Performance | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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How can you get the most mileage from the free strategic planning eBooks we regularly offer as downloads?

We do not pretend to be able to imagine EVERY single situation where you might apply our strategic thinking exercises. Yet when we create new eBooks, our main goal is ensuring the content is heavy on ideas and tools you can apply to improve strategic thinking and implementation in your organization.

One way we test that expectation is by working with the exercises ourselves to ensure their effectiveness and utility.

Using Our Own Strategic Planning Exercises

Considering that, here’s an example of how, as one previous boss might say, we eat our own dog food (in this case, strategic thinking exercises).

I was working yesterday on designing an upcoming strategic planning Zoomference for a client. One objective for the Zoomference is to push the leadership group’s thinking toward innovative ideas they might have never considered a few years before.

Reaching the part of the outline where we’re going to turn the participants toward more disruptive thinking, I needed to come up with appropriate strategic thinking questions for the client to consider. Turning around in my chair, I saw a draft copy of our Disrupting Thinking eBook. It is filled with questions to push thinking on multiple topics, including brand benefits, success factors, risk taking, and new market entry. I grabbed the copy, combed through it, and found five great questions.

Total time from identifying what I needed to having five strong potential strategic thinking questions?

Less than five minutes.

Compare that to sitting with a blank screen struggling to imagine brand new strategic thinking questions from scratch. I know I would have spent way more than five minutes.

If you’re similarly on the hook to come up with engaging questions or strategy and innovation ideas (which you likely are if you are still reading this), you would have taken the same or more amount of time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be done in five minutes and ready to move on to the next thing?

How Much Time Do You Want to Save in the Next Year?

So, go ahead and download Disrupting Thinking right now. And grab our eBook with 600 strategic thinking questions, too. You will save TENS OF HOURS (maybe more) of time over the next year with these two Brainzooming downloads.
Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand

So yeah, we eat our own strategic thinking exercise dog food.

And it tastes darn good.

Plus, we share it ALL THE TIME! – 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 were listening in on an internal innovation strategy call conducted by one of our clients. The team was wrestling with a concern voiced by the organization’s senior leader that its complete innovation portfolio wasn’t capable of yielding the financial impact he is seeking. The key question was, “Where’s the beef with this innovation strategy?”

via Shutterstock

The sense of unease among the organization’s innovation team leaders was palpable. They were feeling a need to scramble. They seemed ready to jump through hoops to justify the innovation strategy to the CEO. However, that would have entailed veering from their well-considered implementation plans.

3 Questions When the Innovation Strategy ROI Doesn’t Satisfy the Boss

Before they deviated from their very solid innovation strategy approach (only some of which we helped shape—they’ve been doing great work on their own), I challenged them to consider three questions:

#1. Is there a legitimate basis for the C-Suite challenge to their innovation strategy?

Does the organization truly lack innovation, or is the senior leader lacking awareness and understanding of the work the team has already accomplished? If they can’t answer that question upfront, they risk a lot of potentially unnecessary effort.

#2. Is there a standard methodology for quantifying the impact of the innovation strategy?

If yes, does it support the CEO’s perspective? If there isn’t a standard methodology to project and quantify the innovation strategy impact, it would be a better use of their time to develop one, rather than launching a disruptive CYA effort.

#3. If the team lacks innovation opportunities with a significant financial impact, what can they do to quickly find or create them?

Since it’s far better to scramble for progress than to take a CYA approach, what steps do they need to take to make this happen?

Where do you start looking for the innovation strategy beef?

In a follow-up call, they were still evaluating the need to pump up the number of new ideas to deliver the beef to the CEO.

Hearing they had still not answered these three questions and we’re trying to come up with more ways to generate more ideas, I cautioned them, using an analogy: they should answer the question about where the beef is by going to the fridge and putting a patty on the grill. Instead, they were primed to go out into the fields to look for more cows. The problem is that cows are difficult to find, and new cows don’t often yield the expected beef.

I’m hoping they are going to concentrate and invest their efforts into developing existing ideas, even if at the same time they’re pulling out all stops to get the CEO a satisfactory response.

Should you find yourself in this unenviable-yet-crucial position within your own organization, I encourage you to consider the questions above. They may just mean the difference between progress and business as usual! – Mike Brown

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
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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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Do you dread strategy meetings?

