Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2
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Short Story: Strategic planning questions that allow people to challenge conventional norms are fun and lead to disruptive thinking, so employ questions to harvest ideas from the wild possibilities.

The other day, someone reached out looking for short, funny, strategic planning questions. We have tons of strategic planning questions, including a few we have singled out as more fun than others. We also have quite a bit on fun strategy planning, including one of our most popular new eBooks, 11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.

The question got me thinking about specific strategic planning questions we use to liven up strategic thinking.

3 Short, Funny Strategic Planning Questions

Thumbing a group’s collective nose (or perhaps raising a prominent finger) toward someone or something standing in the way of pursuing new, innovative strategies always adds fun to a strategy workshop. Here are three opportunities to challenge typical roadblocks to innovation and new strategic ideas:

1. Stick It To Authority Figures

What completely outrageous thing could we do that would be incredible, yet get us into big trouble with the boss?

This is the core creative thinking question for our Shrimp exercise. We have mentioned previously using it to revive a group’s energy. This creative thinking question also helps them move beyond ideas they would typically self-censor in almost any situation.

2. Give Conventional Expectations the Heave Ho

If we did exactly the opposite of anyone’s expectations, what would we do?

This strategic thinking question is on our extreme creativity list. It does a great job of giving people permission to change everything, even if it’s only hypothetical at first.

3. Get around Expectations Because of Who You Are

If characters from The Big Bang Theory were solving this problem, what would they do?

This strategic planning question is an updated, hipper version of one of our favorite creative thinking questions: How would the castaways from Gilligan’s Island solve this issue? Both versions of Change Your Character exercises, they free a group’s perspective and energy to imagine how others would tackle daily issues around your organization.

Wait, There’s More!

These types of questions typically generate a higher percentage of ideas that, on the surface, seem completely ridiculous. That’s why you want to couple them with questions to help mine the ideas for possibilities that you CAN implement. These are a follow-up questions to consider using:

  • What could we take from these ideas (and modify) to apply to our situation?
  • How could we take this idea just as it is to challenge how we do things now?
  • How can modify this idea as little as possible to be able to move on it quickly without losing how outrageous / special / disruptive it is?

Granted, we don’t use each of these funny strategic planning questions in every client workshop. When we do use them, they definitely boost the energy level dramatically. – Mike Brown

 

fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Bold Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning?

Yes, developing strategy 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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Short Story: If a group of experts struggles with innovation, provide an opportunity to look at the situation from the outside to discover mental space to innovate.

I was talking with an engineer at a company that primarily employs engineers. The company focuses on materials testing.

He told me how difficult it is for the organization to consider an innovation strategy. The reason why? The engineers are so accustomed to testing EVERYTHING, they routinely shoot down any innovative ideas. That’s what they are used to doing. When the whole business is built on trying to prove something doesn’t work, I guess it takes you out of the “let’s try something new and innovative and see what happens” game.

I suggested looking at a version of one of our extreme creativity questions: How can we innovate our processes to test things faster than all our competitors? Specifically, how can we test ten products in the time our competitors test two things?

I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, but they’d be better off if they did.

2 Ways to Take a Fresh Look at Outside-In Innovation Strategy

They could also take the outside-in innovation strategy approach we wrote about recently: look at other testing situations ripe for speeding up and solve those. They could then take those ideas and apply them to what they do. It always seems easier and more fun to work on somebody else’s problems and fix them. That is especially true when your expertise is tearing apart what others overlooked in their work!

Additionally, our conversation suggested an intriguing innovation strategy role. He told me how the company had its annual meeting at the same venue two years in a row. At the most recent annual meeting, the bartender was the same as the year earlier. The bartender remarked that all the engineers were sitting in EXACTLY the same seats as at the previous year’s meeting!

While the engineers obviously remembered where they sat (and returned to the same seats), it took an outside observer to point out the bigger message: YOU GUYS DON’T EVER DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY! That story got me thinking: beyond an outside facilitator, who else is witnessing your innovation strategy development over time and can point to what those closest to it will never see, or at least never mention?

