Creativity | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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The Brainzooming blog wasn’t originally focused on project management techniques. Successfully going from strategy to implementation, however, is critical to business success.

Creating a strong, innovative plan is only part of the strategy equation. Implementing innovation in organizations reluctant to embrace the changes needed to survive and grow requires what we’ve come to call “strategic project management.” These skills go well beyond a project manager checking off items on a to-do list.

Here are twenty-one articles organizing project management techniques we’ve been sharing with clients to help create needed changes in their organizations.

Project Management Techniques for Starting Strongly

Project Management Techniques – 6 Project Manager Mistakes to Not Repeat

Getting a project started right is lot easier when you’re not making early mistakes. These are six mistakes I’ve made on project management techniques so you don’t have to make them.

Implementation Problems? 7 Signs You’re Understarting, Not Overthinking

Strong project management technique requires both thinking and starting. One won’t work without the other.

Twenty-One Project Management Implications of Wanting Things FAST

When the pressure is on for completing a project fast, there are related implications an organization and a project manager have to contend with successfully.

Project Team Interactions

Project Management – Dinner Table Analogy for Project Team Members

There are right and wrong ways for project team member communication to take place. There are also right and wrong times for how you communicate within your project team.

March Madness and What Outstanding Point Guards Bring to Business Teams

A strong project manager is the equivalent of a great basketball point guard on a project. An outstanding project manager is selfless, a leader, and has multi-dimensional talents to contribute to the project team.

All I Want for Christmas Is You (To Get the Stuff Done that I’m Waiting For)

There are many ways to prioritize what you do next. When you’re in the midst of a project, consider prioritizing based on what other project team members are depending on you to finish.

Change Management

Built for Discomfort – An Alternative Prioritization Strategy for Innovation

If your organization tends to select strategies and prioritize projects that are comfortable, here’s a way to more overtly push for change.

Creating Change and Change Management – 4 Strategy Options

The best approach to create change will differ based on expectations about the status quo and the demand for dramatically different results.

8 Change Management Lessons from Major Changes in the Mass Translation

Wide-scale change in a change-resistant organization provides a unique set of project management challenges and potential remedies to achieve the maximum beneficial impact.

Major Change Management – Managing Ongoing Performance Gaps

Big changes are rarely “one and done” efforts. Prepare ahead of time for the ongoing reinforcement and change management techniques a project manager and project team will need to implement.

Project Management Technique Challenges

No Implementation Success? 13 Reasons Things Getting Done Is a Problem

If your organization has a habit of failing to successfully implement new projects, here are thirteen problems to watch for and fix.

Checklists – Helping Visualize the Uncertain When Plans Fall Through

If a project isn’t going as planned, step back and make sure you have a checklist to guide your way back to normalcy and stronger performance in a hurry.

Dealing with Difficult People – 16 Articles on Help and Support for Prickly People

If you handle project management on enough projects, you’re going to wind up working with challenging people. If you can’t avoid them, at least be ready to successfully lead them (and the rest of the project team) to success.

Project Management – 7 Steps to Winning a Fuel Mileage Race Project

NASCAR teams are used to stretching one of their main resources (fuel) with creative, winning strategies. Smart project teams can learn and apply some of the principles NASCAR teams use for success with less.

Improving Decision Making

Making a Decision – 7 Situations Begging for Quick Decisions

It’s easy for certain personality types and organizations to take too long on decision making. In these seven situations, there’s no need to extend decision making time unnecessarily.

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

One factor that can slow decision making speed is too many available choices. Here is a low-tech, very direct way to narrow your decision options and move directly toward decision making.

Level 5 Decisions – Decision Making without Your Influence

One way to speed project-related decision making is when the senior person on the project delegates appropriate levels of decision making to team members and makes the delegation clear. Here’s a solid approach to make this happen.

Project Management Techniques for Finishing Successfully

Project Management – 15 Techniques When Time Is Running Down

When time is running down on a project, project management rules don’t necessarily change, but how you apply them can. These techniques can close out a project more successfully when timing is running down.

