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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

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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!

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

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

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.

Download Your Free

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 put this infographic together for a client today to distill The Brainzooming Group approach into a few images depicting what we do to pave the way for a great strategic thinking workshop.

6 Guidelines for a Great Strategic Thinking Workshop

Strategic-Thinking-Workshop

If you would like to go deeper on any of these topics, here are links to articles for each of the six areas:

Here’s to a productive and great strategic thinking workshop – not only today, but every time you bring a smart group of people together! – Mike Brown

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

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.

Download Your Free

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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Whenever possible, we try to help clients select a mix of people to participate in group strategy exercises. We review the importance of including front-line decision makers, functional experts, and individuals with creative perspectives. We are also proponents for reaching beyond familiar people that are always involved strategic planning meetings and drive the outcomes of group strategy exercises. We recommend involving emerging leaders and individuals that will actively challenge a group in a constructive way on its recommended direction.

When you push for that varied of a group, what do you do with the team members so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group’s work?

9 Ideas on How to Involve a Team in Group Strategy Exercises

Group-Strategy-Exercises

You can try these nine ideas for how to involve team in group strategy exercises:

  1. Place people in roles that accentuate their strengths and best characteristics.
  2. Assign others to roles that stretch their strengths in new ways.
  3. Spread people throughout the group via roles that capitalize on their strengths but are unfamiliar to them.
  4. Turn strategy into a game and let the team assign roles to specific team members.
  5. Create teaching opportunities for more expert participants so they can help others grow and develop in new ways through strategy planning.
  6. Break up the big answers the group is trying to develop into simple, targeted questions so team members can share their perspectives in group strategy exercises.
  7. Invite participants that want to help assemble the targeted answers from number 6 into the big answers to take on that challenge.
  8. Have habitual naysayers play the challenger role to test how strong the ideas really are before the group decides to act on them.
  9. Select naturally positive participants to work on a contingency plan if the strategy ends up being too successful.

Not all of those will work in every situation, obviously, but this is a checklist we’d use to actively and successfully involve a team in group strategy exercises. In the right roles, we’ll get more done faster, with strong input from the widest group of participants.  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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Here’s a brief video produced by SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, where I talk about four easy ways for companies to boost creativity in the workplace without taking a lot of time to do it. The key to efficiently boost creativity in the workplace is through introducing idea-rich questions and statements into daily business conversations.

We shot the video after I delivered our presentation on Taking the NO Out of Innovation at the 2015 SEMA Convention.

This video was one of a series of presenter videos on the SEMABizTips video channel.

Orange-Pickup-Truck

My favorite expression of creativity at SEMA!

4 Tips to Efficiently Boost Creativity in the Workplace

If you want to go deeper on how statements and conversations can help you efficiently boost creativity in the workplace, here are the four supporting Brainzooming articles for the video that you can explore:

Mike Brown

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

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.

Download Your Free

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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When individuals download our free Results!!! mini-Book, we ask a question about the biggest strategy implementation opportunity or challenge the individual is facing in his or her organization. One reason for asking the question is to identify organizational change topics we can address here.

Someone downloaded Results!!! and listed “unfreezing (a) team, moving forward, and preparing for growth” as the strategic task at hand. The clarity and directness of this strategic challenge prompted me to assemble this list of organizational change articles focused on these three areas.

Unfreezing a Team

Unfreezing a team begins with identifying the strategic path from where an organization is to where it needs to go and eliminating roadblocks along the way.

Unfreeze-Team-Opus

Moving Forward

Whatever the hesitancy to innovate has been, unfreezing a team involves identifying and launching the steps (even the small steps) to make progress.

Preparing for Growth

Preparing for growth involves using today’s resources to aggressively build for a bigger and more robust future.

Keys to Organizational Change and Innovation

We’re exploring new ways to package Brainzooming content to address reader and client business opportunities and challenges. Look for more of these types of compilations to help you go to school quickly on business situations you face.  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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Continue Reading