Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 231 – page 231
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So much of solid strategic thinking is determined by perspective and enhanced by your ability to become comfortable with considering different views of the same situation.

For a bit of a different take on that principle, check out this website (http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/index.html) which contains more than seventy visual illusions. It will help you become more comfortable with the idea that just because you see something one way doesn’t mean that you couldn’t see it in a completely different way within an instant.

Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena by Michael Bach

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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My wife and I see the need for home repairs very differently. She’s more attuned to subtle defects, noticing many I don’t. It’s not surprising. She spends more time at home and views things more closely. We also look from different perspectives – different chairs, bathrooms, even heights, since I’m taller. Yet with my more distant perspective, I notice certain items needing attention that she doesn’t. It usually occurs when I’m doing an unfamiliar activity – putting things away, cleaning, yard work, etc.

This same phenomenon happens in business even with things such as opportunities, challenges, and processes. You look at something very closely, maybe because you have responsibility for it. Since you spend so much time with it, you may view it from several perspectives, but all of them VERY close. Still you’re likely missing things that are obvious to others who see what you see from a different vantage point.

The key is to be able to actively look at a situation from blatantly different viewpoints. So if I may, here are a few great suggestions for changing how you “look”:

Move Further Away

  • Have someone completely unfamiliar with the situation observe it, and ask them, “What are your impressions of what took place?”
  • Change your seat – physically or virtually – and take a few steps back from where you usually “sit” while viewing a situation. What do you see differently?

Look Closer

  • Look at only one aspect of a process – repeat “how” and “why” questions (i.e., How is this working? Why does this happen?) until you’ve explored many possibilities for new insights.

Look from a Different Height

  • Spend a day on the front lines with sales, manufacturing, or customer service – what do they see about the process or opportunity that you don’t?
  • Spend time directly with a customer as they interact with your business – how does it look to them?
  • Shadow a senior executive (maybe a mentor) – what regularly makes its way to their level?

Look from a Different Perspective

  • Have someone else carry out the process – what’s different?

Several of these techniques helped diagnose what wasn’t working with a new planning process recently. By having new participants review it, sitting in different seats to observe interaction, and using different facilitators to lead the process, we’ve cut the initial time for the process by 50% and created more-tailored exercises. And we got these results by simply changing how we look – without plastic surgery or having to address the worst Valentine’s Day “look” question of all, “Does this make me look heavy?”

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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Dear Abby & Ann Landers are no longer with us, but there are scads of other advice columns in print & electronic media to help people through relationship challenges. Since much of their advice for personal situations can be applied to business relationships, over the next several Wednesdays, we’ll let them do our work for us in the Change Your Character exercise.
This week, it’s brainstorming starters for building stronger relationships – generate at least 3 relationship building ideas for your business situation from each piece of advice:
  • Make the best possible first impression–be friendly & well dressed with a positive attitude.
  • Be yourself & pay attention to your instincts.
  • Spend time together to get to know each other.
  • Ask questions. Don’t just talk about yourself. Keep the conversation light.
  • Be attentive to the other person and don’t talk on your cell phone.
  • Be honest.
  • Go the extra mile to make the other person comfortable.
  • Thank the other person for spending time together.

So if you have some new business relationships to build, this should help you get some fresh ideas. And if you’ve got a first date lined up for Valentine’s Day tomorrow, you can also benefit. Just make sure that you don’t apply the ideas from the former situation to the latter – that would be a problem!

Check out a compilation of “Change Your Character” creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – 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 info@brainzooming.com 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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It’s beneficial to determine the vital steps and questions behind a successful project so you can repeat them in the future. If a project doesn’t end as planned, it’s also important to figure out what was missed so you don’t have to re-learn a mistake. I’ve been doing a post mortem for a recent project and finding two frustrating lessons.

Both tie to an unexpected twist near the project’s end. The non-technical team (that would include me) was surprised by an unanticipated outcome that fell short of expectations. Our technically-oriented teammates, closely involved in the project’s design, were also surprised – surprised that we hadn’t clearly seen the (obvious to them, unexpected to us) detail in all the drawings and plans we’d reviewed for weeks.

So what happened?

In retrospect, the critical detail was in the drawings, but it was lost in a misperception of foreground & background. We (the non-techs) were looking at familiar & prominent images in the drawings, so the unfamiliar (and less prominent) detail moved deep into the background of our visual perception.
To compound matters, the non-techs drove a significant design change before the project’s start. Its ripple effects magnified the detail we’d missed once the project neared completion. Because we couldn’t perceive the detail, we didn’t realize our decision didn’t make sense. And since the techs couldn’t perceive that we weren’t visualizing the decision’s implications, they weren’t prompted to say it didn’t make sense.

The first lesson then is that there probably wasn’t any clear way to avoid the disconnect. Since neither group could perceive the potential problem, neither was able to ask a clarifying question or make a mid-course correction. I don’t think I’ve run into a situation quite like this previously. I’ll be more sensitive to this possibility in the future when working with a very proficient technical group, although I’ll still be without a great question that could confirm everyone’s perceptions.

