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“Let’s start with a clean sheet of paper to boost creativity.”

Talking with a potential client about an already-planned innovation strategy workshop, the going-in innovation strategy called for giving participants “a clean sheet of paper.”

We listened to the rationale for adopting an innovation strategy based on broad creative freedom.

In many ways, it seemed to make sense:

  • They are looking for new thinking from a diverse set of participants.
  • They have had success in other situations starting with minimal direction.
  • They are adapting and applying the same format used with the other successes in a new business area.

We countered with our experience-based recommendation: give everyone insights, direction, and structure to generate more possibilities and legitimately boost the workshop’s potential for innovation strategy impact.

The workshop is already planned, so postponing it to readjust the approach isn’t an option.

Putting Something on the Clean Sheet of Paper

Suppose you find yourself in a similar position. You’ve been thinking a clean sheet of paper innovation strategy maximizes creativity. Now, however, you are having second thoughts.

What are the options if you decide to insert some structure and avoid using a clean sheet of paper for your innovation strategy?

clean-sheet-paper

Here are six ways to strategically and productively fill up a LITTLE bit of that clean sheet of paper to maximize creativity:

Letting People Know What’s Important

Operating within Constraints

Sharing Your Innovation Strategy Decision Making

These ideas don’t even begin to address the innovation value of strategic thinking exercises and creative structures to spur innovation.

At least by using any of these six ideas though, you can give any co-creators involved with your innovation strategy just enough direction and structure to help them boost creativity. – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for Ways to Develop 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.

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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At the 2016 Brand Strategy Conference, Antonia Dean, Director – Marketing, Brand Development, & Strategy at The Estée Lauder Companies covered the strategic thinking ideas behind creating an entrepreneurial environment in a large company. In her role, Antonia Dean focuses on incubating acquisitions and top-secret new product concepts.

The charge for Dean’s organization at ELC Ventures is to develop ideas to shake up Estee Lauder and the cosmetics industry. Moving as fast as the company’s fastest competitor demanded an entrepreneurial approach. Her experience has uncovered multiple ideas for how to create newness and build an entrepreneurial culture and spirit within an established parent organization.

Antonia-Dean

16 Strategic Thinking Ideas for Creating an Entrepreneurial Environment Inside Your Company

Dean related her internal entrepreneurship (or “intrapreneurship”) lessons in three areas of strategic thinking: building the team, creating the culture, and defining success.

Building the Team

  • The first step in team building is identifying the rights tasks requiring entrepreneurism. Not all business areas need or want an entrepreneurial approach and the upsides (and challenges) that come along with a cultural force that can run counter to the rest of the organization. If there is not an overwhelming upside to intrapreneurism, do not try to bring those functions into the team.
  • Relative to specific team members, the successful entrepreneurs in an established organization are not necessarily the individuals the organization typically promotes because of following the rules. They are not the people achieving the longest tenure. The people you want in a start-up inside an established organization are always making up their own steps. They possess the talents, determination, and persistence that an organization cannot successfully constrain.
  • A great way to check for an entrepreneurial attitude is to ask prospective team members if they believe in the internal start-up’s cause and what attracts them to it. Ask them to provide concrete examples of when they devised creative solutions.
  • Intrapreneurs need their space in more ways than one. Not only do they need freedom from organizational policies and procedures, it is ideal to get them away physically from the rest of the organization. A separate office is ideal to provide greater latitude.
  • Mix people up across departments and functions. You need to get the right combinations of people working together, not isolated within an area of functional expertise.

Creating the Culture

  • Make it clear and entrepreneurial initiative within a bigger organization is completely different. It’s a great time to ask what about the parent organization was once positive but not persists without providing value or helping accelerate the entrepreneurial cause. Get rid of these things.
  • When creating the new culture, think “lowercase b.” This is not BIG business with the standard procedures. Cultivate a fail fast AND fail cheap attitude. You need to be able to come up with ideas and launch them with little overhead and investment so you do not stick with a bad idea too long because of sunk costs.
  • Enforce a VIP list, i.e., keep participation in the new venture exclusive. Do not let individuals from the main organization attach themselves or intrude unnecessarily, or you run the risk of slowing the entrepreneurial venture’s pace. Over-involving internal experts also leads to sanitizing ideas and adding unnecessary costs.
  • Do not automatically copy your boss on emails about the entrepreneurial venture, just to be safe. Doing so simply takes up time for others and invites unnecessary activities.
  • Extend and shape the culture by going out into the market to experience what is happening. It defeats the purpose to setup an intrapreneurial organization that does not bring in outside influences.
  • Expect turnover in the team. When you are protecting the culture, people that do not fit will become apparent and be gone soon.

