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A recent Dilbert comic strip where the boss has a meeting to request on employee ideas definitely falls into the “more pathetic and true than funny” Dilbert category. But then again, when Dilbert isn’t going for pure laughs, there is usually a bigger point to be made about what is messed up in business.

In this case, the boss opens up the meeting with the employees looking for “billion dollar productideas.”

By the time Dilbert and Wally point out that if they had billion dollar ideas they’d do them on their own, the boss winds up with the ideas his question deserves: “a phone with a wooden screen” and a “drone that attacks anyone who looks at it.”

Dilbert.com

Screwing Up How to Request Employee Ideas

If you REALLY want input from your employees to help your business, you obviously don’t ask for “billion dollar ideas.” But then again, you also shouldn’t describe the employee ideas you’re looking for as:

  • Big (or The Next Big)
  • Great
  • Implementable
  • Smart
  • High Impact
  • Strategic
  • New
  • Disruptive
  • Game-changing
  • Unique

Feel free to add to this list any other descriptor that causes your employees to “judge” their ideas before sharing them.

When you describe the types of ideas you want in a way that implies they need to be judged before they are shared, you’ve mingled divergent and convergent thinking into one. The result is you’ll miss ideas with tremendous potential because you forced employees to self-evaluate them properly and potentially hoard them because they’re too good.

Far better to simply ask for ideas.

Or even better, ask employees to share:

  • Challenges your customers are facing with what you offer
  • Challenges your employees are facing in delivering what you offer
  • Work arounds being used to make your organization’s processes more effective
  • Things your customers have been complaining about or asking for that have gone unaddressed

None of these involve any judgment, but any of them could have a major impact on your success if you address them successfully.

Be careful what you ask for when it comes to soliciting employees ideas. If you don’t request employee ideas in a way that opens to the door for participation, you’ll wind up with exactly the opposite of what you wanted in the first place. – 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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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How thoroughly do you understand what triggers your creative thinking skills?

If you need to be (or it FEELS like you need to be) on top of your creative thinking game all the time, you don’t want to become stuck in the creative doldrums without an answer for how your next idea will emerge.

Here’s a 10-minute trick to inspire your creativity when you REALLY need it.

And it isn’t just for people in jobs seen as “creative.” This works for executives, content creators, or anyone else who simply needs the inspiration to routinely come up with new ideas – big or small.

A 6-Question Inspiration Inventory

When you need new creative thinking, you want to be able to rapidly construct a situation to support creativity, even if it seems as if you’re feeling anything but creative at that moment.

Here’s one answer to doing this.Thinker

Take ten minutes when you ARE feeling creative and begin answering these six who-what-where-when-why-how questions about your creativity:

  • Who boosts your creative thinking?
  • What situations inspire you?
  • Where can you go to refresh your creative thinking?
  • When do you feel like you’re at your strongest creatively?
  • Why does your creativity flourish when it does?
  • How have you triggered new creative thinking before when you’ve been stuck?

Then some other time this week, take another 10 minutes to add to this inspiration inventory; do it again a few days later, too.

After a couple of rounds of noodling on these creative thinking questions, you’ll have created an incredible creativity menu you can use to push yourself out of the creative doldrums we all face. You can use a single idea or a combination of items from your inspiration inventory routinely or when you most need a particular creative thinking boost.

Creative Thinking Skills and Your Inspiration Inventory

Working on your personal inspiration inventory will be the best 30 minutes you invest in your creativity all week.

And as someone who has to come up with five or more new blog ideas weekly, plus new ideas for clients daily, and for other activities, trust me: an inspiration inventory works wonders! – Mike Brown

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

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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3

Not sure whether your brand should invest in its innovation strategy right now?

10 Signs to Invest in Your Brand’s Innovation Strategy

Review these ten signs about your brand’s innovation strategy needs attention right away. See how many of these sound like your organization.

Innovation-Strategy

  1. Sales growth with current customers is not meeting expectations.
  2. Your product offerings don’t match the decision factors driving why clients select providers in your marketplace.
  3. When you look out five years and project how your brand will be performing in the marketplace, you can’t explain how or why you’ll be successful.
  4. You have employees leaving your company to start businesses disrupting your core business.
  5. There are brands looking nothing like your company circling around the fringes of your industry.
  6. You have only a trace (or less) of revenue coming from products less than two years old.
  7. The management group doesn’t think innovation is all that important for the company’s success.
  8. There are intriguing ideas bubbling up in your organization but employees don’t have productive outlets to develop them.
  9. Your company says innovation is important but no senior leader is on the hook to turn ideas into results.
  10. You aren’t investing in innovation right now.

