Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2

I was chatting with someone about what to do when someone asks you a question in a meeting. If you are fine with where everything is heading or you’re not sure what to ask, should you simply say you don’t have any questions?

That may seem like the natural answer.

I suggested another one: Go ahead and ask a great strategic thinking question.

It is always better to respond to a request for questions with a question versus saying you are completely set (whether you are or not) and have no need for more information.

In these situations, asking a positive, open-ended question:

  • Suggests that you’ve been listening very closely
  • Puts the attention back on the other person
  • Provides an opportunity for the other person to clarify

The next natural question in our conversation was about what types of strategic thinking questions to ask.

While I think there’s a Brainzooming blog post for this, it was almost faster to write a new, updated list of questions than to find the post. (That’s why having a book of Brainzooming creative leadership ideas all in one place will be so handy!)

21 Strategic Thinking Questions When You Have Nothing to Ask

via Shutterstick

Here are 21 updated strategic thinking questions with varied purposes you can use when someone asks you if you have any questions:

Create More Room to Elaborate

  • Can you talk about that more?
  • How will it work?
  • What is most intriguing to you about the idea?

Seek Additional Background

  • Is that a typical approach that you take?
  • What brought you to that conclusion?
  • What other ideas did you consider before arriving at that?

Explore Potential Impact

  • What are some upsides to this approach?
  • What types of impacts should / can we expect?
  • Did you look at this idea relative to others and their expected impacts?

Identify Opportunities

  • Are there other areas in which we can apply this?
  • What other initiatives could branch off from doing this?
  • What other initiatives could get new life when we introduce this initiative?

Identify Success Factors

  • What do we need to pave the way for success?
  • Who will need to be involved to make this successful?
  • Can we depend on existing capabilities or will we need new ones to make this work?

Understand Previous Experience

  • What does your experience tell you about how this will work in our situation?
  • How have you used this idea in other situations?
  • How does that differ from other things you’ve tried?

Push for More Innovation

  • Is that a new idea / approach?
  • What are other alternatives you considered (or are under consideration)?
  • How does this approach improve on what’s been done before?

Given all that, do you have any questions? – 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’ll be officially celebrating the book’s launch on Monday, July 23 with a live presentation at 11:00 am Central Daylight Time (US). We’re planning to stream it live on the book’s Facebook page.

An Exclusive Free Offer for Brainzooming Readers!

If you purchase your Idea Magnets print or Kindle version right now on Amazon, you can also get a copy of The Idea Magnets Creative Recharge for free. This companion eBook shares strategies that build on the seven strategies in Idea Magnets. It offers fun approaches for recharging your creative energy. To grab your copy, go to and enter your contact information and the Amazon order number from your Idea Magnets print or e-book purchase.

For more details on Idea Magnets, visit and start following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

We’re excited that you are part of Brainzooming family and look forward to benefiting you in new ways with the helpful strategies in Idea Magnets!  – Mike Brown



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 your organization’s strategic planning meetings turn into annual snoozefests?

That happens when strategic planning becomes too complex, gets detached from real business issues, or the whole process focuses on trying to complete cumbersome strategy templates. Then people start dozing off. Later you discover that your strategic planning was more successful at producing ZZZZZZZZZZs than $$$$$$$$$s.

Yes, strategic planning processes are commonly snoozefests, but they needn’t be!

To avoid it, it’s vital to break out of the typical strategic planning process formula where it’s all about the same old people, the same old strategy exercises, and the same old expectations to just get a plan done so it can sit on the shelf with other strategies while the organization keeps doing the same old things.

If you’ve been frustrated in your efforts to challenge the strategic planning status quo, we have good news: There’s hope, and you can change all the bad things about how a boring strategic planning process! There are actually many fun strategic planning ideas that you can start implementing for next year’s planning!

Step one in the process is to download 11 Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning! This eBook has become a go-to guide for thousands of executives globally to explore fun strategic planning ideas. You can use this eBook to enliven strategy meetings through a focus on important business issues, productive strategy exercises, and enough fun to keep EVERYONE engaged in creating a plan that creates success and all those other things that more $$$$$$$$$$s create.

If you don’t have 11 Ideas for Fun Strategic Planning, get your copy 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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I’m heading a team at church with responsibility for evangelization and conversion. Our responsibilities include ensuring our church creates an inviting and welcoming experience for both parishioners and visitors.

Our team gathered before the last Sunday mass this weekend to conduct a visual and experience audit. We used a worksheet supplied by our local archdiocese to perform what they called a visual hospitality audit. We informally extended the audit to include the entire experience, not just the visual cues.

