Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 2 – page 2
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Talking to executives, you hear the expectation that an organization should implement a solid strategic plan strategy-by-strategy. To the extent a strategic plan is not implemented in that way, it falls short in some fashion. This goes along with the idea that if you never remove the big strategic planning notebook from your office shelf, it is a complete failure: you might as well not even do a strategic plan.

I understand that perspective on how a strategic planning process should play out.

I’m also enough of a realist and have been around the block enough times to not cling to those expectations about how a strategic planning process has to work. If your organization ’s strategic plan process comes together based on a few senior executives sitting in a room followed by a bunch of managers working alone in their offices, however, pulling the strategic plan notebook off the shelf is a HUGE metric for whether it’s successful.

7 Collaborative Strategic Planning Process Impacts (Even if the Plan Sits on the Shelf)

When you develop a plan from a collaborative, conversationally-driven strategy planning process, you see other tangible impacts. This type of strategic planning process:

  • Guides the organization to greater success
  • More effectively creates alignment in strategic thinking
  • Helps make yes and no decisions about what initiatives to pursue easier
  • Broadens the understanding of what’s important to the organization
  • Sequences activities you need to implement in a specific order
  • Sets out metrics that signal progress (or lack of progress)
  • Educates the organization on how to imagine and implement strategically

Looking at this list, you can see why we place such an emphasis on using a collaborative strategic planning process.

Are you up for discussing how this could benefit your organization? Contact us, and let’s book time to talk. If you do, here’s our Brainzooming guarantee: Spending thirty minutes together, you’ll walk away with at least five ideas you can go do on your own, whether we ever talk again or not.

Want to take me up on that guarantee? Let’s go! – 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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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence profiled a Bloomberg Businessweek story on Fanatics, the sports apparel manufacturer and marketer, in its Inside the Executive Suite. Fanatics introduced disruptive innovation to its marketplace with an agile strategy. It employs technology, focused creative teams, new manufacturing processes, and communications to remove time and waste when creating post-sporting event apparel featuring the winners and exciting story lines. For NCAA basketball tournament games, Fanatics can put a newly approved shirt on its website within 15 minutes. It also uses its agile strategy to market apparel for niche opportunities where it might sell as few as ten t-shirts.

Along with the recap, Inside the Executive Suite offered sixteen strategic thinking questions inspired by the Fanatics case study that you can use to explore agile strategy options within your own organization. We thought the list was intriguing, so we secured the go ahead to share the strategic thinking questions with you here.

16 Strategic Thinking Questions to Explore Agile Strategy and Disruptive Innovation

via Shutterstock

Developing an Agile Strategy

  • Where can your organization realize the greatest leverage from improved agility – cost savings, an improved customer experience, sales opportunities, greater financial efficiency?
  • Beyond making investments and process changes to increase agility, are there other opportunities to cost-effectively manage demand?
  • How can you develop a super-agile process that disrupts other industry players’ competitive advantages?

Identifying Process Changes for Agile Strategy

  • Where can you aggressively remove steps (especially low-value ones) from today’s process to boost agility?
  • How can you completely redesign today’s process from scratch to create a super-agile approach?
  • What roles do you need on your agile execution team to move from idea to market with previously unheard of speed?
  • What characteristics and behaviors are important for agile execution team members to display?
  • What resources (even if they are redundant or eventually discarded) are critical to enable rapid execution?

The Interplay Between Flexibility and Agility

  • How can you improve your organization’s ability to pre-plan and anticipate the uncertain?
  • In what ways can more / better / faster data access increase forecasting accuracy, and your ability to delay decisions without compromising agility?
  • What are the various types of reviews, approvals, and decisions you will need during crunch time? How can agile decision making happen in an easier and more timely way when speed is most important?
  • What does the time window around peak need look like?
  • Is there additional flexibility you can create / exploit in lead times, the length of the selling opportunity, and / or the long tail of demand?

Strong Relationships Enable Agility

  • Who are the outside people and entities vital to ensuring your agile processes perform as expected?
  • What foreknowledge, training, and support will outside parties require to perform their duties at peak levels?
  • What do agile relationship-building skills necessary for supporting your process look like?

Across these questions, you’ll get a start thinking through how an agile strategy can push disruptive innovation in your industry.  – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

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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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For many business people, it’s intimidating to walk into an unfamiliar situation (whether that’s a new company, client, team, initiative, or project) knowing you are expected to contribute new business ideas right away.

If you face those types of situations, you know how nerve wracking it can be to have to go from “nice to meet you” to new business ideas in perhaps minutes.

One answer is to simply regurgitate ideas you have used previously in other situations. That can work, but often, it seems people wind up revealing that they’ve used the idea elsewhere. This lets everyone know you’re simply recycling new business ideas that aren’t so new anymore.

