Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 128 – page 128
4

Here are two productive question-based strategic thinking exercises for a broad set of business situations.

“What’s It Like?”

This strategic thinking exercise has you look for analogous situations to yours, going to school on others who are smarter or better than you are in solving similar challenges.

The first step is to identify the characteristics of your situation or challenge, asking yourself the following questions to find ways to generalize your situation:

  • What is this really trying to accomplish?
  • How would I describe this situation in 5 – 7 words?
  • What’s this like in other businesses?

Identify who else faces a similar situation to your generalized business challenge and then use their perspective to identify how they’d address your situation and solve it:

  • Who else faces this?
  • How are they addressing it?
  • What would it be like if we addressed it similarly?

“Where Do We Add Value?”

This strategic thinking exercise focuses on where a business or internal department best delivers for customers. Themes that emerge help to identify areas for near term focus or elimination.

First, answer the following questions. Ideally this would take place in a pre-session survey:

  • What are the TOP 3 things we do that ADD INCREDIBLE VALUE for customers?
  • What are the TOP 3 things we do that DON’T DELIVER INCREDIBLE VALUE because we can’t/don’t focus enough time, attention, and/or resources on them?
  • What are the TOP 3 things we do that ADD LITTLE OR NO VALUE for customers?

Record the answers. Look for themes – areas of agreement & disagreement. Based on the themes that emerge, have your group answer the following questions:

  • For Areas of Current Incredible Value – How do we continue to grow the value delivered to provide even greater advantage?
  • For Areas that Don’t Deliver Incredible Value Because of Limitations – How can we work around resource limitations? What are new approaches to increase value? If we can’t fix this, should we eliminate trying to have an impact in these areas?
  • For Areas Where Little or No Value is Delivered – Is each of these critical? Are there opportunities to exit, eliminate, or re-work these activities? If it’s warranted, what steps can we take to make dramatic improvements in the value delivered?

There are many more strategic thinking exercises, but these two are beneficial ones to apply to common business situations that you may face.

The next post wraps up the overview on strategic thinking by addressing how to turn your efforts into successful results.

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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10

If senior managers are the only ones sanctioned to think strategically, that’s a real problem. A company’s senior team tends to view the world in a relatively homogenous manner – from having shared experiences to holding a common perspective on the company and the market.

Great strategic thinking comes from diverse perspectives, cultivated and managed toward a view of the current & future business environment that increases the likelihood of successful results. Achieving this means spreading strategic thinking responsibility throughout the business.

Here are some fundamentals for accomplishing this:

Keep track of who is thinking and how they think – In bringing people together for strategic thinking, make sure three vital perspectives are represented with people that have:

  • Solid, front-line business experience (to help frame business issues)
  • Broad functional knowledge (with an understanding of capabilities)
  • Creative energy (acting as catalysts to view things in new & unconventional ways)

Take time to think – Set aside time for strategic thinking. This requires a willingness to invest dedicated time to consider a lot of possibilities, to narrow focus to the best ones, and then to develop & implement them. Focused time helps create an environment allowing people to selectively turn off conventional wisdom, triggering many more possibilities.

Use structure to increase output and efficiency – In initial phases, brainstorming rules help to productively manage how people with varied perspectives can increase the number of ideas generated very efficiently. Some starting principles include:

  • Have people say what comes to mind right away, not censoring themselves or others.
  • Use short, intense brainstorming spurts – spend minutes, not hours, considering an issue from multiple perspectives.
  • Emphasize the quantity of ideas over perceived quality or practicality. Set a demanding goal – typically look for 4 or 7 ideas per minute when brainstorming.
  • Say all ideas aloud and write them down on sticky notes with markers; this makes it easier to select, combine, & prioritize ideas in later stages.

These approaches help awaken strategic thinking. If you enjoyed this section, check out our entire Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Manifesto.

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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0

One reason strategic thinking doesn’t take place is that there isn’t a clear understanding of what strategic thinking is. As a result, ill-fated attempts to be “strategic” fall short, creating a reluctance to deal with strategy.

It helps to start with a simple definition of “strategic thinking” to serve as a guide: Addressing Things that Matter with Insight & Innovation.

There are three important elements in the definition that shape great strategic thinking.