If thinking about doing things in new ways is tough for your organization, start looking at an outside-in innovation strategy!  – Mike Brown

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  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

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Download Your Free Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking eBook

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

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Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured a piece called “Two Cheers for Failure in a Tough Drug Industry,” by Jonathan D. Rockoff. The article highlighted innovation strategy options that drug companies are using to instill and support risk-taking behaviors. These companies are trying to motivate researchers facing daunting odds for bringing a drug successfully to market. Rockoff cites odds of 1 in 10,000 for drug compounds to ultimately gain regulatory approval.

The innovation strategy options include cultivating company culture, celebrating failures with parties and awards, and making sure they are failing as fast as possible with sufficient learnings.

4 Ways to Celebrate Risk Taking

While an innovation strategy that suggests throwing a party to celebrate a failed idea seems outrageous, the message from the pharma companies is that it’s smart business. Even if your innovation success rate is dramatically higher, motivating employees to embrace risks vital for innovating can be challenging. It’s chic for gurus to extol embracing failure. Yet, most employees have no track record of seeing peers – or anyone else – fail repeatedly as a pathway to corporate success.

Let’s suspend judgement and see the innovation strategy decisions certain pharma players are introducing to motivate taking risks.

1. Cultivating a Resilient, Innovative Environment

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is targeting both learning and emotion to prompt engagement and risk taking among its nearly 700 employees. In business for nineteen years, it has only one drug in the marketplace; eight more are in advanced development stages. To create broader understanding among employees about embracing serial risk taking amid tough odds, it invites well-known pharmaceutical innovators to share their experiences and practices.

The company also depicts development paths of drugs that have successfully made it through the regulatory gauntlet. They display these case studies in the workplace. To further engage its team, Ironwood asks staff to submit clever early-stage names for products in development. They encourage temporary names that are inside jokes or reflect pop culture interests.

By involving employees beyond its research team, Ironwood personalizes for all staff the challenges of innovating when you expect to meet many setbacks and dead ends. Inviting everyone to name test drugs creates personal investment in products under development, even among non-researchers.

Something to Think about for Your Business: How does your organization create opportunities for all employees to invest in innovation, even if you are not looking for them to generate or develop new product ideas? Just as you might encourage every employee to find the connections between themselves and end customers, how can you encourage them to create closer connections to the innovation centers in your business?

2. Celebrating Risk-Taking Behaviors

The biotech units at AstraZeneca and at Bristol-Myers Squibb each award scientists and researchers for outstanding work. Their awards are independent of ultimate commercialization or lack of it. AstraZeneca hosts an annual event to recognize scientists. The awards, presented at a black-tie event (dubbed the “Science Oscars”) are based on promising work; results are not a factor. The “Bravo Awards” at Bristol-Myers Squibb are similarly granted based on research efforts.

When an organization singles out people for dedicated, positive effort AND successful results, it sends a powerful message. It says the organization realizes successful innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovation depends on ideas and exploration, development and testing, and ultimately, achieving some threshold rate of commercialization. Reinforcing a multi-dimensional innovation process view with incentives and rewards along all phases shows that the company understands the importance of cultivating all aspects of innovation.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Do your innovation metrics track performance from idea generation to R&D, and through business results? If not, what are some smart steps that will expand your innovation dashboard?

3. Letting Go when an Innovation Strategy Isn’t Working

Beyond ingenious names, Ironwood holds wakes for drugs it has tested but killed before reaching the market. The company introduced the idea of a drug wake to allay researchers’ fears related to its first failed drug. With research and development on the drug suspended, employees were dreading restarting their research efforts (at best) or losing their jobs (at worst).

The wakes salute development efforts that extend up to a decade without commercial success. Ironwood now has six in its history; the wakes are integral to helping employees move to new assignments with strong outlooks. Recalling personal experiences and memories conveys appreciation for each innovation journey, even if the desired destination proves elusive.

