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A participant at a Brainzooming creative leadership presentation stayed afterward.

He asked an intriguing question.

His department is about to undergo a reorganization. Currently, certain people are underutilized. While the reorganization isn’t intended to move them out of the department, he wondered how to best involve all the team members in re-imagining the department. He wanted ideas to do that without making the currently underutilized employees nervous. Additionally, he doesn’t want them to try to game answers to the questions to keep themselves fully employed and under-worked.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Engage Employees in Reorganization

I offered him five strategic thinking questions:

  • When is our organization at its best in performing the variety of activities we do?
  • What professional skills – whether used in your job currently or not – could you teach other department members to improve everyone’s effectiveness?
  • On what activities do our internal customers spend more time than they prefer (and that we can better address)?
  • What are our internal customers not able to accomplish because they are bogged down with other duties?
  • Where could we provide greater value if we were able to prioritize or focus more?

All five strategic thinking questions avoid anyone needing to game the answers to protect themselves or expose anyone else. I suggested that he ask the questions individually, compile the answers, and then use an edited version of the responses to shape the team discussion.

If you’re facing a similar situation: keep it neutral, simple, and focused to help your team constructively contribute to reorganizing in the smartest, most strategic way possible. – Mike Brown

Looking for Fresh Insights to Drive Strategy?

Download our FREE eBook: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis

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“Strategic Thinking Exercises: Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” features eleven ideas for adapting, stretching, and reinvigorating how you see your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
  • Make sure your strategy is addressing typically overlooked opportunities and threats

Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Ways to Reimagine Your SWOT Analysis

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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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Someone wondered about the range of topics included in the disruptive innovation strategy workshop we delivered recently. Even though the workshop spanned nearly ten hours over two days, we had to narrow the content significantly to achieve the client’s innovation objectives.

The reason?

We had a tremendous amount of work to get done!

The objective involved taking twenty-three tables of participants through innovation strategy exercises to identify disruptive concepts, craft strategies, document audience profiles, imagine ideas, develop market positions, and propose all the ideas in 9-second pitches.

See why we couldn’t cover EVERYTHING we hoped to address?

We led the group through a customized Brainzooming Innovation Fake Book of exercises. We did a few mini-keynotes. We kept the energy going. We had audience participation. And we made sure that every table reporting out received tokens as prizes.

27 Links to Energize Your Innovation Strategy

If you’re interested in reviewing some of the innovation strategy content we shared during the workshop, here are links within three major focus areas:

  • Imagine
  • Innovate
  • Implement

The three areas are important because you need all of them to turn ideas into business results.

Imagine

Innovate

Implement

Suffice it to say, we oversaw LOTS of learning and many activities. Nothing, however, was more important than the hard (and rewarding) work of creating and pitching all those innovative concepts!

Looking to similarly boost your team’s innovation skills, ideas, and, energy? Contact us to talk about delivering a Brainzooming innovation strategy workshop for your team, right away! – Mike Brown

Want to improve your organization’s innovation success?

If you want greater success and impact from innovation, but are not sure what to do next, Brainzooming has the answer.

Complete your brief Innovation Assessment and discover your best opportunities to improve future innovation results! It’s FREE, and will set the stage for enlivening your innovation strategy. Discover your true innovation potential today!

Want to improve your innovation success? The answer is easier than you think!

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 is a new slide for a two-day innovation strategy workshop we’ll be presenting this week in Los Angeles. While the slide is new, the appearance of all of these excuses (and more) for not advancing with an innovation strategy are anything but new. When we work with clients to expand their innovation initiatives, these reasons for why their innovation strategies haven’t made progress yet quickly emerge. As another slide in the workshop states: Thinking about innovation isn’t easy, but it’s easier than doing something about it!

If these excuses (or the idea of struggling to get an innovation strategy going and producing results) sound familiar in your organization, you need to complete a quick, ten-question analysis to determine how your innovation strategy stacks up. This brand new innovation diagnostic will process your answers and deliver an innovation strategy recommendation tailored to your organization.

Struggling with innovation? Or think you have innovation all figured out? Either way, complete the diagnostic and discover where your best opportunities to increase innovation and growth. – 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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We have a call with a client about an upcoming Brainzooming innovation workshop. One question (which we think MAY have been included by mistake on the list of topics they sent us) is what we do when energy is diminishing during a workshop.

Photo via Shutterstock

Seeing the question about how to boost an audience’s energy level ahead of time (and knowing they’ll want specifics), prompted this list of thirty things I’ve done during my career of designing and delivering interactive presentations and workshops.

Perhaps the most important way to boost an audience’s energy level is number thirty: we make every attempt to design any Brainzooming workshop to re-energize the group throughout the time together. In that way, we plan for doing the best mix of activities in 1 through 29 to keep the energy levels up throughout the workshop!

