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We mentioned how frequently we’re being asked to incorporate uncertainty into Brainzooming creativity and strategic thinking presentations. We have considerable content on moving forward amid uncertainty (including the 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times eBook), and we’re developing additional strategic thinking pieces on uncertainty and flexibility.

Considering that, I added new strategic thinking content on flexibility into my presentation at The Leadership Institute. It suggested ways to reduce your organizational dependency on aspects of your operation that may seem important, but are ripe for less (or even no) strategic attention. Walking away from what seems essential is frightening – and has been for a long time. That’s why I reached for a long-ago quote to inspire the content: “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” from the twelfth chapter of St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

The quote flies in the face of so many (nearly all?) media messages that say strength ONLY comes from having everything.

Yet, even in temporal situations, detachment from seemingly critical things can create the flexibility to look at compelling new options. Detachment provides freedom to chart your own preferred course of action, unencumbered by obligations to people or forces that don’t care about your best interests.

5 Ideas for Reducing Dependency on What Seems Critical

Here are five strategic thinking possibilities for reducing dependency on what seems to be critical right now:

  1. Find alternative approaches to what you are doing now
  2. Care less about a critical thing by setting your organizational desire to the side and changing your perspective
  3. Replace what seems important now with something else that is more abundant or more under your control
  4. Redirect your legacy needs so they aren’t as important anymore
  5. Give up what has been important cold turkey with a sudden and immediate stop

None of this is to suggest reducing dependency on critical things will be easy or without pain.

One example I shared was from a Catholic priest. He talked about how his parish school was starting to raise tuition $500 annually until tuition alone covers its operating costs. The objective is eliminating the federal money the school now receives. Taking money from the government can lock the school into teaching or doing things against its faith. He acknowledged the strategy change will cause hardship; the school is trying to work with parents impacted most by the new strategy. Ultimately, eliminating the dependency on outside funds will put the school in greater control of setting a strategy consistent with its faith.

What is your organization depending on currently where reducing your dependency will make you stronger? Start tackling an alternative strategy before outside forces require you to do it.  – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when uncertainty is high. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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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Meeting with a client to design a visioning session for its upcoming strategic planning activities, I prepared several pages of options. The possibilities included many different directions we could incorporate within their strategic planning process. The objective of our conversation, at least from my end, was to help them start making decisions about how they wanted an early step in their strategic planning activities to look.

You do not always have as much flexibility we did in this situation. Ideally, though, you want some latitude to design your strategic planning process to create an experience that will be both productive and engaging for participants. Additionally, you want it to produce results for your organization.

5 Keys to a More Flexible Strategic Planning Process

via Shutterstock

Here are five practices to help ensure you have options and flexibility when you begin designing how you will develop your business strategies:

#1. Start planning your strategy as early as makes sense

Starting early doesn’t necessarily mean spending more time on developing your strategy. Launch strategy planning far enough ahead of your deadline so that you have an opportunity to involve all the people you would like, plus go deeper in activities needing more attention.

#2. Take advantage of the early start to ask people for ideas sooner than later

One major advantage of starting your strategic planning process early is you have more time to engage a broad group of internal and external audiences for specific input on what the plan should address. This always makes for a better plan.

#3. View issues from as many strategic perspectives as possible

If you solicit strategy input from a large, diverse group of stakeholders, you will incorporate many different perspectives. Introducing perspectives from across your audiences should make the plan more on-target, actionable, and focused on producing meaningful benefits.

#4. Only presuppose the strategic plan’s direction in proportion to how widely you solicit input

Another benefit of starting early and soliciting ideas from stakeholders is your learnings can shape the structure and content of your strategic plan. This moves it away from a closed process with only a small group deciding what it should contain. If you gather input widely, you can gain confidence in using the themes and focus areas you learn to structure and move the plan forward more quickly in later stages.

#5. Make decisions as late as you can during strategic planning

Starting a strategic plan early may mean you have fewer actual results from the current plan to shape decisions. That’s why you should design the strategic planning process underway now to delay decisions for as long as possible. This provides flexibility without slowing down or unnecessarily compromising your strategy.

Looking for more strategic planning flexibility?

Would you like help thinking about what more flexible strategy planning process looks like for your organization? If you have responsibility for strategic planning in your organization, contact us, and let’s discuss how a flexible, collaborative strategic planning process could work for you! – Mike Brown

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Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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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 were driving home from the store this weekend, and saw this huge tree that fell over from its base. It made me think of the phrase “too big to fail.” In this case, this huge tree must have been completely ready for failure, whether that was apparent to anyone or not.

Disrupt Your Brand Before Something Else Does

A similar phenomenon applies to brand strategy. You may think your brand is strong and ready to withstand anything that might come its way. But all the while, competitors or market forces you may not even suspect are disrupting your place in the market.

While success can breed success, it can also lead to blindness about the importance of trying to disrupt your brand strategy before something else comes along to topple your brand.

104 Possibilities to Disrupt Your Brand Strategy

To help you stay ahead of disruption, here are 104 possibilities to do the work to disrupt your brand strategy yourself instead of letting another party do it for you. Beyond these articles, it’s a wonderful time with strategic planning coming up for many firms, to download the free Brainzooming eBook, Disrupting Thinking – 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Own Brand Before Someone Else Disrupts You! 