Convergent Thinking Week – A BDTP Perspective

When time is running down on a project you have approached with higher than expected standards, consider relaxing those standards. Getting done can definitely be more important than being perfect.

Project Management Tips – 8 Signs a Creative Project Is Done

While we often consider a project done when all the steps are completed or the deadline is reached, that’s not always the case with a creative project. A creative project could be done before all the steps are completed or the deadline is reached.

Strategies for Finishing a Project

Closing out a project the right way can set the stage for future success. A strong project closeout won’t simply happen by accident though. The closeout phase needs to be project managed, too.  – 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!

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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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Several people asked recently about questions to help identify innovative thinkers in sales. While we have done a bunch of strategic and creative thinking skills workshops for sales teams in the past several years, we have never put together a specific diagnostic on this topic.

When multiple people ask a question, though, it is time to do something about it!

10 Questions to Identify Innovative Thinking in Salespeople

Thinking about innovative sales people I have known, how we teach strategic and creative thinking skills to sales teams, and strategic thinking questions we use to spur new thinking, here are ten questions to identify innovative thinking in salespeople.

Targeting

These questions address focusing and prioritizing what matters for customers and the organization.

1. Why do people buy from us?

To innovate, you have to understand underlying motivations and needs. An innovative sales person will answer this question in a way that opens up many possibilities to imagine new ways to reach and delight customers.

2. Whom don’t we sell to?

Innovative thinkers are able to focus and deliver on great opportunities. That means having a sense of where the best opportunities ARE and ARE NOT going to be.

Working from an Innovative Thinking Platform

An innovative thinker needs a foundation and perspective from which to innovate.

3. How do you generalize what we do for customers in order to find innovative ways to address customer needs?

This one comes via my buddy, Joe Batista, the chief creatologist. Joe taught me the value of analyzing a potential customer relationship via generalized activities and value streams. If a salesperson employs a comparable approach to think about value, it is a great sign he or she is creating innovative solutions.

4. What customer benefits does your brand offer?

This is similar to the previous question in that it signals the ability to generalize in order to provide a launching pad for innovation. If you are selling based on benefits, it is easier to innovate and find new ways to deliver those benefits. (For more on this innovation strategy, download our Outside-In Innovation eBook!)

Employing Innovative Processes

These questions zero in on whether a salesperson uses a dependable process for innovative thinking and development.

5. What’s your process for discovering the underlying needs, wants, challenges, and aspirations a current or potential customer may have?

When it is for business, you cannot afford random innovation success. Innovative thinking in sales implies having a process to repeat what leads to results in many types of situations.

6. What are the most innovative approaches you have employed to create a customer solution?

An innovative thinker, no matter what field, should have stories readily available about past innovation successes. If not, that person is just an innovation poser. This question focuses on an innovative processes; the next one addresses innovative solutions.

7. What is the biggest customer solution you ever imagined, and did it come to fruition?

A quick and big answer to this one signals innovative thinking and a familiarity with extreme creativity. If the big idea came to fruition, it signals someone that can go from idea to implementation!

An Innovation Posse

While there are innovators that go it alone, an innovative salesperson needs to depend on others to imagine and create solutions.

8. Who inside your company thinks you are a pain for trying too many new or wild things to create ecstatic customers?

Innovative thinkers (and doers) in sales are going to rub people in the organization the wrong way because they are always pushing for new and better. Continual innovative thinking in sales will wear out people in the organization. An innovative salesperson understands that.

9.Who makes up your innovation team?

In my book, an innovative thinker in sales appreciates the importance of others helping bring innovative ideas to life. They know who those folks are, even if there is no formal reporting relationship, because they are going back to them frequently to make innovative things happen.

Motivation

You want salespeople focused on winning and success. You also want them open to what’s new.

10. Why do you enjoy selling?

If doing new things all the time doesn’t surface as part of the answer, you probably aren’t talking to a truly innovative thinker in sales.

