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Before tackling the current topic on strategic thinking exercises, I have to admit something: In my capstone MBA strategy class, we ran a business simulation throughout the semester. Upon its completion, my partner and I won an award for our performance. We garnered the “Understock Award” for stocking out of product more than any other team.

Yes, I had created a spreadsheet-based model to perform what-if analysis and forecast our business levels. But my tendency to plan for surviving the downside of a situation led us to repeatedly under-forecast our sales volume in the simulation. Thus we invariably experienced more demand than we had product to satisfy.

Flash forward to last week’s strategy session we designed and facilitated for Literacy Kansas City. The organization, under the leadership of executive director, Carrie Coogan, is a nonprofit advancing literacy for teens and adults in the Kansas City region through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration.

While we were identifying critical success factors for a new Literacy Kansas City program launch, one of the board members announced she was going to play the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role. By “Positive Devil’s Advocate,” she meant she wanted to plan for overwhelming success with the new program. Would the organization be ready to handle a dramatically higher enrollment than expectations?

Literacy-Kc-Session

Playing the Positive Devil’s Advocate in Strategic Thinking Exercises

This role came up once before in a strategy session. Based on my award-winning tendency to plan for the worst and not for wild success, however, we haven’t developed specific Positive Devil’s Advocate roles in current exercises or designed new strategic thinking exercises focused on dealing with overwhelming success.

We’ll fix that and incorporate the “Positive Devil’s Advocate” role into strategic thinking exercises. It will a bit of a flip to the Black Swan exercise we’ve talked about previously. We’ll also incorporate this role into other exercises, making sure we identify a person to push thinking on wild success wherever it’s appropriate. – Mike Brown

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Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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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A huge part of the value of using well-crafted strategic thinking exercises is they increase thinking, ideas, and active participation from a broader range of people than might otherwise happen.

Yet, a common question attendees at our workshops ask is how, in a group setting, to keep big talkers from dominating conversations as you are trying to use strategic thinking exercises or simply trying to facilitate a strategic conversation?

My first answer is to give any dominating, big talkers the wrong room and time so they miss the strategic discussion.

While I am kidding about that, it IS a possibility, if you are really daring.

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3 Ideas for Keeping Big Talkers from Dominating Strategic Thinking Exercises

Here are three more reasonable ideas for how to deal with big talkers who could easily dominate the discussion during a strategy meeting:

1. Employ a few strategic thinking exercises BEFORE getting everyone together in a meeting.

Solicit input, compile the answers, and report the entire group’s thinking. In that way, the range of perspectives gets on the table.

2.Use more strategic thinking exercises where people work individually before sharing answers.

In a meeting, having people work individually before sharing ideas in groups keeps big talkers from getting in the way of others forming and documenting THEIR ideas.

3. Take advantage of small groups within a meeting.

You can reduce the negative impact of big talkers in this way by keeping them all together in a small group (so they don’t get in the way of others). Another variation on this approach is simply minimizing how many people rotate through small groups with the big talkers.

When do these ideas work best?

All three of these ideas are ways to avoid having to call out big talkers directly and shut them down. I favor these because big talkers can have great ideas, and you don’t want to take them out of the mix simply because they’ll talk about their ideas a lot.

But if you have big talkers who talk all the time without adding value, you may have to take bolder steps.

Which takes me back to the wrong room and wrong time idea! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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Surprisingly, one of the old war horse business maxims speakers and audience members at the Compete Through Services Symposium started repeating at every turn was, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Introducing a completely foreign strategy to an organization can be a recipe for disaster and the culture swallowing the strategy whole. This will happen because of either cultural sins of commission (the strategy is sabotaged by the culture) or omission (the culture collectively ignores the strategy).

If there’s a situation where culture eats strategy for breakfast, however, it represents a huge mistake in strategic thinking and how the leadership developed, communicated, and/or implemented the strategy.

Smiley-Face

Strategic Thinking on Culture and Strategy

In reality, a healthy culture doesn’t eat a smart strategy for breakfast.

Instead a healthy culture and a smart strategy complement and reinforce one another. (You can pick whichever breakfast item combo you enjoy complementing one another to finish that thought.)

How do create a situation where culture and strategy are working together?

There are multiple strategy development approaches that can ensure culture and strategy are working together productively.

Most of our strategic thinking on accomplishing this positive result is in our Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto (which turns eight years old this month).

The short list of strategy development approaches we advocate includes:

It’s easy, especially when you’re speaking in front of a crowd of smart, successful, action-oriented folks to take swings at strategy.

