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We published an article on how to engage a team in strategic thinking and creative thinking exercises without having an offsite meeting.

It prompted a question from our buddy, “Jim in Massachusetts.” Jim asked about handling people not interested in participating. Specifically, Jim asked, “What do you do about the ‘overly serious’ people who don’t get the exercises, never read, ‘Whack on the Side of the Head’ or its sister book, and try to turn these meetings into useless frustration exercises by bitching about the work they are not getting done??”

I address this question all the time in creating strategic impact workshops, but was surprised nothing on Brainzooming covered this.

The point of the “strategic thinking without having an offsite meeting” list was you can engage a team in creative thinking exercises without telegraphing what they are doing.

Small-Group

When Multiple People Aren’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

Suppose multiple people on a team don’t want to engage in creative thinking exercises or anything resembling creative thinking.

  • Typically we try to head this off before things begin by working with the client to plan who will be participating.
  • If several people MUST be there who are reluctant but not obnoxious about not wanting to participate, we spread them out with people who are engaged. We then see if we can win them over to participating.
  • If a few people are ruining things for others and for what we’re trying to accomplish, we might put them all together in a group and let them beat up on one another for the rest of the time. While other participants get to switch groups, they’ll all stay together. If ANYTHING productive comes from them, it’s a pleasant surprise.

 

When One Person Isn’t into Creative Thinking Exercises

With just one person in a group not into creative thinking, our approach is different.

  • If a boss or authority figure is taking energy from creative thinking activities, we pair them with someone that can over-enthuse the group to offset the authority figure. They generally stay together and won’t move to other groups. This minimizes the damage the authority figure might inflict on the group.
  • If we have a good relationship with the authority figure, we might ask them to step aside and only observe. In one case, given a team’s concerns (even through their boss was NOT dampening anything), the client left the room so the team could work on people issues inside the organization unencumbered.
  • If someone other than the boss is overtly antagonistic to strategic thinking exercises and activities, we simply suggest they use the remaining time on their own. This first happened when a curmudgeony director at our company walked in late to a strategy planning activity. He took one look at the toys and noisy people having fun working on new ideas, and told me, “I have real work to do.” I told him we’d all be better off if he concentrated on his real work. That was the end of that.

 

That’s Our Experience

Again, the best way to deal with these situations is heading them off before the group convenes. If not, you may have to improvise. If this situation happens in the future, however, who knows what other solutions the specific setting may inspire! – Mike Brown

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The April 2015 Fast Company features its list of the biggest business comeback stories during the twenty years the magazine has been publishing.

Each business comeback story is presented individually (expect for Apple, which they say is number one, but never bother to list or write a full profile about the company). I was curious about what successful business strategy moves Fast Company highlighted across the twenty corporations.

To paraphrase the old saying, “curiosity killed the hour” it took to go through the list and uncover the answer to my question.

What’s Behind a Business Comeback?

Traffic-Circle

Based on this very loose analysis, the top five most frequent successful business strategy moves for these business comeback stories are:

  1. New Products: 14 (of 20 comebacks)
  2. New Leaders: 10
  3. Enhanced Brand Experience: 9
  4. New Business Lines: 6
  5. (Tie) Enhanced Advertising/Marketing and Bankruptcy: 5 each

New product growth and turnaround leaders were the most cited factors while only four profiles mentioned major cost cutting efforts, and three highlighted downsizing. Given the magazine’s focus, this list is not a big surprise.

Under different circumstances, it would be intriguing to big deeper into the list and look for more patterns. Since the list is subjective, the very brief profiles are nowhere near comprehensive, and there is a lot of my interpretation in this, however, it is not worth any more time killing.

If you would like to review the analysis with my notes on the comeback proof points Fast Company offers and my “short story” on each comeback, click the image below and go to the PDF.

FC-Comebacks

What are your takeaways from this list of business comebacks? And are there other ones from the past twenty years you would add to the list? – Mike Brown

 

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Looking for stronger new product innovations to drive your business comeback?

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness comebacks often tie to introducing new products that more strongly resonate with customers.

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
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  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

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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 light of yesterday’s article on living a life of no surprises, I received a related question the other day: “What can you do if you are trying to do strategic planning and implementation within an event-driven environment where uncontrollable situations can wreak havoc on the organization’s priorities and focus?”

Here are four steps we recommend for strategic planning when you are trying to anticipate unplanned events and their potential impact.

Step 1 – Anticipate Unplanned Events

An important strategic planning step in this type of environment is to anticipate as many of the potential events as you can. This applies even if you cannot control all of the possible occurrences that could derail the strategic plan’s implementation. We have shared a few Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises previously to help accomplish this exploration including:

The key is being able to efficiently generate as long a list of potential future events as is possible, practical, and addressable.

Future-Look

Photo by hjalmeida

Step 2 – Identify High-Impact Unplanned Events

How then do you prepare to prioritize and perform strategic planning while recognizing all the potential events you have identified?

You can prioritize the list by having individuals rate each event for its potential maximum magnitude and the probability of each event actually happening. Multiplying the two answers for each possible event provides a quick sense of the potential relative magnitude across all the events.

Step 3 – Plan the First Few Steps

Next, identify the first several tactics you would pursue if each event were to happen. You do not need to outline a complete strategic plan for each event. Instead, concentrate on detailing the first three tactics you would want to have ready to go should the event surface.

>>Link to Mike and Angie traveling post (2008)

Step 4 – Prioritize the Most Applicable Tactics

Finally, look across the events and the initial tactics you identified for each. What are the common actions within the first few steps for multiple events? This look offers a sense of the highest-impact, most flexible moves you can make when events start to change.

Simple and Done

This is obviously a very high-level approach to better handling strategic planning in an event-driven environment.

If this high-level approach is not sufficient for addressing your organization’s tolerance for event-based risk, you can do much more in-depth scenario planning.

But if your organization avoids this issue completely because it struggles to reach an aggressive level of strategic planning detail, a simple approach is far better than ignoring potential vulnerabilities and simply hoping implementation-altering events just don’t happen. – Mike Brown

 

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  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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Before a creative thinking workshop, a “front row” participant (you know, the “walking in the room already engaged in the content” type of participant) asked what school of thinking The Brainzooming Group belonged to with respect to our creative thinking approaches. She dropped a couple of potential names she suspected as possibilities. I may have already been in pre-presentation mode and didn’t completely catch what she said, because only one name sounded familiar.

I shared with her that we borrow from anywhere when it came to schools of thought for creative thinking, and that many are quite non-traditional. I mentioned she’d see one strategic thinking exercise just added back into the workshop based on Ghostbusters (Yes, THAT Ghostbusters)!

Creative-Inspiration-Bulbs

One advantage of looking broadly for creative thinking influences is we’re never stuck waiting for some expert to publish a new book or article to expand our set of strategic thinking exercises. To the contrary, the Brainzooming repertoire changes and grows continuously through new techniques and influences.

The discussion prompted telling her the proper answer should be a Brainzooming blog post. In a similar vein, we’ve covered the A to Z of Strategic Thinking Exercises (which referenced some influences), and discussed in another where strategic thinking exercises in another workshop originated.

This list of creative thinking influences, however, is different.

Reviewing the slides, stories, and blog posts from the creative thinking workshop deck yielded this list of fifty-nine influences. They aren’t in any specific order, and it certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of all our influences (especially since very few people I have worked with directly are on the list).

Nevertheless, this gives you a good representation of why it’s tough to describe a specific school of thought you can connect to Brainzooming.

59 Creative Thinking Influences

  1. Chuck Dymer
  2. Edward de Bono
  3. Greg Reid
  4. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
  5. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
  6. Ted Williams – The Science of Hitting
  7. A.T. Kearney
  8. Gary Singer
  9. Interbrand
  10. Monty Python
  11. Sue Mosby
  12. 75 Cage Rattling Questions
  13. Linus Pauling
  14. Woodrow Wilson
  15. Ghostbusters
  16. The Wall Street Journal
  17. Business Week
  18. Fast Company
  19. Cake Boss
  20. What Not to Wear
  21. The Bible
  22. Dilbert
  23. Milind Lele, Ph.D.
  24. Presentation Zen
  25. Tom Peters
  26. Don Martin
  27. Hank Ketchum
  28. The Scream
  29. The Squirrels in Prairie Village, KS
  30. Steve Bruffett
  31. Enterprise IG
  32. David Bowen, Ph.D.
  33. Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership
  34. FedEx
  35. Seth Godin
  36. Joe Batista
  37. Tony Vannicola
  38. Peter’s Laws
  39. Whoever invented the 4-box matrix
  40. Gordon MacKenzie
  41. Appreciate Inquiry
  42. David Cooperrider, Ph.D.
  43. Benjamin Zander
  44. Keith Prather
  45. Brett Daberko
  46. Philip Kotler, Ph.D.
  47. Robin Williams
  48. Improv Comedy
  49. Jim Collins
  50. Jay Conrad Levinson
  51. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
  52. Jan Harness
  53. Muhammad Ali
  54. R.E.M.
  55. Music Fake Books
  56. Seinfeld
  57. Gilligan’s Island
  58. Whoever came up with the concept of Reverse Engineering
  59. The Family Feud

Shout outs to everyone and everything on this list. It’s clear we need to write blog posts on a variety of these creative inspirations because Brainzooming wouldn’t be what it is without you! – Mike Brown

 

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Do you really need to spend time exploring and developing your business strategy?

As a strategy person, I think it’s smart to do so.

But given organizations we run across who decide to put off developing business strategy because they’re too busy, it’s not the right time, or it seems unnecessary to invest in outside support to help ensure they are creating strategic impact, you might wonder whether developing strategy ISN’T that important.

