Strategy | The Brainzooming Group - Part 5 – page 5
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My dad was a huge believer in The Power of Positive Thinking. I think that book, by Norman Vincent Peale (affiliate link) was the first self-help book he tried to get me to read.

For some reason, I particularly resisted The Power of Positive Thinking, although I’m hard pressed to say why.

For whatever reason, though, I do not think I ever read the book in its entirety. Probably the best I did was reading a summarized booklet he gave me. The more important aspect of my exposure was absorbing how my dad lived the book’s central messages in his work and personal life.

This recollection surfaced while searching for ways to think strategically and positively about several possible business challenges. It’s my tendency to focus on the scary possibilities looming over the horizon and address those.

The Power of Positive Thinking Plus Strategic Thinking Questions

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As an alternative, I tried being more like my dad, coupling the power of his positive thinking with the strategic thinking questions that are so comfortable for me. It became apparent how I could more easily form and hold onto a positive expectation when strategic thinking questions provide a way to generate ideas and evidence for the positive thinking. Here are a few examples of positive expectations I wrote, along with the strategic thinking questions to support them:

Positive Expectation – There are people who want to help us succeed.

  • Who do we know that shares our interests?
  • How can we get them to cooperate with us?

Positive Expectation – We are over-delivering value and benefits.

  • If we deliver less value than we planned (but still more than is expected), how can we re-deploy what remains to create additional or different value?
  • In what ways can we ask more for this extra portion of value?

Positive Expectation – We have done solid, comprehensive work, and can continue to mine it in new ways.

  • What have we done previously that answers a question or issue from today?
  • How can what we know or have done previously allow us to move 3x more quickly than if we didn’t have previous experience?

Positive Expectation – Remain confident things will work out successfully.

  • When this works, what do we need to be ready to do next?
  • What next bigger challenge will this success propel us to accomplish?

I’m not  saying these specific examples will work for you. What is worth considering is how you can pair up strategic thinking questions to better realize, hold on to, and work toward positive expectations, even if that isn’t your natural tendency. – Mike Brown

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  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


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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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We worked with a client to facilitate an information technology strategy vision. From before the engagement’s launch until near the completion, we asked for strategy documents spelling out corporate priorities, objectives, and expectations. We wanted a strategic target to align IT strategy and innovation initiatives to support the organization in realizing its overall vision.

Despite repeated requests, no one ever surfaced this type of strategy document.

We instead used previous exposure, strategic thinking exercises with the IT team and others, and strategic business sense to describe what it seemed a corporate target would encompass.

Flash forward to subsequent opportunities to hear top executives discuss the company’s direction. These presentations suggest a clear, overarching strategy that perhaps doesn’t exist in a formal, written format, but is only passed along verbally outside of the top corporate ranks.

This situation prompted sketching two strategic planning process approaches (narrow or broad collaboration) and alternatives for how an organization communicates its strategy.

A Narrow Strategic Planning Process

When only top management participates in a strategic planning process, relying on verbal communication of the plan can be dubbed “Drip and Wonder(?).” We found ourselves in this situation in the example above. If you are in front of a senior leader (or someone else that has been in front of a senior leader), you get drips of the strategy. If you don’t have this access, you “Wonder(?),” as we did, what to emphasize to best contribute to corporate success.

In this situation, when the strategic plan output makes it to a written document, it’s a “Read to Learn” situation. You must review a big binder of material to know the direction. If they do throw put multi-media communication behind the strategic plan, it’s likely to lead to superficial (because that’s all there is time for) wows (although the hoped-for wows may be snoozers).

A Broad Strategic Planning Process

When you engage a broad group in strategic planning, the verbal communication takes the form of “strategic conversations.” These do heavy duty in both developing the strategy and creating shared knowledge of the strategic direction. The broad participation helps fuel more frequent and robust conversations about the organization’s strategic direction. It’s not about access to the right senior executive; it’s about strategic conversations among people throughout the organization helping shape the direction.