Defining Success

  • Adopt the attitude of working “out of the basement.” A strong question to challenge significant resource requests is, “If we were starting this out of mom’s basement, would we spend this money?”
  • Make friends with failure. Accept the bare minimum to move forward and be ready to “fail cheap.” Do not expect or demand perfection when you only need directional answers to be able to keep advancing with an idea or concept.
  • Explicitly redefine success as something different from what success looks like in the parent organization. Put together the success recipe based on learning from failure and moving forward.
  • Repeat this mantra: “Rocky failed, but Rocky won. Embrace failure as a given. WE ARE GOING TO FAIL AT SOMETHING.”
  • Find and embrace the easy answers. You don’t know how to get a UPC code attached to a new product? Google for the answer instead of seeking out the internal expert. Not sure what the right marketing language is? Talk to your target consumers and see what words and phrases they use.

Antonia Dean’s strategic thinking ideas made it clear an entrepreneurial environment will not develop inside your company if you are too clingy to what has worked previously yet has grown stale and bloated. Start new, fresh, and lean, with a true appreciation for moving with speed, persistence, and a thick skin relative to failure!   Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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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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This Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at 1 pm CDT (US) I’ll be appearing on Social Jack TV™ with host Dean DeLisle talking about Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.

Whether personally or organizationally, the desire to be more innovative can run straight into all kinds of barriers, brick walls, and booby traps. Using even just a few smart tools and techniques, however, you can eliminate these NO’s to a successful innovation strategy and move yourself and your organization to innovative ideas setting you apart from the competition. We’re planning to cover innovation strategy for both individuals and organizations., including

  • Some of the most common NO’s blocking creativity and innovation strategy
  • How to benefit from structures and exercises to spur creative ideas and innovation

  • New possibilities to improve innovation strategy successes amid challenges to new thinking and actions

You will be able to call in, chat, or tweet about the conversation before, during, and after the program.

Register here for Taking the NO Out of InNOvation on Social Jack TV!

Let’s have robust participation from the Brainzooming family to create a stimulating conversation on innovation strategy with Dean and me! – Mike Brown

 

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

Looking for Ways to Develop 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.

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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We were working with a team responsible for a highly focused internal process that includes a customer-facing aspect. It’s a high volume, high expectation, and deadline-focused role critical to the company’s success. I noticed several references during our time together about how narrow and targeted the team’s job is.

VERY NARROW AND VERY TARGETED.

As in, “We’ve learned from experience that we don’t want them drug into other tasks they might be able to contribute to if that causes performance and timeliness to suffer.”

targets-out-of-focus

Makes sense.

I get that they need to be targeted in what they do.

The company positions the team in a tactical, critical path role that would suffer with needless distractions.

Based on the breadth of company and customer issues this team sees, however, you KNOW they are teeming with valuable insights. They could address process improvement ideas and ways to increase their impact. All this, even though I’d bet many people mistakenly see them as order takers.

Job Descriptions Don’t Define Innovation Potential

I asked them to engage in some strategic thinking about innovation opportunities for the company. They immediately played back the mantra about how FOCUSED and NARROW their roles are. They used that as a justification for opting out of strategic thinking.

I disabused them of the idea, however, that their narrow job descriptions were synonymous with narrow strategic thinking roles.

We had a quick conversation about generating ideas for the overall brand. I reminded them (in case no one ever had) that they had a HUGE brand role no matter how narrow everyone thinks they are as a group.

Hearing the interaction and ideas they were generating later when I circled back to them, it was clear that all they needed to dive into great strategic thinking was reassurance that it was OKAY for them to do it. After TALKING about them differently, they eagerly shared the strategic thinking insights they couldn’t help but develop.

The Strategic Thinking Lesson?

A description of a job role isn’t identical to the description of how an individual or group can contribute to solid, dynamic, and innovative strategic thinking.

That’s why leaders should be looking for strategic thinking THROUGHOUT their organizations!   Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Employees to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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 my corporate days, I was dispatched to work with competitive companies our corporation purchased. The objective was to help them become better strategic thinkers and marketers.

The ground rule was, however, I couldn’t tell them WHAT to do. Since all the companies competed with one another, each one needed to determine its own business strategies.

When I tell people this story, they chuckle. It seems ridiculous to help a company become better at strategic thinking and marketing without being allowed to tell them how to do it.

While this constraint may seem (and actually be) ridiculous, it shaped how the Brainzooming method developed.

Strategic Thinking Exercises – 3 Responses to New Ideas

Idea-bulb-grid

In planning how we would help these companies, we realized there were three possibilities whenever we asked people to answer a question inside our strategic thinking exercises:

  1. The answer could show their strategic thinking was in the right direction.
  2. The answer could suggest their strategic thinking wasn’t effective in this situation.
  3. The answer could be a complete surprise we hadn’t anticipated.