Don’t allow your executive team to become complacent! Get to work on disrupting your business strategy yourself: it’s much less painful! – 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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Ten years ago, last week, I gave what I’ve always considered my worst presentation ever.

I call it my “Lee Harvey Oswald presentation.”

The horrible experience wasn’t for lack of public speaking skills, sufficient preparation, and scouting the unusual location ahead of time. It wasn’t for not being ready with options in case something didn’t work. And it wasn’t for not having a friendly audience.

Somehow, though, none of these things saved the presentation!

Public Speaking Skills and My Worst Presentation Ever

This early Taking the NO Out of Innovation presentation was at a Chinese restaurant. I visited it a few days early to see the meeting room. The arrangement was clearly going to present a problem. The room was small and had no natural area from which to present. As a result, I brought an easel, a big pad of sticky notes, and markers in case I needed to do something different to visually communicate the main points.

The day of the presentation, the luncheon was oversold. There was hardly room to move. The projector was placed on a highboy table in the middle of everything where it blocked the view for a significant portion of the room.

Assessing the options, I decided to ditch the PowerPoint. Instead, I planned to cartoon the presentation on the big easel pads. That went fine, other than I hadn’t adequately tightened the easel legs. As I marked on the pad, the easel legs would slide toward the ground. Not wanting to stop the presentation to figure out how to the legs worked, I leaned the easel pad against the giant TV on the shelving unit behind me, attempting to use it to stabilize the paper pad.

During most of the presentation, the waiters were serving lunches, announcing the dishes (which you’ll notice got more space than I did in the invitation!) they were delivering at the top of their lungs. At one point, I said aloud that it was like presenting in the middle of a bowling alley.

Photo credit: Michael Irvin

I survived the presentation, and had the opportunity to meet Michael Irvin, “The Big Idea Guy.” Michael won the creative kit door prize I gave away.

Why do I call it my Lee Harvey Oswald presentation?

After Lee Harvey Oswald was picked up by the Dallas police, they let the press interview him. At one point, he said he was waiting for someone to come forward to offer him (legal) assistance.

Throughout me fumbling with the easel, I was hoping one of the people I worked with would come forward to offer ME assistance. When I asked them later why they didn’t come up to help me, they said they didn’t want to detract from the presentation. I about fell on the floor. There was NOTHING that could have made the presentation go worse than it did!

The intriguing footnote to this story is several people attending that day have graciously said later how helpful the Taking the No Out of InNovation presentation was and how much they enjoyed it. Which just goes to show you, even if you’re completely frustrated by your temporary absence of public speaking skills, if you are earnestly trying to make it good and valuable for the audience, you have a chance of reaching them despite all the challenges.  – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! 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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Chuck Dymer and I presented to a group of logistics managers in Chicago last week. The topic was how to handle uncertain times successfully.

Tomorrow, I’ll be closing the Nature Explore and The Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute with a comparable message. The conference theme is building resilience and joy in uncertain times. The audience for the presentation consists of educators, landscape designers, government officials, and others involved with creating outdoor classrooms for children. It’s all about getting kids outside to experience nature, interact, and learn. The closing presentation will be about staying strong as an idea magnet even you are uncertain of what is ahead.

Next month, Emma Alvarez Gibson and I will be delivering a couple of workshops for the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. The message will once again be similar: carrying out your mission when times are changing in ways you have not previously experienced.

Yes, dealing with uncertain times (while facing fewer or nonexistent resources) seems to be in the forefront for many different types of organizations these days.

25 Infinitely Renewable Things in Uncertain Times

One theme for the Leadership Institute presentation is finding the blue sky – the open opportunities – even amid what seems to be an onslaught of constraints and limitations. That took me to the idea of abundance thinking, one of the fundamental strategies of idea magnets. These creative leaders recognize constraints but turn their attention to the available resources that are plentiful and can always be grown.

Wanting to leave the Leadership Institute participants with a starting list of ideas, here are twenty-five things that are abundantly available – even in hard-nosed business settings.

  1. Affiliating with Others
  2. Asking Others for Help
  3. Asking Someone If You Can Help
  4. Caring for Others
  5. Cheering Each Other On
  6. Coming up with another idea
  7. Creativity
  8. Determination
  9. Doodling a Smiley Face or Heart
  10. Enthusiasm
  11. Focusing on Your Core Purpose
  12. Forgiveness
  13. Good Humor
  14. Good Intentions
  15. Hugs
  16. Humility
  17. Imagination
  18. Jumping for Joy
  19. Positive Thoughts
  20. Prayer
  21. Reaching Out to Others
  22. Remembering Successes You’ve Already Had
  23. Sharing Stories
  24. Smiles
  25. Trying One More Time

What else is abundantly available in your part of the world? If your team could use some ideas and motivation right now with handling uncertainty, we’d love to come spend time with you to share strategies that are working!  – Mike Brown

What’s Your Implementation Strategy for Uncertain Times?