Organizational behaviors convey whether or not true appreciation exists for risk taking that doesn’t result in bankable ROI. The audacity of throwing a party for what could easily be classified as failures signals confidence in ultimate success, investment in valuing people (beyond exclusively ROI-based outcomes), and a relaxed environment. These send the clear message that support for innovation and risk taking exists independently from market success.

Something to Think about for Your Business: What do your organizational behaviors say about your organization’s risk tolerance? Do you back up communication about the value of risk taking with obvious support and encouragement when individuals and teams pursue new ideas that fail to come to fruition?

4. Failing and Learning

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is training employees to conduct thorough post-R&D analysis. It wants to ensure that scientists capitalize on every possible learning from failed innovation. Embedding the US Army’s “after-action reporting” technique provides a methodology for in-depth researcher interviews to identify themes behind successes and failures. The process turns personal learnings into organizational knowledge.

Something to Think about for Your Business: Are you using every innovation initiative, regardless of its success, to create learnings that make your organization smarter and better? How often are you prioritizing and green lighting higher-risk innovation initiatives that promise disproportionate new learning potential?

What ideas does this raise about your innovation strategy?

Could you identify a couple of areas where pharma companies are supporting risk-taking behavior that would benefit your organization’s innovation strategy? Maybe it’s not a wake for a dead idea, but what else can you mine for an innovation strategy boost? – Mike Brown

 

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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!

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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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What could you do to your boring office so you and others are thinking strategically more readily and effectively?

Someone searched and came to the Brainzooming.com website looking for strategic thinking in the office examples. While we have a post on doing thinking strategically without leaving the office, we don’t have anything on how the physical surroundings of an office can boost strategic thinking.

32 Ideas for Thinking Strategically in the Office

If I were going to outfit an office to boost strategic thinking in a big way, here are things I’d do (and btw, the links below are nearly all affiliate links):

Physical Surroundings

I’d make these adjustments to the physical space:

  • Include a mobile, magnetic white board to draw out ideas
  • Even better, white board paint to make all the walls into white boards (and underneath, we’d apply metal primer so we could use magnets to hold up paper)
  • Paint grids (maybe like graph paper) on the white board walls to organize thinking and ideas
  • Maybe smart board technology (but I’m not quite sold on it yet)
  • A couple large screens to look at data, images, and video
  • Video conferencing equipment (preferably a Telepresence system, if at all possible)
  • Soft carpet to be able to lay on the floor and imagine
  • Make sure there are plenty of windows to look outside
  • Include multiple types of lighting with multiple ways to shut them down in certain parts of the office, but not in the other parts
  • Have fifty square feet of space per the number of people expected to meet for strategic thinking in the office

Strategic Inputs

For strategic jumping off points, there are various things to include:

Supplies and Resources

Here’s my shopping list for resources:

Other Stuff

These are other things I’d want around or available in the office:

Granted, it’s likely everything I spelled out here would not fit in most offices. And there is no way this is a universal list for fostering thinking strategically in the office. What will make thinking strategically easier and more frequent in your boring office will depend on what stimulates your best strategic thinking. – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for a Successful Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value compared to what’s currently available.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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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What types of strategic planning activities are in a strategic thinking workshop?

Readers have been asking this question frequently of late. That this is taking place during a period when many companies are IMPLEMENTING strategies suggests you understand the importance of strategy even beyond initial planning.

As we collaborate with a client to design strategic planning activities for a strategic thinking workshop, we explore various possibilities. The goal is making sure the strategic planning activities we select best match the organization, the objective, and the participants. By adapting the process to the situation, we’re able to help clients develop strong strategies with tremendous time efficiency.

6 Potential Strategic Planning Activities for a Workshop

If you are figuring out strategic planning activities in a strategic thinking workshop, we suggest looking toward six “I” categories as your starting point for the design. These six types of activities include:

Interacting – Meeting, networking and connecting with one another to build or enhance the sense of team among participants.

Informing – Providing background data and context so everyone has the same backdrop for strategic thinking. These activities often happen before a group convenes.

