively work to lower your dependence on the current job, as best you can.

Put yourself in a position – financially, emotionally, or whatever else – to need this job less.

Make the crappy job as small a part of your life as possible.

Fill your outside life with incredible experiences as a way to sustain yourself through the miserable times in your job.

Assess what is beneficial and good about the job.

Once you identify those things, work like crazy to maximize those parts of the job. Even if they are a small part of what you do, find ways to do more of those things.

On the job, conduct yourself as if you might quit the job at any time.

Don’t succumb to acting like you are dependent on the job, even if you are. Just as in a personal relationship, you want to create a sense that you don’t need it if you hope to retain some power for self-determination.

Separate your personality from the job.

You can’t let yourself become synonymous with the job. It’s a job. You are you. That’s true before, during, and AFTER you have the job. Don’t define yourself within the context of the job.

Keep working on quitting.

Step up your energy and focus on getting out if it’s too miserable to continue. Don’t lull yourself into sticking around for your own career destruction.

Own Your Career Strategy

That’s my advice to stay sane and move your career strategy to a place where you can say: Dear Job, I’m Going to Quit You Right Now! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s Brainzooming workshops can boost your success!

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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Suppose your organization is not going in the right direction. You and others on your senior management team are beginning to see that strategic reality. Still, you avoid the difficult conversation where you have to start reimagining the organization as something dramatically different.

How, if you are facing this situation, can you initiate a conversation with strategic thinking questions safe enough to raise the issue?

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Reimagining the Organization

Rather than starting by pushing your management team all the way out to a wildly reimagined future, start with where you are now. Using today as a starting point, reimagine specific strategic aspects, one at a time, to initiate the conversation. Here are five “today” areas to reimagine in a future state:

Since each of these questions begins with a grounding in today, it can be an easier transition to start reimagining the future. At the same time, do not completely neglect stretch the senior management team into more blatantly disruptive thinking. You need to do both as part of reimagining who you are as an organization.

If you are a senior executive and are looking for ideas to facilitate this conversation among your peers, contact us. We can suggest more ways to dial in these strategic thinking questions for your organization’s specific opportunities and challenges. – Mike Brown

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis


“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic planning exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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 Valentine’s Day. What better time for a retrospective on love in, if not all, at least a few of its varied forms. We hope you love it!

Creative Love

Creative Thinking – 6 Challenges Before Loving Your New Idea Too Much

Maybe you shouldn’t love your idea at first sight. Give it some time to grow into it.

Managing Clients Who Love Their Creative Ideas

People can love their own thinking too much. Here are ways to handle that when the people are your clients.

Strategic Relationships – 9 Principles for Being a Great Client

Here’s the flip of the previous link, covering the things the create a “client crush,” as one of the Brainzooming team members puts it!

Real Love

6 Personal Relationship Lessons from My Parents’ Marriage

Love has to be front and center to last 60+ years in a marriage. Here are just six lessons from a long-lasting marriage.

Life Lessons – 12 Free Holiday Gifts

Telling someone you love them doesn’t cost a thing. And neither do any of these other ideas to show someone you care about them in a non-material way.

Work Love

What do you LOVE about your business?

Don’t get so bogged down in the daily grind of your business that you miss the love that should be there.

Making Decision Making Easier – She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

Do you love this idea or not? Here’s one way to decide.

Career Challenges – 6 Ideas when Losing the Love for What You Do

When the love goes away in your job, don’t sit idly by and accept it.

Personal Love

9 Reasons to Love an Underdog

I unabashedly love underdogs, even if some people think I don’t understand what a true underdog is!

Life Lessons – 30 Things My Dad Taught Me

Looking back with love at some of the things my father taught me about business, life, and what’s really important.

Questioning Love

What We Love Is Failing Us – Thoughts on Shooting and Violence

Exploring why what our country seems to love is harming our nation.

Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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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Your organization has a vision statement. Congratulations!

Is your organization’s vision sitting around and not helping run the business?

If that’s the case, your task is to start turning the vision statement into strategy to drive and align activities consistent with it.

5 Ideas for Turning a Vision Statement into Strategy

Here are five ideas The Brainzooming Group uses to help clients when turning a vision statement into strategy.

1. Decompose the vision into strategic dimensions

Strategic dimensions are areas where an organization has the opportunity to make major decisions or where industry players are creating competitive advantage. Examples include:

  • Business models
  • Market areas served
  • Product line breadth
  • Organizational structure
  • Competitor focus

After identifying a handful of strategic dimensions, create a list of possible options the organization could choose on each one. Management team members rate where the organization is now, and where it should be at a future date. From these answers, we create a description of the future that is more specific and goes deeper than the vision statement to provide strategic direction.

2. Define the vision statement’s words and phrases

To create greater specificity, highlight important words and phrases in your vision statement. Afterward, create specific descriptions for what each one means. The key is describing them in understandable words so employees can better grasp and act on them. If the descriptions are full of confusing jargon, this approach does not work effectively.

3. Prioritize strategies moving toward the vision

Incorporate the output of the first two approaches into prioritizing potential strategies. If proposed initiatives receive support based on how well they move toward the vision, you wind up with more vision-oriented strategies. In the future, the organization will move toward developing potential initiatives that work harder to move toward the vision.

4. Use the vision for generating innovative ideas

Return to the better-defined version of the vision statement (number 2) as a point of departure for coming with up with innovative ideas. The specific elements in the vision statement are ideal for providing the structure you need to generate strategically-smart, innovative ideas that lead the organization forward with greater alignment to the vision statement.

5. Depict the vision statement

Words are one thing. Pictures and video are quite another for communicating what a vision means for an organization. Create scenarios for what your organization will look like when you attain the vision. Visualize those scenarios and depict them so everyone in the organization has a common source from which to imagine the future strategically.

Want to explore these ideas in more detail?

We cannot share client-specific examples here on the blog. We can, however, provide ideas more customized to your situation in a brief call. Contact us here (or at or 816-509-5320). Let’s set a time to see what the possibilities are for turning vision into strategy at your organization. – 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

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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