Caution!

This list is definitely from the Brainzooming R&D lab. We haven’t tested this diagnostic at all, but it’s a solid starting place. If you wind up testing it before we do, let us know what you find! – Mike Brown

Develop a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business!
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBook

Download this free, concise Outside-In Innovation eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!
Download Your Free Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book



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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I met Adrian Martinez at an internal management meeting for our client, LeSaint Logistics. Adrian has incredible creative thinking skills.

How was I so sure about his creative thinking skills?

Well, get a load of this example!

He is a manager with LeSaint, and he faced a challenge. His team needed to move a racking system from one part of the warehouse to another. A wall separates the two areas. The racking system is 23 feet tall. The door between the two sections is 8 feet tall.

You can see the problem.

The natural solution would be to disassemble the racking system into its component parts and move those through the door. That is a good solution if it were not for a second challenge.

The second challenge is that it takes 2 hours to disassemble and 2 hours to reassemble each section of the racking system. Altogether, it would take 3 weeks of labor to move the racking system using that strategy.

What would you do?

Adrian looked at the racking system and the wall. He applied his creative thinking skills and came up with a solution that was pure extreme creativity.

After exactly measuring the racking systems, he cut a hole in the wall to allow the racking systems to roll right through what was previously a barrier!

He didn’t do that without a challenge. People told him repeatedly he was crazy and would get in trouble.

He did it anyway.

Based on the number of positive shout outs management and co-workers gave him during the company’s management meeting, it was clearly a solid decision! They are celebrating Adrian as a rock star for this move, his creative problem solving, and his dedication to building a legitimate sense of family among his team.

A half-hearted leader would never get to this decision even though it fully exploits the first core value at LeSaint: creativity. A leader unable to look beyond what others would typically see as a boundary and roadblock would never reach this decision.

Cutting a hole in the wall is a move rooted in extreme creativity.

Congratulations, Adrian, for making a bold creative move and getting everything patched up already! – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

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We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

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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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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” article from Armada Corporate Intelligence looked at how you focus a distracted organization on an implementation strategy to align and focus activities. Not an easy task. Here is a recommendation to make it happen through taking on three different strategic roles. 

3 Roles to Focus a Distracted Organization on Implementation Strategy

A C-level executive with a non-profit is at wits’ end. Amid a recent major leadership transition, the incoming CEO drove a broad, collaborative, strategic input initiative. A large leadership group shaped a strategic plan with several strategies and accompanying tactics. Full plan implementation could take twenty-four to thirty-six months. After the initiative to shape and guide future activities delivered a plan, the organization has seemingly returned to doing what it had already been doing. When this executive reaches out for progress updates or tries to focus leadership meetings around the plan, she regularly hears, “We’re too busy to focus on the strategic plan.”

Yet, she reports, the organization IS working on and progressing on plan tactics. This led her to ask: How does a senior executive lacking direct line responsibility champion an implementation strategy in a distracted organization?

That’s a fantastic, real world question.

An Implementation Strategy that Creates Focus

The executive has a challenge ahead. She’s willing to pursue making an implementation strategy because of her personal stake in helping lead the organization through the strategic planning initiative. She also knows the impact a comprehensive strategy can have in shaping an organization and improving results. You may not be in exactly this situation. It’s likely, though, given your responsibilities, that you have had to push for a major strategic initiative in a distracted organization focused on daily pressures. Answering her request for help with developing an approach to get the organization focused on implementing strategy, we shared a three-fold role.

1. Become the Strategic Implementation Reporter

Role one involves being a reporter. This means gathering information on what the organization is actually doing (whether in the plan or not) and the impact of these activities. For tracking progress, the executive said organization leaders would be more open to conversations versus completing progress update templates. As a reporter, she is going to reach out to leaders to discuss their current priorities. She’ll ask about their top four or five focus areas, early results they’re seeing, and what’s next in each area.

