Innovation | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4

Short Story: There could be better ways to formalize your organization’s innovation strategy, so ask The Brainzooming Group for ideas (via a FREE conversation) to make sure you consider alternatives!

How do you introduce an innovation strategy for your organization?

Do you start from scratch and unveil innovation as a new initiative with a focused team? Or do you look around the organization to identify where new things are happening, even in informal ways, and roll them into a more overt innovation strategy?

We discussed this question with the head of a business services firm. He wants to focus greater attention on innovation within the organization. His goals are to ensure innovation is a driver in maintaining the firm’s strong growth. He also is looking ahead to potential disruptions in the organization’s industry, trying to position the organization for success.

Take Credit for Everything New within Your Innovation Strategy

In a pre-meeting discussion and during our conversation, several innovations from the past several years emerged. These included new revenue lines and process improvements. They have done some great work. While it may not be completely coordinated or have produced dramatic revenue gains, they have steps in place for management team members to surface ideas, develop business cases, and secure approval to move forward with them.

Despite these apparent innovation strategy successes, he wanted to create an innovation team distinct from what they have previously done. The team’s charge would be to generate more substantial innovative ideas to drive disruption and top-line growth. The innovation team activity would be focused on a day-long event to do its work.

Our counter strategy, based on the organization working from a combination of previous success and future aspiration, is for them to take credit for EVERYTHING that looks like innovation in the past few years. This includes:

  • Innovation champions that identified fresh opportunities
  • New service lines and revenue streams they introduced
  • A rebranding initiative
  • Award-winning process improvements
  • Anything else that remotely fits an updated, more formal innovation strategy

My other suggestion was to integrate the innovation strategy into the firm’s overall strategy, raising it to the level of a strategic initiative.

What are the advantages of a backward-looking innovation strategy?

It recognizes an innovation strategy as:

  • Something familiar with the potential for greater impact
  • Part of the fabric of an organization looking for inspiration to innovate more dramatically
  • A part of the firm’s culture that has both internal impact and the potential to deliver significant value for clients

It is still early. I’m not sure they will get behind this approach or even work with us if they do adapt it. Either way, though, their smartest move is to forego an innovation day for an innovation strategy.

There Are such Things as Free Ideas!

By the way, the ideas we suggested for them were all part of a FREE initial conversation to understand what they are trying to accomplish. As much as we ask questions, listen, and take notes, we can’t help challenging current thinking and offering ideas right away.

If you’re an executive exploring a fresh look at strategy (whether organizational, branding, innovation, marketing process improvement, or just about any other type of strategy) and would benefit from a thirty-minute FREE conversation to provide you fresh ideas, contact us at The Brainzooming Group, and let’s talk! – Mike Brown

Facing Innovation Barriers? We Can Help!


Are you facing organizational innovation barriers related to:

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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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How are you boosting your creative thinking skills in dramatic ways for 2017 and beyond?

If you haven’t thought about it, fortunately for you, there is an opportunity coming up April 2 through April 9, 2017! It features forty-five creativity and innovation experts! And it’s available online and FREE!

The Innovation and Creativity Summit 2017 is a virtual event running from this coming Sunday through the following Sunday. Your FREE registration includes access to at least forty-five all-new interviews with global creativity and innovation experts.

Register TODAY! FREE 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit Virutal Event

Nick Skillicorn, blogger and host of the Idea to Value podcast, is the host for each interview. The featured experts include several Twitter friends I’ve never had the opportunity to see share their ideas in person, including:

  • Alan Iny– Head of Creativity at Boston Consulting Group
  • Jorge Barba– President at Baja California Innovation Cluster
  • Paul Sloane– Author of Think like an Innovator
  • Gregg Fraley– Author of Jack’s Notebook
  • Holly Green– Founder ofThe Human Factor

Other interviewees include:

  • Karen Dillon– Former editor of Harvard Business Review, Co-Author of Competing Against Luck
  • David Burkus– Author of Under New Management & Myths of Creativity
  • Max McKeown– Author of The Innovation Book
  • Ralph-Christian Ohr– Founder of Integrative Innovation

I neglected to mention: I’ll also have a segment in the summit talking about the value of strategic detours for boosting creative thinking skills throughout strategic planning.

Register TODAY! FREE 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit Virutal Event

Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity! Register in advance, and you’ll receive updates with the FREE video interviews released for that day of the 2017 Innovation and Creativity Summit.

We’re looking forward to you joining and learning new innovation and creative thinking skills from all these great experts! – 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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In nearly every instance, we spend time with a prospective client discussing three aspects of their strategic planning process needs:

  • What they think they want to achieve
  • What they need to achieve
  • The best way to make it happen using our collaborative process.

Do you see your organization in any of these three current conversations we are having with prospective clients?

Conducting a Strategic Planning Process with a Certain Framework

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We’ve sold-in a specific strategic planning process methodology, so that’s the approach we need to take.”

What they need to achieve: They need to deliver a plan with the framework their leadership has approved, but still make sure it’s collaborative and engaging in a way their strategic planning process never has been previously.

The best way to make it happen: We’re proposing arranging our strategic planning exercises within the framework they have already advanced. Rather than having a Brainzooming stamp on the steps, we’ll morph our approach to work within what they client wants to see happen.

A Small Innovation Team Is the Way to Introduce Innovation

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We think the answer is to get an innovation team together and have them come up with new ideas.”

What they need to achieve: Instead of innovation seeming like a disconnected initiative, we recommend they integrate innovation with:

  • Successful new service lines they already introduced
  • Existing ideas that haven’t advanced
  • Current strategic initiatives already underway

The best way to make it happen: We’re early in the conversation, but we suggested casting a wide net to incorporate work they’ve already done into innovation. Rather than looking at innovation as a “team,” we expect the success they want will come from greater collaboration, a team to move it forward, and a process that makes innovation sustainable for years ahead.