“Things that Matter” – Strategic thinking focuses on fundamental opportunities & issues driving the business, not on far away things that are irrelevant to moving the business ahead. To do this successfully, you have to:

  • Understand the Overall Business & Direction – What’s important to the business and its customers – past, present, & future? There are various questions whose answers identify this, but one of the best is, “What are we trying to achieve?” You can always return to this question to re-set a tactic-oriented discussion.
  • Realize there are Various Strategic Viewpoints – What’s strategic can differ on whether your view is company-wide, departmental, functional, or personal. Clearly identify which view your strategic thinking is addressing.
  • Take “Time” Out of Your Definition of Strategic – Strategic issues can take place this afternoon just as easily as in the future; just because something’s years from now doesn’t necessarily make it strategic. If you don’t realize this, you’ll never get to strategic discussions because the pressing issues of the business (which may be hugely strategic) are considered to be tactical concerns that need to be solved right away without a lot of thinking getting in the way.
  • Use Exercises Designed to Help Tackle Challenging Issues – Using the types of strategic thinking exercises we’ll cover later will help neutralize traditional (potentially biased) perspectives, reducing unproductive politics and blind spots that stifle strategic thinking.

“Insight” – Strategic thinking starts with relevant insights. Combine & analyze diverse information from various sources (especially external data) and identify relationships that can lead to dramatic impacts. You can start by assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

“Innovation” – One of the best approaches to project future relevant events is to consider multiple perspectives and think through a full range of possibilities that may develop. Once again, there are simple question-based exercises that can help foster a more innovative look at the business.

There’s the outline for what successful strategic thinking encompasses. Next, we’ll cover elements to help awaken strategic thinking in your business.

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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1

One reason strategic thinking doesn’t take place is that there isn’t a clear understanding of what strategic thinking is. As a result, ill-fated attempts to be “strategic” fall short, creating a reluctance to deal with strategy.

It helps to start with a simple definition of “strategic thinking” to serve as a guide: Addressing Things that Matter with Insight & Innovation.

There are three important elements in the definition that shape great strategic thinking.

“Things that Matter” – Strategic thinking focuses on fundamental opportunities & issues driving the business, not on far away things that are irrelevant to moving the business ahead. To do this successfully, you have to:

  • Understand the Overall Business & Direction – What’s important to the business and its customers – past, present, & future? There are various questions whose answers identify this, but one of the best is, “What are we trying to achieve?” You can always return to this question to re-set a tactic-oriented discussion.
  • Realize there are Various Strategic Viewpoints – What’s strategic can differ on whether your view is company-wide, departmental, functional, or personal. Clearly identify which view your strategic thinking is addressing.
  • Take “Time” Out of Your Definition of Strategic – Strategic issues can take place this afternoon just as easily as in the future; just because something’s years from now doesn’t necessarily make it strategic. If you don’t realize this, you’ll never get to strategic discussions because the pressing issues of the business (which may be hugely strategic) are considered to be tactical concerns that need to be solved right away without a lot of thinking getting in the way.
  • Use Exercises Designed to Help Tackle Challenging Issues – Using the types of strategic thinking exercises we’ll cover later will help neutralize traditional (potentially biased) perspectives, reducing unproductive politics and blind spots that stifle strategic thinking.

“Insight” – Strategic thinking starts with relevant insights. Combine & analyze diverse information from various sources (especially external data) and identify relationships that can lead to dramatic impacts. You can start by assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

“Innovation” – One of the best approaches to project future relevant events is to consider multiple perspectives and think through a full range of possibilities that may develop. Once again, there are simple question-based exercises that can help foster a more innovative look at the business.

There’s the outline for what successful strategic thinking encompasses. Next, we’ll cover elements to help awaken strategic thinking in your business.

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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0

In researching a presentation on cultivating strategic thinking, it’s clear there’s a significant gap between senior management expectations for strategic thinking effort (perhaps 1/3 of the senior team’s time) and what happens (typically less than 1 hour per month, if any time at all, is spent on strategic issues).

Why the gap?

Three potential reasons emerge:

  1. Something is missing – the traditional views (or stereotypes) of strategic planning don’t lend themselves to people wanting to invest time in the activity.
  2. Somebody is missing – strategic thinking is frequently viewed as the purview of senior management, cutting off the diversity of external & internal perspectives needed for effective thinking.
  3. Outcomes are missing – strategic sessions that may be viewed (at best) as interesting conversations, aren’t translated into clear outcomes that lead to clear results.

By changing perspectives, it’s possible to address each of these gaps, and ideally get people throughout your team thinking more strategically. In upcoming posts, you can explore some of the ways to realize these changes and reap the benefits.

