4

Following up our post on tools and exercises for enhancing strategic thinking skills, I started jotting down a list of clues indicating you’re not dealing with a strategic thinker.

The reason?

These clues should suggest someone who would most benefit from taking time (if you could get them to do it) and working on the strategic thinking skills to improve business performance.

29 Clues You’re Not Dealing with a Strategic Thinker

As typical, I didn’t begin with a target number of clues for the list. Here are the twenty-nine clues that came to mind.

Photo by: ad Rian | Source:  photocase.com

Photo by: ad Rian | Source: photocase.com

It’s a clue you’re not dealing with a strategic thinker when an individual:

  1. Wants to limit strategic conversations to senior management
  2. Shuns thinking and perspectives from others
  3. Doesn’t respect other business functions in the organization
  4. Has a reputation for poor strategic relationships in the organization
  5. Feels strategy is complex (or has to be complex to be good)
  6. Disconnects strategy from day-to-day organizational activities
  7. Doesn’t understand his/her own personal limitations and thus doesn’t compensate for the limitations with a strong, complementary team
  8. Becomes easily focused on a personal view of ” reality” and can’t entertain alternative possibilities
  9. Is uncomfortable considering multiple ideas and possibilities for addressing a situation
  10. Won’t break or even bend an arbitrary rule that doesn’t make sense
  11. Is unwilling to question the status quo
  12. Is put off by questions from people considered subordinates
  13. Is quick to cut off exploration of multiple alternatives in the interest of not over thinking things
  14. Struggles to shift between taking time to explore new ideas and then moving to prioritize ideas and make decisions
  15. Automatically equates “strategic” with long- term and “tactical” with short-term
  16. Struggles with the idea of serving those seen as subordinates
  17. Is reluctant to do homework to help prepare others to make solid decisions and implement them successfully
  18. Struggles to make challenging decisions
  19. Spends too much time on easy, solvable issues that don’t produce value for the organization or its customers
  20. Spends more time talking than asking questions to better understand situations
  21. Shuts down when faced with dramatic changes to a personal view of reality and/or what’s necessary to sustain that reality
  22. Doesn’t function well when there are significant unknowns in a situation
  23. Automatically views doing something new / different as better than doing the smartest thing
  24. Automatically views doing the same thing as better than doing something different because of lesser perceived risk
  25. Loses track of agreed to priorities – for whatever reason
  26. Spends too time on things that don’t matter for the organization
  27. Struggles to generalize situations so they are more understandable to non- experts
  28. Is quicker to argue than finding ways to agree
  29. Tends to dominate conversations

Does this list describe anyone familiar to you?

Do you see co-workers’ behaviors in this list? If so, how many of the strategic thinking skills behind this list do the lack? No one is going to have all the strategic thinking skills one could have, but I’m not sure yet how many “Yes” answers signal you will have challenges getting an individual involved in strategic thinking. Based on running some people I’ve worked with previously through the questions, I’m guess a score of 10 or more means someone is a weak, or at least problematic, strategic thinker.

What strategic thinking skill gaps would you add, subtract, or modify on this list?

It would be great to have you shape this list of clues you’re not dealing with someone that has strong strategic thinking skills. You can share your ideas in the comments or check out tomorrow’s post to learn about a more dynamic way to create and have a group participate in collaborating and shaping lists. It’s an idea I’ll be investigating, without a doubt!  – 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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Strategic-ThinkingWhen the Brainzooming blog started, its focus was to be on strategy, creativity, and innovation. In fact, the first five Brainzooming posts in 2007 framed our views on strategic thinking and its importance as widely distributed function within organizations. A number of years later, the compilation of those five posts (our “Strategic Thinking Manifesto”) still receives strong readership and social media sharing.

Since these first posts, there have been well over six hundred posts on Brainzooming categorized under “Strategic Thinking.” Given all that strategic thinking content, it’s a good time to update our framework. In conjunction with updating our “Creating a Strategic Perspective” workshop, we’re sharing both the structure and links to a subset of the relevant Brainzooming content underpinning the workshop today.