Things aren’t getting saner and more calm. Are you ready to pursue an implementation strategy that works in uncharted waters?

The Brainzooming eBook 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times will help you examine your strategy foundation, insights, profitability drivers, and decision making processes when few things ahead are clear. We share suggestions on:

  • Using your organization’s core purpose to shape decisions when things are changing
  • Reaching out to employees with valuable insights into what to watch out for and what to expect
  • Sharpening your command of cost and profit levers in your organization
  • Implementing processes to focus and sharpen decision making

4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times is a FREE, quick read that will pay dividends for you today and in the uncertain times ahead.
Download Your FREE eBook! 4 Strategies for Implementing in Uncertain Times



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 is possible that great ideas are expressed very clearly and distinctly so that everyone understands them right away and sees the appropriate value they deliver and the impact they might create.

More often, however, it seems great ideas come along with a variety of other things that are not going to add tremendous value to creating great strategy. That’s when having the strategic thinking skills to extract the great ideas from everything else is so vital to them seeing the light of day and getting the consideration they deserve.

9 Strategic Thinking Skills to Create Clarity for Great Ideas

Thinking about some of the strategic thinking skills involved in that task, here is a handy checklist you can use with yourself and others to see how adept you (or they) are at surfacing great ideas. How good are you at…?

  1. Organizing ideas in a logical way
  2. Being able to organize ideas in multiple logical ways (and a few surprising ones, too)
  3. Removing things that don’t fit so that great ideas are more apparent
  4. Identifying what is important from among lots of details
  5. Finding common threads others will understand, even though they cannot originally identify the threads
  6. Focusing attention on the few things (whether results, ideas, costs, issues, etc.) that account for most of the overall impact
  7. Adding in overlooked things that fit with other ideas to make them all better
  8. Sorting out what matters from what gets attention
  9. Hearing the ideas people mean to say even if they don’t say those ideas exactly

Do you stand out at these strategic thinking skills? Or do you potentially squander lots of great ideas because they don’t get the attention they deserve?  – Mike Brown

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The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


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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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Cyndi and I went out for dinner last night.  We were originally heading to a favorite restaurant that has been doing heavy discounting lately. They sent us each a 20% off coupon during the day, grabbing our top-of-mind attention as the best choice. Right before we left, we suddenly changed plans. Cyndi wanted to go somewhere she could eat a salad, so we chose a locally-based chain pizza restaurant instead.

At the counter, we ordered a large salad and a full-sized pizza. We paid the full price since we had just missed the happy hour specials.

A Bait and Avoid Customer Experience Strategy

Taking our seats, I noticed a tabletop card listing the regular daily specials. The Wednesday special was a large salad and a full-sized pizza for $15 – exactly what we ordered. Checking the bill, we paid for them separately to the tune of more than $20.

When a different person other than our original server delivered the salad, I had a look on my face. I was trying to decide whether to ask her or the young woman I thought was our server about the discrepancy. She saw my odd expression, walked back, and said, “You look like you have a question.”

I showed her the receipt and asked if our order did not qualify as the Wednesday special. She said it did, took the ticket, and promised to fix it.

Upon her return, I asked if the system doesn’t automatically recognize when someone orders a daily special. She said it doesn’t. In fact, the only way the cashier triggers the daily special pricing is if a customer asks for the special. As she flatly explained, the restaurant doesn’t want to leave money on the table (literally, I guess) when a guest visits the restaurant without knowledge of the special deal.

Her example was their all-day Happy Hour on Sundays. They wouldn’t want to give money away on appetizers and drink specials if people weren’t there specifically for the special prices.

Avoiding Doing Right by Customers

Stop there for a minute. Think about the customer experience strategy implications of this bait and avoid policy. The restaurant chain’s policy is to offer special prices to lure guests to the restaurant. If you weren’t drawn there by the lure of special prices and ready to mention that reason to the cashier when you order, the restaurant’s policy is to avoid extending the special offer it doesn’t think you deserve.

Stop again and consider whether this bait and avoid customer experience strategy is smart. I’m a member of the restaurant’s loyalty program. I presented my loyalty card when we ordered a food combination qualifying for the daily special. Despite my loyalty, the restaurant’s spin on its policy is that the best customer experience strategy is to not offer me a roughly 25% discount because I didn’t know about the offer before ordering and alert the cashier.

And just to strengthen the strategy’s avoid element, the restaurant doesn’t inform customers about their expected upfront role in signaling they qualify for discounts.

Choosing a Horrendous Strategy

As a customer and someone helping companies develop attractive customer experience strategy plans, this strategy is horrendous.

Bait and avoid lets the restaurant keep more revenue from customers like me, thereby boosting margins. At the same time, though, they provide the information at the table so customers can easily discover they got gypped. That triggers having to ask for money back, and creates a situation of heightened frustration.

If you are employing a similar bait and avoid customer experience strategy, do yourself a favor: ditch it and give all who qualify for deals the deals they deserve. That’s what builds loyalty; not fixing one-off situations AFTER customers discover your brand doesn’t stand by what it offers.

Always remember that bad customer experience strategy is NEVER good for business and brand building.  – 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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