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We are big fans of strategy statements incorporating simple language an organization uses to talk about its daily business activities. Strategy statements should not be filled with complex jargon that most people cannot understand or with generic language that could apply to ANY business.

Think about that for a minute.

If you develop strategy statements featuring the ultimate in complex yet generic MBA-caliber language, they will apply to any business even though your own people probably will not be able to understand it well enough to carry out the strategy.

THAT’S why we advocate a very different approach for our clients.

Group-Collaboration

5 Advantages of Strategy Statements with Simple Language

When you have simple strategy statements that sound like your organization communicates, we’ve seen and experienced multiple advantages:

  1. People throughout the organization can read them and understand what’s important
  2. The strategies are more credible and believable
  3. Your team members have a clear sense of how they contribute to implementing the strategy
  4. It will be easier for more employees to develop ideas and suggestions to help the strategy take hold
  5. It will be evident what the end result of the strategy should be

It’s worth a few minutes (if you haven’t done it recently) to crack open your strategic plan and read your strategy statements. If you weren’t involved in putting the strategic plan together, would YOU be able to understand the strategy statements? And do they sound like your organization?

If not, you can do better.

And we’d love to be the ones to help craft your strategy into actionable statements and language your employees are in a strong position to understand, embrace, and turn into results. Contact us to talk about how we can make that happen!  – 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 don’t enjoy answering most ice breaker questions, thus I was asked to come up with ice breaker questions for a large dinner gathering. Two groups were meeting for the first time. While members inside each group knew each other well, there were only a couple of people that knew individuals from the other group.

Rather than use just one question that everyone answered and give the last person twenty minutes to plan an answer, I used a variety of questions. People pulled a single question out of an orange sparkly hat (naturally) and had a choice to either answer the question or pass it to someone else at the table. Before picking a question, they could also decide to answer the question of the person immediately before them if they liked it, already had an answer, and/or wanted to play it completely safe.

Since it’s a generally happy, upbeat, and introspective group, I went for questions that provided an opportunity to be positive and self-revealing without being embarrassing. And since you can NEVER have too many ice breaker questions, I’m sharing the list of them with you (and thanks to Amy Dixon for question 1 and Nancy Rosenow for question 9)!

16 Ice Breaker Questions to Stimulate Great Conversations

Ice-Breaker-Questions

  1. What work of art would you like to have come to life?
  2. If you could share one thing with your twenty-year old self, what would it be?
  3. What emotion has most characterized your life, and why?
  4. What is something people think they know about you but really don’t know?
  5. What is the best word of encouragement you ever received and who was it from?
  6. What is the one of the “big rocks” in your life that you cherish, protect, and prioritize?
  7. What is one (brief) story behind your success?
  8. Whose phone call do you drop everything to take?
  9. What has led you to be sitting at this table tonight?
  10. What would you like your last words to be?
  11. When did you realize in life that you would be doing what you’re doing right now?
  12. What has been the most joyous moment of your life?
  13. Where, when, or what are your most creative moments?
  14. What is your earliest memory in life?
  15. Who is the person you can dependably reach out to for a pick-me-up when you need it?
  16. What is the life lesson you’ve learned that you most frequently pass along to others?

All together, I think we used fourteen of the questions. I was last so I let a couple of people pick from among the last three questions to decide what I should answer.

If you want to use these, I’d suggest doing it with a group that’s in a mood to be introspective. Based on the reactions, I don’t think anyone had had enough liquor to readily tackle some of the questions. One example of that was the last words question. That elicited a lot of “ohhhhhhs.” Quite honestly, I included it as a goof, because my ideal last words will be, “I knew it would come to this!”

If you decide to try these ice breaker questions, let me know how they work! – 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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I’ll be presenting a Brainzooming workshop on internal branding strategy at the Brand Strategy Conference in New York, April 6-8. The workshop, while drawing on material from my Fortune 500 work, springs from multiple conversations at the 2015 Brand Strategy Conference. The discussions focused on when employees should be brought into branding strategy decisions.

