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Suppose you’re on the hook to create a vision statement for a new organizational initiative. This seems like an assignment that is simple, complex, and fraught with potential missteps – all at the same time.

That’s especially true if the organization has already launched an initiative before recognizing the need for an over-arching vision statement.

When that happens, what visioning exercises make sense? How do you develop a vision statement when it is trying to catch up to an initiative that is already underway.

4 Visioning Exercises to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

Clouds-Vision

Your strategy for selecting visioning exercises depends, in part, on what type of direction has been already communicated about the initiative. Here’s our quick advice on potential first steps for visioning exercises based on various starting points:

1. An initiative already has a slogan or catchphrase, but little else behind it

This describes a situation where a senior leader has coined a phrase or been mentioning a favorite new concept. This can lead to confusion and consternation in the organization as everyone tries to interpret what the senior leader means.

Visioning Exercise Approach: In these instances, extract significant words from the slogan and work on defining what each of them could mean in describing the initiative’s vision. Try to imagine several possibilities for each of these words. Using this approach, you’ll create a menu of strategic possibilities which you can mix, match, combine, and simplify to state a more defined vision statement.

2. There is already something resembling a vision statement, but it’s too generic

We’ve all seen a jargon-filled statement that seems as if it were spewed fresh from an all-purpose business jargon generator. It may seem sound impressive initially, but no one has any idea what it really means for the organization that’s touting it as a vision statement.

Visioning Exercise Approach: Your first step is to pull an existing statement as close to the organization’s real world as possible. If took out all the jargon, is there anything left in the statement? Suppose average employees were saying this (and trying to remember it); how would they be describing it in real, understandable words? Are there words used in the statement that could be easily translated or modified to link to strategic foundations the organization already has in place?

3. A current big statement focuses completely on aspiration with no ideas for implementation

This type of statement sounds like it came from the organization saying it, yet it seems so audacious and far off, it’s difficult to know what the organization should be doing to turn it into reality.

Visioning Exercise Approach: When you need to translate organizational aspirations into concrete actions, start asking outcomes-oriented questions. How will we know when we reach this vision? What will have had to happen to help us get there? What would be the potential first steps to reaching the desired outcome?

4. There isn’t anything close enough to resembling a vision statement

Visioning Exercise Approach: In this case, start asking questions about aspirations, emotional words that describe a hopeful future, and possibilities customers would like the brand to deliver. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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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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There was a Brainzooming posse in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday as Marianne Carr and I attended ConfabuLarryum, the Lawrence festival of creativity. In just its second year, Ben Smith’s brainchild increased its attendance 4x to more than 5,000 adults and kids.

What a fantastic event celebrating creative thinking skills of all kinds!

ConfabuLarryum-Wideshot

The only disappointment was I didn’t get to spend any time with the incredible array of activities and demonstrations. With a noon time slot to speak, I stayed in the auditorium to see the presentations before mine, getting a read on the audience, the room, and what content would work most effectively.

I presented a mini-workshop on Busting Creativity Barriers. One of the audience questions from a fourth grade teacher was on  how to help kids stop editing their creativity and new ideas for fear of being wrong.

My response was that’s clearly a challenge in a school environment where we are grading kids on their academic performance and monitoring all their actions and behaviors for conformity to expectations. Talk about a recipe for teaching children to edit their creativity and curb their creative thinking skills! It takes a full-blown creative rebel to survive creatively in that environment. And that survival will likely be VERY rocky because a student putting up enough of a fight to hang on to their own creative thinking skills and instincts will be going dangerously against the grain.

How about establishing a grade-free zone to cultivate creative thinking skills?

My spontaneous idea and response to her question was to create a grade-free zone in the classroom. This would be a spot where children could go to experiment, imagine ideas, and explore their creative thinking skills without ANY grading or correction.

Thinking about it, the grade-free zone might be a physical location in the classroom, a condition (i.e., a certain day or days), a situation (i.e., a child could call for grade-free zone time to create), or maybe all three of these.

Grade-Free-Zone

What else might need to be in place for a successful grade-free zone?

Those are some initial thoughts from someone who ISN’T a childhood educator; they are based, however, on how we try to create what are essentially grade-free zones inside creative thinking workshops. It would be interesting to see how my friends at the Boulder Journey School would address the question!

Two other thoughts emerged later:

  • Perhaps rather than being grade-free, the zone should be an all-A zone. That would be akin to conductor Benjamin Zander’s statement that he only teaches A students.
  • Even though ConfabuLarryum WAS a grade free zone filled with all kinds of creative outlets, I heavily edited my workshop presentation before starting, inserting stories that weren’t part of the presentation when I walked in the building and taking out a number of pieces.