Strategic Thinking as an Ongoing Approach

The “Cultivating a Strategic Perspective” workshop is organized in two sections:

  • 4 Characteristics of Solid Strategic Thinking
  • Applying Strategic Thinking Daily – Tools and Techniques to Foster Successful Strategic Thinking & Implementation

4 Characteristics of Solid Strategic Thinking

Subscribe-to-Brainzooming-blog1. Strategic Thinkers Seek Perspectives from Multiple Sources

2. Strategic Thinking Goes Beyond Today’s Reality

3. Strategic Thinkers Question Both the Familiar and the New

4. Strategic Thinkers Display Both Patience and Impatience

Applying Strategic Thinking Daily

strategic-question-manUsing Rich Strategic Questions

Anticipating Future Issues

Finding Ideas with Intriguing Connections

Generating Many Ideas Quickly

Innovating Amid Constraints

Idea-Cartoon-BalloonNew Thinking with Old Ideas

Addressing Unknowns

Efficiency and Results

Envisioning Possibilities

Telling a Strategic Story

Working Across and Up an Organization

Managing Challenging People

Would Your Organization Benefit from Stronger Strategic Thinking?

If your organization would benefit from stronger strategic thinking, we’d love to share our expertise and tools through workshop training. Delivered in-person or online, all at once or spread over multiple sessions, The Brainzooming Group approach can help your people improve their skills in identifying new, strategic opportunities and turning them into market realities. Call (816-509-5320) or email us (info@brainzooming.com) to get started! – Mike Brown

 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

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 more employees 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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7

WSJ-Review-SectionLast weekend’s Wall Street Journal “Review” section teemed with wonderful reminders of creative ideas. These reminders were helpful for providing a handy creative thinking skills refresher on ideas that can become easy to overlook.

Check out these thirteen creative ideas pulled from three of the Wall Street Journal “Review” articles.

Pick one of these creative thinking ideas and do something about it this week – even if that is as simple as thinking about it for a few moments today. You get bonus points if you actually take action on any of these ideas to enhance your creative thinking skills this week.

13 Creative Thinking Skills worth Remembering

Each creative idea is followed by a reference to the list of articles below from which it came.

Creative Perspective

  • How readily do you suspend your cynicism to be able to imagine possibilities? How do you consciously force yourself out of a cynical perspective when that’s needed? (1)
  • How often do you give yourself the permission to be “new and stupid”? (1)

Creative Inspiration

  • If you derive a lot of creative stimulation through online interactions, how are you regularly creating equal creative stimulation through in-person interactions? (1)
  • Do you keep going back to the same creative wells repeatedly? Or do you continually seek out new creative experiences where you do not already know the whole story? (1)
  • Do you know where your best ideas come from? (It is okay if you don’t know.) If you can recall where your ideas come from, are they originating from different creative inspirations? (2)

Creative Process

  • When you take on a new creative project, do you have a “total immersion” process you go through to become fluent in the new subject? (3)
  • As you imagine a new creative project, how are you creating a “look book” with inspiration, depictions, and prototypes for your strategic and creative approach? (3)
  • When addressing a traditional topic, are you asking, “What doesn’t matter?” This helps identify unnecessary elements ripe for elimination. (3)
  • Are you growing the number of people you know that face similar situations to yours? These are the relationships where you can have candid, deep conversations on challenges and opportunities you both face. (1)
  • How are you leaving room for surprise and unexpected twists and turns in your creative projects? (2)
  • If you enjoy planning everything out on a creative project, are you willing to pursue your next creative project with less upfront exploration? (2)

Creative Experience

  • When trying to convey large amounts of information to an unfamiliar audience, how are you using design to simplify the information and draw in audience members while letting the design fade into the background? (3)
  • To anticipate a major creative experience impact, ask, “What’s going to stop (the audience) in its tracks and (make them) think about this completely differently?” (3)

Creative Inspiration for these Creative Ideas:

(1) “Bordellos for the Brain (Conference Mania)” by Holly Finn

(2) “In the Beginning,” by Ron Rash

(3) “Creating – At the Side of an Expert Exhibitionist” – Melanie Ide, Museum Planner

Next Week’s Creative Thinking Skills Assignment

I hope you enjoy working one of these creative ideas this week. While you’re at it, bookmark this page and come back to it next week to refresh even more creative thinking skills! – 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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7

Today’s Blogapalooza guest post is from Jessica James. Jessica has been working for one of the world’s larget casual dining restaurant chains since 2006. She is currently working on completing her master’s degree in journalism from The University of Kansas. We’re excited to share Jessica’s seven lessons for creative success – lessons that are a valuable guide to creating no matter the industry in which you work!

