Analysis | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4

Final-ReportPreparing the final report for a long-term client engagement, I revisited our project management techniques relative to what goes into the document. Certainly The Brainzooming Group has nuances regarding how we conduct and create the final report for a strategy session we facilitate. Our new and reconfirmed project management techniques for closing out big projects, however, will be valuable to you when you are on the hook to prepare a final report of your own.

5 Final Report Success Tips

1. A final report is about the valuable output, not all the inputs

The important part of a final report is the set of recommendations from the project effort. While individual ideas generated along the way may have been interesting, their value as standalone ideas is secondary if they were not incorporated into the recommendations. While this is not surprising, there is still a part of me that struggles with not including all the ideas we had along the way into the final report for whatever value they may have in the future. Slowly, however, I am getting over this.

2. Do not waste too much time working out of sequence on the final report

Preparing the final report of a project that is complex will not necessarily happen in sequential order. If you are stuck trying to work on the beginning of the report, your inclination may be to start skipping around between sections to make at least some forward progress. As a project management technique, that is worth a try, but resist the inclination to skip around too much. Instead, settle on the section you think you have the best chance of advancing and focus on pushing that section of the final report forward for an extended time. Doing this lets you build momentum in a way that skipping around will not.

3. Print the final report draft and spread it out

When you have a big final report document underway, it is possible you will only be able to go so far organizing it onscreen. This is especially true if you need to make significant changes to move the final report of the project toward completion. If you find yourself staring at the screen for more than ten minutes unable to make a move to rearrange it, print the document (or at least a section of it) and use a paper copy you can spread out, reorder, and discover a better way to organize it.

4. Some final report sections may not fit and aren’t worth any more time

If a project is strategic, creative, and/or developmental in nature, by the time you get close to completion, you may have sections of the final report in both varying stages of completion and applicability. Some sections may seem less applicable the further along you get in preparing the report. Do not be reluctant to yank those sections from the final report if you cannot reasonably fix or complete them efficiently or on a timely basis.

5. Finishing can involve taking things away, not doing more

Looking at this project at one point, my comment was, “It’s too much and too little at the same time.” Sounds like Goldilocks when you read it here. The point is for as much as completing the final report of a project “seems” to be about adding more things, if you’re getting lost in how to complete it, smartly removing things may be the fastest way to get a project done.

What project management techniques help you finish the final report of a project?

We have many readers who have project management responsibilities, so what works for you in completing a significant final report document? Or what have you tried and found to not work – even though you would think it would? Getting projects closed out is a valuable skill, so we’d appreciate hearing your successes. – Mike Brown


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Does your organization have good ideas, but lacks the wherewithal to bring them to reality? The Brainzooming Group and our collaborative, implementation-oriented project management techniques will quickly move you toward success. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 for a free consultation on how to get started.


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 a recent Brainzooming client creative thinking session, the company’s Chief Operating Officer told a story about seeing a car with both an anti-corporation bumper sticker and an Apple logo on it. His point was how interesting it is that Apple had transcended being a huge, very profitable corporation by the car owner.

His story made me blurt out, “Did you hear about the Harvard Business Review journalist who wrote a very thorough comparison between the innovation styles of Steve Jobs and the management team at Sunkist?

“He was widely criticized for comparing Apple and oranges!”

Feel free to insert your guffaws here! When we get brains zooming (even our own), who knows what types of connections will be made?

Comparing Apples and Oranges

“Comparing apples and oranges” ranks with “think outside the box” as one of my least favorite business jargon phrases. “Comparing apples and oranges” is typically used by a strategic dolt to shut down creative thinking and obscure connections that may very naturally exist between two or more things.

Apples and oranges actually have MANY things in common. Even though they aren’t identical on the surface, there are multiple strategic and creative comparisons to be made about their similarities and differences.