The Struggle Between Major Decisions and Collaboration

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We have some major decisions to make about the company’s future, so we need to limit the planning to just the immediate leadership team.”

What they need to achieve: They clearly need to wrestle with major issues only appropriate for a small top management group. Yet, to advance in a way that sets them up for success with the big decisions, they need to involve a broader team of employees in strategic planning and implementation.

The best way to make it happen: We recommended a two-pass strategic planning process. The first pass will only include the senior team and vary the steps to create a closely-held implementation strategy for the biggest strategic issues. We would then make a second, more typical looking collaborative planning sweep across a much larger part of the organization.

Are any of these situations familiar?

We tackle these and whole host of other issues as we work with each prospective client to identify the most effective and efficient way to introduce a strategic planning process into an organization.

If you’re looking at boosting the impact of your organizational strategy, let’s get on the phone and discuss the best way to make it happen for your brand! – Mike Brown

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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.

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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 you want big ideas, ask the big questions, which is what extreme creativity is all about!

By Friday night, we’ll know the Elite Eight in NCAA college basketball. These eight teams that will vie Saturday and Sunday to play in the national championship basketball game the following week.

Keeping with the eight theme, here are eight new questions from the Brainzooming R&D Lab to boost your creative thinking skills.

There are two extreme creativity questions to stimulate breakthrough ideas from four perspectives: Aspiration, Authority, Disruption, and doing More.


  • What would our goals look like if we 10x’d all of them?
  • How will we solve everything that has seemed impossible for us to do previously?


  • What are the stupid unwritten rules in our industry we must upend right away?
  • What internal policies and procedures should we start ignoring immediately to innovate faster?


  • What can we purposely break to force cutting all ties to how we do things now?
  • What can we do to totally befuddle our competitors, creating chaos and inaction?


  • How can we double our innovation capacity by end of day tomorrow?
  • What can we do to be 10x faster than we are now doing __________? (Fill in whatever area you need greater speed)

Creative Thinking Skills and Breakthrough Ideas

To develop these questions, we revisited our original source for Brainzooming extreme creativity questions: Peter’s Laws. I saw these principles, subtitled the Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive, in a New Orleans poster shop.

I bought the poster because the rules closely match how the creative geniuses I’ve experienced approach business. For people struggling with working around these individuals, I thought the list would help them better understand their strategies.

After launching The Brainzooming Group, I revisited Peter’s Laws, turning them into questions to inspire extreme creativity. This exercise produced my biggest personal insight about creative thinking skills: When you need huge thinking, don’t ask for big ideas; instead, use big questions to cultivate extreme creativity and breakthrough ideas.

The strategy works tremendously well. That is why I share our original list of extreme creativity questions in nearly every Brainzooming strategic and creative thinking workshop. In a recent workshop, one attendee stated he didn’t have the creative thinking skills to produce wild ideas. He wondered how he could get them. I smiled and said, “Man, do I have a technique and the questions for you!” – Mike Brown


Find New Resources to Innovate!

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Accelerate-CoverYou know it’s important for your organization to innovate. One challenge, however, is finding and dedicating the resources necessary to develop an innovation strategy and begin innovating.

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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: Look for specifics and things that people can actually do or perform to move creative thinking into action.

How do you move from creative thinking into action?

That was a persistent question during a recent Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop that also included a heavy dose of content on creative thinking. Two of the client’s senior staff members said this was a question they expected us to answer during the strategic thinking workshop. They also wanted a sense of when and why you should think creatively. Specifically, one wondered whether a problem is necessary as a precursor to creative thinking.

I loved the questions. They signaled these two guys had likely been through similar workshops touching on creative thinking that were big on creativity and light on applying the ideas to daily work.

Their qualms about applying creative thinking are familiar. Working in a B2B marketing environment, I had to develop a knack for applying creativity quickly directly to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities. We did not work in an environment with tolerance for a fun creative path that didn’t deliver real world answers expeditiously.

Does there have to be a problem to justify creative thinking in a work setting?


The workshop participant asking about creativity and problems was persistent. I changed the workshop’s flow to answer his question early, using a chart we previously published and regularly use with clients. It helps assess how broadly an organization perceives a need for improved results compared to its frustration with the status quo.

Placing your organization on the chart helps identify how you apply creativity and the related expectations for your efforts. In the lower right quadrant, creativity is likely first applied to helping the organization realize the need for change. As you build that understanding and hope for improvement, you shift creativity toward exploring what it will take for a better future. If your organization is starting in the upper right though, you can apply bigger creative thinking right away toward transformative ideas for bringing about dramatic change.

Turning Creative Thinking  into Action


When it comes to shifting from ideas into action, that’s where everything we’ve published over the last several years about implementation, project management, and creating strategic impact comes into play. That work is oriented toward preparing and activating an organization to act on creative ideas.

Addressing the specific workshop query about how to move creative thinking into action, I shared five questions you can use to push a group more fascinated with ideas than acting toward specific tactics:

  • What will it take to accomplish this?
  • What are the first actions it will take to move forward?
  • Can you identify a specific individual that will have responsibility for implementing this?
  • What would you walk out here and do based on what we’ve talked about here?
  • What verbs (that demonstrate what people will do) are the first words for the tactics to make this happen?

These and comparable questions help curb coming up with more questions to push for the specifics leading to action.

And in case you were wondering, my action-oriented friends walked away from the Brainzooming strategic thinking workshop satisfied we gave them the types of help they were looking for at the start! – 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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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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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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