Really, we’re among friends, so you can be completely truthful in your answer: Do you REALLY, REALLY DREAD strategy meetings?

Of course, you dread them. Every executive dreads strategic planning. I know I do.

The reason is while it is important for organizations, participants hardly ever see the connection between participation and positive changes for brands and customers.

Download Your FREE eBook! 11 Not Stuffy for Work Ways to Spice Up Strategic Planning

While a strategic planning process may promise to deliver real objectives and tactics, it often never happens as promised. Senior executives may say they want disruptive ideas, but they really want ideas that are easy to grasp and fit the current system. And who wants to waste precious time on trying to imagine and plan things an organization should pursue but ultimately never will?

That is why wrapping strategy meetings in creative thinking exercises and the appropriate amount of fun and diversion is optimum.

80 Fun Strategic Planning Activities and Ideas!

We’ve been facilitating fun strategic planning activities for years.

Across our client engagements, here are links to 80 activities and ideas for making strategy more fun!

Even though fun strategy meetings seem elusive, we routinely make them productive, enjoyable, and fun for the organizations, senior executives, and teams with which we work. Enjoy this dive into our most successful approaches.

If you would like to go even deeper, contact us, and let’s talk about how we can bring a fun approach to strategy into your organization! – 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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Emma Alvarez Gibson is here today, as a Gen Xer, to get the multi-generational workforce on the same program. Well, maybe as a first step, to get the Baby Boomers and Millennials to understand there are options for them (beyond whining to the Gen Xers) to upgrade their own performance and make more sense to each other. Because the Gen Xers have their own work to get done, and translating for all of you is making it tough for them.

Short story, it’s a powder keg out there in the multi-generational workforce, so here is to making it a little safer!

Field Notes: A Gen Xer Speaks to the Multi-generational Workforce from Emma Alvarez Gibson

Hello, colleagues.

We have a pretty decent working relationship, don’t we? We are gracious and professional, we exchange pleasantries even when we don’t have to, and we weather the ups and downs of corporate life together, or anyway near one another. Things are fine! I think we probably all agree on that.

You may not be aware of it, but as the lifeblood of our organization, as a Gen Xer, I’m holding together two disparate worlds in the multi-generational workforce. Having one foot in Baby Boomer Biosphere and the other in Millennialandia, I translate all day long, you to me to them and back again. I tell the youngs what the olds want, and I tell the olds what the youngs mean. I switch gears so that the inhabitants of both worlds will understand that I know what I’m about and that I’m trustworthy. (It’s tiring, yes, and I imagine this is the sort of situation that led Atlas to shrug, but that way lies a discussion about Ayn Rand, which, frankly, I’m too worn out to consider at the moment.)

It is in the spirit of our mutual respect and collaboration, then, that I implore you to consider a simple upgrade to your modus operandus. Herein I shall recommend one upgrade for the Baby Boomers, and another for the Millennials. In both cases the goal is the same: greater productivity within our multi-generational workforce.

via Shutterstock

Millennials, I’m going to start with you.

You are much maligned, it’s true; but all of us could benefit from some improvement. (And hey, Gen Xers know from being maligned. Everything was our fault until you guys were in grade school, at which point everything magically became your fault.)

Here is the one weird trick to improving your reputation around the office: have good manners. That entails, for instance, making eye contact. It means that when someone greets you in the hallway, you say hello back, even if you don’t know the person who’s just spoken to you. (The odds of your needing to ask that person for permission in order to carry out various parts of your job repeatedly over the course of an average week will be high. Trust.) Don’t just waltz into someone’s office and say, “I’m supposed to get a folder from you?” Knock, even if the door is open, and introduce yourself. Say please. Say thank you. Respect the pecking order, or make the effort to appear as though you do. You’re probably way faster at what you do than the majority of the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers you work with. But we’ve got years on you, which translates into breadth, depth, context, and relationships. Relationships are everything. Remember that.

Baby Boomers, you’re up now.

You have that aforementioned breadth, depth, and context. You have the relationships. We rely on you for structure and order, for insight and reason. So please, please, please: learn how to use technology, already.