Each of the three options suggested a potential response from us:

  1. With on-target ideas, we’d cheer them on and encourage more like it.
  2. With off-target ideas, we would say, “That’s great,” and suggest other strategic thinking exercises to re-orient them toward a better direction.
  3. If the unexpected idea was on target, we’d consider it a pleasant surprise. If it was off-target, we’d suggest alternative strategic thinking exercises to try.

What this suggests for you is that when working with a team, you don’t necessarily have to be ready to respond by saying ideas and concepts are good or bad.

You can, however, vary your reaction based on whether you perceive an idea to be good or bad. And if it’s bad, use other strategic thinking exercises to gently bring the ideas back to something smarter and more productive.   Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Improve Strategic Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategic planning and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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

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 can you “do the impossible with nothing”?

That would definitely take extreme creativity!

On Easter Sunday 2016, Mother Mary Angelica, the Foundress of the EWTN Network, the Catholic media organization, passed away at the age of 92. Mother Angelica, although she was essentially silenced by a stroke the last 15 years of her life, was known for her sharp wit, orthodox view of Catholicism, and undying faith that if she were pursuing God’s will, He would supply the knowledge, wherewithal, money, and talents she didn’t have when she started.

Mother-Angelica

Amid non-stop EWTN coverage of her death and reruns of her old TV programs, multiple remembrance shows featured people that knew her well in both a spiritual and business sense.

During one show, a guest shared a message on a piece of paper in an EWTN guest house:

“We, the unwilling, have been led by the unqualified to do the unimaginable with so little for so long, we’re now ready to do the impossible with nothing.”

When I posted this message on Facebook, people immediately discussed it in a political context. It had struck me as an entrepreneurial statement. As a long-time EWTN viewer and listener, however, I knew exactly what the message implied. You must pray, discern God’s will, and take the first step in faith before you know what’s going to happen next. That was clearly Mother Angelica’s formula for EVERYTHING related to the network she started in 1981 with $200 and a TV studio in a garage.

A New Add to Our Extreme Creativity Strategic Thinking Exercises

Thinking about the statement further and the audacity of trying to do “the impossible with nothing” suggested this idea was the ultimate in extreme creativity.

While I would guarantee that beginning with prayer is the BEST place to start, a new extreme creativity question is finding its way into future strategic thinking exercises:

“Where would you start if you had to do the impossible with nothing?”

Why are we adding this strategic thinking question?

Because when I applied the strategic thinking question to The Brainzooming Group, I immediately moved to ideas I had NEVER considered before:

  • Having Emma Alvarez Gibson introduce an all-Spanish version of Brainzooming content and training
  • Doing a crowdsourced “resource raising” to find the talents to help develop the full range of Brainzooming content in exchange for a percentage of future revenue and profits
  • Refusing to schedule meetings before 10 a.m. so I can spend more time in prayer after mass every morning
  • Posting all our content online so people can download it and create custom Brainzooming content that suits their specific needs
  • Solicit someone with incredible online capabilities to take us on as a pet project to demonstrate the upside of creating and distributing a lot of targeted content

Those were all new ideas – some demonstrating more extreme creativity than others.

Given the quickness and high concentration of thinking from applying it, we definitely have a new extreme creativity question for our strategic thinking exercises. – Mike Brown

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

Looking for Ways to Develop 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.

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!

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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Delivering a creative thinking workshop, I was eavesdropping on conversations at five tables full of attendees. I gave each table a specific focus for identifying new ideas. One group was starting to use one of our creative thinking exercises. As they began, one participant apologized for suggesting an idea that he introduced by saying, “This doesn’t fit the question, but here’s an idea.”

I was startled, but his statement is actually common.

Even though creative thinking exercises and strategy questions are intended to help people approach familiar situations in new ways, they can easily become new boundaries to constrain thinking. This happens when people become so focused on answering ONLY the targeted creative thinking question that they self-censor any ideas not directly addressing the question. When this takes happens, creative thinking exercises becomes just that many more boxes to shut down ideas that are off the beaten path.

Clemmie-Box

As I explained to the group (and will explain to future workshop groups), creative thinking questions and strategic thinking exercises are simply starting points to launch new ideas. They should inspire, not limit thinking. Someone in a creative thinking group should not have to justify a new idea that doesn’t answer a specific question. Likewise, another group member shouldn’t use a creative thinking question as a club to beat down a new idea because it appears off track relative to what a group is addressing that minute.

With all the roadblocks to new thinking that float around us all the time, the last thing that should ever happen is for a creative thinking question to be used as one more “NO” to new ideas.

Creative thinking questions should inspire great thinking, not conspire to box it in and limit it.

Make sure to use them for good, not evil! – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact 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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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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