The worksheet was tremendously helpful. It kept our team aligned AND provided a way to see our parish experience with fresh eyes.

Even before we successfully used the worksheet to conduct the audit, we planned to adapt the idea to develop a new Brainzooming branding exercise. It will help brands effectively and efficiently look at their in-person customer experiences.

If you want to adapt the concept to your brand’s in-person customer experience, here are the steps we’re taking to modify it:

To set up our team’s exercise, I prepared a cover sheet advising people to be as much in the background as possible (to minimize the impact of our presence on the observations). It also suggested trying, as best possible, to take on the eyes of specific audiences that need accommodation beyond the typical experience.

Our next step is compiling all the results. It is clear already that the audit form led all of us to new insights. One team member noticed a massive mosaic on the front of the church for the first time, even though he’s been in and around the church for fifty years! That shows the value of this type of customer experience audit approach to allow you to find fresh eyes, even if you have decade of exposure to a customer experience situation. – Mike Brown

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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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I participated in the City Partnership Workshop yesterday at the 2018 Gigabit City Summit. Talking with one city’s representatives about strategies to sell-in a broadband recommendation with voters, they asked whether it is okay to engage its citizens after city leadership develops a recommendation.

My answer?

Engage your audience in collaborative strategic planning earlier than later. If you haven’t engaged them earlier, then do it right now, even if it’s later than what’s ideal.

Aaron Deacon of KC Digital Drive at #GCS18

Here’s the difference between the two options.

If you engage your audience early in the collaborative strategic planning process, you can make a legitimate claim to creating a collaborative vision. You can involve audience members in shaping the vision. You gain insights your leadership group does not possess. You can understand language your audience uses and incorporate it into messaging. Most importantly, you can shape strategies based on integrating audience input during the earliest stages. This opens the door for making strategy creation an experience that many people actively participate in doing versus just learning about after-the-fact.

If you broadly engage your primary audiences AFTER you’ve developed the strategic plan, the nature of the collaboration is very different. It involves more constraints. At that point, you don’t want to create a collaboration environment that needlessly derails solid work leading to the plan recommendation. That means the range of collaboration opportunities narrows. You don’t want to ask extremely open questions that might lead to input that goes beyond the strategy. Instead, you start asking questions about HOW to implement the direction, what might have been MISSED, and what things are CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS. There are other questions you can ask, but once the strategy recommendation is complete, you don’t want to waste time opening doors to non-productive strategy options.

That’s why it’s better to start engaging your audience EARLIER than LATER in collaborative strategic planning, even though later is STILL better than never. – Mike Brown

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“The more bad ideas the better. If you work really hard on coming up with bad ideas, sooner or later, some good ideas are going to slip through.” – Seth Godin (June 19, 2018)

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk (Sometime before June 19, 2018)

You’ve heard it, and maybe even said it, or wished it. Who wouldn’t want to have explicit permission, even encouragement, to routinely make mistakes with your innovation strategy?

An article in The Wall Street Journal addressed this issue relative to baseball and how the strategies many major league baseball teams are using to improve player performance translate to typical office settings. The article focused on dissecting mistakes to learn valuable lessons, similar to the oft-cited trade-off benefit in making more business mistakes: you will learn more things, faster.

3 Ways a Productive Out Benefits Your Innovation Strategy

One section addressed making productive outs: the idea that when making an out, a batter tries to create a benefit for the team in exchange for not reaching base. Digging further, an article from makes an important point tied also making more business mistakes: “Some [baseball] players, seemingly, are attempting to record a productive out rather than just attempting to get on base and avoid an out at all costs . . . productive outs should be something that happen at random . . . they should not be something a player strives for, except in very fringe cases.”

Since we are now in the thick of summer, let’s go with this baseball backdrop to explore how some types of productive outs in baseball shed light on your innovation strategy and potential beneficial impacts:

#1 – Helping Other Good Things to Happen

Baseball Situation: A sacrifice fly involves a batter hitting a ball in the air (with fewer than two outs) and so deep in the outfield that a base runner can safely advance after the ball is caught. The team trades one of three outs for the opportunity to move a runner ahead, creating a score (if the runner is starting from third base) or increasing the likelihood of the runner scoring on a subsequent play.

Generalized Impact: A sacrifice fly creates time and space for other positive actions to take place, even though an important objective (the batter reaching base) is never achieved.