If you more than a couple of these are familiar, you need to take a hard look at the need to invest in innovation. And if number 10 sounds describes your brand, even if none of the others do, you definitely need to invest in innovation and shore up your innovation strategy – right away! – 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand’s innovation strategy and implementation 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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1

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” section was like a who’s who of retailers getting their rears kicked for not having new ideas and being unable to get ahead of changes now and in the future for retailing.

Among the headlines were:

  • Big Retailers Find It Hard Shopping for a CEO (featuring JC Penney, American Eagle Outfitters, and Target)
  • Whole Foods Shares Drop on Flat Earnings
  • Office Depots Plans to Shut 400 Sores
  • Sear’s CEO Signals More Closings Likely

The CEO article that includes Target said the retailer is ready to move away from its 112-year track record of internal leadership to look beyond Target, and potentially the retail industry, for its next leader.

Why the change in strategy?

Target needs “fresh eyes” to create dramatic change, rapidly test more new ideas, and get “pilots” and “experiments” into its retail stores with greater speed.

Fresh eyes, more new ideas, and experimenting with greater speed?

Sounds like an organization trying to figure out how it is going to start Taking the NO Out of InNOvation!

The Taking the NO Out of InNOvation Webcast

TTNOOI-CoverMaybe the timing is a coincidence, but yesterday also marked the release of the first Brainzooming webcast on our Taking the NO Out of InNOvation strategy. The twelve-minute webcast, part one of a three-part series, is featured on Smallbusinesstalent.com, whose founder, Stephen Lahey, is the undisputed #1 Brainzooming fan.

At least no one has dared step forward to run against Steve for the presidency of the virtual Brainzooming fan club!

If you enjoy and find value in our content on personal and business innovation, you’ll definitely benefit from this three-part series that combines presentation content, blog links, and narration by me to bring the methodology we use to a new level of online availability.

Please jump over to SmallBusinessTalent.com for part one of the Taking the NO Out of InNOVation webcast. Stay tuned over the next two weeks for even more on Taking the NO Out of InNOvation!

We appreciate your support! – Mike Brown

 

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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1

Not every lesson is a positive one.

Talking about careers with my niece, I mentioned the scariest boss I ever had, and how even that experience with a boss who said and did some pretty scary things led to valuable lessons. Fortunately or unfortunately, the lessons were all about how to never act when I got to be the boss!

The conversation got me thinking about other situations where scary comments turned into valuable business lessons

Scary-Stuff5 Scary Quotes about Strategic Planning

Since I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about gearing up for strategic planning, I jotted down these five scary quotes about strategic planning. Intriguingly, all five came from consultants at one consulting firm we worked with for several years during my corporate life.

Admittedly, I learned many positive lessons during that time about strategic planning. Yet these five scary quotes about strategic planning from our consultants profoundly shaped my thinking about how NOT to do strategic planning:

1. “We’ll put together the strategic planning process as we go.”

Whenever you put together a strategic planning process while you’re doing it, you know something is wrong. Earlier in my career it felt edgy, but as a more experienced business person, it just seems pathetic. If you’re a consultant and selling your expertise at strategic planning you need to walk in the door ready to go with something that’s pretty close to working.

2. “There are 14 tasks to complete between these two steps in the process.”

Fourteen tasks to get from one step to another in the strategic planning process??? Talk about overkill!!! And even if it isn’t overkill and you actually NEED 14 tasks to move from one step to the next, NEVER admit to anyone you’re involving them in that much minutiae.

3. “This is better done than right.”

Really? REALLY? Yes, a consultant told me it was more important to get a presentation completed than address whether it was right. I’ve since stolen and revamped the quote not once, but twice. Even really bad ideas can be the seeds of strategic brilliance.

4. “My family’s important to me, so I make sure I’m home every night.”

On the surface this quote is not only NOT scary, it seems to be a wonderful sentiment considering the outrageously long hours consultants often work. The problem was the consultant saying it in Kansas City (where our company was headquartered) LIVED in Chicago. Yes, he flew back and forth every day between Chicago (first morning flight out) and Kansas City (last evening flight out). It was supposedly cheaper than a hotel room. Right.

5. “I did an interview with a reporter today about business prospects in (your) industry.”