The executives asking about and offering opinions on the topic tended to believe it was okay to advise employees about branding strategy decisions immediately after introducing changes to customers.

I was horrified by this viewpoint coming from senior executives because it is so strategically misguided.

3 Keys to Engaging Your Internal Brand Team

Internal-Brand-Strategy-eBo

One alternative to letting your employees know about a new direction in branding strategy after your customers is to view employees as an internal brand team. With that change in perspective, you introduce possibilities for engaging employee in shaping branding strategy. Even without revealing specifics to employees in advance, purposefully involving them in developing branding ideas opens up opportunities to familiarize employees with the direction and insights leading to a new branding strategy.

To complement the in-person workshop content, The Brainzooming Group collaborated with Breanna Jacobs at GSMI, the Brand Strategy Conference producer, to publish a new free branding strategy eBook called, “Engaging Employees as an Internal Brand Team: 3 Actionable Strategies.”

The eBook includes three strategic thinking exercises you can use with your internal brand team to invite collaboration, solicit input, and create early learning opportunities.

Download Your Free Internal Branding Strategy eBook!

If you can make it to the Brand Strategy Conference, I’d love to meet you and have you attend the workshop. If you can’t attend, get your free copy of the new branding eBook exclusively from GSMI and start collaborating more effectively with your employees to strengthen your brand and its experience for customers.  – Mike Brown

Download Your FREE eBook! 3 Actionable Strategies for Engaging Your Internal Brand Team

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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Here’s a brief video produced by SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, where I talk about four easy ways for companies to boost creativity in the workplace without taking a lot of time to do it. The key to efficiently boost creativity in the workplace is through introducing idea-rich questions and statements into daily business conversations.

We shot the video after I delivered our presentation on Taking the NO Out of Innovation at the 2015 SEMA Convention.

This video was one of a series of presenter videos on the SEMABizTips video channel.

Orange-Pickup-Truck

My favorite expression of creativity at SEMA!

4 Tips to Efficiently Boost Creativity in the Workplace

If you want to go deeper on how statements and conversations can help you efficiently boost creativity in the workplace, here are the four supporting Brainzooming articles for the video that you can explore:

Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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The challenge in a client meeting was developing the strategy for a later meeting intended to build support for a biennial community event. The potential supporters in the later meeting were community organizations. The tricky balance was articulating an initial direction the group couldn’t derail while providing room for them to contribute ideas and time to make the event successful.

Listening to the discussion among the team leader and other members of the organization driving the event, I grabbed paper, a Sharpie, and started organizing their aspirational comments into a presentation for the next day’s meeting.

Within forty-five minutes, I drafted a few slides for them to review and modify. At the conclusion, they had a game plan for securing participation and soliciting input while avoiding comments they didn’t want.

The team leader asked, “How is it possible to listen to us talk and turn it into a strategy so quickly?”

9 Creative Thinking Skills to Turn Talk into Strategy

Creative-Thinking-Skills-Ta

The team leader’s question prompted this list of 9 creative thinking skills that help turn strategic conversations (or even conversations that seem like talking without any particular strategic focus) into something that feels like strategy.

  1. Tie the comments to a structure that’s familiar, already sold in, popular with many people, or classically strategic
  2. Listen for smart things people say, even if they are snippets, and incorporate those right away into the strategy
  3. Remind team members of the smart things they said if they start gravitating toward liking things that aren’t as smart
  4. If team members are saying smarter things, use those while still keeping previous smart things that you are nudging down the list
  5. Listen for things they say more frequently than other things and quickly determine whether these things are smart or simply popular but not smart
  6. If something is off the mark, try to ignore, downplay, or otherwise make sure the idea isn’t brought up again
  7. Repeat the most important and high-impact items in familiar and reinforcing ways
  8. Use odd numbers – five slides, five categories of information (one to a slide), three bullets of explanation under each of the five slides – because odd numbers seem as if you tried to get that one more idea
  9. Incorporate a bigness and boldness into the language you use to describe the strategy in order to stretch the organization

Remember that although these creative thinking skills are presented sequentially, they may be used in any order.

