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I spotted a Bloomberg Businessweek story the other day that was a corporate case study, in effect, of the Radio Shack business strategy and the brand’s upward and then long downward trajectory.

One sentence in the Radio Shack case study article says volumes about corporate leadership and how corporate success and failure stories turn into history.

Here is the sentence:

“When asked to pinpoint when everything went wrong, they fell into two main groups: those who argue it had happened right after they left, and those who say the damage had already been done when they arrived.”

That is how the big lie ALWAYS works!

You see so many cases where what really happened in a corporation is reimagined, reinterpreted, and re-reported to suit the personal business storyline that best advances someone’s own career.

Little-Liars

One classic example of the corporate case study big lie in action that I witnessed multiple times involves a celebrity CMO on the speaking circuit who had a several year run at a brand headed for extinction. While he was still at the troubled brand, his keynote presentations consisted of talking about how screwed up the business strategy was before he got there, but that under his incredible CMO guidance, EVERYTHING was turning around masterfully.

That was the story only until he left the still-collapsing brand, however.

THEN his keynotes changed to focus on how screwed up the business strategy was before he got there and how it returned to being completely screwed up immediately AFTER he left!

Well OF COURSE that’s what happened!

NOT!

Would a business celebrity misrepresent the truth?

Yes, ALL DAY LONG!

The lesson?

Be careful whenever an executive shares a corporate case study about a troubled brand where he or she was previously employed. If all the big problems are timed for either before the person got there or right after the person left, go ahead and make the leap . . . that person is telling the big lie of very failed corporate case study! – 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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There are many factors that go into productive strategic thinking exercises and efficient group strategy development sessions. Here is an A to Z recap of some of what goes into how Brainzooming approaches strategy development:

Brainzooming-Wordle-Compreh

Appreciative Inquiry – Incorporate positive questions focused around when a group is at its strategic best.

Balance – The best strategic thinking emerges when you have people with a balance of different perspectives and strategic thinking exercises allowing them to work together productively.

Crowdsourcing – Include perspectives even from people not involved directly in strategic planning or setting strategy.

Design – Strategic thinking and conversations are more productive when they are anticipated ahead of time and you design a strategic session to lead the conversation where it needs to go.

EnergyFacilitators have to introduce energy into strategic conversations to spur them to be wider, deeper, and bolder than they might otherwise be.

Fun – Humor, toys, variety, and bright colors all make what can be the drudgery of strategic thinking into an enjoyable experience.

Group – Using small groups is typically a very efficient way to vary the working interactions within a strategic thinking session and maximize the number of people contributing ideas.

Homework – To maximize a group’s efficiency, use homework prior to the session to gather information and other inputs that don’t demand or benefit from creative group interaction.

Insights – Strategic thinking is most productive when based on robust insights about an organization’s markets, environment, and important objectives.

Jokes – There are very strong comparisons between the pattern for innovation and the pattern for something being funny, so using humor helps to get the innovation going.

Kudos – Throughout time a group spends on strategic thinking, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the group for its progress.

Limits – Setting time limits for how long a group spends on any one strategic thinking exercise before moving to another creates opportunities to look at situations from many different perspectives more efficiently.

Movement – One reason for recording ideas – whether on paper or electronically – is to allow you to make them portable and bring them closer to or further away from others ideas to create new concepts.

Numbers – Creativity and innovation are typically numbers games. The more ideas you generate, the greater the probability you’ll arrive at on-target answers to address your strategic opportunity.

Openness – An open conversation starts with having an open space for the conversation to take place so both people and ideas have an opportunity to move in and move away as needed.

Prioritization – While it may be confined to certain times or phases, it’s important to use the knowledge and expertise of the people imagining strategic possibilities to also provide input on the most attractive ones.

Questions – People genuinely try to answer robust questions tailored to their knowledge and expertise when they are asked them during a strategy session.

Rules – Establishing general rules for a strategic thinking session lets participants know upfront how the group will interact and the expectations for collaboration.

Serving – Facilitators have to have an attitude of serving the participants with a focus on helping them achieve their strategic objectives from a session.

Thinking – While taking action is the ultimate goal in developing strategy, the initial and ongoing time you spend thinking is critical to productive strategy formulation.

Unexpected – Strategic questions and exercises should take participants into new areas or help them see old areas in very new and different ways they hadn’t previously imagined.