I guess being grade-free is harder than it initially sounds.

What do you think of the idea, and how would you approach helping students to stop editing their own creativity? – Mike Brown

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How important is your job description? And is it more important BEFORE you take a new job than after you start?

I was working with a senior executive on a career strategy change. After an initial interview with a potential employer, the executive had perceptions about the new job’s responsibilities, sphere of influence, and reporting relationships to the CEO and the department team.

The perceptions formed via conversations; nothing was in writing. In a subsequent conversation, however, the CEO unveiled other organizational and position changes underway. Following this second conversation, the new job’s responsibilities and reporting relationships seemed different than originally portrayed – different enough, in fact, to make the new position unattractive.

Question-Marks

How Important Is a Job Description to Your Career Change Strategy?

At that point the question was whether the next move should involve demanding a written job description before confirming acceptance of the new position. The thinking was that forcing the CEO’s hand about a job description would clear up all questions.

Discussing the concerns, it was clear there were two BIG factors necessary for success up in the air. Each issue involved a reporting relationship:

  • Did the new position report to the CEO or not?
  • Would a key supporting capability within the organization report up through the new position or not?

Answers to these two questions were sufficient to know whether the new position could create the type of impact the CEO SAID he wanted it to have.

While a written job description would typically address these questions, it wouldn’t be a guarantee of the new job being exactly as promised. That understanding would come from having a strong sense the CEO does what he says. If there was an underlying uncertainty about whether the CEO says one thing to please someone yet actually do something else, a job description wasn’t going to address that.

The best strategy was having another conversation with the CEO about the two open questions. This strategy positioned the job seeker as a legitimate senior level executive that didn’t need everything spelled out to make a decision.

The conversation answered the two questions. Yes, the position definitely reported to the CEO, and the important function within the organization would report to the new position.

Questions answered and the best career strategy change was decided, all without a written job description.

The conversation, however, provided greater assurance the CEO will follow through on what he says. And at a senior level such as this, knowing you can trust someone is typically more important than spelling out a bunch of job duties in a job description! – Mike Brown

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It used to be when a lot of us were kids that soap could just show and be soap, and everybody was happy.

Soap was in a bar, and you used it (if you were particularly hygienic) or were MADE to use it (if you weren’t particularly hygienic) to wash your hands and your body.

Times have changed.

Now soap shows up and has to do lots of things. What used to be “soap” now has to be a “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” if it expects to get the job done.

The_New-Soap

That is a big career change strategy for soap.

The thing is, it’s the same career change strategy a lot of more experienced people need to make, too.

It used to be you could show up and do one simple thing . . . and that was enough.

Those days are gone, though.

It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been or how much experience you have at that one simple thing.

One simple thing isn’t cutting it anymore.

You have to figure out all the other things you can lay claim to in your job and your career. You have to figure out what YOUR version of “Foaming Antimicrobial Handwash with Moisturizers” is going to be.

It may take going to school on people half your age to see what they’re bringing to the workplace now in the way of talents and skills. Then you have to go out and hone what you do to be just as good as they are at all those weird sounding new things.

Because when you couple all those weird sounding new things with all your experience AND an openness to change . . . THEN you have a career change strategy.

Get going! – Mike Brown

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We’ve written about various brainstorming methods, including brainstorming math before.

As we use the term, “brainstorming math” means taking advantage of the number of people involved in creative thinking, how many people can participate simultaneously, the time available, and the number of ideas various brainstorming methods are likely to yield to gauge how much creative thinking work you can accomplish.

What’s great about brainstorming math is you can not only use it to determine how many ideas will likely to emerge from creative thinking exercises. You can also use it to identify ways to make up time when a creative thinking session falls behind schedule.

Using Brainstorming Math to Save Time

At a customer forum we designed and facilitated for a business-to-business client, we emphasized creating an educational and networking environment for the company’s customers. We also employed various creative thinking exercises throughout the day. Because of waiting for some delayed attendees, we started more than 15 minutes late. During the morning, some segments lasted longer than expected. To adjust our plan for the afternoon, I used brainstorming math as a way to save twenty minutes while still getting everything done we had planned.

Brainstorming-Group-L

Since participants wanted to learn about and from each other, there was an opportunity to have MORE people contributing ideas. We combined two exercises into one (2x faster), creating combo creative thinking exercise where three small groups worked simultaneously (3x more work getting done). To increase the networking impact, participants rotated among groups to increase the interaction potential. As a result, we completed all the creative thinking exercises we expected to complete and caught up all the time by mid-afternoon.

If you’re facilitating group creative thinking exercises, always keep brainstorming math top of mind. Use it correctly, and you can develop more ideas in less time or the same number of ideas in much less time than you originally planned.

No matter how you cut it, brainstorming math is a great way to save time!  Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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After presenting an “Idea Magnets” keynote last week for the inaugural customer forum at one of our logistics industry clients, an attendee pointed out an intriguing omission when it comes to creative leadership. Talking afterward, he noted a creative leadership characteristic that shows up near the top on most lists of what it takes to be a strong leader was missing from Idea Magnets: empathy.

Acknowledging empathy IS a frequently mentioned leadership quality, I began trying to figure out why empathy isn’t part of Idea Magnets.

Do Idea Magnets Get a Pass on Empathy?

Idea-Magnets-Title

I thought back on the strategic mentors and creative leadership standouts I’ve known and worked with that shaped the Idea Magnets content. Quite honestly, with a couple of exceptions, empathy is NOT high on the list of their common characteristics. While none displayed the creative prickliness one associates with classic creative geniuses, they were all intently driven toward realizing their strong creative visions. While giving a nod to team members’ needs and feelings, they push incredibly hard creatively. That can mean feelings, mental and physical energy, and reasonableness go by the wayside since the creative goal is the most important thing in sight.

Even though empathy may be a vital leadership skill overall, I don’t think it’s high on the list for successful idea magnets.

That doesn’t make them better or worse when it comes to creative leadership.

It simply means they can accomplish what they need to accomplish creatively without being overly concerned with team members situations and sensibilities.

How Do Creative Leadership and Empathy Match Up for You?

I’m curious to know where you would place empathy as a creative leadership trait for idea magnets. Is empathy a must have, nice to have, or a non-factor in realizing creative aspirations in a team?  – Mike Brown

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help you 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. Email us at info@brainzooming.com 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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How “wild and crazy” should you be in using creative thinking exercises? And do you need to be more or less wild and crazy in teaching creative thinking to a group?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Orange-Squeeze-Toy

Creative Thinking Exercises without Wild and Crazy

Sometimes, the right answer is not being very wild and crazy at all – not even one little bit.

At least that was the answer during one strategic planning session we were leading back in the B2B, Fortune 500 transportation and logistics days. While onsite with one of our subsidiaries, a Senior VP called me over to talk with the subsidiary’s president before we started working on the annual plan. He plainly and sternly said, “I don’t want any funny business.” I assured him our approach was to “work,” but at some point, there might be a little funny business. Since we needed his agreement to work with his team, we didn’t put out any toys. We started by facilitating a relatively staid strategic planning development process. No toys, few jokes, and a clear focus on being all business instead of wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

As the group relaxed during the day, however, we put out a few squeeze balls. They soon started flinging them at one another.  We introduced the “What’s It Like” creative thinking exercise to help them see how their trucking brand was JUST LIKE Ritz-Carlton. Most importantly, at the day’s end, the president said it was “good” and invited us back the next year.

Net result? We were very successful with hardly any wild and crazy creative thinking exercises.

Our Most Wild and Crazy Creative Thinking Exercise

Contrast that with a recent “Doing New with Less” workshop in the heavily regulated financial services industry. One might expect it to be completely serious without any extreme creativity.

It was, but only partially.

We didn’t put out toys at the half-day workshop’s start. There were no funny slides or typical sight gags to begin. By the end of the workshop, however, we dove headlong into the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise.

When done well, Shrimp is one of our most outrageous, wild and crazy creative thinking exercises. It pushes participants to initially generate trouble-inducing, extreme creativity ideas that we then scale back to reality.

And the financial services marketers embraced their extreme creativity.

Among the trouble-inducing ideas they imagined initially were psychic economists, Chippendale dancers delivering financial reports, a high school musical to communicate annual performance to individual investors, and giving people scratch cards to discover how lucky they’d be in securing an interest rate.

They turned these wild ideas into a new positioning for their chief economist, new ways to deliver financial updates to clients via a group event, and a simple decision tree to identify interest rate categories.

All this from a wild and crazy creative thinking exercise we rarely teach in workshops because groups aren’t THAT ready for extreme creativity.

Extreme Creativity All Depends

The important thing to remember is, however, wild and crazy is simply an ingredient in creative thinking, NOT its sole purpose. You can call us crazy, but that is why we think “how wild and crazy to be” depends completely on the group, the situations, and what our client wants to achieve. Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can 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.

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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