9 Ways to Never Suffer from a Lack of New Business Ideas Again

In place of only recycling ideas, try these nine strategic thinking questions and creative thinking paths. The formula is to ask a specific question, LISTEN for responses from others, and follow a related creating thinking direction to generate ideas more quickly:

Ask:

  1. What’s been tried before? then REACT to historical activities with new twists
  2. What are the current ideas? then BUILD on those ideas to make them stronger
  3. What ideas have been passed over previously? then TRANSFORM them so they are more pertinent to the current situation
  4. What’s causing roadblocks to progress? then try to SOLVE the barriers
  5. What has been successful before? then find ways to REFRESH them with something new
  6. What is working now? then share ways to MULTIPLY it for even broader impact
  7. What are you developing right now? then generate ideas to SPEED UP development for a quicker impact
  8. What competitors’ strategies are in the market? then share ideas on how to IMPROVE what they are doing
  9. What is the most popular idea you have? then suggest ideas to PRIORITIZE it

You don’t need all nine strategic thinking questions in very situation where you are expected to quickly develop new business ideas.

It is great, though, to have these and other strategic thinking questions ready to go whenever you walk in and want to be ready share ideas right away! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions


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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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In nearly every instance, we spend time with a prospective client discussing three aspects of their strategic planning process needs:

  • What they think they want to achieve
  • What they need to achieve
  • The best way to make it happen using our collaborative process.

Do you see your organization in any of these three current conversations we are having with prospective clients?

Conducting a Strategic Planning Process with a Certain Framework

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We’ve sold-in a specific strategic planning process methodology, so that’s the approach we need to take.”

What they need to achieve: They need to deliver a plan with the framework their leadership has approved, but still make sure it’s collaborative and engaging in a way their strategic planning process never has been previously.

The best way to make it happen: We’re proposing arranging our strategic planning exercises within the framework they have already advanced. Rather than having a Brainzooming stamp on the steps, we’ll morph our approach to work within what they client wants to see happen.

A Small Innovation Team Is the Way to Introduce Innovation

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We think the answer is to get an innovation team together and have them come up with new ideas.”

What they need to achieve: Instead of innovation seeming like a disconnected initiative, we recommend they integrate innovation with:

  • Successful new service lines they already introduced
  • Existing ideas that haven’t advanced
  • Current strategic initiatives already underway

The best way to make it happen: We’re early in the conversation, but we suggested casting a wide net to incorporate work they’ve already done into innovation. Rather than looking at innovation as a “team,” we expect the success they want will come from greater collaboration, a team to move it forward, and a process that makes innovation sustainable for years ahead.

The Struggle Between Major Decisions and Collaboration

What the prospective client wants to achieve: “We have some major decisions to make about the company’s future, so we need to limit the planning to just the immediate leadership team.”

What they need to achieve: They clearly need to wrestle with major issues only appropriate for a small top management group. Yet, to advance in a way that sets them up for success with the big decisions, they need to involve a broader team of employees in strategic planning and implementation.

The best way to make it happen: We recommended a two-pass strategic planning process. The first pass will only include the senior team and vary the steps to create a closely-held implementation strategy for the biggest strategic issues. We would then make a second, more typical looking collaborative planning sweep across a much larger part of the organization.

Are any of these situations familiar?

We tackle these and whole host of other issues as we work with each prospective client to identify the most effective and efficient way to introduce a strategic planning process into an organization.

If you’re looking at boosting the impact of your organizational strategy, let’s get on the phone and discuss the best way to make it happen for your brand! – 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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Short Story: With strategic thinking tools, you want dependable ones that deliver help to move forward in a smart fashion – no matter how unusual the tool may seem.

We share many Brainzooming strategy, innovation, and branding tools. The range is eclectic because their inspirations come from everywhere. In fact, one of the funniest questions I’ve been asked was whether I went to a training program, took the material, and called it Brainzooming?

The answer: NO!

The Brainzooming methodology continually emerges, refreshes, and grows from myriad sources and ongoing application with real-life clients and workshop participants.

One vital business strategy tool for me personally that I rarely mention directly in workshops is prayer. Prayer (and the humility in asking God for help) are an integral part of my business strategy tool repertoire. I try to dedicate a half-hour to prayer each morning after mass with other times sprinkled throughout the day. People seeing me in church probably think I have a deep, peaceful prayer life. The truth? Silencing my mind to pray and listen for answers from God is INCREDIBLY difficult. I spend much of the time on my knees or sitting quietly struggling to quiet and focus my mind.

Nonetheless, prayer and asking God for answers regularly helps me in business. The most fruitful prayers involve bringing a conundrum to God, admitting I have no clue about it, and asking for assistance consistent with God’s will.

Doubtful about this?

I’m sure some are. I cultivate enough friendships among avowed atheists and others that are skeptical that I know some of you must wonder how I look to prayer as a dependable part of shaping business strategy.

Here are two recent examples.

I was struggling to develop a sales call script and bemoaning that my dad (who was the quintessential sales guy) was gone when I needed his sales expertise. Frustrated, I went to bed after midnight, asked God to help me come up with something, and added that if my dad could hear me, I could use his help. Within a few minutes, before falling asleep, it was as if the sales script started to dictate into my mind. I wrote it out the next morning and had exactly what I needed.