In fact, considering ways of comparing apples and oranges can help your creative thinking skills. Next time a strategic dolt tries to get in the way of your creative thinking by saying you’re comparing apples and oranges, remember these ways the two fruits (or anything you’re examining that may seem unrelated) can be compared:

1. Apples and oranges move through comparable PROCESSES

The supply chain bringing apples and oranges together at a grocery store or fruit stand for sale is obviously a point of comparison. When you’re comparing potentially disparate things, look for comparable processes they each experience.

2. Apples and oranges are SUBSTITUTES for one another

Since both apples and oranges satisfy the need for food, in general, and fruit, specifically, they serve as potential SUBSTITUTES for one another. As you look at potentially dissimilar items, consider how they might meet the same or related needs.

3. Apples and oranges can be made MORE SIMILAR

You can manipulate apples and oranges for greater similarity (i.e., by cutting them into similarly-sized pieces, or putting them into recipes as ingredients). When making a comparison others think is a stretch, transform the two things to accentuate their similarities strategically, numerically, chronologically, or in other ways.

4. Compare the REASONS FOR DIFFERENCES between apples and oranges

You can explore the reasons apples and oranges are or are not appropriate for comparison and make comparisons about that! Similarly, when comparing two things others think don’t match up, dive into why they appear to be different, whether because of strategic direction, motivation, nature/nurture, etc.

5. Acknowledge the differences and COMPARE THEM ANYWAY

Maybe apples and oranges are all you have to analyze. In that case, to better understand them, comparing and contrasting the differences is your only option. Being able to compare things to provide context and contrast is vital to analysis.  When others lack the creative thinking skills to see the similarities in two things you’re analyzing, turn it around and simply compare differences.

6. Make a FANCIFUL COMPARISON between apples and oranges

Many strategic business conversations have an air of seriousness and a resistance to anything not grounded in reality. Don’t let that stop you. If people shut down more realistic comparisons as inappropriate, get crazy on them with a really outlandish comparison. The conversation you’ll stimulate will likely yield the greatest creative value.

7. Even if apples and orange were completely unrelated, RANDOM ITEMS trigger creative ideas

Pick any two things that really ARE completely unrelated. Looking for the comparisons and contrasts between them will get peoples’ minds working on new paths, sparking creative ideas. What will those creative ideas be? It’s tough (maybe impossible) to imagine in advance what a particular group will come up with creatively when considering random inputs, but be prepared for dramatically new thinking

Seven Apples and Oranges Comparisons for Creative Thinking

There you have it. Seven ways to consider comparing apples and oranges (or other things perceived to be dissimilar) to counter a strategic dolt trying to squash creative thinking. Simply remember you can push a strategic comparison based on:

  • Process similarities
  • A potential substitute realtionship
  • Changes to accentuate similarities
  • The reasons for underlying differences
  • Comparing elements that shouldn’t be compared
  • Fanciful similarities
  • Completely random connections

So when was the last time YOU were accused of comparing apples and oranges? I’ll bet now you can’t wait for the next time it happens! – 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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We have run several posts on visual thinking tools we find particularly valuable in the Brainzooming process. One of my personal favorite visual thinking tools is a matrix, grid, or table. Maybe I like a matrix so much because I liked an orange divided dinner plate from my childhood since it kept different types of food separated from each other. A matrix does a similarly effective job of separating data and ideas to better compare and contrast them.

For whatever reason, from the first time I used a spreadsheet, I gravitated to using matrices for both numerical and prose-based data display.

9 Reasons a Matrix Is One of the Hardest Working Visual Thinking Tools

When you use a matrix to organize data, it does many of the same things an xy graph does since each displays available information along two dimensions, with the opportunity to create smaller categories along each dimension as well.

A matrix is an especially hard working visual thinking tool since it:

  • Creates structure for data while still providing flexibility. Simply changing the dimensions used to organize the information allows for a potentially very different look.
  • Can convey, depending on the dimensions you choose, relationships based on chronology, proximity, organizational structure, dependencies, characteristics, etc.
  • Allows text, numbers, symbols, images, and even colors to display and communicate comparative insights.
  • Frees data in the matrix from having to point out relationships to the two labels describing a particular cell’s position. This allows data to address other important insights and relationships.
  • Can be either tremendously information dense or highly stylized and simple based on its size and the analytical needs.
  • Invites comparisons and contrasts between and among adjoining cells. Depending on the size and arrangement of the matrix, one cell can have adjacent contrasts with as many as eight cells (those on each of the four sides and four additional cells at the corners).
  • Can make sameness more obvious since identical or similar data will stand out (and potentially lead you to revise the matrix dimensions to accentuate differences).
  • Can make various types of differences stand out, particularly varying levels of information completeness or ratings.
  • Is generally portable between spreadsheet, document, and presentation software programs.

Those are some strong visual thinking advantages that make using a matrix a compelling data display choice.

Are you a fan of using a matrix as a visual thinking tool?

Do you use matrices often? If so, what other advantages do you see a matrix providing for your visual thinking needs? – Mike Brown


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creativity 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 or call us at  816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.


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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Planning for the unexpected was a focus recently with a client we worked with to create a multi-year strategic plan.

Our client’s chief executive had read “Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (affiliate link). Taleb developed the concept of black swan events to describe unexpected occurrences that precipitate dramatic, history-shaping impacts. With black swan events being so disproportionately rare and generating such disproportionately large impacts (think 9-11 and the emergence of the Internet), people are generally blind to anticipating them. These events are ripe though, for people to “figure them out” after they happen, mistakenly thinking the event could have been anticipated.

Our client asked us to help his leadership team anticipate black swan events, even though, almost by definition, you can’t anticipate them.

But hey, it was a client, so we developed a strategic thinking exercise to address his request. Think of it as a glimpse into the Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise R&D lab!

Imagining the Unexpected in a Strategic Thinking Exercise

As we thought about envisioning black swan events in a strategic thinking exercise, we considered a pivotal scene from “Ghostbusters” (affiliate link). There was a scene in the movie where the Ghostbusters are under threat of the first thought that pops into their heads rising up to destroy them. Dan Akroyd’s character ponders the Stay Puft Marshmallow man since this figure from his childhood seems to be the most harmless thing imaginable. Suddenly, a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man appeared to hunt down the Ghostbusters on top of a Manhattan building.

We drew a comparison between this “Ghostbusters ” scene and developing questions to consider potential black swan events.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, black swan events aren’t independently scary (i.e., a plane is a common item and who would imagine one crashing into a building) or dazzlingly incredible (i.e., a couple of connected computer networks becoming the Internet).

Yet, somehow in both the “Ghostbusters” movie scene and in black swan events, what seems friendly and safe can turn deadly.

Starting with the Benign

Instead of asking questions to identify specific black swans in a strategic thinking exercise, we recommend identifying a list of things in your business seemingly beyond failure – and even as benign as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.

Our initial list of areas to consider includes:

  • Things currently working well– both inside and outside the organization
  • Strong, dependable areas in the organization and its processes
  • Activities increasing in volume and importance because of growing market demand
  • Overlooked aspects of the business considered no big deal
  • Disproportionately complex processes in the organization
  • The organization’s hidden secrets
  • Formerly problematic business areas whose challenges are long forgotten

Once you’ve generated a list from these areas, you can look for themes that emerge.

Turning Your Organizational Imagination into Action

The second step is to begin imagining the impact of things from the list you’ve created blowing up (through extreme failure or success) and whether you would be prepared to respond to these events. This can be a fun strategic destruction exercise for your team.

Across this strategic thinking exercise, you may not have anticipated all or even most of the black swans that might hit; but ideally, you’ll have anticipated a wide range of significant disruptions that could be caused by the black swan events you can’t anticipate.

Do you plan for Black Swan events?

Does (or will) your organization try to plan for black swan events? How do you go about doing it if this is a regular part of your annual planning?