Creative Success – A 7 Lesson Guide to Creating by Jessica James

For 15 years, I have been in the business of creating new products and ideas. The first eight years were formative; learning my craft, sharpening my skills, networking, and building a reputation – finding my way in an all-consuming industry.  The last seven years have been innovative – a culmination of what I have learned, whom I’ve had the opportunity to know, and the creative success challenge that comes with maintaining relevance everyday.

From these innovative years, I have identified seven lessons for creative success that are my guide to creating.

1. Take Notes…and Use Them!

I use the Notes app on my iPhone everyday.  Perhaps I’m a bit OCD, but I have lists for everything.  Ideas for my house.  Ideas for upcoming projects.  Wines I need to try.  Places I need to go.  Anything that might be useful for inspiring creativity down the road gets logged into notes.

iPad-NotesI read the notes a few times a week, usually at night when unwinding.  I use this time to focus on something that may have grabbed my attention earlier and think about how it might apply to things I’m working on now. This process is very helpful in balancing my decisiveness and impulsiveness with my desire to present researched and thought out ideas.

2. Read All the Time

This ties to the first creative success tip.  If you’re taking notes all the time and generating lists, chances are, you’re reading things that are interesting and relevant to your personal and professional life.

I try to read a mix of things— parenting magazines, fashion magazines, cooking magazines, trade journals, blogs, websites, social media outlets, news magazines, Twitter, and the occasional ‘trash magazine.’ A mix of information will keep your ideas fresh and give you a perspective and creative success you would not otherwise have.

3. Focus on the Fix

When creating things, it is inevitable people will challenge your products or ideas, valid or not.  Don’t minimize your creative critics.  Pay close attention to your critics and what they are saying.  Be discreet about it and you will stay ahead of them.

Think about how things might go wrong and focus on how you would fix them.  Do this all the time – not just when something is near completion.  Have the voice of your creative critics in your head and use it to fine-tune your work.

4. Stay Organized

I read once somewhere (affiliate link) that creative people tend to achieve their best creative success in environments described as organized chaos.  To the contrary, analytical left-brained people work best when things are tidy, organized and maintained.  I relate to this.  My desk at work has piles of things that haven’t moved in a month or so, but I could tell you the contents of every pile. It’s a mess, but it’s organized.

Keeping your ideas and projects in organized and accessible piles or files will help you prioritize and shift gears quickly from one project to the next if needed – something critical in today’s world of news updates by the minute.

5. Do Things You Hate to Do

Hate-FistThis is nothing new.  You should do things that make you uncomfortable.  It helps to vary your perspective on your life and work.  It makes you stronger.  Most importantly, doing things you hate to do builds character and makes you more interesting.

I recently joined my undergraduate university’s alumni association.  I was not involved on campus at all when I was there.  I was a non-traditional student who lived off campus and attended classes a few nights a week for three years.  I joined the alumni association to feel more connected to the hundreds of dollars per month I am about to start paying back as a result of student loans that funded my private, Jesuit-school education.

I don’t really enjoy my time spent with the association.  The monthly commitment is always preceded by me trying to think of how I can get out of it. The people are nice; they are just nothing like me. They are Catholic, very connected to the university, know one another, and are all adverse to taking risks or creating conflict.  They are homogenous and tend to surround themselves with people just like them. Needless to say, this experience has given me a better understanding of how to interact with people comfortable with status quo.

6. Consult a Consulate

It didn’t take me long to realize my creative success was tied directly to the success of others and their willingness to aid me when I needed it.  The half a dozen or so people I rely on most are a motley crew of experts, inside and outside of my industry.

Being nimble and being able to rally others to help you make things happen is critical to the creative process.  I’m connected with lawyers, artists, tech-guys, photographers, producers, entrepreneurs, writers, police & firemen, and educators.  You never know who will spark an idea or make a connection to redirect your path to success.

7. Fail

Being creative comes with a lot of failure.  I generate over five hundred ideas every year; half of those might be shared with other people and only a dozen or so might come to fruition.