She can then recap the conversations within the context of the strategic plan. She’ll match their top activities to strategies and tactics already spelled out in the plan. Where they report activities not in the plan, she’ll look for natural places they might fit. If they don’t ultimately have a home in the plan, she will list them separately. The result? She will recast all the activities people see as outside the plan into the plan’s structure to show how focused the organization is or is not.

2. Effectively Monitor Strategic Metrics

Beyond simply listing tactics within a plan format (which she did for a previous quarterly meeting), she’ll next document progress and returns associated with the activities.
From our discussion, it is clear that the organization is awash in metrics. The challenge is that the metrics are not aligned and reported in light of the strategic plan. To tackle this second role (as the Monitor for the plan), we suggested going beyond top-line and bottom-line numbers. She can also include early performance indicators and qualitative information on progress. We recommend focusing on three areas for each strategy:

  • Activities
  • Impacts
  • Returns

“Activities” (which she’ll document in the reporting role) highlight what the organization is doing. That’s where plan implementation starts. Next, “Impacts” provide early indicators of where the plan is progressing and struggling. These generally develop before the third item on the dashboard, “Returns.” Returns are the revenue growth, cost reduction, profitability improvement, and other core measures that signal an organization’s performance.

Beyond number-based metrics, look for anecdotes, stories, and images that provide greater depth to the numbers. Combining numbers with a descriptive approach to metrics offers a more robust picture of strategic implementation.

This approach addresses another challenge with plan implementation tracking: focusing only on dashboards with return-oriented metrics. Such a stripped-down approach is visually pleasing, and attractive to busy executives who don’t have time for details. The problem is that this approach disconnects business returns from the critical activities necessary to generate and improve them.

3. Connect the Organization to the Strategy

The third role is that of Connector. This means analyzing the progress recap and introducing the work to the organization, both individually and in groups. While the executive we talked with wants to share the progress update at the organization’s leadership meeting, we recommend going back to individuals BEFORE introducing it to the team. Here’s what this approach might look like in its entirety:

  • Go first to those leaders that appear as if they aren’t doing much in the plan. Discuss and clarify with them to see if you’ve missed anything. Ask if there are other activities to include. The point is to provide an opportunity to improve their focus and save face before a group meeting.
  • Then, go to the leaders that are doing a lot to further the implementation strategy. Discuss with them suggestions or learnings behind the strong performance. See if they are fine with you celebrating their successes in a group setting.
  • After the individual conversations, introduce the recap at a leadership team meeting with no surprises. Those who haven’t been implementing the plan have an opportunity to get with the program. Leaders who ARE carrying out the plan know ahead of time that you intend to feature them.

This connected view of organizational activities typically opens leaders’ eyes to realize there is greater alignment and focus than apparent amid daily activities.

Adopting this Three-Role Approach to Implementation Strategy

You may look at these three roles and scoff because it appears that we’re recommending this busy executive take work for others. While that’s one view, we would say that if making strategic implementation successful is important enough to you, it’s worth the extra work and the alignment efforts we’re recommending.

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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“Not all ideas are new. When you generate innovative ideas, make room for old ideas that have been around, but have never gotten a decent chance to advance.”

Occasionally, someone participating in a strategy workshop filled with innovative ideas will complain that a lot, or maybe all (REALLY? ALL?) the ideas already existed in the organization.

That used to bug the hell out of me whenever it would happen because we were there to generate new ideas. Lots of new ideas. GREAT NEW IDEAS.

Over time, I realized that we were really working with a client to develop winning business strategies.

Sometimes that includes coming up with new, innovative ideas. Other times it means giving old ideas a new day and putting solid tactics and strategic project management planning behind them to move them from ideas to implementation.

Now, when designing a strategy workshop, we often start with time for participants to share ideas they are already bringing with them at the start. This lets them get the ideas out there for others to consider so they can focus on other creative thinking. It also provides a check when someone says there were no innovative ideas. If that happens, we can compare the final ideas and strategies to see if they REALLY DID show up in the starting list of ideas. Typically, they aren’t present among the starting ideas!

Whether an innovative idea is old or new is less relevant than moving innovative ideas into winning business strategies.

If that’s what’s ahead for you this year, let’s talk about working together to make it happen! Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!

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Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

 

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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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I’ll admit my surprise that fun strategic planning activities are generating so much interest among Brainzooming readers right now. You would think everyone would be finished with strategic planning – or they decided not to pursue it for this year.

4 Fun Strategic Planning Activities to Always Have Ready

Suppose you have responsibility for strategic planning – no matter what time of year it is. What, beyond carting in a bunch of toys and pre-planned activities, can you always have ready to introduce to create fun strategic planning activities?

Here are four ideas we use:

1. Have jokes suitable and germane for work environments ready-to-go

I’m not a big joke teller. It’s advisable, though, to have a few clean jokes you can go to when things are tense, boring, or mind numbing – or all of the above. Pick jokes that fit your personality, whether you are better as a storyteller, punster, or one-liner person. I love puns you can relate to typical words that surface during strategic planning activities.

2. Create ad libs for typical situations during strategic planning activities

There’s a line in a Rod Stewart song about ad lib lines being well-rehearsed. Even if you aren’t a strong ad libber, you can develop impromptu lines fitting typical situations and issues in planning workshops. Some ideas? A projector not working, nobody wanting to answer questions, somebody keeps going back for more food, etc. All of these (and more) are ripe for laughs.

3. Introduce physical humor to add surprise

Physical humor generates laughs. For me, when an audience won’t participate, I’ve been known to crumple to the floor and stay there for a few moments until people get into it. When things are going well, I may get up on a chair and do some shtick from there. Anything physical to generate a little attention and interest is fair game!

4. Learn to doodle

Being able to suddenly doodle something funny is a quick go-to for humor. Think you can’t draw? If you can write the alphabet, you can draw things. Or better yet, go check out Diane Bleck, the Doodle Girl, for tips on doodling more effectively.

Need More Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning Activities?

If you have time for pre-planning and want more ideas at the ready, download our eBook on 11 Fun Strategic Planning Activities. Follow those ideas and you’ll never bore anyone during strategic planning again. – Mike Brown

fun-ideas-strategic-planningNeed Ideas to Make Strategy Planning Fun?

Yes, strategy 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.”


Download Your 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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One of the most popular Brainzooming blog posts the past few years is rich in strategic thinking tools. It features more than 200 strategic thinking questions we’ve gathered, envisioned, and created going back to The Brainzooming Group origins as a corporate strategic planning department.

The Brainzooming Group has created and published many more questions since then as part of our portfolio of strategic planning tools. We decided recently to update the post. While doing so, we realized we’d added nearly four hundred more questions since the article’s original publication date.

Strategic Planning Tools – 600 Most Powerful Strategic Thinking Questions

Rather than hit you with an updated mega-post of 600 questions, we decided to compile the links, organize them, and share the update with you in an easier-to-use eBook: The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (The Brainzooming Group Uses. So far.)

This eBook’s questions cover the areas we address here and in our client work, including:

  • Organizational strategy
  • Innovation
  • Branding, naming, and marketing
  • Customer experience
  • Creativity
  • Implementation

While you may associate strategic planning tools with year-end activities, you will use and find these question links valuable throughout the year. They will help you:

  • Stretch and re-orient conventional thinking
  • Stimulate creativity (even among people not seeing themselves as creative)
  • Improve meeting efficiency and effectiveness
  • Align diverse activities to common strategic themes

And since we use what we publish, we’ve already found having the eBook on a phone helpful. You can quickly link to questions when you are in a meeting that isn’t delivering the results you expect. Pop open the eBook and grab a question or two to orient everyone toward more productive discussions.

Yes, we’re serious: these are the links to our 600 most powerful strategic thinking questions, all in one of the best strategic thinking tools you’ll download for FREE all year long! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
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


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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