3

We’ve certainly covered the heck out of how bad bosses, toxic cultures, and negative comments can crush creative thinking and creativity. These all dampen creative thinking because while ideas are in the awkward stage when someone has just envisioned them, the last thing you need is to attack them because they are outside the norm or aren’t fully-formed.

What you might not consider, however, is how an uber-positive boss that is TOO OVER THE TOP when communicating how great early stage ideas are ALSO CRUSHES creative thinking.

Here’s an example.

Creative-Thinking-Bouquets

Suppose a team is charged with doing the creative thinking to generate new ideas for an initiative. Sometimes the ideas are developed collaboratively; other times, ideas are shared one-on-one with the boss.

In a group where it is understood that creative ideas are considered works in progress, supportive comments from the boss are helpful to further creativity. Ideas that build on original ideas are beneficial. Creative thinking that removes or reshapes initial ideas is okay because team members understand an idea’s origin and can offer creative adaptations in a smart, supportive way.

When creative possibilities are shared individually with the boss, however, team knowledge about new ideas is limited. All you know about the idea is what the boss communicates back to the group. If an uber-positive boss shares only effusive praise for a new creative idea, it is challenging to for someone else to say, “That idea doesn’t make strategic sense,” or “There are other possibilities for that idea that you didn’t consider.” Sure, you can step out and offer these perspectives. But when uber-positive praise from the boss makes it seem as if the weak idea is the best creative idea ever, trying to actively adapt the idea can be, in the best case, a big challenge, or, in the worst case, seen as trying to sabotage someone else’s creative thinking.

5 Ideas When an Uber-Positive Boss Crushes Creative Thinking

A better approach as the boss is, when sharing the idea with the full team, to:

  1. Introduce the creative idea
  2. Credit the idea’s originator
  3. Remark positively on the idea’s possibilities and potential to grow and develop
  4. Share the idea’s status (i.e., it’s open for consideration all the way to it’s a done deal)
  5. Invite team members to comment, build on, and adapt the idea with their own creative thinking

These five steps help a boss be positive about a new creative idea while still creating room to allow other team members to provide their unencumbered creative thinking.

If you’re the boss, be positive about new creative thinking without going overboard. Doing this will encourage your team’s full collective strategic and creative thinking potential. – Mike Brown

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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. 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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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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The previous Brainzooming article was on listening for strategic insights in order to not waste strategic conversations. If you understand the types of information you need to develop a strategic plan, you can often get a jump start on completing it simply by listening closely to strategic conversations for valuable input.

This is the flip of that post. If you have the right people present, and they are in a chatty mood, how can you morph the gathering into a strategic conversation?

One way is by introducing strategic thinking questions that steer meandering conversations into strategic conversations.

9 Strategic Thinking Questions to Start Strategic Conversations

Strategic-QuestionMark

Here are nine strategic thinking questions to try and spontaneously generate strategic conversations:

  1. What do we want the result to be?
  2. What will we need to get started? (You can direct this strategic thinking question to consider resources, people, ideas, support, etc.)
  3. What would be the first steps to take?
  4. What has to happen after the steps we’ve identified to ________? (Fill in the blank with “maintain momentum,” “get ongoing support from the people who will need to support this,” and “be ready to implement it when we’re done”)
  5. How will we know we’re successful at each step along the way?
  6. How will the most important audiences for what we’re doing judge if we’re successful along the way?
  7. What things can stop us dead in our tracks at each step?
  8. How do we manage around those things that REALLY seem insurmountable?
  9. What absolutely has to be in place for us to be successful overall?

Along with introducing these questions to steer strategic conversations, apply the listening routine from the previous article to identify the right snippets you’ll need to turn strategic conversations into strategic plans. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved 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 strategy 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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I don’t have statistically validated data for this claim. I’d be comfortable speculating, however, that a high percentage of productive strategic conversations are wasted.

What do I mean by “wasted” strategic conversations? Those are conversations where no one is actively listening and capturing important ideas and information in ways those participating in the strategic conversations (and others) can use them later.

MAYBE one or more people in a strategic conversation happen to remember what was discussed. Perhaps someone took a few notes. The notes were probably captured, however, in chronological order (i.e., this was said and then this was said), and shared that way. Chronological notes, however, rarely add as much value as they might because productive strategic conversations don’t typically take place in an order that directly supports decisions and actions.