Volume – The best thinking emerges from considering many different possible strategic situations, which leads to a much larger number of ideas to choose from when it’s appropriate to do so.

Waiting – As much as you may want strategic thinking to move ahead m ore quickly, it is important to be able to embrace waiting for new strategic ideas to emerge from a group’s interaction.

X-axis – Along with the y-axis, graphing strategic relationships helps participants imagine marketplace relationships and opportunities.

Yield – The best strategic thinking exercises are tried, tested, and tweaked to produce a sufficient number of new ideas and answers in an efficient fashion.

Zero – The value of having a very small, homogenous group as the only group to focus on strategy. – 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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Suppose you need to involve hundreds of engaged audience members to shape the strategic thinking for a significant issue your organization faces.

How do you create the opportunity for learning and community collaboration in this scenario?

Digital-Inclusion-Photo

The organizing group addressing digital inclusion in Kanas City presented The Brainzooming Group this situation. Having announced an all-day Digital Inclusion Summit and inviting any interested community members to participate, we designed the event’s community collaboration strategy.

There are challenges we don’t typically encounter. Because of the general invitation to the community, we didn’t have upfront insight into who would participate until that day. This meant there was no opportunity to ensure the right mix of people within all the educational sessions. Additionally, our digital inclusion community collaboration approach had to fit fifteen different pre-planned educational segments we wouldn’t have visibility to upfront.

Strategic Thinking and Community Collaboration

How did we design a community collaboration approach for the Digital Inclusion Summit within these constraints?

The simple story to our community collaboration approach is we:

  • Identified two topic tracks (best practices and strategy) to describe the education sessions in order to organize the collaboration approaches.
  • Developed strategic thinking worksheets for each topic track. Each had several related questions for the topic track that could be used both individually and in small groups.
  • Coached each education session presenter on taking fifteen minutes in the middle of his/her content. This time was for participants to react to the learning and complete the worksheet strategic thinking questions.
  • Deployed our team, along with Digital Inclusion Summit team members, to manage the community collaboration activities.

Additionally, we developed an experience-based activity. For this activity, we invited participants to turn off all their digital tools for the day to simulate being a part of the digital divide, i.e., citizens who lack access to the Internet on a day-to-day basis.

Community Collaboration Yields New Strategic Insights

From the community collaboration worksheets participants completed in small groups, we documented nine individual strategic themes. Within these Digital Inclusion Summit themes, participants suggested serious issues standing in the way of digital inclusion and new leadership groups needing seats at the table to effectively narrow the digital divide.

In a rare situation for us, we can fully share the final Digital Inclusion Summit report we created to give you a sense of the nine themes and all the individual comments. The Digital Inclusion Summit report is available for free to the public on a new website designed by the Kansas City Public Library. It is a great treat for us to be able to actually share the final work product we developed.

Community Collaboration – Engaging to Address Digital Inclusion from Mike Brown

Do you have a community of stakeholders you need to meaningfully engage?

Whether you are tackling city-wide issues needing community collaboration or have an organization that needs to better engage its diverse stakeholders, we’d love to talk with you about how we can turn your hopes for meaningful engagement into reality.  – 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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We received a question recently about the three biggest strategic planning challenges. It didn’t take long to think about the answer, because we see and hear about these strategic planning challenges repeatedly.

Pencil-Med

1. Thinking strategic planning only happens with senior management

We’ve been hammering away at this first challenge for years. An organization’s senior management team may be the ones charged with setting strategy and ultimately on the hook for whether the strategy is successful. That doesn’t mean, however, that senior management should be the largest group involved in planning, let alone the ONLY group involved.

Beyond the three strategic thinking perspectives essential to solid strategy we have advocated for years, we’ve formalized another view on who should participate. We’re now looking for three voices to become active in planning:  familiar, challenger, and emerging voices.

2. Believing strategic planning takes more time than the organization can afford

If one part of our brand promise at The Brainzooming Group is about involving more “brains” in strategy, another important brand promise attribute is that strategic planning can move more quickly than people typically expect.

What’s vital for faster strategic planning is greater productivity, removing unnecessary steps, and being able to move ahead with the options that make the most strategic sense. Speedier planning doesn’t happen from using strategic planning techniques to turn everyone into strategists. It comes about through allowing people to develop and deliver the information and insights they know best. That’s why we prepare the planning templates and let clients do what they do best.

