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It is time for strategic planning across organizations. To make it a little easier to track down ideas for how you can approach developing strategy this year, here are nineteen Brainzooming articles filled with 113 techniques and ideas for improving your organization’s strategic planning process.

While we go even deeper than this since the Brainzooming blog’s inception, these articles are all from the past twenty-four months (at the time we published it).

If you are responsible for leading the strategic planning process at your organization, dive in and tweak your process to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

113 Ideas for Strategic Planning Process Improvement

strategic-planning-process

12 Questions to Jump Start Your Strategic Planning Process

5 Ideas for Simplified Strategic Planning

5 Keys to Streamlining Strategic Planning

4 Ways to Make a Strategic Planning Process Productive

10 Signs of a Strategy Planning Meeting Nightmare

6 Guidelines for a Great Strategic Thinking Workshop

11 Boring Details for Making Strategy Planning Fun

6 Last Minute Ideas for Fun Strategic Thinking Exercises

2 Types of Strategic Thinking Structure, One Works

5 Warnings to Heed about Free Strategic Thinking Exercises

9 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Strategic Conversations

1 SWOT Analysis Example from the Safe

2 Ways to Collect Strategic Information from Multiple Parties

6 Steps for Creating a Vision Statement

4 Ideas to Rework a Faulty Vision Statement

4 Steps to Plan for Unplanned Events

6 Ways to Organize Lists of Strategic Ideas

9 Strategic Thinking Questions – Helping Teams Execute Strategy

6 Ways to Make an Impact with this Year’s Strategic Plan

In addition, remember: The Brainzooming Group is here to assist you in applying these techniques and more to make developing strategy a productive and high-impact activity for your organization. Contact us, and let’s customize a strategy process specific to your organization. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Developing Collaborative Strategy

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

The Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” highlights ten proven lessons leaders can use to develop collaborative strategy and results for next year. Download this free, action-focused mini-book today to increase your team’s focus with productive strategy questions you can use to actively engage stakeholders 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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At a recent keynote presentation, an attendee asked me who should facilitate strategic planning for your company – someone outside or inside the company?

As I told the audience, a big part of what we do is offer strategic planning facilitation and development for clients. Yet the Brainzooming methodology started when I was facilitating strategic planning INSIDE our corporation.

Since we’ve had success in facilitating strategic planning from both insider and outsider roles, my answer was, “It depends upon the person and the situation.”

10 Vital Characteristics for Someone to Facilitate Strategic Planning

strategic-planning-meeting

Relative to the personal side of strategic planning facilitation, here are ten characteristics to look for in the person facilitating group collaboration-oriented strategic planning for your organization:

  1. Strong listening skills – to entire interactions and to bits and pieces of interactions, to what is being said and what isn’t being said
  2. The ability to put pieces of ideas together to make them stronger
  3. They either don’t have a stake in the outcome or can put those interests aside
  4. Somebody that’s funny, glib, and quick on his or her feet
  5. They have at least a basic knowledge of the topic
  6. The person is smart and strategic
  7. They understand structures and relationships they can apply to even unfamiliar industry settings
  8. Willing to both serve and challenge participants
  9. Have a strong grounding in business, creative, innovation, and strategic principles
  10. Have adequate time to prepare to facilitate

As you can see, these personal characteristics for strong strategic planning facilitators work irrespective of whether someone is inside or outside the organization.

It is definitely viable that a facilitator from inside the company can lead strategic planning.

Want to have someone outside your company make your strategic planning work for you in a creative, mentally stimulating and result-oriented way? Then contact us at The Brainzooming Group and let’s get started working together! – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

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 strategy that turns 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

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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’m scheduled for a background interview today on creating a thought leadership strategy. The interview is an outgrowth of an eBook on thought leadership. The eBook came from a workshop someone did at a conference I’ve spoken at many times. I suspect when someone asked a question at the workshop about who the audience considered as thought leaders, a long-time friend was audacious enough to suggest my name.

While I’m sure it was a completely sincere gesture, I think pursuing a thought leadership strategy isn’t something a brand or an individual should do.

You ARE NOT a Thought Leader

thought-leadership-strategy

My personal antipathy toward a thought leadership strategy stems from a situation during my corporate life. A peer was developing a “think piece” on the transportation industry and our company’s place in its future. When it finally reached our department, the cover email mentioned my co-worker had already shared the document with all the company’s thought leaders.