A lot of creative success comes with a lot of failure.  Don’t be afraid to fail; fear will only hold you back. Each time you fail, you should learn something.  Each failure should change your perspective.  Creative success is built on a foundation of failure.

And what does creative success look like?

What’s the theme that ties together this seven lesson guide to creating? Always remember that creative success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm!  – Jessica James

 

Guest Author

The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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2

TEDxWyandotte-Small“Diversity and Ideas in the Porous Community” will be my talk at the first-ever TEDxWyandotte on April 2, 2013 at Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC).

TEDxWyandotte – Core Impact: Exploring Ideas that Enrich a Community

The theme chosen by TEDxWyandotte curator Shari Wilson, Jay Matlack, Organizing Committee Chair, and the rest of the organizing committee is “Core Impact: Exploring Ideas that Enrich a Community.”

Among the other presenters announced so far are Adam Arredondo, CEO and co-founder of Local Ruckus, and Afro Cuban band, Making Movies. There are a number of other fantastic speakers representing compelling community efforts, but I’m sworn to secrecy until they are officially announced!

This will be my first TEDx talk after attending a variety of TEDxKC events the past several years – both in person and on video. While the TED talks and the now familiar format seems straight forward in its expectations and constraints, it’s a speaking style quite different than I use for my presentations. The TED talks style is so one-way (all eyes on the speaker on the stage in a darkened venue); it flies in the face of creating the diverse interaction we so fundamentally espouse with the Brainzooming methodology. As a result, from a format standpoint, I’m trying to craft a TED talk that looks like a TED talk but is still interactive; it’s a challenge, without a doubt.

My TEDx Talk: Diversity and Ideas in the Porous Community

TEDxWyandotte-LargeThe topic for my TEDxWyandotte talk is about how the most impactful, strategic change springs from large-scale, diverse, even contradictory, perspectives brought together to forge new ideas. Creating a porous community that readily cultivates diverse thinking is vital to a truly enriched community, i.e. a community were the benefits of great ideas are available to all participants.

And that idea holds intriguing implications for communities and change.

Look up typical definitions of community and you see words and phrases such as:

  • Unified
  • Common interests and location
  • Living in a specific area
  • Common history or interests

Not a lot of diversity there – and that’s a problem. Yet we find such excitement in forces pushing diversity and disruption through:

Wrapping all my thinking together on this topic in a succinct fashion while also drawing some lines through the other presentations will be an exciting opportunity.

And to carry out the theme and raise the stakes just a bit, audience members will be able to select the stories they want to hear during the presentation. That means there are nine different variations of the presentation that are possible. We won’t know which one it will be until the audience makes their decisions throughout the presentation. It’s what I’ve started to call, “Live Blogging.” Just as with hyperlinks in a blog post, the audience community is able to direct the content deeper or move on based on its preferences.

If You’re Near Kansas City, Join Us for TEDxWyandotte

Once again, TEDxWyandotte will be Tuesday, April 2, at 5:30 pm at Kansas City Kansas Community College. If you’re in or around Kansas City, it would be great to have you join us and sell out this first time TEDx event. You can reserve tickets right now! You can also keep up to date on speaker announcements and other news about TEDxWyandotte on Facebook.

And if you have any ideas on the topic, I’m interested in hearing what you think! – 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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There are many ways to be your own worst enemy.

Don’t believe me? How about . . .

  • Own-Worst-EnemyDeciding someone really doesn’t want to do business with you instead of letting the other person decide what they want to do.
  • Down talking yourself to others.
  • Allowing yourself to delay addressing what you know is important to do right now.
  • Doing the easy / convenient / familiar / comfortable thing when it isn’t also the best thing to do.
  • Not staring a new effort because you doubt you’ll finish it.
  • Taking negativity to heart from others when there is no reason to do so.
  • Allowing short-term issues to get you off track from focusing on what’s important.
  • Keeping your concerns too much to yourself.
  • Hoping things will get better on their own
  • Not celebrating every accomplishment, whether big or small.
  • Avoiding tough conversations you need to have.
  • Failing to surround yourself with the right people.
  • Allowing your health (whether spiritual, physical, or mental) to go unattended.
  • Believing social networks are an accurate depiction of reality.
  • Continually comparing yourself to who you were THEN but aren’t anymore.
  • Listening to all the unsolicited advice you’re given.
  • Listening to none of the unsolicited advice you’re given.
  • Spending too much time listening to the voices inside your head.

