Insights | The Brainzooming Group - Part 20 – page 20
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If you haven’t started already, there’s not much time left to make sure your organization is asking itself innovative strategic planning questions and looking for top opportunities before 2013 starts.

The good news in all this, however, is it’s ALWAYS a good time for strategic thinking and considering innovative strategic planning questions. No matter when it is, you can use great questions to push your strategic thinking and move you into increasingly smarter, more differentiated, and successful market strategies.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Next Year

Reviewing conference tweets, Brainzooming strategic planning engagements, and leftovers in our strategic thinking exercise R&D lab, here are fifteen innovative strategic planning questions (plus a bonus ice breaker question) to move to the top of your strategic planning questions list – whether you’ve started planning or not!

Strategy & Purpose Questions

  • When we say our purpose and messages aloud to someone outside our business, do these statements make sense? (Evan Conway, president of OneLouder, a Kansas City-based mobile app developer)
  • What would you do differently if you HAD TO get 10x better / bigger in the next 12 months? (An incredibly challenging question was inspired by Chuck Dymer – Brilliance Activator)

Strategic Marketing Questions

  • How can we shift more value to the front end of a customer relationship, not charging anything until later when the customer fully realizes the benefit? (Inspired by TEDxKC presenter, Shai Reshef)
  • Have we set a pace for our brand experience to allow a customer to get the maximum value from our brand? (Inspired by Julian Zugazagoitia, Director of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art at TEDxKC)
  • What are our organization’s passion and purpose, and how are we effectively and innovatively marketing them? (From BigIdeas12 conference tweets)

Strategic Innovation Questions

  • How can we get more ideas at early stages when it’s easier and less expensive to incorporate great ideas? (Inspired by Rob Grace of Bazillion Pictures)
  • What can be removed from what we do / produce? (A variation on a Steve Jobs question to drive simplicity, via Ken Segall, author of “Insanely Simple” affiliate link)
  • In what ways can we innovate to offer “more for less”? (Michael Raynor, author of “The Innovator’s Manifesto” affiliate link)
  • To identify potential innovation opportunities, what are the most frequent workarounds customers are asking our sales, customer service, and other representatives to perform?
  • How can we break up big change into pieces too inconsequential to fail (i.e., no matter what happens, we’ll either meet our objectives or learn so much when we don’t, we still win)?

Customer and Market Questions

  • Who specifically is representing the customer 24/7 in our business?
  • What benefits are our customers seeking when they buy from us, and who else is poised to deliver those benefits to them?

Learning Organization Questions

  • Who are our rising stars two jobs away from ever being included in strategic planning that need to be included starting right now?
  • What makes the work our organization does worth it for our employees? (From author of “The Commitment Engine” author, John Jantsch at TEDxKC affiliate link)
  • How are we learning (individually and as an organization) by doing, failing, collaborating, creating, and teaching? (Danya Cheskis-Gold of Skillshare at BigIdeas12)

And a Bonus 16th Strategic Thinking Question – My New Favorite Ice Breaker

  • If you could have the characters in any painting come to life, which painting would you choose? (A wonderful ice breaker from Amy Dixon of CreativeRN.com on Twitter that elicits very diverse and insightful answers)

Still Need to Get Your Strategic Planning Set for Next Year?

If you’d like help in developing your annual plan done faster than ever, contact us at 816-509-5320 or email info@brainzooming.com.

Our Brainzooming name means what it says: we’ll stretch your brains through strategic thinking exercises to consider new opportunities and quickly zoom them into a plan that’s ready for next year when next year starts! We’d love to help you hit next year zooming!   – Mike Brown

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation success. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around innovation and implementation 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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16

There is clearly tremendous value in having diverse, positive creative thinking skills on your creative team. What you might be overlooking, however, is the value of having access to creative thinking skills that might not typically be considered particularly constructive for a creative team’s success.

Consider It “Critical” Thinking

While creative instigators can be vital to the robust development of creative thinking, you can’t afford to let it coast its way toward implementation without being challenged. “Critical” thinking  make your creative thinking stronger near-term and your creative thinking skills sharper over time.

