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Extreme-CreativitySuppose you have an opposite strategic situation relative to the one described in yesterday’s article: you have too many extreme ideas you need to determine how to implement.

In cases where you have more extreme creativity than you can begin to implement, you want to be able to turn a really big creative idea into something that can actually move forward.

If you’re trying to create strategic impact, you don’t want to have to abandon a big creative idea because of failing to figure out how to turn it into something you can make happen.

5 Creative Thinking Questions to Harness Extreme Creativity

If you’re facing this issue, try these five questions to re-shape and re-shift extreme ideas back to reality:

  1. If it’s too big or risky to do, how can you break off a small piece and pursue that?
  2. If it’s too dangerous to do, how can you take away the least amount of danger while keeping as much extreme as possible?
  3. If it’s too ridiculous to do, how can you make it just realistic enough to get started implementing it?
  4. If it’s too radical, how can you make it seem not as overtly threatening?
  5. If it goes off in the wrong direction, how can you take a seed of the idea and nurture it so it develops in a valuable way?

Having worked for several creative geniuses during my career, these types of questions were de rigueur for turning their extreme creativity into reality. – Mike Brown

 

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5

Designing a strategy planning session, a client expressed frustration that the leadership team never challenged itself with big enough strategic thinking for the organization’s future.  

As a result, we incorporated a set of extreme creativity questions into the strategic planning session.

Detour-SignThese strategic thinking questions are designed to drive bigger, bolder creative ideas. They provide, in effect, a detour around conventional thinking.

In this instance, faced with a different type of question to answer, the leadership team members didn’t miss a beat and started delivering the unusually challenging ideas they had never articulated previously.

The difference was simply having the leadership team answer new types of questions than it had previously. The group was very open to responding to the strategic thinking questions we posed and could respond appropriately to questions intended to drive bolder ideas.

Asking a Different Type of Question to Drive New Strategic Thinking

It’s clear that the intent behind the questions you ask makes a huge difference in the strategic thinking a group does. Depending on what type of thinking you need from your team, consider these sets of questions.

Remember – if you’re not getting the right types of answers, it could likely be it’s because you aren’t asking the types of strategic thinking questions you really need. – Mike Brown

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you in creating strategic impact for your organization.

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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A couple recent Brainzooming articles highlighted strategic thinking exercises comparing online and offline situations to help better understand, explain, and develop social media strategy.

One article focused on how using a network TV model helps create fantastic content on an ongoing basis. The other article used models for various social networks as a way to understand how and why you approach each of them differently.

Both these articles and the strategic thinking exercises were well received in part, I think, because they compared the relatively new (social media network strategy) to more familiar things (TV networks, campfires, networking events, etc.).

5 Benefits of Using a Strategic Model

Apples-Orange-LOWe’re big believers in the value of models as strategic thinking exercises for a variety of reasons.

A strategic model can:

  • Provide a different perspective on what you do that you can readily consult to freshen your strategic thinking.
  • Allow you to see the impact of ideas you might want to try in an analogous situation.
  • Create an ongoing source of new ideas through examining what new things are happening within an analogous situation.
  • Suggest potential networking opportunities to reach out to non-competitors facing similar challenges and opportunities.
  • Help you to forecast future events based on how older, comparable industries to yours have changed.

The key to finding viable models for strategic thinking exercises is identifying analogous situations, strategic connections, and even apples and oranges comparisons. With a few options, you can pick one or models that work for you most effectively.

What’s your take on using models for strategic thinking exercises? Any success stories you’d like to share? -  Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

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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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Mozilla-Chris-LawrenceThe Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event on February 13 in Kansas City was an incredible day in so many respects.

The Mozilla Foundation launched the event to stimulate proposal submissions for its $150,000 Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund in Kansas City.

The Brainzooming Group designed the afternoon interactive session for the day-long event. Throughout the afternoon, well over 100 participants imagined and described app and technology concepts to improve education, workforce development, digital access, and other areas within the Kansas City community and beyond.

Building the Gigabit City 2.0

With the number and range of participants at the majestic Kansas City Public Library, we recruited an extended team to facilitate six community-oriented tracks.

Our team included a mix of people – some we’ve known for a few months to others we’ve known for decades. All had facilitated, participated in, or tracked the Brainzooming strategic thinking methodology.

The fantastic strategic thinking session facilitation team included:

Mike-Alex-Brainzooming

Mike Brown (l), Alex Greenwood (r), and the Senior Living / Lifelong Learning team at work.

