Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 3 – page 3
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Short Story: Instead of voting on strategic priorities, use exercises incorporating individual perspectives and strategic conversations to make fact-based decisions on where to focus your company’s attention.

How do you approach prioritizing strategic opportunities?

There is no one way that’s right for deciding among competing initiatives. In fact, we don’t even use just one way to prioritize them.

Prioritizing Strategic Opportunities

One frequent prioritization approach works well when we have tons of ideas in a strategy workshop and need to quickly (and spontaneously) narrow them to a manageable number.

We get there by estimating how many ideas we have, taking 1/5 of that number of ideas (assuming that 20% of the ideas at most have near-term applicability). We divide the number of participants into that number. The result is how many ideas each person can select for prioritization. They don’t need to get agreement from anyone to select an idea. Only one individual must believe in an idea for the group to consider it. Everyone then places their ideas on a large x-y grid based on an individual assessment. After every idea is placed, the group engages in a strategic conversation about each idea’s placement. The group discussion determines the ultimate location for each idea on the grid.

With more time, we frequently develop a decision support tool for a client to use in prioritizing strategic opportunities.

This involves working with the organization’s leadership team to identify important factors shaping strategic decisions. After selecting the factors, we work with them to describe very attractive, attractive, and unattractive options for each factor. We then create a decision support tool allowing each team member to assess an opportunity individually. After everyone is done with the ratings, we aggregate the results. The subsequent conversation focuses not on where everyone agrees, but on areas of disagreement. We look for differences in information, assumptions, and/or perspectives and work at resolving them. These conversations are typically efficient so we can quickly reach decisions across multiple initiatives.

2 Things in Common

Notice what is similar with the two methods? Each one involves individual assessment followed by group conversation.

Starting with people offering individual perspectives without influence from others taps greater diversity in thinking. The group’s strategic conversation creates the opportunity to challenge individual perspectives that may be off the mark.

Even though we don’t have only one method for prioritizing strategic opportunities, pairing individual perspectives and strategic conversation among a group works well to focus on the smartest alternatives.  – Mike Brown

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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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Short Story: If a group of experts struggles with innovation, provide an opportunity to look at the situation from the outside to discover mental space to innovate.

I was talking with an engineer at a company that primarily employs engineers. The company focuses on materials testing.

He told me how difficult it is for the organization to consider an innovation strategy. The reason why? The engineers are so accustomed to testing EVERYTHING, they routinely shoot down any innovative ideas. That’s what they are used to doing. When the whole business is built on trying to prove something doesn’t work, I guess it takes you out of the “let’s try something new and innovative and see what happens” game.

I suggested looking at a version of one of our extreme creativity questions: How can we innovate our processes to test things faster than all our competitors? Specifically, how can we test ten products in the time our competitors test two things?

I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, but they’d be better off if they did.

2 Ways to Take a Fresh Look at Outside-In Innovation Strategy

They could also take the outside-in innovation strategy approach we wrote about recently: look at other testing situations ripe for speeding up and solve those. They could then take those ideas and apply them to what they do. It always seems easier and more fun to work on somebody else’s problems and fix them. That is especially true when your expertise is tearing apart what others overlooked in their work!

Additionally, our conversation suggested an intriguing innovation strategy role. He told me how the company had its annual meeting at the same venue two years in a row. At the most recent annual meeting, the bartender was the same as the year earlier. The bartender remarked that all the engineers were sitting in EXACTLY the same seats as at the previous year’s meeting!

While the engineers obviously remembered where they sat (and returned to the same seats), it took an outside observer to point out the bigger message: YOU GUYS DON’T EVER DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY! That story got me thinking: beyond an outside facilitator, who else is witnessing your innovation strategy development over time and can point to what those closest to it will never see, or at least never mention?

If thinking about doing things in new ways is tough for your organization, start looking at an outside-in innovation strategy!  – Mike Brown

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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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What could you do to your boring office so you and others are thinking strategically more readily and effectively?

Someone searched and came to the Brainzooming.com website looking for strategic thinking in the office examples. While we have a post on doing thinking strategically without leaving the office, we don’t have anything on how the physical surroundings of an office can boost strategic thinking.

32 Ideas for Thinking Strategically in the Office

If I were going to outfit an office to boost strategic thinking in a big way, here are things I’d do (and btw, the links below are nearly all affiliate links):

Physical Surroundings

I’d make these adjustments to the physical space:

  • Include a mobile, magnetic white board to draw out ideas
  • Even better, white board paint to make all the walls into white boards (and underneath, we’d apply metal primer so we could use magnets to hold up paper)
  • Paint grids (maybe like graph paper) on the white board walls to organize thinking and ideas
  • Maybe smart board technology (but I’m not quite sold on it yet)
  • A couple large screens to look at data, images, and video
  • Video conferencing equipment (preferably a Telepresence system, if at all possible)
  • Soft carpet to be able to lay on the floor and imagine
  • Make sure there are plenty of windows to look outside
  • Include multiple types of lighting with multiple ways to shut them down in certain parts of the office, but not in the other parts
  • Have fifty square feet of space per the number of people expected to meet for strategic thinking in the office

Strategic Inputs

For strategic jumping off points, there are various things to include:

Supplies and Resources

Here’s my shopping list for resources:

Other Stuff

These are other things I’d want around or available in the office:

Granted, it’s likely everything I spelled out here would not fit in most offices. And there is no way this is a universal list for fostering thinking strategically in the office. What will make thinking strategically easier and more frequent in your boring office will depend on what stimulates your best strategic thinking. – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise 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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Yesterday, we identified the six types of strategic planning process activities we use to design a client’s strategic thinking workshop. To facilitate you going deeper into thinking about how these activities function within a strategic planning process workshop, here are articles in each of the six areas.