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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0

In researching a presentation on cultivating strategic thinking, it’s clear there’s a significant gap between senior management expectations for strategic thinking effort (perhaps 1/3 of the senior team’s time) and what happens (typically less than 1 hour per month, if any time at all, is spent on strategic issues).

Why the gap?

Three potential reasons emerge:

  1. Something is missing – the traditional views (or stereotypes) of strategic planning don’t lend themselves to people wanting to invest time in the activity.
  2. Somebody is missing – strategic thinking is frequently viewed as the purview of senior management, cutting off the diversity of external & internal perspectives needed for effective thinking.
  3. Outcomes are missing – strategic sessions that may be viewed (at best) as interesting conversations, aren’t translated into clear outcomes that lead to clear results.

By changing perspectives, it’s possible to address each of these gaps, and ideally get people throughout your team thinking more strategically. In upcoming posts, you can explore some of the ways to realize these changes and reap the benefits.

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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25

From experience and ongoing business innovation research, there are fairly common situations blocking business innovation across companies. No company has all of  these business innovation roadblocks, but the presence of just a couple of barriers will scuttle the most modest dreams of implementing a business innovation program to create value for customers.

None of these business innovation NO’s are insurmountable, so it’s important to understand what causes each of them and some steps to navigate around them and get business innovation going.

1. NO Knack for Innovation

There simply isn’t an orientation toward business innovation. It may be a mature industry, a company that’s had success with an intense focus, one that’s grown through M&A, or has been burned on previous formal innovation efforts. Whatever the reason, innovation doesn’t appear to be in the company’s DNA.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

2. NO Direction

Without a top-level mandate for innovative change, it’s tough for a business innovation-oriented culture to flourish. It could be that innovation is outside the company’s vision, there’s no upper management champion, or a lack of alignment stands in the way of innovation efforts.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

3. NO Rocking the Boat

There’s an unmistakable signal from management (whether it’s uttered directly or not): “If it isn’t broken, don’t mess with it. We’re not interested in risk taking; let’s just maintain the status quo.” These messages make it clear that good things don’t await those interested in exploring new approaches or trying to do things in different ways.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

4. NO Talent Pool

The company may have convinced itself the right people aren’t in place to make innovation happen. It could be a perceived lack of “creatives” or “outside the box” thinkers. More likely though, it’s a failure to get people with diverse perspectives together and let them work. It’s more about diverse talent not working together than not having the right talent in the first place.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

5. There’s NO Tomorrow

This NO springs from the conviction things will be won or lost in the short term, so there’s little need for long term business innovation development. Or it may be there’s no patience for protracted realization of opportunities. If a business innovation is going to be pursued, it needs to be developed and start paying out by the next quarter. In a challenging business economic environment, this sentiment becomes more prevalent.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

Top

6. NO Resources

As with a “no tomorrow” view, lowered interest in applying resources to business innovation may be more acutely felt right now. The absence of specific resources can be broad, including management attention, available time, and investment dollars. Without these vital inputs, innovation stalls or never takes off in the first place.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

7. NO Motivation to Innovate

Something’s lacking that dampens an internal drive to innovate. It could be an environment that doesn’t promote cooperation, no opportunity to receive credit for your effort, or a lack of other meaningful incentives to bring ideas forward and develop them. The net result is that innovation isn’t happening as naturally as it might.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

8. NO Process

There are instances where innovation appears to emanate naturally from within an organization. Chances are though that it’s been cultivated and developed through a process, even if it’s a relatively small scale and informal one. Without some type of planning and organized means to realize innovation, barriers and bureaucracy can easily block new ideas from coming to fruition.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

9. NO Implementation Success

Innovative ideas and concepts are cool, but only have value ultimately if they lead to successful implementation and deliver benefits for the intended audience. There are various roadblocks to successful implementation, including flaws in how ideas are recommended, prioritized, developed, and marketed to target audiences. With all those potential challenges, it’s a wonder anything new actually takes place!

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

10. No Measures

It’s difficult to sustain a formal business innovation strategy without metrics in place to report return on investment (ROI), showcase positive improvements, and troubleshoot issues. Even earlier in the innovation process, the absence of metrics makes identifying and prioritizing innovation opportunities a shot in the dark. Simply put: no metrics = no hope of long term innovation success.

What Are Some Things You Can Try?

All the best to you in addressing the specific NO’s you face at work that stand in the way of business InNOvation.

If you’d like more information on exploring the personal perspectives you need to approach your whole life more innovatively, you can download an eBook version of “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” It’s a great companion on your mission to bring business innovation to life!  – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading