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Suppose you are facing one of YOUR biggest problems.

How can you take advantage of strategic thinking to address your them?

7 Tips for How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Strategic Thinking

Here are seven tips for how to solve the biggest problems with strategic thinking in a way that leads to creating strategic impact.

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1. Involve as diverse and knowledgeable a group of participants as is relevant and manageable.

One key is thinking about multiple types of involvement (in-person and active vs. participating only through sharing ideas), diversity, relevance, and knowledge. Don’t limit your participants to the usual gang of strategic thinkers; bring new people into the strategic thinking process.

2. Inform the group with as many rich, current insights as is practical.

You want people to share their own strategic perspectives. But since a diverse group won’t all have the same underlying knowledge (or have knowledge as current as you might prefer), give them to-the-point, actionable insights to prepare them to be successful strategic thinkers.

3. Imagine the result you will need at the end is BEFORE you start.

Think ahead to what will let you stop the strategic thinking clock. Figuring out the result before you begin lets you know when you’re getting closer or further away from the result during the strategic thinking process. It will also signal if you have reached a conclusion before you expected one to develop.

4. Anticipate what it will take to do something with the result BEFORE you start.

Yes, you need to do a LOT of thinking about the end before you begin! Creating strategic impact from strategic thinking involves figuring out how you will sell-in and actually implement ideas and plans you develop.

5. Create a structured process to efficiently move through only the necessary steps to reach a conclusion.

Don’t leave it to chance that your strategic thinkers will self-organize a process to be productive. Similarly, don’t just lift a strategic thinking or strategic planning process from a textbook and expect it to work. Your strategic thinkers may not need all the steps or processes detailed in the textbook. Devise a strategic thinking process that will help THIS group be successful in reaching the end result.

6. Set time limits and ground rules.

Groups can take on lives of their own and spend way too much or way too little time on important (or unimportant) issues. Use time limits and project management techniques to manage the strategic thinking process for efficiency and effectiveness.

7. Don’t vote on the final recommendations.

You may use multi-voting to narrow strategic choices and to gain a sense of what the group thinks while it is working. But don’t put a final recommendation up to a vote. A final recommendation should make sense from a strategic and implementation perspective. That’s not the type of decision where you use a majority vote to pick the right course of action.

What tips do you have to solve the biggest problems?

What are your keys to problem solving on major questions?

We certainly recommend this strategic thinking approach. If you do these seven things, you’re in great shape to transition from strategic thinking into creating strategic impact and successfully solving the biggest problems you face.  – 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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If you want to apply creative thinking to a challenging business situation, consider these ten quick tips to enhance your personal and team creativity.

Team-creativity

Creative Thinking – 10 Quick Tips about Team Creativity

1. Know what you’re trying to make happen before you dive into creative thinking.

2. Once you know what you’re trying to make happen, don’t be reluctant to dive in without TOO much forethought.

3. Sometimes blank pieces of paper are successful, but a creative thinking exercise is almost always your best friend for boosting team creativity.

4. Keep your early, failed attempts at creative thinking around for later since you never know when you had all or part of the answer early, but it was too raw to recognize.

5. Even if you could get the same people to help with creative thinking, team creativity is more fun with a gang of diverse people.

6. Don’t spend too much time going down a creative thinking path that’s not working when you can quickly change and try something new.

7. The most unlikely person with the least background in what you’re doing could have the best creative answer, IF you’re paying attention.

8. If everyone gets silent all of a sudden or everyone laughs all of a sudden when a new idea is presented, chances are it’s the right creative idea.

9. Make sure you know when to stop and leave well enough alone with creative thinking so you don’t OVER create.

10. If you have to sell your creative ideas to somebody else, never show them something you wouldn’t be willing to live with if they pick it.

Armed with these 10 tips, you’re set to boost the team creativity you can apply to any challenging business situation.  – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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 have project management responsibility to review concepts with a group to solicit reactions and input. What project management steps should you take to productively review concepts so the feedback is a valuable as possible and leads toward creating strategic impact with the work?

3 Project Management Steps to Productively Review Concepts

Group-ReviewHere are 3 essential project management steps that make reviewing concepts a much more valuable experience:

1. Create a framework to productively review concepts.

You know how you’d prefer group members review concepts; you know what types of input will be helpful as you work on the concepts further – or at least you should! With this knowledge, do yourself a favor and share it with the review group before the session.

You can provide everyone with a copy of the strategic brief, background on inputs you used, and / or clarification on the opportunities you are addressing. Share a list of questions or assessment criteria to structure how they form feedback and review concepts. You could even give them an evaluation scale to compare the concepts to one another.

2. As you review concepts. start with the junior person.

When the group is ready to provide feedback, attempt to begin by soliciting feedback from the most junior person first, followed by the next most senior person, and so on. An alternative is to begin with the quietest, most reserved person and move through the group to the most outspoken person.

The rationale is to gain early input from individuals who are most likely to have their feedback compromised by others sharing comments before them. In this way, you stack the deck to maximize the amount, honesty, and diversity of feedback from the review group.

3. Develop an escape plan to end the review

It is tragic to productively review concepts with a group and then reach the meeting’s end with no clear way to bring it to a quick close. Without a escape plan going in, indecision about what happens next can lead to unproductive conversation that quickly derails progress or negates decisions made up to that point in the review meeting.

For your review meeting escape plan, know what you will do with the feedback and which individual or subset of individuals will set the stage for what happens during the next round of development.

One productive alternative is for you, as the concept presenter, to summarize feedback into a set of next steps to shape additional work. Another possibility is the senior decision maker deciding on next steps (which you want to pre-plan with that person). The horrific possibility is trying to create a consensus where one doesn’t already exist. That leads to further development stalling because rather than trying to address a strategic objective you are left trying to satisfy potentially contradictory opinions. And that’s a situation that will never lead to creating strategic impact.

How do your project management steps help in creating strategic impact?

What works for you to manage review meetings effectively? Or do you have juicy stories to share of when things didn’t go right when you were seeking feedback? We’d love to hear them! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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Taking-ShitMessaging with Whip-Smart Wordsmith Emma Alvarez Gibson on Facebook, we were discussing business situations you know aren’t going to work out as you want, yet you move forward anyway. In one situation I was describing, Emma asked why I’d move ahead knowing the outcome wouldn’t be great.

My response was sometimes you take crap from people because you’ve done the strategic thinking and there is a very good strategic reason to do so.

This realization came from living in the Fortune 500 world as long as I did. You have to develop a strong sense of what those right times are if you expect to survive.

9 Business Situations Where You Might Take Crap from People

After we finished messaging, I wrote this list of nine business situations where it can make sense to take crap from somebody in business:

  1. There is a strategic advantage to be gained and taking crap is a small hurdle standing in the way.
  2. You don’t have any better strategic options, so it’s tough to avoid it.
  3. You can delegate or deflect the brunt of the crap-taking to someone else.
  4. Taking crap from a particular person is a badge of honor you can use as a proof point of some personal strength, capability, or perseverance.
  5. The stories you’ll be able to tell about the experience outweigh the downsides.
  6. Nobody will know the difference.
  7. Giving people crap is just something another person does that is more annoying than harmful.
  8. You don’t or won’t even notice it.
  9. You know everything will still work out in the end.

This list is certainly open to question and challenge based on how you view the strategic thinking behind one of these business situations.

What’s your strategic thinking about this?

What about you? Are there situations where you’ll take crap from someone for good reason?

Or do you take the Billy Joel approach? He was notorious for closing his live shows by saying, “Don’t take any s#!t from anyone!”

So which strategic thinking group are you in? – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

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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Do you know how to tell a great campfire story?

11 Ways to Tell a Great Campfire Story

Campfire-Story

Based on various sources, here are eleven ways to tell a great campfire story:

  1. Sincerely enjoy and revel in creating and sharing your story
  2. Make the story easy for the audience to understand
  3. Choose a story based on the audiences experience, interests, and closeness to the storyteller
  4. Introduce local flavor and personal touches into the story
  5. Avoid bogging down in unnecessary information or pointless tangents, but do emphasize thought- and emotion-triggering details
  6. Bring originality to your story if it’s a familiar one
  7. Heighten the sense of anticipation by departing from the typical, i.e. start the story in the middle
  8. Cater to the audience’s emotions and senses to create engagement
  9. Have a strong sense of where you are headed with the story
  10. Don’t tell the story too fast or too slow
  11. Create a connection with the audience, including by asking open-ended questions to engage the audience and create involvement

By now, you may be wondering why we’re thinking about ways to tell a great campfire story.

Blogging for Business and a Great Campfire Story

The connection between business blogging and campfire stories is this: When I conduct blogging for business workshops, I counsel business executives and marketing communications professionals to view a brand’s blog as its “campfire.”