There may also be equally important creative thinking skills not included on the list. This is simply a stab at dissecting how these types of exercises have developed in a variety of situations.

The net of it is this: a lot seemingly wasted business conversations can contribute to progress if you have the wherewithal to listen and restructure them into clear strategies.  Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

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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

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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 multiple types of people I love, including :

  • Underdogs
  • Those that patiently build success by deliberately following a plan
  • People that display unwavering loyalty
  • A leader willing to a make decision not in his or her own best interests because it’s the right thing to do
  • Those that prize honesty, openness, and vulnerability over gamesmanship, manipulation, and never failing to exploit any advantage

I don’t know how correlated all of those characteristics are with people that have successful strategic relationships.

An article in The Kansas City Star about Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, however, suggests all of these characteristics intersect in how Moore has rebuilt the Royals and created a positive organizational culture.

Strategic-Relationships-Day

If I were to attempt to summarize the great lessons about strategic relationships in the article here, I would wind up repeating all the quotes from Dayton Moore and those speaking about how he does business.

So if you want to learn rich, meaningful lessons in the right way to approach strategic relationships, read the article by Vahe Gregorian from Sunday’s Kansas City Star.

For any of our readers that try to cultivate strong strategic relationships and the personal characteristics listed above, it will be well worth your time to leave this article right now and go read up on how Dayton Moore does business. Even if you AREN’T a baseball or Kansas City Royals fan!

Trust me! – Mike Brown

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

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I presented a solo social media presentation at the February 2016 Social Media Strategies Summit in Las Vegas. For folks in and around (or willing to head to) Chicago, I’ll be presenting a workshop on creating fantastic content at the April 2016 Social Media Strategies Summit in the Windy City.

SMSS_Graphic

These events are always treasure troves of great learning and networking with such varied and smart marketers from around the country. Coming out of the Las Vegas event, I have several articles in queue.

14 Top Content Marketing Quotes from the Social Media Strategies Summit

Here is the first of the articles from the Social Media Strategies Summit, with fourteen quotes on content marketing, social media platforms, and standing out from the event’s great speakers.

Content Marketing and Community Engagement

“Credibility silences noise.” @BevJack MGM

“We time lapse everything around here because things are always moving.” @BevJack MGM

“Many brands miss the opportunity to create stories around the role they play in their users’ lives.” @mdeziel

“In the end, storytelling comes down to two things: connection and engagement.” – Ryan Mathews as shared by @RMMAGEDDON

“There are B2B opportunities in viral video because so few B2B companies have tried to do it.” @JereMarketer

Being Distinctive with Content Marketing

“A good piece of content shouldn’t need music. The visual scroll should be enough to get people to stop. “ @BevJack MGM

“There is a lot of crap and average people out there on social media. It’s much harder to stand out when everyone can start doing things and claim to be an expert.” @PhilPallen

Making the Most of Social Platforms

“You should be able to perform at a B+ or better level on any platform or kill your time spent on it.” @JereMarketer

“It’s two thousand sixteen; I don’t want to see pixels or eggs (on Twitter).” @PhilPallen

“Pinterest is a catalog of ideas” not a social network. “If Facebook is selling the past & Twitter the present, Pinterest is offering the future” @ChristineCassis @Pinterest

“The Bellagio Fountains are the nineteenth most Instagrammed place in the world.” @BevJack

Bellagio-Fountains

“Rather than be mediocre on 10 social platforms, be a rock star on 3.” @PhilPallen

Let Me Tell You about Myself

“I like to go on tangents. And I f’n like to curse a lot.” @RMMAGEDDON

“I’m opinionated, but I’m honest and I’m sweet.” @PhilPallen

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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