The written plan doesn’t carry nearly as much burden to convey every detail. The written format can concentrate on providing guidelines to operationalize implementation activities. Finally, adding multimedia communication focuses on providing the vision’s highlights.

Putting This to Use

This is a new visualization of something we experience that paves the way for another benefit of strategic collaboration. It needs some more work, but it sets the stage why the type of strategic planning approach an organization takes shapes communication opportunities. – Mike Brown

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Suppose the strategic planning task at hand is imagining what your organization will look like at some future point.

What are strategic planning exercises you can use with a team?

7 Ideas to Envision What Your Future Organization Might Look Like

Here are seven possibilities to consider:

  • Describe a future time where the organization has already achieved incredible success. Also, describe a comparable future time scenario the organization failed on all important objectives. For each of future state, look back and ask what led to incredible success or failure.
  • Employ extreme creativity and disruptive innovation-oriented questions to push your strategic planning vision exercise in bold, future directions.
  • Identify the most important elements of the business that hold great potential to materially change the organization’s future prospects. Once you settle on these attributes, use them as the basis to describe the future (i.e., What does that specific attribute look like in the future by itself and in conjunction with all the other attributes).
  • Interview lead users and future-looking experts to understand how they’d describe an aggressive future vision.
  • Identify all the elements of the brand. Have a group respond individually on which of the attributes needs to change dramatically, which can change marginally, and which need to be eliminated in the future. After securing individual responses, use a group strategic conversation to settle on the future strategic planning vision.
  • Develop an analysis of future trends. Extend the trends 5x and 10x to create dramatically bold future visions.
  • Select other brands and imagine what your organization would look like if they were running your organization.

Ensure you have all the strategic thinking perspective and voices we always recommend. Additionally, for these strategic planning vision exercises, make sure you include external participants with expertise and perspectives not burdened by the organization’s current, status quo vision.

Want to talk more about taking this approach to a future vision as part of your strategic planning?

Contact us, and let’s chat about how this strategic planning exercise approach applies to your organization. – Mike Brown

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Big strategy statements shaping your organization needn’t be complicated. They should use simple, understandable, and straightforward language to invite and excite your team to be part of the vision.

Our free “Big Strategy Statements” eBook lays out an approach to collaboratively develop smart, strategic directions that improve results!


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We see seven keys to creating an innovative workplace culture where individuals are able to meaningfully contribute to the organization’s innovation strategy.

If you’re looking at your organization and wondering where to start to foster a more innovative workplace culture, here are forty articles to go deeper into the topic.

An innovative workplace culture:

#1 Provides Direction

It’s vital to point your innovation strategy in a direction. That doesn’t mean leadership should spell out everything. Yet sharing knowledge about what matters for the organization’s future success shouldn’t be a mystery to those working on innovation initiatives.

#2 Invites Broad Participation

Throw open innovation to encompass perspectives from throughout the organizations AND outside the organization. Instead of asking people for the next big ideas, ask them for insights and perspectives that can contribute to shaping big ideas for the organization.

#3 Meaningfully Engages and Involves Employees

Develop multiple innovation roles that match your team’s talents, strengths, perspectives, and aspiration. Provide the training, structure, and access to opportunities to best use their knowledge and expertise to drive the innovation strategy.

#4 Encourages Change

Make sure senior leadership is saying and DOING things that send a clear message: trying new things is fine, we understand not everything is going to work, and it’s vital we look beyond our current environment to identify innovation strategy possibilities.

#5 Pursues Smart Possibilities

There are clear processes in place to explore, assess, and prioritize the best innovation opportunities and meaningfully propel the organization forward.

#6 Stays Agile

What’s innovative will continue to change. Your environment needs to be ready to understand what’s important today while looking ahead to future developments and opportunities to disrupt markets and competitors.

#7 Celebrates Progress and Success

For all the fanfare about celebrating failures, an innovative workplace culture recognizes and celebrates trying and learning, progress and determination, AND success.

Mike Brown

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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

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

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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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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


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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