6 Types of Strategic Planning Process Activities

Interacting (Networking, meeting, team building)

Informing (Sharing background data and context)

Investigating (Assembling the facts for strategic planning)

Insighting (Revealing breakthrough opportunities and threats)

Iterating (Structured thinking to expand ideas)

Integrating (Assembling pieces into strategy)

Lots of places to go with all these articles on strategic planning activities that can fit into a workshop within your strategic planning process.

Putting it Together in a Strategic Planning Process

If you have responsibility for leading the strategic planning process in your organization, we recommend bookmarking this strategic planning activities reference and coming back to it when you need to explore the right mix of exercises to engage your planning participants.

Of course, picking the right menu and bringing it to life is our specialty. Get with us at info@brainzooming.com, 816-509-5320, or the contact us page on the website so we can discuss the approach that makes the most sense for your organization. – 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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What types of strategic planning activities are in a strategic thinking workshop?

Readers have been asking this question frequently of late. That this is taking place during a period when many companies are IMPLEMENTING strategies suggests you understand the importance of strategy even beyond initial planning.

As we collaborate with a client to design strategic planning activities for a strategic thinking workshop, we explore various possibilities. The goal is making sure the strategic planning activities we select best match the organization, the objective, and the participants. By adapting the process to the situation, we’re able to help clients develop strong strategies with tremendous time efficiency.

6 Potential Strategic Planning Activities for a Workshop

If you are figuring out strategic planning activities in a strategic thinking workshop, we suggest looking toward six “I” categories as your starting point for the design. These six types of activities include:

Interacting – Meeting, networking and connecting with one another to build or enhance the sense of team among participants.

Informing – Providing background data and context so everyone has the same backdrop for strategic thinking. These activities often happen before a group convenes.

Investigating – Examining a particular situation to ensure the appropriate facts and perspectives are available for strategic thinking.

Insighting –  Identifying breakthrough thinking to open the door to deeply understanding opportunities and threats that strategy needs to address. (And yes, we know Insighting is a made-up word!)

Iterating – Using specific creative and strategic thinking exercises in a sequence to help the group generate many possibilities and ideas.

Integrating – Taking the output from throughout the strategic thinking workshop and putting it into strategic planning outputs. As with Information activities, these often happen outside a group setting.

Selecting the Right Menu of Activities

Selecting the menu of activities for a strategic thinking workshop isn’t haphazard. As we mentioned, the combination of the organization, objectives, and participants leads to the right menu of strategic planning activities. We explore each of these areas upfront to determine what to include.

The next article will take you deeper into each of the six categories with helpful articles to shape a productive strategic gathering.

Have questions about how we apply these activities? Contact us at The Brainzooming Group, and let’s talk about how to create the right menu of activities for your team. – Mike Brown

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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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I long ago learned an important lesson about corporate branding decisions: no matter how many intriguing, mentally-engaging brand strategy conversations you have among senior executives, those conversations NEVER lead to final decisions. No, corporate branding decisions are only resolved when someone needs a new business card, trade show booth, brochure, or website.

When you have to physically display a logo or depict how two brands relate to each other when they are placed together? THAT is when executives finally make corporate branding decisions.

A conversation with an upcoming client brought this lesson to mind. They asked whether they should include the organization’s logo in the official email signature.

Addressing that question led to an extended conversation about reasons why they should or should not include the logo. During the conversation, we also tackled what the organization’s multi-part name is supposed to mean (because no one seems to know) and why its logo looks like something it isn’t. We also touched on whether one of their product names actually has much greater brand equity than the overall organization (which changed its name to an acronym several years ago).

See what I mean?

A question about the email signature quickly got us (well, at least me), questioning their whole naming and identity strategy.

If you’re struggling with corporate branding decisions no one is moving forward to resolve, maybe it’s time to design new business cards. Getting physical like that will prompt the decisions you need to make to clarify your brand strategy and move into action.  – 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!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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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Talking with a client team about facilitating its strategic planning process, we discussed why completed strategic plans sit on shelves.

There are multiple reasons for this unfortunate situation.

I think an important reason is when a strategic planning process focuses on the wrong issues. It happens so often: people launch into strategic planning and begin to talk and think differently than during daily business activities. They also assume the things they work on every day must not be part of the strategic planning process.

Put all those things together, and if left unchecked, you wind up with a strategic plan disconnected from the organization’s daily activities and reading like a document foreign to the organization.

A Strategic Planning Process Focused on the Wrong Issues

I shared a story from my corporate days to demonstrate how easily strategic planning gets disconnected from what matters.

We spent 3/4 of a day working on the strategic plan for a cross-border transportation service. We were going through all the typical strategic planning exercises. We worked with the brand manager to complete and review a SWOT analysis, identified (and prioritized) important opportunities, and spelled out tactics to implement the opportunities.

Late in the afternoon, the brand manager said the service was in violation of certain governmental regulations. The remedy to address the violation was not immediately clear. If the brand team could not figure out what to do quickly, the government was threatening to shut down the service within a few weeks.

I about fell to the ground.

Heck, maybe I did fall to the ground. There would be precedent for it.

I asked what would have made the team think we should spend most of the day working on next year’s planning when the biggest issue facing the service RIGHT NOW could halt the revenue stream within a month.

The problem?

The brand manager interpreted “strategic” as “long-term.” The catastrophe that could shut down the service was not long-term. Since it was immediate, he didn’t think the impending shut down was relevant for strategic planning.

Uh, WRONG!

Ever since then, we employ a series of questions to ferret out incredibly strategic make-or-break issues a client does not, for some reason, think are strategic.

Are you planning for your biggest day-to-day issues?

If your organization’s plans sit on the shelf, contact us, and let’s talk about how we attack that issue from multiple fronts so strategic planning creates strategic impact and results for you! – 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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