In another instance, I needed to communicate about a potentially awkward situation to a client (awkward, that is, if it were poorly communicated). Wrapping up work for the evening, I didn’t know what to put in the email. I went to bed and prayed for the words because I could not see a way to explain it. Either during the night (because a close friend was texting me at 2 a.m.) or the next morning, the right words were in my mind.

Those are just two instances. There are many more.

Yes, prayer works as a business strategy tool. And for that, I am very thankful! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for developing strategy, branding and marketing, innovation, extreme creativity, and successful implementation.


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



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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Short Story: When it comes to creativity, start with and return to the underlying strategy; that’s the most important piece of creative advice I have to offer.

I’ve been trying to let go of some creative reins on the Brainzooming brand. This is a matter of necessity: too little time, too many other things to do, reaching the limits of my execution talents, needing fresh perspectives on things I have been looking at for years.

This transition forces me to formally communicate aspects of the Brainzooming brand, including strategic assumptions and brand personality, vocabulary, design standards, and other elements that have only been in my head until now.

It also reinforces something I’ve known for a long time: I’m both a great client and a horrible client.

I’m a great client because of all the creative thinking background and experience communicating with creative people. I’m horrible because I have just enough creative chops to do many things myself, which I’m not reluctant to do if a project isn’t quite working.

8 Pieces of Creative Advice from a Great and Horrible Client

While collaborating with others on the Brainzooming brand, I’ve doled out plenty of advice. Here are eight creative advice tidbits that are more broadly applicable beyond our growing creative team:

  • Sometimes they hire you for how you’ll bring your personal creative vision to a project. Sometimes they hire you to put your creative vision to the side and perform work that sounds/looks like the brand. Know which type of gig you are working on right now.
  • Get the strategy down before you move to creative ideas. Return to the brand strategy and the creative strategy frequently. Nailing the strategy exactly is more important than delivering the most stellar creative idea.
  • Make sure you get a creative brief in place so there’s some type of objective way to assess the work when you’re done.
  • If you’re strong on big creative ideas, you can probably slide on some of the fine points. If you’re very strong at creative details, that can make up for not having the biggest ideas. You can’t fall short on both big ideas and details, however, and think you’re going to thrive creatively.
  • If you are struggling with both the big ideas AND the detail, make sure you under-promise and over-deliver. Work quickly to allow time to recover from dead ends. Most importantly, be a person of your word: hit the deadlines you agree on with the client.
  • Push yourself to explore lots of creative ideas; more creative ideas than you can imagine you need. You WILL need all those creative ideas to uncover the winning idea.
  • Don’t throw your creative work over the transom with no explanation. Push for the opportunity to explain your bold creative choices. Once you get that hearing, be ready to tie your bold creative choices to the underlying strategy.
  • If your usual jobs or projects don’t allow you to regularly go for big creative ideas, cultivate something else creatively that allows you to grow and develop your big creative thinking.

That’s my creative advice. Do with it what you will. 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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Short Story: You can take serious questions and wrap them in child-like situations to add fun and new thinking to a strategic planning process.

One way to create greater engagement during a strategic planning process is through framing important questions in new ways. Sometimes that means asking familiar questions completely differently. Other times it means changing the perspective from which participants are answering questions.

Then there are times in a strategic planning process when the questions are mainly serious, but the premise is mostly silly.

Here is one of those times.

Based on someone reaching our website looking for reflections to kick off a strategic planning process, I started imagining adapting and wrapping strategic thinking questions in nursery rhymes. Except now, I can’t remember WHY I was thinking about using nursery rhymes. They must have seemed like a way to add fun.

Never wanting to waste an idea emerging from the Brainzooming R&D lab, here are two surprising (and fun) ways to frame important questions as nursery rhymes.

Goldilocks and the Three Competitors

If you have strategic planning process participants who are knowledgeable about your competitors, you may want to collaboratively tap their insights. How about framing the exercise as Goldilocks and the Three Competitors? Ask them to address:

  • Which competitor has been too hot? (Growing faster, making aggressive product or pricing moves, expanding operations or markets)
  • Which competitor has been too cold? (Seem to have lost its way, losing share and/or people)
  • Which competitor is just right to target? (Clear weaknesses you can better exploit, opportunities to create a major advantage)

Ask the group to identify not only the three competitors, but reasons for their situation, and the best offensive and/or defensive moves your brand can take against each of them.

Jack and his Extreme Creativity Beans

Suppose you need extreme creative thinking. The kind of extreme creativity that comes from people with their heads in the clouds! Take the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and imagine the magic beans are extreme creativity questions. Use questions such as those below to grow ideas that will reach into the blue sky!

  • What would we do if these magic beans let us ignore resource limitations?
  • What if these magic beans prevented anyone from ever telling us “no”?
  • What would we have if these magic beans allowed us to grow ideas bigger and bolder than anything we’ve ever done before?

As you use these questions, look for ways to turn the blue-sky ideas they generate into reality.

See what we mean?

These are a mix of serious and silly. But then again, that mix keeps business interesting! – Mike Brown

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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