Don’t let a premature implementation push leave your creative thinking work vulnerable to critical challenges too late in the creative development process.

Select your creative team to make sure you identify the individuals who will supply five critical thinking perspectives to make your creative thinking stronger:

1. The Skeptic

The skeptic isn’t going to believe anything you tell them the first time. The skeptic will demand proof for the creative thinking you’re trying to sell to them. The skeptic making you prove everything, however, forces you to ensure you have the strategic and insight-driven support for your creative ideas.

2. The Short Attention Span Theater Fan

Certain people will not or cannot sit still for an in-depth explanation of your creative thinking. You might have only three PowerPoint slides worth of time to provide the background, make your recommendation, and show your supporting rationale. When someone on your team has a short attention span, you’ll get much better at getting to the point . . . or you’ll be talking to yourself in an empty room!

3. An Argumentative So and So

We all know people who object to everything. Everything is wrong; nothing will work. And they are ready to let you know all the things you can expect to fall short with your creative ideas. Talk about critical thinking! As a result, making your case to an argumentative person will cause you to be ready to answer all kinds of passionate, unexpected objections to the creative ideas you believe in so strongly.

4. The Dense Person

Some people simply don’t “get” things as fast as others. You can explain a new idea and see it in their eyes or in their body language: something about your creative idea isn’t clicking. Even if your dense creative team member does get the idea, he or she will not get it the next time you discuss it, so you’ll have to explain it again. While it may feel as if repetitive explanations are taking up time, repeating your creative idea multiple times will productively challenge the consistency of your thinking and your attention to strategic detail.

5. Your Narrow Minded Associate

The creative team member who has a clearly different, and markedly narrower, perspective than you can be maddening most of the time. These people do not (or simply refuse to) see the bigger picture. They also don’t have much time or respect for alternatives viewpoints to their own. Where they are beneficial as you try to sell your creative ideas, however, is when they force you to find (or incorporate) benefits to address non-believers in your audience.

Do you know who the problem people are on your creative team?

Are these “critical” creative thinking skills accounted for on your creative team? Are there other challenging creative thinking skills  you depend upon for your creative success? Let’s hear about them! – Mike Brown

 

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

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 info@brainzooming.com 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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0

A business associate returned  from a manufacturers’ conference reporting new opportunities for growth and business development among attendees were generally coming from them looking at current clients in new ways.

What a great, often overlooked, reminder.

While it may be easy for organizations to get bored with their same old clients, surprising, unrealized new opportunities are often present with clients you have had for years. To discover new opportunities with current clients, however, can depend on pushing what you’re already doing on business development into new areas.

Five Ideas to Discover New Opportunities with Current Clients

Here are five ideas for taking your business development efforts into new, unexplored territory, by discovering new opportunities with current clients:

1. Go beyond just knowing your client’s job responsibilities

Make sure you know the range of duties for which your client contact has responsibility. Also find out, however, where your client spends too much or too little effort versus how they would like to allocate their time. A client spending more time than desired on an activity signals an opportunity to offer new ways to streamline and reduce demands on them. Areas where they aren’t spending enough time could be new opportunities to address what’s missing in their desired efforts.

2. Discover your customer’s business challenges beyond your category

After calling on a customer for some time, you may only focus on challenges they have tied to your product or service. Work to discover a customer’s biggest challenges outside your business category, too. With a broader view of a customer’s challenges, you can identify additional opportunities to solve, situations a partner can help address, or completely new business solutions to stretch your organization.

3. Ask how all your customer’s vendors are performing

It’s always helpful to play the Spy vs. Spy game of trying figure out how you’re doing relative to direct competitors. Additionally, start concerning yourself with how the providers of any product or service your client uses are making your client more successful. You can uncover value-creating approaches other vendors have identified for your client that you may be able to engineer into what you deliver for them.

4. Take a backward look at your client’s purchase decisions

If a customer is doing business with you, they’re “satisfied,” or they’d choose one of the many other options available to them. Instead of focusing on satisfaction levels when talking directly with clients, spend time discussing why the client STARTED and continues to buy from you. This line of discussion provides the opportunity to see if you’re still meeting initial expectations, if you’ve expanded the value you’re delivering, and if new needs/decision factors are shaping the client’s CURRENT expectations.

5. Dig for the problems being created for your client by . . . (wait for it) . . . you

It’s nice to hear nice things about how you are performing for a client. Beyond probing for what’s going well, it’s critical to uncover the customer’s biggest issues and how your organization could be unknowingly exacerbating them. Getting to the heart of this yields vital insights into how products, services, and processes your organization considers standard gum up the works for your clients and hold back your growth in serving them.

What are you doing to look at current clients in new ways to discover new growth opportunities?

There are obviously many more approaches to look at current clients to find new opportunities. These five ideas, however, can definitely open up unaddressed possibilities in any long-term business relationship. – Mike Brown

 

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

If you’re struggling to create or sustain innovation and growth, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our  strategic thinking, brainstorming, and implementation tools to help you create greater innovation success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around innovation and implementation 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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12

There is, not surprisingly, a lot of activity on the Brainzooming blog on strategic thinking exercises since they are vital elements in effective strategic planning. As The Brainzooming Group looks at it, strategic thinking exercises are devices to help individuals or teams imagine and address ways to advance organizations / products / programs toward important goals.

What are the characteristics of the best strategic thinking exercises?

Here are six characteristics we design into the strategic thinking exercises we create for strategic planning engagements with clients.

They all need to:

1. Allow everyone to participate – even those with little or no direct experience

We preach the importance of multiple thinking perspectives in developing great strategy. We know some people who participate in strategic planning will have less experience than other participants will. Great exercises, however, accommodate these differences in experience and do not leave anyone without a role based on what they know or have done.

2. Incorporate emotion

It does not necessarily matter which emotion strategic thinking exercises incorporate. It could be fear, angst, frustration, humor, hope, or passion. Or another emotion. Or some combination of all of those. If your strategy development only depends on logic and does not incorporate emotion, you are missing something.

3. Require people to think atypically

If everyone comes into and leaves a set of strategic thinking exercises without having thought in new ways, there is a major disconnect. There needs to be specific variables built in to ensure people are thinking along new paths and in ways they have not had to consider previously.

4. Introduce a strategic twist that doesn’t match expectations or reality

If you want different perspectives from your current strategy, strategy and brainstorming questions need to go beyond simply what the current situation looks like. They should incorporate an unexpected twist or thinking detour to make participants feel uncomfortable with their standard way of thinking.

5. Create new questions

The more you attempt to answer strategy and brainstorming questions, the more new questions will emerge. Strategic thinking is about exploration. If it’s fruitful exploration, you’re going to uncover strategic paths that will be laden with new questions.

6. Leave room for unanswered issues

This goes along with triggering new questions. Successful strategic thinking exercises can’t be expected to answer everything. The future isn’t certain. The objective should be to consider as many possibilities as possible, even if some, or even many of them, can’t be completely answered right away.

Want examples of our favorite strategic thinking exercises?

Here are some of our go-to strategy exercises and brainstorming questions. We invite you to look at how these could fit into your strategic planning and innovation work:

As usual, they all carry our standard disclaimer: “These exercises appear easier to use then they really are.”

If you want the best results from them, you need to call The Brainzooming Group! When we’re on the case, we’ll guarantee these exercises will be successful as part of your innovation or strategic planning! – 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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2

Do you ever suffer from “client block”?

As I’d characterize it, client block is a subset of creative block when you are specifically challenged making progress on a project for a particular client. That client may be an external or internal one to your organization. The point is something is getting in the way of delivering what you are on the hook for as the project outcome for a specific client, rather than an overall creative block.

Why Client Block Happens

Considering times I’ve suffered client block, it has happened because a client:

  • Has a world view that doesn’t have a lot of regard for the project’s focus
  • Doesn’t have a willingness to absorb much information
  • Isn’t open to accepting their view of reality isn’t borne out by facts
  • Isn’t interested in what they really need to know or understand
  • Knows what they DON’T want but can’t articulate what they DO want
  • Refuses to productively engage in shaping what the project deliverable they want contains and/or looks like

The result of these client block situations may be something that feels like creative block where you are unable to get started on a project. It could also simply be a lack of interest or motivation in determining how to address the specific issue a client could have with the project outcome.