Strategic-Conversations-Thought-Pad

Here’s an alternative approach we use all the time during strategic conversations:  listen for specific types of comments and organize them as you go (or after the fact) into strategic deliverables.

For example, before a strategic planning workshop started the other day, an internal client leader held court with the project team. They discussed a large process graphic we were about to address. The strategic conversation was incredibly rich. It had great potential for shaping the foundation for our strategic planning. That was only true, however, because we knew what to listen for amid a lot of extraneous information and idea sharing.

12 Things to Listen for in Strategic Conversations

What types of information should you listen for amid strategic conversations? Here are 12 types of input we captured during the pre-planning conversation:

  1. Things that “matter” for the organization or initiative
  2. Aspirations the organization has for changing its current path
  3. Expectations for what a strategic initiative will include or deliver
  4. Numbers defining the size of the effort or quantifying its potential benefits
  5. Speculation about strengths and weaknesses the organization faces
  6. Facts about the current situation
  7. Factors influencing the initiative’s success
  8. Challenges standing in the way of progress
  9. Descriptions of potential objectives and metrics
  10. Organizational beliefs and biases
  11. Specific innovative ideas the organization wants to pursue
  12. Criteria that will shape decision making

Simply by having a plan for what we would need later during strategic planning, we were able to turn what could have been a wasted strategic conversation into a huge head start in completing our work.

Next time you are involved a strategic conversation, quickly assess what you need from it and start listening for valuable strategic nuggets.  Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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Sometimes you think you know best, only to find later that you have absolutely NO clue.

As an example, I wrote some time back about the “Shrimp” creative thinking exercise we included during a creative thinking workshop for a regulated financial services company.

The point of the Shrimp creative thinking exercise is to generate ideas that will get you in all kinds of trouble with whatever authority figure is most responsible for telling you can’t do any wildly creative ideas. After you push the thinking to as outlandish and dangerous a point as possible, you roll the ideas back to where they are once again doable. The net result is you’ve shaped ideas in ways you never would have considered absent a specific invitation to take it to your most dreaded authority figure.

Rethinking the “Shrimp” Creative Thinking Exercise

So back to what I have no idea about when it comes to Shrimp.

image

Typically I cover Shrimp at the end of any workshop where we are teach strategic thinking exercises. Part of the reason is that when using Shrimp with clients, this creative thinking exercise is slotted near the conclusion when many “small” ideas serve as starting points for the exercise. Because Shrimp is a three-stage creative thinking exercise, however, it’s nearly always one of the first to get cut from the planned agenda. Its three stages take longer to complete and when time is precious, it often seems more like a “nice to have” than a “must have” exercise. The net of it is that we rarely use OR teach it.

Lo and behold, however, the post workshop evaluations at the financial services company showed that a number of individuals singled out Shrimp as particularly usable to help them come up with ideas!

It was no surprise that it worked, but I never expected it to be the most mentioned.

So as I said at the start: sometimes you think you know best, only to find you have no clue!

I’ll take my learnings from this workshop and start making sure we include Shrimp in our next few workshops where it fits. We’ll see if other audiences are interested in it too.  Mike Brown

Need help guiding your team’s creative thinking for innovative product ideas?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookDo you need to take better advantage of your brand’s customer inputs and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? With the right combination of perspectives from outside your organization and productive strategic thinking exercises, you can ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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What do you do when things aren’t working as planned?

Panicking or shutting down and not trying something different doesn’t work when all eyes are on you.

You have to be ready to try something else, but what?

7 Strategic Thinking Questions When Things Aren’t Working

When things took an unexpected turn the other day, I mentally flew through various strategic thinking questions trying to comes up with ideas to adjust what we were doing.

Wrong-Way

While I didn’t start with a formal group of questions, here are seven strategic thinking questions that helped me quickly identify potential changes to the plan and settle on the best possibilities:

  • Is there something that IS working that I can work with more?
  • Can I take something else I had planned and use a piece of it to fit the new expectation?
  • Is it possible to scrap everything planned and start over again quickly?
  • Can we jump ahead to something already planned?
  • If we go with a different plan, how can I contribute to furthering progress toward our objective?
  • Does someone else have a better idea than I do?
  • How can I convince everyone else to go with my better idea?