Yet when we talk later with those organizations that put off strategy development, it’s not as if there weren’t issues that surfaced. Sometimes there are a lot of issues; sometimes, there are fewer issues.

Cat-or-get-off-the-pot

Cat or Get Off the Pot

10 Downsides of Ignoring Developing Your Business Strategy

Here’s a sampling of the issues that frequently materialize when you delay developing strategy:

  1. Doing something multiple times because it didn’t work the first time.
  2. Wasting resources because of starting down certain paths and then having to back track.
  3. Boxing your brand in because of ignoring or precluding strategic options.
  4. You miss more attractive business growth opportunities you didn’t take the time to consider.
  5. You don’t move forward with anything because you don’t have the facts in place to make a business case for change.
  6. Everyone continues to bemoan perennial business issues you don’t ever effectively figure out how to address.
  7. What is implemented fails to fully match the expectations in place for its success.
  8. Other initiatives of lesser strategic importance and scope emerge to tie up the organization’s time, attention, and resources.
  9. The organization keeps doing what it’s always been doing until it crashes into a wall when what it’s always been doing suddenly stops working.
  10. Your competitors advance feaster than your brand does so you wind up losing ground.

Don’t put off developing strategy or ignore the benefits of bringing a fresh perspective to exploring and planning your brand’s direction. Call or email us, today. We know how to move you through developing strategy in a hurry with a focus on successful implementation. You’ll be better off for it! – Mike Brown

 

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization. This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas.

Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

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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 received a question recently about the three biggest strategic planning challenges. It didn’t take long to think about the answer, because we see and hear about these strategic planning challenges repeatedly.

Pencil-Med

1. Thinking strategic planning only happens with senior management

We’ve been hammering away at this first challenge for years. An organization’s senior management team may be the ones charged with setting strategy and ultimately on the hook for whether the strategy is successful. That doesn’t mean, however, that senior management should be the largest group involved in planning, let alone the ONLY group involved.

Beyond the three strategic thinking perspectives essential to solid strategy we have advocated for years, we’ve formalized another view on who should participate. We’re now looking for three voices to become active in planning:  familiar, challenger, and emerging voices.

2. Believing strategic planning takes more time than the organization can afford

If one part of our brand promise at The Brainzooming Group is about involving more “brains” in strategy, another important brand promise attribute is that strategic planning can move more quickly than people typically expect.

What’s vital for faster strategic planning is greater productivity, removing unnecessary steps, and being able to move ahead with the options that make the most strategic sense. Speedier planning doesn’t happen from using strategic planning techniques to turn everyone into strategists. It comes about through allowing people to develop and deliver the information and insights they know best. That’s why we prepare the planning templates and let clients do what they do best.

3. You have to start with a clean sheet of paper

Unless there’s a need for a major turnaround, chances are there is no need to start from scratch with a new strategic planning effort. Another element of speedier strategic planning is taking advantage of all the solid work that exists and moving forward with any strategic jump start you can get. That’s why we tell clients we re-work our process to fit them, as opposed to fitting the organization into static planning steps.

Take a Different Look at Strategic Planning Techniques

Whether you’re launching organization-wide strategy development or are focused on business unit or initiative strategic planning, you owe it to your organization to consider what planning looks like without the three typical challenges we shared here.

Call or email us, and we’ll show how things can be different. – Mike Brown

 

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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 info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


 

 

 

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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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At our workshop for the Gigabit City Summit, we shared multiple strategic thinking exercises we use to help organizations achieve better business results. Since our audience included some of the most innovative, forward-looking communities in the US, our specific focus was articulating a shared vision for the community to shape development and implementation of a significant broadband initiative.

During our Gigabit City Summit workshop discussion, one mayor in the audience expressed the concern that a “vision” seems squishy and only so many words that don’t really do much in shaping a direction.

That’s likely a common sentiment about vision statements. And while it can be true, it doesn’t have to be.

Gigabit-City-Summit-Convene

A Shared Vision and Better Business Results

Here’s why we’re proponents of articulating a shared vision for an organization and it’s important audiences. A well-developed vision:

  • Points to a future direction
  • Incorporates the aspirations of a broad audience
  • Suggests how the organization will move toward the future direction
  • Excites and invites the community to become a part of the vision
  • Speaks clearly and emotionally to the audience
  • Supports and aligns the other elements of the organization’s strategic direction

One important point is that the vision doesn’t HAVE to be a “statement.” While it certainly can be summed up in one sentence, a shared vision that’s intended to meaningfully lead to better business results could be a much longer work that describes the future. Rather than being written, the vision mind find its best form in pictures, an infographic, a video, or even some type of physical representation. Or the vision could be comprised of all of these.

So, yes, a vision can be fluffy.

But if you approach articulating a vision as a foundation step that’s vital for better business results and do so in a smart, inclusive way, a shared vision can be the most important strategic element an organization has at its disposal. – Mike Brown

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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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