Solutions to Client Block

Considering the issue the other day with someone while talking about creative block, we brainstormed a variety of approaches to combat client block. Some potential ideas to combat client bock include:

  • Creating a strategic outline that’s a mix of what the client wants and what you think should be delivered and working to get buy off on it from the client.
  • Moving ahead with what you believe is the right direction, realizing you’ll have to sell in your approach much harder.
  • Being an “order taker” and resolving to deliver whatever the client wants, whether you think it’s the right thing or not.
  • Using a previous project deliverable similar to what you need as a template or roadmap.
  • Not starting at the beginning of the deliverable but starting where you can most easily get started to fuel yourself with an early sense of accomplishment.
  • Determining the easiest way for you to create the deliverable and start using that direction, even if you modify and adapt it later.
  • Pulling someone into the project who can challenge your thinking and help identify a place to get started.
  • If you’re able, delegating or outsourcing the deliverable to someone who has a better sense of how to start and complete it.

What do you do to combat client block?

These eight ideas are a start at addressing client block. Have you tried any of them to deal with client block successfully or unsuccessfully? Are there other ways you’ve been able to work around a client block?

We (and be “we,” I mean “I”) would love to learn your solutions and give them a try! – Mike Brown

 

Subscribe for Free to the Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic new 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 info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these innovation 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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4

For some people, it is a natural move from in real life personal relationships to social networking. Their social networking success can come from an instinctive or learned knack for what and when to share the right amount of personal information to make positive connections without boring people or seeming too self-obsessed.

Others, who take a more cautious approach to their lives and personal relationships, cannot imagine WHAT they could share online about themselves while still maintaining a professional image.

Social Networking by Sharing Kitteh Pictures

I was having this discussion with a cautious business owner recently who has social media presences established for the business, but struggles with what to share to both establish professional expertise and make personal connections via social networking. My point was even in a business-to-business setting, people buy from other people. PERSONAL relationships matter in real life business development, and they also matter when you are engaged in online social networking for business development.

You should have seen the reaction though when I mentioned the strategy behind sharing pictures of our cat Clementine (who a Twitter friend dubbed the “Director of Enthusiasm”) on Facebook.

Within a few questions, we found some topics that definitely have the potential for sharing on social networks. The issue is whether this business owner will become comfortable weaving in a more personal feel to social media content.

7 Content Strategy Questions for Building Personal Relationships

If you are struggling with integrating personal information into your social media sharing, here are seven questions you can ask yourself to identify potential personally oriented topics for social media sharing:

  • What do you think, know, and believe?
  • What are your favorite sources of compelling news and information online?
  • What do business associates and clients know about you personally?
  • What do you share about yourself when you meet someone at a networking event?
  • What is intriguing about you and your professional and personal interactions?
  • What is visually intriguing about your life – both professionally and personally?
  • What brands, stores, and places do you talk up to people because you appreciate them?

Certainly, you have answers to these questions. If you are struggling with sharing personal information via social media, the answers to these questions can start to form the basis of your personal content sharing strategy.

Social Networking – When and How Much Personal Information

The next big questions to ask and answer are how soon and how much to share personally?

You have to do what works for you, but if you are reluctant to share personal information online, the answers to these last two questions are “sooner than you think” and “more than you want.”

So now that all the questions are answered, it is time to started sharing and building personal relationships to let people get to know you better in an online professional setting! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re struggling with determining ROI and evaluating its impacts, download “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track” today!  This article provides a concise, strategic view of the numbers and stories that matter in shaping, implementing, and evaluating your strategy. You’ll learn lessons about when to address measurement strategy, identifying overlooked ROI opportunities, and creating a 6-metric dashboard. Download Your Free Copy of “6 Social Media Metrics You Must Track!”

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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1

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

 

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

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 info@brainzooming.com 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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