That struck a teammates (who is incredibly smart and savvy) and me as a telling statement about how far we were from being thought leaders. We took a vow to never pursue or try to claim thought leadership status from that day forward since the overwhelming evidence (at least in that email) was that we weren’t.

That incident and a strategic desire to live behind (and not in front of) the Brainzooming brand means we’ve not addressed pursuing a thought leadership strategy as a topic here – other than Woody Bendle’s hilarious and completely on-target perspective about “So You May Be a Thought Leader.” We have also never pitched a client on developing a thought leadership strategy or influencer marketing program.

Trying to craft a strategy around promoting your brand or yourself as a leader based on thinking certain things is a poor and mistakenly inward-focused strategy.

That’s why I tried to get out of the interview after seeing the questions and realizing all my answers would be negative. The interviewer persisted and suggested the article may be focused on providing a contrarian view of pursuing a thought leadership strategy.

What to Say about a Thought Leadership Strategy?

Trying to form positive recommendations about a thought leadership strategy that still recognize a brand’s intent to share its message, here are alternative strategies brands should  consider:

A Servant Leadership Strategy

Identify the incredible ways you can serve customers. Serve and benefit customers in ways no other brand has done, then write about the impact of putting customers first.

A Value Leadership Strategy

Provide more benefits to customers than you would ever be able to charge for on a routine basis. Push your brand to incredible leadership in delivering value. Then write about how a value advantage makes a huge difference for customers.

An Employee Leader Strategy

Pursue leadership through inviting your employees to participate in shaping your organization’s direction. Help employees develop as leaders. After that, write about the impact awaiting other organizations when they embrace broad employee involvement.

A Humility Leadership Strategy

Serve your community, individuals, the unfortunate, and underdogs in extraordinary ways. Create impact through helping others that can’t help themselves in tangible ways. But then DON’T write about those stories. Allow the people you’ve helped to decide whether and how THEY will communicate what you’ve done.

What to do?

Those are all ways we’ve tried to create stories that first and foremost benefit the audience, then incorporate positive brand messages.

Companies and individuals that try to lead in these areas are ones to emulate because they are DOING great things, not simply THINKING about things and trying to create a cult of thought leadership. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

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 strategy that turns 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

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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A recent Brainzooming article on changing your personal backstory recommended ensuring how you think about, describe, and conduct yourself maximizes the positive sentiments you generate among others. One input to revise your personal backstory is to ask how others see you. This suggestions prompted a question on what you should ask others (and how you should ask them) to get the best input for reshaping your backstory.

Ask people in a format that allows them to respond anonymously. You want to increase the likelihood they are going to share unvarnished sentiments with you. The easiest way to accomplish that is likely through some type of online survey.

7 Questions to Ask Others about Your Personal Backstory

personal-backstory-erase

Here are specific questions based off of those we use when developing personality-based brands. The input you will receive can help you decide what to add to and erase from your personal backstory:

  1. In a few sentences, what are your perceptions of who I am?
  2. What are words you associate with me?
  3. What are negative things you associate with me?
  4. What are positive things you associate with me?
  5. If you were introducing me to someone else, what would you say to them?
  6. In what capacity do you know me – professional, personal, or both?
  7. What’s our level of contact – used to be greater than it is now, it’s greater now than it used to be, or it’s been fairly consistent over time?

It would be great to be a bit more specific on the last two questions. You don’t want to be so specific about relationship questions, however, that people feel as if their answers will tip off who they are.

Across even five to ten people you should have a richer set of input than if you tried to revise your personal backstory based on your own thinking. – Mike Brown

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

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on social media and content marketing can boost your 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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Even if you’re putting off thinking about strategic planning for next year, it’s time to give it at least one thought. Time’s marching ahead, and it will be next year before you know it.

Here’s the one thought: How about identifying where you can roll out a simplified strategic planning process?

What are ideas to make strategic planning less cumbersome than it’s been at your company in the past?

5 Ideas for Simplified Strategic Planning this Year

simplified-strategic-planning

If you’re stumped, here five ideas we’d suggest where you can save some time, effort, and hassle in strategic planning:

  • Start preparing your strategic foundation and situation analysis updates by asking, “What things still apply and are relevant for next year?”
  • Don’t demand more precision in the planning work than you have certainty in your future situation.
  • Prioritize the time you invest in creating specific product/service marketing plans based on each one’s expected contribution to revenue and profit growth.
  • Look at how many strategies and tactics you actually implemented this year, and use that as the threshold for how deeply detailed your plan for next year should be.
  • If you have a bunch of unimplemented strategies and tactics for this year that are still sound, simply use those for next year’s plan.