Stop spending so much time talking about the ways you used to be able to do your job without it. Stop finding clever ways to avoid doing tech-related things because you don’t want people to think you’re too old. Spoiler alert: it’s heartbreakingly obvious to us when you’re avoiding it. We can tell from the language you use whether or not you’re scared of technology. Avoid the mental calisthenics: admit what you don’t know, and then learn what you should know. Stop pretending you can be as good as you once were without it. Change is inconvenient for everyone. It’s just that your generation is the only one still in the workforce that’s ever had the luxury of stability. We understand the impulse to ignore this pesky quicksand atop which we all stand. But we know it’s futile at best and self-destructive at worst.

Manners, meet technology. Technology, say hello to manners.

And yea verily will the skies part and the hallelujah chorus sound. Well, anyway, things will get better for our multi-generational workforce: we will grease the wheels of both form and function, and the Gen Xers will get a little breathing room, which in turn will make us a whole lot less resentful and irritatingly prone to dramatic statements about what martyrs we are.

So, now it’s your turn. Because fair’s fair. What are Gen Xers doing to drive you nuts? How can we contribute to the good of the group? Let us know on the Brainzooming Facebook page. (Yes, Millennials, we know it’s for old people. Yes, Boomers, we know you don’t want your life all over the internet. But everyone else is using it, so…c’mon. Do it for the team.)

Change is not only possible; it’s inescapable. So let us go willingly. The only thing we stand to lose is a bad stereotype.

– Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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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

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Connect your plan to your business with Brainzooming.com.

These are just a few of the ways your strategic planning process can produce a plan that is disconnected from your organization. When that happens, you wind up with a strategic plan that sits on the shelves of your employees, as they go back to doing what they were doing before you interrupted their daily fire fighting with a strategic planning process.

Your strategic planning process does not have to fall into this trap. It’s avoidable if you do the right types of planning for planning and then eagerly, actively, and honestly engage all the appropriate parts of your organization in contributing to the strategies you develop.

If you are concerned about your organization’s strategy being disconnected from important aspects of your organization, contact us, and let’s talk about how to make strategic planning productive and integral to running your company in the year’s ahead.

In the interim, here are multiple articles to start going deeper into creating a well-connected strategic plan:

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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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“Inside the Executive Suite” from Armada Corporate Intelligence featured ideas keeping executives focused on strategic priorities during strategic planning meetings. If your team wanders away from the important strategic topic, here’s a strategy to address it:

3 Ways to Keep Strategic Priorities Front and Center with Executives via Inside the Executive Suite

An executive reported a real-time challenge: keeping the senior team at her company focused on strategic priorities. Depending on the number of executives, or the positions of those prone to overly-detailed discussions, making sure a senior team does not get caught in the weeds during strategy meetings can be a touchy proposition.

We suspect it’s an issue familiar to many organizations. We find it typical that at least one or two individuals in any senior group are comfortable sticking to more detail than you would expect them to embrace. These may be individuals who are responsible for specific areas (and perhaps have been so throughout their careers) and/or ones with personalities oriented toward greater-than-average detail.

Keeping Strategic Priorities Front and Center

Do you struggle keeping senior-level strategy discussions at the appropriate level? If so, try these techniques we’ve employed over the years to focus meetings on strategic priorities that legitimately deserve executive suite attention.

1. Identify Where Everyone Stands Up Front

We are major proponents for meeting with executives before important strategy discussions. Whether through in-person interviews or some type of online input, it is helpful to know which executives are thinking what, and what issues resonate most strongly with them. Pre-meetings provide a sense of areas in which individuals may take the group into unnecessary detail. Questions to explore up front include:

  • What are the most important issues to address?
  • Where do you suspect strategy discussions could potentially derail?
  • What factors are important for determining the right strategy?
  • What topics do you feel most strongly about addressing in the meeting?

Based on participants’ answers, you will develop an early indication of the areas in which a meeting could go into the weeds. You will also have a sense of the major strategic themes to use in anchoring meeting conversations. Also, look for the senior leaders most likely to keep things out of the weeds. Talk with them beforehand, asking for their assistance to voice concerns if a particular leader or discussion becomes stuck in tactical matters.