Yes, it can be scary to find yourself in a new situation where the usual things aren’t working. For more on that, see this Brainzooming blog post on getting outside your comfort zone.

When you have solid planning (maybe even over-planning), good strategic thinking questions to identify ways to adapt, and an appreciation for flexibility, unexpected events become a wonderful opportunity for learning and developing. – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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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We’re developing a workshop on creative thinking techniques for a B2B salesforce in a few weeks. Reviewing the attendees’ pre-workshop surveys on their expectations, personal learning objectives, and needs for creative thinking development, they mentioned “thinking outside the box” and “how to get out of my comfort zone” frequently.

Quite honestly, we don’t use those phrases much. I guess I think of them as what people say about creative thinking when they don’t have anything more substantial to say. They are creative thinking aspirations seemingly devoid of ideas for making them happen.

Despite that, I’ve been thinking about ideas for how to get out of your comfort zone.

Orange-BeanBags

How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I think too much about a topic, it often leads to a matrix to think about possibilities. Thinking about a comfort zone as some combination of proven skills and how comfortable your current situation is led to the matrix below.

If you buy the premise behind this matrix, your options for getting outside your comfort zone come down to either learning new skills or pushing beyond the same old situations that feel safe.

Going the learning new skills route leads to questions such as:

  • Do I go deeper in learning more about the skills I have?
  • Should I branch out into learning about new areas related to what I do?
  • Do I take a complete “walk off the ranch” and learn about something that has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done before?

(If I’m looking to go this route, learning about dance choreography would be at the top of my list for “walk off the ranch” learning. I don’t understand dance at all, but find the idea of choreographing it very intriguing. I’m guessing there would be some valuable learning there.)

If you decide to pursue new situations, those questions might include:

  • What are completely new opportunities to pursue?
  • Are there different venues for doing what I do that I haven’t considered previously?
  • Are there either personal or business bucket list items waiting for me to show up and do something about them?

151116_Safe_to_Scary

Facing an “Immerse or Fail” situation?

Thinking about all this had me considering the upper right quadrant. That’s my worst nightmare quadrant, although I can name a number of occasions in the past few years where I’ve planted myself in the upper right on this matrix.

If you find yourself (or put yourself) in an uncomfortable situation where you need to call upon untested skills, what do you do?

Beyond immersion, there are a couple of options to get your feet back on a little more solid footing:

151116_Scary_to_Safe

Back of the Napkin “How to Get Our of Your Comfort Zone” Ideas

This is a first pass as these ideas to help flesh out our possible content for the creative thinking workshop.

How would you adapt this thinking to improve it? – 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 you 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. Email 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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Great branding strategy examples abound. You just have to be on the lookout for them when they come across your path.

We were in St. Joseph, MO for a client session. The highlight of the car trip was driving by this ice cream stand, Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats. Can you believe how cute this place is? Although the sign outside said it is closed until March, a stop on the way back through town was mandatory to get a few pictures.

Kris-Kate-Ice-Cream-Treats

It was only after pulling into the parking lot at Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats on the return trip that something even more incredible than the building’s design jumped out: the best brand promise ever.

“If you can think it, we can make it.”

Brand-Promise

I don’t know if Kris and Kate’s Ice Cream Treats thinks about this as a brand promise, a slogan, or something else. It really doesn’t matter, because it is the best brand promise ever – and not just for an ice cream stand in St. Joseph, MO.

If your organization specializes in one particular area, your branding strategy discussions should include the question: “If our customers can think it, can we make it?”

If that were your organization’s brand promise, what would you have to do differently with your branding strategy when it comes to:

  • Responsiveness?
  • Flexibility?
  • Your commitment to figuring things out?
  • The ability to anticipate your customers?
  • Being ready for unusual requests?
  • Having resources in place to act?
  • Support organizationally for improvisation?
  • Support and guidelines instead of rules for employee behavior?

It gets pretty dizzying in a hurry!

But wouldn’t the ability to do these things make your brand promise be the best brand promise ever?

I think we just stumbled over our newest brand experience exercise!  – Mike Brown

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved 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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