Actionable Learning: A comparable business situation involves regularly employing moonshot projects to boost innovation. A moonshot project is one with a large, far-reaching, and overarching objective that may never be fully realized or expected to directly contribute near-term revenue and profit impact. While ultimate success would be beneficial, it’s not essential. What a moonshot project yields, ideally, are near-term benefits through collaboration and smaller discoveries and innovations along the way. These will enhance revenue, reduce costs, and/or otherwise improve profitability and other business prospects.

Business Impact: How many moonshot projects has your organization attempted in the past year? The past few years? If innovation is lagging, purposefully use this concept to get your team thinking bigger while it throws off smaller, innovative benefits along the way.

#2 – Wearing out the Competition

Baseball Situation: Major league teams go to extremes to control how many pitches a starting pitcher throws in any game. One hundred pitches are a frequent limit. That means that the more pitches an opposing team forces an overpowering starting pitcher to throw, the sooner that pitcher will leave the game.

Generalized Impact: Long-at-bats involving multiple foul balls and/or not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone prematurely exhaust one of the opposition’s scarcest resources. You can hit the first pitch and let the pitcher off easy or battle through ten or twelve pitches and wear him down faster.

Actionable Learning: Translating this idea to business means focusing on what your stance is toward competitive strategies and implementation. This upends the strategy of simply trying to beat out the competition on features and benefits. You can purposefully use promotions, market pilots, and the concentration of your resources in niche markets to attempt to divert a competitor’s attention from its pre-planned strategy and force them to follow you. In some cases, your actions may drive a competitor to expend unplanned focus and resources (both at a premium in most organizations) to match your agenda.

Business Impact: Executives typically think about current competitors and ways to outsmart them. How often do you engage your team in developing and implementing strategies to wear down your competitors’ resources to create new advantage for your brand?

#3 – Stacking the Odds with Controlled Failure

Baseball Situation: Hitting behind the runner is another type of productive out. As an example, if a base runner is going from first to second base, a runner tries to hit somewhere closer to first base. If they execute this well, it makes it more likely that the fielder will throw to first (which is easier), allowing the base runner to safely advance.

Generalized Impact: This play represents controlled failure: an experiment that is designed to yield positive results when it doesn’t work (e.g., produces an out), and even better results when it does (the fielder fumbles the ball and the batter is also safe).

Actionable Learning: In a business setting, you may have various unknowns or untested ideas. You can use this idea and design an innovation pilot, experiment, or test whose primary objective, rather than a market success, is a learning success. Gaining the right new insights is the focus, and if a near-term business success happens to result, all the better.

Business Impact: Is the idea of an experiment designed for learning success a new or a familiar concept in your organization? How can you apply it more frequently?

The Similarities Are Striking

Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, there are innovation strategy lessons galore throughout the game. And for the big fans: what strategy takeaways do you find in the intricacies of America’s favorite pastime? – Edited from Inside the Executive Suite

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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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An executive responsible for strategy planning who was downloading our eBook on 11 Fun Strategic Planning Ideas posed an important question: How can you successfully identify and try new ways to get internal groups working together on strategic planning?

We’re always thinking about increasing the strategically combustible human surface area engaged in strategic planning.


In other words: Brainzooming wants as many smart, diverse people working together as we can effectively and efficiently accomplish on any fun strategic planning initiative.

We tend to find that our ambitions for this exceed that of our clients. (See previous Brainzooming article on the damaging lack of diversity in strategic planning workshops.)

7 Ways Groups Can Collaborate on Fun Strategic Planning

Nevertheless, in answer to this new reader’s question on getting internal groups working together, here are seven ideas we’ve either tried, or would in a minute, to maximize internal collaboration and promote fun strategic planning:

  1. Identify all the potential people involved in strategic planning upfront, nothing those who most need to collaborate
  2. Perform a skills, knowledge, and interests inventory of all your strategic planners, then pair people who complement each other based on the assessment
  3. Create a strategic planning event that includes people from multiple groups and features cross-group activities
  4. Employ an ice breaker where people reveal information they know that is helpful to strategic planning that others will be surprised they know
  5. Use assigned seating to nudge people who don’t work together to at least sit together
  6. Create strategy teams with members of various groups that will need to collaborate to complete their assignments
  7. Make sure each planning group identifies all the departments and people critical to success early on, then require that groups reach out to them BEFORE the planning is done

Implementing even a few of these ideas within a strategic planning process that values diversity and broad participation, will make an impact.

Want to talk more how you can translate this approach to strategic planning? Contact us, and we’ll discuss how we’d customize the process steps and participation opportunities to maximize the impact for your brand! – Mike Brown


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

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.”

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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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