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We wrote recently about lowering the stakes for sharing creative ideas. Right after that article, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a small innovation strategy workshop with a client.

We discussed the approach for the client’s upcoming thirty-person new process innovation strategy workshop. The question emerged of how much prior thinking to share with the newly involved participants. Our client thought we shouldn’t bias them by initially reviewing the innovation work that had already been done. The concern was that it would limit potentially contrary thinking about ways to improve the internal process they’re seeking to improve. These concerns followed an extended conversation about the value and applicability of having participants complete a pre-workshop survey to gauge their initial thinking and reactions.

We pointed out that bringing a large group together with little preparation and information-sharing would make the workshop way more risky than it should be.

Innovation-Strategy-Workshop

For example, think about the salary cost (and associated risk) of having thirty people (many of them senior leaders) coming together for a day-long innovation strategy workshop without taking advantage of all the inputs we can.  We think lowering risks in these situations ALL THE TIME.

That’s why we never convene people for live, multi-hour innovation strategy workshops without pre-workshop input to understand:

  • What they are thinking
  • Where they see opportunities and challenges, and
  • How we can best organize the in-person time to maximize productivity and efficiency.

Upfront input lowers the risk of an unsuccessful meeting developing.

5 Ways to Lower Risk in an Innovation Strategy Workshop

Here are five ways we lower risks with an in-person workshop:

  1. Carefully selecting participants to get a sufficiently diverse group with as few people as possible.
  2. Reaching out to as big a group as makes sense with pre-workshop surveys or online collaboration sessions so we can introduce their voices and perspectives into the in-person meeting, even if they aren’t physically present.
  3. Sharing as much one-to-many information as we can before the in-person workshop (since it’s often low efficiency time when one person is talking and everyone else is sitting and listening).
  4. Customizing and sequencing exercises based on what participants are thinking and need to accomplish (instead of some standard arrangement that’s always the same).
  5. Creating open space within the meeting where we encourage participants to challenge thinking already advanced by the core team.

With that approach, we can move faster and make an in-person innovation strategy workshop tremendously productive.

If you’d like to learn more about doing the same for your innovation team, contact us! We’d love to fill you in on the approach and how it could look for your organization. – Mike Brown

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Ready to boost your innovation strategy?

New-10Barriers-Cover-BurstDo you need a quick evaluation to understand your organization’s innovation challenges so you can create a strategy to boost new ideas and successful implementation?

Download “The Ten Big Nos to InNOvating – Identifying the Barriers to Successful Business Innovation.”

This free Brainzooming eBook highlights ten common organizational innovation barriers. A one-page evaluation sets the stage to quickly self-diagnose where to focus your organization’s efforts in customizing a successful innovation initiative.

Download Your FREE eBook! 10 Big NOs to Innovating in Organizations

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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What if you are a person that freezes up when you think you need to come up with or implement a creative idea?

What if even having someone TELL YOU that there are no wrong ideas doesn’t free you up to start sharing ideas in a group?

What if your fear of being wrong is so great that you can’t even start implementing creative ideas that are just for you for fear you’ll goof something up?

Is there hope?

Sure, there is hope.

Typically, the creative thinking exercises we teach and use are a huge source of hope to get past fears about self-judged “bad” ideas. Those creative thinking exercises don’t work for some people, however.

I had someone dealing with these concerns come up and talk with me the other day during a wonderful weekend I spent at the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites annual conference. She could be creative in other areas on her own time, by herself. Or she could express creativity when she patterned what she did creatively on someone else’s approach. While she wanted to contribute to the group creative thinking exercises we used, however, she “froze up.”

She was another “Becky,” a person we worked with that was miserable in group creative situations.

I told my new friend that she was also me. I can still be the person that doesn’t want to mess up a creative idea right from the start or expend creative energy on things I don’t think will lead to success or progress.