To ensure the facilitation team was ready to help participants work on new app concepts, we prepared a more than 30-page facilitator’s guide. The guide provided overviews on Mozilla objectives, background on each community group, and step-by-step overviews for using the Brainzooming exercises we designed.

Each facilitator brought their own expertise and experience to what we designed to bring it to life. We are so appreciative of everyone volunteering their time to make the event a success!

Strategic Thinking Learnings about the Brainzooming Methodology

Every time other people facilitate a Brainzooming strategic thinking session, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity both through facilitator comments and observing the groups. Among the strategic thinking learnings coming out of the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund session we designed:

  • The session emphasized how outcomes-based the Brainzooming methodology is. We start with what needs to come from a strategy session and design backwards, which creates a strong emphasis on production.
  • The Brainzooming methodology gains speed (the “zooming” experience) by eliminating elements that don’t add to the final output’s quality. That sometimes means participants (and facilitators) don’t get the context they’d like (even though the results suggest they don’t need it).
  • When you are monitoring group process but not facilitating, you rely on different cues. Rather than the content of the ideas, you depend on volume (of talking and of ideas), participant physical activity, posture, and eye contact as the primary signals for intra-session success.

Kudos to Kari Keefe of Mozilla and Aaron Deacon of KC Digital Drive who were the primary contacts Barrett Sydnor and I worked with leading up to the event.

Thanks also go to Alex Greenwood and the team at Alex G Public Relations for their work on, among other things, identifying the ideal spot above to do a video interview showcasing the visual impact of a Brainzooming session.

Building the Gigabit City 2.0 from LINC on Vimeo.

Now, we’re looking forward to seeing the variety of proposals coming forward to compete for funding! – Mike Brown

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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 a Strategic Thinking workshop recently, a participant from the largest business unit of a multinational company asked, “How, when it comes to corporate strategy, can the “tail can wag the dog”?

Put another way, he wondered how his business unit, which feels hemmed in by corporate strategy directives, can better influence or vary the corporation’s direction.

6 Ideas for the Tail Wagging the Corporate Strategy Dog

caymanAnswering his question generated these six ideas. The ideas range from the least risky to the most risky from both an organizational and a personal standpoint:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to outperform expectations even following a sub-optimum corporate strategy (in order to earn the right for greater latitude and experimentation)
  2. Identify new and better ways to deliver on the corporate objectives that stretch the organization in positive ways
  3. Build a rock solid business case demonstrating superior returns from an alternative strategy
  4. Assess what type of strategic change the organization needs and reach out to corporate leaders to make the case for moving forward with a different strategy
  5. Wait out the current direction until it changes, and you can pursue a more targeted strategy
  6. Create a stealth effort to push forward with targeted initiatives

While it seems numbers five and six are wildly different (i.e., one is suggesting “toe the line” and the other is advocating for going against the corporate strategy in a clandestine way), they are both very risky.

If the business unit truly has to sub-optimize to follow the prescribed corporate strategy, it should be a very conscious decision – not the accidental fallout of a strategic disconnect within the organization.

Similarly, making the decision to advance particular initiatives that are right for a business unit but clearly outside corporate strategy may be possible. But pursuing this strategy could be a recipe for huge problems for leadership and the overall organization.

That’s why both five and six, although wildly different strategies, are both very risky. If you decide to go there, be careful . . . very careful! 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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Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is getting all crazy innovative in today’s guest post as he shares how to push for extreme innovation when you need it. Take it away Woody!

 

Creative Thinking Exercise for Extreme Innovation by Woody Bendle

One of the most exciting things to me in the innovation process is generating an array of possible ideas for uniquely solving unmet or underserved consumer needs.

i3-generate-ideas

As you see in the i3 Continuous Innovation Process map above, generating ideas happens AFTER the consumer needs have been identified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you generate new product and/or service ideas before you fully understand all of your consumers’ needs, there is a high likelihood you will waste time, effort and money chasing a cool idea destined to fail.
  2. It is easier to come up with possible solutions to a problem once you actually know what the problem is!

Assume we’ve done our homework and have clearly identified and prioritized all our consumers’ needs based on the magnitude of the opportunity.  The next step in the Continuous Innovation Process is to come up with as many possible ideas or solutions (regardless of feasibility), that might create meaningful new value for our target consumers.