Bad idea. VERY bad idea. When one consultant did this (and was quoted in print  questioning our earnings projections for the year), his firm was fired the next day within 90 minutes of our CFO seeing the article in a national industry newspaper. As a result, they lost a 7-figure annual consulting engagement. Yup, VERY BAD idea.

Do you have any scary consultant quotes about strategic planning or anything else?

If enough of you have scary quotes from consultants to share, maybe we’ll have enough for a regular feature, or the next Dilbert comic strip!  – 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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0

Suppose you are facing one of YOUR biggest problems.

How can you take advantage of strategic thinking to address your them?

7 Tips for How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Strategic Thinking

Here are seven tips for how to solve the biggest problems with strategic thinking in a way that leads to creating strategic impact.

Boulder-Rock

1. Involve as diverse and knowledgeable a group of participants as is relevant and manageable.

One key is thinking about multiple types of involvement (in-person and active vs. participating only through sharing ideas), diversity, relevance, and knowledge. Don’t limit your participants to the usual gang of strategic thinkers; bring new people into the strategic thinking process.

2. Inform the group with as many rich, current insights as is practical.

You want people to share their own strategic perspectives. But since a diverse group won’t all have the same underlying knowledge (or have knowledge as current as you might prefer), give them to-the-point, actionable insights to prepare them to be successful strategic thinkers.

3. Imagine the result you will need at the end is BEFORE you start.

Think ahead to what will let you stop the strategic thinking clock. Figuring out the result before you begin lets you know when you’re getting closer or further away from the result during the strategic thinking process. It will also signal if you have reached a conclusion before you expected one to develop.

4. Anticipate what it will take to do something with the result BEFORE you start.

Yes, you need to do a LOT of thinking about the end before you begin! Creating strategic impact from strategic thinking involves figuring out how you will sell-in and actually implement ideas and plans you develop.

5. Create a structured process to efficiently move through only the necessary steps to reach a conclusion.

Don’t leave it to chance that your strategic thinkers will self-organize a process to be productive. Similarly, don’t just lift a strategic thinking or strategic planning process from a textbook and expect it to work. Your strategic thinkers may not need all the steps or processes detailed in the textbook. Devise a strategic thinking process that will help THIS group be successful in reaching the end result.

6. Set time limits and ground rules.

Groups can take on lives of their own and spend way too much or way too little time on important (or unimportant) issues. Use time limits and project management techniques to manage the strategic thinking process for efficiency and effectiveness.

7. Don’t vote on the final recommendations.

You may use multi-voting to narrow strategic choices and to gain a sense of what the group thinks while it is working. But don’t put a final recommendation up to a vote. A final recommendation should make sense from a strategic and implementation perspective. That’s not the type of decision where you use a majority vote to pick the right course of action.

What tips do you have to solve the biggest problems?

What are your keys to problem solving on major questions?

We certainly recommend this strategic thinking approach. If you do these seven things, you’re in great shape to transition from strategic thinking into creating strategic impact and successfully solving the biggest problems you face.  – Mike Brown

 

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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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1

If you want to apply creative thinking to a challenging business situation, consider these ten quick tips to enhance your personal and team creativity.

Team-creativity

Creative Thinking – 10 Quick Tips about Team Creativity

1. Know what you’re trying to make happen before you dive into creative thinking.

2. Once you know what you’re trying to make happen, don’t be reluctant to dive in without TOO much forethought.

3. Sometimes blank pieces of paper are successful, but a creative thinking exercise is almost always your best friend for boosting team creativity.

4. Keep your early, failed attempts at creative thinking around for later since you never know when you had all or part of the answer early, but it was too raw to recognize.

5. Even if you could get the same people to help with creative thinking, team creativity is more fun with a gang of diverse people.

6. Don’t spend too much time going down a creative thinking path that’s not working when you can quickly change and try something new.

7. The most unlikely person with the least background in what you’re doing could have the best creative answer, IF you’re paying attention.

8. If everyone gets silent all of a sudden or everyone laughs all of a sudden when a new idea is presented, chances are it’s the right creative idea.

9. Make sure you know when to stop and leave well enough alone with creative thinking so you don’t OVER create.

10. If you have to sell your creative ideas to somebody else, never show them something you wouldn’t be willing to live with if they pick it.

Armed with these 10 tips, you’re set to boost the team creativity you can apply to any challenging business situation.  – Mike Brown

 

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


Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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