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It’s been odd times recently.

Maybe it’s a scattered focus. Maybe it’s exciting possibilities that failed to pan out as hoped. Maybe it’s other unplanned possibilities that HAVE materialized that seem quite random.

Creative Thinking Skills – Some Working, Some Not

What-Do-With-Idea

Amid the odd times, it’s no surprise my creative thinking skills have varied widely the past few months. When my creative thinking skills HAVE been stronger, here’s what has been working:

  1. When I think about needing to get all the financial records updated to be ready to prepare taxes, I can suddenly write like crazy as a diversion.
  2. Flying on a plane has worked to boost my writing, but not as predictably as it has in the past.
  3. I sat at a sports bar picking up dinner for my wife and was able to write nearly all of the next day’s blog post while waiting for her hamburger to arrive from the kitchen.
  4. Getting a few hours of sleep and starting fresh in the morning (even if it’s REALLY EARLY) has been creatively productive.
  5. Waiting in a particular conference room for a particular client that averages running thirty minutes late always seems to lead to quiet times with great creative output.
  6. Sitting in church after mass and praying for help led to answers in several situations where answers eluded me for months.
  7. Buying new notebooks to kick off business trips (and using a Sharpie marker to jot down ideas).
  8. Buying a new giant pad of paper to map out Brainzooming workshops.
  9. I’ve had selective success looking back to previous creative efforts and using them as patterns for new work.
  10. Attempting to video a blog post before writing it.
  11. Deciding that what I have completed is good enough and trimming away the extra parts I’ve started but remain difficult to finish.
  12. Sitting in my MIL’s various hospital rooms and finding mental space to write.

I-am-creative

It’s also fair to share what creative thinking skills HAVEN’T been working lately:

  1. Trying to write on the iPad. Lots of starts of things, but very few that move to completion.
  2. Going back to my Word file of blog starter ideas is hit and miss right now.
  3. Whenever I’m spending too much time away from groups of people, I can feel my creative thinking skills leave to find a more exciting place to hang out.
  4. Intense cardio exercise usually clears the creative cob webs, but that’s been sputtering.
  5. Having to make long car trips is USUALLY a miss, with very few creative hits. That’s unchanged so far this year.
  6. Sundays, at one point in my life, were big creative times, as were Friday night into Saturday. None of that’s happening anymore, for multiple reasons, I suspect.

As much as anything, I wanted to confirm that not all of your creative thinking skills, even ones that have worked well before, are going to work all the time.

It happens to ALL of us, I suspect.

That’s when you definitely want to have a strong bunch of new ways to get your creativity going again! – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

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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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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Delivering a creative thinking workshop, I was eavesdropping on conversations at five tables full of attendees. I gave each table a specific focus for identifying new ideas. One group was starting to use one of our creative thinking exercises. As they began, one participant apologized for suggesting an idea that he introduced by saying, “This doesn’t fit the question, but here’s an idea.”

I was startled, but his statement is actually common.

Even though creative thinking exercises and strategy questions are intended to help people approach familiar situations in new ways, they can easily become new boundaries to constrain thinking. This happens when people become so focused on answering ONLY the targeted creative thinking question that they self-censor any ideas not directly addressing the question. When this takes happens, creative thinking exercises becomes just that many more boxes to shut down ideas that are off the beaten path.

Clemmie-Box

As I explained to the group (and will explain to future workshop groups), creative thinking questions and strategic thinking exercises are simply starting points to launch new ideas. They should inspire, not limit thinking. Someone in a creative thinking group should not have to justify a new idea that doesn’t answer a specific question. Likewise, another group member shouldn’t use a creative thinking question as a club to beat down a new idea because it appears off track relative to what a group is addressing that minute.

With all the roadblocks to new thinking that float around us all the time, the last thing that should ever happen is for a creative thinking question to be used as one more “NO” to new ideas.

Creative thinking questions should inspire great thinking, not conspire to box it in and limit it.

Make sure to use them for good, not evil! – Mike Brown

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

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

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.

Download Your Free

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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We put this infographic together for a client today to distill The Brainzooming Group approach into a few images depicting what we do to pave the way for a great strategic thinking workshop.

6 Guidelines for a Great Strategic Thinking Workshop

Strategic-Thinking-Workshop

If you would like to go deeper on any of these topics, here are links to articles for each of the six areas:

Here’s to a productive and great strategic thinking workshop – not only today, but every time you bring a smart group of people together! – Mike Brown

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

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

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.

Download Your Free

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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Whenever possible, we try to help clients select a mix of people to participate in group strategy exercises. We review the importance of including front-line decision makers, functional experts, and individuals with creative perspectives. We are also proponents for reaching beyond familiar people that are always involved strategic planning meetings and drive the outcomes of group strategy exercises. We recommend involving emerging leaders and individuals that will actively challenge a group in a constructive way on its recommended direction.

When you push for that varied of a group, what do you do with the team members so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group’s work?

9 Ideas on How to Involve a Team in Group Strategy Exercises

Group-Strategy-Exercises

You can try these nine ideas for how to involve team in group strategy exercises:

  1. Place people in roles that accentuate their strengths and best characteristics.
  2. Assign others to roles that stretch their strengths in new ways.
  3. Spread people throughout the group via roles that capitalize on their strengths but are unfamiliar to them.
  4. Turn strategy into a game and let the team assign roles to specific team members.
  5. Create teaching opportunities for more expert participants so they can help others grow and develop in new ways through strategy planning.
  6. Break up the big answers the group is trying to develop into simple, targeted questions so team members can share their perspectives in group strategy exercises.
  7. Invite participants that want to help assemble the targeted answers from number 6 into the big answers to take on that challenge.
  8. Have habitual naysayers play the challenger role to test how strong the ideas really are before the group decides to act on them.
  9. Select naturally positive participants to work on a contingency plan if the strategy ends up being too successful.

Not all of those will work in every situation, obviously, but this is a checklist we’d use to actively and successfully involve a team in group strategy exercises. In the right roles, we’ll get more done faster, with strong input from the widest group of participants.  Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

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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