I like starting idea generation sessions with a set of exercises I’ve developed called “Going to Extremes.”  The objective is to break the ice quickly and get the craziest, coolest, far-reaching things you can come up with on the table to start. The more absurd, extreme or ridiculous the idea the better!

go-extremes-exercises

As you begin working with these tools, it is important to frame each exercise in the context of exploring possibilities for addressing only one or two unmet (or underserved) consumer needs.  Narrowing your focus actually works in your favor when you are Brainzooming!

It is important to emphasize you really want to try to come up with 100 (or more) ideas for each exercise.  All ideas are welcome – as long as they are crazy, cool, extreme, ridiculous or even absurd!

In my experience, the best and most innovative ideas tend to be closer to the 100th idea than the first, so keep generating as many ideas as you can.  And don’t judge them, because the next step of the i3 Continuous Innovation Process is where we weed out the ideas that don’t make economic sense.

The Value of Going for Extreme Innovation

After working with these creative thinking exercises for several years, I’ve found them effective for several reasons:

  1. They explicitly make it okay to say something a little (or a lot) crazy. Everyone has a little “crazy” in them, and they now have permission to let it out!  And, Column C reinforces that we’re looking for stuff that is really really crazy, cool and way out there! As a side note, how many times do you suppose Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs or the Wright brothers heard, “That’s crazy!” – only later to hear “This is awesome!” or “This is amazing!”
  2. Because you are going for quantity in addition to the extreme, participants tend not to overthink their ideas in search of that spectacular idea – they just let them rip!
  3. Thinking about the why and the what (column B) highlights functional and emotional benefits which often lead naturally to new, even better ideas for Column C. (Remember that breakthrough innovations tend to be much closer to the extremes than where we currently are. )
  4. Lastly, these exercises are a ton of fun!  Now, who doesn’t need more fun in their life?!

So here is a crazy idea; the next time you are planning an idea generation session, why don’t you give these Going to Extremes Exercises a shot?

And if you need a little added encouragement, let’s give a listen to what Seal has to say about getting a little Crazy.  Better yet!  Play this tune in the background during your next idea generation session! Woody Bendle

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email 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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Over the past month, we’ve been designing a 150-person brainstorming session for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund launch in Kansas City, Thursday, February 13, 2014.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will invest $150,000 in the Kansas City innovation community (with an equal amount in Chattanooga, TN) to support “development, experimentation, and deployment of learning experiences and workforce development opportunities enhanced by next gen networks.”

Brainstorming-FacilitationOur objective for the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 brainstorming session is to build community and imagine concepts for how technology can address needs and aspirations in multiple community segments. These segments include K-12 and higher education, workforce development, digital inclusion, seniors and lifelong learning, and digital making and storytelling.

The scope and detail behind designing and producing a brainstorming session for such a large group is exciting. It’s also something we’ve become known for doing very successfully at The Brainzooming Group, starting with the first Building the Gigabit City event in 2011.

5 Keys for Successful Brainstorming with Any Group

To produce the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of individuals from Kansas City and beyond to help facilitate the Brainzooming session we designed for Mozilla.

Creating the facilitator’s guide for Building the Gigabit City 2.0, I included five keys for successful facilitation. Whether your creative thinking group is just a few people or approaches multiple hundreds, these five keys to successful brainstorming and facilitation for our extended team apply to any group:

1. The facilitator is present to serve the group, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Far better to reach the desired result and be forgotten as a facilitator than to be remembered for being part of the reason a group wasn’t successful.

2. Facilitators should be managing the group for the outcomes, not all the interim steps.

There may be a pre-planned flow to a brainstorming session, but the specific activities are less important than reaching the expected outcomes and deliverables.

3. One of the facilitator’s chief roles is managing and respecting participant time.

By sticking as best possible to the timing guidelines and keeping the session moving, you help create energy, focus, and productivity within the group.

4. You have a unique opportunity to draw out once in a lifetime creative thinking.

This group may never come together again, so this is the only opportunity ever for exciting creative thinking from these individuals as a team. Actively push, prod, stimulate, and cajole the group for more ideas throughout this precious time they are working together.

5. A facilitator is more important for creating “white space” than for sharing ideas.

Depending on how the group is progressing toward answers, cheer a lot, suggest a little, and say what YOU think the answers is only as a LAST resort. Try to answer their questions with questions. The group will get to where it needs to be, only if you give them sufficient room to explore.

What else?

I know we have other facilitators in the audience. What would you add to or subtract from this list of keys to for successful facilitation? – Mike Brown

 

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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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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