3. You have to start with a clean sheet of paper

Unless there’s a need for a major turnaround, chances are there is no need to start from scratch with a new strategic planning effort. Another element of speedier strategic planning is taking advantage of all the solid work that exists and moving forward with any strategic jump start you can get. That’s why we tell clients we re-work our process to fit them, as opposed to fitting the organization into static planning steps.

Take a Different Look at Strategic Planning Techniques

Whether you’re launching organization-wide strategy development or are focused on business unit or initiative strategic planning, you owe it to your organization to consider what planning looks like without the three typical challenges we shared here.

Call or email us, and we’ll show how things can be different. – 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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During the Lenten season, Christians seek to grow in their devotion to prayer, reflection, and sacrifice as a way to detach from life’s daily consuming distractions.

Angel-praying

This year, I feel a calling to more deliberately help others as much as giving things up. During prayer the other day, the message was clear that I should launch out into the deep in a way that is new for me. Maybe it’s the spirit of Pope Francis that seems to be permeating even popular culture, reminding us that we are called to be islands of mercy, putting aside the indifference that a comfortable life can engender. In his message for Lent. Pope Francis calls us to “pray, to help others, and to recognize the need for God.”

As we’ve done in past years, we are sharing a creativity prayer I wrote a number of years ago as a reminder to also seek out new creative inspirations from the reflection and quiet in the coming weeks.

A Creativity Prayer

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

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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Some strategic thinking questions are brand new, or at least appear in brand new forms, ready to meet a specific business need. Other strategic thinking questions are well tested and, unfortunately, underused even though they are applicable in so many situations.

On example of the latter type of strategic thinking questions is, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

This question sits front and center whenever we are talking strategy with a client or teaching a creating strategic impact workshop or delivering any other type of presentation where strategy is a theme (i.e., social media and content marketing strategy, brand strategy, sponsorship strategy, etc.).

We even put it near the start of the “Staying Sane as a One-Person Social Media Department” presentation at the Social Media Strategies Summit. One of the tips solo social media professionals identified for their peers in the survey we conducted among the group is getting comfortable in saying, “No.” That is great advice, but you cannot typically get away with saying, “No,” capriciously. You should have a strategic rationale behind what you are saying.

And that is where there is such value in the question, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Beyond, helping you say, “No,” it helps address all these situations:

  • Create strategy – If you can pin down what you are trying achieve, you can apply creative thinking to how you accomplish it.
  • It helps you prioritize – Knowing the various things you need to achieve allows for prioritizing them in importance.
  • Focus your work – As things change and people suggest ill-founded strategy changes, you can come back to your strategic priorities in order to re-focus.
  • Produce metrics – You can begin to put numbers to what you are trying to achieve and determine related metrics suggesting whether you are on the right track.
  • Gain supporters – The answer to what you are trying to achieve helps communicate with others and build enthusiasm and action (or address why people are not enthusiastic or ready to act).
  • Grow in influence – Being a more consistent leader often sets you apart from so many other individuals inside organizations.

With all those benefits, that’s why I told the solo social media professionals in the audience that even if they felt alone, this one strategic thinking question worked so hard, it would be like having another member on the team.

The same goes for you. If you have not been taking advantage of this team member, put it to work starting today! – Mike Brown

 

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

 

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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Before leading my workshop the first afternoon of the Social Media Strategies Summit, I participated in the day’s earlier workshops. This is something I try to do whenever I’m speaking at an event. Doing this provides new ideas, reference points, and potentially frees up topics I needn’t address as completely because an earlier speaker has covered them.

During these workshops, for whatever reason, I found myself thinking about how I process information shared during conference presentations. I began jotting down the strategic thinking questions (below) I was asking myself. It struck me that these questions tie to integrated listening. Whether the speaker’s topic is familiar or unfamiliar, and whether the speaker’s perspective agrees or disagrees with my own, I’m looking for what to incorporate from the material to adapt my perspective.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions for Integrated Listening

Within an integrated listening objective, these strategic thinking questions are ones that run through my head during a presentation:

  1. What of this material agrees with my world view?
  2. What parts challenge or contradict my world view?
  3. In what ways does this content enrich my current understanding?
  4. What should I consider doing differently (whether that’s doing something new, stopping something, or altering a current practice) based on this presentation?
  5. What are the parts of this material I don’t understand? If so, why is that?

These questions work, at least for me, to stay open to new information without completely abandoning what I think in favor of too eagerly embracing an expert’s point of view during a presentation.  – 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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