2. Implement a Structure that Emphasizes Discussions on Strategic Priorities

Using what you identify during pre-meeting conversations, design a meeting format and structure to help the team focus on strategic issues. As you evaluate what is strategic, we recommend ignoring whether issues are long- or short-term. The timeline associated with acting on an opportunity or challenge doesn’t determine its strategic importance. Rather, think of strategic issues as those that will create a material impact on any of the following areas for your organization:

  • Its brands
  • Key audiences
  • Customers and prospects
  • Structure and alignment
  • Financial prospects
  • Vision and values
  • Resources and raw materials

Sharing and adopting a comparable framework for what is strategic helps keep a discussion focused on matters that will legitimately move the needle in any of these areas.

We also use several other approaches to steer strategic conversations:

  • List the major strategic themes you identify before the meeting. Allow the senior group to individually and collectively assign each item to a category: strategic, tactical, or (project) task issues.
  • Assign time limits to various agenda topics, allowing more time for strategic matters—disproportionately so.
  • As tactical or extraneous items are mentioned and commanding attention, stop and ask for clarification around the strategic issue to which they relate. If they can’t be tied back to strategy, table them.
  • Tackle non-strategic topics with questions that reveal them for what they are. Ask: How does this contribute to accomplishing our major objectives? How will this create a meaningful impact for customers (or other audiences)? If we don’t address this at a senior level, what major downsides will it create?

You can use these techniques individually or in combination to help manage discussions toward a strategic level.

3. Actively Listening for Strategic Information

From our experience, it’s rare that senior leaders (or anyone else for that matter) will articulate clear strategy statements and strategic issues right away. Instead, strategy emerges from snippets of conversation. That places heavy responsibility on the meeting facilitator to listen for strategic inputs amid conversation that may largely seem tactical.

Beyond monitoring for the strategic areas we mentioned earlier, listen for any conversation that touches on:

  • Organizational aspirations
  • Expectations tied to strategic initiatives and outcomes
  • Numbers that help size the impact of a strategic initiative
  • Significant strengths and weaknesses
  • Factors impacting organizational success, either positively or negatively
  • Descriptions of metrics and objectives
  • Beliefs central to the ways in which an organization conducts business
  • Elements that will contribute to decision making

By identifying the types of information you need to develop and refine strategy, you can better recognize relevant elements that surface throughout a strategic discussion. When details emerge, record and organize them in a way that both highlights their strategic nature and provides a visual aid to align the group. We’ve used this technique to allow a leadership team the flexibility to talk in an open format, while capturing their strategic insights and organizing them in a way they can productively use. Another advantage to actively and distinctly posting strategic decisions and issues as you go through a meeting is that it creates a visual aid to manage the conversation. If people get in the weeds when trying to revisit previously-made decisions, you can point them to the decision list to demonstrate it has already been addressed.

Additionally, if several senior participants are struggling to stay on a strategic plane, divide the larger group into smaller sub-groups. Put tactical thinkers together, freeing those ready to stay focused on strategic topics and make progress.

Keep Trying

We’ve suggested various ideas for keeping strategic priorities a focus for executives . We’ve used them all successfully. Yet they won’t all work in every situation. Try them, adapt where you need to do so, and develop your own variations that work most successfully with your group of senior leaders.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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Create the Vision to Align and Engage Your Team!

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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It’s the time of year when it’s easy to look backward and forward at multiple dimensions of your implementation plan.

You have enough time to gain a sense of what’s working. You can look at your first steps and see whether your subsequent steps have been as effective. There is also enough time to still address gaps in your implementation plan to improve results before the year ends.
Download Fast Forward Today!

What are those forward and backward looks telling you about the success of your implementation plan?

  • Are your people rallied around strategic priorities versus daily distractions?
  • Have you engaged key audiences to move forward aggressively?
  • Are you successfully executing innovation initiatives beyond the first big splash earlier in the year?
  • When things haven’t gone as expected, is your organization agile enough to change the direction?

If your implementation plan results are lacking by this point in the year, we have just the thing for you! It’s not too late!

Download our FREE eBook: Fast Forward – Successfully Implementing Your Plan.
Download Your FREE eBook! Fast Forward - Dozens of Strategies to Implement Successfully

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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