Don’t buy it?

Revisit the eleven ways to tell a great campfire story and substitute “blog” for “story.” Suddenly, these tips lead you to crate stories when you are blogging for business that are better than most of you see, especially among business-to-business brand blogs.

One other point to drive home why you’d be better served to think about telling “campfire” stories instead of the standard corporate fare around your business blog?

Nobody tells boring corporate press releases as campfire stories. In fact, as SmallBusinessTalent.com host Stephen Lahey put it, “People crumple up corporate press releases and use them TO START campfires!”

And that, my friends, says it all! – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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This post started as an opportunity to beat up an event I attended focused on information sharing from multiple panelists.

While the organizers know better, they failed to address fundamentals to make the event more valuable for both in-person attendees and those trying to report the event via social media channels.

Panel-Questions

The event’s content was intriguing, and I did some live tweeting, but it was in the absence of four items that would have made it a much stronger (and easier to report) event:

  1. Create and over-communicate an event hashtag to find and aggregate tweets plus let audience members connect more easily
  2. Show a title slide for all presenters with their names, organization affiliations, and Twitter handles all correctly spelled
  3. State upfront, during, and afterward what the organizers intend for the audience to walk away with as a benefit for being at the event
  4. Provide context (or some model) for how the presenters’ activities or points of view fit together relative to the event’s theme

See what I mean?

Four simple steps to dramatically boost an event’s impact for in-person attendees and those participating online.

But what about the intent of this piece changing?

Well, as I was writing this, I recalled the workshop I presented the other day at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County.

While I had my Twitter name and a hashtag on every slide, I never once called attention to it as a way to invite live tweeting. I also neglected to share the host organization’s Twitter handle. And none of it was written on the whiteboard where it would have been more visible for attendees.

It’s definitely EASY to point out other’s shortcomings, but it’s far better to have a checklist you hold up to others AND follow yourself.

Now that there is a four-point checklist, I’ll be trying to follow it for my future events.

How about you? – Mike Brown

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When was the last time you invested 45 minutes to check your social media strategy?

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question. Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.

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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In the past few weeks, we’ve had several discussions with potential clients about facilitating their strategic planning processes for 2015. (Yes, we’re already working on 2015. I KNOW, but that’s what planning people start doing months before others do!)

In each of the calls, we’ve discussed the concept of “producing strategic conversations.”

Producing Strategic Conversations?

Strategic-ConversationsThe phrase, “producing strategic conversations,” actually predates the creation of The Brainzooming Group.

We started using it to describe what we were doing internally in a Fortune 500 setting. It was an apt description of how we were helping marketing managers and senior leaders quickly (as in one day) explore, articulate, and document their strategic plans. We delivered this efficiency by avoiding a typical strategic planning approach: handing participants a slew of confusing or vague planning templates and expecting them to complete the templates on their own.

Instead, we were creating strategic impact by leading them through creative structures and strategic thinking exercises. These exercises helped them efficiently and actively explore and discuss opportunities and challenges in new ways within groups of their internal collaborators. We captured the details and themes emerging from the “strategic conversations,” using the output to document plans within a very brief time frame.

It was during hundreds of these sessions (many conducted in the hotel meeting room shown here) that we honed the Brainzooming methodology.

Facilitating a Strategic Conversation

In terms of facilitating strategic conversations, it’s not the typical facilitation used in a market research or focus group setting, although that might be what it resembles.

Instead, we facilitate in a style that both encourages and challenges participants. To put it in a sports setting, we act as both cheerleaders and tough coaches. All the while, we earn and honor the trust that allows us to move back and forth between these two contrasting roles.

Specific fundamentals we employ in producing a stimulating strategic conversation include:

  • Demonstrating sincere excitement for participants’ contribution
  • Not letting a participant flounder when trying to contribute (esp. when just starting to share ideas)
  • Making only productive interruptions, i.e., those that help guide them and draw out additional comments
  • Physically leaning in to the discussion to signal interest and anticipation for what participants have to say
  • Smiling as a way to demonstrate our connection with a participant

Again, the differences are subtle relative to typical facilitation. But coupled with the wide depth and variety of tested strategic thinking exercises we bring to the table, it works very differently, and it works wonders.

Are you thinking about next year’s planning yet?

If you’re already thinking about next year (and we know SOME of you are) and would like to get a huge head start that will even benefit your current year results, give us a call or email. Let’s see how we can work together.

Now is definitely the time to get started! – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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