Want one other idea for ensuring simplified strategic planning?

Contact us, and let The Brainzooming Group facilitate your planning for next year using our collaborative and streamlined Brainzooming planning methodology.

We still have capacity to get your strategic plan done in plenty of time to start implementing it right away in the new year! – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Involving Employees In Your Strategy

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 strategy that turns 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

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter highlighted two Wall Street Journal articles examining leadership strategy in light of how involved a teacher or coach should be in the details of teaching and learning. 

Leadership Strategy – How Much Teaching and Coaching Is Enough?

When it comes to your leadership strategy, what are the best techniques to develop your team? Should you be in the thick of things, understanding the details of what is going on with team members, and being an active resource for them? Or are they (and you) better off taking a hands-off approach and letting them handle the details relatively unencumbered?

In the Wall Street Journal this week, two articles addressed these questions from different angles.

An article by concert pianist and instructor, Byron Janis, addressed teacher-student relationships in music. Andrew Beaton addressed the topic of college football coaches forsaking their CEO-like management roles to create game plans, call plays, and behave like traditional coaches.

Learning to Play Music Pleasing to Another’s Ears

Leadership-Strategy-Teaching

Janis offers advice gleaned from his own teaching experiences and from his time as a student of piano great Vladimir Horowitz during the 1940s. He shares four pieces of advice for teachers (that can extend to leaders and managers):

  1. Don’t over-teach to a specific standard

Teachers must balance their knowledge and inclinations to instruct what THEY know with the students’ needs to find and develop their own styles. A student only develops a distinctive talent and style if a teacher remains open and refrains from over-instructing based on what the teacher believes and knows.

Leadership Questions: How much latitude do you give less experienced team members to chart their own directions? Are there areas where you dictate a course of action that would benefit from junior team members exerting greater independence?

  1. Let individuals own their problems and solutions

When a student failed to grasp a particular musical passage, Horowitz would tell the student that something was amiss without indicating what it was. He invited them to ponder it, address what they discover, and return the next week to share the correction. This technique puts students in charge of making mistakes, identifying them, and determining the appropriate fixes.

Leadership Questions: How readily do you dissect errors and problems in detail? What room do you have to point out potential issues while allowing your team an opportunity to diagnose and correct them to develop their mistake-making and fixing skills?

  1. Provide ample room to disagree and interpret your input

Teachers can further free students to self-diagnose and correct problems through realizing their own subjective interpretations of performance strategies can be mistaken. Student can have creative perspectives that are on the mark even though instructors don’t understand them. As Horowitz told students, “‘If any of my interpretive ideas don’t feel right, please disregard them.”

Leadership Questions: Are you providing team members enough creative freedom in subjective areas to listen to your viewpoint, while applying their own ideas for implementing strategies? What techniques do you employ to keep your mind open to creative perspectives different from your own?

  1. Encourage a unique, personal path

It is easy, especially for individuals that strive to be perfect, to take in a more senior person’s vision, trying to mimic it as closely as possible. Instead, Janis recommends teachers show students that inspiration and expression are not primarily the byproducts of learning and practicing. They develop from actively living a varied, diverse life. He points out, in closing the article, that life “is perhaps the most important teacher of all. Hard work alone is not the solution.”

Leadership Questions: When new team members (especially junior ones) join your organization, how much onboarding involves instruction? In contrast, how much onboarding involves getting them started experiencing their new environment and actively doing and trying things right away? What opportunities are you creating to provide room for them to bring personal life learnings to your team to increase diversity and your team’s performance?

Getting Back into Coaching

While Byron Janis’ article emphasizes student-driven and owned learning as a teacher uses a gentler hand, Andrew Beaton’s perspective how active college coaches are in actually coaching raises an intriguing counterpoint.

Beaton points to former University of Texas head football coach, Mack Brown, as a forerunner in the “CEO style of coaching.” With coaches at major programs finding themselves in charge of well over a hundred players and staff (plus a nearly comparable number of prospective students they are monitoring), the head coaching role in college football has changed dramatically. Dedicated coordinators build game plans and make play calls during games. A variety of other “middle managers” assume implementation roles for the team.