Strategy is a pretty cheap target. It sounds dynamic to trot out, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” as a presentation punch line.

It’s a lot smarter to be a smart strategist who knows how to deliver strategy that successfully works with your culture. – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


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 are under the gun to get your strategic planning done before the end of the year and time is running out quickly.

The problem is you have delayed strategic planning, the holidays are creeping up, your team is in multiple locations, and there’s no budget or time left to get everyone together. And even IF you did get everyone together, you know the meeting won’t be as innovative and productive as you need to be more successful next year.

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions?

One possibility for answering your nagging strategic planning questions is shutting the door and trying to sketch out next year’s plan all by yourself.

Unfortunately, that’s a crappy answer.

Your team won’t feel involved or have deep buy-in (with good reason) and chances are the plan will be either too incremental (because you’re just trying to slide by) or overly aggressive (because it lacks multiple, realistic perspectives from your team).

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions that Will Work?

So, would you prefer a positive, productive answer to your strategic planning challenge? One that can even make planning interactive, productive, and enjoyable?

If that sounds like what you need to get your planning completed, let us facilitate your strategic planning ONLINE in a Zoomference.

You’re likely asking, “What’s a Zoomference?”

A Zoomference is where we invite your team to address your important opportunities and challenges inside a collaborative, facilitated Brainzooming session that takes place online.

A Zoomference is not just any online hangout where people chat and bounce ideas around.

During a Zoomference, The Brainzooming Group uses its incredibly efficient and engaging strategic planning approach to your bring your team together in one place online. We’ll work with you through the fundamental steps you need for a collaborative plan. In the process, you will see stronger interaction and strategic understanding among your team because of the engaging, stimulating experience. And it will take place in less time than you’d ever imagine possible.

We’ve been using Zoomferences with clients for several years. Amazingly, they can be even more productive and thorough than getting everyone together in one physical location.

How is THAT possible?

Because the online environment lets everyone participate simultaneously, contributing planning ideas. They can also group, rank, and prioritize the group’s strategies so ideas turn into strategic impact with a solid plan.

141116-Zoomference

How do you get started?

Email (info@brainzooming.com) or call us at 816-509-5320 to schedule time to learn how The Brainzooming Group can create a Zoomference to help you address your strategic planning questions and complete your plan for next year while there’s still time.

Trust us; it’s not too late – if you take that first step NOW! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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The latest social media “strategy” to land off the mark, be co-opted by the crowd, and subsequently crashed into the ground comes via Bill Cosby.

As Internet reports recount, a meme creator was installed on the Bill Cosby website. Using the meme creator, visitors could combine classic reaction photos of the comedian coupled with the visitor’s own funny / pithy / scathing / inflammatory copy to create a shareable meme.

Within a short time, the tone of the user-generated memes turned scathing and inflammatory as the crowd started creating memes directly centered on long-standing rape allegations against Bill Cosby.

To deal with the meme debacle, the meme creator was removed, and the Cosby camp tried to eliminate evidence that the whole thing ever happened.

This joins a string of examples and brand lessons where a brand, as part of its social media strategy, decided some type of user-generated content would be great to promote the brand because all user-generated content for big brands goes viral on social media (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s what many brands seem to believe).

Exploring the Downside of Social Media Strategy with User-Generated Content

In case your brand (or an agency that does not know any better) is thinking about a comparable social media strategy resting on giving your brand’s fans the venue, the means, and/or the opportunity to express their opinions about your brand in an “organized” manner, please run through these questions first. PLEASE. For your own good:

  • Have we thoroughly “listened,” both online and offline, to the very worst things our brand’s haters are saying, even if they are being said by one crackpot that NO ONE would ever listen to?
  • When we put together and read the list of all the things we hear our brand haters saying, how much of the list would we regret all of our current audience starting to hear and believe?
  • How much of the aforementioned brand hater list would we regret our potential audience learning as they form their first impressions of our brand?
  • How much more attention will our brand haters receive (than they do currently) if we were to share with them the most visible venue our brand has ever used to get our message out to our audience?

Exploring an Alternative Social Media Strategy

Now compare the cumulative impact of all that potential downsides against what we hope to accomplish with this social media strategy . . . More people visiting our website? Extending our brand’s reach? Getting more people to talk about our brand? Free PR? Or something that’s not even that well defined? Are any of these impacts big enough that we’re willing to risk the potential downside?