The second lesson? Much of my consternation about the project’s outcome took place just before its completion. While that’s usually a good time to view a project and correct last minute issues, it clearly wasn’t in this case. When everything was done fifteen hours later, the previous day’s glaring problem was barely noticeable within the finished project. The final steps re-oriented my foreground / background perception, allowing the problematic detail to fade into the background once more.

Short story, here are the lessons learned:

  1. Sometimes there’s no way to perceive a potential problem to head it off, and
  2. Sometimes reviewing a project before it’s completed creates more problems than it fixes.

While these certainly seem like valuable lessons, I HATE them both. So if you can figure out better lessons than these, ones that actually involve fixing something rather than simply waiting around to see what happens, let me know. I’d appreciate it!

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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Notice something about the ritual of pulling petals from a flower and saying, “she loves me, she loves me not?” There are only two choices – yes or no, one or the other. Makes decision making pretty simple. You can force this technique on yourself when you’ve got lots of things to prioritize and are struggling in your decision making.

Say you’re writing a Poweroint presentation for your senior management and have 15 points you feel you have to make. But you know that there’s no way you’ll get to cover more than 3 of them. Here’s how you can use a forced comparison model to help in your decision making about narrowing the list:

  • Write all 15 key messages on individual sticky notes and place them on a wall or desk.
  • Select two messages and compare them, asking, “If I could only make one of these points, which one is more important?” Place the one you pick at the top of the wall or desk, with the other below it.
  • Pick up another sticky note, asking the same question relative to the top-most sticky note. If the new sticky note is more important, it goes on top, and the others move down. If it’s not more important, keep moving down and asking the question (Is this one more important or is that one?) relative to each sticky note until it’s appropriately placed based on its importance.

When you’re done using this simple decision making model, you should have a fairly quick prioritization, getting you out of the decision making trap that everything is equally important. The technique works well either individually or with a group that’s trying to do decision making in a whole variety of situations. So try it, or try it not…try it! – Mike Brown

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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can provide as-needed assistance to challenge and refine your strategic thinking 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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Visiting Disney World in the mid 1990’s, a rule was communicated several times while waiting in long, unwieldy lines for rides: Move up and fill all available space. That was much more easily done for an adult couple (such as my wife and me) than for a large group. Following this guidance created a great benefit as we shaved at least an hour or two off our wait times over the course of several days (and created only one small incident with a father at It’s a Small World).

It strikes me that the same opportunity is true in business – smaller, more nimble players should be better able to identify market gaps and move into them than their bigger competitors.

I was in Orlando recently, but didn’t get a chance to go the parks. Nevertheless, this photo taken at an Orlando Airport Burger King rekindled the lesson and prompts a question – how many artificial “lines” do we wait in all the time without seeing or sensing the opportunity to step to the right or left and move up?

So next time you or your business feel stymied and tired of looking at the back of heads, ask yourself, “How can I move up and fill all available space?” You’ll be surprised at how often the only thing keeping you waiting in line is 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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You ask, “What’s a Morphfiend?”

You’ve come across them at work; maybe in your personal life as well. A “morphfiend” is someone who continuously changes strategies for the pure pleasure of changing strategy. While they may use this trait to appear adaptable, it’s clear that they’re so willing to change strategies because they have no real strategic underpinning from which to make decisions.

Suspect you may be working with a morphfiend? See how many of these questions you can answer “YES” to for the suspect. Are they always:

  • Quoting from the latest fad management book…until the next fad management book comes along from which to quote?
  • Claiming sole responsibility for strategy – as in, “I don’t need anyone else focusing on strategy; I just need them to execute”?
  • Making ­absolute pronouncements about what they WILL or WON’T do. Except they usually soon STOP what they were DOING, and DO the things that they’d NEVER DO.
  • In continual “hurry up, then slow down” mode, issuing poorly though-out directives that are rescinded when it’s quickly clear that they won’t work?
  • Expecting subordinates to be order takers on their strategic directives, while in turn being an order taker for their own boss’ directives?

If you could answer YES to three or more characteristics, you have enough evidence to convict – you’re working with a morphfiend. The punishment, unfortunately, is done by you and others around the morphfiend. What can you do for the good of the business to combat the negative implications of a morphfiend? Here’s a possible approach:

  • Build an informal affiliation with others who share concerns about your strategic direction’s stability.
  • Hypothesize on what the business’ most successful strategic foundation likely is/should be.
  • Stay a step ahead – read the newest fad management book, identifying how you can tie the book’s principles to the strategic hypotheses you’ve formulated.
  • Engage the morphfiend with as many people as possible sharing a consistent strategic message couched in fad management speak. Do this to try to “own” the morphfiend’s strategic perspective through sheer volume of consistent messaging that sounds like it fits with their own strategic view.

Will it work? Sometimes – I’ve seen it both work and fail depending on the circumstances. But short of resigning yourself to faux strategy that continues to ping pong, it’s likely your best shot.

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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