  1. Tell funny stories
  2. Use self-deprecating humor
  3. Be very silent (uncomfortably silent) until the audience notices and re-engages
  4. Present while walking throughout the room / audience
  5. Stand on a chair and present
  6. Do more activities where everyone must play an active role
  7. Move to the Shrimp creative thinking exercise
  8. Ask questions of the audience
  9. Take a seat at a table and start voicing a person’s internal thoughts about the presentation
  10. Have everyone stand up and stretch
  11. Have everyone stand up and scream (or jump around)
  12. Make the audience the stars of the show
  13. Start doing improv with the audience
  14. Take a break and let everyone refresh
  15. Rearrange things at the break so they return to a new room
  16. Invite someone else to tell a story to the group
  17. Go to the quiet part of the room and present from there
  18. Run around the room (or at least down an aisle) to increase your own energy
  19. Introduce an ice breaker exercise – even in the middle of the presentation (and do funny riffs on peoples’ answers)
  20. Get people to talk and then have fun with them
  21. Call on the people I met before the presentation
  22. Call on someone that is making faces
  23. Call on the person with bright eyes and engage with them
  24. Create a contest right on the spot and give a pair of orange I am Creative socks to the winner
  25. Have people change something to freshen up what has already become familiar, comfortable, and routine (even within this temporary group)
  26. Move people from one table or group to another
  27. Take everyone outside
  28. Speed things up
  29. Use an exercise where everyone can participate simultaneously
  30. Pre-plan (by watching the experience in my mind) so the audience won’t enter a low-energy state

Need a strategy, creativity, innovation or other learning and motivational boost for your audience?

Contact us, and let’s figure out the right topics, format, and activities to design and deliver an interactive presentation or workshop to energize your team during the workshop and beyond! – 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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(Adapted from Inside the Executive Suite by Armada Corporate Intelligence)

Two junior team members in chief of staff / program manager roles asked how to best align with senior leaders to successfully share a strategy across an organization. Each was concerned about having enough regular access to senior leaders to feel comfortable in delivering consistent communications relative to what they would be saying in other forums. The challenge is doing more than just sending out a plan and expecting people to naturally understand the organization’s direction.

The Way to Successfully Share a Strategy

What can a senior leader do to share personal perspectives and expectations to facilitate stronger strategy implementation in an organization?

We recommend that an executive team develop its own strategy brief to support better, more aligned communication, and ultimately, strategy implementation. Borrowed from the idea of a communications brief, a strategy brief will:

  • Prompt greater strategic clarity and expectation setting
  • Help team members who are working on communicating and implementing the plan to perform effectively and creatively
  • Facilitate objectivity when judging the effectiveness and success of early strategy implementation

The strategy implementation brief contains three types of information:

  • Objectives – Detailing where the strategy should lead the organization, who it will impact, and what beliefs and action will be most important to success.
  • Preferences – Shares what messages, messaging styles, timing, and reinforcements pave the way for greater alignment.
  • Guidelines – Laying out what the strategy communication and implementation team needs to incorporate and avoid.

Within that framework, here are the questions to answer so your team can most effectively represent senior leadership to the entire organization.

Objectives

  • What is on the short list of initiatives that will move the organization forward?

Answering this question is step one in getting your strategic plan down to a bite-sized aspiration. Of all the initiatives you have planned, which handful are you, as a senior executive, going to monitor most closely? Your answer will determine whether you are going to move the needle or not.

  • What are your beliefs about the organization’s current situation? What do you think the broader organization’s beliefs are about the current situation? How do they need to change?

These questions begin addressing the arc of change you expect the organization to embrace. Is change critical to taking advantage of opportunities? Is a dramatically different direction needed to ward off challenges, but only after you overcome organizational complacency? Importantly, does the broad employee base see the organization’s situation comparably to the senior team? If not, orient the change communication toward what will make sense to THEM.

  • How do you expect the organization to think, behave, and perform differently with successful implementation?

Don’t spell out dozens of things you need employees to address so you can affect the desired strategic changes. Push your executive team to spell out five or fewer thinking and performance changes you are looking for from the organization. Pick only ones that will make a noticeable difference in results.

Preferences

  • What are the most important messages to convey and reinforce?

Identify the short list of messages most important for each target audience. Then do whatever homework you can do to see how those messages will resonate with your audiences. Far better to talk to audiences in ways that resonate with them versus ways that make sense to the senior executives.

  • What are the rallying points you will personally use to build momentum? How consistent do you expect to be in your own communication and messaging?

Share the talking points you expect will work best for you when you are interacting personally with audience members. Spell out how comfortable and confident you are in staying consistent with your messages. If you expect to shift them or are prone to get swept up in the moment and venture into new territory, let your team know to check back frequently for updates.

  • What emotions are relevant and okay to leverage to increase communication receptiveness?

Even if you’re data-driven and uncomfortable with emotional appeals, they do play an important role in business communication. Lay the groundwork for integrating appropriate emotions to move hearts in addition to minds.

Guidelines

  • Where are you looking for the team and others closer to the broader employee base to exercise their own creativity?

Once you’ve provided the foundation for your implementation team, let them know where they have room to bring their own ideas and variations to your thinking. Don’t expect them to be order takers, simply carrying out everything you dictate. Give yourself the advantage of tapping into the team’s expertise.

  • What touch points and feedback do you want from the implementation team?

This goes along with the previous direction. Share how involved and active you expect to be with the team. Make sure everyone understands how much latitude they have to act vs. circling back to the executive team for frequent check-ins.

  • What adjustments are you prepared to make if things seem off track?

Knowing your commitment level to the current direction helps the team plan for appropriate levels of change. Have you chosen an unwavering path, or are you experimenting your way into a new strategy, expecting to learn and adapt for the foreseeable future?

To Successfully Share a Strategy, Don’t Keep Your Implementation Team in the Dark

While it’s hardly statistically projectable, the two individuals asking how to align with senior leader messaging are likely voicing the sentiment of junior team members on the hook to implement your senior-level strategies. That’s why a strategic implementation brief is valuable for paving the way for an organization’s successful strategy implementation. – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planning11 Ideas to Make a Strategic Planning Process More Fun!

Yes, strategic planning can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning

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Mike Brown

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

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I was talking with an executive about the dramatic changes going on in her organization. Everything is maxed out: expectations, pressure, stress, timelines. The whole nine.

In the midst of it, two leaders who experienced a serious professional rift a number of years ago are simultaneously thrust into the center of today’s crisis. They are readjusting their roles, as they’re now required to always be on the same page publicly. They also have to have a keen sense of what the other one is thinking, saying, and doing.

Hearing this, I wondered aloud: will today’s crisis heal the professional rift and reset the relationship?

via Shutterstock

I’ve experienced the impact of using a crisis to push forward with change. I’ve experienced the team-building and affiliating impacts of a group of professionals banding together to accomplish a major initiative. I hadn’t put the two together to think about embracing a crisis situation to reset a professional relationship.

Which prompts me to wonder: when today’s crisis emerges, what is the potential impact of reaching out to people that you aren’t as close to anymore? What are the potential benefits to involving them in facing a common, critical challenge? When you let a professional crisis go by without doing so, what is the missed opportunity?  – Mike Brown

 

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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!

 

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People still ask if I miss working for a Fortune 500 company. I tell them the only times I do are on the 15th and 31st of the month.

That line always gets a laugh.

When you are in an entrepreneurial venture, the paydays aren’t on a predictable schedule. Yet, since The Brainzooming Group works with many major corporations, it’s not like I don’t retain a sense of the upsides and challenges of working in the corporate world.

For today, at least, it is great to be out of the corporate world.

That sentiment all revolves around our content marketing strategy.

The client we’re onsite with today working on an innovation strategy comes with an intriguing history.

Our primary contact saw me speak in 2014 at Compete Through Service Symposium produced by the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership and subscribed to the Brainzooming blog email. At the company he was at, there was no opportunity to work with us.

He changed jobs early in 2017 and re-subscribed to the blog with his new company’s email address. By mid-year, he completed a Contact Us form on the website, wanting to discuss his brand’s innovation strategy. Coincidentally, we were headed to his city the next Monday to host another client’s annual customer forum. We arranged a meeting and subsequently developed a scope of work. It changed a few times as he worked to sell-in the initiative. Several months later, the deal seemed in question, but we got an opportunity to do a 30-minute phone conference with the company president to address his questions. That led to another spin on the scope of work.

Right after 2018 started, they signed the scope of work to begin. Following an online input survey with both internal team members and external partners, three of us are onsite TODAY for a full-day innovation strategy and new product development workshop.

So, why does this story make me glad I’m not in the corporate world anymore?

It’s because I can’t fathom trying to assign credit for this deal if it unfolded in a Fortune 500 company:

  • The relationship started multiple years ago through a speaking engagement.
  • The only client contact for nearly three years was the blog email and an eBook download.
  • Once we moved into active business development mode, three of us participated in developing the scope of work.
  • I led the call that moved us toward winning the business.
  • Four of us contributed toward creating the Brainzooming experience we’ll deliver today.

In a Fortune 500 company, this could lead to a huge tug-of-war for credit.

In an entrepreneurial venture, we can talk through the best approach to assign credit that equitable for everyone without needing a system to track and allocate effort.

Here’s to a wonderful, productive, and beneficial workshop with our new client, and our hope that it leads to a long relationship. And even better, as we move forward, here’s to nobody even remembering exactly did what to win it. – Mike Brown

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Looking for Brand Innovation to Grow Your Business? Brainzooming Has an Answer!

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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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