If you’d like some assistance on your next round of strategic planning (whether or not you want to anticipate black swan events), let me know. We’d love to help you imagine your future thoroughly and quickly on the way to better implementation next year. – Mike Brown

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

If you’re struggling to generate and implement new ideas, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your innovation challenges.


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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 was watching an HBO documentary on supermodels from the 1940s through the 1990s. The HBO documentary included supermodels sharing perspectives on their careers from earlier days, how they have changed since their prime modeling years, and ideas about what they have learned along the way.

Among various intriguing interviews, Paulina Porizkova spoke about how she viewed herself at the height of her modeling career in her mid-twenties. At the time, she felt her thighs were fat, her knees were ugly, and in general, she did not have good legs. At 45, however, she said she looks back twenty years and thinks she looked great. Now though, she was bemoaning going to the gym 6 days a week only to have everything on her body sagging, with a too large forehead, and a stretchy face. She admitted that at 70 though, she will look back at herself at 45 and probably think she looked great in her mid-forties.

Now to me and just about anyone else, Paulina Porizkova looked fabulous in her twenties and still looks incredible today.

So how can an objectively beautiful woman such as Paulina Porizkova have such mistaken perspectives when it comes to judging how she looks?

Paulina Porizkova cannot assess how she really looks for the same reason it is so difficult for any of us to objectively judge our situations and provide the best ideas to ourselves about what we should do. Yet how many business people cling doggedly to the idea that they (or at least only the people already within their organizations) know everything there is to know about their situations and do not need outside help assessing things or helping devise new, more successful ideas?

6 Vital Insights Outsider Perspectives Offer

If you are one of those people who does not want outside help, here are six reasons you’re missing vital insights by not seeking outsider perspectives:

  • Your internal voice will not give you objective insights on your situation.
  • Even if you know you don’t know everything, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • You have no diversity of mindset, knowledge, or experience relative to yourself.
  • You can’t objectively assess what your strengths and weaknesses are by yourself.
  • You are either too bold or too reticent to provide ideas for yourself with the right degree of urgency and intensity.
  • You would have to be excellent at all of these: assessing your situation, determining the right steps to take, AND then taking the steps. Good luck.

It is so much easier to provide vital insights to other people on what to improve than it is to do the same for yourself. While the Brainzooming Group provides many outsider perspectives on strategy to clients across a variety of industries, I am always interested in hearing what insights others in our strategic circle have about opportunities for The Brainzooming Group. Trust me, an outsider can see, process, and speak with a clarity it is nearly impossible for an insider to muster.

If you are ready to give up on excluding outsider perspectives on your strategy, give us a call at 816-509-5320 or email us. The Brainzooming Group would love to provide the objective, outsider perspectives and ideas you are missing! – 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 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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The favorable response to a post on visual thinking prompted me to share more about how visual thinking graphs fit into problem solving approaches within the strategic thinking and creative sessions we facilitate for clients.

X-Y Graphs – Simplicity in Visual Thinking

Perhaps the most resourceful of visual thinking graphs are the strategically humble, yet highly functional, X-Y graphs. With nothing more needed to begin than two perpendicular lines (or “axes”), getting started is within the drawing and creative skills of everyone. Even if the lines aren’t EXACTLY straight or at a perfect right angle, others will get the idea right away. (Heck, you can even click on the X-Y graph to your right, print it out, and use it!)

Starting with the X-Y graph’s simple shape, you can name the two lines, apply labels to describe what the names imply, and get going with a strategic thinking or creative exercise. What you put inside the X-Y graph can include shapes (lines, curves), labels (highlighting specific examples), or further subdivisions (additional perpendicular lines) to create a 4-box or other type of graph. That’s variety.

The Problem Solving Value of X-Y Graphs

Using X-Y graphs for problem solving lets you:

  • Visually test your strategic thinking to see if it yields productive insights.
  • Provide an opportunity for other people to react to your visualization of a strategic situation within the graph.
  • Explain why certain developments are happening.
  • Anticipate what developments may happen next.
  • Have multiple people participate in the strategic thinking when placing where individual examples should be on the graph.
  • Separate specific examples that could appear to be too close together.
  • Group specific examples that could appear to be too far apart.
  • Discover both positive and inverse relationships.
  • Change the scales on the axes to see different relationships.
  • Quickly explore potential relationships to see if the relationship is really meaningful.
  • Be very precise or very approximate.
  • Look for similarities and differences in various elements to suggest strategic steps to move from one group to another.
  • Give tangibility to your early strategic thinking so you can come back and look at it later.

How can you argue with that much problem solving versatility from two simple lines and a few labels?

What ways are you using X-Y graphs?

Again, X-Y graphs aren’t unusual or complicated visual thinking graphs, but they will work hard for you. when it comes to problem solving. How do you use X-Y graphs as visual thinking tools in what you do? – Mike Brown


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

If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.

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 Brainzooming Group joined with the Social Media Club of Kansas City in summer 2011 to plan Building the Gigabit City. The initial Building the Gigabit City effort was a large-scale brainstorming session to imagine what Kansas City could be like with ultra-high-speed Internet courtesy of the introduction of Google Fiber on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the state line.

The initial Google Fiber brainstorming session continues to lead to a variety of other outputs, including the free 120-page “Building the Gigabit City” report recapping the concepts and ideas generated at the session. The session also produced a recap video with a variety of brainstorming session participants sharing their hopes for a new Kansas City.

What’s Next? The Gigabit City Summit: A Global Dialog on Smart and Connected Cities

Most recently The Brainzooming Group has partnered with Curiolab and Sandel & Associates to create and produce the Gigabit City Summit, A Global Dialog on Smart and Connected Cities. This series of global discussions held through Cisco Telepresence, is allowing experts worldwide to meet, share their expertise, and convey best practices from the implementation of next-generation city efforts. Participants throughout the Gigabit City Summit sessions will include:

  • City leaders at the forefront of next-generation communities
  • Industry and community experts who manage smart/intelligent community initiatives
  • Vertical experts in industries highly subject to disruption by a faster, more seamless Internet, including media, healthcare, education, government, entrepreneurship, and venture capital

We held the first Gigabit City Summit session on June 27 to set the stage for the entire series of events. Presenters included Mayor Joe Reardon from Kansas City, KS (Wyandotte County), Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO, and author Tim Campbell who provided an overview from his book Beyond Smart Cities – How Cities Network, Learn and Innovate (affiliate link). You can listen to the entire inaugural Gigabit City Summit session online to get a sense of the topics we’ll be covering monthly.



Participate in the Gigabit City Summit

As a Brainzooming reader, I want to personally invite you to listen and participate live via WebEx, courtesy of the Smart + Connected Communities Institute, to the next session on Leadership, Organization and Community Challenges. The session will take place live on Wednesday, July 25th, 7:00-9:00 am CDT and will be available for replay afterward.

The second Gigabit City Summit will features representatives from innovation hubs around the world, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hyderabad, Singapore and Toronto. In addition the co-chairs of the Mayors’ Bistate Innovations Team, Mike Burke and Ray Daniels, along with David Warm, Executive Director of Kansas City’s regional planning organization will talk about preparation for the arrival of Google Fiber, which is scheduled to make a major announcement about the Kansas City Google Fiber product launch on July 26th.

Sponsor the Gigabit City Summit

Beyond listening to the sessions, there are sponsorship opportunities for organizations who would like to engage in these global, next-generation cities conversations.

Gigabit City Summit sponsors can take advantage of exclusive networking, content marketing, and thought leadership opportunities, in addition to a variety of other sponsorship assets. The sponsorship document below highlights the Gigabit City Summit and the related sponsorship opportunities for the series of events.

Contact me at  if you’d like to discuss how your organization can become directly involved as a Gigabit City Summit sponsor.


Let’s keep the conversation going! – Mike Brown


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How can ultra high-speed internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 


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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