Put it all together, and the head coach can feel disconnected and limited during a Saturday game.

That’s why some coaches are reversing the trend. A group that includes new University of Miami coach, Mark Richt, is re-working the head coaching role. Richt is prioritizing working with the team’s quarterbacks, designing game plans, and calling plays during the game. Richt and other coaches are devoting more time toward the Xs and Os of football as a way to tackle the classic dilemma of managers that developed as workers: promotions into senior positions remove them from the strong expertise and performance that originally earned their promotions.

Leadership Questions: If you made the transition from worker to manager in your career, how much time do you spend still doing? Are you doing enough doing to keep your skills and perspectives relevant? Or have you long ago walked away from daily activities that generate the value and benefit your team delivers to internal and external audiences? If you see yourself as too removed from daily team activities, what are the best ways to get closer to what your organization does?

It’s about a Balance that Keeps Moving

As with most leadership topics, the only clear direction is that what you do depends on your situation. And in this case, it may vary by specific team member. All of us as leaders need to determine the right balance to guide and grow our teams, and only you may know the right answer! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

 

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Facing Innovation Barriers? Here Is Help!

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Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

We have free Brainzooming eBooks for you to help navigate barriers and boost innovation!

 

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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By and large, hotel meetings rooms suck for actually encouraging people to collaborate and work productively.

Hotel-Meeting-Rooms-Suck

That’s why I find myself so frequently trying to manipulate hotel meeting rooms in ways that hotel proprietors never imagined. Most of the time we have to go well beyond what hotels consider standard ways groups will use their meeting rooms when we’re trying to create an effective space for a Brainzooming creative thinking workshop.

12 Reasons Hotel Meeting Rooms Suck for Collaboration

Based on the challenges we typically encounter, here’s my basic list of twelve reasons why hotel meeting rooms suck:

  1. The seating plans cram too many people into rooms to the point where there is no room for people to spread out and think
  2. The room configurations don’t allow for people to move around and collaborate with each other
  3. Valuable wall space (where people can place and react to ideas) is taken up with ugly, bland artwork
  4. They place lights in front of the areas where they set up screens to project images
  5. If there are lights where you need to put a screen, they are always on switches tied to half the lights in the front of the room
  6. They insist on putting the food and beverage in the meeting room where it takes up wall space and/or makes the room stink (instead of using the hallway for food service)
  7. Too many big hotel ballrooms have very low of ceilings so you can’t raise a screen high enough for people in the back to see it
  8. In their room setups, they have no concept of presenters that don’t remain in one spot at the podium
  9. There is never enough room for two different seating configurations that would allow people to move into a new setting for a different activity
  10. They place U-shaped table configurations nearly up to the screen so there’s no room to move about
  11. They insist on skirting things you may need to move around, such as AV carts, screens, and extraneous tables
  12. They typically have all kinds of big, impressive hall space that goes unused

Even at at the last minute, however, you can try things to improve these meeting spaces to boost collaboration.

Last Minute Changes to Boost Collaboration

All those frustrations surfaced the other day as I was pacing back and forth in front of an open hotel meeting room door where I was getting ready to facilitate a Brainzooming workshop. Since it was such a quick turnaround to fly to Chicago to facilitate the workshop (and it was tucked into a much longer meeting), I had no opportunity to influence the room setup.

Hotel-Meeting-Room-Space

Pacing in the hallway and trying to sneak peaks at the meeting room through an open door, I noted incredible wall space outside the room, and no other meetings were taking place. Thankfully, our client agreed with taking the workshop “outside” into the foyer. After the first poster-based exercise, everyone went into the hall for the rest of the Brainzooming workshop. SUDDENLY, we had all the room we needed to boost collaboration.

Yay for flexible clients, lots of wall space in the hall, and no other meetings!

If not for those, a successful creative thinking workshop would have been VERY DIFFICULT to keep from sucking.

Which is one more reason why hotel meeting rooms suck. – Mike Brown

 

Conquer Fears of Business Innovation!

FREE Download: “7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears”

3d-Cover-Innovation-FearsWhether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.

This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:

  • Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
  • When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
  • Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground

Download your FREE copy of 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization’s Innovation Fears today!

Download Your FREE eBook! 7 Strategies to Conquer Your Organization's Innovation Fears

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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