Investigating – Examining a particular situation to ensure the appropriate facts and perspectives are available for strategic thinking.

Insighting –  Identifying breakthrough thinking to open the door to deeply understanding opportunities and threats that strategy needs to address. (And yes, we know Insighting is a made-up word!)

Iterating – Using specific creative and strategic thinking exercises in a sequence to help the group generate many possibilities and ideas.

Integrating – Taking the output from throughout the strategic thinking workshop and putting it into strategic planning outputs. As with Information activities, these often happen outside a group setting.

Selecting the Right Menu of Activities

Selecting the menu of activities for a strategic thinking workshop isn’t haphazard. As we mentioned, the combination of the organization, objectives, and participants leads to the right menu of strategic planning activities. We explore each of these areas upfront to determine what to include.

The next article will take you deeper into each of the six categories with helpful articles to shape a productive strategic gathering.

Have questions about how we apply these activities? Contact us at The Brainzooming Group, and let’s talk about how to create the right menu of activities for your team. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

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

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions


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 facilitated a follow-up innovation workshop for an industrial client. In previous workshops, a large group convened and re-imagined a manufacturing process to improve quality, while maintaining costs and production efficiency. A follow-up workshop moved four of the process improvement concepts into detailed project planning. The aim was creating a series of relatively quick experiments to test the feasibility of each concept.

Straight forward enough, it would seem.

The organization’s leader, however, struggled with one of the concepts. It was not big and bold enough. As the team began implementation, they seem to settle for incremental improvements. The leader wanted to see them broaden and expand the concept’s horizons.

They requested a follow-up innovation workshop to inspire bigger, further out thinking.

A Remedy from our eBook, 321 GO!

We brought two specific inspirations to the innovation workshop: extreme and analogy-based creative thinking exercises. Using these creative thinking exercises, we pushed them to forget (temporarily) what they have been doing and re-imagine the situation from different perspectives. That combo, along with a lot of conversation and drawing, identified six other concepts during the innovation workshop. They picked two to drill down on right now, with four other others in the hopper for later.

Most importantly, the client was happy with the progress and sees the right level of reach from the innovation project team.

There were plenty of take-away lessons for any of us to consider. Here are a few:

  • A leader’s “no” to innovation isn’t necessarily throttling new thinking. It may be that the new thinking isn’t big enough.
  • Where, and how far, you stand away from today has a significant impact on the size of ideas in an innovation workshop. Standing in extreme and analogous positions leads to bigger thinking.
  • An internal team, left to its own devices, can lack the capabilities to push their thinking. In those cases, stopping for an innovation workshop provides the impetus to advance thinking so the team can keep moving.

A client looking for more extreme ideas, finding the right inspiration triggers, and designing an innovation workshop to deliver bigger thinking. All in a day’s work for The Brainzooming Group!

If that sounds like something you need, contact us, and let’s discuss the possibilities.  – Mike Brown

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  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

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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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Suppose your organization is not going in the right direction. You and others on your senior management team are beginning to see that strategic reality. Still, you avoid the difficult conversation where you have to start reimagining the organization as something dramatically different.

How, if you are facing this situation, can you initiate a conversation with strategic thinking questions safe enough to raise the issue?

5 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Reimagining the Organization

Rather than starting by pushing your management team all the way out to a wildly reimagined future, start with where you are now. Using today as a starting point, reimagine specific strategic aspects, one at a time, to initiate the conversation. Here are five “today” areas to reimagine in a future state:

Since each of these questions begins with a grounding in today, it can be an easier transition to start reimagining the future. At the same time, do not completely neglect stretch the senior management team into more blatantly disruptive thinking. You need to do both as part of reimagining who you are as an organization.

If you are a senior executive and are looking for ideas to facilitate this conversation among your peers, contact us. We can suggest more ways to dial in these strategic thinking questions for your organization’s specific opportunities and challenges. – Mike Brown

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swot-alternatives-cover

“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 planning exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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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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