To help, I bought her a cheap sketchbook (not a nicely bound book that says “don’t mess up a page” to someone like my friend), a few Sharpies, and a couple of the Pilot pens I use to scribble notes. Inside the sketch book, I wrote this message for her.

Creative-Note

Finally, we talked about other ways to lower the stakes of imagining and doing something with new creative ideas:

  1. Write down ideas you are willing to throw away if they don’t turn into anything.
  2. Don’t plan to show anyone your ideas until you are happy with them.
  3. Get over it: if someone doesn’t get your creative idea right away, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
  4. Create something you can erase, adjust, or modify.
  5. If you are creating in a group, make it very easy for others to participate so their expectations for the creative output might not be so big.
  6. Share ideas that aren’t comfortable for you. Don’t judge them on whether you like them. Evaluate them later by whether they inspired someone else to come up with new ideas.
  7. Apply some creative ideas you like in one area to another area where you have less comfort with new ideas.
  8. Decide for yourself that your idea doesn’t have to be perfect and take a risk.

Are you a Becky? If you are, figure out which of these ideas (or others) will work to lower creative stakes for you.

Because the only creative mistake you are REALLY making is missing out on sharing your creativity with the world. – 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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What leadership skills are necessary to successfully champion a collaborative strategy?

A client fully immersed in developing and implementing a collaborative strategy asked that question. The task at hand is selecting “champions” from among the organization’s leadership team to move forward with strategic initiatives developed from the input of employees across the organization.

The question is a critical one that’s started emerging with a variety of client organizations. Since we’re involved at the heart of driving the process to develop a collaborative strategy, we navigate our way through the development process based on an organization’s specific culture enablers and quirks.

When we leave after the plan is completed, however, we’re finding many leaders aren’t prepared to implement a collaborative strategy plan. The big difference a leader has to account for is that even if an organization operates in silos, you can’t implement a collaborative strategy plan in a silo. Since so many people have a stake in a collaborative plan, those individuals need to participate in the implementation or at least have visibility to the plan coming to life.

This is a topic I’m turning my attention toward increasingly, because we HAVE TO help develop leaders that can successfully implement collaborative plans. It’s not necessarily a different type of leader than exists in business today. They are out there; we’ve worked with them across industries. The issue is it requires a leadership style that many organizations have never fostered.

4 Vital Characteristics of Collaborative Strategy Leaders

collaborative-strategy-leaders

Here are four vital characteristics of collaborative strategy leaders:

#1 – They actively seek out the energy of the organization.

These leaders are continually reaching out in all directions for what people in the organization are passionate about and trying to make happen. They affiliate up, down, and across the organization; they reach out to all levels and areas to ask questions, listen, synthesize what they learn, and share updates back to all the areas that participate in implementation.

#2 – They integrate the organization’s energy and activities into the collaborative strategy.

You can’t simply send out a plan and think everyone will implement it. As a collaborative leader sees activity even remotely linked to the bigger organizational plan, they work to integrate it. That means finding points of connection, offering or suggesting adjustments that align activities to the plan to accelerate their momentum, and/or inviting cooperation among parties driving activities that should be in the plan.

#3 – They connect the people, parts, and pieces that will benefit each other.

This seems a like number 2, but there’s a difference. The previous characteristic is about connecting people and activities in the organization to the plan. This focuses on connecting people and activities to one another that are related. Creating these connections helps the organization move forward more quickly and dramatically with greater alignment.

#4 – They serve the people, the collaborative initiatives, and the organization above their own concerns.

You could put this first or last on the list. It’s the foundation of the leadership style. These collaborative leaders are motivated and act based on the overall good instead of what suits their own agenda or part of the company. They are in the collaborative strategy leader role for the organization’s overall success even if it means their own interests have to take one for the team.

There’s more to say on collaborative strategy leaders.

We’ll keep after this topic. This is a starting point, however, to look around and see which current and emerging leaders are ready to step into new roles championing collaborative strategy.  Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

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Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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What are your expectations from a creative thinking workshop?

That is the first question I ask the audience at a Brainzooming creative thinking workshop. While I have a rich array of content planned, audience member expectations shape the points I emphasize and lead to including other unplanned content.

7 Expectations from Creative Thinking Workshop Training

Preparing for a creative thinking workshop this week, I looked back at a recent workshop to review the expectations participants shared. The expectations are a good representation of issues, from personal creativity to organizational strategy, important to getting things accomplished in a large company.

creative-thinking-workshop

How do you move an organization and its strategy from reactive to proactive?

On a personal basis, certain strategic leadership basics are a good place to start adjusting your attitude and growth as a strategic leader. Organizationally, a change management assessment we use identifies the types of change challenge an organization faces, along with ideas for approaching them successfully.

What are techniques to look at problems in new ways?

We offer a wide variety of strategic thinking exercises to change perspectives and look at day-to-day and longer-term problems in novel ways. At that workshop, we concentrated on the “What’s It Like?” strategic thinking exercise as a flexible tool suitable for many situations.

How do you build a team to move forward in a new direction?

We recommend assembling a diverse team with members filling specific important strategic perspectives. You can add to the core group with three distinct voices that include traditional leaders, emerging voices, and those challenging the status quo.

How do you motivate others – and yourself – to engage in greater creative thinking?

It may seem easy to stay stuck in the status quo. But for as easy it is to not change, you can’t stop all the change going on around you. We recommend inviting people to participate in creative thinking through using idea magnet behaviors. Idea magnets excite and propel others to tackle challenging creative tasks. Leaders also need to cultivate an atmosphere where people understand it’s okay to imagine and try ideas that won’t be successful right away, if ever.

How do you choose specific creative thinking ideas your team develops?

Ideas are a numbers game. It takes many ideas to uncover the most creative possibilities. Our experience suggests that as few as 8% to as many as 20% of ideas in a creative thinking workshop are viable candidates to move ahead right away. Involve a team in narrowing ideas by letting them select up to 20% of the initial ideas consideration. Then use a four-box grid to let team members express their initial views on the value of potential ideas, while group discussion helps decide which ideas advance.

What’s the life cycle of creative ideas?

The cycle to get from few ideas to many ideas to the best few ideas may happen multiple times during one initiative or plan. You, as a creative leader, need to be on the lookout for when it’ s time to move between divergent to convergent thinking and back again.

How do you communicate new strategies to those that are less open to change?

Personally, you can ask open, neutral, and lean questions of people reluctant to change in order to better understand their concerns. Invite them to play a challenger role in constructively helping to vet new thinking. For setting an overall strategy to handle change fears, download our innovation fears eBook offers seven possible strategies to consider.

Creative Thinking Is a Broad Topic

These questions suggest how a creative thinking workshop can cover a wide range of techniques and tips.

If your team would benefit from honing its creative thinking skills, it’s a great time to schedule a Brainzooming workshop before you dive into planning for next year! Contact us to get your workshop booked today!  – 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!

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

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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When do you start thinking about your organization’s strategic planning process? Have you started thinking about it yet for next year?

Strategic-Planning-process

In the corporate world, I used to start planning for planning in April.

Seriously, we started in April, laying out how we’d approach everything so that by the time we engaged the rest of the organization in mid-summer we had everything ready to go.

Spending that much time planning was a luxury when the strategic planning process suddenly became important to our company. That’s one way of saying, don’t freak out if you have responsibility for directing strategic planning and haven’t started thinking about it yet.

Jump start Your Strategic Planning Process

If you are playing a role in shaping your organization’s strategic planning process for next year, it IS probably a good time to start asking these 12 questions, just to make sure you’ve played through all the variables you can manage to deliver great results for the coming year:

Process Questions

  • Do we have strategic insights in place from last year’s strategic planning process?
  • How aggressively do we need to update them for this year?
  • What worked and didn’t work about the last round of planning?
  • What do we need to change about the upcoming strategic planning process to make it more effective and efficient?
  • What’s the minimal amount of plan documentation we need to do to align everyone toward the company priorities?

People Questions

  • Who should be on our core planning team?
  • Do we have representation from all the vital parts of the organization?

Timing Questions

  • How long does it typically take us to get a plan put together?
  • What are our options for shortening the amount of time this year?
  • Are there short cuts we can take that won’t compromise the strategic impact?
  • How much time are people able to invest in strategic planning this year?
  • Will that amount of time increase or decrease as we get further into the fall and end of year?

Take a run at those questions and see where you stand for your next round of strategic planning.

If you need help to speed up the process, actively involve more employees, or make planning more productive than it has been in the past, contact us.

That’s something we’re making happen across industries! – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy that turns into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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If you’ve been a Brainzooming reader for any length of time, you know we’re huge proponents of collaborative strategic planning. Collaborative planning implies a process that goes beyond the board room to include individuals throughout the organization in meaningful ways to provide insights and input to shape organizational strategy.

Admittedly, collaborative planning processes aren’t all that common.

In fact, it may be relatively rare.

Because of that rarity, we run into potential clients with serious apprehensions about opening the door wide to have employees throughout the organization share strategic ideas. That leads to a variety of misperceptions.

5 Things Collaborative Strategic Planning Isn’t

Let’s try to clear up at least five of those misperceptions about collaborative planning.

Collaborative-Planning

Collaborative strategic planning isn’t:

1. Unplanned

Instead of just inviting people and seeing what happens, we carefully identify and vet potential participants in collaborative strategy planning. This step ensures diverse perspectives and a process that allows them to participate successfully.

2. A democracy

A large group really makes collaborative strategy planning work. We ask them to provide ideas, input, and even express preferences and recommendations. While that input is vital, it isn’t the final say. The business leader still owns the decision making for what makes it into the final plan.

3. A free for all

We design collaborative strategy planning for each client with a clear understanding of the overall goal. While the individual steps may seem to go in varied and unexpected directions, they’re all pointing toward the end result of a highly-actionable strategic plan.

4. The same for all participants

Individual participants take on different roles within collaborative strategy planning. They may work on different strategic thinking exercises and questions based on their perspectives and areas of expertise. The cumulative input provides a richer and more robust basis to align and coordinate the organization’s activities even though everyone didn’t participate in exactly the same ways.

5. More time consuming than less collaborative planning

Including additional participants allows for more efficient and concurrent input. Additionally, our design process takes into account what will make collaborative strategy planning participants most efficient and effective. The net of these two approaches is that our client engagements are months shorter than typical strategic planning processes.

Want to learn more about collaborative strategic planning benefits?

Download our Results!!! eBook and contact us (816-509-5320 or info@brainzooming.com) to discuss how a collaborative planning process can boost your organization’s strategy and results for 2017! Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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You have heard the old business joke about the pig and the chicken’s different levels of commitment to breakfast?

When it comes to ham and eggs, the chicken is supportive, while the pig is committed.

Bacon-Egg-Engagement2

It may be an old and tired story, but it still illustrates an important point about engagement and the willingness (or unwillingness) of employees to go all in with a new business initiative.

The thing is, unsuccessful employee engagement strategies are not an employee problem.

It is a LEADERSHIP problem when purported employee engagement strategies are not working. It means leadership has not made a credible case for WHY employees will benefit from going beyond the bare minimum to justify going all in to make company initiatives successful.

We see great leaders among our clients successfully taking steps that meaningfully involve employees in shaping strategy and implementation. These leaders respect differences completely, ask questions honestly, listen attentively, adapt credibly, and explain thoroughly.

That is a formula that works for employee engagement, and it is one reason we shared our Brainzooming buy-in manifesto.

If you want to go deeper on a viable strategy to improve employee engagement, download our Results eBook. It highlights an approach for more collaborative strategy that provides employees with a real opportunity to contribute their ideas and be a part of actively contributing to your organization’s direction. Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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