See what I mean?

And this was simply a list from looking back on times I’ve been my own worst enemy or seen others do it to themselves. You may very well be able to add to the list from your own experience. Plus there may be other people out there who really aren’t your fans. Think about what they’d add to the list, but why would you even consider giving them more ammunition against you?

So now that we have a full footprint in the new year, let’s all try to treat ourselves better. Look past your near-term challenges, and buttress yourself with the long-term successes you’ve created before and the new ones ahead. It’s time to  be your own best fan! – Mike Brown

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Taking the No Out of Innovation eBook

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creative 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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5I like revisiting a strategic thinking formula that works.

Monday night, Social Media Club of Kansas City buddy Sarah Wood suggested she’d like to read a blog post about staying focused while working from home during a blizzard. Based on Sarah’s suggestion, I wrote the post and it set near-term records for the percent of Brainzooming blog visits garnered by a new post on the day it published. A variation on the topic led to Wednesday’s post, making it a two-from-one idea!

Last night, while exploring a blog topic for today (it’s been that kind of week), I tweeted Sarah for an idea. She had another great one: the Top 5 Brainzooming posts to read for new readers (or even long-term ones) of  the Brainzooming blog.

With around 1,400 published posts on the Brainzooming site, Sarah’s top five post idea for new readers is fantastic to provide a quick guide to our thinking on strategy, creativity, and innovation.

The Top Five Brainzooming Posts to Read for New Readers

It didn’t take long to generate this short list of Brainzooming posts targeted at new readers. The underlying theme for selecting each of them is to provide new readers insight into the underlying strategic thinking and perspectives running through nearly all other Brainzooming blog posts.

1. Brainzooming – A Strategic Thinking Manifesto

This post, among the blog’s longest, compiles the first five blog posts written for the initial Brainzooming site. The original working theme for the blog was “157 Ways to Be a Better Strategic Thinker.” With that theme in the background, this strategic thinking manifesto laid out the case for why everyone in an organization needs to be a strategic thinker along with ways to put this aspirational idea into action.

2. Seven Personal Success Strategies

From a personal branding and performance standpoint, I try to take these seven principles to heart in my career. I’m hard-pressed to say how long it took to assemble the list, but they weren’t all things I knew or even believed when staring my career. While I don’t do all of them well, it’s a good representation of the scorecard by which I judge my career progress.

3. Six Gifts Behind Personal Career Accomplishments

Some readers say I don’t put enough of myself into the Brainzooming blog. That’s definitely true visually. It’s partially true in terms of written content, too. I don’t view the Brainzooming blog as a personal journal. It’s more of a teaching resource featuring information I’ve shared with co-workers over the years who wanted to learn more and set themselves apart. This post, prompted by a question during a presentation, gives perhaps the deepest insight into who you’re dealing with if you decide to become a regular Brainzooming blog reader.

4. 26 Creative Ideas – How to Be Creative When Creativity Is Blocked

These ideas for being creative when being creative is hard represents our attitude toward creativity: with the right combination of structure, tools, and perspectives, everyone is creative. We don’t see creativity as something precious, elusive, and dependent upon mysterious inspiration. We view creative thinking skills as just that – skills everyone can and should develop for both personal and professional benefit. Bonus: At the bottom of this post, we invite you to download our eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to learn the perspectives that cultivate creative thinking skills and an innovative approach to your life.

5. Delivering Results that Are Quick and On-strategy – That’s Brainzooming

People have also said it’s not completely clear from the blog exactly what The Brainzooming Group does. There are various reasons for that – some are intentional and others stem from the challenge of briefly describing what we do. Our experience suggests the easiest way for people to fully understand what we do is through seeing it in action. That’s where the excitement, speed, and solid results from compelling strategic thinking really hit home. We’ve just made an investment in an online collaborative platform which will allow us to extend the Brainzooming experience to more readers, but more on that later. This post does the best job so far, in getting what we do and the benefits we deliver down in writing.

Happy Exploring!

If you decide to check out these posts, thank you for your time to peruse them. If you happen to be a longer-term Brainzooming reader, are there other Brainzooming posts you’d suggest should be on the list?  – Mike Brown

 

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


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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