If we’re not willing to risk the downside (including the exposure of all our brand’s dirty little secrets), how can we adapt this social media strategy, exploring ways to:

  • Give the public a narrow set of choices with which to generate content instead of encouraging open-ended creativity on their part?
  • Filter the user-generated content first and then giving greater exposure to only the best examples?
  • Celebrate the great content our brand fans are already sharing without being heavy-handed about it?

So how about that social media strategy tied to user-generated content?

A Smarter Social Media Strategy Approach

Running through this exercise should, ideally, put things in a lot better perspective when it comes to thinking user-generated content is the answer to a great social media strategy for your brand.

Maybe there is value to it, and your brand haters aren’t THAT bad. Or maybe you can adapt the strategy to reduce the potential downside significantly.

Either way, you owe it to your brand to do this type of strategic thinking before you give the power of your brand’s attention and its big corporate microphone to the people who most hate what your brand does and what your brand represents. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s 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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It seems that everyone you meet has creative job titles that include a C-level designation these days, even if it’s just a “for show” title.

You quickly learn this when a business card also lists a person’s REAL title, which is more around a manager level. So they get to say they are a C-something or other, but still get paid at an M-level.

And everybody is happy, sort of.

7 New Creative Job Titles for the C-Level

In the interests of adding to the list creative job title around the real or imagined C-suite, here are seven C-titles we’d like to throw into the mix.

business-cards

CRO – Chief Recreation Officer

In charge of video games, bean bags, and all other apparatus critical to a positive corporate activity vibe.

CVO – Chief Viral Officer

Responsible for both creating engaging social media content AND dispensing antibiotics during cold and flu season.

CPO – Chief Pet Officer

Makes sure all office environments are safe, comfortable, and accommodating for four-, two-, and no-footed friends who accompany their owners to work.

CIO – Chief Indignation Officer

The senior executive who is even more pissed off about how things are going than you are.

CMO – Chief Matrix Officer

Stands at the intersection of line and functional organizations and decides who wins in their ongoing disputes about which is more important.

CDO – Chief Disruption Officer

Responsible for undermining currently successful business lines while hoping magic happens with some wild idea someone in marketing crowdsourced.

CMO – Chief Meme Officer

The position responsible for creating inventive crowdsourced meme apps at Bill Cosby’s fan club. In case you’re interested, this position is currently open.

Which of these creative job titles do you prefer?

If you see your job responsibilities match up to any of these creative job titles, you may want to see if you can get a C-level added to your business card, even IF your pay stays the same. – 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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So, CAN analogies change the world?

That’s the bold claim conveyed in the headline of a Wall Street Journal article pulled from the book, “Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas.” The book is by Jon Pollack, a former Bill Clinton speechwriter (affiliate link).

Given we’ve tried to spend more time on how to generate analogies as part of strategic thinking exercises, this may be one of those books I will kick myself for not writing!

In any event, the Wall Street Journal article highlights four ‘rules” for gaining the greatest values from analogies. All of them include sound advice and intriguing examples. They are all worthwhile to include within your repertoire of strategic thinking exercises.

Apples-Orange-LO

Four Rules for Discovering Analogies

Here are Pollacks four rules for discovering analogies, in my own words:

1. Challenge all the typical analogies

The analogies you always hear may have some value because they have stood the test of time. Even so, it’s smart to

Pollack’s Example: The Wright Brothers saw an analogy between flying machines and bicycles because of their instability and the dynamics of balance.

2. Don’t settle for identifying just one analogy

When it comes to analogies, the same principle holds as with ideas: the more the better since you have the ability to try many of them and determine which are most effective.

Pollack’s Example: Darwin employed two fundamentals to hypothesize about evolution: water eroding grains of sand and agricultural breeding were applied to his views of gradual change.

3. Include a wide range of sources for your analogies

You won’t open a book and find all the ready-made analogies you’ll need to solve your problem or explore new ideas. Be prepared to take pieces from multiple, unusual sources and apply them in new ways.

Pollack’s Example: Bill Klann, a Ford mechanic, is credited with the original inspiration for the assembly line. The key analogy came from disassembling carcasses on a line at a meatpacking plant. Re reversed it to apply to assembly of cars, instead.

4. Make things as simple as possible

The strategic thinking trick is to combine multiple analogies without so over-burdening them that complexity takes over and they lose value. In this case, more shouldn’t just be less. It should also be elegantly simple.

Pollack’s Example: Steve Jobs (of course there has to be a Steve Jobs example) applied the idea Xerox idea of a digital desktop to a simple interface that could open access to computing for large audiences.

Strategic Thinking Exercises to Explore Analogies

Here is a sampling of previous Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises on finding and using analogies:

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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